Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from . Our debate has not been very fruitful since this morning. I want to remind the House of certain facts about Bill . Bill C-21 authorizes the Canada Border Services Agency to collect and receive biographical information on travellers leaving Canada. The act will authorize officers to require goods being exported from Canada to be reported, despite any exemptions, and will give them the power to examine those goods.
The first announced an agreement with the United States to implement a system for sharing basic biographical information in March 2016, after his first official visit to the U.S.
Currently, under the beyond the border action plan, the two countries collect and share biographical information on third-country nationals and lawful permanent residents at land ports of entry. Data on entry to one country serve as a record of exit from the other.
On November 21, on the matter that concerns us today, the Senate committee heard from Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, about the bill's general intention and the amendment adopted by the House of Commons. Mr. Therrien had this to say about the bill: “I am generally satisfied that this border management issue is based on important public policy objectives and the personal information in question is not particularly sensitive.”
As for the amendment, Mr. Therrien pointed out that, for greater legal certainty, section 93.1 should be amended to state that the data collected under sections 92 and 93 should be retained by the agency for a maximum of 15 years.
However, we should not forget that the former Conservative government negotiated the beyond the border action plan, which includes a provision on sharing entry and exit data with the United States. At the time, given the political concerns about privacy, we decided not to give effect to this legislative measure just before the election. However, this provision deals with longstanding Conservative priorities for border security and compliance with benefit programs.
Our border services need to have the tools to keep Canadians safe. Frankly, our law enforcement services all need the tools to do their jobs, but the current Prime Minister's government is needlessly compromising Canadians' safety. As long as this Prime Minister continues carrying out his reckless ideas, Canadians will have good reason to be concerned. Allow me to give some examples.
Under the current Prime Minister, we are seeing a problem at the border. This is something we raise often, but the government claims the opposite. However, I can confirm that right now, the time to conduct a security screening on the illegal migrants crossing into Canada has gone from the standard eight hours to just two hours. In addition, there is no government directive for border officers regarding the new ways to manage the influx of visitors coming to Canada with marijuana. Once again, the government says that we need to stop debating, that we should help the government move forward instead of standing in the way. The thing is, there is a reason we are standing in the way. We have valid questions.
Problems often arise after the debate and implementation of bills that the government rams down our throats, like Bil on marijuana. We then point out that we told the government so. The government refused to accept some of the amendments proposed by the Senate and now there are problems. Right now, border services officers are having to deal with those problems, as are police officers, who are having trouble detecting whether drivers have used drugs.
Let us come back to the matter of illegal migrants. Every time we ask a question about this issue, the Liberals say that we are racist or xenophobic. This has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the people who are coming to Canada. I believe that anyone who illegally crosses our border is an illegal migrant, regardless of his or her origin or colour. This has nothing to do with racism or xenophobia. That needs to stop. It is a dangerous game. The government is accusing us of playing a dangerous game when it is the one doing so by saying things that make no sense.
The problem is that the Prime Minister created a situation with his infamous tweet, even though the members opposite say that is not true. It is fairly easy to see that people are coming to Canada in response to what the Prime Minister said.
The government set up a camp to welcome migrants in Lacolle. Yes, it is important to welcome people, even if they are in Canada illegally. We are responsible people after all. We can agree on that.
However, the Liberals grossly mismanaged the situation. They set up a camp and expanded it. They set up infrastructure to receive 500 people a day. It is a nice facility with all the equipment and everything needed to do things properly.
However, this year, the camp expanded tremendously. There was room to take in 3,000 people. The Saint-Bernard hotel was even part of the security perimeter. The Government of Canada sent a cheque to the hotel owner, who must have left on vacation for a year since the rooms that were rented are empty and no one is staying there.
There is a steady flow of migrants every day and we are spending tens of millions of dollars in Lacolle. The Parliamentary Budget Officer pegged the cost at $1.1 billion. In the meantime, the government is not fixing the problem, it is not taking a position and telling these people to stop coming here illegally.
We are not asking questions just for the fun of being obstructionist. On the contrary, we want to resolve this issue. I have been here for three years. Whether in committee or in the House, our questions always serve to advance matters, not obstruct them.
The member for accused us of throwing a wrench into the works, but they are the ones who are doing a bad job and messing everything up. They have botched everything including Bill .
I would like to see a bit more maturity in the House, and I would like people to make sense when they are talking to MPs on this side of the House.
