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Conservative MP for Parry Sound—Muskoka (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 43% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017
Madam Speaker, it was a different kind of bromance. I will give the hon. member that.
It is important for all prime ministers to stand up for Canadian interests. We will be watching that very closely as the relationship between President Trump and the Prime Minister moves forward. We will be watching closely to see that Canadian interests are defended.
Certainly the Prime Minister gave a little gift to President Trump with that wonderful scene with the female entrepreneurs. That helped President Trump a great deal. It probably helped the Prime Minister a great deal as well.
However, we want to see some substance on the issues about which Canadians care.
Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017
Madam Speaker, the law is quite clear. If an individual comes from the United States to Canada in between points of entry along the invisible border that exists between the two countries, that is an illegal and irregular transit between the two countries. That is very clear in our law. It is there, obviously, because we want to document individuals before they cross the border to find out whether their claims are legitimate.
Certainly, there are people who face harrowing situations in their original homelands but have made applications in the United States, which has a juridical process to deal with those applications for refugee claims. I know the NDP thinks in a dissimilar way to the Conservatives and Liberals on this, but the issue before us is whether the safe third country agreement should be in force and effect. We happen to agree with the Liberals that it should be, but I know New Democrats feel differently.
In terms of Canada's independent foreign policy, of course I am all in favour of that. My only point was, to crystallize it down to one example, that to unduly eulogize a Cuban dictator, “el Comandante”, as the Prime Minister termed him, was perhaps not the best way to introduce himself to the new U.S. administration, nor, I would say, would it be in the Canadian interest to have this declaration from the Liberal government right at the outset that NAFTA is on the table and that we are prepared to renegotiate NAFTA. That was a poor policy move by the Liberal government and one with which I disagree.
Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017
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.
Preclearance Act, 2016 February 21st, 2017
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, 2016 February 21st, 2017
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.
Public Safety February 21st, 2017
Mr. Speaker, we know that Canada has a fair and generous immigration system. We welcome tens of thousands of new Canadians every year.
However, the increasing number of asylum seekers who are entering the country illegally through Manitoba and Quebec is worrisome. Those who are seeking refuge should do so through the appropriate channels.
Will the government enforce and strengthen our laws as needed to stop illegal and dangerous border crossings?
Public Safety February 21st, 2017
Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, more asylum seekers entered Canada illegally in places like Emerson, Manitoba and Hemmingford, Quebec. The municipality of Emerson has now formally requested that the government provide more resources for border security and public safety.
Will the government answer the calls for help from communities like Emerson? Will it develop a plan to enforce and if necessary strengthen our laws to stop illegal border crossings?
Taxation February 16th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, here is the reality. Times are so tough for small businesses that Dave Purdon, a Gravenhurst butcher in my riding, was recently forced to sell off frozen meat at cut-rate prices just so he could pay his hydro bill. The Wynne Liberals are literally turning the lights out on small businesses, while their Liberal friends here in Ottawa are upping payroll taxes and dumping a carbon tax to boot.
It is clear the Liberals have no regard for our small businesses. When will they wake up and stop hurting our greatest job creators?
Public Safety February 15th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks, nearly 100 asylum seekers have illegally crossed the U.S. border into Canada, including 40 in Quebec this past weekend alone.
While the government is in idle, border towns like Emerson, Manitoba, plead for government assistance as their resources are taxed by the influx and people keep pouring in. Communities like Emerson are requesting more RCMP resources right now. When can the community expect help to enforce the law and maintain security?
Justice February 13th, 2017
Mr. Speaker, Canadians were shocked last week by the release of Vincent Li with no conditions or monitoring. He was even legally allowed to change his name to Will Baker. This is the man who brutally murdered Tim McLean on a bus in 2008 to the horror of all those on board and indeed to the entire country. Now Tim's family is left to deal with this latest ordeal and outrage.
Could the minister please tell Canadians why the rights of the McLean family and the public are secondary to this vicious murderer?