Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to start this debate by acknowledging the changing relationship between Canada and the United States on the border in the last number of years. That is why I rose in the House of Commons to ask the minister about a 29-point plan that was being put in place with the United States with a lot of secrecy. In fact, there was very little consultation with businesses and other organizations or groups. One could go online and make a submission, but only 1,000 people actually visited the website, and very few contributed to that discussion. It was done in a vacuum. Therefore, there could not be the debate and exchange of information that we would normally have at committees to actually bring the issue, which is much more complex and involved, to the table in a much more open and accountable way for Canadian citizens.
The problem we have had with the United States over the last number of years is the approach the government has taken to Washington. We have had a changing relationship since 9/11. There has been a lot of contestation about the safety and security of the northern border. Unfortunately, the government made a very strategic error in its relationship with the U.S. when we were challenged over being able to protect the border against not only smugglers but also crime, potential terrorism and similar issues. The government agreed that it was a problem, but there was no evidence to that degree, especially given the types of events that have been happening at our border on a regular basis.
When Hillary Clinton charged that the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada, we did not have an official objection to that statement. We contested it, but we did not have the Prime Minister there, nor did we call in the ambassador. There were other people, such as Lieberman from the United States, another high-profile politician, and Napolitano, the director of Homeland Security.
Over the last number of years there has been a concerted effort by the southern states--and I have been to Washington and governors' conferences and a whole series of different meetings--to say that the northern border is a big threat, more so than the southern border--this despite the fact the southern border is shared with Mexico, where thousands of people flood into the United States back and forth every single day, and despite the fact that some of its areas and regions are controlled by drug lords and it has no police. The government accepted the argument, and the consequence has been the thickening of the border.
In fact, it has done things that are very puzzling and it has celebrated them. For example, we have had no military ships on the Great Lakes since the War of 1812. It was a signed treaty. It is true that there were patrols, the Coast Guard, police vessels and a series of others, but the government celebrated the ripping up of a treaty for one of the busiest causeways in terms of shipping traffic and pleasure craft and allowed the U.S. to introduce gunboats that fire 1,200 bullets a minute. The government celebrated the ending of a very positive treaty. We do not even know why it is necessary to be able to fire 1,200 bullets a minute.
The consequence has been the thickening of the border and a loss of business and trade that is expected to be in the billions of dollars. The government celebrates those types of events.
What is interesting about this whole issue is that the United States attempted at one point to put 40 gunboat training staging areas on the Great Lakes. The government did not even make a submission on time against that plan. Although lead casings and bullets will go in there and will affect our trade once again, it did not even make a submission to the U.S. government.
That is why our border is thickening. That is why we are losing jobs.