We also need to talk about the UN global compact for migration. Once again, members over here have been clear, we have taken the time to do things properly, we have assessed the situation and reviewed this much-touted compact. My party's immigration critic was on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. Nothing made sense. The fact that the told the world Canada is good and is going to help them solve their problems is just a lot of hype, just for show.
Once again, we were practically accused of being bad, racist, right-wing or even extreme right-wing people for being against this. In the end, 34 countries—countries that matter—refused to sign the compact.
This morning, a former UN lawyer and current Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada lawyer published a very clear letter in Le Devoir setting out very specific facts that show that this is far-fetched. That is the word that the author uses at the end of the piece. We must not sign the global compact because it does not hold water. It is nonsense.
This is just like the government. From the start, for three years, all this government has cared about is improving its image and doing whatever it wants, like tweeting that it is sending $50 million to South Africa and that it is all good because the suckers in Canada will foot the bill.
Do we ask this kind of question just to block the system or for the fun of it? No. We are responsible people. We are seeing what is happening and we are asking questions appropriate to the circumstances.
Many of the 38,000 people who crossed the border illegally will experience hardship. That is obvious. There are families, particularly Haitian families, who were in the United States and got a scare. They were told to come to Canada, but now they are being told that they do not have the right to claim asylum here. The tweet sent in 2017 was just a joke, just for show. However, people are bringing their children with them and they will have to go back, not to the United States but to Haiti. Do the Liberals see how complicated this situation is and how much hardship this will inflict on people over the years?
All that to say that we supported Bill . However, it is not a futile exercise to continue to debate it, to ask questions and to make improvements when circumstances change. The government needs to stop laughing at the opposition. As I already mentioned, the opposition has not raised many issues over the past three years that did not turn out to be true and important.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill . I thank my colleague from for sharing his time with me. He just gave a very enlightening speech about the context of this bill. Questions remain and, unfortunately, we will not be able to provide the detailed answers that taxpayers expect because the government has decided to invoke a form of closure to limit the time we have to debate this bill.
This bill is about what to do when people decide to cross the U.S. border. In a way, it seeks to tighten up our system and also to provide much greater security and authority to the people who verify that those crossing the border are doing so in a legal and regular manner in order to protect citizens.
This seems extremely important when we know that, now more than ever, people are travelling from one country to another multiple times a year thanks to globalization. This is not a problem for us. It is fine and normal. We even encourage it. However, it means we need much more security than 50 years ago, when far fewer people were crossing borders around the world.
It is therefore entirely appropriate for our border officers to be better equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, especially those we are facing today.
All this is consistent with the reasoning that led to the first agreement on this specific file between the former U.S. administration and the former Canadian government. This agreement, which was known as beyond the border, was jointly signed by President Barack Obama and the Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It laid the groundwork for a new approach to the cross-border travel process that was mutually more responsible.
It was followed by an agreement signed by the then minister of public safety, my colleague from , that sought to increase the number of border crossings and preclearance centres, particularly in Canadian airports and train stations. Not to get too partisan about this, but the momentum started under the previous government and continued under this government during the current 's widely reported state visit to the White House, where he met President Barack Obama.
This bill, which was actually tabled quite a long time ago, on June 15, 2016, formalized the arrangements that had been agreed upon during the Canadian Prime Minister's state visit to the Obama White House. The reasoning was the same, to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
This bill introduces measures that will enable our border services officers, wherever they are located, to do background checks on people who want to come here and Canadian citizens who want to cross the border, which we think makes perfect sense.
However, as the member for so eloquently said, the devil is in the details. That is why we need to be thorough in our analysis of any given bill. That is why we are so bitterly disappointed that the government is once again using closure to limit debate on this bill. This is not the first time; sadly, it is unlikely to be the last.
Three years ago, the Liberals got themselves elected on a promise to do politics differently. They said they would not introduce 800-page omnibus bills, yet we recently voted on an 800-page bill. They promised they would not do anything to cut into members' speaking time. Naturally, as they were saying those things, they were also being sharply critical of the previous government. As it turns out, they did exactly the same thing.
Let me be very clear. If, by chance, Canadians place their trust in us on October 21, 2019, and I know they will, we might occasionally need to resort to these particular measures. We, however, would not be so dishonest and hypocritical as to tell Canadians that we would never do that, as the Liberals did three years ago. There may be times when we need to use these measures to give effect to certain laws.
