We'll begin with the main estimates.
I would seek unanimous consent to consider all those votes as one vote and do it once. Do I have unanimous consent for that?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay.
CANADA BORDER SERVICES AGENCY
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$1,388,555,431
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$202,466,241
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$526,615,028
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
CIVILIAN REVIEW AND COMPLAINTS COMMISSION FOR THE ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$9,020,809
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
CORRECTIONAL SERVICE OF CANADA
Vote 1—Operating expenditures, grants and contributions..........$1,962,343,216
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$208,941,724
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$123,231,161
Vote 5—Grants and contributions..........$914,540,358
(Votes 1 and 5 agreed to on division)
OFFICE OF THE CORRECTIONAL INVESTIGATOR OF CANADA
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$4,102,301
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$40,677,794
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$1,888,011,496
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$327,465,645
Vote 10—Grants and contributions..........$233,573,483
(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to on division)
ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE EXTERNAL REVIEW COMMITTEE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$847,634
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
SECURITY INTELLIGENCE REVIEW COMMITTEE
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$4,476,578
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Finally, shall the chair report the main estimates for 2017-18, less the amount voted in interim supply, to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
An hon. member: On division.
The Chair: Just by way of announcement—and I was able to mention it to all three of the parties today—we had sent out a notice to say that the amendments were due today at five o'clock for the consideration of Bill ; however, I've had a request to have that extended because some are not quite ready yet. I've agreed to that, so we will extend this for another week, meaning that we will do clause-by-clause consideration some time in the near future. We have officials coming for supplementary estimates (A), and we have consideration of Bill C-23, which we may be able to juggle to do our consideration of clause-by-clause. I just wanted to let folks know that you now have a week to improve your amendments. You also then don't need to put your amendments in before we hear our witnesses, which I think is also better.
We continue now with the consideration of Bill , and we have a number of guests with us today.
In the first hour we're going to hear from the Canadian Airports Council, Mr. Gooch, the president; the International Longshore & Warehouse Union of Canada, by video conference, with Mr. Ashton; and the GTAA, Ms. Reigate.
We'll have all the opening statements first, and then we'll have questions to any of the witnesses from committee members after the three statements.
If you're okay with this, I'd like to start with Mr. Ashton, because we have you connected. You have 10 minutes to give an opening statement.
Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada to participate in your important review of the pre-clearance act, 2016.
ILWU Canada represents about 6,000 women and men who work at marine transportation facilities on Canada's west coast. We are a vital component in the efficient movement of goods and people into and out of Canada via the ports and cruise ship terminals in British Columbia.
In the early 2000s, Transport Canada introduced the marine security clearance program. Since that time, to be employed as a longshore worker with access to restricted areas, including the high-security cruise ship facility, you must first obtain a security clearance from Transport Canada. This is a robust program that involves extensive background checks on applicants, including drawing on information supplied by U.S. authorities. The goal of the program is to prevent people with ties to criminal and/or terrorist organizations from having access to these important marine facilities.
This program has warts. A person can be refused a clearance on the simple basis of association. In other words, you can be refused a clearance if your brother-in-law or sister-in-law happens to have a criminal record. This is important context for your deliberations about Bill .
For the record, I want to tell you that ILWU Canada supports the pre-clearance regime as it is today. Expanding it, as is, would reach the economic goals that the government has set for Bill without the significant problems that come with the new additions.
You have heard a great deal of testimony about the bill's potential impact on Canadian travellers. I want to make you familiar with an issue with Bill that I do not believe has been presented to your committee to date.
As you know, the bill is intended to establish the required authorities arising from the Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance Agreement, otherwise known as LRMA, signed by Canada and the United States governments in March 2015. I would like to bring to your attention the negative effects that the bill will have on working Canadians, members of the middle class.
According to article VI, paragraph 1, of the LRMA, the people who work at the ports and cruise ship facilities in Vancouver, and possibly up and down the west coast, are covered by it.
We have been briefed by Transport Canada officials that once the LRMA is in force, Homeland Security in the United States will be given the opportunity to provide derogatory information, whatever that may be, on each employee requiring unescorted access to pre-clearance areas through normal employee security certification and recertification processes. As we understand, this information would be supplied directly to our employers, without any right to know it or to dispute it being afforded to the worker.
