Mr. Speaker, to the people of Canada and the many travellers, I am proud to speak to this legislation that will allow Canada to move forward with ratifying the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air transport pre-clearance between the Government of Canada and the government of the United States of America.
As members of the House know, our government has made it a priority to build a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. Canada and the United States share the longest, most open, and most successful international border in history.
Bill , the pre-clearance act, reflects our united efforts to maintain and develop the success of this border, wherein security and efficiency go hand in hand in expediting legitimate and vital cross-border trade and travel. Both our nations believe in the importance of encouraging economic growth and building effective trade relationships with our allies. Both our nations believe in the benefits of close collaboration with each other, and with our allies to guard against shared threats to our security. It is from this foundation that Canada and the United States have built the robust economic partnership we enjoy today.
In my time today, I will look at how pre-clearance is working at present, as well as the tremendous economic opportunities it will offer in the future. I will also address the amendment the NDP has moved with reasons for opposing this bill. The NDP amendment asks us to reject the bill because of what it refers to as the climate of uncertainty at the U.S. border, as well as the impacts on new American policies with respect to immigration, and concern about privacy rights. I disagree with those reasons, and I will express why a little later.
Travel for vacation with family or friends, or travel for business is a prime or popular experience for many Canadians and Canadian businesses. Pearson airport, in my home city of Mississauga, recorded more than 12 million travellers, both ways, between Canada and the United States in 2016. More than 400,000 flow back and forth between Canada and the United States every single day. Close to $2.5 billion in two-way trade from multiple sectors move cross-border between us every single day.
Clearly, our robust partnership is not just nice to have, it is vital for our continued security and economic growth. To this end, we must have an effective border that is at once closed to security threats and open to legitimate trade and travel. The legislation before us is a great example of how we are working to manage our borders better.
For travellers going from Canada to the United States, pre-clearance has existed in one form or another for more than 60 years. It is currently available at eight Canadian airports. Pre-clearance allows travellers to complete American customs and immigration procedures in Canada before leaving Canada. Once they land in the U.S., they forego customs lineups, reduce delays, and inefficiencies. Direct access is provided to many destinations that would otherwise require connecting flights, as some of these destinations do not have customs arrangements.
If pre-clearance did not exist, Toronto Pearson International Airport, for example, could not offer direct flights to almost half of its destinations in the United States, because those airports do not have customs and immigration facilities. The impact is substantial. With pre-clearance services at Pearson airport travellers have direct flights to 50 U.S. destinations, but would be limited to a mere 27 if these services were not available.
In addition to the substantial economic benefits, there are security benefits to be found, notably because goods and travellers are pre-cleared before they leave the country. Pre-clearance officers are able to refuse inadmissible goods and travellers before entering into the destination country, rather than turning them back after they arrive.
The NDP charges that there is some kind of threat to our sovereignty. I will mention two points. First, U.S. pre-clearance officers in Canada would continue to be bound by our laws and Constitution. Second, the agreement contains full reciprocity. The U.S. pre-clearance officers would only be allowed to carry the same arms as Canadian border officers in the same environment. The same is true for Canadian officers in the U.S., because CBSA officers do not carry firearms in airport terminals, neither would their American counterparts.
Let us also consider the effect on the trade of goods and services. Currently, goods include currency and monetary instruments for those in transit to another destination via the U.S.A. Business would be delayed or avoided because of inconvenience, or time constraints should these clearance facilities not be available at major centres at least.
Various chambers of commerce and newly proposed pre-clearance cities endorse this legislation, as does John Manley, CEO of Canadian Council of Chief Executives. They all concur that the agreement would enhance business, specifically tourism and travel industries. Bill would enable us to take full advantage of an agreement to expand pre-clearance services to Canadians, informal train and cruise ship sites on the west coast will be regularized, and the door will be open for other new Canadian venues and pre-clearance of cargo.
The expansion, real and projected, of these services is a win, not only for the people who wish to travel to the United States, it is also a win for our economy. The cross-border economy relies on an efficient, effective border crossing. Border delays are considered an impediment to both tourism and businesses. Pre-clearance encourages economic benefits to tourism and trade.
Our economy is attuned to cross-border accessibility. Over $400 million worth of cross-border goods and $50 billion in services were exported to the United States in 2015. Tourism activities in the same year included 12.5 million overnight travellers from the United States, which accounted directly for $35.5 billion of Canada's GDP. Our government committed, during our 2015 election, to remove any hassles for Canadian business people crossing the border with goods by promoting a steadier flow of goods and business travellers.
The NDP has asked, why should we not just continue with the existing legal framework for pre-clearance? The answer is simple. Without new legislation, there can be no expansion of pre-clearance. Defeating Bill would mean no facilities at the Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City, the Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto, Montreal's Central Station for the Rocky Mountaineer, or west coast cruise ships and ferry terminals. There would be no pre-clearance of cargo, and no possibility of Canadian pre-clearance in the U.S. This would be bad for Canadian travellers and bad for the Canadian economy.
The streamlining of border procedures by Bill is preceded by the knowledge that Canada and the United States have a history of successful pre-clearance operations since 1952. U.S. pre-clearance sites in Canada, U.S. officers, and pre-clearance perimeters are subject to Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
They precede in the pre-clearance tasks. Hence, that pre-clearance area is like an enclave in Canada with U.S. authorities, employing their U.S. authorized pre-clearance regulations, being governed by Canadian laws in the administration of those seeking pre-clearance, including people in transit. Canadian rights and freedoms are safely maintained in those pre-clearance areas and perimeters pre-assigned by the Governor in Council.
The act is well conceived as an instrument for pre-clearance operations, and optimally protects rights and maintains security. Pre-clearance enhances the economy by improving the flow of legitimate travel and trade, and at the same time safeguarding the integrity of our border, all under the protective arm of Canadian law and charter.
The call by the NDP to reject this bill, based on a situation in the United States and how it affects immigration and privacy rights, is not the correct course of action. It is precisely why enacting legislation like Bill , with a clear legal framework governing the actions of U.S. officers, that we are able to reduce uncertainty for Canadian travellers, protect against ebbs and flows of American policy, and defend Canadians' rights as was pointed out by the . The alternative is for Canadians to be processed by U.S. border guards on U.S. soil with none of these legal and constitutional protections.
