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

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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.

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development—Main Estimates, 2016-17Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2017 / 10:45 p.m.
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Orléans Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Leslie LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Canada-U.S. Relations)

Madam Chair, I will be using 10 minutes for my speech, followed by five minutes for questions.

As we have said on numerous occasions, the Canada-U.S. economic relationship is balanced and mutually beneficial. Our economic ties to the U.S. are key to middle-class jobs and growth on both sides of the border.

Our partnership is also critical to Americans. Canada is the number one customer for U.S. exports and we are America's biggest market. Thirty-two states count Canada as their largest international export destination, with nine million U.S. jobs directly linked to trade with Canada. We do over $2.4 billion in trade a day, every single day.

We strongly believe that a whole-of-government and non-partisan approach is the best way to have an impact on American decision-makers and opinion leaders. That is what has happened in this Parliament, and we are all delighted. I will now speak about our key priorities.

At their first meeting in Washington, the Prime Minister and President Trump issued a joint statement that gave a clear indication of Canada's priorities in our relationship with the United States. The statement is a road map to upcoming co-operative projects between our two nations and it focuses on five key areas.

First, the growth of our economy, which includes such initiatives as co-operation on regulation. The Treasury Board Secretariat is leading an ongoing dialogue with American officials to move ahead with co-operation on getting rid of regulations that impede the flow of business. Another initiative is the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The Windsor-Detroit border crossing project is halfway through the bidding stage, and a private sector partner is expected to be selected next spring.

The second is promoting energy security and the environment. This focused area includes and identifies pipelines, and air and water quality. For pipelines, Keystone XL is now approved. The economy and the environment have to go hand in hand. There are several other projects like pipelines or electricity transmission lines that are at different stages for review.

When it comes to air and water quality, Environment and Climate Change Canada is working very closely with the U.S. and broad co-operation continues in some specific problem areas.

The third is keeping our border secure, of course. Entry-exit or, more specifically, Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act will allow for full implementation of the entry-exit initiative whereby Canada and the U.S. will exchange information on all travellers crossing the land border. We expect implementation by 2018. There will be a thinning of the border with a thickening of the outer perimeter of security.

There was also discussion of pre-clearance, namely Bill C-23, An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States. Once the bill is passed, both countries will be in a position to ratify the agreement, which will provide a framework for expansion of pre- clearance to cargo. In other words, it will get stuff moving faster.

The fourth area of focus was working together as allies in the world's hot spots, which includes co-operation on NORAD, which of course is essential to our Arctic sovereignty, as well as dominance over our own air space, our military alliance with the U.S., not only through NORAD but also NATO. The steps for modernization are in the government's defence policy review. More news will be announced on that by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence shortly.

There is also the coalition to counter Daesh, wherein Canada is a key member of this 68-member coalition. The minister attended the ministerial meeting in Washington, DC, hosted by Secretary Tillerson on March 22, where the future strategy to defeat Daesh was clearly laid out.

We have also made some specific proposals and taken action to counter the activities, the heinous crimes of Daesh, not the least of which is supporting, through military efforts, but also $804 million in humanitarian aid, to assist the most vulnerable.

The fifth and last area of focus in this thematic scheme is empowering women entrepreneurs and business leaders. We oversaw the creation of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. The council is committed to removing barriers to women's participation in the business community, and supporting women by promoting the growth of women-owned enterprises.

We are committed to gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, and the promotion and protection of their human rights. We see women as powerful agents of change, an experience I, myself, have seen in the war-torn lands of Afghanistan. These individuals have the right to be full participants, and influencers in peace and security operations. Achieving gender equality requires changing unequal power relations, and challenging social norms and gender stereotypes. We can lead by example in that regard.

The next issue is with regard to the terms of the engagement strategy.

Since January 20, the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories have been undertaking an ambitious pan-Canadian strategy to get the United States involved. This includes not only the Prime Minister's official visit to Washington in February—I had the pleasure of going with him—but also visits, meetings, and other discussions between the ministers, parliamentarians, and provincial and territorial leaders and their American counterparts, as well as political leaders at the national and state level.

The ministers have undertaken an action-centred program that targets 11 key states whose main export destination is Canada and that maintain vital economic links with Canada or have a significant impact on American policy and Canadian interests.

We have already made over 100 visits as part of this effort. Twelve parliamentary committees are planning or preparing to go on visits to the United States in the near future, and I thank them for that. Through these visits, calls, and meetings initiated by Canada's network in the United States, we have obtained the support of over 215 political leaders in the United States.

Top of mind, of course, is NAFTA, something we have already talked about tonight. I know it has been said before, and we are going to say it again. We are ready to come to the negotiating table with our American friends at any time. It has been modified 11 times since its inception. It is natural that trade agreements evolve as the economy evolves. Canada is open to discussing improvements that would benefit all three NAFTA parties.

Should negotiations take place, and we all expect they will, Canada will be, and is, prepared to discuss at the appropriate time specific strategies, but we are not going to expose our cards right now. Quite frankly, we want a good deal, not just any deal.

When it comes to softwood lumber, on April 24, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would impose preliminary countervailing duties on certain softwood lumber products from Canada. We disagree strongly with the U.S. Department of Commerce's decision to impose an unfair and punitive duty. The accusations are baseless and unfounded. We continue to believe that it is in both our countries' best interests to have a negotiated agreement as soon as possible with a deal that is fair for both countries.

We have been in constant conversation with our American counterparts. The Prime Minister raises this every time he interacts with President Trump, as does the minister with her counterparts. As a matter of fact, the last time she raised it with her counterparts was yesterday. That is literally hot off the press.

While Canada is committed to negotiating an agreement, once again, we are not going to accept just any deal. We need an agreement that is in the best interests of our industry. We want a win-win.