Speaking of details, let's get right into the details on the subject of marijuana. As we know, as of October 17, Canada is unfortunately the only G7 country that has legalized marijuana. The debate was rushed. Everyone knows our position on that topic. We respect democracy, but just because the House voted in favour of legalization does not mean that we just happen to suddenly support it. It was wrong, but it is a done deal. The only thing I have to admit is that at least it is something the government had promised to do. It also promised to do a good many other things that it failed to do. For instance, it promised not to use too many time allocation motions or to introduce omnibus bills, and it promised to run small deficits and balance the budget in 2019. It did not keep those promises. What it did do, however, was legalize marijuana.
What effect will the legalization of marijuana have on Bill ? We do not know. We do not know because when we ask very specific, very pointed questions, they tell us that they will make adjustments. What we want is a clear answer.
What happens to people who cross the border after consuming marijuana?
What should people who have marijuana on them do when asking to cross the border?
What about people who consumed marijuana two weeks ago but who still have traces of it in their blood?
That is the reality. Among the host of incongruous situations brought about by this legalization, there is the fact that police are unable to properly determine whether an individual is under the influence because traces can remain in the blood for a long time even if the effect does not manifest itself.
I am getting off topic a little with marijuana, but the reality is that Bill does not fully address the issues and does not provide enough details, which could have been provided in a fulsome debate in the House. Unfortunately, our time is limited.
A second point has to do with those much-talked-about illegal refugees who are crossing the border. I use the word “illegal” because it is written, in black and white, on a sign at the entrance to Roxham Road, that it is illegal to enter the country. Members opposite keep telling us that the crossings are not illegal, but irregular. No. They are illegal. It is right there in black and white.
We are not the only ones who think this. The Canadian government employees who created that sign think so too. The Government of Quebec has also confirmed that this is illegal immigration. A news release from a few weeks ago, after the meeting between Premier Legault and Premier Ford, stated in black and white that they had concerns about illegal immigration.
Is the use of this word surprising? Absolutely not. Since when can someone cross into a country on a small, well-trodden wooded path when there is a giant sign stating it is illegal to cross? The only people in Canada who disagree are current Liberal members, and this does not honour our country, our tradition and our exceptionally good history of welcoming others, including immigrants. I have never made it a secret that my parents came to Canada 60 years ago.
This is a terrible message to send to the world. We are telling people who want to come to Canada, enrich our country and enjoy the full Canadian experience to come in illegally by that small country road, because if they join the queue like everybody else and follow the rules, they will be stuck waiting for years and years. If they go through Roxham Road, they will have no problems.
That is not the right signal to send. Let us not forget that this whole fiasco started with an ill-advised tweet that the Prime Minister posted two years ago in January. This tweet alarmed our diplomats, including those at Canada's embassy in Mexico. They were traumatized and did not know how to respond to the flood of requests prompted by the Prime Minister's tweets. The government had to get the current and the member for to rush down there and say to people, wait a second, just because we are opening the border, that does not mean everyone is welcome, and to warn them that they could be sent back, which is in fact what happened. Of the 40,000 people who entered the country illegally, nearly two-thirds were sent back.
In closing, we agree with the principle of Bill , but sadly, the devil is in the details. Without details, we cannot get into the nitty-gritty of these issues, because the government has issued a gag order.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment before us today would change Bill by amending proposed subsection 93(1) to clarify that the data collected under proposed sections 92 and 93 would be retained by the agency for a period of no more of 15 years maximum.
I would like to spend the remainder of my time discussing the implications of a 15-year period, given that this is the amendment that we are discussing today and the fact that in a few short days this chamber that we are currently in will likely be closed for a period of 15 years or so. For many of us, this will be the last time we get a chance to speak in this place. In assessing the impact of a 15-year period, let us review how much has changed since parliamentarians rose in this place in 2003.
The member for was only in his second term. Many of our colleagues did not carry smart phones; they actually had go back to their offices to check their messages and email and to make some phone calls perhaps. Google still competed with AltaVista as a search engine and, Mr. Speaker, I believe if you looked at the faces of the pages right now in front of you, they would be slightly confused as to what we were talking about. YouTube did not exist, Facebook did not exist, and Twitter did not exist. For our colleagues 15 years ago, responding to news cycles involved reading headlines and watching the morning news, consulting with experts and thought leaders during the day for a few hours, and sending a written statement before a deadline. Fifteen years ago this month, I wrote my last exam for my undergraduate degree.
Therefore, what words of wisdom do I have for parliamentarians who will occupy this place 15 years hence, and what do we need to do to keep this place relevant over the next 15 years? When we look at the things I have just talked about, our world has fundamentally changed in a 15-year period, and across different flavours of government we in this place have a propensity to move way too slowly. In preparation for this speech, I was looking at the Hansard from November 2003, and what was really startling to see was that a lot of the issues we are debating today are very similar in form and concept to those that were being debated in 2003. Now the news cycle does not move in nine-hour increments, but in one-second increments. The economy has fundamentally changed and I want to talk about that in a second too.
When I look at where we need to be in 15 years, we are almost 15 years behind. We need to start looking in Parliament, and do this across party lines, at things like data and privacy in a much more robust way, which I am not even sure we have political lines to discuss yet. I look at things like China's social credit system and the fact that a government like it is using a ubiquitous form of technology to give scores to its citizens that will determine if they can be employed or travel. Then I look at my own smart phone and I wonder how much of my privacy I give up daily. We are advertized to because we give consent to release our data in ways that we often do not realize. It is not just about advertising. It is about knowing where we are and knowing what we might do in our spare time and using that for advertizing or for other nefarious purposes.
We have not, as a Parliament, really started to think about the implications of that for our pluralistic society. Indeed, we might not be able to regulate these issues because things change so quickly. How can Parliament address this over the next 15 years? I am concerned about that. As parliamentarians, we probably need to start talking about the value of data rather than just looking at a regulatory approach. That does tie into this bill as well, but what concerns me is that as a Parliament we are just not there.
I watched the U.S. congressional hearing of Mark Zuckerberg some time ago, where, in one of the questions, he was asked about email. There was just no connection between the reality of the data breach that was alleged to have occurred and legislators' knowledge of the context in which we are operating. Therefore, I hope that in a 15-year period we would start getting this right, because data and the transfer of data and how it is used is affecting every aspect of Canada.
That brings me to the next point. I hope we can get our act together on the economy in Canada. The way the economy is operating is fundamentally changing. Someone who is entering the workforce is not going to have the same paradigm that you and I, Mr. Speaker, did when we entered the economy. For a lot of people 18 and under, the reality is that full-time work in one job might not be available to them. Many people today work in the gig economy, driving Ubers, doing a little stint with Instacart during the day, or small contract work as opposed to sustained long-term work over time.
What does this mean for home ownership? What will home ownership even look like in 15 years? Does it exist in Canada? How do we ensure that people have opportunities to participate in the economy and that we are do not see income disparity growing over time? How do we sustain a middle class as the economy changes? These are things that deficit spending and small tweaks to the tax code are not going to address, because the economy has fundamentally changed and is fundamentally shifting. That reality is something I never hear us talk about here.
In 15 years, I hope we will have started to take this issue seriously and will not be looking at it with a regulatory approach, with government becoming even more onerous and ubiquitous and more entrenched in society. Rather, we need to focus on how we can allow people to prosper and innovate as the economy changes, which we should not necessarily see as either a good or bad thing, but just something that is happening that we need to adapt to in order to make sure that people can still prosper as we go forward. This is something we have not spent a lot of time discussing in this place, and I hope that we do in the future.
I also hope that we start looking pretty seriously at Canada's role in the world. Times have changed. Our relationship with the United States is not what it once was. We are seeing the heads of major global powers rearing, which could lead to some pretty serious instability over time. We have to ask a very difficult question: How do we maintain our country's sovereignty? We have to start taking that question very seriously. I do not think we are equipped to defend ourselves as a country. We need to do a better job in this place at really taking that seriously, understanding that procurement of military assets is not something that can be led by bureaucrats over a 20-year period who fail to deliver results when there are very real threats to our sovereignty, including in the north, with regard to trading relationships, and getting caught in the middle of disputes between large powers.
If in 15 years time we have not figured that out, we are going to have a major problem on our hands. I do see the world changing in that dynamic, and it is not for the better. We have to be prepared to stand strong and true if we are going to stand strong and free. That means that we really have to think about that. It also means that if we do believe in multilateralism, we do not allow these multilateral organizations around the world to dictate our policy without their being tasked for reform.
Many of our multilateral organizations 15 years ago were starting to their efficacy fall away from their original purposes when they were put into place after the great wars. I am concerned about where our country will be in 15 years time if we do not start pushing the status quo and some of the sacred cows associated with the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and other groups that have served the world in the past but now have questionable roles, given perhaps nebulous mandates or efficacy, and which do not, as Parliament does, stand up and realize that questioning dogma is something we are supposed to do in here from time to time.
I worry about where our country will be in 15 years. I have spoken to some issues here in the House. Why can we not talk about how the United Nations selects refugees, when we do not see them referring genocide victims to host countries, or about why the United Nations will not condemn Hamas?
Why can we not talk about how we interact with our allies in terms of military objectives, or about the role of multilateral organizations? Are they supposed to be giant bureaucracies that sometimes just provide contracts for management consultants and cocktail parties, or are they supposed to do something? What is that something, and what is Canada's role in that change over time? Is Canada's role sometimes to maybe say that everything is not working and that we need to tweak stuff? Is it our role to just stand idly by and say, “Nothing to see here”?
I would hope that in 15 years' time this chamber would become a place where we can question dogma, where although we might not agree on the policy instrument or outcome, we could at least agree that in order to move forward and to make progress, we cannot simply say there is nothing to see and nothing to change, when there is.
The other thing that I think we have to think about over a 15-year time period is the people we represent. That goes without saying in any instance, but we have seen movements around the world bringing governments to power for different reasons, but each reflective of the fact that there are a large number of people around the world who do not feel they are listened to or that they have a place in here, or who feel they are not represented by the people who might occupy this place in 15 years' time.
There are a lot of people around the world who have fought, and especially in our country, who have gone overseas to fight in missions, and who now question how they are treated at home. There are a lot of people whose skills are becoming out of date, as manufacturing processes and industries change, and they are asking, “What about me?” The response they often get from us is that, “You're wrong. You're not experiencing anything wrong. What you're feeling, what you're saying is wrong.” When we ignore the cries of people, we are failing in our job as parliamentarians.
That is something to keep in mind. Over a 15-year period, we cannot just listen to a certain group of privileged people when we are making our policy decisions. I would hope that over a 15-year time period we would start reinserting people's voices back into some of our policies that we bring forward, and that people's concerns would not be dismissed by labelling them, as certain people in this place are wont to do from time to time. Instead, we should actually reflect in our policies both the best data and the best outcomes, while also reflecting the challenges of the people we represent.
The reality is that we are paid to be here on behalf of those people. We are paid to serve them, not ourselves. If we fail to put their voices in our policies and to think about that over time, I think we will fail them. I am concerned about some of the choices we have made over the last 15 years. The state is ubiquitous. Very rarely in this place do we question the role of the state. We often talk about how we have added bureaucracy or regulation, or have increased the state, but we often do not talk about what we managing.
What concerns me is that time after time I see colleagues of all stripes walk in to read speeches prepared by government bureaucrats, without even reading them beforehand, or without even talking to their constituents about how they feel about a certain bill. When we allow our public service to dictate policy and direction, we fail in our role as parliamentarians. Even parliamentarians with a role in the government have a role to question what the government is doing, and the role of the state, be it around the cabinet table, in our caucuses and certainly here in this place.
I would hope that in 15 years we realize that it is not a sin to question dogma. I have seen that to be perhaps one of the most challenging things with respect to what has changed in this place over the last 15 years. We each have a responsibility to go back to the voices of people and reflect them in our policies and in the context of a changing economy.
I could spend lot of time talking about artificial intelligence. Maybe in 15 years we will not have jobs in here. We do not know. We have the tools to have a direct democracy. Maybe that is something the people of Canada will start talking about in a short period of time.
What do we need to do? Parliamentarians and all Canadians need to value critical thinking. When we talk about the changes in news, how news is consumed, what is news and what is true, I do not understand why we would support failed media business models or why we would talk about the fact that the government has to prop up or determine what is right and what is wrong. In a democracy and in a pluralism, it is up to us to critically evaluate with our own skill sets what is true, what is right, what everybody's agenda is. Those are our responsibilities in a democracy, condensed and coagulated and focused. As parliamentarians, they are even more so.
In 15 years' time, I would hope that we are not having conversations in here about the Speaker's role, Question Period or whose job it is to regulate the content of ministers. We are taking that responsibility on ourselves and we are coming up with what is right and true.
I hope that we also protect our pluralism. I hope that we protect our sovereignty. I hope that we do not cede the rights that we have as parliamentarians and as Canadians to other agencies or organizations around the world, that we do not cede our philosophies and our democracies to ideals that are not that, around the world. I hope that we reverse this path that we have been on of increasing the role of the state and go back to a role that is more free.
I would hope that people who follow us here above all come into this place and challenge dogma, that they challenge the status quo within their own parties, even when it is difficult, across the aisle when it is not so much so, and that they are receptive to different schools of thought.
The rights that we have in Canada are not static. We are the exception; we are not the rule around the world. We have to constantly protect our rights and assume that they are under threat, because they are, and our actions and our words in this place should reflect that.
In 15 years, I hope there is one thing that does not change and that is that the people in this place respect and love the people who love them, who stand behind them and make them better people, even in the day-to-day grind, the sausage making of this place, in the light of public scrutiny those who love us, who protect us, and who are there for us even on dark days.
In the dying minutes of my speech I would like to thank a few people who make my life easier. They are the engine behind the hood ornament. I would like to thank Sean Schnell, Julia Parsons, Bari Miller, Kim Tyres and Jillian Montalbetti for working like slaves over the last many years for the people of Calgary Nose Hill, and Paul Frank as well. I would also like to thank Jeff, Tori, Kori and Kepi for teaching me that there is more to life than this place from time to time.
In 15 years, I hope that we still remember how special it is and what a privilege it is to stand and serve people in this beautiful, wonderful free country. I hope that we continue to understand that what we have here is something that we have to fight for, even when it is amongst ourselves, and that it is indeed worth fighting for.
Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to speak after my colleague from . Her work on the Canada-U.S. file and the border, in particular, has been very important.
I am also very happy to stand in this place. As many MPs have said this week, this is likely my last speech here. Many of my friends, including my friend from , are probably happy about that. However, I can guarantee him that I will resume my speaking pace in the new chamber, as I know he will.
We all respect this institution, this chamber and the history it represents. Whether I agree with my friends on the other side or not, I respect their ability and freedom to make their case to Canadians, often a bad one, because this is their chamber. My constituents and Canadians who may be watching at home or online should know that we may disagree, but we try to do it without being disagreeable. Even though the member for will ask me a question full of bombast after my remarks, I respect him, nonetheless.
This is a unique occasion, given the frequency of the Senate to send back amendments. This is probably the first time I have spoken to a bill for the third time. That is probably quite normal for the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, but this is the third time I am speaking on Bill , which was introduced in June of 2016, with its companion bill, Bill , the pre-clearance act. I have spoken to both.
I worked on cross-border trade as a lawyer in the private sector and I was the public safety critic when this Parliament began. I have a raised a number of concerns with respect to the legislation, but have indicated that there is general support by the Conservatives of the entry and exit sharing of information with the U.S. that is represented in the Customs Act.
The amendment from the Senate, which brings us to debate this before the end of session, relates to something I raised in my September 2017 speech on Bill . I was concerned about the information sharing and the storage of the information that would be collected about Canadians leaving and returning to the country and the implications of that vast amount of personal data. Therefore, I am quite happy the Senate has proposed more with respect to the retention of that data, limiting it to 15 years. This is why I support the Senate amendment and I am happy to speak to it today. It is an example of both Houses of Parliament working the way they can, making the bill better.
This is a rare occasion where I am supportive of both the original legislation and the amendment from the Senate.
I have been a representative in this chamber for six years. In fact, tomorrow marks six years to the day since I was escorted into this chamber as a by-election winner. I am getting the golf clap from a few of my Liberal friends, and I will take that over heckles any day. It is a very special day for me. I spoke about that on the radio last week.
On the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012, Prime Minister Harper and Jim Flaherty, a close friend of our family, led me into the House as a new by-election winner. I took my seat in the rump, and I have tried to make a difference ever since. To be true to form in my last speech, especially a 20-minute speech, in the chamber, and I am sorry to inform my Liberal friends of that fact, I would be remiss if I were not somewhat partisan and point to wider issues that should concern Canadians with respect to the Customs Act changes.
As I said, Bill and Bill , its companion bill, have been with us since June 2016. The Liberals are rushing it through with time allocation on debate and pushing it through in the final days. We are almost in 2019. For almost two and a half years, this legislation has sort of languished in Ottawa. That shows there are efficiency problems with the government.
I will devote my remarks to what Canadians should ask when it comes to our border. Bill C-21 and Bill C-23 would make profound changes to the way Canada and the U.S. operate the borders.
Bill is the pre-clearance bill, which would allow American ICE officials, immigration and customs enforcement officers to search Canadians on Canadian soil. It probably would shock a lot of Canadians if they had to do a pre-clearance. That will work in a lot of cases to speed up time at the border, which is why we supported it.
