Preclearance Act, 2016
Madam Speaker, I know it is the end of the sitting and I am happy to rise to debate Bill C-23. The ability for me to speak on it is a privilege.
My friend, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, seemed to end the sitting a little early. He was already changing into Hawaiian shirts for the summer. He did not have his tie on. I have a lot of time for the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, particularly his concern for our men and women in uniform. I know he has been advocating on some mental health reforms, which have had him at odds with the Minister of Veterans Affairs sometimes. I respect him for doing that. I will chide him, but I will also compliment him. He also attended the Highway of Heroes Durham Light Armoured Vehicle launch in Durham last year, and that was an honourable thing to do. When he is appropriately attired, he is a very good member in this place.
Today, I want to take the time I am privileged to have to talk, for a moment, about the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship. It has been commented on throughout the history of Canada. In many ways, we can look to Canada as a country of evolution as opposed to revolution, as one historian said. We certainly both had our roots in the British influence, although of course Canada had two founding nations in France as well. We have the parliamentary democracy in our system of government that we owe to that time. Then Canada evolved with Confederation, which we will be celebrating on July 1, recognizing 150 years of the Dominion of Canada.
Then the statute of Westminster, which kind of cut the cord with the mother country, so to speak, allowed us to emerge following the Great War. Our independent actions were celebrated, quite rightly, in France in April, with the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. Canada very much earned its place on the world state through the blood, sweat, and efforts of our forebearers.
No relationship is more important to us than the U.S. relationship.
Each prime minister has brought their own approach to it, but I do not think any of them would say it is not the most fundamental relationship of which the Prime Minister needs to think.
In fact, the father of the current Prime Minister is quite famous for his quote, which he delivered in Washington. with respect to the U.S. relationship. He said that Canada “is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant…where we feel every twitch and grunt.” That is true. When the American economy stalled in the years of the great recession, it really took the leadership of Stephen Harper and the Conservative government to ensure we were not pulled into the depths of the global recession and the great recession the Americans saw in the United States. I am very proud we did not see that disruption, with hundreds of thousands of people permanently displaced from the workforce. In Canada, we saw a net job gain in excess of a million jobs at the end of the recession.
At times, our policies are similar. At times, we collaborate. Many times in our great history of two countries, we fought alongside one another.
I had the honour as an MP on the veterans affairs committee, to visit the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice in Arlington National Cemetery, some of the most hallowed ground in the United States. Mackenzie King erected a Cross of Sacrifice to the hundreds of Americans who died in the Great War, fighting with Canadian units. We recognize that in both the First World War and the Second World War, Canada was in the war faster than the United States, despite attempts by the government to suggest we had 150 years of peacekeeping in our past. We were in those conflicts alongside our allies and alongside our values before our friends in the United States and their own sons and, in some cases, daughters came to Canada to help the war effort.
We have a proud history as friends, as trading partners, as collaborators, as people who fought and bled together.
In all of those things, along with familial ties, and I am sure a lot of us in this chamber have relatives living and working in the United States, create a bond that is precious. Therefore, the relationship between Canada and the United States of America is critical.
Conservative governments throughout our history, particularly the Harper government and the Mulroney government, took that relationship very seriously, a relationship of equals, fighting for deals, fighting for agreements that were in our national interest. We can get along with a friend, an ally, a neighbour, but we can also fight for our own interests.
The reason I have this long prologue to my speech is because Bill C-23 represents probably the most one-sided ineffective deal I have seen in my four years in politics. I bring to that experience from my time in the military and the private sector.
The relationship between Canada and the United States, under the current Prime Minister, has been a one-sided relationship with two U.S. presidents now. This has been the history of the Liberals. We saw the antagonism under the Chrétien government, with officials from the Prime Minister’s Office having to resign for publicly criticizing a U.S. president. One of the Liberal members from Mississauga made inappropriate comments about a head of state. We have seen that relationship frayed and abused under the Liberal governments, and this is a perfect example.
