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Emler Part of Midwest-Canada Relations Committee

Trade and border security are expected to be the top issues for a committee focusing on U.S.-Canada relations that includes Kansas state Sen. Jay Emler.

Emler is a 2008 graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. He was appointed to the Council on State Government’s Midwest-Canada Relations Committee.

"Aside from trade issues, we will also be looking at homeland security issues," said Emler, who was elected to the Kansas Legislature in 2000. "We hear a lot in the news about securing our southern border, but - in these turbulent times - it is equally important for us to ensure the security of our northern border."

Formed in 1991, the committee works to address issues related to U.S.-Canada Relations and to ensure the perspective of states and provinces are heard at the federal level. In February President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a "Declaration on a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness."

In part, the declaration seeks to move security concerns beyond the borders to the two countries and establish a "security perimeter" for the continent. The U.S.-Canadian border stretches for approximately 4,000 miles includes tribal lands on both sides, a situation that could be of concern as not all tribes have the resources to secure their borderlands.

Perhaps equally important are trade issues, which can be impacted by security concerns. Kansas-Canadian trade is valued at about $4.6 billion annually.

As an example of the links between his home state and Canada, Emler notes that Kansas is also the home to Learjet, which is owned by the Canadian company Bombardier Inc. Wings for Learjet are manufactured in Canada and trucked to Kansas via the privately operated Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Windsor, Canada.

"If there were an issue with that bridge, whether it was terrorism-related or the company deciding to shut the bridge down, that would have a horrendous impact on Wichita," Emler noted. "It’s not just the security part of it. It’s also the economics of the security measures taken."

Discussions are under way regarding building a second bridge in the vicinity, and Emler said the committee will be examining issues surrounding that prospect.

The end result of the committee’s work has yet to be determined. However, Emler said his CHDS experience is invaluable when discussing security issues with fellow lawmakers. While a CHDS student, Emler was the voice in class who often warned of the financial constraints in paying for security; he even penned his thesis on that very topic.

However, in this endeavor he takes another tack and points out the necessity of certain measures.

"I think the real benefit was being able to take what I learned from colleagues and bring it to legislators who say we can’t afford to do anything," he said. "Give them a view from trenches of the people who are trying to save lives and prevent disasters."