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Preclearance Act, 2016

An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of March 6, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-23.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America (the Agreement), done at Washington on March 16, 2015, to provide for the preclearance in each country of travellers and goods bound for the other country.

Part 1 of the enactment authorizes United States preclearance officers to conduct preclearance in Canada of travellers and goods bound for the United States and, among other things, it

(a) authorizes a federal Minister to designate preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters in Canada, in which preclearance may take place;

(b) provides United States preclearance officers with powers to facilitate preclearance;

(c) establishes that the exercise of any power and performance of any duty or function by a United States preclearance officer is subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act;

(d) authorizes Canadian police officers and the officers of the Canada Border Services Agency to assist United States preclearance officers in the exercise of their powers and performance of their duties and functions;

(e) allows a traveller bound for the United States to withdraw from the preclearance process, unless the traveller is detained under Part 1; and

(f) limits the ability to request the extradition or provisional arrest of a current or former United States preclearance officer.

Part 2 of the enactment provides for the preclearance in the United States, by Canadian officers, of travellers and goods bound for Canada. Among other things, Part 2

(a) specifies how the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will apply to travellers bound for Canada who are in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters in the United States, and extends the application of other Canadian legislation that relates to the entry of persons and importation of goods into Canada to those preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters;

(b) authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations adapting, restricting or excluding the application of provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and that other Canadian legislation in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters;

(c) prevents, as required under the Agreement, the exercise of powers of Canadian officers under Canadian law with respect to questioning or interrogation, examination, search, seizure, forfeiture, detention and arrest in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters, as similar powers will be conferred under the laws of the United States on Canadian officers;

(d) allows a traveller bound for Canada to withdraw from the preclearance process, unless the traveller is detained under the laws of the United States;

(e) deems an act or omission committed in a preclearance area or preclearance perimeter to be committed in Canada, if the act or omission would constitute, in Canada, an offence relating to the entry of persons or importation of goods into Canada; and

(f) grants the Attorney General of Canada the exclusive authority to commence and conduct a prosecution of a Canadian officer with respect to an act or omission committed in the United States.

Part 3 of the enactment makes related amendments to the Criminal Code to provide United States preclearance officers with an exemption from criminal liability under the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act with respect to the carriage of firearms and other regulated items. It also amends the Criminal Code to provide for a stay of proceedings against a United States preclearance officer when the Government of the United States provides notice under paragraph 14 of Article X of the Agreement.

Part 4 of the enactment makes a consequential amendment to the Customs Act, repeals the Preclearance Act and contains the coming-into-force provision.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 6, 2017 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
March 6, 2017 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That”, and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, because it: ( a) neglects to take into account the climate of uncertainty at the border following the discriminatory policies and executive orders of the Trump Administration; (b) does not address Canadians’ concerns about being interrogated, detained, and turned back at the border based on race, religion, travel history or birthplace as a result of policies that may contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; (c) does nothing to ensure that Canadians’ right to privacy will be protected during searches of their online presence and electronic devices; and (d) violates Canadian sovereignty by increasing the powers of American preclearance officers on Canadian soil with respect to the carrying of firearms and by not properly defining a criminal liability framework.”.
March 6, 2017 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my hon. colleague that this would absolutely expand it to all modes of transportation. When we look at the Preclearance Act of 1999, it only contemplated aviation, which meant that we were not able to confer those benefits to matters such as rail, boats, or any other modes of travel. This would confer those benefits and should mean reduced lines and reduced waiting times, which should mean not only more convenient travel but greater economic activity and greater opportunity for trade.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak today on the subject of a bill that will give Canada significant economic and security benefits, Bill C-23, the preclearance act.

As our country celebrates its 150th anniversary, it is important to note that this legislation honours the strong ties that Canada has proudly cultivated with its greatest trading partner, friend, and ally. These ties will persist between our respective governments, businesses, and people.

As we have heard, pre-clearance is a border management tool that does much to facilitate those ties, and it does so while contributing to our security and our economic interests. It has been part of our two countries' successful trade and border security relationship for a long time. Both countries have signalled an interest in expanding the program to new airports, including the Quebec City airport, and beyond air transportation, where it is currently used, to all modes of transport where and when it makes sense for both countries. The bill before us is the Canadian legislation needed to realize that vision.

Pre-clearance allows border services officers from the side performing the inspection to determine whether individuals and goods can enter that country while they are still physically in the host country.