Therefore, I urge the NDP to recognize the benefits of expanded pre-clearance. We need to pass this bill in order to realize those benefits, and the safeguards this bill contains to ensure that Canadians' rights are well protected.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
It is great to speak to Bill , the preclearance act, 2016. It is nice to see that the Liberals are following through on a Conservative initiative, which was to expand pre-clearance. It really is a tribute to the very productive relationship prime minister Stephen Harper had with former president Barack Obama, when they signed the beyond the border agreement. We know Bill C-23 fulfills one of the requirements of that beyond the border agreement.
Already, Canadians have been able to benefit from pre-clearance and facilitate trade, tourism, and the movement of business people back and forth across our great border. We can add an additional number of airports and railway stations beyond the eight airports we currently have in Canada where pre-clearance already takes place.
Last year alone, 12 million Canadians went through pre-clearance when travelling to the United States. This is significant. Our airlines want this. More airports and train stations want to capitalize on this. We look forward to having a fulsome debate on the legislation in the House, but also having appropriate hearings at committee to ensure the bill addresses the needs of all stakeholder groups, that all the concerns regarding some of the extra powers being granted to U.S. border agents at pre-clearance stations are addressed, such as detention authority, and that other concerns around refugees and immigration are thoroughly sought out.
At this stage, the Conservatives will be supporting the bill to get it to committee. It will hear from experts and stakeholder groups, and, ultimately, to see whether amendments are required or whether the bill addresses the concerns being raised.
Currently, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax airports have already benefited for years from pre-clearance. That goes back to an agreement signed in 2001, the Agreement on Air Transport Preclearance Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States. The legislation was updated in 2012. Things continue to change and evolve, so now it is again time to expand, and it will happen in four different parts.
It is important to note that Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport on the island, Montreal Central Station, and the Rocky Mountaineer will be added to the legislation, all places that can utilize the pre-clearance program. We often talk to stakeholder groups at the airports and train companies to ensure any concerns they have as to costs, because they have to bear out those costs, will be more than compensated for by increasing ticket fares and ensuring they get the extra volume of business by having pre-clearance.
There are four parts to Bill . Part one is United States pre-clearance officers conducting the pre-clearance of Canadian travellers here. Part two would allow Canadian officers in the U.S. to conduct pre-clearance. Part three, which I have heard concerns about from constituents in my riding, is that American border services officers will be given exemptions from criminal liability by an amendment to the Criminal Code. There are concerns around that and how they will use those powers in the pre-clearance areas that will be dedicated to the United States in Canada. Part four would make consequential amendments to the Customs Act and repeal the existing pre-clearance act.
Canadians should remember that we have a special relationship with the United States. Currently only six countries have this pre-clearance arrangement and 15 airports around the world have U.S. border guards conducting pre-clearance in those countries. Out of those 15 airports, eight of them are in Canada.
We do have a special relationship. By expanding this because of the relationship between Canada and the United States, and the negotiations between former prime minister Stephen Harper and former president Barack Obama under the beyond the border initiative, we are moving forward.
I know the has alluded to the fact that this pre-clearance may be expanded to include cargo traffic and shipments of containers and other commodities, so we can move quicker in ensuring that our trade relationship with the United States continues to expand.
As we know, $2.4 billion of goods cross the border between Canada and the United States every day. Canada is the Americans' largest customer, buying over $338 billion worth of goods and services in 2015. That is an amazing number and we have to protect it
For my riding of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, Manitoba, the United States is a critical partner. It is critical from the standpoint of moving our goods and services, and of moving vehicles and transportation equipment. Winnipeg has a couple of bus companies that move their buses back and forth over the border all the time. New Flyer Industries actually builds parts of its buses in North Dakota, and parts in Winnipeg. The buses move back and forth over the border numerous times.
We have Versatile tractors and its tractors are in demand in the United States. Plus, we use a lot of minerals and natural resources, chemical products, and electronic equipment that go back and forth all the time.
We can also never forget about the food industry, the beverage industry, and the agriculture industry and how important that trade is to Manitoba and indeed all of Canada.
The pre-clearance of passengers is important to our tourism industry. Over 20,000 jobs in Manitoba are tied to the tourism industry. We are talking about a total of $1.6 billion worth of tourism in Manitoba every year, and 6% of that comes into the Interlake region. People come up for hunting, fishing, and enjoying our beautiful lakes, like Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. Those visitors come here because it is easy to come and it is affordable. Therefore, 6% of all tourism spending happens in Manitoba and 12% of the visitors come to the Interlake region where I live, and we are very proud of that. It is critical to our economy and to employment opportunities.
As I mentioned earlier, there are concerns about some portions of the bill, including the exemptions being provided to the United States border guards under the Criminal Code. There are some concerns over how Canadians who may enter into a pre-clearance area may have difficulty returning if they change their mind or get rejected by the U.S. border services. Are there proper provisions to deal with things like strip searching? Are there proper refugee protection claims, and for flagpoling, which happens at most border crossing, where permanent residents who need to leave the country to renew their permanent residency can often drive to the border and do what is called flagpoling, where they turn around, come back in, and reapply at the Canadian border office?
That may not be possible through pre-clearance facilities. It needs to be looked at by the committee, and we expect that to happen.
Ultimately, the rights of law-abiding Canadians and the safety of law-abiding Canadians have to be protected under Bill . The one thing we want to see studied at committee is how Bill C-23 will come together with Liberal policies and what has recently happened, such as the legalization of marijuana, which the government is intent on doing.
Matthew Harvey received a lifetime ban from the United States because he admitted to a U.S. border guard that he had smoked pot. If he can get a lifetime ban for that, how much is that going to affect other Canadians who are now going to be facing similar questions, knowing the Liberal government wants to legalize marijuana in this country?
Madam Speaker, my colleague from mentioned all the opportunities for tourism in his great riding and he talked about hunting and fishing, but he did not mention the Crown Royal plant there. I thought that was what most people went to Gimli for, but perhaps I am giving away my secret travel plans.
All that aside, it is great to see colleagues in the House today having a bit of bipartisan co-operation on a matter as significant as this. This is an issue where most common-sense folks are looking to their parliamentarians, to their elected people, and to the government to do things to make their lives easier.
As members of Parliament we all travel a lot. Some of us travel a lot more than the everyday average Canadian does, but there are lots of Canadians who travel for purposes of work or for leisure on a daily basis. I have seen statistics somewhere that at any point in time there are half a million people in airplanes around the world. It just goes to show the sheer volume and magnitude of the importance of some of these kinds of agreements.
