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House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was relationship.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has eloquently explained, the motion is about the lack of communication between the Conservative government and the U.S., our largest trading partner.

Because of the integration of economies, it is important to keep this relationship vibrant and alive. According to a Toronto Star report today, the U.S. thinks that the weakest flank of the relationship and the one with the most leaks is Canada, and that the flow of people from Canada is three times more suspicious than the flow of people from Mexico.

Former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin moved effectively to create a smart border. I would like the member's opinion on where the Conservative government has moved with the smart border.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, virtually nowhere is the answer.

This is an administrative matter toward which resources could have been applied, and it clearly has not been done.

I would like to address some of the comments that were made by Madam Napolitano. They were more than just about terrorists and 9/11. As my hon. friend has raised in her question, there was a comparison between the United States-Canada border and the United States-Mexico border, and that they should be treated the same. That is not constant with our common history.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to this motion which, if we boil it down to its essentials, talks very clearly about the fact that the government has failed to maintain an effective relationship with the United States.

We used to be proud to say that we shared the longest unarmed border in the world, and indeed it was. We are well aware that things have changed over time. The new world terrorism has made us more careful, which is as it should be, but building and keeping a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship is an active process. Anyone who is married or has a good friend knows that; anyone who has colleagues knows that one has to keep working at a relationship.

My colleague spoke quite movingly of our historic relationship with the United States. I remember when former U.S. president Bill Clinton was visiting, Mr. Chrétien stood in the House and said quite jokingly, “You know we are best friends, we are neighbours and we are allies, but we are not lovers. We do not get into bed together”. Mr. Clinton thought that was funny. Essentially that is what our relationship is about. It is a mutually respectful relationship.

We have trusted each other in the past and maybe we have not gotten along so well at other times. We all know that relationships were stressful between Canada and the United States when Canada did not go to war in Iraq. We smoothed that out. Mr. Chrétien was prime minister at the time. He maintained solid relationships and continued to build on them.

Those who are as long in the tooth as I am will remember the days when, flowing from every street and large building in the United States were banners with the message, “We love Canada”, because Canada had protected some Americans for three months in the Canadian embassy in Tehran, Iran.

We have a history of close relations and strained relations. The point is there needs to be an active process in which we can maintain relationships and deal with the things we do not agree on.

The Conservative government has a tendency to sit passively, not merely with the relationship with the United States but with everything. Whether it is an economic crisis or a recession, the government likes to sit passively and wait and see what happens. When the house of cards falls down or when things get really bad, there is a huge panic and suddenly there is activity, but quite often it is too little too late.

We have had a very long relationship with the United States. Eighty per cent of our trade is done with the U.S. When we talk about borders, we talk about the smart border initiative that was brought in by Mr. Chrétien and strengthened by Mr. Martin, which the current government has failed to keep going. The smart border initiative recognized a few things. It actually survived 9/11. It brought about the NEXUS pass and quick passes. It also recognized that a porous border brings in good and bad.

We were very quick to deal with 9/11 and work with homeland security on a mutual basis. We worked together. Whenever congressmen or senators stood and said that all the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada, the Canadian government was quick to say that the facts did not actually prove that and, indeed, many of those people came from the United States. We have always been quick to ensure that misunderstandings do not occur.

When we say the government has failed, we talk about it failing to maintain the smart border initiative, but we also talk about it failing to maintain the western hemisphere travel initiative. The 2010 Olympics will be occurring soon. This is an important initiative. People are going to be coming across border, hopefully, to the 2010 Olympics and they are going to have problems because the government has failed to make sure that the western hemisphere travel initiative is maintained.

We saw the passport debacle in 2006. People were waiting in lineups that were 6 to 10 blocks long to get passports. One would have thought the government would have learned from that mistake and would have hastened to take steps to make sure that Canadians had easy access to passports. This has not happened. When there is a run on passports again, there is going to be the same problem all over again.

We talked about the failed ability to make a case of the thickening of the border for security also stops the movement of goods, trade, families and business. In my part of the world, British Columbia, there is an initiative that involves Alaska and the states along the Pacific coast all the way down to California. It is called Cascadia. The Pacific coast states have kept in touch with Canadian provinces. We have built a strong relationship. We know that Canada and U.S. trade interests are strong and the border needs to facilitate that.

