By Doug Draper
You may recall that a few weeks ago it was learned that the Harper government in Canada had made up its mind – all by itself – that it is going is going to close down the country’s consulate office in Buffalo, New York, serving one of the busiest and most economically vital cross-border regions shared by Canadians and Americans on the continent.
The Harper government’s reason for this – articulated by Niagara Falls MP and Harper cabinet minister Rob Nicholson, who appears to be placing his partisan ties with Harper ahead of the region he should be serving on this one – – is that visa requests for Canada can now be more easily processed on line. It is a reason that shows how little Nicholson and other Harper government members know or care to know about the larger roles this consultate office has continued to play in bringing business and other key sectors together to address the economic challenges and improve the quality of life for residents throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario. And these are the politicians we should be counting on to serve the best interests of our region and country.
“With billions of dollars in economic activity occurring in the cross-border Niagara region,” said Niagara regional chair Gary Burroughs in a letter he recently sent to Harper Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister John Baird, “the Buffalo Consulate is a critical piece to the puzzle of economic development and international relations with our American counterparts.”
“The loss of the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo would have a tremendous impact on the relations between our two countries and the close, cooperative spirit that permeats our Niagara border,” added Burroughs in the letter to Baird. “I would urge your government to reconsider its decision to close the Buffalo Consulate and ensure the valuable work done through the leadership of Consul General (Marta) Moscezenska continues for years to come to the benefit of all Canadians.”
Since news first circulated this May that the Harper government was planning to close the Buffalo consulate office, numerous parties have protested, including business leaders in the Buffalo/Western New York region and prominent members of U.S. senate and congress. So far, their protests appear to be falling on deaf years which means that are American leaders are beginning to find out what many Canadians already know – that now that the Harper government has a majority, it is going to do whatever it wants despite any and all concerns raised by others.
In his letter to the Harper government, Burroughs also stressed the following; “The leadership from Consul General Marta Moszczenska (from the Buffalo office) has been nothing short of dynamic, supportive and extremely effective. Her ability to bring prominent leaders together from both sides of the border is exceptional and the support from her staff in coordinating countless binational efforts is outstanding. Should the Consulate close, many of these important efforts will be in jeopardy because the Consulate provides the leadership that brings these binational initiatives together and has done so for many years.”
If you are a resident on the Canadian side of the border and especially if you are in a riding whose interests are supposed by be representative by a Harper government MP like Nicholson in the Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake area, and Rick Dykstra in St. Catharines, consider getting in touch with them and demand that this Consulate Office remain open for the betterment of our region – and don’t accept the bogus line about better and cheaper ways to process visas as an answer.
(Niagara At Large also invites readers of this post on both sides of the border to share their views below, remembering that NAL only posts comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.)