We know from past experience that this works. Pre-clearance has been adopted in eight major Canadian airports. Indeed, every year, some 12 million passengers heading to the U.S. go through pre-clearance in Canada before they even board their planes.

From a security standpoint, it is best if border officials can address any and all concerns at the point of departure. From the travelling public's perspective, it is more convenient. Having undergone pre-clearance before boarding the plane, travellers can avoid long delays at U.S. customs, thereby shortening connection times and adding some predictability to their travel plans.

Passengers and airlines also benefit from the fact that they can now fly directly to domestic airports in the U.S. that do not have customs facilities for international arrivals.

This is how pre-clearance delivers economic benefits while helping maintain border security and integrity.

This bill will enable us to build on the success of the current air pre-clearance operations and expand them to other airports and, in fact, to all modes of transportation. The bill has an element of reciprocity, in that it will set up the legislative framework to govern potential Canadian preclearance operations in the United States.

I would like to use my remaining time to explain what pre-clearance will mean for the Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City. In March 2016, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security agreed, in principle, to expand pre-clearance to this location and three others, namely Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, the Montréal Central train station, and Rocky Mountaineer, in British Columbia.

The potential of pre-clearance in terms of regional economic development spells good news for this city, which is known as the cradle of French culture in North America. Quebec City's mayor, Régis Labeaume, described this as a great victory for Quebec City. It is not surprising that Mayor Labeaume and Aéroport de Québec Inc., which manages the Jean Lesage International Airport, as well as several other businesses, senior officials, municipalities, and other business associations in the area applaud the news. This is a measure they all fought hard for because they understand the benefits to passengers and to the local economy.

In 2015, the Jean Lesage airport welcomed over 220,000 passengers travelling to the U.S. Once the pre-clearance facilities are in place, departing passengers will undergo pre-clearance by U.S. border officials before boarding. As a result, when passengers arrive in the United States, it will be as though they were arriving on a domestic flight. This will reduce connection times and make their travel plans more predictable.

These pre-clearance facilities will make travelling to the United States more convenient for passengers and could also greatly increase the number of passengers using the airport by attracting more tourists and American business travellers.

Right now, flights from Jean Lesage International Airport go directly to New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale. Once the pre-clearance facilities are in place, the airport could offer direct flights to more American cities because planes could land at airports that do not have customs facilities.

That represents a significant economic advantage for the region. It will bring in approximately $75 million a year and create new jobs. That is why Quebec City and the Jean Lesage airport are so enthusiastic and eager to get pre-clearance facilities. I would like to close by reiterating that pre-clearance is an essential border management tool that will enhance prosperity and security.

Adding pre-clearance facilities to new sites, such as the Jean Lesage airport, will allow Canada and Canadian businesses to build even stronger ties with partners and clients in the United States in a way that strengthens our security and our economy. That is why Bill C-23 is so important. I therefore encourage members on both sides of the House to support it.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Since he mentioned the Jean-Lesage airport, I will ask him a very simple question. The president and CEO of the airport believes that it is unfair that Quebec City has to pay for the infrastructure needed for a pre-clearance area given that Montreal did not have to pay these costs and is not charged for this service.

Would my colleague like to comment on whether the government will commit to help different ports, stations, or airports that will host such new sites and pay the related expenses?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it just so happens that a long time ago, in my first career, I was a customs officer at the Jean-Lesage airport in Quebec City.

I have to say that making this investment is more than worth it, considering the economic benefits that will ensue. The current new economic reality is that new sites were approved along with the ensuing expenses. There is ample evidence of the return on the investment.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I took Bill C-23 back to the riding with me so I could read it carefully over the weekend.

I recognize that the bill emanates from an agreement that was made between the previous U.S. administration under President Obama and the previous prime minister, Stephen Harper. I find it heavy-handed in its description of what U.S. agents would be able to do, particularly in relation to keeping Canadians, or those with permanent residency in Canada, longer to ask them questions, or pursue other avenues of questioning, including searches if the pre-clearance officer has reasonable grounds to think that this might yield fruit. This would be on a range of things, from whether or not someone might have concealed materials that are not allowed into the U.S., and fruits and vegetables come to mind, a trivial example, to falling into the net of being considered a potential terrorist threat.

Given the current bent of the U.S. administration at the moment, in its anti-Muslim actions, it puts a different complexion on this agreement than that which we might have been willing to accept from a previous U.S. administration. I wonder if the government party has been considering whether we should not have amendments to the bill to reduce the scope of power of U.S. authorities in pre-clearance.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

I am also pleased with the experience I gained from my former career in Quebec City, which means that I can confirm, convince, and reassure everyone that the professional work of customs officers is not done randomly, nor is it based on perceived notions or guessing.

