Private sector pushes for licences over passports

At $89 a pop, acquiring passports can be expensive for a family. Passcards are just another piece of plastic to carry around.

At $89 a pop, acquiring passports can be expensive for a family.

Passcards are just another piece of plastic to carry around.

So Pacific Northwest Economic Region, a private-sector lobby group, is urging the US government to accept a traveller’s driver’s licence instead of the other documents for crossing the US border by land.

“If you’re out travelling you may not have your passport with you, but you have your driver’s licence,” Jim Kenyon, PNWER president and Yukon Economic Development minister, told reporters Tuesday.

“Our point is that drivers’ licences make more sense,” said Kenyon, noting that PNWER has been fighting for the change for more than a year.

PNWER includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alberta, BC and the Yukon.

A new regulation came in earlier this year under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, making passports mandatory to enter the US by air.

The change sent a flood of citizens to passport offices across the country to face long lines and lengthy wait times for the documents.

Imagine what’s going to happen when it becomes a land issue, said Kenyon.

Although the date has not been fixed, changes mandating travellers to have passports or some form of “secure document” when crossing the US/Canada border by land or sea will take effect sometime between January 2008 and June 2009, according to Passport Canada.

PNWER members will testify before US Senate committees to push the issue, said Kenyon.

US Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is circulating a bill that would commit the US to consider alternatives to passports like driver’s licences or high-tech ID cards.

BC and Washington are working on a pilot program that would allow travellers to cross the border by land using their driver’s licences rather than a passport.

Under the program, $15 and the proper documentation, such as a birth certificate and proof of citizenship, would buy a sticker that could be pasted onto a driver’s licence.

Border guards would scan the sticker that would call up personal information from a government database.

“It’s going to take time but we’re hoping to start getting data within a year,” said Kenyon.

Fentie to ask Ottawa for

climate change funding already provided

By Tim Querengesser

News Reporter

Climate change is hot enough to spur a personal visit to Ottawa by Premier Dennis Fentie this week.

The impetus for Fentie’s trip will please any Nicholas Cage fan — adaptation.

“I want to deliver the message that although we are pleased to see the federal government take action on climate change, their approach must also include adaptation initiatives,” said Fentie in a release.

Fentie will meet with federal Environment Minister John Baird and Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Jim Prentice during his trip.

He will meet the two on February 8 — the same day the public accounts committee begins dissecting auditor general Sheila Fraser’s findings in the department of Highways and Public Works.

Fentie will also advocate a partnership with Ottawa to develop a climate-change research centre and cold-climate technology cluster at Yukon College, and to help the ailing Northern Climate ExChange, said a release.

But that last item is somewhat nonsensical.

In October, the News reported the Climate ExChange was on shaky financial ground and operating on a skeleton staff, after its application for money from the $40 million Northern Strategy Fund — developed in concert with Energy, Mines and Resources officials — was denied in August.

Michael Westlake, co-ordinator of the ExChange, told the News in October that the organization would run out of money by March 31 if funding wasn’t found.

It isn’t clear if more money has arrived — officials from the ExChange haven’t returned phone calls for months.

Created by the former Liberal government and continued by the current Conservative government that Fentie is visiting, the Northern Strategy lists climate change as one of the issues it seeks to address.

But the ExChange didn’t receive money in December, when 17 projects received more than $9 million from the strategy fund.

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