Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to speak after my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill. Her work on the Canada-U.S. file and the border, in particular, has been very important.
I am also very happy to stand in this place. As many MPs have said this week, this is likely my last speech here. Many of my friends, including my friend from Winnipeg North, are probably happy about that. However, I can guarantee him that I will resume my speaking pace in the new chamber, as I know he will.
We all respect this institution, this chamber and the history it represents. Whether I agree with my friends on the other side or not, I respect their ability and freedom to make their case to Canadians, often a bad one, because this is their chamber. My constituents and Canadians who may be watching at home or online should know that we may disagree, but we try to do it without being disagreeable. Even though the member for Winnipeg North will ask me a question full of bombast after my remarks, I respect him, nonetheless.
This is a unique occasion, given the frequency of the Senate to send back amendments. This is probably the first time I have spoken to a bill for the third time. That is probably quite normal for the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, but this is the third time I am speaking on Bill C-21, which was introduced in June of 2016, with its companion bill, Bill C-23, the pre-clearance act. I have spoken to both.
I worked on cross-border trade as a lawyer in the private sector and I was the public safety critic when this Parliament began. I have a raised a number of concerns with respect to the legislation, but have indicated that there is general support by the Conservatives of the entry and exit sharing of information with the U.S. that is represented in the Customs Act.
The amendment from the Senate, which brings us to debate this before the end of session, relates to something I raised in my September 2017 speech on Bill C-21. I was concerned about the information sharing and the storage of the information that would be collected about Canadians leaving and returning to the country and the implications of that vast amount of personal data. Therefore, I am quite happy the Senate has proposed more with respect to the retention of that data, limiting it to 15 years. This is why I support the Senate amendment and I am happy to speak to it today. It is an example of both Houses of Parliament working the way they can, making the bill better.
This is a rare occasion where I am supportive of both the original legislation and the amendment from the Senate.
I have been a representative in this chamber for six years. In fact, tomorrow marks six years to the day since I was escorted into this chamber as a by-election winner. I am getting the golf clap from a few of my Liberal friends, and I will take that over heckles any day. It is a very special day for me. I spoke about that on the radio last week.
On the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012, Prime Minister Harper and Jim Flaherty, a close friend of our family, led me into the House as a new by-election winner. I took my seat in the rump, and I have tried to make a difference ever since. To be true to form in my last speech, especially a 20-minute speech, in the chamber, and I am sorry to inform my Liberal friends of that fact, I would be remiss if I were not somewhat partisan and point to wider issues that should concern Canadians with respect to the Customs Act changes.
As I said, Bill C-21 and Bill C-23, its companion bill, have been with us since June 2016. The Liberals are rushing it through with time allocation on debate and pushing it through in the final days. We are almost in 2019. For almost two and a half years, this legislation has sort of languished in Ottawa. That shows there are efficiency problems with the government.
I will devote my remarks to what Canadians should ask when it comes to our border. Bill C-21 and Bill C-23 would make profound changes to the way Canada and the U.S. operate the borders.
Bill C-23 is the pre-clearance bill, which would allow American ICE officials, immigration and customs enforcement officers to search Canadians on Canadian soil. It probably would shock a lot of Canadians if they had to do a pre-clearance. That will work in a lot of cases to speed up time at the border, which is why we supported it.
Bill C-21 has entry and exit sharing of information, which is also something that is quite unparalleled. That is why data protection measures are bringing this debate back to the floor of the House of Commons. They are the most substantial additions to the relationship between the United States in a generation and a slight erosion of sovereignty. That can be a good thing if Canada is getting more in return in response to this, but it can also be something about which we pause.
Those elements were part of the beyond the border initiative, which I worked on in the former Harper government as the parliamentary secretary for international trade, so I support these measures. However, let us see how the Liberals have allowed the Canada-U.S. relationship to atrophy terribly in the three years of the Liberal government.
The Minister of Public Safety, then the MP for Regina—Wascana, in February 2011, with his appropriate degree of outrage, asked Prime Minister Harper, “Could the Prime Minister at least guarantee minimum gains for Canada? For example, will he get rid of U.S. country of origin labelling?” He went on to to ask if we would get softwood protections and have the Americans eliminate buy American. What was the minister of public safety demanding at that time? He wanted some clear wins for Canada if we were to give up the entry and exit information.
