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House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that this bill is intended to improve security at customs, but one provision bothers me. It expands the powers of customs officers to search people and their goods. Clause 10 even authorizes a customs officer to search anyone in a customs controlled area.

As I have recently travelled, this worries me. First, when we go through customs now, especially at the airport, we are insecure and we feel that the people we are dealing with are looking at us suspiciously. Customs officers often seem very unfriendly and cannot smile. They are also very brusque with the travellers. I am afraid that this will lead to abuse of authority. For example, a customs officer who does not like the way I look could deliberately check my bags, search me and send me into the back room. I have seen it happen. People wearing a hijab and Muslims are systematically sent into the back room to be searched.

Has any thought been given to the abuse of authority that could result from this bill?

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I almost feel like I have been travelling with the hon. member, since I have occasionally had similar impressions. I remember one time in particular when I was crossing the border with my young daughter. As was the trend in Quebec, we sometimes went to the United States to go shopping. I did not find anything and my daughter was disappointed, but we had not bought anything. When we got to the border, we were regarded as people who were trying to bring something in illegally. They really grilled my daughter with questions about her watch, since they thought it had been purchased in the U.S. They appeared to really want to find something. I do not know if my car had been picked randomly, but that happened in the past.

I do hope things have changed, however, especially when it comes to searching people. In fact, the Minister of Public Safety must ensure that agents who carry out these searches meet the standards of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We hope, we want, in fact we insist, that they proceed in this manner so that people's rights are respected when they are being searched.

When I was an accountant , the best way to exercise audit control was to make sure that standards were properly applied. I am sure that there will not just be one border services officer searching someone alone, hidden in a corner. I would hope that human rights will be respected. In a society like ours, this is just plain common sense, and it is necessary. I am sure that that will happen. However, individual officers may take advantage of a situation. This happens everywhere in society. The power will go to their heads, and they will force someone to answer their questions and submit to a search. That may happen, because it does happen.

I would hope that the measures that are in place to make sure that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is fully respected will be followed to the letter. People have to be able to trust border services officers. They are also working to protect our security. We want things to go smoothly at the border, but we also want security. It has become almost an obsession. There may be minor incidents from time to time. People want security, whether we are talking about individuals or goods. But we must not allow just anything into the country.

Earlier, members talked about counterfeit goods. If I purchase an original item worth $100, I do not want to find myself with $90 worth of phoney goods. We have to protect goods, but we have to provide just as much protection, if not more, for people, while respecting human rights.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give an example for my colleague to comment on.

I have been involved with security myself. I was on in transit New York, en route from Ottawa as part of a ministerial delegation. In New York, a particularly zealous officer took my passport and asked for my U.S. green card. I told him that I did not have one and that I had never lived in the United States. He delayed me for at least 15 minutes, demanding to see a green card, which I did not have, and refusing to let me through. The minister was waiting for me on the other side because the delegation was about to board a plane for Africa. That is what I call excessive. As members of Parliament, we all have special passports. I had to tell the officers that I wanted to talk to his supervisor, or I would never have been allowed through. In the end, he took my passport, stamped it and practically threw it in my face.

I hope that that will never happen here, and that we will have enough staff to make sure that it never does. That is what happened there, and it is still happening.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand what my colleague went through because I had a similar experience in the United States.

If ever we worry about what happens here, we have only to look elsewhere if we want to feel better about ourselves. I believe—I hope—that border services in Canada and Quebec are much better than what my colleague and I experienced in the United States.

In any case, this bill has to go to committee, and the minister has to provide satisfactory responses to all of the issues raised in the House.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

May 4th, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I will be supporting the bill, and I believe the remaining members of our caucus will also.

The provisions are good. They are positive. They are a step in the right direction. However, there are a lot of overriding and overarching issues dealing with the border between Canada and the United States that certainly are not, in my view, receiving the attention they ought to be.

I cannot overstate that this is a tremendously important issue for our economy and our society. Some 87% of our exports cross into the United States, and something like $1.5 billion of trade goes back and forth every day. Many people work and travel back and forth between Canada and the United States and between the United States and Canada. It has to be done in a very efficient manner.