We can look at the auto crisis and the country of origin labelling, the COOL legislation, the international trafficking in arms legislation. Canada cannot bid for aerospace industries any more because the government has failed to stand up for Canadian interests when it comes to relations with the U.S.

I have talked about the fact that only 30% of Americans have passports. When the western hemisphere travel initiative, WHTI, comes forward, many people will not be able to cross the border. It is not only trade and business. It is not only about security. When it comes to public health, I do not know how we can tell mosquitoes or viruses such as west Nile, SARS and the swine flu that they must recognize the border. Viruses cross borders. Insects cross borders. We need to talk about how to share strong public health information. We need to deal effectively and cooperatively when things such as the swine flu and SARS occur.

There is no strategy. There is no plan. There is no active working to stop bad rumours, to build strong relationships where important and to enable a secure and porous border.

I am really disappointed in the government. We thought it would have had a very good relationship with the U.S. We thought it would have understood especially since so many members of the government come from the west where there are very strong relationships with the U.S. The government should have taken the steps necessary to maintain that relationship in an appropriate manner and to work hard on it.

We only have to look at tourism and the drop in the number of United States tourists coming to Canada. One could argue that the dollar was a problem a long time ago, but we now have a real problem. Every single day 300,000 people cross the border. Over $1.6 billion in trade occurs every single day and 70% of that trade involves trucks going back and forth across the border. Our exports have dropped very much since February of last year. Tourism is falling month after month, year after year. We have to be concerned. It is not merely the dollar. The border has to be one in which people are able to cross.

The border is not just about tourism, not just about business, not just about public health, not just about trade. Families cross the border regularly to visit with each other. Many of us have children who are living in the U.S. Many people from the United States have family living here. There is a human relationship.

The government has failed to keep that relationship strong and alive and to take the steps necessary to make any relationship work. It is not only on this issue. This is just another example of the government's failure to take active steps, to have a plan, to have a strategy, to do what it must to prevent problems from arising. The government has been asleep at the switch. The government's passivity is extraordinary. I can name the things in which this passivity has occurred. The softwood lumber deal is one of them and Omar Khadr is another one. The government sat around and waited. I do not know what else to call it but incompetence, a lack of ability to look forward, to recognize that it has to stand up for Canada, which the Conservatives said they were going to do when they ran in the election in 2006. They said, “We stand up for Canada”.

Standing up for Canada means standing up for a relationship with the U.S., our strongest trading partner, and standing up when people say that Canada is a terrorist hotbed and that it is not as safe to come from Canada as it is from Mexico, where illegal migrants cross that border every day.

There are some facts that we need to tell the new administration, which may not understand the strong relationship. It is the government's duty to do that, and it is not doing it. I chalk up one more failure of the government to have any plan, to do any strategic thinking and to act in any way, shape or form.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member has just made some very important points about the government and its inaction over the last number of years.

I believe 600 miles of fence has already been built at the U.S.-Mexico border. Drones are flying in the sky there. If we do not watch out, we will have the same sort of applications apply to our border as that applied at the Mexico-U.S. border. The government has to get more active in opposing this kind of action.

Recently drones have been flying over the Manitoba border with North Dakota. One of the Conservative members of the legislature made that an issue. We need more action like that, not less.

I would like to echo what the member said and applaud her for making those statements. Does she have any other observations that she would like to make at this time regarding the inaction of the Conservative government on this file?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, there were some other things which I did not even get to talk about. We share a freshwater treaty with the U.S., where our rivers run south from our mountains here. We share certain waterways, the Niagara waterway is an example. We share the Columbia River Treaty with the U.S. We share a lot with our neighbours.

It will be difficult and dangerous for all of us in Canada if we break this relationship. It will be harmful for jobs. It will work against people with families or friends moving across the border.

The point is the government, when asked a question in the House, cannot just stand up and say that it captured the first-ever terrorist. That continues to say that we have so many terrorists here that we must keep looking for them because Canada is an unsafe country.

We are friends and allies with the United States. We are not an unsafe country. We are working together to make this thing work. It would be a pity if we saw barbed wire along the borders, as people have in Mexico.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the member comment specifically on the issue of the Olympics? I am deeply concerned about this.

In June all U.S. citizens will need a passport, and less than 30% of Americans have one. Most of them are unaware that this requirement will be in place.

