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House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.

Topics

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, as the member for Yellowhead would know, that walkway was enormously controversial for many reasons, I believe one being that it violated the fundamental principles of our national parks system to create a for profit operation. Yes, the walkway was built with investor private capital for the benefit of that investor. That in and of itself makes it incompatible with the purposes of our national parks.

We are creating national parks for the ecosystem that exists in Jasper, for the grizzlies, the caribou, and the species there. It is an added benefit, and there is no question that tourism attractions are wonderful. However, if we want to build an ice walkway and put private money to do it, do not do it in one of our national parks.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is the House ready for the question?

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I ask that the division on the motion now before the House be deferred until tomorrow, after the time provided for oral questions.

Rouge National Urban Park ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The recorded division on the motion stands deferred until tomorrow.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

February 21st, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-23, an act respecting the pre-clearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, from this government's first day in office, we have been focused on the various drivers that will grow the economy, create good, solid jobs and genuine opportunity for the middle class and all those working so hard just to get there. That is why we cut middle-class taxes and bolstered family incomes with the new Canada child benefit. That is why we increased federal support for students, skills, and learning. That is why we are investing in innovation and infrastructure. That is also why we are seizing meaningful opportunities to expand international trade through new and improved trade agreements, trade missions and marketing, and initiatives that help move both people and goods across international boundaries in faster, easier, and more efficient ways, all while maintaining our safety and security and respecting our rights.

Bill C-23, an act respecting the pre-clearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, is very much aimed in this latter direction. The legislation would allow more Canadians and Canadian businesses to enjoy the convenience and economic benefits of clearing American customs and immigration procedures in Canada before entering the U.S.

Expanded pre-clearance will strengthen Canada's economic competitiveness by accelerating the flow of legitimate trade and travel while enhancing the security of our border. Moreover, it will allow more Canadian travellers to complete U.S. border procedures while under the protective umbrella of Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada and the United States are each other's top trading partners and the cross-border economy is essential to our shared prosperity. Nearly $2.5 billion in goods and services cross the Canada-U.S. border every day. In fact, some $1.5 million worth of goods and services have crossed that border since I began speaking about two minutes ago. Our exports to the United States constitute more than 20% of Canada's GDP, and two and a half million jobs rely on those exports to our southern neighbour.

There is more. In 2015, over 600,000 Canadian jobs were directly attributable to tourism and Americans represented over two-thirds of the nearly 18 million overnight visitors Canada received in that year. In all, more than 400,000 people cross our land border every day. Border benefits flow both ways. Some nine million U.S. jobs depend directly on trade with Canada and Canada is the primary export destination for 35 American states. Clearly, the movement of people and goods across the border is vital to the dynamism of the North American economy and a powerful engine for growth and job creation in both countries.

However, border delays and concerns about potential delays can be a very significant impediment to economic growth. Our government is committed to addressing that. A central element of our campaign platform was a commitment to build a solid foundation for greater trade, stronger growth, and more job creation by working to reduce the barriers that limited trade and promoting a steadier flow of people and goods.

Some years ago, Canada and the United States began working on a new legal framework for the pre-clearance system between the two countries, but it was not implemented and did not include a definite business plan for the expansion of pre-clearance. Through this past year, we tackled those deficiencies, building on more than six decades of successful pre-clearance experience between Canada and the United States.

Our expansion plans will begin with new pre-clearance services for air passengers at Billy Bishop island airport in Toronto and Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City, and for rail passengers heading into the United States from Montreal Central Station and on the Rocky Mountaineer railway in British Columbia.

We have also agreed to regularize pre-clearance operations at certain rail and marine sites in B.C. that currently offer a partial service. This improvement will be especially significant for the west coast cruise ship business.

One of the steps on the path to all of this expansion is the adoption of new legislation in both countries. The requisite American legislation was signed into law last December, after being adopted by Congress with, unusually, unanimous support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The related Canadian legislation is what we are examining today.