Bill has entry and exit sharing of information, which is also something that is quite unparalleled. That is why data protection measures are bringing this debate back to the floor of the House of Commons. They are the most substantial additions to the relationship between the United States in a generation and a slight erosion of sovereignty. That can be a good thing if Canada is getting more in return in response to this, but it can also be something about which we pause.
Those elements were part of the beyond the border initiative, which I worked on in the former Harper government as the parliamentary secretary for international trade, so I support these measures. However, let us see how the Liberals have allowed the Canada-U.S. relationship to atrophy terribly in the three years of the Liberal government.
The , then the MP for Regina—Wascana, in February 2011, with his appropriate degree of outrage, asked Prime Minister Harper, “Could the Prime Minister at least guarantee minimum gains for Canada? For example, will he get rid of U.S. country of origin labelling?” He went on to to ask if we would get softwood protections and have the Americans eliminate buy American. What was the minister of public safety demanding at that time? He wanted some clear wins for Canada if we were to give up the entry and exit information.
During debate on the exact elements of Bill , when this was being contemplated by the Harper government, the Liberals said that before we acceded to the American request, they wanted to know what Canada would get in return. That is what their most senior member of the cabinet said.
Diplomatic relations even with our closest friend, trading partner and ally are a give and take. It is not just to take or give, give and nothing in return. At the time, the member for Regina—Wascana wanted to see Canada gain, whether it was with the unfair country of origin labelling or other elements of our complex trade relationship.
Bill and Bill would allow the Americans to inspect and search Canadians on our own soil. What have we gained? Absolutely nothing. In fact, under the 's watch, our relationship with the U.S. has atrophied beyond all recognition. It is not just because of the current occupant of the White House.
Therefore, I will spend a few minutes exploring that and what the former public safety minister demanded. Where are the wins for Canada as we allow more and more American intrusion on decisions related to customs and the border?
In November 2015, President Obama, with a new Liberal in office, cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL pipeline was one of the reasons that former prime minister Harper was reticent to pass entry and exit information sharing. We wanted that quid pro quo. We wanted the Americans to approve a pipeline to once again try to get better market prices, more market access for our resources, which is something we are struggling with as a country right now.
We withheld that element of what was a priority for the U.S. in terms of foreign policy to try and secure a win. The prime minister caved within months. He said that he was disappointed. Later he introduced President Obama in this chamber as his “bromance” and he said it was a relationship of “dudeplomacy”. It was a one-way relationship. He did get a state dinner on March 11, 2016. At that dinner, the prime minister said they were closer than friends.
What else did our announce the same day in Washington? With zero consultation with indigenous and territorial leaders, he agreed to ban future development on 17% of Arctic lands and 10% of Arctic waters. It was pure surrender to what President Obama wanted to do in his final months in office. Once again, it was a one-way relationship.
Let us see what the longest-serving Inuk Liberal senator said about that. When I asked retired senator Charlie Watt about the 's unilateral action, he said, “There have never been clear consultations.” He went on to say that the federal government said, “This is what's going to happen.”
Is that consultation when a respected Inuk leader and a former Senate colleague of some of the Liberal MPs is basically told by the government what is going to happen? Territorial premiers said they were given an hour or so heads-up on the announcement by Canada's in Washington.
Under President Obama, the was giving up the entry and exit priority which for years the Americans had been asking for and bringing in Bill on pre-clearance. We lost Keystone and we eroded our own sovereignty and that of our Inuit and Inuk people in our north, which are two huge losses under the first president's relationship with the Prime Minister.
The same day I questioned retired Senator Watt, there was an aboriginal law expert at committee. I asked her if the had violated the country's duty to consult indigenous Canadians as dictated by the Supreme Court of Canada. Robin Campbell's answer was, “The simple answer is yes.” He also breached this duty to consult when he cancelled the northern gateway pipeline.
There are many instances when the 's posturing and kind words on reconciliation are not matched by his actions. I would like to see more accountability for that. In fact, I invite Canadians to look at at Chief Fox's column in yesterday's Globe and Mail which says on Bill , the anti-pipeline bill, that there have been no consultations.
There is really nice language but bad actions. Those are the first two elements of the declining Canada–U.S. relationship under President Obama.
