House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was border.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member on his breadth of knowledge on the subject.

Many of the speeches today narrowed in on some damaging comments made by the homeland secretary. The opinion in the House seems to be that they were damaging remarks and the government has not been aggressive enough in correcting the image and damage done by those remarks. There is another body of thought, however, that they were damaging remarks, an apology was made and everything is fine.

I would like to know where the NDP settle on this issue, where those members think work might be done at restoring the image and the truth behind the image that the border is secure, that we are good neighbours and partners with our friends in the United States and that the comments attributed were damaging and do not reflect the reality of our good, strong and friendly border.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need to deal with this in a much broader sense. Ms. Napolitano's comments are nonsense and hurtful and they create a lot of confusion. To suggest that people had a good chuckle over them is very insensitive to Canadians who are losing their jobs every single day because American companies are deciding to relocate their facilities back to the United States because the Canadian government will not do anything about it. That is the consequence. It is scaring off some of the investment. Not only is the economy bad now, but many companies have to decide on where they are going to invest in newer technologies as they upgrade their facilities. One of the things they are deciding to do is to look at the border again.

I will give the government credit for one thing, that it has a decent plaza location for the next border crossing in the Windsor-Detroit area. It has been a long fought campaign. There are some problems with what is proposed but at least there is something happening and I will give the government credit for that.

However, we need an overall strategy. We need an overall border position that would be responsible to harness this in. We have to start saying quite unequivocally to the United States that all Canadians should be treated equally and that we have some of the best security in the world.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for Windsor West on his comments. He certainly speaks for all of us who represent border communities. A really challenging environment has been created by many Americans who do not seem to understand the facts.

In Sault Ste. Marie, for example, 800,000 vehicles a year cross the bridge back and forth between the United States and Canada. People cross the border for a myriad of reasons, trade, business, school or work. It is a relationship that has been built up over a number of years that used to be very friendly and easy. As a matter of fact we were moving to a place where there was hardly any disruption in travel back and forth until 9/11 happened. We all know the impact that 9/11 has had on the whole of the world and how that might have an important impact on cross-border activity.

People have come into my office after they have experienced this thickening of the border and the very thorough review they have had to go through in meeting with the customs agents on the other side, and frankly, people just do not want to cross the border any more. That is not helpful. Certainly trade between the U.S. and Canada is important, but so is friendship.

I was wondering if the member's own day-to-day experience is the same as ours in Sault Ste. Marie.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his work in Sault Ste. Marie. There is actually a project that needs to get going and some support there would be very important. One of the best things the government could do is actually move the project's facility there.

My colleague is exactly right. I had to recently go to Washington as I was presenting to a number of different trade organizations. We were only three cars deep in the lanes and it took over one-half hour to get through the process. I have no problem with checking out the documentation, my vehicle and everything else. They were fine with me, but it would be good if there was some overnight scrutiny. If they are going to detain vehicles for long periods of time, they should move them to secondary inspection.

That is one of the reasons I believe we need to start advocating for an overall border position. In my region we do not even have a border authority. Despite the fact that we have a key part of Canada's land border trade, we do not actually have any border authority for the region. That is different than Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Sault Ste. Marie, Fort Erie. All those places have that. I would actually advocate to monitor that. People are getting discouraged and turning away.

It is interesting when we look at what is happening on our north-south border. It is totally different in terms of inspection versus cargo coming into the country from the ports. I think it is 5% of cargo that is actually inspected. Meanwhile, we could have auto parts for say the mini-van in Windsor that will go across the border six times before it is actually in its final compact form. I would encourage people to use their stimulus and buy a mini-van from Windsor right now. They are good deals.

At any rate, that will have a lot more scrutiny than some of the cargo coming from overseas in containers which is really incredible because we have an integrated industry.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government has failed miserably to promote the NEXUS program, an enhanced driver's licence which would speed traffic across the border. The government has failed to promote cheaper passports which would help alleviate the problem. I would like to ask the member from Windsor what he thinks the economic consequences will be as of June 1 because of the government's inaction over the last couple of years?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is going to be significant. NEXUS is a good example where we actually have NEXUS lanes that do not even have staffing or NEXUS lanes at certain times where the staff are pulling every vehicle aside and actually checking them which defeats the whole purpose. There are also NEXUS lanes where people cannot get their car to because there is not enough space in the physical part of the actual border. Therefore, a lot of work needs to be done.

On the reciprocal point, which I did not get a chance to get into and it is really important, the government really has not woken up to this yet. We have the summer coming which is a challenge. I know right now that border and customs availability is diminishing and we are going to have longer lineups coming into Canada which is going to create a significant problem.

Before we would have students at certain border points that were trained and were part of the border process, interviewing people entering the country. Those positions are being eliminated as well and there has not been a backfill of them. Therefore, we have a significant problem coming up with not having the proper customs facilities at the border points and it is being raised by businesses already.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his statements and his discussion which I think is adding to our motion today. However, not only are there physical border cities but increasingly we recognize that every city in Canada with an international airport is also a border city and that the lineups at airports are significant as well. The cross-border traffic of business people as well as tourists are also of a concern. I am wondering if the member could comment on that.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting and important part that has not had a lot of discussion but it too is critical especially at international airports.

If we do not have the staffing component there, it can be quite frustrating for the tourism industry. Interestingly enough as well, and I shared this with my American colleagues, now that Canadians are being forced to get a passport they are also choosing other destinations. Before, they chose to go to the United States, but now Canadians are making other changes because when one has a passport one is looking at travelling the world versus just the United States.

I have been hammering away with this message to them and they are taking an interest in that, especially the members from Florida and California who before relied upon that captive audience.