Before I get into some of the details of Bill C-23, let me take a moment to discuss what exactly pre-clearance is and what benefits Canadians can expect from its expansion.

Pre-clearance simply means that rather than customs and immigration procedures happening just after we cross the physical border or after landing at a U.S. airport, they happen in advance. Canadians who have flown to the U.S. from one of the eight airports in our country where pre-clearance is currently conducted, and that is Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto Pearson, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax, are very familiar with how pre-clearance works and what the advantages are.

Travellers are cleared for entry into the United States by U.S. border officials before they board the plane, which means they avoid lineups and delays after they land. They can also fly directly to any U.S. airport, including airports like LaGuardia airport in New York City or Reagan airport in Washington, D.C., which do not have full customs facilities and ordinarily receive only domestic U.S. flights. Pearson airport in Toronto, for example, presently offers direct flights to 50 American destinations. Without pre-clearance, that number would drop to 27.

Pre-clearance makes it easier, not only for Canadians to travel to the United States, but for Canadian businesses to attract American tourists and business travellers to Canada, which is obviously a major benefit for local economies. That is why there has been so much support for the planned expansion, which we announced last spring, that will be enabled by the bill before us now.

Following the announcement last spring, the president of the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Québec stated that we had reached a historic milestone in terms of the region's accessibility.

According to Mayor Régis Labeaume, the arrival of preclearance at Jean Lesage airport is a great victory for his city. In the words of the president of the Quebec City airport authority, “this grand project will forever change the face of the airport by considerably reducing travel times to the United States and by enhancing the client experience of our passengers”.

The president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce has said that the agreement to expand pre-clearance will help businesses grow and avoid spending time in border lineups.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the expansion because pre-clearance operations, which have existed in one form or another for over 60 years, have been, in the words of the chamber “a massive success” that “greatly reduce congestion at the border and allow for streamlined processing of trusted trade and travel”.

In short, Bill C-23 will be good for business all over the country, good for tourism, and good for ordinary Canadian travellers as well.

The first part of Bill C-23 sets out the Canadian legislative framework that will govern American officers conducting pre-clearance in Canada of people and goods bound for the United States. In general, travellers already familiar with the way pre-clearance works will not notice any difference.

As is already the case, American pre-clearance officers will be authorized to collect the same information from travellers that is collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at regular U.S. points of entry; and in many other respects including search authorities, detention authorities, and penalties for lying to an officer, Bill C-23 is generally similar to the law governing pre-clearance that is currently in effect and has been so since at least 1999.

I know there are always concerns about the authorities that U.S. officers would have in Canada just as there are always concerns across the border about the authorities Canadian officers would have in the U.S. I can assure the House that our government takes very seriously the need to protect the rights of travellers and to ensure that they are treated fairly and in accordance with the rule of law.

I will therefore take just a few moments to address some of the concerns that have been mentioned in public.

First, with respect to searches, the current law allows a U.S. pre-clearance officer to conduct a frisk search if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a traveller is hiding something or carrying something dangerous. This would not change under Bill C-23.

If there is a need for a search requiring the removal of clothing, the current law obligates U.S. officers to request a Canadian counterpart to conduct the search. This, too, would remain the same. The only difference under Bill C-23 is that the U.S. officer could conduct the search if no Canadian officer is available. This would be extremely rare, and any such search would be subject to the same legal and constitutional protections as would apply to a search done by a Canadian officer.

Further, historical experience over the past 60 years would indicate that any conflict in relation to those rules governing searches would have happened exactly zero times based on the experience over six decades.

With respect to detention, U.S. officers would not have the power to arrest or charge travellers in Canada. Rather, as is currently the case under existing law, a U.S. pre-clearance officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has committed an offence must turn the traveller over to Canadian authorities as quickly as possible. With no exceptions, only Canadian authorities would determine whether charges should be laid.