We are concerned that this process is separate from the existing security clearance process regulated by Transport Canada. The TC process includes provisions for reviewing decisions made regarding an individual's security status, and further provides judicial review by the Federal Court. Those safeguards do not appear in Bill . In addition, the rules surrounding the provision of, again, derogatory information do not appear in the bill, and appear to be left to regulation, which would not be subject to scrutiny by this committee or Parliament.
The LRMA and Bill bestow upon U.S. border agents broad powers to search and detain workers in pre-clearance and perimeter areas, the same potential abuses that travellers could be subject to as well.
The BC Civil Liberties Association draws attention to the difficulties that this bill poses to a traveller seeking legal recourse, as pre-clearance officers are granted explicit immunities. The same difficulties will be experienced by port workers who are subject to this potential abuse.
We submit that no such power and immunity is appropriate and goes beyond what any Canadian worker could reasonably expect at his or her workplace. This concern is heightened by the fact that the pre-clearance perimeter could cover a significant area, thereby capturing a larger number of workers under the provisions of this bill.
A significant number of ILWU Canada members are of South Asian heritage. Many of them practice the Muslim faith. Our concerns, like those of the Canadian Bar Association, are magnified by the Trump administration and its extreme policies, such as banning people from certain countries that are predominantly Muslim from entering the United States.
In our view, Bill abrogates the government's responsibility to Canadian workers to ensure they are not subject to unfair or arbitrary actions on the part of pre-clearance officers. There is already a sophisticated security clearance process for vetting maritime workers, and that process will be undermined unless Bill is amended.
Bill should be amended to address these issues.
We also see inconsistencies in the bill. For example, clause 9 states:
For greater certainty, Canadian law applies, and may be administered and enforced, in preclearance areas and preclearance perimeters.
At the same time, clause 11 contains a much more definitive statement about the application of Canadian law, as follows:
A preclearance officer must exercise their powers and perform their duties and functions under this Act in accordance with Canadian law, including the
and it continues.
The bill should be amended to bring all of its provisions in line with clause 11.
In our view, with the abundance of municipal police and RCMP detachments in and around the Port of Vancouver and the cruise ship terminal, there is no need for border patrol officers to be armed, whether they be Canadian or, more especially, American.
We applaud the government for conducting its broad consultation with Canadians concerning national security.
I have another couple of concerns that I'll touch on, one being that American border guards will not be prosecuted in Canada if they violate any laws here. They'll be sent back home, and who knows what type of court system they'll be tried in?
A Canadian worker who wants to go to work on Canadian soil should never be subject to a foreign country's approval. These are Canadian workers who might not be able to work in Canada because of some derogatory comment that the United States government wishes to apply to us.
In closing, I believe this committee needs to implement the changes we've asked for so we can move forward with the expansion of our Canadian economy and the rights of Canadian workers as Canadians.
Thanks very much.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to present on this important piece of legislation, Bill , the preclearance act.
My name is Daniel-Robert Gooch. I'm the president of the Canadian Airports Council. I'll be sharing my time today with Janik Reigate, director of customer and agency development at the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Toronto Pearson.
The Canadian Airports Council has 51 members representing over 100 airports across Canada. Its members include major international hubs, such as Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto and Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal; medium-sized airports, such as Fredericton International Airport and Fort McMurray International Airport; and smaller airports, such as North Bay Airport or Trail Regional Airport, in British Columbia. Our members handle over 90% of commercial air traffic in Canada, and an even greater share of international air traffic.
Canada's airports are managed and operated by local authorities, and they operate on a not-for-profit basis. While they pay more than $439 million in property and land taxes each year to federal and municipal governments, they have invested more than $22 billion in infrastructure since 1992, without taxpayer support.
Serving as gateways to the world, Canada's airports are local and national economic engines. Canada's air transport sector generates more than 140,000 direct jobs and more than $35 billion in economic activity.
Canadian airports that connect communities, both at home and abroad, manage over 133 million passengers a year, including more than 9.8 million tourists who fly to Canada. We support both safe and economically sound airports, good value for money when it comes to user fees and public taxes, and more air connections between Canada and the rest of the world.