I have talked with U.S. legislators and governors, including Governor Gregoire. I have raised the idea that we need them to push this requirement off until after the Olympics. They are amazed that this issue has not been raised by the Canadian government, that this argument has been put off. They share the concern that we will have an absolute mess when Americans try to come up and enjoy the Olympics but get turned away because of the Conservative government's refusal to act and stand up for Canadians.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the government was thinking strategically, it would have postponed this for a year until after the Olympics and deal with it then. The only person speaking out on this issue is Congresswoman Slaughter, and she is speaking out loudly. She says that we have to deal with this issue and move forward.

My hon. colleague's question was well put. I hope the United States might be a little more efficient at issuing passports to people who want to come across the border in 2010 than our government has been. I hope it will take less than a year and a half to get that thing going.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that the NDP have asked for the development and implementation of a national tourism strategy, which would contain several elements.

We have looked at extending the passport expiry time from five years to ten years, increasing accessibility to passports and photos by making them available through licence bureaus and other government locations and reducing the price to obtain a passport to make it more cost effective, such as free passports for people under the age of 18, free passports to veterans and half price passports to seniors. I have even suggested that the government might want to have a 90 day moratorium on charging and maybe have free passports for everyone as of—

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the hon. member there to allow time for the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, who only has about 15 to 20 seconds.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all discussed this issue when we had the big debacle on passports in 2006, when people could not get passports. People were concerned and worried because they could not even make travel arrangements to go to funerals or weddings.

The member's suggestions are all ones that we can agree with and I think they should be implemented. They could have been implemented in—

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Catharines.

There is no doubt that Canada-U.S. trade is an engine of economic growth and job creation. We share one of the world's largest and most comprehensive trading relationships, which supports millions of jobs in each country, and the numbers are impressive.

Two-way trade in goods across the Canada-U.S. border crosses at the rate of $1.9 billion a day, well over $1 million a minute. We are each other's most important partner in economic growth. Canada is the biggest export market for U.S. products, more than China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany combined.

To put it another way, Canada buys four times more from the United States than China buys from it. In fact, Canada is a larger market for U.S. goods than all 27 countries of the European Union combined, which has more than 15 times the population of Canada. One in 25 American jobs depends on free and open trade with Canada.

Sometimes it is difficult for people in the street to understand that trade both ways creates American jobs, both exporting and importing, both goods and services, but it is very true.

Through our embassy in Washington, D.C. and our network of consulates general located throughout the United States, representatives of Canada are emphasizing these facts in meetings with their American counterparts, whether in discussions with government officials, speeches to the business community or in meetings with the media.

Furthermore, ministers of this government have met with administration officials and legislators to regularly discuss our overlapping economies, including issues ranging from the efficient crossing of the border, to labelling regulations, to the crisis facing the North American auto industry and our common response. In fact, the Minister of International Trade is in Washington this very day to meet with the U.S. trade representative and engage on these issues of great economic importance to Canadians.

Since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1988 and then NAFTA in 1992, there is no doubt that our bilateral trade has been a major driver of economic growth on both sides of the border. Over the last two decades, Canada-U.S. trade has tripled. Investment flows have also increased substantially.

Given the scale of this success, it is clear that the path to continued economic growth for our two countries lies in our North American supply chains. Supply chains are highly integrated international networks through which components or services are acquired, transformed and delivered to customers rather than within one country.

Our North American competitive position in the global marketplace relies on the strength and efficiency of our cross border supply chains.

Our trade does not mean that the U.S. drops container loads of finished products on Canadian shores and vice versa. The essence of our supply chains is that we make things together, thereby improving the competitiveness of the final product through lower cost, better technology or better design. Much more of our trade is buying and selling within North American supply chains than it is in finished goods headed for the retail shelves.

As trade has expanded freely across the border, more and more industries, companies and their suppliers are operating on both sides. Assembling the parts of a single finished car for example involves multiple border crossings in various stages of manufacturing.

Today about one-third of Canada-U.S. trade occurs between branches of the same corporations and a similar amount for trade within supply chains. Thousands of Canadian and American companies are taking advantage of opportunities on both sides of the border to improve the value of their products to make them more competitive.

From what I have just described, it follows that a smart, efficient and secure border is essential for our highly integrated industries. Yet the Canada-U.S. border is a challenge for both of us and why the United States cannot ignore it any more than we can.