In conclusion, while we only touched on a couple of the highlights of our engagement on this very broad, complex, and deep relationship, it is clear that the partnership between Canada and the United States has been essential to our shared prosperity. Our trade with the United States is balanced and mutually beneficial. We are its largest customer. We invest more in the U.S. than the U.S. invests in us. We are the Americans' biggest client.

We will also continue to work with all parliamentarians to ensure that we maintain a united front in our engagement with the United States in a non-partisan fashion. The growth of our economy and working well with the United States is not a partisan issue. All members of Parliament are thanked, essentially, for their “all hands on deck” approach.

Canada's relationship with the United States is extensive, highly integrated, and prosperous. Thirty-two states count Canada as their largest international export destination. Nine million U.S. jobs are linked to trade with Canada, and we do over $2.4 billion in trade a day. That is why from the very beginning, our government looked for ways to reach out to the new American administration to advance issues of mutual interest.

It is also important to realize that it has been really a non-partisan approach. I would like to single out, as the minister has done, the interim Leader of the Opposition, the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland, for her fantastic work in Washington. I literally saw her in action now on two different occasions, once at the inauguration and once at another event involving the governors. She was on television. She was able to leverage her Rolodex of very impressive leaders in Washington itself. She was organizing her teams to actually get out there and interact with us. She dispatched a whole bunch of her members of Parliament down to pair off with their Liberal and NDP colleagues. Quite frankly, it was sterling leadership by example.

I would also like to single out the hon. member for Prince Albert, my opposite number, the critic. We have travelled to the United States many times. I find him knowledgeable, experienced, and once again a true Canadian at heart. It has been a pleasure to work alongside him.

I wonder if the minister would please outline her activities and elaborate on our engagement strategy with the United States at all levels and across all sectors.

April 11th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Assistant Deputy Minister, Americas, and Chief Development Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development

David Morrison

Sure. I'm joined today by my colleagues Martin Moen, the director general for North America and investment at Global Affairs Canada, and by Heidi Hulan, the director general of the international security policy bureau.

I'll make the opening statement touching on many of the issues that I think you are looking at. We were given a list of nine wider issue areas. Then my colleagues and I would be very happy to answer questions.

By way of preamble, I was going to say that working with parliamentarians is a critical feature of Global Affairs Canada's outreach strategy in engaging the Trump administration. In fact, the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group has been down in Washington, and the embassy there has been hosting a wide range of parliamentarians individually and in groups as we seek to forge new relations with the Trump administration. We believe that a cross-party, non-partisan approach is the best way to have an impact on American decision-makers and opinion leaders.

The first question in your study is about the overall priorities in Canada's relationship with the United States under the Trump administration. In a certain sense, this was the subject of the Prime Minister's visit to Washington, D.C., on February 13.

The priorities are set out in the joint statement, which is a roadmap for future cooperation between our two countries. It includes five areas of focus, each with concrete commitments. I’ll give you some examples.

The first example concerns the growth of our economies.

When it comes to regulatory cooperation, the Treasury Board Secretariat is leading an ongoing dialogue with senior American government officials. The goal is for the officials to reaffirm the support of the new American administration for the efforts to continue the work and advance regulatory cooperation and alignment opportunities across key economic sectors.

Minister Brison has met with his American counterpart in Washington, and both parties are keen to push this agenda forward.

Another point mentioned in terms of growing our economies was the Gordie Howe International Bridge. This project is under way, and the winner of the call for proposals for the public-private partnership will be chosen in the spring of 2018.

The second area in terms of growing the economies was on promoting energy security and the environment. On energy security, as we know, the KXL pipeline has now received its presidential permit, and several other projects, either pipelines or electricity transmission lines, are at different stages of review in the U.S. process.

Another area mentioned was air and water quality. Environment and Climate Change Canada is working closely with the U.S., and broad co-operation continues on air and water.

Another area highlighted was keeping our borders secure. Part of this is the entry-exit question. Bill C-21 has been tabled and implementation is expected by 2018.

On pre-clearance, Bill C-23 is at second reading and is shortly going to committee. Implementation is still to be determined and we are now also actively exploring with the U.S. how to do joint pre-inspection for cargo.

Another area was working together as allies in the world's hot spots. NORAD was mentioned specifically. The next steps in modernization of NORAD will be tied to the government's defence policy review, which I believe will be coming out shortly.

On Daesh, Minister Freeland attended a Global Coalition against Daesh meeting in Washington, D.C., hosted by Secretary Tillerson on March 22. As you know, Canada is a member of the 68-member coalition to degrade and defeat Daesh.

Finally, on growing our economies, there was the establishment of the Canada-U.S. Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders. This council is committed to removing barriers to women's participation in the business community and supporting women by promoting the growth of women-owned enterprises to further contribute to overall economic growth and competitiveness.

Let me now say a word about the government's overall engagement strategy with the new U.S. administration and the new U.S. Congress, as well as at the state level.

On January 20, the Government of Canada, provinces and territories embarked on an ambitious whole-of-Canada strategy of engagement and outreach toward the United States. This includes not only the Prime Minister's official visit to Washington in February, but also numerous visits, meetings and other exchanges between senior Canadian government officials and their American counterparts, as well as with political leaders at both national and state levels.

The Prime Minister, cabinet members, parliamentary secretaries, premiers, provincial and territorial ministers, parliamentary committees and other parliamentarians have completed over 70 visits, of which 40 were by 18 cabinet members and three parliamentary secretaries. These figures will continue to grow as senior Canadian government officials embark on outreach to the United States in the coming months.

Our strategy has been to engage with as wide a spectrum of interlocutors as possible from across the United States. We've developed an 11-state outreach program for cabinet ministers. Our goal is to bring our message to parts of the United States that often don't get national-level attention but are nonetheless critical to the success of Canada-U.S. relations.

