Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is basically underscoring my point. My questions relate to when the minister was in opposition. He opposed this very type of legislation. He opposed the common entry and exit system that is at the underpinnings of Bill C-21, if people want to delve into what is in the legislation. That minister, who spoke promoting the bill, opposed it for several reasons in 2011. He said it would give up our sovereign control of our immigration and refugee system. I am suggesting it did not. He said it did at the time.
He also said if Canada is to make an agreement acceding to this request by the Americans to share entry and exit information, we should extract gains for our national interest in the process. We have not secured any gains.
This is a Customs Act decision related to the travel of our citizens and our residents between our country and the United States, the country Canadians, including people in British Columbia and my province of Ontario, travel to the most. We should be very clear that if we are going to streamline that with the Americans, we receive in return respect and things that would help our national interests. We are not receiving that in return for Bill C-21.
NAFTA is at risk. The steelworkers I met with this week who normally support the NDP would probably be shocked that it is the Conservatives who are standing up for them in the House. Our aluminum exports are at risk. When the minister asked that Canada get gains for giving the type of power that Bill C-21 would give, I would like to see what Canada has secured in return, because it looks like the Canada-U.S. relationship is eroding.
We are imposing more exit requirements on Canadians travelling back and forth across the Canada-U.S. border at a time when that government is ignoring the basic laws that require people to report for a CBSA border check.
All of these issues are deeply related, including Bill C-23, which is a companion piece of legislation to Bill C-21. I have spoken to both bills at length.
The changes to pre-clearance should also concern Canadians, because information will be shared when they leave and go. The minister alluded to the fact that benefits are tied to these. It is clear the government is going to go after Canadians for tax purposes, for eligibility for a series of benefits, and sharing that information with the United States.
People may want to delve into what section 94 of the act provides, but changes to section 94 would give border officials upon exit the ability to ask any question of a Canadian going down to the United States for a holiday or a business meeting.
I have already told how the Liberal government has failed to get assurance as part of these discussions on entry and exit, that the American immigration and custom enforcement, the ICE office, the U.S. equivalent to the CBSA here in Canada, will remove the marijuana question from its screening questions.
This bills means that CBSA will be able to ask any question possible of a Canadian leaving our country and that information on Canadians will be shared with the United States, yet we are legalizing marijuana and the government has not even received assurance from the Americans that their border agents, their ICE agents, will not ask Canadians questions about marijuana use, whether medicinal or legal, eventually. Why should that concern people? It could lead to a ban on travel to the United States and could impact someone's employment.
Bill C-21 and Bill C-23 are together the border package presented by the Liberal government. There is nothing to actually solidify and secure our immigration and refugee system and our asylum claim process.
I have said countless times the best way to make sure we keep a high level of Canadian confidence in our system from the people that are in the queue now, from the people that are looking to come to Canada through our refugee system or through our immigration system, is that it run by a rules-based, fair process. That is fair. Canada is a rules-based country.
While we are looking at that, the minister is passing the bill but is not able to get any new assurances with respect to the safe third country agreement. I would note that the minister, referring back to the comments I said he made in 2011, was also a member of the Chrétien government in 2002, which negotiated the safe third country agreement with the Americans.
It is interesting that John Manley, with Tom Ridge as the U.S. Homeland Security secretary at the time, negotiated the safe third country agreement with respect to asylum claims and seeking asylum, meaning that if people are fleeing persecution, they claim asylum in the first country they go to, and that would be recognized. If it were Canada, it would be Canada. If it were the United States, it would be the United States. By circumventing proper border checks, someone who has been called an irregular asylum claimant is also breaking the law by crossing the border.
The system provided for that, and what was said by the Liberal minister at the time, who was a colleague of the Minister of Public Safety? He said the safe third country agreement, which my friend in the NDP wants to toss out or set aside or temporarily suspend, was the Liberal government's response to UN rules with respect to refugees and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, John Manley referred to those two documents in the House of Commons on May 7, 2002, when he said, referring to the Convention on Refugees and the Charter of Rights, “Both of these have driven us to the conclusion...that it would be necessary to negotiate a safe third country agreement.”