It is the efficiency of North American supply chains that allows our businesses to compete more effectively with Asia and Europe and spurs innovation in our workforce. Conversely, inefficiencies in the supply chains translate into decreased competitiveness for North American companies. Therefore, a border problem is not just a Canadian problem; it is also a U.S. problem

On average, more than 300,000 people a day travel across the border, and $1.9 billion in goods every day. In the nearly eight years since 9/11, both countries have invested heavily in border security for all the right reasons. Both Canada and the United States need to work to ensure that our shared border is a true gateway to our prosperity, not a cumbersome checkpoint that stifles our competitiveness.

What do I mean by that? We do not need more thickening of the border. Thus our government is committed to ensuring that security protects our supply chains and impacts two-way trade as little as possible. Our competitive edge in the global marketplace depends upon it. As the new administration in Washington moves forward on a new direction in government, we remain confident that there will be good collaboration between our two countries during this critical period.

As members know, the temptation is great around the world to turn inward, close doors to global co-operation and become protectionist. We have been taking every opportunity to remind our trading partners, including the U.S., that this is not the approach to take. As the Great Depression showed us, protectionism feeds upon itself, spawning retaliation after retaliation, and can quickly spiral out of control.

We need to think in the long-term and harness the opportunities inherent in international trade and investment to not only ride through the storm, but to come out on the other side stronger, more competitive and more co-operative than ever before. Canada's message of co-operation is certainly needed these days and it is one we continue to emphasize with the United States.

If we could point to a classic example of a trade relationship that has worked for Canada, it would no doubt be our relationship with the United States. Our economies have grown together. Our communities have thrived together. It is safe to say that in some ways, we pioneered the notion of global value chains and we have created a model of co-operation by working through some very thorny issues such as softwood lumber.

With such close economic ties and such a deeply integrated industrial base, it is clear that our economies will succeed together or fail together during this challenging time. That is why we would be deeply concerned with any proposed U.S. measures that may limit the ability of Canadian exporters to access this key market. A recent example of this would be our response to U.S. stimulus efforts that would limit foreign suppliers to new infrastructure projects. We are monitoring the situation very closely and not standing idle. Our government and Canadian officials are closely engaged with their U.S. counterparts on this issue.

We have also shared Canada's concerns with other nations around the world that trade with the United States. Our embassy in Washington is working closely with U.S. Senate and congressional leaders to ensure that the U.S., like all other nations, lives up to its international trade obligations of open and fair trade.

As MP for the border riding of Sarnia—Lambton, I have met with my American congressional counterparts to discuss the issue of border thickening. Dialogue on this urgent issue exists at every level between the American and Canadian government.

It is clear that American jobs and American communities rely upon Canadian inputs, Canadian know-how and Canadian investment. Canada is a valued and long-standing customer of American goods and services as well. Our economies need one another. It is clear that Canada must be part of American efforts to get their economy up and running again, to help both of our economies move through this crisis.

As a government, we are committed to underscoring this message at every opportunity. Globally, we think Canada is in a good position to deliver this kind of co-operative message. We have always been a trading nation. Whether it is at the WTO where we continue to push for a successful conclusion to the Doha round or through an extremely successful North American Free Trade Agreement, collaboration, co-operation and good will are the hallmarks of our bilateral relationship.

Our two countries have built broad and deep foundations through 350 agreements and treaties that cement our mutual co-operation. This Conservative government will continue to work closely with the United States to ensure that the border is not an obstacle to our continued prosperity but a gateway to further growth.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, Justice; the hon. member for St. John's East, Correctional Service of Canada; and the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, the Forestry Industry.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree that the trading relationship between Canada and the United States is absolutely essential. It is one of the reasons I am so concerned about so much of the misinformation that is coming out of the United States, where Secretary Napolitano is calling for “a real border”, saying that the informality between our countries is over and we should expect a very different approach to the border.

She has also said,

to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it's been across the Canadian border.

The U.S. ambassador's response is to say that this myth is pervasive and a huge problem. The response of the former ambassador is to say that this is a “viral infection”. Yet the response of the government, quoting the public safety minister, was:

I don't believe that there's an effort to change the level of security at the Canadian border.

How can we fix this problem if the government will not even acknowledge that the problem exists, when U.S. officials are so obviously misinformed? We heard former presidential candidate Senator McCain back up and say that, yes, there were 9/11 terrorists who came from the United States. This refrain is repeated again and again, and all we hear in the House is not to worry, there was some minor correction.