Let me now turn to some of the pressing commercial issues. Given the administration's “America first” approach, several commercial issues have received media attention recently. We would like to provide you with an update on some of the key files.

On NAFTA, the U.S. administration has clearly noted its intention to renegotiate the agreement, but it has not yet notified Congress accordingly. Canada is open to discussing improvements to NAFTA that will benefit all three NAFTA parties but has not discussed the scope or objectives of any renegotiation. Should these negotiations take place, Canada will be prepared to discuss improvements to the agreement at the appropriate time, as the government has stated. Advocacy efforts are also under way in the U.S. to emphasize the importance of the Canadian market to U.S. exporters, and officials are working with provinces and Canadian businesses to coordinate messaging.

On softwood lumber, Canada continues to believe that it is in both countries' best interests to negotiate a new softwood lumber agreement. Minister Freeland and Ambassador MacNaughton are laying the groundwork with our American counterparts for the eventual restart of negotiations. Canadian negotiators stand ready to re-engage as soon as the United States is ready to do so.

While Canada is committed to negotiating a new softwood lumber agreement, we will not accept a deal at any cost. We want an agreement that is in the best interests of our industry. Also, although we would prefer a quick resolution to this dispute, the Government of Canada is also prepared to defend the interests of the Canadian softwood lumber industry, including through litigation at the WTO or under NAFTA, as appropriate.

Let me touch now on the border adjustment tax.

The concept is currently being contemplated by Republicans in the House of Representatives. We think the measure would be bad for both countries. It would impose extra costs on American companies and disrupt trade at our border. The government, through the Prime Minister, has been raising concerns and soliciting views from a range of stakeholders in the United States, notably in the business community, to help reinforce these points with members of Congress.

I'll touch briefly now on steel. The commerce department in the United States was asked back in January to develop a plan to ensure that steel for the construction, renovation, and enlargement of pipelines in the U.S would be sourced from within the United States. We are preoccupied with this for two reasons.

The first is that the steel industry in North America is extraordinarily integrated and runs on both sides of the border. The second reason that we are concerned about steel is that this is an attempt to determine procurement that is usually done via the private sector. This is not public procurement; this is the government telling private enterprises from whom they should buy. Those things are usually left to commercial considerations. We have made observations in this regard to the Department of Commerce in the course of its regular consultation process, which is ongoing. As I mentioned, my colleague Martin Moen would be pleased to answer questions on any of these commercial issues.

Let me now turn to trilateral relations, which are also a part of your study.

Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have a long history of collaborating as continental partners in the areas of security, commercial relations and competitiveness, the environment, and other areas. Since 2005 the three countries have been meeting for the North American leaders' summit, which is aimed at advancing common policy objectives in many of the areas I just mentioned. The last such meeting took place in Ottawa last June.

While there are uncertainties about the direction of trilateral co-operation since the election of President Trump, there are at the same time early signs that indicate a number of trilateral commitments from the 2016 North American leaders' summit here in Ottawa will continue. I won't elaborate on them—they have to do with the border, energy security, and regional co-operation—but I'd be happy to answer questions on those trilateral dimensions.

In addition, the annual trilateral energy and defence ministers' meetings are being planned for this spring. There's also been some talk of a trilateral foreign ministers' meeting. These meetings, along with the developments in the renegotiation of NAFTA, will provide us with signals as to the future direction of trilateral co-operation.

I'll now talk about foreign policy cooperation.

The Trump administration came to office with a very forthright “America First” approach to foreign policy. This approach overtly places the United States and its interests at the forefront. The approach focuses on economic nationalism, protection of American sovereignty and hard power.

This policy is in distinct contrast with the policies of both Democratic and Republican administrations that have led the United States since the Second World War. These policies emphasized American leadership in advancing democracy and human rights, promoting freer trade, building international institutions, and working closely with allies to advance these objectives.

At this point, it isn't clear how the overarching principles of “America First” will translate into day-to-day policies. Furthermore, many of the senior positions in the administration, such as in the State Department, haven't been filled yet. We're in a very early phase.

Intervening events, such as North Korea's missile test or Syria's use of chemical weapons on civilians, may significantly shape the Trump administration's foreign policy. Canada condemned the chemical weapons attack and fully supported the United States' response.

As I mentioned earlier, my colleague, Heidi Hulan, will be pleased to answer any detailed questions.

Let me end there. I've tried to give you a brief overview of some of the main themes in Canada-U.S. relations right now. We look forward to the committee's deliberations and the eventual report.

We would welcome your questions and comments. Thank you.

PrivacyOral Questions

April 3rd, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note what the New Democratic Party said when the existing system was introduced a number of years ago. It said that it was no good and should be rejected. Now it is using the same line with respect to Bill C-23. The fact of the matter is that under this improved pre-clearance arrangement, more Canadians will be able to clear American customs but do so in Canada, on Canadian soil, and under the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

PrivacyOral Questions

April 3rd, 2017 / 2:40 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, an Angus Reid Institute poll indicates that half of all Canadians are wary of the new powers given to U.S. border officers under Bill C-23, even though they support preclearance.

U.S. border officers on Canadian soil would be armed and have the power to conduct strip searches without a Canadian border officer present and to detain and interrogate Canadians. Bill C-23 is inconsistent with human rights and privacy rights.

I ask the minister again, if the current system works so well, which we agree, why do the Liberals insist on forging ahead with giving American officers all these new powers on Canadian soil?

March 23rd, 2017 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Yes, I think Bill C-24 had more to do with CBSA. I have Bill C-22, Bill C-23, and Bill C-24 on my brain, but it is another one.

Thank you.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 21st, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the budget presentation, I am pleased to speak to an opposition motion that deals with the budget. In a way, we are beginning the budget debate a day early.