The hon. member is right. If we do not have that reciprocal staffing component by the United States and Canada and we do not have the monitoring of it, its diminishment will create problems. I also hear many complaints at different times on how the staff at border facilities are being treated at these airports. There is a critical component and now with air travel diminishing there will be the temptation to lower the amount of staffing at these facilities.

I hope that is not the case. Business travel as well as other travel is there. That is why I believe we should be making sure that we reinforce the civil service as opposed to taking it away. If we do, more people will get frustrated and stop taking trips, business or personal travel, and will find other means. I think that diminishes opportunities.

For all that is said about web conferencing and so on, there is still nothing like the human to human conversation and a meeting together in a business environment. That is still really important. I view this as very critical for our future. It connects us to the rest of the world. If we do not have that capability, if people pull back out of frustration, we will lose another opportunity.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, recognizing that the government has dropped the ball and failed to promote NEXUS or cheaper passports, I would like to ask the member what he thinks the government should be doing in the short run to make up for past failures and to get more passports into the hands of people who need them at a much lower cost than currently is available?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States Border
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, NEXUS is really important. Some large businesses do have successful ventures with it, but some of the medium and smaller businesses have a more difficult time finding the time and the process to go through NEXUS.

I would like to see a government program that is based on a certain time period to roll out an aggressive approach to get people to sign up with NEXUS and facility management, to help people re-enroll, and also to get through the process. We could also have a waiving of the fee, or a partial waiving of the fee. There needs to be that assertive approach to move forward.

That would be very helpful especially when we look at some of the medium-sized businesses that have not fully engaged in NEXUS or that do not have the capability to follow through because they have cut back so much or they are just basically run by one or two operators. To me that would be one of the things that we could do in the short-term that would be very advantageous. It would not only move that individual customer's border material through but would also ensure that it opens up lanes for other people, and that is a combination.

That is something I have been pushing any of the levels of government to do since we have had this program because we hear from different people in the constituency and also across the country that they would like to do NEXUS, but they cannot find the time, or they do not want to go through the paperwork, or they do not even know whether it would be worthwhile. This is one of the things we have to sell them on that because I think it is worth it for us all.

Tourism
Statements By Members

April 27th, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians face the challenges of the worldwide economic slowdown, many folks may be changing their vacation plans this summer. Why do they not choose Canada's beauty for their summer holidays?

In my neck of the woods there are many wonderful sights to see and lots of things to do, not more than an hour and a half from downtown Toronto.

Northumberland—Quinte West is perfectly situation between Toronto and Montreal, and provides a myriad of vacation choices for people of all ages and economic means.

Northumberland's rolling hills are full of great places to stay the night, while people fill their days visiting museums, artist studios and many wonderful shops and restaurants.

In Quinte West the fishing on the Trent River and the Bay of Quinte are unmatched in Ontario, and if someone just needs to get away for the day, why not choose one of the beautiful beaches on Lake Ontario or Rice Lake?

I invite all my colleagues and their constituents from across Canada to come to Northumberland—Quinte West this summer to experience its wonderful natural attractions and very friendly people.

Leadership Initiatives
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to an inspirational boy in my riding of Richmond Hill, Bilaal Rajan who, at the age of 12, has demonstrated leadership beyond his age.

Since he was four years old, he began raising awareness on various children's issues and throughout his life already, he has been appointed as a child ambassador for UNICEF Canada. He founded Hands for Help and recently published a book, Making Change: Tips from an Underage Overachiever.

Last week, in celebration of International Volunteer Week, he spearheaded the barefoot initiative, where he walked barefoot for a week to understand what it would be like to walk in another child's shoes. In developing countries, children walk for miles in their bare feet every day to fetch water or go to school.

It is vital that we have young people like Bilaal who can voice their concerns and participate in these positive initiatives. His actions are truly inspiring and remind us here in Canada and across the globe that we are never too young to make a difference. It can be done one step at a time, barefoot or not.

Martin Gray
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Ms. Isabelle Saint-Hilaire, guidance counsellor at Val-Mauricie secondary school, who has invited the famous Franco-American Jewish writer, Martin Gray, to speak to the students of her school today.

As an adolescent, Martin Gray experienced the horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime. Later, his wife and four children perished in a forest fire. He became a writer to give his life purpose. Mr. Gray has received more than 800,000 letters from people who told him that his story has renewed their sense of purpose.

Prior to the arrival of Mr. Gray, all students were required to read For Those I Loved, discuss it in class and prepare questions for the speaker, who said that he is delighted to visit Shawinigan.

Congratulations to Martin Gray for his message of courage and hope and kudos to Isabelle Saint-Hilaire for this remarkable initiative.

Health Care
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, nothing is more important to Canadians than their family's good health, so it is understandably frustrating that we must fight the same battles again and again to beat back new attempts to undermine medicare. We are suffering from privatization creep.

This month, the member forWinnipeg North joined me in addressing a packed hall of constituents angry about proposed cuts to health care. I promised to share these fears with the House.

Services are being delisted and de-insured. Cuts are being made to pharmaceuticals and vision care. Seniors are forced to buy health insurance. Expanded private medical clinics are drawing doctors away from our already understaffed public health care system.

Canadians expect the federal government to respect the underlying principles of universal health care, the very principles that are envied by other nations.

Health care may not be front page news these days, but it is certainly top of mind for my constituents and likely for many Canadians who have lost their jobs, their income and their health plans.

The government must implement the long promised universal pharmacare, spend more on senior care, and extend, not slice, coverage. It is not a question of whether we can--

Health Care
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.