With respect to travellers wishing to withdraw from a pre-clearance area, they would be entitled to do so, but they could be required to identify themselves and give their reasons for withdrawing. This is simply to prevent the illicit probing of pre-clearance sites by people trying to find weaknesses in border security before leaving the pre-clearance area undetected.

With respect to the arming of officers, U.S. officers in Canada would only be entitled to carry the same weapons as Canadian border services officers do in the same environment. For example, because Canadian officers do not generally carry firearms inside airport terminals, U.S. officers would not be authorized to carry firearms there either.

Most importantly, the bill says explicitly that American pre-clearance officers must exercise their powers and perform their duties under this act in accordance with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act. As I said earlier, the alternative is for travellers to be processed entirely in the United States with no Canadian legal protections.

The pre-clearance agreement between Canada and the United States provides for full reciprocity, so that too is laid out in Bill C-23. No power or privilege is conferred upon the officers of one country and not the other. This is an important point to bear in mind as Canada studies and pursues future opportunities to set up Canadian pre-clearance services in the U.S. for people and goods that are bound for Canada.

Expansion of the service also includes pre-clearance of cargo. During the Prime Minister's recent visit to Washington, Canada and the U.S. both recognized the success of the existing pre-clearance operations for travellers, and we declared our mutual commitment to establish cargo pre-clearance in order to make trade across our border faster, easier, and more secure.

All of this fits within our government's overarching objectives of growing the economy and creating jobs, and it upholds our platform commitment to foster a productive relationship with the United States in the interests of our mutual prosperity and security, all while safeguarding our Canadian rights and freedoms.

Since I began my remarks about 20 minutes ago, over $25 million worth of goods and services have been traded across our border with the United States and more than 5,000 people have travelled across that boundary. However, the potential for even more trade and travel between our two countries and for greater economic growth is strong. We can and we must make the border flow of people and goods faster, easier, and more secure. That is what Bill C-23 would achieve, and it would do so while allowing more Canadian travellers to enjoy the protection of Canadian law and the protection of the charter when going through U.S. customs procedures.

This is an important debate. I thank the House for its attention this afternoon. I look forward to the constructive input that I am sure hon. members will offer during today's debate and throughout the legislative process on Bill C-23.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, when we hear the argument of trade, goods, and so forth, it sounds like a compelling argument on the surface, but one question needs to be asked with respect to Bill C-23. With pre-clearance already happening, it is hard to understand why we are giving so many more powers that Canadians do not currently have under a pre-clearance system that seems to be working just fine.

I could ask about many of the points the minister raised, but unfortunately my time is limited, so I will focus on one that has been a subject of discussions and concern in the public. That is the question of leaving the pre-clearance zone. The minister offered as justification that it is to make sure people are not staking it out, that people are not examining how it is. This, to me, runs the risk of profiling.

At the public safety committee last week, representatives of the Islamic Society of North America specifically raised the issue around that provision in the bill. They said what ends up happening is, if a Canadian—and given how things are going currently at the U.S. border, unfortunately it may be a Muslim Canadian—arrives at the border and does not appreciate the line of questioning or finds that it infringes on his or her rights or is just abusive and he or she decides to leave the pre-clearance zone, beyond what the minister has said, the bill would allow that individual to be detained and questioned within reasonable delay, but reasonable delay is not defined.

I am wondering if the minister could assure us and explain how that is not the exact kind of situation that we are going to find ourselves in, especially given the current U.S. administration's behaviour towards certain groups of people.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, with respect to the pre-clearance areas within various airports, they are obviously areas that need to be very secure because they deal with sensitive cross-border issues. The powers that would be provided under Bill C-23 are very similar to what exists at the present time under existing legislation. The hon. gentleman makes the suggestion that, in his view, the change with Bill C-23 is large and drastic, and I would beg to differ. I do not see it as a major alteration in the law that presently exists.