I will use Bill C-23 as the example of that erosion because it comes out of the Prime Minister‘s trip to Washington last March. On that day, as he is apt to do, the Prime Minister issued a tweet from Washington, which stated, “There is no relationship in the world quite like the Canada-US relationship.” I would agree.
Months later, the Prime Minister introduced President Obama in this chamber, the then president of the United States, before he left office. He embarrassed many of us in the House when he then referred to the two of them as a “bromance” and that these speeches would be an example of “dudeplomacy”. I hope Hansard can get that right. It is an anagram using the words “dude” and “diplomacy”. It is unbefitting for the Prime Minister of Canada to introduce the then president of the United States in our House of Commons that way. It was the same podium where Winston Churchill spoke and gave the “Some chicken! Some neck!” speech in the midst of the Second World War. To now have a Prime Minister who uses such laughable and immature terms shows why our relationship with the United States is fraying.
With that bromance in mind, how did Canada fare under the current Liberal government and President Obama? Within months of the Liberals assuming office, the president cancelled Keystone XL, a pipeline that would have ensured that Canadians got the fair world price, or a more, for our resources. It was a project championed by Canadian industry, by people who get their hands dirty in the oil sands in Alberta. Corporate Canada wanted to fund and finance it so our resource could be refined and we could have multiple options to get a better world price. He cancelled that deal because he knew the new Liberal Prime Minister would simply accept that.
Ironically, the change in politics in the United States has led to a president who is re-evaluating that deal, because Keystone has virtually zero impact on climate change. That assessment is from the U.S. State Department.
Therefore, Obama knew that he would receive silence from the Prime Minister with respect to a decision that hurt our economy and particularly hurt the province of Alberta, which we know is suffering terribly at the moment. Therefore, we lost Keystone under the bromance.
What else did Canada get? President Obama praised the Prime Minister‘s carbon tax scheme and carbon pricing across the country. However, we certainly did not see President Obama introducing a carbon tax regime in the United States. Therefore, by praising the ill-informed move of the Canadian Prime Minister, President Obama allowed the Prime Minister to put Canada and our North American integrated economy at a disadvantage. The manufacturing facilities in the auto sector and other industries in southern Ontario compete against U.S. plants for business.
The Bakken shale deposit in Saskatchewan does not end at the Canada-U.S. border. Therefore, if there is going to be an input cost for carbon at a plant in Windsor, because of the Prime Minister and Kathleen Wynne plan, and there is not in Michigan mere kilometres away, where do members think the new vehicle will go?
I had the honour of being legal counsel for Procter & Gamble in Brockville. I was very proud that. For many years, every Swiffer pad members used in their homes was made there, in Canada, by people in Ontario. However, these plants are integrated. Of course, consolidation of manufacturing is now happening at an American plant and it has announced the closure of the largest employer in Brockville.
The U.S. president at the time, Mr. Obama, watched as the Liberal Prime Minister put Canada’s economy at a competitive disadvantage.
The third issue is defence. Mr. Obama mentioned that in the chamber as well, asking Canada to step up more to meet our NATO requirement, which is 2% of GDP. In the last two weeks, the government released, with great fanfare, a defence policy, but it is fantasy. The Liberals’ first two budgets cut $12 billion from defence. However, if we trust them, sometime before 2026, they will put more money back in.
I judge people not by their words but by their actions. I had quoted Mark Twain for the Liberal government. “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” The government has platitudes aplenty, but very little action when it comes to supporting our Canadian Armed Forces and supporting our manufacturing and resource sectors.
That brings me to Bill C-23. I am glad my friends on that side are still listening at this point. Hopefully they will see I am right.
Why do I call this the worst deal in Canadian-U.S.?
Some members agree with it and some do not, but the Prime Minister‘s signature promise was to legalize marijuana. Therefore, this preclearance bill should have anticipated that move. However, I will tell people why this is the most comprehensive change to customs agreements between Canada in the United States.