We agree with many of the Conservatives' proposals, particularly regarding the problems related to privatizing airports. Of course, we also agree that the Liberals are completely out of touch with today's reality and the inequality that Canadians currently face. They talk about helping the middle class, but on the ground, that is definitely not what is happening.

Nevertheless, we unfortunately cannot support this opposition motion. One reason for that was addressed by my colleague from Vancouver East. This does nothing to tackle tax problems, such as the tax rate for large corporations. These issues are very important to us.

Despite the heckling we heard during the question and despite the tax cut from 22% to 15%, not only did the federal treasury lose money, but the jobs that were promised never materialized. On the contrary, businesses that were supposed to benefit from the tax cut for large corporations left Canada and set up shop elsewhere.

That being said, I heard the hon. Conservative member, in his response to the question, talk about the importance of small and medium-sized businesses and his own experience as an entrepreneur. We agree on this. Although we would like to see corporate tax rates go up, which, by the way, would still keep us competitive with the United States, a neighbouring economy that is our biggest competition, we want to lower the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. It is important to mention that in the context of the opposition motion and especially in the context of the budget that will be presented tomorrow.

During the last Parliament, in the last Conservative budget just before the election, the Conservatives promised to lower the tax rate on SMEs over the coming years. That was good, but not quite fast enough for our liking. We wanted it to be done right away. The Liberals remained mum on the issue. During the election campaign, we heard the Prime Minister claim that if this tax cut went through it would lead to tax havens. He did all sorts of intellectual backflips. Now we realize that he does not seem to understand what real tax evasion is, because he is doing nothing about it. That is another topic we will come back to shortly.

During the election campaign we promised to lower the small business tax rate. So did the Conservatives. Then the Liberals finally decided to follow suit and they promised the same thing. They recognized, as all of us do, or at least I hope so, that small businesses are the engine of our economy at the local and national levels. They are also the main creators of jobs and we rely on them for that.

However, we have to look at the current situation. Lowering taxes for small businesses is just another broken promise.

Unfortunately, we are becoming increasingly accustomed to broken promises. We are very optimistic, but for a Liberal government, whether this one or those of the past, reneging on promises is commonplace. What is really mind-boggling is hearing the Minister of Small Business and Tourism say in committee that, in any event, the promise was just meant as a television clip or a good newspaper headline. Not keeping a promise is shameful, but admitting that they never intended to keep it is even worse. The Liberals did not give reasons for not being able to keep their promise, did not say that they had done something else, or that it would wait and they would keep their promise the next year. There was nothing of the kind. There was no honesty, or perhaps they were being too honest. They decided to look us in the eye and tell us that they never intended to do it. That is very unfortunate.

It will soon be six years since I became a member of Parliament. When I look at the chambers of commerce, particularly the Bassin de Chambly chamber of commerce and industry or the Vallée-du-Richelieu chamber of commerce and industry, I see some very dynamic chambers of commerce and a lot of young entrepreneurs renowned worldwide. I am thinking for instance of the Mobux company from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, which will go to Berlin for the G20 meeting as one of the Canadian and Quebec companies representing Canada.

We are very proud to see people and companies from home at the G20. These companies need the federal government's help. They need it to reduce their financial burden so that they can continue to grow, to succeed, and to thrive both at home and abroad. In so doing, they will set an example for other entrepreneurs in Canada. This creates a nice cycle that leads into the next generation of entrepreneurs.

However, this is not just about the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses. The issue of infrastructure and the privatization of airports is also raised in this motion. One of the biggest problems in this file is that the Prime Minister refuses to answer certain questions that he has been asked for several months, maybe even a year now.

Almost one year ago, we heard something about consultations with Credit Suisse. We did not hear from the parties who really need the federal government’s help, but rather from the Minister of Finance’s economic council and from individuals such as Credit Suisse representatives, who are experts in privatization. This caused a great deal of concern.

We heard rumours that they were going to sell off our airports because they were no longer able to manage the finances and meet their election promises, such as using public funds to finance public infrastructure, which by the way we support. However, this is not what we are seeing here.

As for selling off airports, we asked the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance if that was going to be on the table. This was a concern for the presidents of the country’s airport and port authorities. The Minister of Transport simply replied that consumers would always be their priority, in order to get the best prices and avoid overcharging. One might say that you cannot turn down a good thing, but this is not what we are dealing with.

Experts believe that airport privatization will result in higher prices and fees. We are going to let the private sector take over our public infrastructure and charge more fees to consumers. This will also have a significant impact on airlines.

My riding is on Montreal's south shore. My constituents can go to Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau, or they can go to U.S. airports to avoid paying what they see as sky-high prices. Many people choose the latter. Airport authorities and airlines say that privatization will make things even worse. Instead of departing from Canadian airports, thereby helping to fund Canadian airport infrastructure, travellers will go elsewhere. That is a problem.

The government is doing this to keep a promise that was not even in the Liberals' campaign platform. They never mentioned selling airports. With all due respect, it seems to me we have a serious problem when even the Conservatives think privatization is going too far. The Liberal government needs to reconsider.

Privatization is not just about prices and fees. It is about safety too. Airport safety is extremely important.

Look at rail safety. When the government privatized our railroads, it went on and on about how great privatization was and how much it would benefit consumers. Serious rail safety problems have emerged since then. I may be speculating, but it is an easy conclusion to reach.

Given the threat of airport privatization raised by the government, there is cause for serious concern over airport security, supposedly an issue the government is very concerned with.

I do not want to draw conclusions that are too far-fetched, but Bill C-23, for example, would increase the powers of U.S. pre-clearance officers on Canadian soil, in the interest of safety, of course. At the same time, the Liberals want to privatize airports and potentially risk compromising security. What an odd approach to take. It shows this government's inconsistency and failure to properly manage the affairs of state.