Of course, the arrangement between Canada and the U.S. is just astronomical. We share just under 9,000 kilometres of border with the United States. There are no other two countries in the world that share this kind of an arrangement or have this kind of opportunity. It has been mentioned by many in this House already the enormity and vastness of the trade and the like-mindedness of the cultures. Although we as Canadians like to separate ourselves and remain distinct, and we are, we have far more in common with our American cousins than we have differences, despite some of the differences that we do have.
It is important that we maintain that relationship. It is important because not only is the United States one of our closest friends and allies, it is obviously our closest neighbour and we have to continue to build that trustful relationship. The United States is our best trading and commerce partner. It is not any secret at all that north of 70% of all the goods and services that are exported from Canada go to the United States. We rely on the United States' consumer marketplace in order to keep our economy healthy and strong here at home. One of five or six jobs here in Canada actually depends on our ability to export goods and services, so this is absolutely critical and vital.
While this particular agreement does not deal specifically with cargo, this is the precursor. At a major airport, whether at the Calgary airport, here at the Ottawa airport, Toronto airport, or other major airports, when travelling to the United States, the only pre-clearance that I am aware of and have used is to pre-clear U.S. customs on Canadian soil. For Canadians watching right now and wondering what this debate is about, it is about clearing U.S. customs on Canadian soil and about Canadians clearing Canadian customs on U.S. soil at various points of departure and points of entry. That way, when we land in our respective countries, we are already there and we can just walk straight out the door of the airport or train terminal or whatever it happens to be and go about our business. That is why these agreements are so important.
The impetus for these things started long ago. Various administrations come and go in Canada and the United States. Sometimes there is a thickening of the border and sometimes there is a thinning of the border, but I can go back to the previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, and the agreement that he made with then president Barack Obama, in order to work on some of these initiatives in 2011. I would encourage members of Parliament who have not done so already to get a NEXUS card. I remember when Stockwell Day was here and he was the minister, he did a great job working with U.S. counterparts so that we had that trusted traveller program. That trusted traveller program is absolutely critical for anybody who travels on a regular basis. For people who do not have a NEXUS card, I can assure them that if they get one they will see the immense benefits. That is just one aspect, for those folks watching right now, where they do not need a passport per se. If they are going to the United States on a regular basis, they simply need to get that NEXUS card and for any land or air crossing they can just show their NEXUS card; it is as good as a passport for getting into the United States and getting back home to Canada. The process is sped up because they are trusted travellers going through security and through customs. It is absolutely fantastic. With these kinds of things, we have an opportunity to build upon the trust that we have between our two countries.
Now we come to Bill . The current Liberal government has put this bill forward. The bill has obviously some good intentions in it. I have some concerns, but those are matters for debate. I applaud the government for moving ahead with this. It is important that we facilitate the movement of goods, services, and people back and forth across the borders.
Bill is about moving people, though, people and the stuff they have with them. This is not actually about moving massive goods and freight and cargo between the borders. This is pre-clearance of individuals and the items they have with them at that particular point in time. It is very important that folks understand what that is.
There are a couple of concerns I have with the legislation. One, as has been brought up by others, is that there seems to be, and I hope that the question that I have will be answered, a Criminal Code exemption for U.S. customs officers in Canada when it comes to basically immunity for any charges under the Criminal Code of Canada. I do not know why we would acquiesce to that request. I can only assume that request came from the U.S. administration. If it was a request that we actually had of the American administration as well, so that there would be reciprocity, so that Canada Border Services agents in the United States working at pre-clearance destinations there would have the same kinds of protection provisions, I suppose I would be okay with that. I need to know if that is actually the case or some American administrators and legislators would be making those decisions down there. I am hoping somebody on the government side can answer that question to make sure that we actually have that reciprocity.
The other concerns that I have go directly to the larger policy issues between the two administrations. We have seen a marked shift, I will call it a bromance for lack of some better terminology. The short-lived friendship between former president Barack Obama and our current of like-minded political ideologies is in contrast I think quite sharply now with the new administration and some of the things that we are seeing from U.S. President Donald Trump.
I am not here to debate the policies of Donald Trump, but suffice it to say that the policies of Donald Trump and the policies that are going to be put forward when it comes to immigration, when it comes to legalization of marijuana, when it comes to dealing with criminals, and so on, are going to be markedly different between the U.S. administration and the Canadian government. These are going to be issues that are going to cause friction. That friction, in most cases, manifests itself at the border. We need to make sure that we are looking after Canadian interests at that border.
I do have concerns when that fellow my colleague from was talking about, Mr. Harvey, admitted or confided truthfully, and we should be truthful when we are talking to a border official, that he was a marijuana user and was put on a lifetime ban from travelling.
That seems to be a bit of a difficult conundrum. If Canada is going to pursue a policy where not only is it decriminalizing, with the legalization of marijuana, but it is going to fly completely in the face of what the U.S. administration policy is going to be there, notwithstanding several states in the United States have legalized marijuana. We are not talking about crossing into Colorado, we are talking about crossing into the United States in a pre-clearance zone in a Canadian airport.
Now imagine a Canadian citizen inside a Canadian airport inside a U.S. pre-clearance zone being basically detained by American administration authorities because he has admitted to a U.S. customs agent that he has legally, after supposedly the law is changed by the current Liberal government, which I am expecting will happen sometime in the near future, said to that U.S. customs official, “Yes, I use marijuana because it's legal in Canada now”. That is a problem because that is illegal or could be deemed illegal or a problem for that Canadian citizen in a Canadian airport in a U.S. pre-clearance area being detained for admitting to doing something that would potentially be completely legal in Canada. This is a problem. This is very much a potential problem. I think Canadians at home watching right now need to know that, whatever legal activities that we do here in Canada that might be different from the policies in the United States, Canadians, especially those still in Canada even though they might be in a U.S. pre-clearance area, should have the full protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and be able to excuse themselves from that travel and not get themselves into any further predicaments.
When it comes to the issue with refugees, policies that the current federal government is going to have versus what the current administration in the United States has are markedly different. They are night and day different, from the messages that are being sent.
These kinds of issues will cause issues at the border. We are seeing already a migration of people coming across the Canadian border from the United States at non-disclosed or non-border crossing areas. That is in current violation of Canadian legislation. If we have these kinds of grievances and issues where we have differences in domestic policy that affect the thickening of our border, then we need to be sure that in Bill all the provisions that are there provide the protections that Canadians citizens are going to need.
I will close there. There are concerns about this piece of legislation. However, I do applaud the government for bringing it forward. I hope it will listen to folks at committee, go through the process, and amend the bill if it needs to be amended.
