Saturday, May 12, 2007

Credit not due

Macleans (along with other media outlets) seems awfully eager to praise the U.S. for what's supposed to be a move in the right direction on border crossings. But it's worth noting that the position put forward as evidence is no change at all from the stance the U.S. has held for years - signalling that the push now is instead to get Canadians to be happy with what the U.S. has always been demanding, rather than for the U.S. to moderate its position at all.

From Macleans:
The United States may be backing down from its plan to require visitors to and from Canada to carry passports...

The U.S. ambassador to Ottawa made positive comments about an alternative proposal that relies on new security-enhanced drivers’ licenses instead.

Speaking in Winnipeg, Ambassador David Wilkins said that the Department of Homeland Security would consider accepting the new high-tech drivers’ licenses - pointing to a pilot project that has been approved for use of the secure licenses between the state of Washington and British Columbia.
The problem, of course, is that it's always been clear that some other form of ID might be accepted - with the only question being whether the U.S. would get its act together sufficiently to actually approve it. Remember this from early 2006:
A simple identity card the size of a driver's licence could be sufficient to allow Canadians to travel in the United States, the U.S. ambassador said Wednesday...

"The Department of Homeland Security is given the jurisdiction or the authority to come up with that or equivalent secure documents," Wilkins said in an interview.

"They are working very hard; it's being discussed at every level.

"I am optimistic that there will be such an alternative document to the passport," he said.
As a result, there's no reason to think that Wilkins' position - or that of the Bush administration - has moved an inch from where it stood all along. All that's been brought forward is a signal that some of the documents which Canadian provinces were working on anyway will finally be considered. In addition, there's no indication of what precise requirements are even on the table, meaning that provinces whose forms of ID aren't among those mentioned so far still figure to face problems when the land-crossing deadline strikes.

Granted, there's some reason for hope in the other evidence mentioned in the article - namely a call from the House of Representatives for both an extension of the deadline, and a study of the merit in more stringent documentation requirements. But there's still little reason to think that DHS in particular or the Bush administration in general have moved past their plan to impose greater burdens on Canadians for their own political purposes...and no reason at all for Canada to act grateful at finally receiving word that its efforts to meet the burden are being considered.

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