We are giving the Americans the ability to have American officials search Canadians on Canadian soil, and I wish I were kidding. In clause 5, definitions, of Bill C-23 are frisk search and strip search. I am sad to say this late in the sitting, but in clause 23 is a monitored bowel movement. Therefore, it is an unprecedented, literally, level of access and powers, five enumerated grounds of powers for U.S. officials on our soil, including the gathering of biometric data.
What did we get in return?
The United States and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE, did not even agree to remove one simple question on preclearance: “Have you ever smoked marijuana?” The Prime Minister could not even get that one question removed from the U.S. preclearance. Why is that important? Because, despite Colorado and some of the U.S. states, if a Canadian answers “yes” to that question, he or she can be banned from the United States. Therefore, people will be losing jobs, and we are already hearing of that, at a time when the government is legalizing marijuana.
The Liberal government seems to forget its evidence-based decision-making, which the Liberals talked a lot about in opposition, including my friend for Winnipeg North. It is bad for the public’s health. The Canadian Medical Association has criticized this decision. It is also bad on public safety and customs.
Canadians may think it is all fine because the Liberals are legalizing marijuana, but the Americans can still ask them that question, and they can then be banned from travel to the United States.
I was intrigued when the member for Yukon rose in debate here, because the other disaster of the March 10 agreement in Washington was what the Prime Minister did to our Arctic. With zero consultation with the Inuit and first nations of our north, the Prime Minister unilaterally agreed with President Obama to restrict 10% of our waterways and 17% of our land mass in the Arctic from development. Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day. I guess he missed the duty to consult there. President Obama asked him to do it, and he gave a cursory phone call to territorial and aboriginal leaders mere hours before he pledged to give away their right to determine their destiny.
I heard about it when I was in Yukon. I know my former colleague, Leona Aglukkaq, was outraged by the Prime Minister‘s acting in that fashion. Right now the Prime Minister has not even been to Yukon. He has been to private islands and all over the world, but he has not been to Yukon, and we have no cabinet representation from our Arctic. That was another disaster from the March 10 agreement in Washington.
The Prime Minister and President Obama also talked about the Paris accord, but as I said before, although President Obama praised the Liberal carbon tax, he certainly did not emulate it, and we are now falling further and further behind when it comes to competitiveness on a North American basis.
Bill C-23 is the culmination of a one-way relationship: the Americans get what they want, and under this Prime Minister, Canada accepts. With Bill C-23, the Liberals could not even get the Americans to take one preclearance question out of the ICE questions they can ask Canadians. They could not even get one question removed, but they are prepared to allow American officials to search our people on Canadian soil and they think that is fine.
The relationship between our two countries is critical, but it is also critical to look at it as a relationship of equals. So far, all that I have seen the current government achieve in Washington is a state dinner, tickets for family and friends, and lots of photos. In fact, if we look at the tweets, the public safety minister was more impressed with tours of the Oval Office in Washington in March than he was in securing a deal in Canada’s interests. At a time when we are seeing our auto and resources industries falling farther and farther behind, with marijuana becoming legal, people feel they can just voluntarily tell an American official that they have smoked marijuana. They probably do not know that they could lose their ability to travel for work because the Liberals could not get that one question removed.
Finally, the most egregious element of that day in Washington that led to Bill C-23 was the mistreatment of our Arctic and the lack of respect for our Inuit and first nations. The Prime Minister, who talks about healing the relationship as being central to the current government, gave a courtesy phone call to territorial leaders minutes before announcing that he was restricting their ability to be the masters of their destiny over their traditional lands and their traditional waterways.
I am glad my friends on the government side have listened intently. I hope they can reflect on these elements and how critical it is for Canada to have a mature foreign policy with our friends in the United States. I hope they can come back in the fall and rein in the Prime Minister and tell him that we want deals that are not just good for Canada, for our workers, for our first nations, and for our aboriginal people, but we want to make sure that our friends in the United States take us seriously. It is more than just tweets, photos, and state dinners; it is about getting a result that is good for Canada.