Madam Speaker, I am proud to add my voice in support of this important piece of legislation.
I would first like to take a moment to remind the House that Canada and the United States have built one of the closest relationships between any two countries in the world. This partnership is essential to the well-being of all citizens. Our close trading relationship supports millions of jobs in both Canada and the U.S., and we will continue to work with the new administration.
Bill is another example of this government's firm commitment to creating jobs and promoting economic growth for Canadians.
As an MP representing a southwestern Ontario riding with many manufacturing and high-tech small and medium-sized businesses, I can attest to the importance of pre-clearance to keep travellers and cargo moving quickly and safely across the Canada-U.S. border. More than that, jobs for hard-working middle-class Canadians in my constituency and across the country depend on it.
The Waterloo region is only one of some 2,000 municipalities across Canada that rely on low-risk trade and travel to and from the United States to keep our communities growing. To be clear, we are talking about both the movement of goods and people, both of which are critical to our economy. In 2015, Canada exported over $400 billion in goods and $50 billion in services to the U.S.
Tourism is Canada's largest service export, accounting for 2% of Canada's overall GDP and employing over 600,000 Canadians. The overwhelming majority of tourists in 2016, nearly 70%, came from our neighbour to the south. Arrivals by air from the U.S. are up 17% from 2015, which is one of the many reasons that quick and effective pre-clearance is essential. Any measures that create economic and security benefits for both countries is welcomed by all Canadians, especially small business owners, including tourism operators who rely on smart, secure borders that improve the efficient flow of people and goods.
Bill will make it possible to do just that. This bill will implement the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air transport pre-clearance between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America signed in March 2015, which provides for the pre-clearance in each country of travellers and goods bound for the other country.
This is about making it faster and more efficient to welcome guests to Canada and the U.S. Pre-approved passengers are cleared for entry into the United States by American border officials on Canadian soil before boarding a plane, allowing passengers to avoid long and sometimes frustrating customs lines. They can also fly directly to some airports, such as LaGuardia in New York or Reagan airport in Washington. There are even some pre-inspection sites that are already serving the rail and cruise ship businesses on Canada's west coast.
Pre-clearance is a vital border management program. It enhances border security and improves the cross-border flow of legitimate goods and travellers. It allows for border infrastructure to be used more efficiently, and it makes travelling a more pleasant experience for all. Ensuring pre-cleared, low-risk travellers and cargo move quickly and efficiently into and out of our country is crucial to sustaining and expanding jobs for middle-class Canadians.
I remind the House that our American friends already passed legislation last December, the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016, to implement the agreement south of the border. We are taking the next necessary step to complete the joint partnership with our southern neighbours with the passage of this legislation. This bill formally reconfirms Canada's commitment to the agreement and reaffirms the unique relationship between Canada and the United States.
Central to this relationship are people-to-people connections, and so I will talk about tourism. I am thrilled to report to the House that this past year was the best the tourism sector has experienced in over a decade, and the second best year on record, with almost 20 million international tourists visiting Canada.
International tourist arrivals grew by 11.1% in 2016, the largest annual growth Canada has seen in 30 years. We have another big year ahead of us in 2017 as we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Our government values the tourism industry, which will benefit from this bill. We are well aware that trade and tourism are critical to our economy. An open border is necessary for the success of these two areas of activity. We also recognize that tourism makes a significant contribution to the Canadian economy.
In 2015, tourism generated over $90 billion in economic activity, directly supporting over 600,000 jobs spread from coast to coast to coast across all 338 federal ridings, and was responsible for more than $17 billion in export revenue.
I can assure the House that this government is committed to promoting increased tourism to Canada. That is evident in our support for Destination Canada, our federal crown marketing corporation that is working hard to show the world the incredible experiences and destinations that Canada has to offer. Formerly known as the Canadian Tourism Commission, Destination Canada has a strong track record of working with private sector partners and governments at all levels to maximize the impacts of marketing campaigns.
Budget 2016 provided $50 million over two years to Destination Canada to seize opportunities in important markets, such as the United States. Connecting America is Destination Canada's national marketing program aimed at raising awareness of Canada as the travel destination. Together with the Canadian tourism industry, Destination Canada is engaging American travellers by inviting and motivating them to see Canada. The marketing campaign targeted to U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami aims to creatively show American travellers how we are unique and different. Canada is warm and exciting with urban sophistication. Connecting America highlights the variety of unique world-class destinations and experiences that only Canada has to offer.
These efforts are already paying off. From January to December 2016, the number of international visitors who spent at least one night in Canada increased by 11% compared to the previous year. In the first nine months of 2016, tourism injected $74 million into the Canadian economy, which represents an increase of 4.3% compared to the same period in 2015.
As I noted earlier, 70% of international tourists came from the United States. Overnight trips by air travellers from the U.S. increased by 17%, and overnight trips by auto travellers increased 7% compared to 2015. This is fantastic.
These statistics underscore the importance of pre-clearance, which makes it easier for pre-approved American visitors to enter our country and to choose Canada as their top international destination. This is especially true when we realize that international travel between countries represents one of the fastest growing export sectors in the world. A billion international travellers spent $1 trillion annually outside their own borders. In 2015, international tourist arrivals grew by 4.6% to nearly 1.2 billion globally, and these tourists spent over $1.2 trillion U.S.
Also promising is the growing interest in indigenous tourism from international visitors, which can create jobs and generate economic growth for indigenous communities across the country. We are talking about authentic indigenous experiences, and we are working with the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada so that we do this right.
To share Canada's natural beauty with the world, we are also investing in our system of national parks, conservation areas, and national historic sites. Together with nearby communities we are working to help grow local ecotourism industries and create jobs for middle-class Canadians. Lonely Planet, The New York Times, National Geographic, Condé Nast, and more have named Canada as the place to be in their top destinations for 2017. The focus on pre-clearance will make travelling trouble-free, and will make all those who visit our country from the United States feel even more welcome.
I would like to remind members and assure the tourism industry, as my colleague the has said, that U.S. border officers operating in pre-clearance sites in Canada must exercise their duties in accordance with Canadian law, in particular our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Human Rights Act.
