The U.S. government's failure to avoid sequestration – severe and sweeping budget cuts – on Friday (March 1) will mean layoffs of American border guards and longer waits for Canadians who were lining up at the 176 Street/Pacific Hwy. truck crossing Sunday.

U.S. budget standoff to snarl border crossings

Staff cuts mean longer waits coming for travellers, cargo

Border crossings that are often jammed with shoppers heading south may soon get even more congested as the U.S. government is forced to lay off thousands of border employees.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun cutting employee hours and is slated to furlough 5,000 more staff by early April after Congress and President Barack Obama failed to reach a comprehensive deal by March 1 to reduce federal spending, triggering automatic spending cuts.

The initial cuts at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are already resulting in reports of longer processing lines at some U.S. airports.

CBP officials predict waits up to 50 per cent longer at major airports – four hours or longer at peak times – and a doubling of peak waits to five hours or more at the busiest land crossings.

“Travellers should adjust their trip itineraries to account for unexpected delays,” the department warned in a statement.

The longest southbound lines at Lower Mainland crossings are weekend mornings and they could get much longer because the use of overtime is now banned.

“They hold shifts over longer or call shifts in earlier to keep as many lines open as possible – that won’t be happening,” said Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re thinking it could add an extra 15 to 30 minutes onto the regular lines.”

Nexus card holders should continue to get speedy clearance but new applicants face longer approval times due to an expected surge in demand.

It’s hoped the arbitrary across-the-board cuts will be unpalatable to both Republicans and Democrats, spurring them to reach a deal before border slowdowns cause serious economic damage.

“If this goes on into the summer that’s when we’re really going to have an issue,” Oplinger said. “On a summer weekend we can get  two- to three-hour lineups and we could be adding 45 minutes to an hour on top of that at those peak times.”

One factor that might slow cross-border shopping is the recent slide of the loonie.

The dollar is down to around 97 cents U.S. and Oplinger said a further drop to below 95 cents may begin to reduce the number of southbound shoppers from Canada.

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman predicts cross-border shoppers won’t be deterred by either the weaker dollar or the slower crossings.

“I still think people are going to wait in line to get that best deal,” she said, renewing calls for Ottawa to address higher import duties and tariffs affecting Canadian retailers.

Huberman said any impact on the smooth flow of trade is a “huge concern.”

Truckers are also being warned they face significant delays at the borders in the weeks ahead if the U.S. budget impasse continues.

B.C. Trucking Association vice-president Trace Acres said major impacts aren’t expected for the first 30 days, as affected U.S. border staff are getting one month notice.

“It is definitely a concern,” Acres said, estimating 300 of the association’s 450 members haul cargo across the border.

More truckers could pursue membership in FAST (Free and Secure Trade), the equivalent of Nexus for trusted commercial carriers, but Acres added it’s not a solution for most firms.

“There has been a lot of work done on both sides of the border to try to improve efficiencies and reduce border wait times,” Acres said.

The fear now, he said, is that all the time invested by truckers, manufacturers, exporters and authorities on both sides of the border “could just become undone by factors outside of our control.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley Field Naturalists offer free zoom presentations

Group, focused on conservation and education, meet on the third Thursday of each month

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Langley woman’s Halloween spirit

Tanya Reid posted a pair of videos offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

Federated Co-op says members should not be concerned after private Mountain Equipment sale

Jack Nicholson, Otter Co-op’s CEO, will always remain in Aldergrove to serve the community

Accident at 27nd Street and 28th Avenue in Aldergrove reignites crosswalk safety concerns

Township made motion to install stoplight at the problem intersection last March

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read