Why does the government refuse to tackle this issue?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly think we need to address some of the myths that are out there. There is no question about that. Certainly the myth is that the northern and southern U.S. borders are the same. That is a myth. The reality is that they are not. The Canada-U.S. international boundary is the longest shared border between any two countries in the world. We have talked about that today.

We have also talked about the historic and vital relationships we have had and how this has brought business people, families, trade and all the other good things, the first responders, all the different tourism efforts, and so on, historically that we have enjoyed. That is why this government is certainly endeavouring and engaged in open dialogue and sincere practices to continue and better these relationships.

We have heard of differences that we know are myths, and we are correcting those myths as we go along.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in June 2008, 14-year-old students from Chief Peguis Junior High School took a bus trip to the Hershey games, a track and field competition in North Dakota that they go to on a regular basis each year. They sent the required information to the border 48 hours before the trip, yet when the bus got to the border, one of the so-called precleared students was taken off the bus, fingerprinted and sent back to Canada.

The U.S. consulate has since apologized for this, but I took the matter to the Midwestern Legislative Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, last July and was successful in getting unanimous approval on a resolution sent to the Prime Minister, George Bush and other affected politicians.

I would ask the government, will it report back to the House on what has been done so far to develop consistent rules on student and senior bus tours going across the border?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think we could all cite specific incidents on many issues, border security and border crossings being one of very many. We could all relate an incident that has happened to somebody in our riding.

Living in a border community, that is one of the things I hear. I hear issues about people trying to get into Canada or the United States. Those issues are dealt with, and dealt with properly. They are dealt with by the officials who are responsible for them.

I meet regularly with my counterpart in Michigan. We deal with these issues, we deal with the people responsible for making those decisions, and those issues will continue to be dealt with.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for so clearly sharing the importance of our trade relationships back and forth.

I would like to ask her this as someone who is responsible for a city on the border. We had heard earlier in the House that perhaps there are issues with how fast the passports are being processed, and so on.

Could the member share some knowledge she might have on whether this is actually a real issue?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, right now the passports are being issued in a very timely fashion. They have been for quite some time. I believe people can access a passport in less than three weeks. That is thanks to our government and the extra people it has put on board to do that.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak. I certainly want to congratulate the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who did an outstanding on behalf of our government in describing exactly what the state of affairs is today, not anything around speculation, not anything around innuendo, but based solely on facts. That is how she works in her riding, and that is how she proves to be an effective member of Parliament here in Ottawa.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity to respond to motion from the member for Ajax—Pickering. I would like to comment on the degree to which the Canada Border Services Agency has implemented programs to improve border security and to expedite the flow of people and goods.

As other speakers have noted, the CBSA manages the border access of people and goods to defend Canada's sovereignty, security, health and prosperity. The border plays a dual role of assistance and security. In other words, efficient borders support immigration, trade and tourism; and smart and secure borders keep criminals and other dangerous elements out of our country. The challenge is to find the appropriate balance of border enforcement in a shifting and dynamic global environment.

The programs implemented or planned at the border reveal several strategies: First, they obtain advance information to permit risk assessment; second, they stream the low risk people and goods to allow border services officers to focus on higher risks; and third, they use technology to better identify people and examine goods.

Improvements to border programs are ongoing. In fact, the House has just received Bill S-2, passed through the Senate, that seeks to amend the provisions of the Customs Act to further support the government's strategy to strengthen security and emphasize and facilitate trade.

In the bill, two key amendments are being proposed that fully implement two programs: first, the advance commercial information initiative; and second, the customs controlled areas.

In 2004 and 2006, the CBSA implemented the advance commercial information initiative in the marine and air modes of transportation, requiring carriers to provide electronic information on cargo destined to Canada within advanced timeframes. In 2007, the CBSA commenced development of eManifest, the third phase of the advance commercial information initiative.

Amendments are being requested to the act to require that advance information be provided electronically and in advance by all participants or links in the trade chain. Requirements already faced by the marine and air modes of transportation will be extended to highway and rail carriers, freight forwarders and importers, allowing the CBSA to rigorously risk assess all cargo prior to its arrival at Canada's borders and minimizing the processing required upon arrival.

Bill S-2 also firms up requirements for the advance passenger information/passenger name record program, which allows for the pre-arrival risk assessment of traveller data that is transmitted by commercial air carriers.