The issue of privatization does not just concern airports. There is also the infamous infrastructure bank, another file that we have been asking the government about for many months. We asked the government about the bank's structure, what terms and conditions it would operate under, and what would be the impact on small rural municipalities that would be adversely impacted by such a bank. Clearly, the private sector will have little or no interest in investing in infrastructure projects that are not very profitable even though they would be of great benefit to our towns and to the rural communities that really need them.

Incidentally, all those questions remain unanswered. The Prime Minister always gives us the same answer with a bit of a smile, and we have heard other Liberal members say the same thing, that is, we should just wait and see what is in the budget, which will be presented tomorrow. However, this has left the municipalities and Canadians feeling very uncertain, which is very problematic.

Although the government is boasting about public investments spread over 12 years, this a bit of a charade. In fact, we now realize that most of that money will not be spent right away, but rather over a much longer period than initially planned. We also note that the government will use some of that money to open the door to the private sector.

This poses a number of problems because I firmly believe that taxpayers feel very strongly that their money should be used to finance public infrastructure that is properly managed. I firmly believe that, and I think my constituents would agree with me.

Certain things do not sit well with taxpayers, and we saw this in the debate on the Champlain Bridge, for example. If we are asking taxpayers to accept a huge deficit run up by the federal government to fund public infrastructure, not only must that infrastructure remain public, but people must not be asked to pay twice for that infrastructure through user fees and tolls. That is very important.

Many of my constituents come to see me and tell me that they are unsure where they stand on tolls and user fees, because they have to do with road conditions and public transit, which is another very important file for a suburban community like mine.

When we look at the proposals, or what we can make of them, we are given none of the details because there is no transparency, as I said. I tell my constituents that when we look at the proposals, it is not so much about whether the federal government is going to provide funding for public transit. I explain that the federal government is spending their money to fund public infrastructure and an infrastructure bank that is looking for private investment. The company investing in infrastructure will then charge tolls and user fees. None of that will fund a public transit system that will help people get to work more easily and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That is going to create a profit margin for private companies that invest in these projects.

The private company does not want to be reimbursed just for the capital it spent on the bridge, road, or whichever project is on the table: it wants a return on its investment. It is not enough to be able to tell the people of Beloeil, Carignan, or Chambly, who are stuck in traffic on highway 112, that they can now get to Brossard or downtown Montreal using a light rail system. That is another very important file that we will come back to in the coming months and years.

The private company is not in it to finance a project, but instead to make a profit.

The Liberal Party made these commitments during the last election campaign. We are seeing that it has broken its promise to use public funds to better manage public infrastructure than the previous government.

It turns out that the Liberal government intends to use public funds to privatize our public infrastructure so that private businesses can make a profit and, in effect, subject Canadian citizens to double taxation through tolls and user fees. That is a problem.

Other questions concerning the infrastructure bank remain unanswered. For instance, who will sit on the bank's executive? Where will it be located? How will consultations take place? Someone has already been appointed to help the government create a team to set up the bank. The individual in question comes from Ontario politics and knows the Prime Minister's friends quite well; they work in her office. She was already involved in starting the process of privatizing Hydro One, for which the residents of Ontario are now paying the price.

We have serious questions about the interests that will be represented. Will municipalities have a seat at the table? The municipalities are wondering. How will we make sure that Canadians and those who really need federal infrastructure help will be at the table? We need to ensure that we have public transit, infrastructure, bridges, highways, and wastewater treatment systems that meet the public’s expectations in a country such as Canada in 2017.

Once again, all these questions remain unanswered. Will we have answers tomorrow? In a way, I hope so, because we are finally going to see whether the government is heading toward disaster for our public infrastructure or whether it has finally seen the light and realized that this is the wrong direction. However, perhaps I hope not, because I am quite concerned about finding out what the end result will be. We are not the only ones who are concerned, because as I said, Canadians have been talking about this for quite some time.

Sadly, our position and the Conservatives' are far enough apart that we cannot support the motion, but I want to close by talking about one other point in the opposition motion that we do agree with, a point that merits our attention. That point is youth unemployment, which was of particular interest to me in the previous Parliament as the NDP's youth critic. Of course, young people are not the only ones without jobs.

We also need to talk about precarious work. Many young people with excellent education are underemployed. They have jobs that pay less than they should be earning with their professional qualifications. They are overqualified for their jobs. This is a major issue, and once again, we look forward to seeing what the government has to say about it tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is happy to take pictures with young people. The government is happy to talk about the youth council despite the lack of transparency that my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît has pointed out. What we do know is that the Minister of Finance, and therefore the Prime Minister, somehow thinks it is acceptable to tell young people to be okay with this reality.

Those of us in our twenties know that no matter what decisions the government makes today on our behalf and on behalf of all citizens, we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of those decisions whether they have to do with our infrastructure, our environment, or our jobs. So far, the government has let us down tremendously.

My optimism allows me to hope that the disappointment will end tomorrow, but so far nothing leads us to believe that that will be the case. I am, however, open to the idea.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

If he ended up at customs and an overeager and cranky U.S. customs officer proceeded to conduct a strip search, and only a female officer was available on the Canadian side, would he be comfortable with that? Bill C-23 generally looks a lot like the existing system, but there are some very serious exceptions like this one.

Does my colleague have a problem with that? I know that there are many people who would have a very serious problem with that.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that my hon. friend was listening that intently, because I was entirely coherent in explaining that Bill C-23 would provide all Canadians undergoing pre-clearance with U.S. border officials the security of having that pre-clearance done under Canadian law, the Canadian Constitution, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Canadian Bill of Rights all at play.

This is an important piece of legislation that would allow for the timely exchange of people and goods, something that for many years has been central to our strong trade relationship with the United States. This is another step in ensuring that the important relationship we have with the United States continues to grow and prosper for the benefit of Canadians.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the parliamentary secretary's speech with great attention, and I could not help but feel that maybe there was a slight incoherence lurking in the argument. I am hoping to give him the opportunity to address that.

