Premier Shawn Graham receives a round of applause from a joint session of Maine’s Legislature. Photo by Ramona du Houx
Article by Ramona du Houx
On the border between Maine and New Brunswick people generally don’t think of themselves solely as Canadians or Mainers, for they coexist, co-work and interact on a daily basis, as people living together in a community often do. With the increased security because of a possible terrorist attack and the federal mandate to have a passport, the everyday routine of visiting neighbors, family and friends, let alone just commuting to work across the border, could become problematical.
Premier Shawn Graham of New Brunswick and Governor John E. Baldacci are working towards a simplified way for people to cross back and forth across the border on a regular basis. Issuing a card that resembles a driver’s license with a microchip in it is a possible option that was shown to some members of the press during Graham’s recent visit to the state.
“We will work with Premier Graham and his government to make it as safe and easy as possible for visitors to travel back and forth across our shared border,” said Governor Baldacci. “I’d like to think that we can do this in a smart way with the microchips. Maybe we could start a pilot program for other border crossing areas across our nations to adopt.”
Graham added, “The development of these new technologies could allow us to keep our borders open. What we want to see are secure borders with a seamless flow of traffic to help our economies move forward.”
The premier joined the governor in Bangor last February where they both spoke to the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s Early Bird Breakfast and the Governor’s Conference on Tourism before the premier addressed a joint session of Maine’s Legislature. Last year Governor Baldacci addressed the New Brunswick Assembly.
“We are close culturally in our ties between the province and our state, and we have a long tradition of trade and movement between our territories,” said Baldacci. “Last year, Premier Graham and I watched as representatives from our two community colleges signed an agreement to share knowledge, experience, and resources. And this year, we are going to discuss ways to increase the ties between our artistic and creative communities.”
“We are building on a very long tradition of friendship between our provinces — a friendship that extends back centuries and generations,” said Graham. “A strong and vibrant cultural scene stimulates our economies.”
The two leaders discussed an array of additional issues where stronger ties working together in partnership would benefit both countries, including tourism, trade, transportation, education, and energy.
The governor highlighted the 20-year, sister-city relationship between Bangor and St. John, which has grown into Access Atlantica.
“There’s a tendency for some people in Maine to look to Boston and Portland for development . . . to see the rising economic tide come up through the state. We need to build upon the Bangor-St. John relationship like we have in Access Atlantica,” said the governor.
Business leaders and officials of this Northeast trade corridor are working together to grow the regional economy. Access Atlantica represents 400,000 people, has 14 universities and colleges, five airports, industrial parks, research and development facilities, and promises to develop transportation and energy infrastructure to benefit the region.
“As geographic neighbors, Maine and New Brunswick share similar issues relating to our economies and our place in the world of globalization,” said Graham.
With a new border crossing at Calais and the potential for an east-west highway, and the renewed relationship between Maine and New Brunswick’s leaders, commerce and tourism should grow.
“Our region offers some of the finest natural resources. Collaboration between Maine’s Office of Tourism and Tourism New Brunswick can be a mutually beneficial alliance that will enhance the tourism experience in our border towns and beyond,” said the governor.
Both leaders will to continue to promote the two-nation vacation initiative which encourages people to visit the region, not just Maine or New Brunswick. Leading by example, the New Brunswick leader and the governor promised to climb their respective jurisdictions’ mountains — Mount Carleton in New Brunswick and Mount Katahdin in Maine — together this summer.
In Maine rising energy and transportation costs are the two major factors that impede business expansion. In February of 2007 the two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding. The results of the reports issued subsequently make it possible for Maine to pursue energy independence from the New England ISO, allowing new partnerships to be formed. The premier and the governor are now working together to make this region an energy hub, exporting surplus energy to the Boston-New England market.
The collaboration has already produced results, when a railroad strike disrupted delivery of propane to the state. “The governor and I worked together to get that needed energy supply into the state. It’s by working cooperatively together we’re producing results that are going to benefit each region mutually,” said Graham.
Both leaders said they will work together to ensure both regions become responsible stewards of the environment, and they are looking forward to a long partnership.
“I am confident that in Premier Graham Maine has found a partner in progress,” said Baldacci.