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COALITION TO PROMOTE 'SMART BORDER' AGENDA

Business and tourism groups in the Niagara Region of Ontario have formed a coalition to promote an international border that allows commerce to flow as easily as possible, amid heightened security restrictions.

The Niagara Smart Border Coalition -- similar to a group set up in New York state that stretches to the Adirondack North Country -- hopes to influence provincial and national policymakers in Canada on border policy in the interest of tourism and trade.

All 10 of the Niagara region's chambers of commerce belong to the new coalition, as do representatives of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, Niagara Falls Tourism and the Niagara Parks Commission.

The coalition has created a 12-point agenda that closely reflects what the New York State Smart Border Coalition is trying to accomplish, said Carolyn Bones, president of the Chamber of Commerce in Niagara Falls, Ont., which is acting as the lead group in the coalition.

"The agendas we have developed are extremely similar," Bones said. One of those priorities is to implement the "Smart Border" agenda signed nearly a year ago by the United States and Canada.

The Niagara Region coalition's agenda also calls for adequate staffing on both sides of the region's bridge crossings, and full deployment of NEXUS by the end of this year. NEXUS identification cards allow low-risk travelers to move quickly through security checkpoints.

The new coalition is also reaching out to truck and bus associations to seek their support for the agenda items, Bones said.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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