Lethbridge officials look to enhance city’s potential for streamlined trade with U.S.

Click to play video: 'Southern Alberta stakeholders pushing for resources to streamline trade with U.S.'
Southern Alberta stakeholders pushing for resources to streamline trade with U.S.
Some Lethbridge officials have suggested bringing a pre-border inspection centre to Lethbridge, as well as introducing the federal Free and Secure Trade program to the area, as a way to improve trade operations through the Coutts-Sweetgrass border. Eloise Therien spoke with MLA Nathan Neudorf and Economic Development Lethbridge to find out more. – May 6, 2021

The idea of streamlining trucking trade into the United States by utilizing the city of Lethbridge’s infrastructure has been an ongoing discussion in southern Alberta, and one that could be coming closer to fruition.

Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf told Global News he is in discussion with provincial and federal ministers regarding several ideas to utilize the area for cross-border travel.

“One of those ideas is having a pre-inspection centre (in Lethbridge) or utilizing what’s called FAST, which is Free and Secure Trade in Canada,” Neudorf explained. “It’s a program that’s already run, but we don’t have it functioning in Alberta yet.”

Read more: Canadian truckers’ fears of U.S. amid coronavirus aggravate risk of driver shortage

Run by the Canada Border Services Agency, FAST aims to ensure safety and security while expediting travel for commercial purposes. Its goal is to reduce delivery times and costs, increase certainty at the border, all while requiring minimal documentation.

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At some crossings in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, dedicated FAST lanes allow for more efficient border clearance.

Neudorf believes the Coutts-Sweetgrass crossing, located approximately 106 kilometres from Lethbridge, would be an ideal location to put this into place.

He also suggested setting up a pre-inspection centre in Lethbridge to further decrease border wait times, where truck drivers could complete clearances prior to arriving at the border.

“Lethbridge could be a great place for a federal program like this, where we get all of those pre-approvals happening, and then when you get to the border, if you’re a part of that FAST program, you basically show a card and a driver (identification) and you’re through.”

Click to play video: 'Talks underway for B.C. truckers to get COVID-19 vaccine in U.S.'
Talks underway for B.C. truckers to get COVID-19 vaccine in U.S.

Economic Development Lethbridge is highlighting the region as Canada’s Western Gateway, due to its beneficial location near the province’s largest U.S. border crossing, and its placement amidst the highway system.

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The organization has also been pushing for additions to Lethbridge.

“We’re at this great junction in terms of flow of goods both in and out of our community, so that’s a key advantage we can (do something) with,” said CEO Trevor Lewington.

“If it’s commercial vehicle inspection, if it’s truck scales, it’s actual service like truck stops, there’s a whole suite of things we can do to make life simpler,” he explained, “and hopefully increase the flow of goods both north and south.”

Lewington added there have been discussions with members of the Canada’s Western Gateway working group for how to actively improve trade and velocity of logistics for quite some time, and the hope is to have some new additions in place in the next couple of years.

“There’s been many discussions in progress for many years, actually, and so it’s now great to have the government interested in helping coordinate and streamline that process and bring all of those elements together.”

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