The last major border agreement with the United States was by John Manley. The current Minister of Public Safety was in cabinet with him. The next set of border arrangements with the United States is through the current minister, through Bill C-21 and Bill C-23, which gives American customs agents the ability to search Canadians on Canadian soil, but the Liberals will not even touch the loophole in the safe third country agreement.
Therefore, Canadians should be concerned. I raise this matter because there has been a lack of attention to the border, to a rules-based system with respect to asylum claims and immigration. There has been a risk that our border will become thick for commercial transit. That is a real risk for just-in-time manufacturing, particularly for the auto industry. That risk touches my riding, Windsor, and Oakville. If the border thickens and goods and people are slowed, we will lose jobs and investment in Canada.
In 2011, when the Conservatives looked at the Beyond the Border initiative with this entry-exit piece to it, this minister said that the then Prime Minister had better get something for Canada out of it, but the minister is now urging the House to support it, and our relationship with the United States is atrophying. In fact, even NAFTA is at risk under this government. I would like the minister to say what will be gained in Canada's national interest from Bill C-21 and its companion bill, Bill C-23.
The minister also mentioned human trafficking, an issue that concerns both sides of the House, and tried to suggest that we have to support Bill C-21 if we want to combat human trafficking. It is a compelling argument, because he knows members on this side are concerned. Our former colleague from Manitoba, Joy Smith, has dedicated most of her life to fighting human trafficking, and my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London has hosted some events in relation to this issue. We are concerned about this. I find it telling that the minister raises human trafficking as a reason to get behind Bill C-21 but did not defend the national plan to combat human trafficking, which the government let expire in the last budget.
A $20-million plan was started by the Harper government to actually combat human trafficking, not just have it held up as a reason to vote for entry-exit information sharing.
The minister had the gall to raise human trafficking in this House as a reason we should get behind this bill, yet his cabinet and the Prime Minister let the only national program we have to combat human trafficking expire and not be renewed, even though the problem is worse.
It reminds me of the fact that the Prime Minister seems to think that Stephen Harper is still the leader of the Conservative Party. He goes so far as to even cancel programs that combat human trafficking because they originated with the Conservatives. When someone is brought into Canada, across maybe the U.S. border, against the person's will, to be involved in the sex trade or abused in other circumstances, that was the only major program that was cut, largely because it was a Harper initiative. That is sad. The minister now suggests that we should get behind Bill C-21 because of its potential to combat human trafficking. It is unbelievable.
If members look at the minister's viewpoint with respect to entry and exit going back to when he was in opposition, as I said, there is zero consistency. In fact, going back to the safe third country agreement, the Liberals said that they negotiated it to maintain our international obligations with respect to asylum in conjunction with the charter. Now they are allowing it to be eroded and public confidence in it to be eroded by it being circumvented. Suggestions that we apply the spirit and the principle of it to the entire border is mocked, even though the underlying principles with respect to declaring asylum in the first country following persecution was at the basis of the agreement.
We have a quandary. As members can tell, I have been doing my best to show a bit of the hypocrisy of the minister on this specific issue.
Going back to the start of my comments, we actually initiated this under the Conservative government. This is one time that we will not hear the minister referring to the Harper government. The Liberals blame the Harper government for anything. If it rains in Canada, it is because of the Harper government. However, now they are basically implementing a Harper government initiative. The Liberals are not calling it “beyond the border”. They are calling it Bill C-21, and they will not mention Harper. They make it sound like it is their own idea, and they are doing it to support human trafficking and by the way, they are cutting the program on human trafficking.
Here is my quandary: I support the bill, but I do not support them because Canadians cannot trust them. We just need to look to the record.
I invite Canadians following this debate to do some of the basic research that I do. On the Open Parliament website, if we printed out the listing for the Liberals' deputy House leader, it would fill 18 volumes of nuggets he has given us over the years showing his inconsistencies. As I said, we are trying to get to the heart of this and show the minister that we appreciate he is picking up the Harper mantle on the border when it comes to the beyond the border initiative. We appreciate that he is starting to understand why trade is important.
I am not sure if the minister was around in the 1988 election when the Liberals ran against U.S. free trade. I am glad they are coming around to the importance of trade and good relations with the United States, but I would sincerely hope that the next time the minister speaks to Bill C-21 he would thank Stephen Harper for this legislation.