U.S. government shutdown won't affect cross-border travel: CAA Manitoba

Manitobans looking to travel south of the border shouldn't expect the U.S. government shutdown to make much of a difference to their plans, says CAA Manitoba.

U.S. National Parks to remain open, but services will be limited

In this April 9, 2009 photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer speaks with a couple at a border crossing from Canada into the United States. CAA Manitoba says the current government shutdown won't have a major effect on travellers to the U.S. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Manitobans looking to travel south of the border shouldn't expect the U.S. government shutdown to make much of a difference to their plans, says CAA Manitoba.

But if your trip south includes a hike in a U.S. national park, you might want to bring along your own toilet paper.

The U.S. federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations, after politicians failed to reach a deal to pass a short-term bill to continue funding for U.S. federal agencies and prevent some of them from shutting down.

It's not the first time this has happened, and Erika Miller from CAA Manitoba says while previous shutdowns saw the closure of U.S. National Park Service sites — including parks, national monuments and museums — this time, the White House has asked the NPS to keep national parks and campsites open with limited staffing.

That means keeping park roads, lookouts, trails and open-air memorials open.

"That said, some NPS-provided visitor services, such as restrooms, trash collection, and public information, will not be operational," she warned in an email to CBC News Saturday.

"CAA would remind people who are planning to visit any U.S. national parks to call ahead or check online for the operating hours for parks, trails and memorials, and be aware that not all visitor services like public restrooms or information kiosks may be open."

The U.S. government is close to a shutdown and politicians are scrambling to strike a deal. At midnight, the government will run out of money — U.S. officials need to come to a compromise before then if they want to keep funding flowing 4:37

It's also unlikely the shutdown will immediately affect services at border crossings.

U.S. federal employees deemed essential will be expected to report to work and critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay.

But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of non-critical federal employees will be furloughed — meaning they'll be placed on temporary unpaid leave.

As of Saturday afternoon, there were no, or minimal, delays reported at most Canada-U.S. border crossings. No delay was reported at the Emerson, Man., crossing.

$152M lost per day: travel association

The U.S. government has officially shut down 18 times since 1976, under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Some lasted a few hours, but the 1996 shutdown under Bill Clinton — the longest in U.S. history — lasted the better part of a month.

During the last shutdown in 2013, the U.S. Travel Association estimates the country lost $152 million per day in travel spending.

Part of that was the closure of National Parks and historic sites, with the NPS estimating $76 million was lost on each of the 16 days of the shutdown.

Miller said despite the current shutdown, all U.S. airports, air-traffic control operations, and Transportation Security Administration passenger processing will continue, and any Homeland Security functions connected with U.S. borders, coastal areas, federal lands and buildings, waterways, and equipment will also continue as usual.

Tyler MacAfee from the Winnipeg Airports Authority said those flying to U.S. destinations from James Richardson International Airport won't notice any difference now that the shutdown is in effect.

He said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the airport will continue to pre-screen Canadian travellers during the shutdown.

"At this stage right now there's no operational impact at the airport," he said Saturday.

"We've been following it closely but we're not expecting any real significant impact as a result of it."

With files from The Associated Press