There are basically two overriding interests at stake here. First of all, there is the free and efficient flow of people, services and goods, both ways. Second, there are the security interests of both countries. Neither country wants to be invaded by criminals, illegal drugs, illegal guns. These are situations that have to be stopped at the border. We know full well that given the size and extent of our border there are going to be situations that happen each and every day. Again, I want to state how important this issue is.

For the last five or six years, I have been a member of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group. I believe it is a group that functions very well. We have an annual meeting, which alternates between Canada and the United States. It will actually happen in a week and a half, in Canada.

There are a number of issues, but invariably the first one that always comes up before anything else is the border issue. Whether it is the western hemisphere travel initiative, again it is the thickening of our border that has to a certain extent impeded the natural flow of trade and the natural flow of people on both sides of the border. They have the same concerns as we have, especially the northern states: Michigan, Illinois and New York State.

Of course the vast majority of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the U.S. border, so this is a tremendously important issue. Anything we can do to improve the situation, as the bill does, or that helps to facilitate the movement of goods and services and people, is a positive development.

This was before Parliament as Bill C-43. I believe it passed first reading at that time. It died on the order paper, and now it has been introduced in the Senate as Bill S-2. It received debate and deliberation in the Senate.

I have been impressed by some of the amendments that have been made. I am encouraged by the work that was done in the other place, and hopefully the bill will go through the House to committee. There are a few issues that will have to be explored further, especially dealing with the minister making regulations.

I assume that the committee will also want to hear from some of the stakeholders who deal with this issue each and every day. The union that represents the customs officers, the Canadian Airports Council, the Toronto airport, many of the stakeholders have expressed general consent for the bill. I am not aware of anyone who is opposed to the bill yet. So hopefully the bill will go through the House to committee. It probably should not be that long at committee, and hopefully it will be law in the not too distant future.

The bill could be broken down basically into two general components. The first component is the expansion of the activities within a customs controlled area, which allows customs officers to search, to seize and to stop people. This is an expansion of the powers that presently exist, and again that is a positive development.

The second component of the legislation is in passage of information, that is information in all forms, whether we are talking about ships, aircraft or general conveyance. Again, it is the goal of everyone to see that goods move efficiently and quickly across the border, both ways, and that people move also, that they are not stopped at the border for unnecessary reasons. At the same time it is equally important to facilitate the border people in stopping anything like illicit drugs, guns, or people who should not be allowed to cross the border.

When we read the resolutions and the policy papers coming from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and other major business groups across Canada, this is a major issue. This is an issue that they identify regularly, and it is an issue that they want both governments to work at.

As I stated previously, this will certainly be an issue at the next meeting of the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, which meets in Quebec a week from this weekend.

We have had a lot of situations that have arisen over the last number of years. One of course was the western hemisphere travel initiative. That has been before this House in debates, and this is an issue that was spoken about by this group. It is something we were able to delay. It is effective now for air transport, and it will be effective for vehicle transport on June 1 of this year, which is not too far away. That has been a major concern. We are hoping that when it does come into effect that sufficient people on both sides of the border will be aware of the provisions of this new regime and that we are not going to see adverse effects to our tourism and other industries because of lack of knowledge.

I hope that I am wrong, but I can see problems, especially in some of the border towns where people are used to going back and forth each day, whether to work, or for recreation or to purchase goods and services. Let us all hope that everything will work efficiently and effectively come June 1.

When the previous round for air transport came through a couple of years ago, Passport Canada was woefully unprepared to deal with the avalanche of new passport applications. But so far, everything in my experience as a member of Parliament has been positive. I think there is a bit of a delay now, but we have seen absolutely nothing like we saw in the horrendous situation of a couple of years ago. Passport Canada was telling Canadians on its website that their passports would be back in 20 days. The people would book their flights, send their passport in 40 working days before their departure date and find out the day before that they did not have their passports.