We hear, on the one hand, that the great virtue of Bill C-23 is that Canadians will not have to submit to American processes, American law, and American officers on American soil. However, when we talk about the safe third country agreement and the travel ban, Liberals say that they are quite comfortable with the American processes, that there is no problem at all with those processes, that Canadians have nothing to fear, and that they are treated normally at the border and get good treatment. Which is it? Do Canadians have something to fear from being subjected to American border security processes, or do they not? If they do, maybe the member would reconsider his position with respect to suspending the safe third country agreement.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise toward the end of this evening's debate to talk about this important piece of legislation. Bill C-23 will implement the agreement reached with the United States to expand pre-clearance operations to new locations and modes of travel, and it opens the door to cargo pre-clearance as well as Canadian pre-clearance operations in the U.S.

I am pleased that throughout the course of today, and over the last week or so, we have seen lively debate about Bill C-23. However, I do think it is important that as we study and discuss this proposed legislation, we ensure that we are working from a sound understanding of the bill, and a full appreciation of the significant benefits that we stand to gain from expanding our pre-clearance operations with the United States.

After the many hours of debate that have taken place for this bill, we certainly know by now what pre-clearance is, and we know that it works. We have heard how it has been a part of the Canada-U.S. border management success story. Many of us have been pre-cleared ourselves before boarding flights to the United States. As has been noted, we have been operating pre-clearance successfully in the air mode since the 1950s.

In terms of volume, we know that Canadian pre-clearance facilities process 12 million passengers headed to the United States annually. We know that the eight airports that have pre-clearance operations are far more competitive than they would be without them. With pre-clearance, Canadian airports have special direct access to non-international U.S. airports. For example, Canada is the only country serving Reagan airport with direct air services. Without pre-clearance, Toronto Pearson airport, for example, could only serve 27 U.S. cities instead of the 50 that it serves now. Pearson is the fourth-largest point of entry into the United States worldwide.

It is not only in air travel where we have seen the benefits. As members have heard, some pre-inspection sites serve rail and cruise ship businesses on the west coast. The cruise ship industry brings $435 million in economic benefits to British Columbia's coastal region, including 4,600 local jobs. Pre-inspection, which is a kind of partial pre-clearance, is important to that success. The legislation before us will enable full pre-clearance operations for those sites, with considerable advantages for the tourism industry on the west coast. Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a clear demand for more pre-clearance facilities and that both the current and previous administrations in Canada and the U.S. have been working diligently together to put the legal frameworks in place to make that happen. With the legislation before us, we will be able to further expand on these unquestionable economic benefits by paving the way for additional sites in all modes of travel and in both countries, as well as the pre-clearance of cargo.

We have heard the concerns raised about the protection of Canadians' rights, and we are certainly all sensitive to that. That is why I am proud to highlight that the protection of Canadians' rights and the requirement for compliance with Canadian law and the charter are central elements of this bill.

Pre-clearance operations in Canada must be conducted within Canadian law. It is explicitly set out in part 1 of the bill, which sets out the powers, duties, and functions of U.S. officers under the act. It states:

A preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This includes powers of questioning, examination, search, seizure, and detention, powers that already exist in the current pre-clearance arrangement. Similarly, Canadian officers conducting pre-clearance in the U.S. would also be bound by the charter. That is specified in article II of the agreement with the U.S. being implemented by this bill, Bill C-23.

By undergoing U.S. customs and border procedures while still on Canadian soil, Canadian travellers will be protected by our laws and the Canadian Constitution.

I know that certain members of the opposition have argued that because this is already the case in eight Canadian airports, Bill C-23 is unnecessary. However, pre-clearance is not in place at all Canadian airports or at train stations and marine ports. Bill C-23 would pave the way for travellers in those locations to have legal and constitutional Canadian protections that are unavailable to them now.

For those who remain unconvinced of the benefits of this, I would ask that they consider the alternative. Without pre-clearance, travellers are required to submit to immigration and customs processing once they arrive on American soil. That processing is done entirely on American soil and therefore on American terms.

Another concern that has been raised is the issue of withdrawal from pre-clearance areas. It must be noted that should travellers change their minds about entering the United States and wish to leave the pre-clearance area, withdrawal will be allowed under the new act. Officers will have limited latitude to question withdrawing travellers as to their identities and reasons for withdrawing. Without this, people of ill intent can approach, enter, examine, and then leave these controlled areas, potentially weakening our border security.

To conclude, I simply wish to reiterate that pre-clearance is a crucial border management tool for Canada, both economically and from a security perspective. It also has the added benefit of allowing Canadian travellers to undergo American border procedures while protected by Canadian law and the Canadian Constitution, including our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By adopting this important piece of legislation, which is necessary to implement the Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance Agreement with the United States, the advantages of pre-clearance would become available to many more Canadian travellers and businesses.

I urge all hon. members to keep these significant benefits front of mind as we further examine and study this bill, and I look forward to more constructive debate in the House.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to the legislation before us, Bill C-23, an act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States.

As members know, the Prime Minister pledged to Canadians that our government would work hard to renew the relationship we had with the United States and that we would provide greater security and opportunity for Canadians. The legislation before us is part of the action we are taking to fulfill that pledge.

Last week, I spoke with grade 10 civic students in Guelph at Bishop Macdonell High School. This topic came up with the students talking about the benefits of doing clearances in Canada versus on foreign soil, so it is great to be part of this discussion this afternoon. We have strong evidence from long-standing operations at eight Canadian airports that pre-clearance is an effective and efficient way to move millions of people from Canada into the United States every year, some 12 million people, in fact. It offers many benefits, both directly and indirectly, to both nations.