Canada and the U.S. have a long history of pre-clearance operations dating back 65 years. In 1952, Toronto's Malton Airport became the first in the world to provide facilities for United States border pre-clearance at the request of airlines in the United States. This was extended and formalized with the air transport Preclearance Act in 1974. That act was later updated in 2001.
Today, eight Canadian airports offer pre-clearance services, including Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Halifax. In 2015, 12 million travellers from Canadian airports were pre-cleared to the United States.
Pre-clearance offers both Canada and the United States significant economic, national security, and efficiency benefits. It promotes and facilitates the cross-border flow of people, goods, and investments. As Canada's airports are vital links that enhance our economic relationship with the U.S., it is particularly important for the dozens of American cities whose airports do not have their own U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities.
Pre-clearance is a cost-efficient way for the United States to spend scarce resources and ensure direct services to more U.S. cities. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's statistics, pre-clearance locations are 60% more efficient and cost 30% less than domestic ports of entry. Furthermore, each CBP officer stationed in Canada clears 30,000 passengers a year on average, a significantly higher rate of processing than in the United States.
Without pre-clearance, business and other travellers would be forced to connect through U.S. hubs that have a U.S. Customs and Border Protection presence, adding pressure to already overburdened airports in the U.S. and making travel to the U.S. more time-consuming and expensive for Canadian travellers.
Canada's airports look forward to working with the Government of Canada on the implementation of Bill . We will continue to identify innovative processes that will improve the flow of goods and people across the border and increase the competitiveness of Canada's airports now and into the future.
Now I would like to turn over the rest of my time to my colleague, Ms. Reigate.
I'm Janik Reigate, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority director of customer and agency development. My role is in-terminal based, with responsibility for our relationships with our airline partners and government agencies such as the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. These agencies are integral to the pre-clearance legislation we're discussing here today.
In my 20 years plus of working at Toronto Pearson, I have seen the airport grow exponentially, mostly as a result of air travel becoming the preferred method of travel for so many people, whether it be for work or for leisure. Since the last update to pre-clearance legislation, Toronto Pearson now serves an additional 16 million passengers annually. When you're serving 47 million passengers, as we will in 2017, connectivity is essential to success in Canada's globally integrated economy.
Airports are strategic economic infrastructure assets, and every new international air link creates new opportunities for trade in the Canadian regions they serve and also hundreds of direct jobs. Pre-clearance from Toronto Pearson allows the airport to provide 223 daily U.S.-bound flights to 56 U.S. cities, facilitating trade and tourism on a scale otherwise impossible.
As Daniel noted earlier, Toronto Pearson was the first Canadian airport to have pre-clearance, and it has become an integral part of our operations. Over the 65-year history of pre-clearance at Toronto Pearson, we have become the fourth-largest air entry-point into the United States, after the JFK, Miami, and Los Angeles airports. Last year alone, six million people were pre-cleared at Toronto Pearson.
Perhaps this is a good segue to speak about why Toronto Pearson supports Bill . Overall, the bill offers tremendous customer service benefits for business and leisure travellers. It supports economic benefits for tourism, trade, and overall business productivity. For example, it allows for the ability to pre-clear cargo, improving the flow of goods.
Bill modernizes and expands the current pre-clearance agreement with the United States. I was heartened by Minister 's comments at this committee on May 8 regarding the use of automated passport control kiosks and mobile passport control applications. Allowing the use of technology outside of pre-clearance areas will be vitally important in how we meet the expectations of an increasing number of passengers in a secure and efficient way. We thank the minister for his clarity on this issue.
I want to pause here. As the number of passengers continues to increase, it is important that that we find a way to ensure that growth is paid for, so that we can continue to provide travellers with a better level of service, which is in line with this government's focus on a positive passenger experience. I know that this conversation is currently taking place binationally between Canada and U.S. government representatives, and this is something that we at Toronto Pearson are closely monitoring.
Both Daniel and I spoke earlier about the growth that the aviation sector has seen in the past few years and decades. This is no doubt good for Canada; however, the increase in passenger traffic has put a strain on resources.
In the last five years, we have seen a 30% growth in pre-cleared passenger volumes served by our facilities: Vancouver experienced 28% growth; Montreal–Trudeau 20%; and Calgary 16%. For these airports and others in Canada that already have pre-clearance, Bill provides greater control and flexibility in how services are provided and paid for. At Toronto Pearson, we hope it will enable us to partner with the U.S. CBP to invest in more CBP staff or extend operating hours to allow for greater flexibility in matching resources to demand.
