New Brunswick

Campobello's MP not worried border bill will hurt island residents

The MP for Campobello responds to concerns about possible border delays because of upcoming security measures, while the island's MLA says a possible solution, a new ferry service, would be years in the making.

Province to request delay in implementation of Bill C-21

Politicians say there are unanswered questions about possible increased delays for Campobello residents who must take a bridge to Maine in order to reach the New Brunswick mainland after Bill C-21 takes effect. (Julia Wright / CBC)

It's not clear whether a new border security bill will make it even more difficult for residents of Campobello to get to and from the rest of Canada, but the MP for the island says there's plenty of time to sort that out.

Bill C-21 received royal assent in December, but Karen Ludwig said it will be a while yet before it's in effect.

"The bill itself has not gone through an order in council and we also have a government shutdown in the U.S.," Ludwig said.

"This will not be implemented until the agreement on sharing information is secured. So, I think there's some time there."

She was responding to concerns expressed by Sen. David Adams Richards about the new measures possibly subjecting Campobello residents to excessive inquiry from border officials.

The only year-round link to the mainland from Campobello is a bridge to Maine. 

Ludwig said no new requirements will be imposed on travellers by the bill, which, among other things, is to help the government keep track of how long Canadians stay out of the country.   

New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig says better ferry service would address possible border issues for Campobello residents.

Information on Page 2 of passports — name, date of birth, citizenship, and the passport number — will be recorded and kept for 15 years, Ludwig said, and it will be shared with U.S. authorities every time a person enters or exits Canada. 

The purpose is to better monitor for illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking and the the movements of "radicals," she said.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister and St. Croix MLA Greg Thompson says not everyone on Campobello is convinced a new ferry service is needed and it would take two to five years to get such a service running. (CBC)

As to the question of Campobello residents having to present export and import documents to take goods from elsewhere in New Brunswick through the U.S. to the island, Ludwig suggested further investigation will take place.

"There will be a close look on that, but that can be done well ahead of time," she said.

Ludwig said all of the concerns about border delays would be negated if the island had a reliable and accessible ferry link to the New Brunswick mainland. 

"That's what I hear about daily from constituents on Campobello and Deer Island," she said.

Greg Thompson, New Brunswick's intergovernmental affairs minister, called that a bit of a diversion on the part of the MP  from concerns about the border security bill.

The privately run Campobello-Deer Island Ferry did not operate last summer because of equipment issues. (CBC)

Bill C-21 is just the latest step in a gradual "thickening" of the border for Campobello residents since the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., said Thompson, the St. Croix MLA who previously represented Ludwig's riding in Parliament.

He has called for a delay in implementing Bill C-21 and said he is sending a request by letter to Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale.

"Our officials are working on that now. It will be sent out this week," said Thompson.

On the ferry issue, Thompson said he supports the idea of year-round service but estimated it would take two to five years to get a permanent service in place, with a number of potentially contentious issues to be solved first, including where it would dock.

In the meantime, he proposed an extension of seasonal ferry service.

The private ferry that normally runs between Deer Island and Campobello didn't run at all last summer.

East Coast Ferries reportedly had equipment issues, but Thompson said a government decision was also to blame.

The company was awarded a contract to service Kennebecasis Island, he said, so one of its vessels was in use there.

Thompson suggested other operators would likely be interested in bidding on the Kennebecasis Island contract when it comes up for renewal.