For example, it allows travellers from Canada to fly directly to a larger number of U.S. cities, including to smaller American airports, with no customs presence. It makes for faster connections. Pre-cleared passengers do not have to go through customs inspection upon arrival in the United States, which means shorter connection times and early arrival at final destinations. It adds predictability to travel plans, with passengers knowing they are already screened and can just collect their luggage and leave the airport on the other side. It enhances security by better managing risks and threats.

While pre-clearance formally exists only at airports at the moment, we also know that pre-inspection of rail and marine passenger exists and works with great success at several locations in British Columbia. For the past 20 years, U.S. customs and border protection has safely and successfully used passenger pre-inspection to streamline travel and security for travellers in that province.

In addition to the concrete direct benefits, there are a number of positive impacts that flow directly and indirectly from pre-clearance operations. For example, reduced border costs and fewer delays for commercial operations can lead to increased trade and increased foreign investment. The reduced wait times for passengers can lead to increased tourism and business travel.

The economic and security benefits of these pre-clearance and pre-inspection operations have led to calls from stakeholders and governments on both sides of the border for expansion to all modes of travel and to more locations. With the proposed legislation, we are taking an important step toward making that happen. Bill C-23 will enable us to continue moving ahead with expanded operations and modes of transportation that were agreed to in principle by the Minister of Public Safety and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in March 2016.

In brief, the bill has two key elements.

First, it will put in place the necessary legislative authorities to allow the United States to conduct pre-clearance operations in Canada. Today, pre-clearance is authorized only at Canadian airports under the Preclearance Act of 2001. The new authorities will allow for expansion subject to site-specific agreements to marine, rail, and land modes, as well as to pre-clearance of cargo.

Second, it will provide authorities for Canada to conduct pre-clearance in the United States in all modes of travel. The bill sets out where and when pre-clearance can occur, who has access to the pre-clearance area, the authorities of U.S. pre-clearance officers working in Canada and vice versa, and how police and border services officers can assist and work with pre-clearance officers. It also includes provisions affirming that pre-clearance operations in both countries must be conducted in accordance with Canadian law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Our government is firmly committed to moving ahead with pre-clearance measures and building on our strong partnership with the United States. Indeed, this legislation is good news for Canadians and Americans. It would strengthen Canada's economic competitiveness by accelerating legitimate trade and travel, while keeping our borders secure.

In fact, after Canada and the United States signed an agreement in principle for new pre-clearance operations in March 2016, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association said, “Customs preclearance is one of the innovative programs that demonstrates there need not be a zero-sum choice between security and an efficient travel experience”.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by Canadian businesses and associations like the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. With specific reference to rail travel, its vice president of public policy and industry affairs, Rob Taylor, has pointed out that pre-clearance makes sense from a security standpoint because border officials can intercept people before they cross the border. It makes sense for travellers, because if they get cleared before they get on the train, it is so much easier than having to stop that trip half way through.

This is exactly what pre-clearance offers. It is a way to encourage legitimate trade and travel, while keeping our borders secure. It is an idea that is gaining ground around the world, with more and more countries looking to introduce or expand pre-clearance at their airports.

This brings me back to the importance of Bill C-23.

The benefits of expanded pre-clearance have been touted by everyone from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives to local tourism operators, as well as mayors and airport authorities. Pre-clearance improves the competitiveness of Canadian business and the experience of Canadian travellers. Now is the time to expand these operations in Canada and to examine how and where the Canada Border Services Agency could implement pre-clearance facilities in the United States.

Our government is committed to working with our allies, particularly the United States, to increase travel and to enhance North American competitiveness, as well as our collective security. I urge all members to support Bill C-23 and ensure its swift passage.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard this many times today.

Clearly, this right is something new. The difference is that if there is an unreasonable delay, the search may proceed. I do not think this is unreasonable. If someone travels to the U.S. without pre-clearance, and they arrive without Canadian protections, the same thing will happen. Accordingly, it is much more efficient to go ahead with the system proposed in Bill C-23. That does not really bother me.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

He just said that Bill C-23 changes almost nothing in terms of the current situation, but what about the fact that the current law does not allow a U.S. customs officer to conduct a strip search without a Canadian officer of the same gender present? This has been changed, which is rather troubling, considering the eagerness of U.S. personnel. Earlier my colleague from Windsor said he was very familiar with borders. In fact, people from Detroit and Windsor spend much of their lives going through customs.

The fact that a stip search could be conducted from now on by a U.S. officer without a Canadian officer of the same gender present is a huge change.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-23, which would provide the necessary authority under Canadian law to implement the land, rail, marine, and air transport preclearance agreement, thereby expanding U.S. pre-clearance operations in Canada and, for the first time, enabling pre-clearance of cargo and Canadian pre-clearance operations in the United States.

Pre-clearance makes travel faster and easier for tourists and business travellers alike, and makes it faster and easier for Canadian companies to do business with Americans. It also allows Canadian travellers to undergo U.S. border procedures while under the protection of Canadian law and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The proposed expansion of pre-clearance enabled by Bill C-23 has been greeted with enthusiasm by chambers of commerce across the country, by the tourism industry, which is in fact extremely important in Laurentides—Labelle, by the trucking industry, and by government partners, among others. For example, the mayor of Quebec City has called it a great victory for his city.

Pre-clearance operations for passengers have been a success story for more than 60 years, but they currently exist in only eight Canadian airports, and they do not exist for cargo at all. It is time to build on that success.

The proposed expansion to new locations and modes of travel requires an agreement with the United States. That agreement has been reached, and the United States has passed the legislation needed for implementation in their country with unanimous support in both houses of Congress. However, if we do not pass Bill C-23, the agreement will come to naught, and the benefits of pre-clearance will remain limited to those Canadians who already enjoy them.

