As sure as the sun will rise in the morning, the snow too will soon fly over the Great White North. Though hardly a surprise, still it's a tiny bit disconcerting when by late month each September the overnight temperature in many parts of the country dips below freezing.
So too, for many as well begins the thought process to seek a place of refuge from the harshness of the winter months, even if only for just a few days once in a while, at a welcoming, warm, sun drenched escape from our Canadian reality.
There are in excess of 26-million cross-border trips by Canadians into the United States each year. Fueled by our strong currency against the United-States "greenback" and despite the tightening border security measures imposed by various U.S. Homeland initiatives, the flow of northern visitors south of the border dipped in the immediate aftermath of 9/11; but has steadied and grown in recent years. More than 60% of Canadians hold valid passports which are essential to crossing the border, compared to roughly 20% of U.S. citizens with valid documentation.
Security became the top priority at the border following the terrorist attacks of 2001. When combined with the economic downturn in the United-States since 2008, the free-flow of trade has been significantly impacted. But the American economic malaise has also pushed many more individual Canadian shoppers and tourists across the border. Seeking refuge from winter, from November 2010 to March 2011, Canadians made 5.6 Million "winter leisure trips" to the United States. Florida's tourism bureau reports a significant increase in visits so far in 2011. Canadians lead the increase. The number of Canadian visitors to Florida in 2011 is up 18.4% over last year.
About one million visitors are "Canadian Snowbirds" who spend a month or more (sometimes much more) each year below the Snowbelt. There too, Florida is a destination of choice. It's home-away-from-home for about 360,000 of us each winter. Arizona (83,000) and Hawaii (21,000) follow in the ranking.
From the perspective of the business and trade community which has been buffeted by a weakened economy and the trauma of 9/11, it is abundantly clear that the security guidelines of the past 10 years have been harmful, and clearly no longer sufficient. To that end, there are ongoing talks between Federal Government officials from both sides to construct a detailed plan to secure the border while allowing the free flow of trade and commerce which both countries believe essential to the economic well-being of the continent. There's been speculation in fact that by month's end, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper will announce thirty or more elements of the "Perimeter Security" arrangement they spoke about last February in Washington.
Doubtless the business community will applaud this deal. The challenge for the Obama Administration, and to a lesser degree (perhaps) for Mr. Harper will be to convince their respective Legislatures that it's good for the country. While it is clearly understood that privacy is not an unconditional entitlement, the question for the millions of individual Canadians who commute across the border for business, pleasure or leisure each year should be that the greater pursuit of business is not achieved at the expense of their personal guaranteed rights.