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Walker’s wall notion borders on the absurd

WASHINGTON – The Great Wall-Off of Canada would stretch 3,987 miles from sea to shining sea, presumably keeping us safe from Canadian imports that can be hazardous in large quantities, such as ice wine, poutine and former Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier.

Built right at the border, the wall would bisect Lake Erie from Michigan to Buffalo as well the Niagara River, ruining the lovely Canadian view of the American falls as well as the American view of the Canadian falls. Now that would keep the Canadians out, as well as finally putting an end to the debate over a new Peace Bridge.

Strange as all that may be for border-town residents to contemplate, when asked about a U.S.-Canada border wall on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Republican presidential contender Scott Walker said: “That is a legitimate issue for us to look at.”

And much to Walker’s chagrin, politicians and pundits have been looking at it ever since, and responding to the notion with a mixture of shock and snark.

“As a Co-Chair of the Northern Border Caucus, a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee and a representative of a northern border community I can tell you that the idea that we would militarize the border with our largest trading partner and strongest ally is ludicrous,” Rep. Brian Higgins wrote in a letter to Walker.

Freed from the burden of decorum that most elected officials try to maintain, former Rep. John J. LaFalce took to Facebook to offer some choice words about Walker, the Wisconsin governor.

“Dear Canadian Friends: I apologize that we have such an idiot serving as governor of a Great Lakes state, and running for President at that. Perhaps he will try building a wall across Lakes Superior and Michigan also, since both touch Wisconsin,” the retired Democrat from the Town of Tonawanda wrote.

Meanwhile in Canada, an online petition surfaced advocating the building of such a wall – to keep Scott Walker out of the country.

Walker wasn’t specific about what kind of border wall he would contemplate, and he has been trying to walk back his comments ever since.

“I never talked about a wall of the north, I’m certainly not now. That’s just what happens when things get run amok.” Walker told Fox News on Tuesday morning.

“This is just a joke in terms of how people react to things,” Walker continued. “I’ve said for some time that you need to secure the southern border.”

Of course, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has been saying that more loudly than anyone, advocating a wall between the United States and Mexico that, he says, he will make the Mexicans pay for.

Given the support Trump has won from a significant minority of Republican voters with such arguments, Higgins said in an interview that the Wisconsin governor was, in his initial comments, merely trying to trump Trump.

“Look, I think it’s about presidential primary politics,” the Democrat from Buffalo said.

One thing’s for sure, though: the Canadians are earnestly opposed to the idea.

“I would remind that governor or anyone else in the United States of the enormous progress that we have made under the Beyond the Border agreement that Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper signed with President Obama, which massively improves continental perimeter security,” Canadian defense minister Jason Kenney said on Monday. “As you know, we often find there are some American political actors who are not aware of the progress that has been made on continental security.”

And on Tuesday, Christine Constantin, a spokesman at the Canadian embassy in Washington, weighed in by saying: “It is a fact that no terrorists have been successful in attacking the United States coming through the Canadian border.”

It’s also a fact that a Canada border wall would be, as Trump might say, huge, as well as hugely expensive.

Combining the 3,987-mile stretch between Maine and Washington state with the 1,538-mile edifice that would protect Alaskans from threats emanating from the Yukon, and the Great Wall-Off of Canada would be 5,525 miles long – longer than the Great Wall of China.

If it were to be built, tourists flying over the massive structure would likely look down from their plane windows in wonder to see it, just as visitors to China look down on the Great Wall. (This, of course, presumes that future presidents will still allow air traffic to travel over the U.S.-Canadian border.)

American taxpayers would pay a steep price, though, for this massive sight. If it costs as much per mile as the proposed wall at the Southern border would cost, the Great Wall-Off of Canada would cost $17.8 billion, nearly three times as much as its southern counterpart.

And that’s a conservative estimate, given that the northern border wall would have to traverse the Great Lakes and the Niagara River.

Of course, there would be complications. Great Lakes shipping and the St. Lawrence Seaway would be affected, and of course the wall would have to be big enough to keep out Canadians but not so high as to pose an environmental hazard to any bird species.

Higgins, meantime, worries that a wall in the middle of the Niagara River would disturb the amount of hydropower produced by the Niagara Power Project.

Perhaps for these reasons or perhaps not, Bruce Sanders, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Buffalo, said that in his 42-year career, he can never recall hearing of a proposal to build a wall between Canada and the United States.

Sanders, like many others, seemed more amused than alarmed by the idea of a border wall, quipping: “I believe it is intended to keep out undocumented hockey players.”

Then again, if the idea is to keep hockey players out of town, there are cheaper ways to do it. Just ask Darcy Regier.