Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Yellowhead.
It has been three months since we enjoyed being in the House. Over the past three months, we have had the opportunity to meet with the people in our ridings to participate in various activities and to hear from Canadians.
Moreover, during question period, it was clear that we Conservatives pay close attention to what citizens and business owners tell us. The current government can count on our utmost vigilance when it comes time to increase taxpayers' taxes.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that today is a very emotional day for all parliamentarians. Earlier, we all paid a well-deserved tribute to the late hon. member of the House Arnold Chan.
I think the tributes we heard from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the NDP, the leader of the Green Party and the member for Joliette all show that when parliamentarians like Mr. Chan represent their constituents well and seek to move Canada forward with their own vision and the vision they share with their fellow citizens, their aim is true. The late Mr. Chan was a real inspiration to all of us.
I would also like to thank my leader, the leader of the official opposition and member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, who did me the honour of placing his trust in me and appointing me to his shadow cabinet as our Treasury Board critic. I had the pleasure of speaking with the current President of the Treasury Board—and it is not that I do not like him, just that he will no longer be in that position in two years' time—and we reminisced about the good old days when he was a member of the Conservative Party. Some people do make mistakes in life, but back in the day, he did not make any.
We are gathered here today to talk about Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Customs Act. I want to say right away, since we are all in good spirits as we come back to the House, that we support this bill.
The reason is quite simple. In fact, it was under the leadership of the government of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper that the first steps were taken in creating this bill. This all comes back to the historic border agreement reached in February 2011 between former prime minister Stephen Harper and former American President Barack Obama. That agreement had four stages. The first two have been completed. We would like to see the final two stages completed by this government. We are pleased that the current government is following the footsteps and the path set out by the previous Conservative government. This means that we can have greater flexibility in our relationships, both trade and personal, with the United States.
It is worth pointing out how extraordinary this is. Canada and the United States have proven that, while they may disagree from time to time, two great nations can agree on the essentials. That means a lot. As we all learned in elementary school, Canada and the United States share the longest undefended border in the world. That is really important. Our two nations may have disagreed back in 1812, but as many people know even better than I, our relationship has generally been a fruitful and productive one since then, as former prime minister Mulroney, the man who made free trade between our two countries possible, would say.
I want to emphasize how amazing this is. The border between Canada and the United States is nearly 9,000 kilometres long, 8,891 kilometres to be exact. We have a 6,414-kilometre north-south border, as well as a 2,477-kilometre east-west border between Alaska and British Columbia and Yukon.
These statistics may interest those who play Jeopardy! and other board games. My point is that when you have a border that is close to 9,000 kilometres long, you need to work hard to maintain a good relationship. The people of our two great countries—more than 330 million there and 35 million here—have countless daily interactions with each other. Tens of thousands of Canadians and Americans travel back and forth across that 9,000-kilometre border.
Trade between our two great nations has also been extremely fruitful. We are talking about some $400 billion in trade between Canada and the United States. This all must be done in a context where we can rely on the quality of our borders, which often gets many people up in arms, and rightly so, since as we saw this summer, our borders may not be as impermeable as some folks would like. We were all surprised to see thousands of people crossing, not at the usual border crossings, but rather through the woods near the official border crossings recognized by both countries. I am sure that we will have the opportunity to come back to this issue caused by this government's lackadaisical attitude when it comes to the question of migrants. However, that is not the focus of Bill C-21.
As I was saying, this bill stems from the agreement of February 24, 2011. Allow me to read a sentence that clearly sums up the purpose of this agreement:
To preserve and extend the benefits our close relationship has helped bring to Canadians and Americans alike, we intend to pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between our two countries.
As I was saying earlier, seeing as our trade relationship is worth more than $400 billion, a good border is obviously a must. Since thousands of Canadians go to the United States and thousands of Americans come to Canada each day, we want to have good borders, but we also need to face up to the challenges of today.
Members are unlikely to forget the tragic events of September 11, 2011, when the world was plunged into terrorism and unspeakable darkness, when spineless cowards and hypocrites attacked completely innocent civilians. More than 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks of September 11. In light of this new event, we needed a strong, serious approach to protect the safety of Canadians, Americans, and all the people of the free world.
What came out of that was an agreement containing four specific areas of co-operation. The first was to address terrorist threats early, since there were specific targets. Did the people crossing the border have a terrorist past? Did they have harmful intentions? Were they there to commit crimes or were they good citizens wanting to contribute to interactions between our two countries? These are the questions that needed answers.
The second area was trade facilitation, economic growth, and job creation. The third was integrated cross-border law enforcement, or in other words, the government wanted to ensure that American laws did not infringe on Canadian laws. There had to be some consistency between the laws of the two countries, otherwise this would not work.
Finally, the fourth area was critical infrastructure and cybersecurity. As we know, this required some very unpleasant changes at border crossings. I think anyone who has driven across the border or has crossed by train or by air, knows that this vigilance is reassuring, particularly in our airports, even if it is sometimes onerous for well-intentioned tourists.
It is because of these four areas that today we have Bill C-21, which amends the Customs Act and seeks to better integrate our trade relations with the Americans and allow Canadians and Americans to move easily between the two countries while ensuring the vital security of the two countries.
With the new technologies that are available, it is easer for police and consulates to identify those with harmful intentions. They are able to identify anyone who has committed a crime or has demonstrated that they have harmful intentions, whether on social media or elsewhere. That is the price we pay to live in a free society where we can walk down the street without being worried that a bomb will go off next to us and to ensure that Canada and the United States continue to have an excellent relationship for centuries to come.