During debate on the exact elements of Bill C-21, when this was being contemplated by the Harper government, the Liberals said that before we acceded to the American request, they wanted to know what Canada would get in return. That is what their most senior member of the cabinet said.
Diplomatic relations even with our closest friend, trading partner and ally are a give and take. It is not just to take or give, give and nothing in return. At the time, the member for Regina—Wascana wanted to see Canada gain, whether it was with the unfair country of origin labelling or other elements of our complex trade relationship.
Bill C-21 and Bill C-23 would allow the Americans to inspect and search Canadians on our own soil. What have we gained? Absolutely nothing. In fact, under the Prime Minister's watch, our relationship with the U.S. has atrophied beyond all recognition. It is not just because of the current occupant of the White House.
Therefore, I will spend a few minutes exploring that and what the former public safety minister demanded. Where are the wins for Canada as we allow more and more American intrusion on decisions related to customs and the border?
In November 2015, President Obama, with a new Liberal Prime Minister in office, cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline was one of the reasons that former prime minister Harper was reticent to pass entry and exit information sharing. We wanted that quid pro quo. We wanted the Americans to approve a pipeline to once again try to get better market prices, more market access for our resources, which is something we are struggling with as a country right now.
We withheld that element of what was a priority for the U.S. in terms of foreign policy to try and secure a win. The prime minister caved within months. He said that he was disappointed. Later he introduced President Obama in this chamber as his “bromance” and he said it was a relationship of “dudeplomacy”. It was a one-way relationship. He did get a state dinner on March 11, 2016. At that dinner, the prime minister said they were closer than friends.
What else did our Prime Minister announce the same day in Washington? With zero consultation with indigenous and territorial leaders, he agreed to ban future development on 17% of Arctic lands and 10% of Arctic waters. It was pure surrender to what President Obama wanted to do in his final months in office. Once again, it was a one-way relationship.
Let us see what the longest-serving Inuk Liberal senator said about that. When I asked retired senator Charlie Watt about the Prime Minister's unilateral action, he said, “There have never been clear consultations.” He went on to say that the federal government said, “This is what's going to happen.”
Is that consultation when a respected Inuk leader and a former Senate colleague of some of the Liberal MPs is basically told by the government what is going to happen? Territorial premiers said they were given an hour or so heads-up on the announcement by Canada's Prime Minister in Washington.
Under President Obama, the Prime Minister was giving up the entry and exit priority which for years the Americans had been asking for and bringing in Bill C-23 on pre-clearance. We lost Keystone and we eroded our own sovereignty and that of our Inuit and Inuk people in our north, which are two huge losses under the first president's relationship with the Prime Minister.
The same day I questioned retired Senator Watt, there was an aboriginal law expert at committee. I asked her if the Prime Minister had violated the country's duty to consult indigenous Canadians as dictated by the Supreme Court of Canada. Robin Campbell's answer was, “The simple answer is yes.” He also breached this duty to consult when he cancelled the northern gateway pipeline.
There are many instances when the Prime Minister's posturing and kind words on reconciliation are not matched by his actions. I would like to see more accountability for that. In fact, I invite Canadians to look at at Chief Fox's column in yesterday's Globe and Mail which says on Bill C-69, the anti-pipeline bill, that there have been no consultations.
There is really nice language but bad actions. Those are the first two elements of the declining Canada–U.S. relationship under President Obama.
What has it been since? We now have the legalization of cannabis, which really is the only promise the Liberals have kept from their 2015 election platform. The Prime Minister, despite the state dinner and despite acceding to many Canadian demands, could not even get the Americans to remove one question, the marijuana question, from the pre-clearance screening on that side of the border. A lot of Canadians should be concerned. If they are asked that question, they could lose the ability to travel to the United States. This could impact people's economic ability to pursue a job or go to the United States because of work. It could impair their freedom of movement. All we needed to do was to get assurance from the U.S. federal government that immigration and custom enforcement, ICE, would not ask that question. We could not even get the U.S. to remove one question from a list.
With Bill C-23, the companion bill, we are allowing Americans to search Canadians on Canadian soil. It is a one-way relationship that Canadians should be concerned about. That issue was under both President Obama and now under President Trump because it took some time for the Liberals to complete their legalization of cannabis. That was one of the concerns the Conservatives held out from day one: Make sure the border issue is resolved with the Americans. We could not get that assurance.
Let us look at NORAD. The Conservatives urged the Liberals to complete our full NORAD security partnership making sure that we are a partner on ballistic missile defence. Had we started talking about security at the time there was missile testing by North Korea, that would have, in the early days of President Trump's time in the White House, shown Canada as the only trade and security partner with the United States, period. Through NORAD, we have a North American defence and have had since the 1950s. Since the 1965 Auto Pact, only Canada has had a trade and integrated security relationship with the United States, which is why we could have been able to avoid section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, which I will get into later. However, we missed an opportunity to actually show partnership to the United States at a time that was critical.
What did we do instead? The Liberals postured in front of the new U.S. president, putting up non-binding criteria for the negotiation of NAFTA, the progressive agenda, to play politics rather than to get down to business with the Americans. With the border, the cannabis question and NORAD are issues three and four where the relationship has declined.
I would also mention the safe third country agreement. My colleague from Calgary Nose Hill talked about the 40,000 people who have illegally crossed the border in Manitoba and Quebec claiming asylum when the government knows that the vast majority of them have no substantive asylum claim. They actually have status in the United States. The minister did not even, for the first year or more, talk to the U.S. about amendments to close the loophole in the safe third country agreement, which is an agreement that was negotiated by the previous Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. Once again, the Liberals did not want to interfere with the Prime Minister's tweet rather than fix the system.
It is interesting, because the current Minister of Public Safety in February 2011 called the entry and exit system with the Americans a surrender of sovereignty. He said, “If we have a common entry and exit system, does it not follow that Canada no longer has sovereign Canadian control over immigration and refugees?” This is a Liberal, now a minister, who was saying that when the Conservative government was considering entry and exit visas.
The Liberal government's inaction and incompetence at the border has surrendered our sovereign control at a time when the Liberals are also going around the world saying that their model should be a best practice used by the world. Canadian confidence in their handling of our system has eroded terribly. That is probably the worst of their failures in our time, and it is allowing Canadian confidence to go down through the Liberals' own inaction.
Finally, with respect to tariffs and NAFTA in general, we were given a one-way, take-it-or-leave-it deal. For two months, the United States and Mexico were at the negotiation table and Canada was not. Mexico played the relationship and the negotiation much more strategically than we did. There was too much politics by the Prime Minister and his minister, and we were given a take-it-or-leave-it deal where we lost on all fronts. There is no win in NAFTA.
When it comes to tariffs, when I spoke to the bill for the second time in May 2018, I warned the Prime Minister that tariffs were on the way. In fact, when Canada was granted a temporary reprieve from steel and aluminum tariffs, on March 11, the Prime Minister said when he was touring steel communities, “as long as there is a free trade deal in North America there won't be tariffs”. Well, I guess he broke that one. He went on to say, “We had your backs last week and we always will.” That was in March.
In May, in debate on Bill C-21, I warned the Prime Minister that tariffs were coming, because the Americans did not take our security considerations over supply of steel from China seriously. Sadly, in June, the U.S. unfairly applied tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, sending our economy into a tailspin in manufacturing in southern Ontario, leading eventually to what we saw with GM and a crisis of confidence in manufacturing. In part, it is because the retaliatory tariffs we brought in were not hurting the Americans but they are hurting many of our suppliers. As I said, Bill C-21 and Bill C-23 were a wholesale surrender to U.S. demands with respect to customs and pre-clearance.
The current Minister of Public Safety demanded in 2011 that Canada, for giving up these elements, should gain something. We have not gained. I will review this for Canadians: Keystone, the Arctic ban, the cannabis question for the border, NORAD partnerships, the safe third country loophole, steel and aluminum tariffs and a take-it-or-leave-it NAFTA.
As I said at the outset, while I support Bill C-21 and the amendment, Canadians need to know that the Canada-U.S. relationship which is critical is not a one-way street where the Americans get what they want and we get nothing. It is about time we see the Prime Minister and his minister stand up for Canadian interests in return for Bill C-21.