The safeguard that the member referred to that is embedded in these particular clauses of Bill C-23 with respect to people wishing to withdraw from the pre-clearance area, that safeguard is extremely important. They can withdraw. They may be asked questions to identify themselves. They may be asked questions for their reasons for withdrawal in order to protect the integrity of that zone, but the whole process is subject to a strong limitation. It cannot “unreasonably delay” the traveller; those are the words in the act. The concept of reasonableness is a concept that has long jurisprudence attached to it and would undoubtedly be applied assiduously by Canadian courts.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly, we recognize the continuation of important work that was begun under the previous government. Former prime minister Stephen Harper, of course, negotiated the beyond the border agreement with former president Barack Obama. We see this legislation as carrying through on some of the items within that.

Could the minister reflect on some of the discussions happening in the United States? Does he see the ability of the beyond the border agreement to continue forward in its fullness in light of the new administration? What kinds of discussions has he had with respect to that going forward?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in the course of my remarks, when we look at the statistics, it is obviously in the interests of both countries to have a successful border relationship. In terms of the volumes of people and goods and services that flow back and forth every day, every hour, and every minute, quite literally, it is important to both countries to make that relationship successful.

The beyond the border initiatives actually stretch way back to the time of John Manley and Tom Ridge, when the first arrangement was put together. The current arrangement is coming to the end of its life cycle. There are a number of things that need to be accounted for to finish off the previous work that was agreed to by previous administrations, and it will be important for Canada to pursue with the United States where this process now goes from here: for example, are there future opportunities to carry on the work to make the border efficient and expeditious, as well as fair in the way it deals with people, while at the same time make the border secure and safe in both directions?

I have had one opportunity so far to raise this in a face-to-face fashion with the new Secretary of Homeland Security. That was a good conversation, but it was a preliminary conversation. Obviously, a lot more detail is required. Within the next three or four weeks, I hope to have the opportunity to carry on that conversation to examine exactly where we wish to expand our opportunities in relation to the border.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the concerns I have with the bill is the continuation of integration with the United States on programs where previous programs have been disavowed, or have not ensured that the current agreements are kept in good faith. An example is NEXUS. I have written the minister about this.

I will be very specific with another issue, so hopefully people at home can really realize the significance of this. Our hospitals used to have prior arrangements with the United States so that preborn children and their mothers, as well as newborn babies, could get access to American hospitals for high-risk pregnancies and births, as well as after-birth emergencies. They could get into Detroit, for example, within minutes versus going to London. It is a life and death situation. We have yet to hear back from the minister about this. It was proved null and void under the Trump administration. Why would we want to go further when we still do not have clarity about our current rules and agreements and what they are supposed to be?

If there are no known entities for doing that, simply leaving it to people to figure out in life and death situations is just not good enough, so why would we go deeper when we cannot even get basic answers on past practices with agreements?

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, with respect to NEXUS, in fact, within a very short time of that issue arising a couple of weeks ago, we did obtain clarity with respect to the NEXUS rules and the applicability of those rules, especially in relation to permanent residents. When points of dispute or concern arise, the best way to deal with them is to confront them directly, raise them directly with counterparts, and work very hard to get satisfactory answers.

On the issue of the hospital exchanges, that would, I suspect, be primarily under provincial jurisdiction, but I am more than happy to pursue that issue, to examine its current status.

With respect to Bill C-23 itself, though, from the perspective the hon. gentleman represents of why it would be wise to have this arrangement as opposed to not having this arrangement, by having the arrangement in place, it would mean that more and more Canadians would go through the process of clearing American customs and immigration procedures while they are still in Canada, before they cross the border. Therefore, being in Canada, they would have the protection of Canadian law, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

What is the alternative if we do not have that protection? It means that people would be cleared on the American side under complete American jurisdiction, with no protection of Canadian law. Clearly, pre-clearance is a better way to do it.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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 St. Albert—Edmonton, Justice; the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, Foreign Affairs; and the hon. member for Salaberry—Suroît, Youth.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Parry Sound—Muskoka.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to discuss Bill C-23, preclearance act, 2016.