Their training ensures that any measures taken are taken reasonably. Furthermore, any measures taken in Canada are protected by Canadian laws and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This means that in addition to any current, modern, or contemporary concerns that people may have, such as the ones raised by the member, it is a good thing that we have the pre-clearance here in Canada, precisely so that our laws and our charter apply.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could provide a more technical answer about distribution of resources, but I do not have the details. I would be pleased to come back to the House later with more information about task and resource allocation.

As the member for Ajax and the minister said, this bill is merely a first step in a dialogue about an exchange of pre-clearance facilities in the hope that it will be expanded to the transportation of both passengers and cargo. With respect to where customs officers will be stationed, that is up to the departments. The Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. border service are responsible for their respective resources.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join the debate on Bill C-23. I will share my time with my colleague and very good friend from Mégantic—L'Érable.

I always begin with a Yiddish proverb, and I have one today: The door of success is marked by push and pull. I think this Yiddish proverb speaks about the relationship Canada has enjoyed with our friend, the United States, this long-standing relationship that predates Confederation, both our trade and military relationship, and families crossing the border back and forth.

This agreement, this legislation that would actually ratify the agreement and make it Canadian law, is part and parcel of that push and pull we have experienced on the door of success. Our economies are intertwined. America's success is Canada's success, and we would deepen that relationship through this agreement.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that a great part of this agreement and this piece of legislation was accomplished by our colleague on this side of the House, the member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, a member I had the distinct honour of working for many years ago, when he was first elected to this House, so I know the amount of work he puts into everything he does on behalf of his constituents and for this great country of Canada. This agreement is thanks to him. He did the majority of the work in getting it here. Now we see the fruits of his labour in this legislation to implement the agreement.

We know that pre-clearance of travellers already happens. It would be extended, thanks to this agreement and this legislation, to air, land, rail, and sea. There would be a greater opportunity for us to deepen our relationship with our American friends. It would also reduce congestion and delays in land travel, which, as we know, declined back in 2001, in the post-9/11 period, and it has never really recovered since. Individual passenger travel across the border has never really recovered. I have a piece of data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics that shows that 34% fewer vehicle passengers actually entered the United States in 2014 compared to the year 2000. It has gone down significantly.

Most people choose to fly, and that is where they experience pre-clearance. This would expand to other ports of entry into the United States.

The relationship we have with the United States very few other countries get to enjoy, with the preferential access we as Canadians have to the American market. As the member of Parliament for Parry Sound—Muskoka said earlier today in debate, the earliest agreement we actually have for the border crossing dates back to the 1970s. It is a long-term relationship we have had with our friends to the south, despite the disagreements we have had over the years, whether on foreign policy, economic policy, or social policy. We do not let them get in the way of deepening our relationship so it can increase trade.

We know that many jobs are dependent on our trade with our friends in the United States and that 35 states have Canada as their number one trading partner. A lot of that is thanks to the goods we ship to them and vice-versa, the goods they ship to us.

In February 2014, as part of deepening the relationship, we tried things. We tried pilot projects to track cargo. A pre-inspection pilot was launched at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario. The pre-clearance tested in that situation could facilitate legitimate trade and travel.

An existing bilateral air transport pre-clearance framework makes air travel much more efficient for 10 billions-plus passengers, and every year, at Canada's eight busiest international airports, we get to experience that pre-clearance.

For the rest of the time I have, I want to go through different sections of the bill, which I think address some of the concerns I have read in the news and in some of the emails I have received from constituents who have expressed concerns about the bill. I will try to address them as I go through it.

Bill C-23 has many controls in place, and oversight does exist. As many members have already mentioned, a lot would be constrained, so the powers border officers would be given would be constrained by Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The power and performance of any duty or function would apply to U.S. pre-clearance officers just as much as to Canadian officers who would be there to help them, and they would be subject to Canadian law. We see in part one of the summary of the bill that the law would apply, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Part two of the summary says it “extends the application of other Canadian legislation that relates to the entry of persons and importation of goods into Canada to those preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters”.

Again, the preamble does the same thing. It mentions the concept of oversight. In the legislation, we see that powers would be given and then would be constrained through the law and through references to the charter or references to other pieces of legislation that would constrain the actions pre-clearance officers can take in the execution of the duties they would be granted through the legislation.