Mr. Speaker, you probably experienced the problems of many members of Parliament, especially members of Parliament who came from areas that did not have a passport office in their area.

There are a couple of matters I am going to bring forward that are not in the bill but they relate to this debate. They are issues that concern me as a member of Parliament and that I deal with each day. It is a nagging issue that deals with the stopping of people who have what I call “old criminal records”. In most instances we are dealing with records that are 20, 25 or 30 years old. Two major instances are possession of cannabis, marijuana. At that time, 30 years ago, it was a criminal offence.Right now they probably would not be given a conviction; they would probably be given a conditional discharge or an absolute discharge. The other more common case would be an impaired driving conviction.

Depending on the agent who greets them at the border, this stops them from going to the United States, and vice versa. One thing I would suggest to the House is that there has to be some way of resolving these issues. There has to be a protocol developed between Canada and the United States, and a quick way of adjudicating the matter.

If someone had an impaired driving charge 30 years ago, yes, it is on his or her record. It is probably something the person is not proud of but does that really affect the security of the United States or Canada? Is there not some efficient, quick way that we could expedite that process so these people can go into the United States or, if they are in the United States, can come into Canada? That is one issue I would like to see explored and resolved.

I do not want to get into the whole gun registry debate now, but another issue is the very clear and cogent evidence of the large number of illegal handguns that come from the United States each and every year that end up in Canada, certainly some of our major cities. There has to be some way for our customs officers, the people at our borders, whether it is through technology or whatever, to identify the illegal guns that are coming north each and every year.

Of course, the Americans would certainly have other issues concerning Canadians, such as drugs. Again, one of the major issues that I hear in my role as a member of Parliament is the number of illegal handguns that come into our country from the United States each and every year.

Another issue I will bring up is the whole area of the free flow of goods, services and people each way. It requires a massive expenditure of infrastructure by our government. Two years ago I had the pleasure of taking a tour of all the customs facilities within the city of Windsor, in the tunnel. As everyone who lives there and has experienced that particular border crossing, it is woefully inadequate.

The expansion of that facility has been talked about ever since I came here eight and a half year ago. I know it is complicated and an international issue. I know there are all kinds of different versions as to the correct manner of doing it, but I would like to point out that it is something that ought to be done and done soon so that things will flow that much more freely.

As I said, I do not consider this a major bill. It provides a more efficient operation within our customs operation. It allows for a more effective pre-clearance or information flow for people. Therefore, it is a positive step in the right direction, but there are a lot of other steps that we have to take on this particular border issue.

In conclusion, I will be supporting the bill. I hope it is not in committee too long and becomes law within a very short time.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned in his remarks that there were some things he would like to see changed or some concerns he had with regard to this legislation. He went on to talk about illegal guns coming into Canada through a very porous border, mainly the United States. I am wondering if he sees this bill as being helpful in that regard or is that one of the areas where he has some concern.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, some of the officers will be allowed to stop, seize and search in that particular area. It will help but, again, this is a much larger issue that requires a lot more resources and attention than it is given right now. It is still going to be inadequate but, to answer the question, yes, it will be of some assistance.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member for Charlottetown to elaborate on three areas.

The first area is on the search provisions and the powers that are given to customs officers and whether he thinks they will be unwieldy; and second, will the privacy issues be resolved, preserved and protected? Finally, as a former member of the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation board, I wonder if he could elaborate on whether there are any other alternatives to the passport requirements, such as universal identification, that we should consider rather than the passport requirement that is now law.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, one of the components of the legislation expands the area that customs officers can search, seize and stop. As I indicated in my remarks, that is a positive development.

On the privacy issues, this is something that can be looked at in committee. I must confess that I did not examine it that closely, but as far as I can see, I do not see any overriding privacy issues that ought to concern the House. The last question on the exploration of other travel documents is extremely important. Of course, we do have the NEXUS system that is used by frequent travellers.