The previous Conservative government supported pre-clearance agreements with the United States and took several steps to enter into agreements to facilitate travel by Canadians. In 2015, Canada and the United States signed the Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance, which established a legal framework for new pre-clearance operations for all means of transportation.

In 2012, the government announced the creation of binational port operations committees at eight Canadian airports that provide a U.S. pre-clearance service. The Conservative Party's position is that transborder clearance agreements with the United States are important and help improve security and border integrity, and create jobs and growth in Canada by facilitating the movement of legitimate goods and travellers.

The bill does create a legal mechanism for border security officers in Canada and the United States to provide for the pre-clearance in each country of travellers and goods bound for the other country. Trade and travel between the United States and Canada are key to the economic success of both nations. More than $2 billion travels across the border every single day. We must take all necessary steps to facilitate this trade and travel while ensuring that our border is meaningful and secure.

Specifically, the bill before us today is the implementation legislation for the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air pre-clearance that was negotiated by the Conservative government. The bill is incredibly important for both our security and prosperity. It is important that legitimate travel and trade be able to occur as freely as possible while also leveraging the work done by the Canada Border Services Agency officers and Customs and Border Protection officers.

First, let us talk a little bit about pre-clearance, what it is and how it has been working, because contrary to what some would have us believe, this is not a new concept. As the hon. member just mentioned in the House, pre-clearance operations were implemented in Canada for the first time back in 1952 when the United States pre-clearance officers began screening travellers for United States-bound planes at the Toronto international airport. A formal pre-clearance agreement with the United States did not exist at that time. In fact, Canada and the United States reached their first air transport pre-clearance agreement in 1974.

Pre-clearance is designed, of course, to push the effective border out away from the homeland. What does that mean? It means in this instance that travellers are screened in their country of origin before boarding a flight rather than being screened when their flight lands. This is important, because threats are interdicted before they can enter a new country, and screening times become more uniform.

It may interest members to know that more than 12 million passengers at eight airports went through U.S. pre-clearance in 2016. In pre-clearance operations, border officers from the inspecting country, in other words, the United States or Canada, carry out customs and immigration inspections in the host country before allowing goods or people into the inspecting country.

The objective of pre-clearance is to improve and expedite the flow of legitimate trade and travel while continuing to ensure border security and integrity. If there was no pre-clearance, Canadians would not be able to take advantage of nearly half of the direct flights between Canadian and United States destinations. They instead would need to fly to an intermediary city in the U.S. and go through customs screening. This would increase of the costs of these trips, it would increase the amount of time these trips would take, and it would ultimately make travelling harder.

However, pre-clearance also has a security benefit. Potential threats to the other country can be stopped by law enforcement before they even cross the border. This type of action is important in the context of the broader beyond the border agreement. The United States and Canada have a long tradition of working together to ensure that the border remains open to legitimate trade and travel, and closed to terrorists, criminals, and illegal or unauthorized goods. Work done by the previous government has deepened and institutionalized this co-operation within, at, and away from the shared border. This is great work that was done by the previous government, and we are glad that it has been pushed across the goal line, but obviously there may be some imperfections.

Media have reported on concerns that U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will be able to detain Canadians on Canadian soil. In my view, this criticism is overblown and is not matched by the legislation. The legislation is clear that CBP officers are not peace officers, and powers of arrest only lie in Canadian hands. However, individuals may be held for questioning at the discretion of the inspecting country officer. This, in turn, makes sense. Pre-clearance is effectively treating the customs checkpoint the same as if an individual approached a land border.

I look forward to hearing concerns from individuals and groups at committee stage about detention powers. If there are issues that need to be addressed, the committee can consider these. We all know that an important part of national security measures is maintaining the confidence of the Canadian people. The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness needs to explain to Canadians how the legislation will work. I would be happy to help him in this regard. He has to continue to explain that rights will not be violated, and that security will be protected.

