Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on this motion concerning a province that I consider one of the cornerstones of Canada's future prosperity and economic development. I refer of course to British Columbia, a province which in the past few years has been a leader in economic growth and expansion in the all important area of the Pacific rim.
In the Liberal red book there was a commitment to focus on the Pacific. Other hon. members today have dealt with various accomplishments such as Team Canada missions to Asia which have brought home new business deals and jobs for British Columbians. Nationally, Canadian businesses announced business deals worth $20 billion. These trade missions show how much can be accomplished when governments and businesses work together.
Revenue Canada has also played a key role in partnership with the private sector and other government departments to make Vancouver the gateway to Asia and the Pacific. We are proud of
this role because in doing so we are participating not only in the creation of jobs and the enhancement of the economy of British Columbia, but for Canada as a whole.
We have to talk about Canada as a whole. Let us make no mistake about it. The prosperity of one part of the country is something in which all parts of our country should rejoice, not bellyache, rejoice.
In a modern, integrated economy where goods travel across a continent in the space of hours and information in a fraction of a second, the prosperity and the economic activity of one part of the country cannot but help be beneficial to Canada as a whole. That is what being a country is all about, not pitting one region against another. Whether it is any of our provinces, we are a united country and we want to stay that way.
Canada is not only an Atlantic nation but a Pacific nation. Across this vast ocean which occupies half of the world's surface are some of the most interesting and promising trading partners we could imagine.
We have Japan, a nation which in the space of a century went from being a very closed and medieval society to one of the world's leading economic engines. We have countries like China, a nation old in years but whose economy has been growing at an incredible double digit rate. We have resource rich countries like Australia. And let us not forget the growing economies that we have to the south, Mexico and countries in western South America, which are also Pacific rim countries.
What role can Revenue Canada play? What role can our government play in such a scenario? The proper role for any government in a free enterprise system, which is to facilitate the creation of wealth, to regulate only as much as is necessary for the common good and to act as the partner of business so that we have a strong economy.
I will now explain how Revenue Canada has translated this philosophy into concrete programs and initiatives, such as the accord on our shared border, and programs such as ACROSS, CANPASS and a host of other initiatives, all which are beneficial across this country, particularly in B.C.
Revenue Canada has played the key role in developing a new terminal at Vancouver International Airport. This airport is strategically placed to become North America's premier gateway between Asia-Pacific and the United States. From 1992 to 1996 the Vancouver International Airport Authority undertook a $400 million four-year development program to add a new international terminal building.
Revenue Canada tripled its customs terminal area. The largest one we now have in any province of Canada is in B.C. The department added more inspection lines and doubled the baggage carousels. It added 30 new customs staff which means it can process 40 per cent more passengers per hour than it did before, all in B.C. I might add.
Revenue Canada is working to facilitate the flow of more tourists, more travellers and more trade through its open skies agreement and its shared border accord with the United States. Through the smart border concept the department is taking advantage of its new agreements with the United States and helping to position British Columbia to take advantage of these agreements.
Revenue Canada is discussing with the Americans a one stop, in transit preclearance process at the Vancouver International Airport to make travel through Vancouver more attractive and to promote Vancouver as Canada's gateway to the growing world of the Pacific rim.
If British Columbia is strategically located on the Pacific, it is also strategically located north of one of the most populated and dynamic rapidly growing areas of the United States, namely California and the great Pacific northwest. California has become America's most populous state, while the states of Washington and Oregon are also two of the most rapidly growing areas of our neighbour to the south. That is why Revenue Canada's initiatives have also been of immense benefit to improving service at the land border crossings between British Columbia and the United States.
Revenue Canada's initiatives are of importance to B.C. both in terms of facilitating the movement of travellers but also in the facilitation of the movement of commercial goods.
The importance of facilitating the movement of travellers can hardly be underestimated. We know that tourism is B.C.'s second largest industry, contributing over $4 billion to the provincial economy and providing 80,000 jobs. We do not want to harass people at the border. We want them into Canada. We will target high risk travellers, but we will facilitate low risk travellers to Canada. A cornerstone of facilitating the movement of travellers is the CANPASS program.
This program, which exists in the form of CANPASS airport, CANPASS highway, CANPASS private boats and CANPASS private aircraft, is designed to streamline customs and immigration clearance of low risk travellers at select border crossings. I am proud to inform members that all these forms of CANPASS, except for the initiative relating to private aircraft, were initiated and pilot tested in British Columbia.
The precise operation of CANPASS varies from one part of the program to the other. For example, at an airport, a traveller uses a smart card and a hand print to identify themselves at a machine that is very similar to an automated bank teller machine. At highway crossings CANPASS participants are identified through a decal on their windshields. Other procedures are used in the case of private boats and private aircraft, but whatever type of CANPASS is used the principle remains the same. The vast majority of travellers can
be trusted to self-declare, making their travel easier and freeing up our valuable resources for concentration on high risk areas.
CANPASS is a refinement and an enhancement of an earlier customs clearance program known as the Peace Arch crossing entry program, called PACE, which was successfully piloted at the customs border point at Douglas, British Columbia. Now under the name CANPASS Highway, this program is available at Douglas, Boundary Bay, Pacific Highway and Huntingdon.
Concentration on high risk areas and preventing the illegal importation of drugs, weapons and other contraband is indeed important for all Canadians, but especially for British Columbians. We all know that along with the increase in population and prosperity urban areas of British Columbia are suffering hard times because of the social plague of illegal drugs, a plague which affects all Canadians. It is hard to over estimate the individual suffering and cost to society of drug addiction which certainly exists in all parts of Canada but which has been particularly acute in areas of western Canada.
That is why Revenue Canada is proud of new contraband technology which has been installed at Pacific region border services at airports and land crossings. In this connection I would mention the vivid x-ray unit which was installed at Vancouver international airport in 1994. This equipment has the unique capability of specifically targeting organic materials, various types of drugs and explosives.
There are also the ion mobility spectrometer units which detect minute particle residues of cocaine and heroin on surfaces of documents, currency, boxes, luggage and clothing. This equipment has been installed at the Pacific Highway border crossing and at the Vancouver marine terminal.
These are but two technological advances that also include contraband detection kits and narrow beam laser range finders that help to detect the presence of false walls in marine or truck containers without the requirement of unloading the contents.
These are important measures which Canadians now have at their disposal for the protection of our economy and the protection of Canadian citizens.
In addition to making things easier for travellers, on the commercial side Revenue Canada has initiated the ACROSS system countrywide to speed up the release of commercial goods. The department has taken part in designating an international commercial centre in Vancouver. This is a bonded warehouse where value added operations are permitted by Revenue Canada to level the playing field for small and medium size companies.
Border protection and facilitation is not the only area in which Revenue Canada has been working to better serve British Columbians. Another important initiative, designed to facilitate and simplify our dealings with business, is the business number, which the department has piloted and introduced on behalf of the federal government. The business number is designed to replace the multiple account numbers which businesses have needed to deal with the federal government. British Columbia has expressed an interest in using the business number for provincial business programs.
On April 18, 1996 British Columbia began a one year pilot of six one-stop business registration work stations. This allows businesses to register for a series of federal and provincial programs by visiting one office and using the self-help work stations to complete the forms necessary for their programs, both federal and provincial.
Another way Revenue Canada has been able to benefit British Columbia has been by administering the British Columbia family bonus program, something which is very important to the families of British Columbia.