Right now, some airports are finding that they're constrained in their ability to grow because airlines are moving flights to airports with longer hours of U.S. customs operations. Some airports have indicated that in-transit pre-clearance is not available to several international carriers, which is hurting connectivity.
As you know, Bill contains a provision that supports the expansion of pre-clearance to other airports. This means that growing and evolving airports such as the Quebec City and Billy Bishop airports may enter into agreements with the U.S. for pre-clearance services. We are supportive of pre-clearance expansion. I understand that the Billy Bishop airport has already started construction on its new facility space. We will want to ensure that any new pre-clearance locations do not draw precious staff and resources away from existing locations.
Bill in its current form has many distinct advantages, particularly in attracting air service and offering enhanced connectivity in a globally competitive marketplace. In addition, the bill expands pre-clearance to other modes of travel, such as marine or rail, which improves the movement of goods to airports.
We at Toronto Pearson are confident that Bill will support the pre-clearance process in place, reinforcing a strong foundation and guiding principles for pre-clearance in both Canada and the United States.
I'm the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada. What happens currently is that when our people want to work at Canada Place, they apply for security clearance through Transport Canada. If they pass their security clearance, they're allowed to work at that terminal.
Now, under this new bit of work that they have to do, our employers will have to send those individuals' names and birthdates, from the information that we've been given, down to the Homeland Security department. Once Homeland Security takes a look at them, if there are any derogatory—I'd put that in quotations—comments, Homeland Security will then send that information to our employers. Our employer will have to make the decision on whether or not my members are allowed to work at that terminal.
We don't know what a “derogatory” comment is. We haven't been told what the parameters are. We haven't been given the parameters for our current TC program.
Yes, to answer your question directly, Homeland Security has to give their approval to Canadians working in Canada.
It's an interesting question. Going back to this discussion about regulation, we usually want to get to the questions with witnesses, but I think it's worth raising on the record that I did find it troubling that we get officials in committee who are unable to tell us what regulations are going to change. To be fair, I received a follow-up response to my questions to the department, and I think it just continues to illustrate how problematic it is.
It says, “Work is underway to identify regulations that may be required under Parts 1 and 2 of Bill C-23. No regulations are anticipated to be required under Parts 3 and 4.” The piece that's important for the point being raised by our friend in Vancouver is: “Establish categories of persons not already identified in the Act who may access the preclearance area as well as the conditions under which that access may be granted”.
If we look at clause 17—as the chair has pointed out—and I think it's paragraph 17(d), “persons who are authorized by the Minister under section 45 or by regulation”, basically that response tells me, to speak to Mr. Ashton's concerns, that essentially we can change regulations to determine exactly this kind of information sharing with Homeland Security and such. In particular, if public servants from Transport Canada are raising that with these workers, then clearly that's something that's on the table. Also, I certainly find it extremely problematic that there are no answers about that and that the work is under way while we are studying the bill.
My question to you, Mr. Ashton, is in that same vein. While we're talking about transparency and the transparency of all of this, I'm just wondering what concerns you have as a union president. One of the things unions fight for, obviously, is transparency in how the employer is dealing with information and what recourse your members, those workers, would have. How concerned are you about that aspect of it, and whether it's happening at a certain level that you might not be aware of, such that you don't know what information is being exchanged or even where it's coming from, especially in keeping with the fact that even Canadian parliamentarians have very few tools to even know what the U.S. information is, and that's being used to prejudge whether someone may or may not be able to enter that area and do their job? How concerned are you about the lack of recourse and transparency in that whole process, potentially, because we don't even know what it's going to be?
Thank you to all the witnesses for your testimony today. It's been helpful.
Second, I want to thank the clerk for getting the clock fixed, which has been helpful for me.
Third, if it's the will of the committee, I think I would like to have the testimony Mr. Ashton has brought to us today sent to the two departments, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Transport Canada, for comment not exclusively but particularly with respect to clauses 17, 43, and 45. They can comment on it in other ways.
