Minister does not deny of political interference when questioned directly

[OTTAWA, ON] Today during Question Period Brian Masse NDP M.P. and Canada-US Border Critic asked Public Safety Minister Vic Toews about the CBSA decision to locate its new southern Ontario regional headquarters in Ft. Erie rather than Windsor. In a letter to the Minister, Masse challenges Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to establish a moratorium on the CBSA decision which is shrouded in secrecy amid questions of political influence trumping factual analysis.

Masse stated: “Establishing a regional headquarters to manage border related administration 400 kms away from the region’s busiest gateway just doesn’t make sense. Especially when there is consensus in both Canada and the United States that our priorities must be to increase efficiencies for trade and travel and augment security. It’s even more baffling when you consider the increased capacity that the DRIC crossing will bring. I am calling on the Minister to immediately put a stop to the process initiated by the CBSA with respect to the Ft. Erie regional headquarters so that he can thoroughly review this decision. We need transparency here particularly if we expect our Americans partners to follow suit in working with us to address the crises that border thickening is creating.”

Today Masse will send his letter to the Public Safety Minister outlining his concerns and requesting the implementation of the moratorium and review (letter included here).

February 10th, 2011
The Honourable Vic Toews
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Toews,
I am writing you today to ask for a moratorium on the Canada Border Services Agency’s recently announced decision to create a new southern Ontario region effective April 1, 2011. I understand that the Federal Government has initiated their ‘Strategic Review’ initiative ostensibly set up to ensure that Canadians are getting value for money for all government spending. Included in this project is an assessment of the services delivered by the CBSA. As a result of this process CBSA recently announced the creation of the southern Ontario region which will amalgamate two previously separate regions (Windsor/St. Clair and Niagara Fall/Ft. Erie) into one administrative unit. As a part of this amalgamation the CBSA has decided that it will consolidate the newly constituted southern Ontario regional headquarters in Fort Erie. It is this decision particularly that I wish to raise with you when you consider my suggestion for a moratorium.
Information about the precise nature of these changes has yet to be made clear to all stakeholders but at this point we know that some services will be amalgamated across a larger geographic area and that there will be job losses. This raises some serious questions about the on-going ability of the CBSA to carry out its mandate in the region under the proposed conditions. Additionally as you know the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) process is moving forward and once completed will dramatically increase the capacity at the Windsor/Detroit border. Under these circumstances a reduction in the administrative capabilities of Windsor’s CBSA operations, given the trade and travel volumes that already exist at this checkpoint and considering the impact that the DRIC crossing will create once completed is difficult to understand.
Moreover with the on-going negotiations between Prime Minister Harper and President Obama around the issues of border security and trade in the context of attempting to augment efficiency of trade and security this decision is perplexing to say the least. We cannot afford for the policies and investments adopted with respect to our border with the United States to result in any reductions to efficient and safe travel and trade or to appear as though they do not advance the goals of these important negotiations.
Recently published reports indicate that the Windsor/Detroit gateway is a major entry point into Canada for illegal guns, drugs and human trafficking. It is obvious that the CBSA should be looking for ways to augment the administrative capacity at the Windsor/Detroit checkpoint if the objectives of those negotiations have any hope of being achieved.
What is needed at this point more than ever is a considered and measured approach to border issues to the exclusion on any partisan influence whatsoever. There is no dispute that the Windsor/Detroit gateway is by far the busiest in the country. The DRIC crossing will only add to that already significant administrative burden.
It is my hope that a moratorium on the decision to house the new southern Ontario administrative facility in Fort Erie and all documents pertaining to this decision will be released to ensure transparency and accountability. As you are aware there are persistent rumours Windsor was selected as the preferred location based upon factual criteria, but that decision was overturned at a political level in favour of Ft. Erie. If the goals of the Strategic Review are to be taken seriously as a credible process designed to improve the effectiveness of the Federal Public Service then the decisions that flow from it must be plausible in this regard.
In closing I would like your assurances that the choice to locate the new CBSA southern Ontario regional headquarter was arrived upon free of any political interference and is completely consistent with the normal bureaucratic and administrative processes that a decision such as this would typically employ.


Brian Masse MP
Windsor West