IN THE HOUSE: Brian Masse on Detroit-Windsor Border Issues

Brian Masse on Detroit-Windsor Border Issues

September 19, 2011

    Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is good to see you back in this chamber at the start of another session.

    I want to talk about an interesting and important subject near to me, which is the border. On June 13, I asked a question of the government with regard to the perimeter deal that is currently being constructed between Canada and the United States.

    It is very important to acknowledge that there has been a number of recent border deals that have thickened the border. They did not provide the relief for time, travel and reduction of red tape. In fact, the United States has successfully created the northern border thickness, based upon political movements in the south.

    This is unfortunate, because it is costing us jobs, and the government has not done enough to challenge this attempt to thicken the border on the northern side.

    Right now there are consultations going on about the perimeter security deal that is being constructed, but it affects everything from immigration, our privacy, our military and a whole series of things. It affects our trade and our travel. As the United States is Canada's number one trading partner, we see the loss of jobs.

    I am concerned that the government has often been too willing to sign agreements that have actually not delivered, in terms of the reduction of wait times or the red tape. I would point to one concern in terms of significance, and it is symbolic too, because it has affected our tourism, which is that the government tore up a treaty that we had from the war of 1812, and it celebrated that. That allowed gunboats on the Great Lakes again.

    There are gunboats out there which fire 1,200 rounds a minute. I do not know what threat comes from Canada that requires 1,200 rounds a minute. These guns were used in Afghanistan and Cambodia, the Browning machine gun in particular.

    It has had a cooling effect in terms of trade and tourism. People do not want to be around that stuff. There have been Blackhawk helicopters. There have been a number of different dirigibles that do spying in Canada. Ironically these things are not allowed to be used to spy in America, but they were being used to spy into Canada.The most famous one was in Sarnia. The people there went out to moon the balloon because they did not accept that there was a dirigible over top of their homes.

    I have talked to a lot of businesses to put some pressure on the government. There should be some direct measureables about signing those agreements. We signed that shipwright agreement. It now allows American boats to come into Canadian waters and to arrest Canadian citizens. Interestingly enough, we are not even an equal partner in that particular program.

    The Americans have their state police, their federal police, their customs officials and their municipal police who can now arrest Canadians, but when it comes to us, only our RCMP can reciprocate. Our own good men and women of the customs services are not treated to the same degree. We are not in the same relationship at the same time.

    I have asked the government to be more open and accountable, which means no longer just having a website to have hearings about the perimeter security. I am asking the government to conduct real parliamentary hearings and have oversight, not just website, one way announcements and a consultation. It is not acceptable when so much is at risk.

   Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, the problem is that every time an agreement has been signed we have had a thickening of the border and the government has not contended. It has listened to Hillary Clinton, Lieberman and other elected officials run Canada's name down with regard to 9/11, and at the same time has never challenged them on that and so allowed this myth to develop.

    With regard to the process we have right now, it is done in a vacuum. It should be done out in the public. The dialogue should be going back and forth between the different groups. It should not just be point and click on a website right now. A thousand people is not a lot when we consider our sovereignty and our personal privacy are at risk. In fact, the Privacy Commissioner has warned of the threats with regard to losing personal security.

    As things currently stand, the government did nothing when the Patriot Act was introduced, and Canadian personal information is taken from us without our knowing if we have our data assembled in the United States, for example.

    I would point to the fact that we need to have greater accountability because even the Rideau Institute has noted that personal privacy and a number of different issues will be at risk with regard to this deal. Why can it not happen in these chambers? Why can it not happen in the halls of Parliament where we actually have the parliamentary oversight of legislation that affects so many Canadians?