I think he has raised some important questions for us. I will ask them to review the testimony, so that we don't have to come up with direct questions, and respond to it for us. I'm going to try to give them a fairly tight timeline on that. If you will give me permission, if I don't think it's an appropriate response, I'll invite them to come to the committee, if that's okay with you. All right?
Some hon. members: Yes.
The Chair: We're going to take a brief pause as we get our next witnesses in.
Again, thank you.
My kids are very mad at you. Actually, they're running rampant right now, so probably they're happy that I'm here. Anyway, it's a pleasure to be with you.
After years of quietly existing in relative obscurity, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and particularly its renegotiation, are now big news. What will remain intact? What will be scrapped? How fast will we get a new deal? Could dairy and lumber sink NAFTA? What about protections for intellectual property?
Apart from NAFTA, there's another critical piece in how the United States and Canada do business, and that's border management. Obviously, I don't have to tell any of you everything I'm about to say, but it's for the benefit of the record so you know precisely where the Canadian American Business Council lands on these issues.
The border is where many Canadian and American business travellers, in particular, get up close and personal with NAFTA. Fees are collected. Shipments are inspected for compliance. Those trying to work or do business stateside can be held up depending on whether they qualify for appropriate NAFTA work visas.
Indeed, the work of government agencies on both sides of the border to manage our shared boundary is nearly as important to the health of our integrated economies, to the viability of our businesses, and even to the quality of life of those living near the border as is the implementation or renegotiation of any particular trade agreement.
Canada and the United States have had various forms of border pre-clearance, as this committee knows very well, since the 1950s. By way of definition, pre-clearance allows Canadians to be screened and given the green light by American officials for immigration, customs, and agricultural purposes before entering the United States and while still on Canadian soil. In recent years, there's been real progress in moving the screening away from the actual border and to pre-screening facilities in airports at Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. In practical terms—and again, I feel a little funny as I'm defining this for you, because I know this committee knows these things very well, but again for the purpose of the record so you know where we are—pre-clearance means air travellers can breeze through any American airport as if they're domestic passengers with no need to go through customs once they've landed in the United States. That opens up flight routes to any town that has a commercial airport, rather than limiting them to major cities with built-in U.S. customs facilities. Many communities in the United States don't have U.S. customs and border patrol at their airport, so they're not available for international flight routes. Any Canadian who's landed at JFK Airport or O'Hare and stood in long lines behind travellers from far-flung places appreciates the efficiency and the convenience of pre-clearance.
At its core, the practice of pre-clearance serves two significant policy goals. It helps Canadian and U.S. officials zero in on potentially bad actors and dangerous or illegal goods while at the same time making it easier for upstanding citizens and legitimate commerce to cross the border with relative ease and minimal hassle. I would add here that the former U.S. CBP official Alan Bersin—and I don't know whether he's testified before you or not—talked about operations at our border being like looking for a needle in a haystack. Pre-clearance is something that, in his terms, makes the haystack smaller, enhances security, and helps ease commerce.
Despite 50 years of pre-clearance measures at the border, however, everything changed after the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001. The U.S. and Canada understandably beefed up security at the border, and the boundaries subsequently became mired in congestion, delays, and hassles for those doing business or travelling frequently between our two countries.
On a personal note, it was in 2001 that I first became engaged with the Canadian American Business Council, which was, until then, kind of a lunch club in Washington for expats. After 9/11, when the border basically came to a close for commerce, the board of directors said, “You know, we really need to communicate to policy members how important for our economic security and health this border really is.” That's when I got involved with this particular organization in 2001, after having served four years here at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, which was the honour of my lifetime.
Canada began to complain. Inefficiencies at the border, after all, have a disproportionate impact on the Canadian economy, and for more than a decade a frustrated Canada pushed the U.S. to co-operate on initiatives aimed at fixing what had become a woefully inefficient boundary. The U.S., however, balked until, this committee will remember, in 2011, when a border vision was announced between then Prime Minister Harper and his counterpart, President Obama, followed by the 2015 signing of an updated and expanded pre-clearance agreement.
Your colleague and I were at the signing in Washington with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Canadian counterparts back in 2015.
