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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was protection.

Topics

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Property RightsPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 5 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again today to talk about a very important issue for my constituency and that of the nation. It is the Windsor-Detroit gateway crossing. About 40% of all international trade going to the United States comes through my riding. It is very important in terms of national security as well as trade and economic development. It also has several consequences on environment, safety as well as other city functions that take place with international traffic crawling through the city streets of Windsor.

One of the questions I asked was related to the ferry system, an operation that is very important. It has been identified as important by the city, by myself, by a number of different experts in the area and even, at least in words, by the government as providing some redundancy, some extra capacity, a place where we could have expanded transportation to get international trucks moving through the corridor at the Windsor-Detroit gateway.

One of the injustices the government has performed on this company is it has to pay for customs and border officials. Other operations do not have to do that. I would point out that the Ambassador Bridge Company received $13 million this past year for customs officers. That went to a private American citizen who owns the Ambassador Bridge. If people out there are stunned by this, they need to understand that the Canadian economy is dependent upon a private American citizen who operates a 75-year-old bridge. The ferry operation has to pay for customs operations for which other operators in the region do not have pay. It is not acceptable.

We have been trying to impress a sense of fairness so there would be some competition. We know the ferry operation has received from the Department of Homeland Security in the United States over $700,000 in funding because it does pre-clearance, has a great record and provides immediate redundancy in case of a national emergency or security. It also ensures that trucks which carry hazardous materials, waste materials and things such as chemicals are safely transported across the Detroit River so they do not pollute the river or lake system.

Our government has treated the service at a second standard level. Affecting the operation is simply not acceptable. Government members have paid a great deal of lip service to this. On April 21 they came to the municipality to give another announcement, of course with no money to follow. They talked about studying the ferry service and the problems associated with it. We know what the problem is. The service is treated differently than its competitors. We need redundancy in the system right away and the ferry system can provide that.

I cannot understand how an operation that is well accepted on the U.S. side by the Department of Homeland Security is completely ignored as well as subjugated to different rules on the Canadian side. I would expect the to take government some action on this file before we have a disaster and no contingency plan to ensure the vibrancy and economic wealth of our country.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member from Windsor West for this occasion to rise in the House today and respond to his question.

As the Deputy Prime Minister has indicated, the matter concerning the Windsor ferry, which the member addressed in his original question and again this evening in the House, is before the courts. Therefore, I am unable to comment on the specifics of the case. However, I would like to reassure my colleague that I am following the matter very closely.

The government recognizes that in this global economy, transportation systems are multi-modal and the prosperity of Canada depends on having a seamless transportation infrastructure at the border. I am certain that my colleague and I are hopeful that a decision on the Windsor ferry issue will be rendered in due course. As he pointed out, it turns on what customs services would be provided and at what price.

In the meantime, this government has taken, and will continue to take, several key steps to improve border security in the Windsor-Detroit gateway, given how vital this trade link is to Canada's economy.

As all hon. members know, Canada and the United States share the world's largest trading relationship with about $1.7 billion in trade crossing the border daily. Since 2001 the Government of Canada has invested over $8.5 billion in border security, including significant investments in border infrastructure across the country.

Though the events of 9/11 stressed our need for a safe and secure border, they also focused our attention on a range of issues that had emerged long before and will continue to evolve.

With the creation of the public safety and emergency preparedness portfolio in 2003, the government has brought together key national agencies committed to public safety, including the Canada Border Services Agency. The Canada Border Services Agency in turn is dedicated to facilitating the legitimate flow of traffic and trade across a secure and open border.

The Canada Border Services Agency has built on the progress made with the United States on the joint 2001 smart border declaration, including a number of initiatives aimed at allowing low risk travellers and cargo to be processed quickly while taking the time necessary to look more closely at high risk travellers and trade.

The new security and prosperity partnership is a component of a broad government strategy for stronger links between Canada, the United States and Mexico. This agenda would both deepen and broaden the existing action plan and include new areas, such as food safety, cyber security, public health, and marine and transport security.

Some of the major initiatives we expect to move on with the United States include supply chain container security, strengthening document integrity, land preclearance, visa security and reducing transit times at the Windsor-Detroit gateway.

This is an important issue for the Canadian government and for all Canadians.

The government is aware of the unique situation that exists in WIndsor. We recognize the strategic importance of Windsor as Canada's busiest border crossing.

Maintaining the security and integrity of our borders is the CBSA's number one priority. This applies to Windsor-Detroit as well as to border crossings all across Canada.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for reading the website information that we already have.

The reality of the situation is that the government could pull back on that court case right now and correct the situation. It is as simple as that.

What is ironic and what people need to understand is that the parliamentary secretary is saying the situation is in the courts right now, but the Department of Transport is willing to partner with the ferry service to study the problems. It is unbelievable. It is something that the government could fix immediately. It is something that would show cooperation to our friends on the American side where they want to have improvements. More important, it would correct a long-standing problem for the community that I represent by getting trucks off the street and pollution out of the air and making sure for the sake of national security that we have free flowing goods and services redundancy capacity available to us immediately.

It is politics. The government has been friends with the Ambassador Bridge company for far too long. It about is about time the government started acting on behalf of Canadians.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, I am not at liberty to speak about any case before the courts. As in any case that is before the courts, the member would know there are always discussions between parties and I am confident that a solution can be reached.

Just to continue what I was saying earlier, over 70 million people were processed by the Canada Border Services Agency at land border ports of entry. At the same time, new security requirements and increasing demands have placed additional pressures on the CBSA's operations at key border locations.

As the hon. member knows, the government has made considerable progress in its smart border action plan, having successfully launched a marine inspection pilot project in Windsor-Detroit this year.

Given the importance of national and economic security to both Canada and the United States, we recognize there is an immediate need to ensure that capacity exists to accommodate the expanding trade at vital crossings such as Windsor-Detroit.

Property RightsAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:35 p.m.)