MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Questioning the Parliamentary Secretary on Federal Level Job Cuts in Windsor at CBSA and Service Canada

MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Questioning the Parliamentary Secretary on Federal Level Job Cuts in Windsor at CBSA and Service Canada

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to follow up on a couple of questions I had in the House of Commons that relate to cuts the government is making to a number of different services. The first is the Canada Border Services Agency and the second is employment insurance.

    My riding in Windsor has the largest volume of international traffic travelling between Canada and the United States. In fact it ranks in the world's top class. We are seeing the CBSA headquarters office move to Niagara Falls, despite the fact that a report said it should be consolidated in Windsor. The government has decided to move it to a minister's riding at the expense of drugs and smugglers getting into this country, at the expense of a series of different problems that we will see emerge.

    The reason I know that is because I have met with the men and women who serve so ably in the Windsor region and they will now have to communicate with supervisors 400 kilometres away from the most important border crossing that this country has. It has the highest volume. It has the highest issues that have to be dealt with. It is a border crossing that consists of four independent ways to get vehicles, trains, trucks and cars across to the Detroit region and then into the United States. It is a very sensitive region.

    Relocating the headquarters to Niagara Falls which is 400 kilometres away, where executive decisions have to be made about whether to investigate, take down or take action on smugglers, drug runners and other types of things we do not want to have in our country is wrong.

    The second issue is the cuts to employment insurance in an area of high unemployment. We are seeing 73 people who are facing layoff. The government has backed off on some of them because of the pressure. It is wrong because right now people rely upon those cheques and services. In the division that is being cut and reduced won an award for Canada for service recently. The employees won an award and now they get a pink slip. It is unacceptable.

    We want to see the restoration of those services. The parliamentary secretary talked about “we are doing that by investing” when she was referring to public safety and the other minister said that “no impact on persons servicing is going to take place”. It is absolutely not true. We know the government is cutting the Windsor service because of austerity measures. It has been publicly admitted. The reduction is taking place because they have to reduce the CBSA file and the money in it to make way for changes with regard to the budgetary process.

    Changes to employment insurance are going to affect the front line people because we lost decision makers who look at arbitrary cases for employment insurance who have been trained for a number of years to do that job. They have gone through several layers of training to become a processing person who actually looks at the cases, makes decisions and makes recommendations about someone getting employment insurance.

    That is critical because other boards and agencies have often tried to cherry-pick some of these workers because they are so good and we are showing them the pink slip right now despite the fact that they have the best of qualifications and credentials.

    There is the very important position of a youth service operator worker who does outreach for young people. In my region we have 20% unemployment for youth. It is unacceptable and we should not be losing services right now because they are critical for serving people and keeping streets in our community safe.

    Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, it is quite amazing. I loved the preamble with regard to the parliamentary secretary saying that there were no closures between these two crossings when the amalgamation took place.

    When we think about that logically, that is 60% of the trade that goes between Canada and the United States. Of course there would be no closures to crossing. To suggest that Fort Erie or the Windsor-Detroit corridor would lose crossings is completely ludicrous and it does not even make any sense. It certainly shows the efforts the government is making to change the channel.

    The reality is that we did lose staff and personnel in the field, because we have managers and other support systems that are now gone. Those support systems are very important. The decision-makers who would actually make the call at the end of the day are now gone. Now we have to communicate with those 400 kilometres away.

    We do not know what type of drugs are getting into the country. We do not know what kind of guns are getting into the country. We do not know what type of smugglers are getting into the country. It is because we have devolved the entire system in Windsor, and just for $1.5 million.

    The busiest border crossing in this country, in this North American system, is now a headless horseman.