The enhanced driver's licence is being explored. British Columbia and Ontario are looking at that. I would hope that, at some point in our future, that will be the method that is used by all states and provinces. Eventually, we will come to the point where we will accept driver's licences with enhanced IT capabilities that will allow customs agents to plug in the driver's licence and see one's criminal history or whatever things ought to be of interest to a border agent when we are either exiting or entering this country.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just have a comment. I would like to publicly acknowledge the member for Charlottetown for speaking earlier so that I could speak next. I want to thank him for being generous in doing so. It is a busy schedule up here and I appreciate the fact that he was able to change his speaking slot so that I could speak next.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank him very much for the comments.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his pretty thorough canvas of a number of issues of concern, particularly to Canadians when dealing with this border issue. I thought he had a fairly thoughtful analysis.

There are times when I wonder whether we just end up talking to ourselves. It seems awfully difficult to get the attention of the Americans on a whole variety of issues, a number of which the hon. member has mentioned. Because we end up talking to ourselves, we end up in some fairly frustrating situations, some of which have been precipitated or highlighted by the comments of Secretary Napolitano.

I want to ask the hon. member whether he thinks that this bill will actually make a wit's worth of difference, particularly the expansion of activities with respect to the customs control area? Witness after witness said the same thing, which is that we make all of these changes and the border thickens. Things slow down and it takes more time to get over the bridge when delivering goods and services. I wonder if he could put it in the context of talking to ourselves, in effect, and being seemingly unable to get the attention of either the secretary of homeland security or the ambassador.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I too, like the member, was a little taken aback by the secretary of state's comments. One would think that after all these years and discussions that the facts would certainly be known to the secretary of state, the one in the United States in charge of security.

However, to move on, the member asked an interesting question. Would this make any difference? I think it will, but it really has to be accompanied by some changes in the whole system,. There needs to be more infrastructure and more resources. If that is not there, this probably will not make a lot of difference. We can make all the laws we want, but we must have the systems, resources, proper infrastructure and proper technology, which is so important. Of course, we need the constant cooperation between the Canadian and American authorities, which is not always there now.

Again, I think that they are all part of one package. The next speaker is the member for Windsor West. I am sure that he will elaborate on the situation in Windsor and the infrastructure challenges that are in that city right now. I believe that is the busiest border in Canada.

To go back to the member's question, let us hope that the resources will increase. Let us hope that the infrastructure will improve and let us hope that this law will make a difference.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his response. He has highlighted two things: first, if no resources are put to this bill, then we really are truly wasting our time here; second, if there is no co-operation with the other side of the border, then we are also wasting our time.

I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on the issues whereby we expand these search and seizure areas. We certify that, presumably, trucks inspected in these areas can go right through the border without further delay, and yet at the end of the day we actually have not improved the quality of exchange between the two countries.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, to answer the question, I do not think we are wasting our time. I hope we are not wasting our time. This legislation, as I indicated in my remarks, has several positive elements. It is a step in the right direction. It allows the customs agents and officers more powers within certain areas, and it facilitates some of the pre-clearing information that is required.

These are just two components of an overall system that basically has to become more efficient. More resources are required. More co-operation between the American and Canadian authorities is necessary. There has to be much greater use of technology. There has to be a greater emphasis on infrastructure so that things will flow smoothly.

Until those things are done, there is probably going to be a thickening border, but let us hope that the government will continue to work on it. Let us hope that there will be improvements made.

Some funds have been identified, but I am not aware of a whole lot of improvements that have been made. I still get an awful lot of complaints myself. Again, I remain somewhat cautiously optimistic. Let us hope that the situation will improve to the benefit of Canadian businesses, American businesses, and the people who live in this country and in the United States.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish I, too, could share the optimism of the hon. member. I would like to hope that this will actually improve our border. I wonder if he has any concerns with respect to these passenger lists, where once people are on the bad list, they are pretty well on there forever. It is extraordinarily difficult to get—

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I will have to stop the member there to allow the hon. member for Charlottetown a few seconds to respond.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that is raised in the House quite regularly. People get on this list and there does not seem to be any quick way to get off the list. It is an international issue just as much as it is a Canada-United States issue, although I believe it is driven by the United States. Again, there has to be some protocol, some method of adjudicating whether those individuals should legitimately be on that list. If there is no reason for them to be legitimately on the list, they should be taken off.