But there's been an odd reversal of fortunes recently. The enabling legislation for the Harper-Obama pre-clearance agreement easily passed both chambers of Congress late last year, and now Americans are intently waiting for Canadians to enact their own pre-clearance companion law. This is interesting and ironic when you consider how utterly slow and dysfunctional the U.S. congressional system is. Usually Canada's parliamentary process is much more efficient, but not so on this particular issue at the moment.
Canada's would implement the 2015 border pact. It was introduced, as you all know well, in June 2016 and is working its way through the process. The legislation, when passed, will expand the number of pre-clearance locations at airports and various other land, rail, and marine crossings, including Montreal's central train station.
For Canadian citizens, regardless of nationality, there are myriad advantages to pre-clearance. They'll be able to get all customs, immigration, and agriculture processes out of the way before they board planes or cross the border on Canadian soil, consistent with Canadian law and Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In order to comply with the new agreement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials needed clear legal authority to question and search those in pre-clearance areas seeking to enter the United States, and Canadian border officials operating in pre-clearance areas in the U.S. would get the equivalent powers. It is not a one-way street but a truly reciprocal initiative.
As an aside—and I think you heard about this earlier today and you probably know—Canada has not exercised its prerogative to open pre-clearance facilities in the U.S. in the air environment but may wish to do so in years to come. I know that Canadian snowbirds who spend their winters in Arizona or Florida would welcome the opportunity to pre-clear customs before returning home.
Canada agreed that it was a fair trade-off that would give Canadians and Canadian businesses easier access to the U.S., and at long last we had a deal to create an efficient border. Yet we're still waiting—I say with the utmost respect—for Canadian Parliament to make the pre-clearance deal come to life. In our opinion, it is time to speed up the process and get people moving for the benefit of both Canada and the United States and for the health of our deeply integrated economies.
Thank you so very much.
There's huge enthusiasm for any effort that makes it more efficient to cross our common border. If I might just elaborate on your earlier question to my colleague, the prediction we have is that the more efficient you make this and the easier you make this, with more certainty, travel and tourism would go up a lot. The opportunity to really grow is there, going back and forth both ways.
Businesses that operate in both Canada and the United States look for.... After 2008, after the economy collapsed, everybody was trying to squeeze out efficiencies, and they found a lot of efficiencies. Business got way more efficient in its supply chain and everything it does. The things that now cost a lot of money, those efficiencies that weren't found, are typically caused by government-imposed inefficiencies. They're usually inadvertent, so regulatory incoherence is another issue that we work on, as well as delays at the border, going either way, or unpredictability at the border.
A big idea for us is that if you're going to be deemed a trusted traveller, while we respect government's right to always have a random inspection, even for the most trusted travellers, if business is going to give up a lot of information and spend a lot of time and money complying with manifests in advance, and all sorts of supply chain certifications that what's in the truck or the railcar or the ship is actually what you say it is, the deal is supposed to be that if you do all of that, your travel back and forth across the border is more efficient. You're supposed to get a gain. That's the deal between government and business on that.
Again, our observation is that since the Beyond the Border agreement was signed several years ago under previous governments in both countries, there has been a lot more collaboration on the security side, and the collaboration on efficiency in commerce has been slower than we would like.
I'll first speak to Rocky Mountaineer and then I can speak on behalf of our Amtrak colleagues and also some of the ferry operators operating in B.C.
As I mentioned earlier, for Rocky Mountaineer, our guests tend to check into our station. For an 8 a.m. departure from Vancouver to Seattle on a Saturday, the guests would be there around 6:30 a.m. Most of them would be there by seven o'clock. It takes about 15 seconds to check them in. To process them, we take their luggage, and then they are lounging in our waiting area. That would be an opportune time—an hour of time—to conduct pre-clearance activities if we could implement that. We could board them on our train, and they could be off on their way, and then they wouldn't have to do the post-clearance in Seattle. They would arrive and be out the door. Right now if you're the last guest to depart from the train in Seattle, there is 45 minutes of post-clearance time. That would be a huge efficiency for us.
In terms of the overall rail industry, on the passenger side, Amtrak does have a couple of trains that cross the border. In B.C. and Washington state, they have to stop at the border right now, which actually causes congestion overall in the rail infrastructure. Whether for a passenger train going southbound or northbound, or freight going southbound or northbound, the more we can do pre-clearance to move commercial goods more efficiently, the more we could free up rail infrastructure for all parties that use and leverage that infrastructure.