Allow me now to turn to small and medium-sized businesses. Consider that nearly 400,000 people cross the Canada-U.S. land border every day, along with over $2 billion in goods and services even before we factor in rail, ships, and air and it becomes quite obvious why this agreement matters to Canadians. It matters particularly to SMEs, the key drivers of Canada's economic growth, which are so crucial to Canada's long-term prosperity. I would remind the House that SMEs are the backbone of the economy, employing 90% of the private sector workforce and accounting for almost 40% of the GDP. Border delays can be a significant obstacle to economic growth. Indeed, only 12% of SMEs are exporting. We can and will do better.
We can find Canadian SMEs' expertise in both the manufacturing and service sectors in every region of Canada. My riding of Waterloo is a case in point.
Waterloo's world-class ecosystem has companies manufacturing everything from lab equipment and supplies to stainless steel tubing and carpets. It has the many incredible companies housed at Communitech and the Accelerator Centre, and numerous high-tech firms specializing in everything from drones to digital imaging and semi-conductors. That is before we even talk about the city's three outstanding post-secondary institutions: Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University, and my alma mater, the University of Waterloo. As well, we have the Institute for Quantum Computing, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research.
Waterloo's close proximity to the Canada-U.S. border makes it just one of many cities and towns dotted along the 49th parallel where the vast majority of Canadians now live and work. All of the small and medium-sized businesses, including tourism operators, in those communities would be better off with a seamless border for pre-approved cargo and travellers.
Increased access to global markets can help innovative Canadian firms to grow and expand into new markets. Our government recognized this in budget 2016 by providing $4 million over two years to renew the Canadian technology accelerator initiative. The program supports Canadian information and communications technologies like life sciences and clean technology firms by providing mentorship, introductions to potential clients and partners, as well as desk space in business accelerators abroad. The program has nine locations, including seven in the United States, to enable firms to more easily export their services and products. I visited the CTA in Boston and have seen first-hand the amazing support the CTAs provide to our Canadian firms expanding in the U.S. markets. Small and medium-sized businesses are major contributors to our balance of trade. In 2013, they were responsible for $106 billion or 25% of the total value of exports. Exporting is vital to the health and verve of Canadian businesses and in particular SMEs. It is worth noting that even though only a small proportion of small firms export, of those that do, roughly 90% export to the United States.
Our government is working hard every day to make sure that businesses have the resources they need to grow and compete successfully in export markets. This includes the CanExport program. CanExport is providing $50 million to help Canadian SMEs take advantage of global opportunities. I should point out that a majority of the CanExport projects approved to date are smaller firms that are less than 15 years old, have less than 20 employees, and less than $2.5 million in annual revenue. CanExport has already approved over 600 projects. It is a central element to the international trade and investment strategy, which I have been working on with the .
To help promising small firms grow larger, budget 2016 launched the accelerated growth service to help them scale up and further their global competitiveness. Businesses can access coordinated services tailored to their needs from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada, Export Development Canada, the National Research Council's industrial research assistance program, Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, and the regional development agencies. High-potential firms are given more time to focus on their businesses, while an assigned consultant provides strategic advice on how to navigate the government supports available to them and helps them design a business development plan, including for SMEs that want to scale up through exports. We have already engaged 100 firms in the pilot year of the AGS, and we expect to assist an additional 300 firms in the second year of the program.
Only two weeks ago, the announced the creation of the Canada-United States council for advancement of women entrepreneurs and business leaders with the U.S. President. One of many benefits of the council would be greater support for women exporters.
Bill is another instrument that would build on these initiatives and help exporters get their goods to market more efficiently and securely. Every hour saved in delays at the border increases productivity that benefits Canadian workers and business owners alike. The passage of this bill would be an incentive and would support more Canadian firms wishing to scale up to further their global competitiveness.
The wants our country to take advantage of opportunities to grow our businesses by strengthening the long-standing friendship and enormously successful trading relationship between Canada and the United States.
The implementation of Bill is the next step. Pre-clearance would reduce congestion at ports of entry and eliminate uncertain, unnecessary, and costly delays at the border. Congestion, excessive paperwork, and uncertainty cost small businesses and tourism operators valuable time and money. In a just-in-time delivery world, pre-clearance would be a time and money saver for small businesses, and it would be a solution. It would also provide privileged access to the U.S. market for Canadian companies, creating new opportunities for firms to expand and export.
Pre-clearance would also make air travel more efficient, enabling 12 million Canadian passengers to avoid lengthy customs lines in the U.S. each year. This would also increase the competitiveness of Canadian airports internationally.
Maybe most important in today's environment, pre-clearance would enable us to determine which people and cargo pose a risk to our shared security space. This would enable both countries to proactively address threats from outside the continent while continuing to ensure that legitimate trade and travel move freely at our borders. This would help to make sure that our society remains open to legitimate immigrants and refugees from around the globe. This is particularly important to me this year, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
There are so many persuasive arguments for supporting this legislation. It would be good for small businesses and the tourism industry. It would be equally good for security, reducing Canadians' risks from external threats. Ultimately, it would be good for Canadian travellers, whose time is precious and who would no longer be needlessly tied up at the border when they have better places to be.
I am confident that Bill would help ensure that citizens of both Canada and the United States would continue to benefit from an open but secure border that protects our shared economy, shared values, and shared way of life. That would be enormously good for Canadians overall.
Making sure that Canada remains open and that Canadian goods, services, people, and knowledge can reach U.S. markets securely and swiftly will enable us to provide jobs, prosperity, and opportunities for all Canadians.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill . I will be splitting my time with the member for .
The previous speaker, the , made a comment to my good friend and colleague from . She did not just imply, she said that every community in his riding would receive something that would allow them to have a great Canada 150 celebration. I am just waiting breathlessly for all the small municipalities and large ones in my riding, hoping they will get the same kind of treatment.
Bill is an act respecting the pre-clearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States. Before I speak on the specifics of the bill, I would like to provide a bit of history and context about how Bill C-23 came to be.
In 2011, then president Barack Obama and then prime minister Stephen Harper announced the United States-Canada joint declaration, “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness”. This declaration spoke of a shared approach to security in which both countries would work together to address threats within, at, and away from our borders.
Later that year, both governments released the beyond the border action plan, which built upon the initial declaration and implemented many of the items included in the agreement.
It almost goes without saying in this House and across Canada that the United States is Canada's strongest ally and economic partner. We share the longest and most prosperous demilitarized border in the world. In fact, the only thing standing between my riding of and the east coast of Michigan is Lake Huron itself. While agriculture is the biggest industry in my riding, tourism is very close. It is huge. The bill would certainly help every aspect of tourism in my riding and many others.
