Cullen grills Conservatives in the House over Stewart border closure

OTTAWA – Nathan Cullen, New Democrat Finance Critic and MP for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, rose in the House of Commons today to take the Conservative government to task for its short-sighted decision to close the border crossing between Stewart, British Columbia and Hyder, Alaska for eight hours a day.

“The friendship of the communities of Stewart, British Columbia and Hyder, Alaska represent the very best of our friendship with our American cousins,” Cullen told the Commons. “The towns are interwoven and deeply connected, but on April 1, the Conservative government decided to close the vital border crossing between Stewart and Hyder for eight hours a day, cutting off these two intertwined communities, one from the other. The Conservatives did not consult with the local community or businesses and the government admitted it will not even save any money by this action.

“The local businesses in the region have been clear: it will cost jobs in tourism, mining, and other pillars of that small community. If the situation does not sound ridiculous enough already, last week the state of Alaska voted to offer to pay Canada to keep the border open 24 hours a day.

“When it comes to respecting our friendship with the United States and protecting the jobs and safety of northern communities, the Conservatives are an embarrassment. The people of Stewart and Hyder deserve better.

Cullen concluded: “When will the minister stand up and reverse this idiotic and irresponsible decision?”

MP Roxanne James, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, responded on behalf of the government. “It is simply not feasible to pay a highly trained border services officer to stand at an unused border crossing.”

Returning from the House, Cullen expressed dismay at James’s statement. “How willfully detached from reality can this Conservative government get? If they had bothered asking the citizens and local businesses in Stewart and Hyder, they would see that this crossing isn’t ‘unused’, and understand its importance for the two communities. But they didn’t, because this government would rather pinch pennies and trudge along ignorant to the needs of our northern communities.”

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** A video clip of Cullen’s intervention in the House, and the government’s response, can be viewed here: