Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members.
I appreciate the opportunity to take part in your consultations on Bill C-23. I will be brief so that we have lots of time for questions.
The Business Council of Canada represents chief executives and entrepreneurs from approximately 150 leading Canadian companies in all sectors and regions of the country. Our member companies employ 1.7 million men and women, account for more than half the value of the Toronto Stock Exchange, contribute the largest share of federal corporate taxes, and are responsible for most of Canada's exports, corporate philanthropy, and private sector investments in research and development.
Our country's economic health depends heavily on the ease with which goods, people, and investment move back and forth across the Canada-U.S. border. In the words of Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of President Donald Trump's strategic and policy forum, the Canada-U.S. trade relationship “is really very much in balance and is a model for the way that trade relations should be.”
As the committee knows, Bill C-23 delivers on a key element of the beyond the border action plan, the intent of which was not only efficiency but also security. Passage of this legislation presents an opportunity to solidify the progress made today under beyond the border, an initiative our council strongly supports.
Can the United States have mutual interest in ensuring that legitimate travellers and goods can cross the border as efficiently as possible? Our safe and secure border is a competitive advantage for Canada over every country in the world. While air pre-clearance isn't restricted to Canada, the opportunity for expansion to the land, rail, and marine modes is. It's an opportunity unique to our country, and we should take advantage of it.
My friends at Rocky Mountaineer have already spoken to the benefits of this at our last meeting, but as we all know, travellers search for the path of greatest convenience and least resistance in air travel. The ability to pre-clear in our home country, step off the plane and hop into a cab or make a connection, is a tremendous advantage for Canada and Canadians doing business or visiting the United States. Expanding this resource to other airports and modes of travel just makes sense to us. Additionally, giving Canadian border personnel the ability to conduct pre-clearance in the United States offers Canada a competitive advantage.
Given our country's desire for increased trade investment and tourism, especially in the year of our birthday, it's clearly in our economic interest to make it easier to cross our border safely. Going further, Canada can and should use this legislation as a springboard to develop additional cargo pre-clearance capabilities that will enhance our economic competitiveness while relieving pressure on existing border facilities.
We know that this is a particularly complicated endeavour, given the multitude of U.S. agencies that have a role to play in cargo pre-clearance, but it is in Canada's economic interest to make it work.
In closing, we believe that this legislation sets the stage for an innovative risk-managed border that should be the model for the rest of the world.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I conclude my remarks, and I'm happy to take any questions.