About 300,000 people and $1.6 billion in goods and services cross our countries' shared border every single day. Over 100 million people live in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region alone, and account for about $6 trillion in economic activity.
The beyond the border agreement was negotiated and agreed upon in order to strengthen that special relationship between our two countries. Basically, the beyond the border agreement established a commitment between Canada and the United States to work together to enhance the security of Canadian and American citizens and support the flow of travellers, goods, and services across each other's borders.
As part of the beyond the border agreement, the previous Conservative government signed the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air transport pre-clearance, the LRMA. The LRMA updated the authorities for pre-clearance officers at border crossings to better reflect the current security environment as the previous pre-clearance laws had not been revisited in decades.
Put simply, pre-clearance allows border officers to carry out customs and immigration processes in the other country's territory. This allows border officers to use their time much more efficiently, and keep citizens of both countries safer.
This brings us to the bill. Bill is the Liberal government's attempt to implement the measures agreed upon in the LRMA. As I have said, the beyond the border agreement between the U.S. and Canada, including the LRMA, is an agreement that I support.
It is very nice to see the Liberals taking advantage of the good work done by the previous Conservative government. On that note, I think we need to really point out that there is a lot of bickering and back and forth goes on in this House, and it is actually nice sometimes to see work continue, even when there is a change of government. I want to thank the government for that.
I want to ensure that this agreement is implemented in a responsible way, though, that respects the rights and liberties of Canadian citizens, travellers, police officers, and CBSA officials. It is for that reason that I look forward to studying Bill with my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
I believe that our committee will provide a strong analysis of the bill and recommend amendments where or if necessary to ensure that it adequately reflects the spirit of the 2015 LMRA.
I would like to briefly outline the kinds of questions that need to be answered during the committee's study of Bill .
Currently, there are eight Canadian airports and three terminals designated as pre-clearance and pre-inspection sites. Every year, these Canadian pre-clearance facilities process about 12 million passengers. One of these pre-clearance facilities is the Toronto Pearson International Airport, the fourth largest point of entry into the United States in the world.
This is an airport that I have used many times. Just last fall, I was part of a delegation to Washington, and many of my counterparts from government and opposition went through there. For anybody who went through this pre-clearance, there is no doubt about it, this is a huge advantage that speeds things up at both ends of the trip.
Bill would authorize the to designate pre-clearance areas and pre-clearance perimeters in Canada in which pre-clearance may take place. However, before the bill advances, I would like to know whether the minister has already decided whether to designate new airports, terminals, land and rail services as pre-clearance areas. This is something we do not know yet. If he has, where will these new pre-clearance sites be introduced? If the minister has already made these decisions, he should inform the House. I also hope that he has consulted with those communities to ensure a smooth transition.
On that note, we all know that the unsafe injection sites were put into communities without any consultation or input. We just hope that the same kind of thing does not happen here.
Bill would provide the United States pre-clearance officers with powers to facilitate pre-clearance in Canada. I absolutely believe that this is a function that would contribute positively to our safety and security if implemented properly.
The bill gets into the specifics of what those American pre-clearance officers can and cannot do, and I believe our committee would have a great opportunity to ensure that those specifics are outlined clearly and directly. We have to make sure that we know exactly what these pre-clearance officials would have the power to do. I look forward to hearing from relevant expert witnesses on the matter.
Furthermore, Bill would authorize Canadian police officers and officers of the CBSA to assist United States pre-clearance officers in the exercise of their powers and performance of their duties and functions. Again, I believe that this new function is a critical component of the 2015 LMRA and Bill . However, the government needs to grant these new powers responsibly. We must ensure that CBSA officials and police officers are confident that they not be asked to assist in exercises that they would not otherwise perform. Since 2015, law enforcement at the border has evolved considerably, and it is the government's responsibility to make sure that CBSA officials are comfortable complying with new duties.
It is also important to remember that the LMRA is an agreement between the United States and Canada. Provisions of Bill are applicable only if the United States passes the same legislation in both its Senate and House of Representatives.
According to the beyond the border agreement, the American equivalent of Bill has been promised to be passed in conjunction with Bill . I know that the bill has been introduced in the American legislature, but given the new American administration, where does it stand? I am not sure. If the government is going to proceed with Bill , we must have assurances that its American equivalent is safe and will pass the American legislature, and not be the target of any effort to rescind or weaken it.
As I said earlier, these are just some of the questions that I hope to ask during the public safety and national security committee's study. Given that the initial agreement that led to this bill was a product of the previous government, it should be a surprise to nobody that the bill has potential.
I strongly believe that a thorough study of the bill by the public safety committee would ensure that it contributes positively to the safety and security of all Canadians, as well as to the economic partnership and allegiance between our great countries.
I will be glad to take questions.
Madam Speaker, I do not know if it has been mentioned in the House yet, but I think we are all very excited about the announcement today that NASA has discovered seven new planets, some of which may be inhabitable.
I know many people are thinking about this and the scientific and research opportunities. I know the is probably thinking about the vacation opportunities associated with that. However, this time he will have to clear it with the Ethics Commissioner first.
Speaking of vacations, we have a bill in front of us that deals with pre-clearance. It is no surprise that this is a big priority for the .
This is important legislation, one that we are pleased to support. It will help to facilitate effective travel between Canada and the United States. Obviously we know and understand the importance of the close relationship between our two countries and the impact of facilitating greater exchange, greater travel involving individuals and hopefully, as this framework develops, more effective pre-clearance procedures for goods. We see this as a positive opportunity for enhancing and strengthening that relationship.
We are pleased to join the government in supporting this bill.
I do not want to give the government too much credit, and sometimes I am in danger of doing that, because most of the heavy lifting and the important work was started under the previous government. I will talk to that in a few minutes.
To underline the importance of our relationship with the United States, and other members have mentioned this figure already, $2.4 billion in goods and services are exchanged across the border every day. In the U.S., that relationship is particularly important. It does not necessarily get the same press or play in the American discussion perhaps as it does here, but that economic relationship is very important for the Americans. We are seeing a realization of that, and a lot of advocacy within the United States, as well as by Canada, for maintaining the strength of that relationship between our two countries. Most Canadians are already very well acquainted about the importance of that relationship and the benefits that come from it.
When there is a close relationship with another country, there is a co-operative dimension and there is also a competitive dimension. There is the co-operative dimension in so far as we all prosper together through greater exchange, but there is also a competitive dimension in that we try to attract investment to come to Canada.
A greater facilitation of that relationship through the pre-clearance measures discussed in the bill enhances that co-operation. However, in the midst of that, we need to be mindful of the things we can do which will make Canada more competitive.
The context of the bill is that the former prime minister, Stephen Harper, negotiated a beyond the border agreement with the former president, Barack Obama. This was an important agreement which was designed to facilitate that relationship, facilitate travel, and really the deepening of relationships between the two countries through different kinds of shared procedures. There are different aspects to that beyond the border agreement.
One of the important ones was this pre-clearance measure, which is a commitment as part of that agreement and is now being fulfilled through the legislation. We can very clearly see that this is the implementation of that part of the agreement signed by the previous administrations in both countries.
We are encouraged that the government is at least carrying forward and fully implementing the good work undertaken under the previous government. We really appreciated the importance of that relationship. We appreciated it when it came to the exchange of people and of goods, when it came to security co-operation, and when it came to economic exchange as well.
In addition to what has been said already in the House around the bill, the opening up of pre-clearance is done in the context of this agreement in a reciprocal way. We are facilitating pre-clearance for Canadian travellers going to the United States, but also making it easier for travellers coming the other way.
Canadians will be familiar with the concept of pre-clearance. Every time one travels to the United States by air, one encounters American officials who will do a screening process in Canada rather than on the other side of the border, as happens if one is travelling to certain other countries. That makes travel much easier.
Bill would open the door through different measures to facilitate that more effectively. It would update the pre-clearance system to ensure that reciprocal exchange would continue. It would reduce the cost associated with crossing the border, and that can have economic as well as cultural benefits. In general, it will facilitate the opportunity for Canadians and Americans who want to travel and visit each other's countries. It makes Canada more competitive, as well, by making it easier for us to attract travellers coming from the United States. These are some of the many advantages associated with the bill.
Those in our party particularly understand the importance of our relationship with the United States, our trading relationship, security relationship, and other aspects to that relationship. We sometimes see that appreciation from the government. Other times and in other ways we do not see appreciation of that.
The was recently in Washington meeting with the new President. However, we note that for the second time, he went to Washington and did not bring along our natural resources minister. Co-operation around supporting our energy sector and finding access to export markets for it is very important. Hopefully, three times is the charm, and the government will finally take seriously its responsibility to promote our energy sector in the context of that relationship.
The failures around softwood lumber are well established. The previous Conservative government was able to get a deal on softwood lumber almost immediately after taking office, because we made it a priority. It does not seem to be a priority for the Liberal government when it comes to resolving it.
Also, I was disappointed that immediately upon the successful election of the new President, the Prime Minister said that it was no problem, that we would renegotiate NAFTA. What we needed to hear were clearer statements and an appreciation of the value of NAFTA for Canadians and a willingness to defend the trade that came with it.
The government should also look at being more supportive of the trans-Pacific partnership. It further opens up trading opportunities throughout the Asia-Pacific region and really solidifies and creates opportunities for deepening the trading relationships that already exist in North America.
I mentioned other forms of co-operation between our two countries. The security co-operation we see through NORAD and NATO is critical for our country's interests. I would argue that NATO is one of, if not the most important force for global peace and stability. Canada needs to make clear arguments about the importance of NATO. It also needs to be willing to make investments in NATO and our military to reflect our obligations to our security commitment. We need to have a long-term plan to get to 2%. In fact, the government's first throne speech talked about creating a leaner military.
I talked about those co-operative aspects and facilitating the partnership. There are also those aspects where we need to think in a little more competitive way. The Americans are reducing their taxes, at least there is an intention to do so, and they are not imposing a carbon tax. The presidential candidate for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, was not proposing a carbon tax either. What the government is doing by imposing a carbon tax and looking at all kinds of ways of raising taxes and imposing new taxes on Canadians hurts our competitiveness in the context of this relationship.
We know the Canada-U.S. relationship is very important. This bill moves forward in facilitating pre-clearance, and we see that as a positive. However, there are some real gaps in what the government is doing in that relationship. We ask it to do better, to appreciate the importance of co-operation, and take some of those next steps that are needed.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Surrey Centre.
I am happy to speak about pre-clearance, and what it means for my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul. Every time I am at home, I see more trucks on Winnipeg's roads heading to CentrePort. These are signs of growth, trade, jobs, and these jobs are, many of them, in my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul.
My good friend and fellow Ukrainian Canadian, the hon. , has stressed how important it is to make our border thinner. The has worked with our American neighbours to bring our two countries closer together.
During her recent meetings in Washington, the foreign affairs minister stressed that making trade easier with Canada was a priority, including extending pre-clearance for product shipments. She is quoted in The Canadian Press as saying:
Our conversations focused on ways to make that border thinner. We talked about pre-clearance for cargo as an area that we might want to be working on, going forward.
Right now, Canada hosts 15 international pre-clearance stations at its airports. A Canadian government spokesman said:
Any U.S. pre-clearance activities in Canada have to be carried out in a manner consistent with Canadian law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
U.S.-Canada trade is very significant for Canada. U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totalled an estimated $662.7 billion in 2015 and exports were $337.3 billion, with imports at $325.4 billion. U.S. goods and services have a trade surplus with Canada of only $11.9 billion in 2015.
Looking at Manitoba trade exports, who was our number one partner? The United States, of course, with $16.291 billion exported to the United States while we import $9.527 billion worth of products.
Therefore, it makes good sense for Kildonan—St. Paul, for Manitoba, and for all of Canada to look at ways to make our relationship with the United States better.
I am very proud to say that our current had a very successful mission to Washington where he was able to make renewed friends with the new President, and in fact, talked about a number of issues including how we can enhance trade between our two countries, an issue that the President and our Prime Minister both recognized as having benefits for both countries.
Today, I want to focus on what more open borders will mean for businesses in my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul. Winnipeg's James Richardson Airport has had U.S. pre-clearance for many years, and in the last decade the increase in cargo pre-clearance has made a huge difference for Manitobans.
Also in my riding is Palliser Furniture, which produces outstanding furniture, and the owners and many of the workers at Palliser live and work in my riding. This is a growing company that has grown through Canada's policy of free and open trade. As our government moves to ratify the Canada-Europe and Canada–Ukraine free trade deals, it is possible that in the future I will be speaking about Palliser's location in Kiev and Warsaw.
In Winnipeg, we built CentrePort, North America's largest inland port. CentrePort is a hub that connects our local businesses with their partners all over the world through air, road, and train systems.
Our open trade policy means that CentrePort has been rapidly growing. At 20,000 acres, there is a lot of room for more investment. In the last year, CentrePort has seen several new developments, including the announcement of a new $25 million grain handling facility, and a partnership with Mexican business and government leaders to bring investments to Manitoba.
All of this growth has meant that CentrePort has had to expand its existing infrastructure, water, telecommunications, and natural gas, so there can be new opportunities for businesses and to create new jobs for all of the new workers.
In fact, new needs of CentrePort are roads and infrastructure. Particularly important for my riding is the Chief Peguis Trail, and I encourage the Conservative government of Manitoba to come to the table, to take our generous offer of building infrastructure in Manitoba to create jobs and new investments in Manitoba, like other western provinces where more infrastructure is needed.
Trading hubs like CentrePort are important because they keep our connections strong and our economy moving. In Manitoba, almost 40% of our economic activity is the result of trade with American partners. As a manufacturing hub, we export over $16 billion worth of goods every year. In fact, Manitobans trade almost as much with international partners as they do with Canada's other provinces. This has made Manitoba a centre for trade, which connects our world-class trade infrastructure with our world-class manufacturing.
One of its most interconnected imports is busing. In fact, many of us and our constituents ride those buses every day, with components that are built in Winnipeg. For example, New Flyer Industries, a highly innovative and dominant player in transit bus and motor coach manufacturing, employing over 4,800 people, produces buses and components for both Canadian and American jurisdictions. Buses and parts are built in Winnipeg and Minnesota, and provide stable, middle class manufacturing jobs on both sides of the border.
Manitoba is also famous for its aerospace sector. Winnipeg's connection to aerospace is so famous that its hockey team is called the Winnipeg Jets. It has the largest aerospace sector in western Canada and the third largest in the country, with companies like Boeing, StandardAero, and Magellan, with major plants in Winnipeg. These are high quality, middle class jobs. Aerospace workers are expert manufacturers, and build some of the world's most complicated machines. Annually, Manitoba imports over $660 million in jets and turbines, and exports over $550 million in aircraft parts, which is over $1 billion in trade.
The aerospace industry nears $2 billion in revenue each year, and directly employs over 5,000 Manitobans. Beyond the numbers, Manitoba's aerospace industry means a lot for Canadian innovation. In Winnipeg, General Electric and StandardAero, both U.S.-based companies, took advantage of Manitoba's unique weather and opened a $75 million cold weather testing facility. It also employs some of the brightest engineers.
Winnipeg is also home to the Centre for Aerospace Technology & Training. Once again, thanks to international partnerships with Red River College, StandardAero, and the federal and provincial governments, the Centre for Aerospace Technology & Training prepares Canada's middle class for the future.
We all know that manufacturing has been changing in a big way. Students use the latest manufacturing technologies, like 3D printing, to prepare for long-term, stable manufacturing jobs. For manufacturers in my province, improved pre-clearance means fewer lineups, a more efficient use of time as they travel across the border, and fewer traffic holdups. It is making it easier for people and cargo to cross the border.
As I have already said how important open borders are in my province, I am proud that pre-clearance will create more jobs for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill .
During these debates, we have heard much about the tremendous benefits of pre-clearance, both in terms of the operations that are currently in place, as well as future opportunities that will be available once the agreement on land, rail, marine, and air transport pre-clearance is ratified on both sides of the border.
It is clear that pre-clearance works. As we have heard, air pre-clearance is a huge success story. Since its early beginnings at Toronto Pearson International Airport over half a century ago, pre-clearance has made clearing customs easier for millions of air passengers heading from Canada to the U.S. It has opened new markets for business and tourism by making it possible for airlines to fly directly to smaller U.S. airports that do not have their own customs operations on site. This also decreases the costs for Canadian passengers who fly to those cheaper airports.
It has helped to increase in-transit traffic, helping to make Canadian airports and carriers more competitive. It has added an important layer of security to cross-border traffic as threats are dealt with at the point of origin rather than being allowed to transit. In fact, I personally use the pre-clearance areas when travelling to the U.S., and find it easier and more efficient than going through a customs facility in the United States.
As we have heard, the agreement in principle reached in March 2016 will allow for the expansion of pre-clearance operations into other modes of transportation. Furthermore, it will allow for expansion of airport pre-clearance to new locations in Toronto and Quebec City, and it will enable pre-clearance to be conducted at rail locations at Montreal's central station and of course Vancouver's own Rocky Mountaineer.
This expansion is a long time coming. Industry and government stakeholders on both sides of the border have pushed for these changes for many years because they know the enormous economic and security potential of pre-clearance. Understandably, those outside the air transportation sector want to be able to reap the same benefits in their marine, rail, and land transport sectors. In fact, we already have concrete numbers that illustrate the benefits of pre-clearance in other transportation modes, including through two truck cargo pilot projects as well as a number of informal pre-inspection sites currently operating along the west coast.
We look forward to opportunities under this new agreement to streamline our border crossings to ensure that we maintain strong economic growth and trade with our great friends and neighbours in the United States. This includes exploring the terms and conditions necessary for cargo pre-clearance, and identifying opportunities to pilot this approach.
As for pre-inspection on the west coast, it is currently conducted by U.S. pre-clearance officers at five sites in British Columbia: first and foremost, Port Metro Vancouver, Prince Rupert ferry terminal, Vancouver's central rail station, Sidney ferry terminal, and Victoria ferry terminal. Port Metro Vancouver is a great example of the economic importance of efficient and effective border management. The cruise ship industry produces a huge economic benefit to Canada with Port Metro Vancouver contributing some $420 million a year to the economy and employing some 4,500 people locally.
Port Metro Vancouver is the main hub for cruise ships heading to Alaska for a number of reasons, including being the only port to offer inside passage along the west coast of B.C. to Alaska. During high season, U.S. customs and border protection officers work out of the port, processing passengers as they board their cruise ships to Alaska. Both nations benefit from these operations. Canada remains a key port for these cruise ships which bring hundreds of thousands of passengers to Vancouver every year. The U.S. can secure its borders and allow smaller Alaskan communities with no post-clearance services to remain part of these cruise ship itineraries. This is a win-win arrangement and one that will benefit from regularized pre-clearance operations.
Rail transport is another important mode that will benefit from expanded pre-clearance. For example, Vancouver's central rail station is the hub for regular Canada-U.S. rail service provided by U.S. Amtrak. The Amtrak service runs two trains per day with passengers undergoing primary immigration inspection in Vancouver.