Slower cross­ings feared for Wind­sor as CBSA seeks agents for Que­bec duty

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - DAVE BATTAGELLO dbattag­ello@post­media.com

A gov­ern­ment re­quest ask­ing border of­fi­cers to con­sider re­lo­cat­ing to Que­bec for the sum­mer to help with an ex­pected in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers from the U.S. has of­fi­cials here wor­ried there could be de­lays at the border. “Def­i­nitely it con­cerns us,” said Stan Korosec, who over­sees op­er­a­tions for the Am­bas­sador Bridge com­pany on the Cana­dian side. “They of­ten have trou­bling staffing the lanes now. We are hop­ing they don’t take any per­son­nel from our cross­ing here.”

The Canada and Border Ser­vices Agency has is­sued a re­quest for vol­un­teers across the coun­try to re­lo­cate to Que­bec for a min­i­mum of one month this sum­mer and help out pro­cess­ing asy­lum seek­ers whose num­bers are an­tic­i­pated to sky­rocket start­ing in June. Up to 400 per day are ex­pected to ar­rive at Canada’s borders once school is out in the U.S.

CBSA has of­fered to pay all liv­ing ex­penses for any of­fi­cer who chooses to re­lo­cate. But Korosec is fear­ful many of the coun­try’s busiest air­ports and land border cross­ings will be left short-handed, caus­ing de­lays. Border traf­fic is at its heav­i­est dur­ing the sum­mer months.

“We un­der­stand it’s a big is­sue and the need for re­sources,” Korosec said.

“But we have also heard many (gov­ern­ment) min­is­ters say (Wind­sor) is the most im­por­tant border cross­ing in the coun­try and im­por­tant to trade. I hope ev­ery­one re­mem­bers that. We re­ally see the difference here even when there is one less booth open.” The Cus­toms and Im­mi­gra­tion Union, which rep­re­sents 6,500 of­fi­cers across Canada — in­clud­ing more than 400 in Wind­sor — has been warn­ing of the loom­ing staffing cri­sis for months, said union pres­i­dent Jean-Pierre Fortin. There has been no re­sponse from the gov­ern­ment.

Fed­eral gov­ern­ment cut­backs have ag­gra­vated the sit­u­a­tion. The gov­ern­ment an­nounced five years ago the reduction of 1,200 cus­toms of­fi­cers through at­tri­tion, Fortin said.

“They are invit­ing our mem­bers in Wind­sor to be de­ployed to Que­bec,” he said. “The prob­lem we see is that in­stead of in­creas­ing hires, they are only mov­ing re­sources in­ter­nally. You def­i­nitely are go­ing to im­pact the (trav­el­ling) pub­lic. “If our peo­ple in Wind­sor go to the Que­bec re­gion, you will see wait times in­creas­ing on the pri­mary line, and se­cu­rity more at risk.”

To avoid the cri­sis, Fortin es­ti­mated roughly half of the 1,200 jobs that were elim­i­nated should be re­turned.

“The gov­ern­ment should have planned ac­cord­ingly,” he said. “This is not some­thing new. There will be man­power and re­source issues all over.”

CBSA did not re­turn a mes­sage Thurs­day from the Wind­sor Star, but spokes­woman Pa­trizia Gi­olti told the Globe and Mail there should not be any added de­lays at land cross­ings due to the re­as­sign­ment this sum­mer of border of­fi­cers.

An in­ter­nal “call for in­ter­est” memo is­sued by CBSA ob­tained by the Wind­sor Star asks for em­ployee vol­un­teers be­tween May 28 and Sept. 16, with an ex­pec­ta­tion to be re­as­signed to Que­bec for a month.

The Am­bas­sador Bridge has 13 pri­mary in­spec­tion lanes for trucks head­ing into Wind­sor. All

We re­ally see the difference here even when there is one less booth open.

the lanes gen­er­ally are open dur­ing the heav­i­est pe­ri­ods of traf­fic each day, Korosec said. Any­where from 5,000 to 6,000 trucks are pro­cessed each day, with each truck spend­ing an av­er­age of up to two min­utes at a pri­mary cus­toms in­spec­tion lane, he said. “If you go down to 12 or 11 lanes, you will quickly start to see a mile of trucks back­ing up on the bridge,” Korosec said. “We are hop­ing not to lose any of­fi­cers.”

Stan Korosec

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