The amendments will also provide border services officers the flexibility to examine persons and goods within the designated customs controlled areas, where most internal conspiracies occur. This will allow for a greater focus on areas of risk and of persons of interest. It will help improve the security of Canadians by enhancing the CBSA's ability to confiscate contraband and other illegal items on docks, airport tarmacs and rail yards before they reach the streets of all our communities.

Let me briefly outline other initiatives that have been undertaken to modernize border management and produce a safe, secure and accessible border.

The NEXUS program is a joint initiative of the CBSA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This initiative is designed to expedite the border clearance process for pre-approved, low risk travellers into Canada and the United States. NEXUS followed on the CANPASS programs, domestic initiatives that were similarly designed to streamline and expedite the border clearance process for pre-approved, low risk travellers into our country.

NEXUS continues to be a great example of what can be achieved, working with the U.S., to more efficiently process low risk travellers, allowing more focus on higher or unknown risk people.

NEXUS has now been implemented at all major Canadian airports and harmonized across the air, land and marine modes.

The CBSA's use of iris recognition technology and the NEXUS air system is on the leading edge. Members simply step up to a small kiosk where an innovative iris recognition tool can verify the traveller's identity based on 266 characteristics.

The CBSA is also developing biometric technologies, which are options to further assist our officers in verifying traveller identification through the capture of fingerprints and electronic photos.

The agency is looking at the use of biometric data capture for temporary resident visitors, students, and foreign workers requiring visas, to assist officers in the process of verification of traveller identification.

Fingerprints and photo data will be captured overseas at the time of the visa application. This biodata will be used to verify previous infractions against the applicant to assist in the application's approval or denial process. It will also be used at the time of actual applicant entry into Canada to confirm the visitor's identity to that of their actual visa.

Continuing this type of innovation, later this year CBSA will introduce new self-serve border kiosks at the Vancouver International Airport. These kiosks will pilot automated border clearance, a new, secure and innovative service designed to accelerate passenger screening and border processing.

A similar need, served by NEXUS for travellers, existed in the trade realm. With more than $700 billion in goods crossing the border every year, finding innovative ways to identify and efficiently facilitate low-risk goods is vital to Canada's prosperity and our economic competitiveness.

The customs self-assessment program accounts for approximately 20% of the national value for duty of imports and allows importers to use their own business systems and processes to trigger trade data and revenue reporting, saving them both time and money.

The free and secure trade program, or FAST, is similar to customs self-assessment but is the result of the smart border declaration between Canada and the United States. Under the free and secure trade program, both countries cooperated to simplify border crossing for pre-approved low-risk importers, highway carriers and commercial drivers.

Special attention is being placed on marine port security. The harmonized risk scoring and advanced trade data initiative is enhancing the CBSA's ability to identify risk within the marine commercial supply chain by developing brand new risk assessment tools.

The CBSA is harmonizing these requirements with U.S. customs and border protection to create increased border security without imposing competing sets of requirements on the North American trade community. We want security, but we want trade. We want a strong economy and we want to be able to continue to develop those with our partners in the United States.

The CBSA has invested significantly in detection technologies to meet the demands of securing Canada's border. Effective, non-intrusive inspection technology includes the application and development of mass spectrometry and other techniques to identify trace amounts of narcotics and explosives, density metres that discover hidden walls, counterfeit detection equipment, and remote-operated vehicles to inspect ships' hulls.

The mobile vehicle and cargo inspection system, a truck-mounted gamma ray scanning system that scans marine containers, rail cars or trucks quickly and safely, helps officers to detect hidden compartments, contraband, weapons and other potentially dangerous goods. We have one at our borders in the Greater Niagara area, both in Buffalo and it can be transferred from the Peace Bridge to the Rainbow Bridge, providing very effective use.

The Canadian government has stressed its support for these objectives underlying the U.S. western hemisphere travel initiative. The CBSA has been part of the overall federal effort on the WHTI file to ensure Canadians are well informed and prepared for new requirements, and that the WHTI is implemented as smoothly as possible. The government has also been supportive of provincial efforts to develop WHTI compliant enhanced driver's licences in our country.

In summary, the CBSA is a world leader in applying innovative solutions that assist in both improving border security and facilitating the flow of goods. We are good partners with our friends in the United States.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do not contest that the CBSA is a good organization or that it has a series of initiatives. I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary for recognizing the NEXUS program, the CANPASS program, the biometrics, and the smart border. These are all Liberal initiatives when I had the good fortune to be in cabinet. I am glad that he thought that they were good enough that the government has not improved on them.

