U.S. government votes to delay the implementation of WHTI till 2009

    TORONTO, June 15 /CNW/ - The OCC applauds the US House of
Representative's decision to delay the implementation of the WHTI until at
least June 2009. The House approved this bill in a vote of 268 to 150 with a
clause to the 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.
    The language for this bill was developed by US Representative Louise M.
Slaughter (D-NY-28), Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, who has been a
strong proponent of Canada US trade issues.
    "This is an important victory for cross border trade and tourism" says
Len Crispino President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. "Delays at
our border are already costing our economies billion of dollars and
threatening tens of thousands of jobs. This move will ensure that we can
achieve the appropriate balance between a secure and efficient border."
    Over the past two years, the OCC has actively engaged with business and
government officials on both sides of the border to address concerns raised
from the WHTI. The WHTI is anticipated to impact economies in both nations,
particularly in the Great Lakes region as it can accurately be described as a
single economic region.
    The OCC is also pleased that the bill includes language authored by Rep.
Slaughter to withhold $100 million from the funds required by the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement WHTI until DHS has determined if
driver's licenses can be enhanced to meet the WHTI's requirements.

    The Slaughter language also requires DHS to fully test its proposed
passport card before making it publicly available and develop a plan for land
implementation that will be shared with the public. Finally, Rep. Slaughter's
provision requires that DHS submit a report to Congress on the success of the
driver's license pilot program, and reveal its overall WHTI roadmap before
being allowed to put the proposed WHTI documentary requirements into place.

    Key Canada-US Facts:

    -   Over 33.7 million cars and 8.4 million trucks crossed the Ontario-
        New York State and the Ontario-Michigan border check points in 2005.
    -   Cross border tourism significantly contributes to each of our
        nations' economies. The total number of US visits to Canada was
        34.2 million and their expenditures were CDN$10.3 billion in 2004.
    -   In the same year, Canadian visits to the US totaled 31.5 million,
        contributing CDN$10 billion to the American economy.
    -   The Conference Board of Canada estimates that 7.4 million trips from
        Canada to the US will be lost between 2005 and 2010, as a result of
        WHTI. This will result in an estimated loss of $2 billion in Canadian
        travel spending to the US economy.

    The OCC represents over 57,000 businesses through 160 local Chambers of
Commerce and Boards of Trade, and has been Ontario's business advocate since
1911. Its advocacy and policy initiatives focus on six areas key to the
economic well-being of the province: health; education; energy; finance &
taxation; transportation & infrastructure; and border issues.

For further information:

For further information: Amy Terrill, Director Media Relations and
Communications, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, W: (416) 482-5222, ext. 241, C:
(416) 605-8205

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