We have heard a lot about national security these days and years. We have heard a lot about the Liberal campaign promise to significantly alter the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, more commonly referred to as Bill C-51. I would put it to this House that it would be a manifestly irresponsible course of action. The CSIS director has confirmed that the new threat disruption tools have been used over two dozen times. Removing these tools, which permits CSIS to do things as simple as talk to the parents of radicalized individuals, is tantamount to tying its hands behind its back.

We have heard the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness make comments about reviewing the passenger protect program as well. In most if not all of these cases raised in the media of individuals not being able to fly, the issue at play has been the American no-fly list. There is little that the minister can do about a policy of a foreign country, other than lobbying for its change.

We have also heard suggestions that the newly created offence for the advocacy or promotion of terrorism in general is too broad and will impede on the right of free speech, yet in the context of our national security review at the public safety committee we have heard from groups such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and B'nai Brith Canada. They have unequivocally stated that these measures provide necessary safety and security to their communities.

I would put to the House that we need to get serious about dealing with Canada's national security. We need to listen to the debate. We need to listen to the security experts. That brings me back to the legislation we are discussing today. Academic review after academic review found that pre-clearance allows border authorities to better utilize resources because screening is done away from the homeland.

A recent paper published by the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region has found:

The Preclearance agreement gives US Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency officials the authority to conduct border security and inspections in the other country prior to departure. By taking a perimeter approach to security, each country will address potential threats early and improve efficiency of legitimate travel and trade at the border.

One often-overlooked component of this bill is that it is not only pre-clearance in the air mode, but it is by rail as well. We know that travellers often move between Montreal, Quebec, and Plattsburgh, New York. In the absence of pre-clearance, once the train crosses the border, it must stop and all passengers must clear customs. This process can take up to one hour. It is cumbersome, needless, and can dissuade further travel due to increasing demands on time. Pre-clearance would allow customs inspections to occur before a passenger even boards the train.

This type of security measure leverages the resources brought to bear in both countries. If there is a security risk, an irregular migrant, or otherwise inadmissible person and if they attempt to travel, they can be stopped and dealt with in their country of origin. Border officials from the inspecting country and law enforcement officials from the host country can work together to ensure that the appropriate outcome is determined.

This legislation is focused on passenger travel, which is very important, but there is more that needs to be done. As I said earlier, more than $2 billion travels across the border each and every day. The government must proceed with pre-clearance of cargo, as well.

Under the leadership of the previous Conservative government, a truck cargo pre-clearance pilot project was conducted at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York. This project has resulted in important lessons learned that can now be implemented to improve the pre-clearance times for cargo. These include eliminating user fee cash collection at the primary inspection, updating technology connectivity, and mandating advanced electronic filing of manifests for all commercial entries.

When this legislation was tabled, the Liberal government did make reference to the fact that the issues around cargo had been referred to a working group on pre-clearance. It has been several months now. I understand the hon. public safety minister also referenced this issue in his remarks today, but we would like to see some results soon.

The recent joint statement following the meeting between the Prime Minister and President Trump did not make any reference to this issue, nor did it make any substantial reference to the efforts to thin the border for legitimate trade and travel while ensuring that terrorists and illegal migrants are stopped in their tracks. This is concerning, but unfortunately, we have to wait, and I hope not wait too long, to see how this relationship will move forward.

We do have a government that has made some provocative statements in the past, whether it is tipping its hands on NAFTA negotiations or eulogies for Fidel Castro, statements that will not gain favour with our largest trading partner, and this of course is not an effective way to get results for Canadians.

However, I see the bill here today and I see that we can make progress on these issues. Let me take the opportunity to summarize.

Bill C-23 is basically good legislation. I am proud to support it going to the public safety committee for further study. The reasons for this are very simple.

First, the legislation would allow air, rail, and marine travellers to proceed to their destination on the other side of the border more quickly. That means smoother travel, and smoother travel is more desirable travel, and more desirable travel means an increase in tourism dollars spent in Canada.