The member from this side, for Ajax—Pickering, in his motion is looking for what else is the government doing? How is it accomplishing a package that tells everyone that Canadians are not only good friends, as the member says, they are not only great businessmen, as the member says, but they are also reliable individuals who share a common border?

What is it that the government is doing? How is it accomplishing that? That is what the motion says. The government has not addressed this issue and so continually to repeat that the initiatives that the last Liberal government put in place are great and fabulous things, all that he can be doing is asking for us to applaud ourselves.

We are a little more humble than that. We want to make greater progress. How is the parliamentary secretary going to demonstrate that the Government of Canada is now being proactive? It certainly cannot do that, from what he said.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the member for Eglinton—Lawrence and I appreciate his question, although I find it strangely ironic that he spent the first half of his question complimenting the Liberals. I suppose never let it go past a good Liberal to be able to pat himself on the back for alleged work that they have done. In fact, he spent the first half of his question complimenting his former government for the work that it had done and the second half saying that the only thing the government does is pat itself on the back for the work it does.

It is strangely an ironic question. Nonetheless, a point that should be made is that this government is continually, whether it be through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of Public Safety, or the Prime Minister, taking actions. In fact, the Minister of Public Safety was just in Washington and met with his counterpart there. He spoke about the importance of a close relationship and building on the goodwill developed by the Prime Minister and the President. They established a formal process of having twice a year high level meetings between the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Minister of Public Safety, just to name a few. They are off, they are running, and we are working.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to review a little history after the comments that were made by the member opposite, particularly a little earlier when he was talking about building relationships. I would like to get the member's comment on it.

It would seem that in the last few years we have had to rebuild a relationship with the U.S. government. It was the past government, the Liberal Party, that actually got into the personal attacks on the U.S. administration that actually put it where we could not move forward on anything that was of substantial concern. It would seem now that we have spent an incredible amount of time, not only with the former administration but particularly with the new administration of the U.S. government, to build a formidable working relationship.

I would like to ask my colleague if he could expand just a little about how important that is. How important is it that we continue to build this relationship, so that we can move forward on border security and trade issues?

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question by the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is an excellent question and probably the best question we have heard on this topic in the House.

I want to comment on the fact that I too listened to the statements and the motion by the member for Ajax—Pickering. As the member for St. Catharines I certainly disagree and I know the member Lambton—Kent—Middlesex certainly disagrees, but there are some points that he raises in his question.

Let me surmise very quickly, in this time of economic upheaval across our world, not just within North America but certainly within the G7 and within the G20, there is no better partnership and no better friendship and no better time to work with the United States than now. We have done that aggressively over the past three years and few months that we have been in power. We will continue to do so.

Opposition Motion--Canada-United States BorderBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am going to have the pleasure of sharing my time with the member for Don Valley West.

A moment or two ago we listened to some interventions by government members who talked about the relative importance of the relationship that Canada has with its southern neighbour, the United States. No one wants to contest that. What my colleague from Ajax—Pickering is saying in his motion to all Canadians, and I would ask government members to read it carefully, is that it is not important enough for us to look in the mirror and say are we not a great partner in this beautiful relationship, but rather what are we doing to let the other member of that partnership understand the importance of that relationship?

At a time when we are both interdependent, and I noted that the member for Sarnia—Lambton also pointed to the fact that one out of every four jobs, 25%, in the United States are dependent on the relationship that Canada and the United States have developed over the years. They must be aware of the commercial impact of this partnership. What are the Conservatives doing to let the other side understand the importance of a relationship to them and hence from that, what are the political decisions that the Americans are making to enhance that partnership?

My colleague from Ajax—Pickering essentially was calling on all Canadians to think in terms of the four themes that need to be addressed. If we are going to be talking about enhancing and nurturing this relationship, no one wants to contest that it is important. Yes, we trade more with the United States and yes, the United States trades more with us than we do with every other nation in the world. Yes, we are a much more important partner to the United States from a commercial point of view than all 27 EU member states, but are the Americans aware of the significance of that? And what are they doing to enhance and nurture that relationship? Because no relationship is worth having unless it is worth nurturing. People have to work at being friends, at being partners, at being business associates, otherwise that partnership, that friendship, that political association collapses. It does not matter what we think of ourselves, unless we engage the other side, it does not work.

