Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Glitches not seen at border so far

Trade still flowing despite U.S. impasse

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TRAFFIC continued to flow across the Manitoba-U.S. border and planes continued to fly into and out of Grand Forks airport Wednesday as a partial U.S. government shutdown continued for the second straight day.

Spokesmen for the U.S. State Department and the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority said it was business as usual for "essential" workers such as air traffic controllers, airport security personnel and U.S. border-crossing staff.

And all four employees at the U.S. consulate in Winnipeg were also on the job Wednesday, Tim Cipullo, the U.S. consul to Manitoba, said.

Klaus Thiessen, the CEO of the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Corp., said there are normal flows across the border.

'Our general impression is that it isn't really having an impact. It's business as usual'

"At this stage, there is no impact," he said. Visitors to Grand Forks will find it's business as usual "unless you're planning on going to the passport office or any other federal service."

Cipullo said U.S. consulates and embassies across the country remain open after the State Department decided to use money from previous allocations not tied to the fiscal year to keep its operations going during the ongoing dispute between the Republicans and the Obama administration over the administration's controversial "Obamacare" health-care bill.

He said U.S. border crossings also remained open because most U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees are deemed to provide an essential service. And it's the same for air traffic controllers and airport security staff, said Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority executive director Patrick Dame.

"No problems," was Dame's response when asked if the budget standoff was affecting the airport's operations.

"And right now we expect it to stay that way," he added. "There is no discussion about there being any issues with that."

Cipullo and Dame said they hadn't heard of any delays at U.S. border crossings in Manitoba. And an official with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters office in Ottawa said the CME also wasn't aware of any undue delays for U.S.-bound shipments of Canadian goods.

"Our general impression is that it isn't really having an impact," said Jeffrey Pierce, a policy analyst with the CME's office in Ottawa. "It's business as usual."

Cipullo wouldn't say how long the State Department's funding would last or what might happen if it runs out.

"And I don't want to guess how long this (the budget crisis) will go on or where it's headed," he added.

About 800,000 non-essential federal workers were ordered to stay home on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the first partial government shutdown since the winter of 1995-96. That led to the closing of some of the country's most popular tourist sites and national parks, including Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

But trucks are still moving across the border and industry officials say there have not been any unusual delays.

"Everything is working fine at this point," said Bob Dolyniuk, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. "There have been no disruptions and as long as staff remains in place at the border -- which we have been told will be the case -- there will not be any issues."

U.S. Department of Agriculture workers are among those furloughed and they include people who create data sets that play a critical role in compiling market reports that are used to set various national and regional prices for pigs.

Andrew Dickson of the Manitoba Pork Council, said, "There is some uncertainty as to the accuracy of some of the numbers be bandied around as to what is being paid for pigs in the U.S. and that automatically determines what our guys get. But everyone thinks it's OK for now."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 B4

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