MASSE IN THE HOUSE: On Perimeter Security at the Border

January 30, 2012

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to start this debate by acknowledging the effect the changing relationship between Canada and the United States has had on the border in the last number of years. That is why I rose in the House of Commons to ask the minister about a 29-point plan that was being put in place with the United States with a lot of secrecy. In fact, there was very little consultation with businesses and other organizations or groups. One could go online and make a submission, but only 1,000 people actually visited the Web site and very few contributed to that discussion. It was done in a vacuum. Therefore, there could not be the debate and exchange of information that we would normally have at committees that actually brings the issue, which is much more complex and evolved, to the table in a more open and accountable forum for Canadian citizens.

    The problem that we have had with the United States and this government over the last number of years is the approach they have taken to Washington. We have had a changing relationship since 9/11. There has been a lot of contestation about the safety and security of the northern border. Unfortunately, the government made a very strategic error in its relationship with the U.S. when we were challenged with respect to the veracity of the border in terms of being able to protect it from not only smugglers but crime, potential terrorism and other issues like that. The government agreed that it was a problem. There was no evidence to that degree, especially given the types of events that have been happening at our border on a regular basis.

    When Hillary Clinton charged that the terrorists from 9/11 came from Canada, we did not have an official objection to that. We contested that, but we did not have the Prime Minister there, nor did we call in the ambassador. We had other people such as Lieberman from the United States, another high-profile politician, and Napolitano, the director of Homeland Security.

    Over the last number of years there has been a concerted effort by the southern states, and I have been to Washington and governors' conferences and a whole series of different meetings, who were saying that the northern border is also a big threat and is more so than the southern border, despite the fact the southern border is shared with Mexico where there are thousands of people flooding into the United States back and forth every single day, and despite the fact that some of its areas and regions are controlled by drug lords and it has no police. The government accepted the argument and the consequence has been the thickening of the border. In fact, it has done things that are very puzzling and it has celebrated them.

    For example, we have had no military ships on the Great Lakes since the War of 1812. It was a signed treaty. There are patrols, the Coast Guard and police vessels. There are a series of events. The government celebrated the ripping up of a treaty for one of the busiest causeways in terms of traffic for shipping and also pleasure craft. It has allowed the U.S. to introduce gunboats that fire 1,200 bullets a minute. The government celebrated the ending of a very positive treaty. We do not even know what is necessary for 1,200 bullets a minute. The consequence has been the thickening of the border and the loss of business and trade, which is expected to be in the billions, and it celebrates those types of events.

    I conclude with what is interesting about this whole issue. The United States attempted at one point to put 40 gunboat training staging areas on the Great Lakes. The government did not even make a submission on time against that. Although lead casings and bullets will go in there and will affect our trade once again, it did not even make a submission to the U.S. government. That is why our border is thickening. That is why we are losing jobs.

 Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, 40% of daily trade with the United States happens at the border in my riding. I know it very well and the member does not even understand the implications of some of the policies that are being put in. The privacy laws and the complications for entry and exit of this country are going to be devastating and the extra issues with regard to security for threats that do not exist are going to thicken the border again.

    When the government came to power we had a manufacturing trade deficit at $18 billion. It now stands at $80 billion deficit of manufacturing trade. Conservatives are costing us jobs by signing these agreements because they agree with the U.S. for the notion that Canada is a danger and a threat and the issues on the border had to be addressed by thickening it, by more security, more equipment, more types of intrusions and that is the exact opposite of what we need to have happen. We need to make sure that the free flow of goods of services will take place. By signing deals like this in secrecy without consultation and ongoing process has only thickened the border. The evidence is the fact of our trade deficit ballooning under their watch.