Customs ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in debate on Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Customs Act, formerly Bill C-43, which was tabled in the last session of Parliament but did not make its way through the system.

Customs changes are worthy of engagement, especially at the committee level. There are elements of the bill that are very important for the men and women who are on the front line of defence for Canada with regard to our border situation. They face an extraordinary job, and the tasks at hand of balancing the issue of trade and security. They generally do a commendable job on a regular basis.

In my area, our customs officers not only protect but actually serve at times, even without the proper equipment and training. A number of years ago they had to borrow bullet-proof vests because there were not enough available. Now there are some better supports there and I am glad for that advancement.

The bill is important because it lays out the framework for our border crossings. There are 119 border crossings between Canada and the United States. Of those, 24 are international bridges and tunnels. Of those 24 international bridges and tunnels, two are privately held: one in Fort Francis and the other in Windsor, Ontario.

I will not go down that road just yet, but it is unfortunate because of that private ownership model, we pay incredible taxes. We have seen the owner-operator of that facility basically board up homes by buying them up in the adjacent area, which has led to social grief and also diminished property values at the expense of the community. That is surely a tragedy because there are other consequences.

Of the 119 crossings, approximately 29 of them have 80% of the traffic on a regular basis between our nations. When we look at the amount of volume of trade, over $1 billion a day, it is interesting to note that 40% of that happens along the Windsor-Detroit corridor. For those who are not familiar, there are four crossings that have that concentration in a two mile length of river front.

There is the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, owned by the city of Windsor on the Canadian side and the city of Detroit on the American side. They have a long-term lease agreement with Macquarie International. The CP Rail tunnel was built at approximately the same time, about 76 years ago. There are two single sleeve tunnels that are small. One has been expanded modestly but cannot accommodate the triple stackers. It can accommodate some train traffic, but a smaller amount.

Ironically, CP Rail inspection workers were basically fired from that location and moved up the rail line, which is a real travesty, because recently in a Transport Canada document I was able to obtain, it showed that during the inspection period process, 36% of the trains needed to be shopped out or failed the inspection, and there are pictures of derailments and so forth. This will be detrimental when we talk about the issues of border delays and issues around security, of which the bill has some elements.

When the United States learns of this change of policy, it will be very much concerned. We are concerned on the Canadian side because during that inspection process, we could not even get real numbers. There was also a leak of hazardous material from one of the tankers during that process. Now none of those trains will be inspected from Windsor pretty well all the way to Toronto and Montreal.

It is important to note that the trains involved in the derailment in Mississauga affected 200,000 people who had to be evacuated. Interestingly enough, that was before Katrina. That was the largest evacuation in North America up to that time. Those trains came out of Windsor, so we are really concerned about rail safety operations.

Past the CP Rail facility there is the Ambassador Bridge, which is owned by a private American citizen. Once again, this facility has the vast majority of truck and vehicle border crossings in this country. It has the highest fares too over most areas. It is double what the Blue Water Bridge charges in Sarnia. Then past that, there is the Detroit-Windsor truck ferry service, which is owned by a private American operator. It transports hazardous materials between our countries. Ironically, that operator has been recognized by the department of homeland security and has actually received grants because of its safe operation.

Interestingly enough, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge is grandfathered, so we pay for his customs officers. This is about the customs issues in the bill. Canadian taxpayers pay for that customs facility. Ironically, the hazardous material ferry operator actually had to go to court and finally settled with the federal government and has to pay for some of the services, inconsistent services in many respects, as the bridge has taken priority.

One of the good things we are dealing with in this bill is the ability to transfer information in advance for some vehicles, drivers and the trade merchandise so that it can be expedited through the system. It is an important improvement to diminish lineups and improve productivity.