What has it been since? We now have the legalization of cannabis, which really is the only promise the Liberals have kept from their 2015 election platform. The , despite the state dinner and despite acceding to many Canadian demands, could not even get the Americans to remove one question, the marijuana question, from the pre-clearance screening on that side of the border. A lot of Canadians should be concerned. If they are asked that question, they could lose the ability to travel to the United States. This could impact people's economic ability to pursue a job or go to the United States because of work. It could impair their freedom of movement. All we needed to do was to get assurance from the U.S. federal government that immigration and custom enforcement, ICE, would not ask that question. We could not even get the U.S. to remove one question from a list.
With Bill , the companion bill, we are allowing Americans to search Canadians on Canadian soil. It is a one-way relationship that Canadians should be concerned about. That issue was under both President Obama and now under President Trump because it took some time for the Liberals to complete their legalization of cannabis. That was one of the concerns the Conservatives held out from day one: Make sure the border issue is resolved with the Americans. We could not get that assurance.
Let us look at NORAD. The Conservatives urged the Liberals to complete our full NORAD security partnership making sure that we are a partner on ballistic missile defence. Had we started talking about security at the time there was missile testing by North Korea, that would have, in the early days of President Trump's time in the White House, shown Canada as the only trade and security partner with the United States, period. Through NORAD, we have a North American defence and have had since the 1950s. Since the 1965 Auto Pact, only Canada has had a trade and integrated security relationship with the United States, which is why we could have been able to avoid section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, which I will get into later. However, we missed an opportunity to actually show partnership to the United States at a time that was critical.
What did we do instead? The Liberals postured in front of the new U.S. president, putting up non-binding criteria for the negotiation of NAFTA, the progressive agenda, to play politics rather than to get down to business with the Americans. With the border, the cannabis question and NORAD are issues three and four where the relationship has declined.
I would also mention the safe third country agreement. My colleague from talked about the 40,000 people who have illegally crossed the border in Manitoba and Quebec claiming asylum when the government knows that the vast majority of them have no substantive asylum claim. They actually have status in the United States. The minister did not even, for the first year or more, talk to the U.S. about amendments to close the loophole in the safe third country agreement, which is an agreement that was negotiated by the previous Liberal government of Jean Chrétien. Once again, the Liberals did not want to interfere with the 's tweet rather than fix the system.
It is interesting, because the current in February 2011 called the entry and exit system with the Americans a surrender of sovereignty. He said, “If we have a common entry and exit system, does it not follow that Canada no longer has sovereign Canadian control over immigration and refugees?” This is a Liberal, now a minister, who was saying that when the Conservative government was considering entry and exit visas.
The Liberal government's inaction and incompetence at the border has surrendered our sovereign control at a time when the Liberals are also going around the world saying that their model should be a best practice used by the world. Canadian confidence in their handling of our system has eroded terribly. That is probably the worst of their failures in our time, and it is allowing Canadian confidence to go down through the Liberals' own inaction.
Finally, with respect to tariffs and NAFTA in general, we were given a one-way, take-it-or-leave-it deal. For two months, the United States and Mexico were at the negotiation table and Canada was not. Mexico played the relationship and the negotiation much more strategically than we did. There was too much politics by the and his minister, and we were given a take-it-or-leave-it deal where we lost on all fronts. There is no win in NAFTA.
When it comes to tariffs, when I spoke to the bill for the second time in May 2018, I warned the that tariffs were on the way. In fact, when Canada was granted a temporary reprieve from steel and aluminum tariffs, on March 11, the said when he was touring steel communities, “as long as there is a free trade deal in North America there won't be tariffs”. Well, I guess he broke that one. He went on to say, “We had your backs last week and we always will.” That was in March.
In May, in debate on Bill , I warned the that tariffs were coming, because the Americans did not take our security considerations over supply of steel from China seriously. Sadly, in June, the U.S. unfairly applied tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, sending our economy into a tailspin in manufacturing in southern Ontario, leading eventually to what we saw with GM and a crisis of confidence in manufacturing. In part, it is because the retaliatory tariffs we brought in were not hurting the Americans but they are hurting many of our suppliers. As I said, Bill and Bill were a wholesale surrender to U.S. demands with respect to customs and pre-clearance.
The current demanded in 2011 that Canada, for giving up these elements, should gain something. We have not gained. I will review this for Canadians: Keystone, the Arctic ban, the cannabis question for the border, NORAD partnerships, the safe third country loophole, steel and aluminum tariffs and a take-it-or-leave-it NAFTA.
As I said at the outset, while I support Bill and the amendment, Canadians need to know that the Canada-U.S. relationship which is critical is not a one-way street where the Americans get what they want and we get nothing. It is about time we see the and his minister stand up for Canadian interests in return for Bill .