Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this incredibly important bill, Bill C-23, Preclearance Act, 2016.
One of the largest priorities of our government is ensuring that our border runs smoothly, efficiently, and securely. Indeed, the relationship between Canada and the United States is a fundamentally important one to our economy. There is $2.2 billion in trade daily between our two economies. Of course, our friendship extends over many decades, and our border is often referred to as the envy of the world.
The meetings that were recently had in Washington with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to deepen that relationship obviously included the issue of pre-clearance, making it easier for goods, services, and people to move across our borders, and to improve security, the state of our economy, and the ability for us to do commerce with one another.
On the American side, they have already legislated the necessary measures to enhance pre-clearance. They did so in the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016. It is essential that we follow suit and do the same thing. Indeed, the Preclearance Act of 1999 only contemplates pre-clearance for air travel. I will be talking in a moment about why it is so essential that we expand that to other areas.
Already, folks would have used pre-clearance. I used it this weekend. There are around 30,000 Canadians a day who use it, and 12 million travellers annually at eight different locations. When we are talking about it, it is important to note that this is something that is already taking place with enormous success. I think it is important to contemplate what are some of the benefits, both of what is happening today but also what is being contemplated with this legislation.
There would be an increase in security. The ability to block somebody who should not be travelling from travelling in the first place is a massive advantage. It makes sense that we do not want somebody who should not be travelling to board that plane or that train or that ship in the first place. Pre-clearance gives us the opportunity to stop that from happening.
It also means that when it is on our side, if there is an incident where we have encountered some sort of violation, that we get the opportunity for prosecuting that domestically.
There is also an opportunity for greater border integrity along the same lines, because this would expand pre-clearance to also happen in the United States, something that has long been sought. That means that we could stop somebody from entering Canada, somebody who does not belong. Currently, that person would arrive in Canada, and we would then have to deal with them, removing them after the fact. Certainly that is a significant benefit.
To travellers and to our economy, there would be a great deal of benefit. Let us start with the benefit of being able to directly travel where one wants to go. Right now, as an example, at Jean Lesage in Quebec, if people want to go to Nashville, they have to go through a connection. There is no opportunity to fly directly.
By expanding this and by allowing pre-clearance to happen in Quebec City, the number of cities would be expanded from 27 to 50. It would give direct access to a number of different airports that we would not otherwise not have and, by the way, that no one else in the world does have. It could include LaGuardia or Reagan or Columbus, Ohio, or Milwaukee, or Richmond or, as I said, Nashville and many other locations.
This would be a tremendous benefit that I think is easily understood by anybody, for travellers to get directly where they want to go. I know everybody wants to avoid layovers wherever possible. That is not only a convenience factor, it makes the attractiveness of doing commerce between our two countries much greater as well.
The other thing that might surprise folks is, already, Pearson in Toronto is the fourth largest point of entry into the United States. Let us think about what that means. Imagine somebody is looking to do a cruise. They are coming from Europe and they want to see the B.C. coastline and go up to Alaska. It means that they can board that cruise ship in Vancouver, get pre-cleared, and be able to go to small towns in Alaska without having to go through any sort of border process or any sort of rigamarole. That is an enormously attractive thing for people who want to come and visit our two countries, to only have to go through one border process and be able to go through it in a much more efficient way in a place that would be larger and more capable of being able to process people effectively.
When we think about the cruise ship industry specifically, let us look at the size of it. It is $435 million of economic benefits just to the B.C. coastal region alone, and that includes 4,600 local jobs. Therefore, if we can use this to facilitate a greater movement of folks and be able to encourage that industry, obviously that is a tremendous benefit.
There have been some folks who have raised an issue of concern around security. I think one of the biggest points to consider on this is to imagine ourselves as travellers and we want to go to the United States. Where would we rather be checked? Would it be on U.S. soil or on Canadian soil where we have the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the protection of the Canadian Bill of Rights, the protection of the Human Rights Act, and the broader protections of Canadian law, period? If something goes wrong, I would imagine, as Canadian citizens, we would want to be on the Canadian side of the border. It is important, when all the powers are contemplated, that we have the full protection, force, and effect of Canadian law. Therefore, when one is travelling, I would think that one would feel a lot safer, a lot more secure, in having that pre-clearance happen on Canadian soil and under Canadian law.
We can look at some of the places we would like to be able to expand to. Obviously, we already have expansion possibilities of Billy Bishop, I mentioned Jean Lesage, Central Station, and Rocky Mountaineer Station in Montreal and B.C. specifically. I hope that this is only the beginning.
The vision of pre-clearance is one that allows travellers to move quickly and efficiently, and this bill would expand it as well to cargo so that we could see a greater exchange of goods and services moving more easily across our border. Canadians could know when they arrive at the border that they are doing so with the full protection of Canadian law.
Last, I would indicate that on the broader issue of the Canada Border Services Agency, we are committed to looking at oversight and making sure that we do an ever better job of delivering the services at the border. However, the more I get to know this file and have an opportunity to work with the minister, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank the incredible men and women who work at our border every day to help facilitate that trade between our two countries. I think this bill only furthers to support them in their noble goal to move goods and services between our countries and to deepen the trade that exists between Canada and the U.S.