In a letter delivered to Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Peter van Loan, a cross-border coalition made up of think tanks, business executives and elected officials encouraged the Canadian government to relax customs fees for train travel between Washington State and British Columbia. Cascadia Center’s Bruce Agnew, who also serves as the co-chair of the PNWER Transportation Working Group is among the signatories of the letter.
“…we urge you to expand the fee waiver period from June 1, 2009 to June 1, 2010 to allow commencement of service as proposed by Amtrak and Washington State Department of Transportation.”
As the commencement date for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver approaches, at issue in the immediate short term is the ability of “Amtrak to test and market the service (a second Amtrak Cascades train) during the busy summer tourism and cruise ship season.”
The letter cites a study by the Border Policy Research Institute that found that “implementation of the service over a year would allow the federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to collect $1.87 million in GST, PST and room taxes combined as a result of increased passenger travel.”
Click below to read the extended post and the coalition’s letter.
Click here for a PDF version of the letter with signatures.
April 27, 2009
Honourable Peter van Loan
Minister of Public Safety
Government of Canada
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8
Dear Minister van Loan,
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) for the recent decision to provide customs clearance services, at no cost, to a second Amtrak Cascades service to Vancouver, British Columbia before, during, and for a brief time after the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games in February 2010. While we recognize that this is a step in the right direction, we urge you to expand the fee waiver period from June 1, 2009 to June 1, 2010 to allow commencement of service as proposed by Amtrak and Washington State Department of Transportation.
Earlier implementation of the second train service would allow Amtrak to test and market the service during the busy summer tourism and cruise ship season. Additionally, based on a study by the Border Policy Research Institute of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, implementation of the service over a year would allow the federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to collect $1.87 million in GST, PST and room taxes combined as a result of increased rail passenger travel. The revenue collected by increased tourism activity in British Columbia more than offsets the proposed cost recovery fees proposed by CBSA. As you know, 35,000 passengers rode the train into Vancouver in 2008 and, as noted in the August 25, 2008 letter from Governor Gregoire, the single train service generated $20 million per year in tourism spending for British Columbia and Canada. We expect the second train to Vancouver to nearly double ridership and spending.
The service provided by CBSA plays a vital role in the safety, security and economic partnership of both countries. We appreciate the excellent work of the CBSA in completing a review of passenger clearance service levels in the air mode. Passenger clearance services are provided cost free at major airports in Canada and we applaud the decision by the Government of Canada to make further investments to expand these publicly funded services as part of a larger Air Services Policy Framework.
We recognize that CBSA is continuing to work with industry stakeholders to extend the Core Services Review of passenger services to ferry and rail modes and we extend an offer to organize Northwest tourism and transportation leaders to work with CBSA in this review. Pending that review, which you indicate that you will begin in the near future, we urge you to expand the waiver period for passenger rail for at least a year to take advantage of the critical summer tourism season. We would note that Amtrak Cascades service to Canada was initiated in 1994 with no imposition of fee.
Please address your correspondence to PNWER Transportation Working Group, Attn: Bruce Agnew, Co-Chair, 2200 Alaskan Way, Suite 460, Seattle, WA 98121, or electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to your reply.
City of Vancouver
Vancouver AM Tourism Association
British Columbia Hotel Association
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Tourism British Columbia
President and CEO
Tourism Industry Association of Canada
Chair, Council of Tourism Associations
of British Columbia
Transport 2000 Canada
President & CEO
Chief Executive Officer
President and CEO