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October 31, 2007

Richard Florida


« Megas around the Internets | Main | Hou-Orleans »

The Economist.com (Free Exchange) chimes in:

As Felix Salmon notes, Richard Florida's debut column in the Globe and Mail reads like a response to Ed Glaeser's rather pessimistic assessment of Buffalo's economic prospects. In fact, Mr Florida specifically addresses Mr Glaeser in a blog post ... The city of Buffalo is only 60 miles, along a straight line, from Toronto (although an overland route extends the distance to just under 100 miles). Along the east coast, cities like New York and Washington enjoy economic spheres extending outward that far or farther, so it's quite reasonable to expect that Buffalo might, with sufficient infrastructure investment, share in the economic energy surrounding Toronto.  ... A more crucial point relating to Toronto-Buffalo symbiosis, however, is one that Mr Florida acknowledges--the role of the international border.

Examinations of the border effect on trade between Canada and America vary in their findings, but some conclude that the equivalent tariff at the border may be as high as 43 percent. Currency risk and regulatory issues explain some of the implied distance, but it appears that shipping uncertainty related to border congestion is a severe constraint. In a paper examining trade between the two countries, we find that:

[O]ut of 130 border crossings, the three Ontario-Southeast Michigan crossings and the Peace Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston crossings in the Buffalo-Niagara area accounted for 55.5 percent of all 2003 truck border volume. It is also important to note that the bulk of the trucks cross the border at locations that turn out to be key points for auto traffic as well. The five crossings described above also accounted for 41.9 percent of all auto crossings on the Canadian border. This concentrated volume of truck traffic at equally congested auto crossings points out some of the problems in trying to increase border security while facilitating trade.

To police border crossings effectively without sustaining an explosion in Homeland Security costs, it's necessary for officials to maintain as few crossing points as possible. The resulting congestion and delay, however, is a significant impediment to cross-border interactions. If Torontonians cannot be sure that business in Buffalo may be completed in a reasonable and predictable amount of time, then the ability of Buffalo's residents to develop complementary economic roles will be limited.

Many observers have wondered why America has not done more to pursue continental, rather than national, security measures, particularly given the value of North American trade. The losses resulting from nationally-centred policy decisions become more poignant in light of the economic struggles of Great Lakes states, which should benefit most from increased trade with Canada. Given the political importance of those states--electoral college big shots like Michigan and Ohio, Illinois and New York--it will be interesting to see if any presidential candidate is able to capitalise on the issue, by promising improvements in the flow of trade.


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Joshua Albert

I don't think the writer haa actually crossed the border - or done much in the way of research.

First, there has been a big investment at the Queenston Lewiston bridge to separate truck and passanger traffic.

Second, the average delay is not that big.

Third, the delay in getting anywhere in Toronto is probably worse. At rush hour near Pearson Airport, it can easily take an hour to 1.5 hours to get out of the area and onto the highway.


The only thing that will enable a Tor-Buff-Chester is a North American Schengen-type immigration scheme. Otherwise, it just won't happen. Question is, how do we convince Canada to tighten its immigration standards to those of the US, and how do we convince the US to let Canada handle the job for us in the north?

Michael Wells

My (perhaps outdated) impression was that Canadians were leery of being seen as an extention of the US, fiercely independent, and might resist things like more open borders. Is this accurate, outdated or imagined? Has the country's openness to immigration and blossoming creative sector changed attitudes?

On another topic, Continental security makes all kinds of sense. American's worry about Latin American immigrants probably makes it politically impossible to the South, but a US-Canadian joint security program and more open border should be possible -- maybe under another US administration.

Gary Dare

After 9/11, a number of conservative opinion writers mostly in the National Post but also in the Globe & Mail, most recently Neil Stevens in the Business section last weekend, claim that such an offer was extended by the US and rejected by Jean Chretien and then Paul Martin. I have never seen this as a news item, it was likely cocktail conversation that the writers attempted (and some still do) to animate. But the essence was that US Homeland Security envelopes Canada. In other words, you cannot enter Canada unless you also qualify (and are vetted) to enter the US. Given the biases of those writers, they wouldn't mind.

Given the difficulties that the US is having with implementing current security strategies on its own borders, the "security perimeter" would have been even more difficult had Canada accepted. And having lived in three American cities and traveled to a dozen others, I would doubt that many policymakers would have thought of a continental system (even one run by the US). Maybe a Lou Dobbs quote from tonight provides insight, "First of all, before we are a marketplace, we are a nation!"

(Apparently at the end of each quarter hour, Lou has a new format where he gives a rant with veins popping in his forehead.)

Many US critics of Canada point to Ahmed Ressam, who was intercepted at Port Angel, WA in Christmas 1999 and an example of Canada's "lax" immigration policies (and I do have issues with our refugee policy, but not the regular process). Nobody seems to bother to point out that his accomplice was living in Queens, NY on US refugee status, or that maybe a hundred American citizens and permanent residents have been arrested on terror charges, a homegrown problem that is being ignored.


Immigration Canada and DHS probably have a lot that each of them can learn.


Whoa, this Canadian for one wants nothing to do with an integrated immigration policy. Our more open borders are one of our competitive advantages -- wasn't the "Generation Innovation" post a couple of days ago arguing that U.S. immigration restrictions seem to be keeping skilled knowledge workers away?

The American and Canadian attitudes on immigration are much more divergent than they appear at first look. (I've lived in both countries.) In the US, the top immigration issues are illegal "aliens" and concerns about taking away jobs from Americans. In Canada, the top issues are recognizing foreign credentials for "new Canadians" and processing delays in the immigration system. I know which set of problems I'd prefer to have.

As for the original problem, there's a much simpler solution. Frequent travelers can join the Nexus program to get into a fast lane at border crossings; in Niagara Falls there's even a Nexus-only crossing (the Whirlpool Bridge). And if a fast rail service were created, there should be customs facilities at the train stations (including, ideally, US preclearance at Toronto's Union Station).

Gary Dare

A good point, Matt. Folks back home in Canada (and a lot of Americans) are stunned when they watch the Lou Dobbs show for the first time. No, Victoria, it's no longer CNN Moneyline. It is unfair to single out the US for having a firm view of itself as a standalone national entity, the UK has a strong nationalist view and is not part of Schengen while Switzerland has resisted joining the EU (and did so again, at least getting closer, in recent national elections). Those three countries also have nationalist anti-free trade, anti-globalization types in their right wing that is unknown in Canada (where the "right" is 99% free trade, pro-globalization while the "left" is split).

However, I feel that the UK security arrangements with the rest of the EU and Switzerland's setup may give us some insights. Better coordination between the security services, for example. A leading French journalist from the Metro One network walked into the Surete to visit one of his contacts, asked for the file on Zacharias Massaoui, and a folder the size of a small white pages directory was put on the table (not opened of course). Switzerland has different queues for Swiss citizens, EU citizens, and Others (to reflect different entry criteria) and as a non-EU westerner, I often get bumped up (as do Japanese) as the Swiss and EU lines empty. A common set of "flow criteria" for US and Canadian citizens (and maybe permanent residents) would go a long way to relieving congestion in the interest of leisure and business in both directions.

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