Additionally on the ferry side, there are a couple of ferries that go across the border between Victoria and Seattle, for example, or Victoria and Port Angeles. They move hundreds of thousands of passengers, and they are currently on a pre-inspection, post-clearance basis, and that takes a lot of time and has inefficiencies as well.
The tourism, commercial movement, and freight operators would value this to free up infrastructure and time.
I would be delighted to. Thank you.
With my testimony I gave the clerk a progress report like an annual report, and if there aren't enough I would be delighted to send more.
The Canadian American Business Council is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that has been in existence for 30 years. It's our 30th birthday. I know you're 150 and Montreal is 375.
Happy birthday to everyone. You look amazing.
The Canadian American Business Council works on issues of importance to Canada and the United States in a policy area. Our members are iconic big companies and small start-ups, so companies that you've heard of and some that you haven't. CN Rail would be one, TD Bank, on the Canadian side. On the U.S. side, it would be Google, Amazon, energy companies, Ford Motor Company, and then some start-ups. Beauty Revolution is one of my favourites. It is an Ottawa-based company that has organic cosmetic products from Vermont.
We advocate for good public policy between Canada and the United States. This year, we're also bringing attention in the United States to the special nature of the Canada-U.S. relationship. Since you asked, I'll tell you we have a book that has just come out called With Faith and Goodwill. It's presidential and prime ministerial speeches and photographs for the last 150 years. Again, if the clerk would like, we can make copies available to members of the committee.
We're launching it with presidential and prime ministerial chats at presidential libraries across the U.S. We're trying to build an understanding, especially in the United States, about how special this relationship is with Canada, so that when the NAFTA negotiations get fully into the difficult conversations that will occur, people will have a better appreciation for that special partnership. We find that the same education is not as needed in Canada because people in Canada already appreciate the importance of our integration.
Much of our work is done in the United States. I'll add that we just hosted your colleague, , for a conversation on defence policy in Washington. It's non-partisan, bilateral advocacy.
I'm going state up front that I very much support additional pre-clearance. I very much support the intent of this legislation. I have a business background, and all the things you've talked about are things that we have also been talking about, such as efficiencies and moving trade back and forth. We understand the importance of the economic relationship.
That being said, I will tell you that this is an issue of great importance for people in my riding of Davenport. They have raised two key things. They've raised the fact that, under the new legislation, if they wanted to walk away from going into the United States in a pre-cleared situation, they would have a bit more of an issue in walking away, because they would have to be questioned.
Ms. Maryscott Greenwood: Right.
Ms. Julie Dzerowicz: They also feel a little bit uncomfortable with regard to whether there will be a bias against them if they are a person of a particular religion or culture. I think it's because of the U.S. travel bans that have actually been put in place, although they're not supported by the courts in the United States, and we know that. That's been where the concern has come out.
Here are the questions they ask me. To what extent do the U.S. pre-clearance officers know Canadian law? To what extent do they know the charter? The other thing they ask about is that even though the travel ban is not backed up by the U.S. court system, what might the impact be on Canadians who might be of particular backgrounds in terms of them crossing over?
I know that this is not your area of expertise, but I wonder if you have a response that we might be able to give them. I'll direct that question to you, Ms. Greenwood.
I understand the anxiety. The rhetoric has been heated. As heated as it's been in the United States, it's been welcoming in Canada, so I understand that.
However, my answer on that question is that our customs and border patrol officers are extraordinarily professional. They're extraordinarily well trained. Also, they are public servants, so they serve not at the pleasure of any particular administration; this is their career, and they know a lot about what they're supposed to do in their job.
As you rightly point out, the proposed travel ban is being held up in court, so our system of constitutional democracy is working. The President isn't above the law and, regardless of his rhetoric, our system is working and our officials are acting as they should.
In terms of the question of approaching the border and not being able to turn away, I think people just have to get used to deciding a bit earlier whether they want to go. If you're going to change your mind, do it before you enter the zone, if you will, and then you can leave without any further questioning. Again, it's a trade-off. Do you want to come into the United States to do business, or travel, or vacation—and the same in the United States for Canada—or not? It's your choice, but it's also important to recognize how closely our countries work together.