As an example, to ensure their security, Canadian and U.S. pre-clearance officers will be able to carry the same regulated items that the host country officers have in the same environment. In Canada, this means that U.S. CBP pre-clearance officers would be able to carry firearms at land, rail, and marine modes, but not when they would be conducting the pre-clearance of air passengers. Currently, Canadian law enforcement officers on duty during CBP hours of operation are able to assist, if required, in the eight Canadian airports with pre-clearance operations. That is freely available online on the government's website, so it should be pretty easy for most people to find.

One thing constituents have asked me is whether U.S. pre-clearance officers have the authority to make arrests on Canadian soil. Again, no, not in this situation. As with the existing air transport pre-clearance agreement, they would not have the power of arrest, only the power to detain. If they are asking more questions, they have to get assistance from a Canadian officer. That is again part of the oversight and accountability format that allows for detention, not arrest, and a Canadian official has to be involved if an arrest has to be made. It is part and parcel of this deepened relationship, where we trust our American partners to the south to make good decisions and use good judgment. We trust in their training.

It will not be perfect, and I say that to everybody. I have had bad experiences at the American border, just as I have had bad experiences at foreign borders, much worse. It happens in certain situations and is sometimes unavoidable. They are people, and people make mistakes. That happens in all countries. It has nothing to do with the specifics of the law, which provides sufficient powers and then limits those powers in a reasonable way.

When I have travelled to other countries, there have been limitations placed on me or I was asked questions I did not want to answer. However, I am always free to say I do not want to answer the questions and remove myself. It can happen.

Like I mentioned before, the preamble of Bill C-23 refers to this constraining of the powers through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One thing I will mention, because it is quite unusual in debating legislation here, is that the powers, duties, and functions found in the bill include such headings as, “Frisk search — concealed goods”, “Strip search”, “Monitored bowel movement” in section 23 of the act. I find it quite unusual to have these kinds of headings in legislation, but, again, we are trying to be as specific as possible in detailing the types of powers being given and the limitations on the powers.

I have seen a lot of legislation come before the House which includes greater certainty clauses. There is one in this bill, clause 9, which states, “For greater certainty, Canadian law applies, and may be administered and enforced, in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters”. I have seen these greater certainty clauses in different legislation proposed by one of my colleagues, I believe it was Bill C-225, and in the physician-assisted dying bill as well. These greater certainty clauses give the indication to judges, should it ever get to that point, what exactly the legislation is trying to do. In this case, it clearly states that Canadian law applies equally to Canadian border officials and U.S. border officials in the process of applying their judgment to the functions they have been given, and that it is not unlimited, that it is absolutely constrained by reasonable limits.

Another limit in clause 10(2) states, “A preclearance officer is not permitted to exercise...any powers of questioning or interrogation, examination, search, seizure, forfeiture, detention or arrest that are conferred under the laws of the United States”. There is again that concept of limitation. We give them certain powers, but they are limited in other areas and constrained in the actions they can take.

Every officer goes through very intensive training before becoming responsible for border control. Through that process, officers learn about the different laws, what they can and cannot ask, what they can and cannot do, and how they are supposed to do their jobs. That is true for every occupation and profession throughout Canada and the United States. We are giving them certain powers, but then we are limiting them. It is part of the concept that with the agreement we sign, we will have expectations of border guards fulfilling their duties, as well as expectations of our own officials in the United States undertaking their duties. I am sure the Americans are having very similar debates on why they are allowing Canadian officers certain powers at their borders.

The bill is the culmination of work by a previous Conservative government and it should be celebrated. Through this agreement, we will be deepening our relationship with our partners to the south and that deeper trade in 20 or 30 years will absolutely create more jobs. I look forward to the bill going to committee. Then we can hear more specific concerns from witnesses. My constituents have shared some concerns with me and I look forward to having that back and forth through emails with them, explaining portions of the bill to them, and hearing what they have to say as well.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

He raised one point that Bill C-23 would change. He talked about the fact that, if a traveller does not like an officer's questions, the traveller can leave the pre-clearance area. What this bill actually changes is that people will no longer have the right to do that. If they do, they will be subjected to interrogation by officers.

As I said earlier in this debate, when I was going back and forth with the minister, that can be justified on the grounds that they just want to get certain answers. The problem is that officers are being given the power to detain Canadians and permanent residents and ask them questions.

According to this bill, the period of time must be reasonable even though there is no clear definition. That is what we are concerned about. Let us take the example of a permanent resident who refuses to be questioned and wants to leave the pre-clearance area. This was an example used in the media by a former lawyer from the immigration section of the Canadian Bar Association.