There has been some good debate on these issues and whether this makes a difference. However, sadly enough, when there is a lack of staffing at the actual border facilities then we have a significant problem. We could have all the best products and policies in place and we could provide those powers but if we do not have the operators in place to do the work, then we defeat the whole purpose and we further frustrate those elements of commerce. This bill has to get to committee so we can study it more.

More economic development is looking at the border. Many operations have to decide whether they want to reinvest, especially in the manufacturing belt in Ontario and Quebec, which has been extremely vulnerable. The policy of artificially inflating the Canadian dollar because of an addiction to oil and gas as a revenue stream has really eaten away that base.

On top of that, as we have the thickening of the Canada-U.S. border, elements of business are questioning whether they should open up a plant in Ontario, in Indiana or somewhere else. The comments made by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano are really disturbing. They further heighten the issue of the border and are part of, I believe, a politically motivated movement to turn the Canada-U.S. border into one which is similar to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Public policy affects some of these things and how we respond to them. The imagery is being created. I would point out that in my region of Windsor-Detroit, there are gunboats on the Detroit River and the Great Lakes, because of a treaty that the Liberals allowed to move forward, and which the Conservatives have supported. U.S. Coast Guard vessels have autocannons on them that fire 600 bullets a minute. I am not sure what type of threat would come from Canada that would require 600 bullets a minute, but those are the coast guard vessels that are actually operating along the border.

We are very fortunate to have defeated a proposal to allow 40 different testing zones for firing ranges on the Great Lakes. Interestingly enough, I made a submission against that and the government made a submission. However, it made its submission against that two days after the deadline, so it was not even given actual consideration. The government basically allowed this process to go forward without any type of input. However, we were able to defeat that with some progressive forces, including hunters and fishers who are concerned about the firing ranges, and also environmental groups because the bullets have lead casings.

Blackhawk helicopters have been added to the area, drone planes, security cameras, and spy towers that oversee the area. We are seeing the militarization of the border and it is becoming more like the Mexican-U.S. border versus what it really is, a trade facilitator, which is the model we need to deal with. As the thickening of the border happens and businesses decide to avoid the border altogether, it will erode our economic base if we do not take measures like this.

One of the things that this bill does is it provides regulations to have timeframes and so forth for information coming forth on the border. It can increase productivity by having those practices in place. That is the advance commercial information component of this bill. That will actually allow CBSA to see the information not only from the point of the original supplier but it will also allow it to see the information about the contents and the driver. It is going to facilitate things right across the border.

It is very important that we get that change. It is one of the most important things we can do because, as I have mentioned, all these other barriers are being put in place. It might seem like a small thing in some respects, but at least it is a counterbalance to what is happening.

For example, with the implementation of the western hemisphere travel initiative, anyone who wants to get into the United States, including Americans who have left the United States, will need a passport. Luckily, some states have moved forward on the advanced driver's licence. There is going to be confusion.

All these things are taking place at a time when there is a lot of confusion. We need to put in some policies that are going to help to counterbalance for trade purposes. The WHTI will come into effect and there will be other elements. It is going to thicken the border. We just do not have the needed infrastructure at some of our crossings.

I want to talk about what is happening at the Windsor-Detroit crossing because the bill would allow customs agents in customs controlled areas to do further interventions. There will be greater accountability of the activity of those interventions at the plaza locations. Hopefully there will be better procedures so that when those problems do occur, there will be ways to deal with them that are a little more proper in terms of the way the areas are laid out. That is important. The older facilities do not have the space to pull over certain trucks, to question people, and so forth. If they cannot clear that out, it creates further congestion, back-ups and delays. It defeats the whole purpose of some of the measures we are putting in place here.

What is happening in the Windsor-Detroit corridor is very important, two miles west of the current Ambassador Bridge, and it would extend from four to five crossings within four kilometres. A new publicly owned bridge is going to span the Detroit River and create some redundancy in the system. If there were a problem with one of the current infrastructures, there would be an additional site located there.