Nevertheless, throughout this debate, the NDP members have been advocating in favour of the existing legislative framework. According to the member for Vancouver East, the current pre-clearance system is working well. The member for Beloeil—Chambly has said that the current pre-clearance system works just fine. The member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke said that pre-clearance is working very well already. In addition, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh said that she understood that pre-clearance is a process that exists today and it works.

Yes, it does, and I agree that the current legal framework, which has been in place since 1999, has served Canada well, but the NDP support for it is interesting because, in 1999, when this legal framework was proposed, the NDP had a very different take.

At the time, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, Bill Blaikie, said that the bill raised questions about privacy protection. Mr. Blaikie stated reservations concerning the power of U.S. authorities to detain people, in particular, and he was afraid that U.S. law would be applied on Canadian soil. This sounds somewhat familiar.

The then member for Winnipeg Centre, Pat Martin, said he had serious reservations about the bill. He said it was too “intrusive” and “a breach of Canadian sovereignty”. He was worried that foreign officers would have the right to hold people and stop people from leaving. He argued that by passing the bill, the House was granting foreigners powers on our soil, which the NDP did not think was necessary. He went on to declare that the NDP remained firmly opposed to the creation of Canadian offences for resisting or misleading a foreign pre-clearance officer. He accused proponents of the bill, a group that now seems to include the NDP caucus, of being ready to trample on Canadian sovereignty. The best part is that he said that the bill opened up such a can of worms that it should be sent back to the other place for them to try again and take into consideration such basic things as national pride.

Clearly, a couple of decades later, the NDP realizes that its concerns back then were overblown, not to say unfounded, but here we are again. A new legal pre-clearance framework is again being proposed and the NDP is again sounding the alarm about perceived threats to Canadian sovereignty and perceived powers granted to foreign officers. It will not surprise me if 20 years from now New Democrats leap to the defence of Bill C-23 while insisting that any changes to it would mark the demise of the sovereignty of Canada.

Let us be reasonable. In many respects, Bill C-23 is very similar to the current framework. As concerns authorities to detain, question, search travellers, and seize goods, Bill C-23 is either identical to the existing law or very nearly so.

The same is true regarding penalties for obstructing or lying to an officer, and the right to withdraw from a pre-clearance area is maintained. A traveller just has to say who they are and why they are leaving.

The totality of U.S. pre-clearance operations in Canada would be subject to Canadian law, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act. That is an improvement over the present situation, where travellers arrive in the United States and clear customs without any of those protections.

The motion put forward by the member for Beloeil—Chambly asks us to reject Bill C-23 because of what he referred to as the climate of uncertainty at the U.S. border, but it is precisely with legislation like this that we are best able to reduce uncertainty for Canadian travellers.

The bill provides a clear legal framework governing the actions of U.S. officers on Canadian soil and requires U.S. officers in Canada to adhere to Canadian legal and constitutional standards.

Today, for instance, a Canadian taking the train from Montreal to New York has to disembark after crossing the border and submit to U.S. customs and immigration processes without any Canadian legal protection. With Bill C-23 in place, that traveller could be processed at the train station in Montreal with Canadian constitutional safeguards in force and with Canadian authorities on site.

In other words, not only would the legislation bring about substantial economic benefits and make trips to the United States quicker and more convenient for Canadian travellers, it would also enhance constitutional and legal protection for those very travellers.

That helps regions like mine. In my riding, we have the Mont Tremblant International Airport at La Macaza, where flights coming from outside Canada land. At present, it is very difficult to get customs services at that airport, even though it is a port of entry, since it is very costly to bring customs officers from Mirabel.

In the long term, it would help us if U.S. airports already had Canadian customs officers, since they would be able to go to any airport in Canada. That would save a lot of time and improve the economy in the Laurentians. It would solve a problem that has existed for a very long time: the fact that La Macaza is unable to accommodate enough flights from outside Canada, since the costs associated with customs services are too high.

I therefore think this bill is very important for the Laurentians region. I hope it will pass and we will see a number of U.S. airports offering Canadian services. I think that will benefit our entire economy. I know of a number of situations where it will save a lot of time.

When I was younger, I often travelled to the United States. I attended secondary school there, and I took the train or drove to get there. If I had had the option of clearing customs before getting on the train, I would have saved a lot of time. The train left Toronto at 7:00 a.m. and arrived in Buffalo at 2:00 p.m., when the trip by car took less than two hours. That enormous waste of time was caused by customs procedures.

Often, when the train gets to the border as it leaves the country, whichever direction it is going, customs officers check exports, and that takes an hour and a half. Then, when the train gets to the other side of the border, customs officers check imports, and that takes another hour and a half. That means that, altogether, passengers spend three hours at the border, something that simply would not happen if that checking were done at the outset.

Bill C-23 is an improvement over the existing situation. It gives Canadian officers on American soil the same rights as American officers on Canadian soil. It will also improve the economy in all of Canada’s tourist regions.

I am very eager to see this bill come into force.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

March 6th, 2017 / 6 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member was speaking about his experience at the borders and being with a friend from an ethnic minority. I just today saw an article from Global News about a Montreal woman named Manpreet Kooner, born and raised in Montreal, being refused access at the border. She was with her Caucasian girlfriends who were not stopped. They were going to go to a spa on the U.S. side of the border and were turned away. It was clearly racialized. It was clearly profiling. It was clearly an attitude from U.S. customs officials and border guards.

In this pre-clearance process, which we generally support, it is very convenient to be able pre-clear before we go through the border. What I do not understand and no government member has explained it to me, maybe the hon. member from the NDP can explain it, is why we have this change in Bill C-23. We have pre-clearance now, in the Ottawa airport, before going to the U.S. It is a good idea to expand it to other places. Why do we need to give permission to U.S. border guards, in the current climate of racial profiling, to behave in this way? I think that is one of the key things the Trump White House is telegraphing to border guards: they can discriminate and it will be okay. Why give them active powers?