Would it not be problematic if a permanent resident of Canada in the process of obtaining his or her citizenship were to get a criminal record, given that the law refers to lack of co-operation, simply because officers asked questions and were profiling and the resident simply chose to leave the pre-clearance area?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question.

I do not agree with the scenario he just presented. Section 9 of the bill, entitled “Canadian law” states the following:

9 For greater certainty, Canadian law applies, and may be administered and enforced, in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters.

What this means is that officers can detain a Canadian, but they cannot arrest a Canadian or a permanent resident of Canada. The person may be detained so that the officers can ask them questions. However, in the end, a Canadian border officer will decide whether other questions should be asked or if criminal charges should be laid against a person.

I spoke about my border control experience. These were not border controls for the U.S., but for Poland, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. These are all countries I have travelled to. Before the European Union was created, there were border controls. It was very different. Questioning was much more aggressive at the Polish and German borders.

In Canada, American and Canadian officers have a role under the law and they will have to use their judgment to decide whether or not to ask an individual more questions.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his good question on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Of course, every border services officer will be responsible for enforcing the law in Canada. That is easy enough to understand. It is easy enough to make it a daily consideration. It is not just border services officers who think about it. I used to work in human resources and this was always a consideration.

We have to consider the law and what the law wants from us. Charter rights are among the rights that are enshrined in legislation, in other words, written rights. We have to use our judgment in the exercise of our occupation or our work.

In my opinion, border services officers are people who have a great deal of experience and training. At the end of the day, border services officers on both sides of the border provide a service to the person wishing to enter the country. They also ensure national security.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate my colleague from Calgary Shepard for his excellent speech. He gave us a lot of information about Bill C-23 and drew on his experience working with the public safety minister of the time to share with his colleagues his knowledge about those discussions. I thank my colleague, and I hope that many people heard his excellent speech.

Bill C-23 was introduced on June 17 by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I listened carefully to his words today as he gave his approximately 20-minute presentation explaining why the government decided to introduce Bill C-23.

I would like to come back to something that he said at the beginning of his speech. It came as no surprise to me, because since the current government was elected, we have been hearing its members regularly repeat the same talking points about the middle class and those working hard to join it and the tax cuts for the middle class, for Canadians who earn up to $200,000 a year.

That is worth keeping in mind because the definition of the middle class does not always make sense on that side. Including those who make up to $200,000 a year may be a way for our millionaire Prime Minister to put himself in that middle-class category.

As the government reminds us continually, what matters most to hard-working people is having a job, first and foremost. This government has been unable to create any full-time jobs in the past year. It does not have a plan. This is a government that cannot get results and that promises major infrastructure investments but cannot even make those investments happen, unfortunately.

If the government really wants to help the middle class, it should focus on creating jobs, not just repeating the same talking points day after day. I think Canadians would appreciate that. Bill C-23 is about Canada-U.S. relations. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, the government has not done much to improve our trade relationship with the United States.

One very concrete and specific example is diafiltered milk. This is a conflict we are having with the U.S. that could be resolved without even getting the Americans involved. I will say again that this is a conflict between the Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A simple definition of exactly what milk is would resolve this dispute, which, despite everything, remains a stumbling block in our relations with the U.S.

There is also the other file on which the government has not really done anything, that is, softwood lumber. I am sure I will have the opportunity to come back to this in the coming weeks. The government has missed several opportunities to settle this matter.

As I am sure everyone is well aware, the U.S. recently elected a new government. With this new government come new policies. They are talking about tax cuts for everyone, the elimination of corporate taxes, cutting red tape, and of course no carbon tax.

Our Prime Minister recently visited the new president. One could expect this visit to improve and increase our cross-border trading. Unfortunately for Canadians, our Prime Minister did not talk about the problem of diafiltered milk. He did not talk about the softwood lumber issue with the American president.

Worse still than what the Prime Minister did not do during this meeting is what he did not do when he got back. The Prime Minister did not present a plan to help our businesses be more competitive. He did not announce a single concrete measure to help resolve the diafiltered milk issue.

There is nothing, no plan, no proposal to resolve the softwood lumber file. There is no plan to reduce business taxes and no intention to keep the promise to lower taxes for small and medium-sized businesses.

However, everyone in the House knows who the main job creators are, those who truly build our economy, especially in regions like mine and those of my colleagues in Lévis—Lotbinière and Calgary Shepard.

Small and medium-sized businesses play a major role in creating jobs everywhere. Unfortunately, the government has no intention of keeping its promise to lower taxes for SMEs. Not only is there no plan, but on this side of the border, we are getting a carbon tax.

