Cannan: Building great economic partnerships in the Okanagan

The possibilities of growth for Okanagan business has increased tenfold now United Airlines has announced it will fly direct YLW and LAX.

The possibilities of growth in the Okanagan’s business sector, especially tourism, have increased tenfold now that United Airlines has announced it will fly direct between Kelowna International Airport and Los Angeles.

Visitors from the U.S. will be able to enjoy easy access all year round to some of the best wineries, skiing, hiking and biking in Canada.

Flights are scheduled to begin Dec. 19, just in time for ski season.

It’s great to see the region realizing the benefits of the airport’s expansion, a project that was funded jointly by the federal government, the province and the City of Kelowna.

It’s just one more example of the good that comes from strong partnerships between all levels of government.

Keeping people, goods and services flowing smoothly between the Canadian and American border is vital to our local economy and the federal government is doing all it can to facilitate it.

NEXUS, the cross border initiative designed to expedite the border clearance process for low-risk, pre-approved travelers into Canada and the United States is one great example of the progress we are making.

For a nominal fee, Canadians can enroll in the NEXUS program and enjoy faster, easier travel across the Canadian-US border.

For frequent business travelers especially, NEXUS membership allows travelers to use automated self-serve kiosks in dedicated areas at designated international airports and designated lanes at the land border.

As well, under the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), NEXUS members can use their membership card as an alternative to a passport when entering the United States by air at designated airports, and at all land and marine ports of entry.

To make the NEXUS program even better, the government recently announced that, as of June 30, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has lifted the three-year residency requirement for Canadian and United States citizens who apply.

By amending the three-year residency requirement, more pre-screened travelers will enjoy expedited processing at the border including citizens of Canada or the United States currently residing abroad, or who have recently returned to Canada or the United States.

By attracting more people to NEXUS, travel between Canada and the United States will be faster and more efficient, encouraging more business and greater economic benefits for both countries. Pre-approving travelers under the NEXUS program also allows border services officers to concentrate their efforts on unknown or higher-risk travelers and goods.

The CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are now conducting enrolment blitzes to assist with increasing application volumes.

Three successful blitzes took place over May and June 2012 which enrolled over 1,000 new members of the NEXUS program. Future blitzes will be considered based on application volumes.

Increasing NEXUS membership is just one of a number of initiatives Canada and the United States are undertaking as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan that will help facilitate lawful trade and travel while enhancing security.

Expanding direct flights between major Canadian and U.S. cities at Kelowna International Airport, and making travel easier through enhancements to NEXUS, not only builds on the positive relationship we have established with our largest trading partner, the United States, but allows our region to continue to reap the economic benefits of this strong economic partnership.

For more information on the Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness, please visit the website www.borderactionplan.gc.ca. For more information on NEXUS, go to www.nexus.gc.ca.