Living next to the border means living in a trade-dependent state and a county that relies on tourism. At How the Canadian Border Affects You, an event held in the city center on Thursday, Feb. 18, Laurie Trautman, associate director of Western’s Border Policy Research Institute discussed how Bellingham and Canada intermix.
Some people don’t see Bellingham as being a border town, Trautman said.
Living next to a national border means Washington is a trade-dependent state, relying specifically on Canadian tourists to shop within our county for goods and commodities that can be rare or more accessible in the U.S., Trautman said.
Thirty percent of Washington’s imports come from Canada, while 10 percent of Washington’s exports are to Canada, Trautman said in her lecture. The exports add up to 9.2 billion dollars, primarily to British Columbia. Keeping up with and understanding the fluctuating exchange rates of the Canadian Dollar and the U.S. dollar can increase or decrease border crossing one way or another.
“Right now we are witnessing the fastest and steepest decline in the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar since Canada adopted the floating exchange rate,” Trautman said. “Even after the exchange rate started to fall, we still had an increase in Canadians crossing [the border].”
Trautman, a Western alumna, said she used to use her student ID to cross the border. After 9/11, border security became tighter, forcing people to use passports instead.
Student Maria Carriere said that she has noticed students holding off from visiting Canada because they don’t have the right documentation.
“There are so many restrictions to travel, especially with college students who cannot afford a passport,” Carriere said about reasons students might not travel to Canada.
Washington State residents, as opposed to other border towns, have the option to use an enhanced license or ID card. An enhanced license gives Washington State residents the ability to travel to and from Canada by land or sea. It is a lower-cost alternative to a passport, according to the Washington State Department of Licensing.
“[I] have made plans, to go to Canada and they never pan out… We have this mindset like, ‘oh crossing the border is going to this big event’ and we have to carve out so much time and preparation,” student Alyssa Kaufman said. “It is substantially easier to just pop down [to Seattle], even though it is further away than Vancouver.”
Many people don’t think of Canada as an international destination, Trautman said. Canada is an easy country to visit because most of the people speak English and have other similarities.
“You [can] go into stores and usually you can use US money,” Trautman said.
According to the Border Policy Research Institute, there are only 24 miles to the border, with the lowest wait times for heading north being around or before 8 a.m.