The plaza development is very important, because it creates the ability to manoeuvre around new issues such as this. When we are looking at new policies and ways to enforce border security, that can be designed into the actual plaza. I am hoping to see from the designs and the government development of this some flexibility for those plazas for the future, so that there can be some reaction if there is implementation of other measures from the United States.

The United States has added a whole series of new procedures which we would not have dreamt of a number of years ago. Recently with the Bioterrorism Act, a Chilean peach from the 1980s suddenly became a security risk and threat in the year 2000. It led to additional paperwork for commercial trucks carrying fruits and vegetables into the United States. It just creates productivity loss and complications in crossing the border.

A series of these things has been implemented across the table unilaterally, often not even by the political heads but by the departments, such as the Department of Homeland Security and others that are emboldened to do these things. It creates a real problem for us.

I mentioned before about the advance pass information. It is important in many respects, not only in terms of the economic commerce that I am talking about, but also the safety and security of the general public and the men and women who work at the border plazas. Whether we like it or not, the reality is that there are illegal goods, services and materials on a routine basis not just going from Canada to the United States, but also coming from the United States to Canada. Just as our auto industry is integrated with that in the United States, ironically, sometimes there is an integrated criminal activity base for drugs and weapons that go back and forth at the border.

CEUDA, the customs and excise union, drew up what is called the Northgate report. This is a really good report that lays out some of the challenges being faced by the officers at the border. It offers some suggestions.

CEUDA did a survey. I want to go through some of the questions asked. Some individuals believe that when people come to Canada there is no problem, but that is not true. We have to vet these things. That is why the officers need these extra powers. One of the questions on the survey was:

Have Officers at your LAND BORDER CROSSING ever found themselves dealing with someone at Secondary they discovered was considered Armed and Dangerous after searching CPIC [their computer system] but was not cautioned as such either by PALS [their operating system] or when the traveller was otherwise referred?

Thirty of the respondents indicated yes. That is high considering that individuals had been pushed into secondary inspection to begin with and there had already been some contact.

Another question was:

Have Officers at your LAND BORDER CROSSING released a known Armed & Dangerous person up the road in keeping with CBSA's Release and Notify Policy?

Eighteen respondents said yes, ninety-three said no, and eight had no answer.

We know that we have to change some of these policies so people are not set free. That is critical for public safety.

In the Windsor-Detroit area, a couple of peculiar cases came up that really prompted my interest in this legislation.

A Detroit police officer came over to Canada and was pulled over for secondary inspection. He had hid his gun and accidentally shot himself in the knee. He lost his job in the U.S. but was given no penalty here.

These are important things that we need to look at.

A more extreme case occurred on January 7 at an Alberta crossing, where 10 semi-automatic handguns, including one semi-automatic machine pistol, 11 high-capacity magazines and 300 rounds of ammunition were seized. An Edmonton resident was smuggling these items back and forth across the border.

These types of situations are dealt with on a regular basis. The infrastructure needs to be set up properly so we can deal with these kinds of things. We also need to have the powers in the legislation to deal with them.

I want to touch on something that is incredibly important and that is the issue of United States' confidence in Canada with respect to security issues. As we go through the bill we will see some recurring elements. We heard some debate about this earlier.

Some wonder whether the bill will really make a difference because the U.S. is just going to ignore stuff anyway. I think the bill would make a difference because we are dealing with some of the operations on the Canadian side that we can control.

We need to do better with respect to the things that we can control. We need to provide more resources. If our border communities do not get the infrastructure money they need as well as the policies to go with it, then we are doomed for failure.

This summer, we will be moving to armed officers as part of the regular procedure, and therefore, students will not be used to fill those positions as they have in the past. The government will not be filling these positions. This summer we will not have the staffing component that we had before. This will create greater lineups and greater problems. This will defeat the purpose. This has to come hand in glove, resources and procedure.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the hon. member on his speech. It was certainly a tour de force. I was very impressed that he spoke for 20 minutes and took only two breaths. He was very able in his analysis of the border. Certainly his references to the militarization of the Canada-U.S. border is information that really none of us would like to hear, but it is true and it is quite regrettable.