I was glad that the parliamentary secretary who just spoke gave us an opportunity to talk about the relationship that has been allowed to go more and more fallow. When we were in government not that long ago, 88% of our international trade went immediately south of the border. That does not make us a trading nation but it does indicate that we are an integral part of the dynamics of this continental economy. We were working toward enhancing the percentage that would go further abroad. Now today, the partnership has a much smaller percentage of our overall trade. Unfortunately, the total quantity of that trade has also diminished.

I said I wanted to talk on all four issues. One of them is the commercial one that seems to be going further and further into the red. We need to take a look at the dynamic that is most important for us and build a relationship with the political elements in the United States as well as the entrepreneurial elements that indicate that they can have the relationship that we need here in North America. We need it in our base

The government acknowledges the fact that there are about 300,000 people who cross the border every day. They are not Canadians; they are Americans as well. So there are about 150,000 people who actually make a trip across the border on a daily basis. That shows the interconnectedness of our commercial affairs. That does not include all of those people who are driving or having access through other means of transportation, be it commercial or personal.

With more of our industries making the investment decision to move south because of the perception that the Americans are no longer as comfortable about the relationship or that partnership, then we are losing investment decisions to go down south. We need just take a look at the problems associated with the auto industry, and some of my colleagues opposite understand that. They might say this is cyclical, but all the associated supply chain industries, whether they are making similar decisions, are making generational decisions. They are not going to happen again in our country for quite some time.

What is the government doing? Is it taking any proactive steps to ensure a reverse of this trend? Today's motion talks to that. It does not talk about being important. Today's motion talks about how to maintain and grow those imports. How do we make the Americans understand where we are?

Members have talked about the fact that the Olympics will be held in Vancouver in 2010. The Americans will want to come here. They have a habit of moving around without the problems associated with the documentation that the rest of the world takes for granted. Fifty-three per cent of Canadians are accustomed to carrying a passport, but not the Americans. The percentage is a lot less. The member opposite contests that number, but that is okay because it is still vastly superior to the American number.

Here is the importance of that, and my colleague from Essex would know this more than others. It means that the Americans will be tougher on their own citizens as they try to re-enter the United States without the appropriate documentation.

It is okay for Canadians to accept Americans coming across the border. We are probably a little less punctilious about recognizing that somebody may be coming from Detroit to work in Windsor. When that individual goes back to Detroit, he or she will face an examination for their passport credentials. We need to address that.

One of the ways to do it is to build a political relationship with political leaders on the other side. We need to ask where this madness will lead our commercial partnership. Where is the madness for detail that does not appear to be as necessary as fearmongers would suggest? Where is the madness going to lead our relationship?

I said earlier that the previous government took steps with CANPASS and NEXUS and the biometrics on improving and enhancing CBSA supervision at the border. The Liberal government increased border expenditures so those borders would not only be smart borders, but they would be effective borders, and most important, from a commercial point of view, they would be efficient borders. They would move traffic back and forth very quickly. That means an investment has to be made not only in people but in technology. We did that, and I am glad that the government is following on that.

However, In my view, the government has stopped that trend.

As recently as 2002, the Liberal government, a government of which I was a happy participant, had 14 trade and consular offices in the United States. We decided we needed to expand that number well beyond 14. Members must keep in mind that the Mexicans have 45 such offices in the United States and they are not nearly as close in the partnership as we are. We had 14 and we upped that number to 21. What has the current government done since? Zero. In other words, the government has abandoned that political relationship. It abandoned a political relationship on a macro basis, government to government, but it did it as well on a personal basis.

Government members have pointed to the relationship with Louise Slaughter, a member of Congress from upstate New York. I have met her as have other members of Parliament. She is the one spokesperson who says that the relationship the U.S. has with Canada is important. She is the only one who says our relationship is better than the ones the European states have with each other, where they value freedom of mobility of people and freedom of mobility of goods. It is on the basis of that free movement of people and goods that the European Union is growing not only commercially, but also culturally.

In Canada we are not building that relationship with the Louise Slaughters of the United States Congress. In fact, forget about Janet Napolitano. What is worse, and this is a real shame, John McCain, a close friend of the Conservatives and the republicans on that side of the House, has now decried the U.S. relationship with Canada. This tells us the government is doing zip.