Second, this legislation would allow Canada and the United States to leverage our shared security resources. CBP and CBSA officers would work together, along with their law enforcement partners in the FBI, RCMP, and local police forces, to ensure that terrorists, criminals, and illegal migrants are stopped at the earliest opportunity. Pushing the border out is a common-sense principle that we need to continue to advance.

Third, this legislation is the result of hard work and negotiation by the previous Conservative government. Former prime minister Stephen Harper and former president Barack Obama had a great strategy for our shared border, and this is another piece that would make our shared border work better.

We absolutely must ask the Minister of Public Safety and his officials important questions about the balancing of liberty, security, and trade. We absolutely must hear from important stakeholders, such as civil liberties groups, the Customs and Immigration Union, the National Airlines Council of Canada, important groups that deal with the issues raised in this legislation each and every day. However, on its face, Conservatives can support measures to streamline our border and to make it simpler to travel to and from the United States.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Picard Liberal Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my honourable colleague for his open-mindedness about this bill. The bills that are introduced in this place protect our rights and freedoms.

I would like to hear my colleague speak about the assurances that we are giving Canadians with respect to protecting their privacy and the information we will be giving pre-clearance posts, which is similar to the information already submitted at border crossings.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, naturally it is very important that we protect our fellow citizens. This bill must provide for a plan to ensure that we strike a balance between protecting our rights and freedoms and the security of our country.

It is a balancing act. I believe it is important to strike the right balance. I believe that this bill, on its face, does strike the right balance. As my hon. NDP colleague mentioned as well, it is important to go to committee to hear from groups to make sure that we have struck the right balance. If there are things that have to be done to make more clear what the intention of the House is, we should be open to that, but on its face, I believe that we are very close to, if not where, we should be.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the things I have been concerned about is the changing relationships that we have on the border and the inability for us to act. I know the hon. member has raised some other issues relating to refugees coming into Canada from the United States, and that says a couple of things that are important to note.

First and foremost is that if those refugees are seen as dangerous or requiring intervention that is significant, then we have an issue with our trading partner the United States allowing those people into the U.S. in the first place and then coming to Canada. I would like to know from the member what we should do about that in the relationship, in terms of informing the United States that we are going to have a further level of security with it having those types of people potentially in its harbour.

My second point has to do with if there is a problem with the detention area. The explanation of the minister is about some clandestine kind of operation and understanding what is going on and reporting that intelligence back if people are detained. The reality in my riding of Windsor West where we have people crossing on a regular basis, is that people, including children, are detained for eight hours, six hours, four hours, two hours. Often they are never even brought to an officer, nor is there even a brief exchange on what the actual protocol should be for people. No wonder they do not want to stay and wait for that. Just this weekend in my area somebody was detained for two hours. A middle-aged woman with full documentation was going over to the United States from Canada. There was no explanation other than they just wanted to detain her.

Preclearance Act, 2016Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, I will take the second issue first, if the member is amendable to that, and say that absolutely, these are the kinds of issues that have to be probed as we continue to discuss the bill and hear from stakeholders. Certainly, as the hon. Minister of Public Safety said in the House just a few minutes ago, it has to be reasonable. That is the ground. If there is evidence of unreasonable detention, that is an issue which I believe we have to probe. The hon. member is welcome to join us in committee when we discuss those issues, for sure.

In terms of the general balance, again I would say that we should strive for that. From my perspective, we know it is a public good to have pre-clearance. No one should be debating that. When we talk about irregular travel, that is to say, illegal travel, in between border sites, it is a bit of a different issue. Certainly, it is one which we raised in question period today, and certainly it is one which is in the public debate, but I do not think we should conflate the two issues. If someone is an irregular traveller moving across the border in between points of entry, it is a very different issue than what we are trying to do at the points of entry.

I would just say to the hon. member that our position should be that the law is there for a reason. It should be a reasonable law. It should be a law that is four square within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and parliamentary wisdom. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the law is applied properly and fairly as well.