I want to ask a question with respect to the thickening of the border and its impact on economic development. Certainly all these non-tariff barriers that seem to be getting erected by the American government as goods go over the border are impediments to productivity, impediments to proper economic relationships, and in some measure, hurt the American economy far more than the Canadian economy.

I think it is an observable fact that the American economy is having more difficulties with the current recession than are we, and each time it puts up one of these non-tariff barriers it impairs its own economy, its own productivity, and it has a detrimental effect on us as well

I would be interested in the hon. member's comments on the ironic effect of the thickening of the border and these non-tariff barriers.

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, a lot of things have led to this moment, time and place where we have seen the American border thickening. I would point back to one of the most significant changing points. In 2002, I was at the Canadian embassy in Washington and the ambassador was there. We had just learned that the United States was going to bring in the NSEERS program, which was a registry process to fingerprint and photograph non-Canadian entries from Canada, but also Canadian entries from a series of countries that they considered not secure or not worthy of actual proper processing.

Ironically we have citizens from some of those countries who have been here in Canada for 30 years and in my community where doctors and nurses go into the United States every single day and save the lives of Americans and are part of their vibrant community.

Sadly enough, the prime minister at that time never objected to that. Since then, the US-VISIT program has been instituted and we have eroded those relationships. To me, it goes back as far as that. It hurts their society, but also, this country has to speak from one voice, that every single Canadian is vetted and they should be treated the same. Until we do that, we will still have problems.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am looking through the bill clause by clause, and I am a little concerned. I would like to get the member's comments on clause 2 of the bill, which gives the minister the power to directly authorize access to a customs-controlled area by a person. This is a new power given to the minister. It was previously regulated that the minister had this power.

I am a bit concerned that we would give a minister of the Crown that authority and that power. I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on that particular clause of the bill.

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree that it is a concern. We will have to see whether there is an intent to move some more prescriptive elements of the bill as to what those situations are and how they would evolve or whether it is going to be through regulation.

Giving the ministers unvetted power like that can be very difficult, especially if it becomes more of a micro-management aspect of the bill. We have seen the same policy under immigration and a few other different elements where we have given those ministers power.

To my Liberal colleague, I would say that he has been doing unilaterally that for the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, so we will certainly be looking forward to seeing how they might want to rein that in at committee.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, since the member raised the issue of Mississauga in his speech yet again, I think he should move to Mississauga. I would love to have him.

The derailment raises some interesting questions, but I wonder if the member would care to elaborate further on the issue of Canadians who work in the United States. This has come up many times in this place as it relates to pension matters, as it relates to their facility to be able to cross the border on a timely basis, and what it really means in terms of facilitating this kind of activity in which there is a win-win. Maybe the member wants to sing the praises of people who do work across the border.

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6:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I actually used to work at Community Living Mississauga, so I am a former Mississauga worker and wish all those at Community Living Mississauga all the best. I have relatives there as well. I point to that derailment because it is so real.

I thank the member for talking about the issues of those who work in the United States. There are so many of them over there, along the border, that it is incredible. It goes both ways. We have Americans working in Canada as well. That is part of the strength of our social and cultural relationships and it is good for business as well.

One of the saddest things is that, despite corporate tax cuts that the government has given, it has not taken up the movement of its own member, the member for Essex, on the social security bill.

This was done under the Paul Martin administration, where the government taxed U.S. social security recipients resident in Canada at a different level than before. There have been many promises on the Conservative side, but the government has not even moved on the private member's bill of one of its members and we have the continued taxation of U.S. social security recipients in Canada.

The reality is that we are going to continue, hopefully, to have some of those relationships, because it is not just about the employment that takes place. It also about the research and development that we share among us.

As a good example, today we saw that Canada is losing one of its top scientists to Florida, because the United States has attracted him with the Obama administration's intent to have research and training move forward, versus the Canadian government here. However, there will still be some connection with Montreal.

These are important aspects not only in terms of the hard economy that we think of, such as automotive in my community, but it is also related to research and development as well as other types of problem-solving around social issues.