In order for Bill C-23 to improve matters, the government must start by setting the example. It has missed the boat in terms of relations with the United States.

However, I have to say that Bill C-23 does indeed come from a government with vision. I am not, however, talking about the current government, but about a good government. I am referring to the vision set out on February 4, 2011, in a document released by former U.S. President Barack Obama and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, entitled “Beyond the Border: a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness”.

This declaration established a new long-term partnership focused on an approach to security and economic competitiveness based on the common perimeter of our two countries. This means that we will work together not only at the border, but also beyond the border, in order to enhance security and accelerate the legitimate movement of people, goods and services. To achieve this goal, the leaders asked that a common action plan be developed, and that is what is set out in this document.

Without the working group set up by the previous government, which had a vision for Canada, there would be no Bill C-23. Nevertheless, let us talk about this bill, which we will support, naturally, so that it can go to committee for thorough study with the help of experts.

This is an act that implements the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America signed by the Conservative government in 2015. It builds on the Agreement on Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America. It imposes reciprocal obligations on both countries to facilitate travel and trade while enhancing security.

This bill contemplates new Canadian locations, including Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, the Montréal Central Station, and the Rocky Mountaineer Station. Pre-clearance is currently performed at eight Canadian airports, including Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.

The Liberal government decided that the economic advantages outweighed the costs and is therefore going to work to pay for American customs infrastructure on Canadian soil. The airports in question will provide the facilities and equipment needed and cover the costs related to hiring, training, and equipping American officers.

This issue is very important to residents of the Quebec City area, and the Jean Lesage International Airport is happily looking forward to acquiring pre-clearance facilities. In fact, in the past, people were impatiently urging all governments to get these pre-clearance facilities. Dozens of businesses, executives, municipalities, and chambers of commerce publicly expressed their support for pre-clearance facilities at the Jean Lesage airport.

I would like to quote the president and CEO of Aéroport de Québec Inc., who said the following in a 2015 news release:

Installing a U.S. Customs pre-clearance facility will bring considerable economic spinoffs to the region, while making it easier for our passengers to travel to the United States....It’s a key added benefit for Québec City and an undeniable asset that will stimulate and support economic growth in the region and across eastern Québec.

I would like to add that all of Canada will benefit.

We are therefore going to support Bill C-23. This matter has been under consideration for a long time, and economic and tourism stakeholders have been waiting. It will give Quebec City and the other airports involved greater access to the American market and American territory, and I believe that that will be beneficial to all Canadians.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that the current Bill C-23 is much better than Bill C-23 from the previous Parliament, but let us forget about that for now.

The last time I checked the schedule for the train from Toronto to New York, there was a delay at the U.S. border of between an hour and half to three hours. Expanding this train service is very important, and that is what this bill proposes. We see this in Europe. When I travelled from London to Brussels by train, I cleared customs on the England side, before going through the tunnel. It is very efficient.

I want to know what my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable thinks of the importance of also expanding this customs service to rail service.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member raises an important point, one that should be explored properly in committee.

Indeed, any measures that can enhance economic and tourism exchanges with our neighbours should be implemented, whether we are talking about travel by train or plane, in a way that respects both countries' jurisdictions. We should also consider implementing additional measures to facilitate the transportation of goods between the two countries, so this should eventually extend to trucking.

Once again, other avenues could be explored in order to go even further in terms of improving trade with our American neighbours. That said, if this government ever manages to settle the softwood lumber issue, it would be even easier to get our lumber into the U.S.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I acknowledge the economic significance of pre-clearance and everything that this entails, but the fact remains that there are some serious concerns.

Again, even though this practice already exists, we are giving U.S. officers more power. One of the problems is the government's argument about the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Consider our cell phones when we cross the border. There was a time when most people did not bring their phones with them, or did not even have a cell phone.

More and more we bring our entire life with us on small computers tucked away in our pockets. The problem is that there is no real legislation in Canada to govern how border officers, Canadian and American alike, are to deal with this on Canadian soil. We can take for granted that the charter will provide some protection, but there are no real legal precedents. We are simply relying on ministerial directives that apply to the Canada Border Services Agency. This concern was raised by the Privacy Commissioner.

Given that the current U.S. government is talking about creating more laws to obtain passwords for social networks, especially for cell phones, does my colleague not understand the consequences this could have? Furthermore, even though the application of the charter is mentioned in the bill, according to case law, the charter has never been fully applied to what happens in customs.