Madam Speaker, I am honoured to split my time with the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, which is a beautiful place in Canada. I appreciate the member's work on this file, along with that of several others. He has had a long tenure in the House, so I will be looking forward to his comments after mine.
With regard to the Conservative motion in front of us, I come from Windsor, Ontario, which is the automotive capital of Canada. It is also a border crossing in Canada with a maximum volume of trade taking place. We have grown up with this as a part of our DNA in our area.
In this debate today, I want to tackle not only a little about the auto industry, but also some of the CBSA elements that are being put forward in this motion. It is a bit emotional for me because, in my community, we have seen the struggle of, as well as the lack of support for, the workers, the men and women who are on the front line of protecting our country from the United States. The longest, undefended border in the world is between Canada and the United States. At the same time, there are some very bad people who have tried to cross over with some bad intentions. Some of them are our own citizens, while others are American citizens. These instances have significant consequences, as any border MP would know, from Hamilton to Fort Erie and Niagara Falls, to other parts of Canada, even out to the west coast. I want to refer to that a bit later.
However, I want to point out one thing that we have not talked a lot about. We should not let the auto industry off for its lack of innovation in stopping auto theft. Billions of dollars have gone into the auto sector for innovations, and I have supported that because they are very important. At the same time, with the lack of a Canadian national auto policy, there is little we can do. There has been a carrot-and-stick approach to the issue.
Looking at this historically, my father was an executive for Chrysler for much of his career. I remember the days when we heard debates on a number of different issues that were brought to the auto sector, and it refused to put in innovations. One of the most obvious ones from the history books was the issue of seat belts. Those in the auto sector actually resisted having them for many years. There were also auto makers who did not want to stop having smoking devices and smoking elements in their cars. There were others who had innovations in their vehicles that turned out to be bad for the public, such as headlights that would pop up and recess at different times.
There have been a lot of great innovations and good things that have taken place within the auto sector, but the personal vehicle manufacturing industry does bear some responsibility. When there is massive public support to help transition this industry into a modern, safer place for all of us, then there is an expectation that public policy should be a part of that, and stopping auto thefts should also be a part of it. They have moved to automatic start devices as a competitive practice in the industry. At the same time, they have not kept up with the fact that someone can hack into these systems. There is a dual obligation in these matters.
I have worked with the auto industry over a number of years. I am sure that, if we put proper pressure on it and responsibility afterward if it does not do that, then we would get some achievements to help Canadians. We have to remember that losing a vehicle is not just a financial crime. The vehicles can often be used for a theft during that moment, with other victims, along with other types of crime that take place. We have focused on this a lot.
I am going to transition to the exportation issue because Canada has basically become a cottage industry for many of the organized crime elements that want to steal our vehicles to sell abroad. The reality is that auto theft in general has significant consequences, not for its individual crime, but for the subsequent crimes that take place once the vehicle is lifted.
I mentioned the history of the men and women who serve on our border. I want people to picture what it is like to be at the border. I have a busy community where there are tens of thousands of people who cross every single day. When I was growing up, many times there would be a summer student, rather than a border officer, in the PIL booth that we pull up to. Sometimes, people had to borrow bulletproof vests because they did not have enough vests at the border for our workers. I remember those days.
If one were to go to where they are right now, one would see that they are finally armed and have some support. In the past, they would have to rely on municipal, provincial or federal police forces when there were problems with Americans and others showing up with arms or other types of illegal weaponry, drugs and other things. We have to remember that, even under the best of circumstances, they could have somebody pulling up who is their friend, neighbour, family member, or somebody they know from their community who they are coaching soccer or hockey for. They have a job that is really hard in making sure that they do the proper scrutiny of every single person that crosses. They are making sure our country is safe.
That job is very much a strained job in many respects, and it does not get the support or understanding that it should. I believe this is what led to a famous quote in the House, for which I have yet to hear the Liberals officially apologize for, when Derek Lee called our border officers “wimps” because they walked off the job when armed Americans were coming. They had been identified as having criminal backgrounds, and border officers had to walk off because there were not proper supports at that time, even from law enforcement. This brought a lot of clarity to me on how far away this place is from the job that needs to be done at our borders to keep us safe.
We have seen successive Liberal and Conservative governments not even finish out the terms of collective agreements before they have to start bargaining again. That is just one thing. What I am trying to impress upon this debate is that this is a cultural thing. We can talk about finally restoring some of the cuts that took place under the Conservative regime, such as when it cut the detector dogs or when it cut back on officers, or under the Liberals right now and the poor training program that has left us thousands of workers short. We are short 2,000 to 3,000 border service officers right now.
We also have to change the culture of that organization itself, and it will be beneficial to hold a round table on that, but I wonder how much the union is being included in this.
I was included in a town hall meeting in Montreal on gun violence when Ralph Goodale was public safety minister, and sadly, all those efforts went nowhere because the government never followed up on the meeting. The subsequent government did not either.
When we talk about the specifics of what is taking place in Montreal, there are some very specific issues that can be resolved. It has limited space and a current team that consists of eight officers who look at the exportation of vehicles and whether vehicles are stolen or not. There are vehicles properly being exported and others that are not, and there is a limited number of officers looking at this. There is a fixation right now on making sure the imports are prioritized over the exports. Again, if we are putting the strain on the officers to get the vehicles out into our supply chain, we then need to reprioritize how we are doing it.
The Conservative motion does not really give us a whole lot on that. We also know the Port of Montreal is short on space. That area is short on space, so the vehicles get stacked up, even the ones that have been found to be illegal. The workers then need to call in the Montreal police force to help get rid of them because they do not have the right equipment. I talked about the bulletproof vests needing to be shared among workers back in the day. In this situation, they do not even have a tow truck or the capability to clear out the space. Management has not done anything to increase the space available, so they have rented space to look at these exports. On top of that, there has been no solution to increase that space or for them to get their own space. People are left with very practical problems that create problems for the inspections.
It is important to talk about the fact we have a management-heavy industry right in the CBSA culture and with hiring at the CBSA. In some areas, there are seven managers to six officers. There should be a better ratio of boots on the ground. The government has focused on the worst things it could focus on, such as the ArriveCAN app, where it focused on developing an app versus training officers. This is one of the worst things it could do.
We need to stop looking at technology as being the only silver bullet in dealing with this situation. The problem is that the technology we do bring in is so often broken. Right now, there is screening and other types of equipment in Montreal that had to be brought in from Windsor, Ontario, because the equipment in Montreal could not be fixed. If we are going to rely on technology, we need to have the proper and sustainable environment for it and we need to train the workers.
I want to complete with a very important point, which is about the training of officers. Currently, one has to come in as a recruit who does not get paid. We need to start hiring, training and supporting those people. We need to be giving better opportunities for the training to take place so we can make getting boots on the ground a reality.