Border bill a good one

More to gain than lose with C-23

An effective border is one that supports the efficient movement of goods and people.

In 2015, Canada exported over $400 billion worth of goods and $50 billion in services to the United States, while tourism activities accounted directly for $35.5 billion of Canada’s GDP and over 600,000 jobs.

Every day, over 400,000 travellers cross the Canada-U.S. border.

With that in mind, in 2015, Canadian and American governments agreed to provide for the preclearance in each country of travelers and goods bound for the other country. In Canada, the agreement will be enacted through Bill C-23, which was introduced in the House of Commons last June and is now being debated in Parliament.

Prior to establishing preclearance crossings, Canadian travellers had only one option: to be processed at ports of entry by U.S. security, in the United States, under U.S. law.

Today, with preclearance, Canadians are cleared by U.S. border security, in Canada, under Canadian law, which includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Both Liberal and Conservative parties have indicated they will support the legislation while the NDP and the Green Party have indicated they will not, citing concerns that C-23 gives U.S. border security more powers.

C-23 however makes clear the limits on those powers. For instance, U.S. preclearance officers in Canada will not have the power to arrest or charge travellers, nor do they have primary jurisdiction to conduct searches.

In the rare instance where American officers may proceed to conduct a search, they are subject to the same legal, human rights and constitutional safeguards as would apply to Canadian officers.

C-23 also recognizes the right of Canadians to withdraw from preclearance. To avoid illicit "probing" of preclearance sites by those who are trying to detect weak points or deficiencies, American officials will be legally entitled to question travellers to establish identification and the reason for their withdrawal.

Finally, as the agreement is reciprocal, the same provisions are being made to allow Canadian preclearance officers to conduct preclearance in the same manner in the US.

With the advantages of preclearance, Canadian travellers heading to the U.S. have more to gain than lose. In my view, C-23 strikes the appropriate balance between security concerns and individual rights while offering Canadians a way to clear U.S. customs in their own country under the protection of Canadian law.

By moving travellers through customs in a safe and efficient manner, and by maintaining each country’s sovereign authority to regulate access by setting and enforcing our own rules, Canada and the United

States will continue to benefit from sharing the longest, most open and successful international boundary in history.

I invite my constituents to view Bill C-23 at www.parl.gc.ca and to follow the debate in the House of Commons. If you continue to have concerns, I encourage you to write to me. Constituents can reach me by contacting our constituency office at [email protected] or by calling 250 470-5075.


Addressing the social deficit

Budget 2017 recognizes that it is the right time to make investments in the economy and people to drive growth and build resilient communities. 

For too long, the growing social deficit has been overlooked, leaving municipalities without the resources to adequately plan for and address critical shortages like affordable housing and public transit.

This places a greater burden on many low and modest income households, making it harder to accomplish other goals from raising families to pursuing education, jobs and opportunity.

The lack of affordable housing is particularly challenging for those living on fixed incomes, especially seniors.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities reacted positively to Budget 2017, calling it a game changer because it gives municipalities the tools it needs to drive growth and a higher quality of life by providing real housing dollars and putting cities in the driver’s seat where transit planning is concerned.

As part of a new National Housing Strategy, the government will invest more than $11.2 billion in a range of initiatives designed to build, renew and repair Canada’s stock of affordable housing and help to ensure that Canadians have adequate and affordable housing that meets their needs.

This will improve housing conditions and accessibility for many including seniors, persons with disabilities and Indigenous people not living on-reserve.

The government has also committed to investing $20.1 billion over 11 years through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories to support urban public transit networks and service extensions. 

This funding will help  support Kelowna Regional Transit and the Central Okanagan Transit Future Action Plan.

Twenty years ago, Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin vowed to address the federal government’s chronic deficit problems and did. It was a necessity.

Now in 2017, Canada’s economic situation is quite different, making it the opportune time to invest in our communities:

  • Canada’s fiscal capacity is healthy; we remain at the top of the G7 in terms of our debt to GDP ratio
  • Interest rates are low, making our debt loads manageable
  • The employment rate has dropped from 7.1 per cent to 6.6 per cent
  • The country has created 250,000 jobs, mostly full time in the last year; and we have seen modest growth in the manufacturing sector.

C. Scott Clark, former deputy minister of Finance, and Peter C. DeVries, former director, Fiscal Policy Division at the Department of Finance, noted in a recent National Post article that budget deficits of one per cent of GDP do not constitute a fiscal crisis. 

“Every G20 minister of Finance would love to have this kind of fiscal situation. Eliminating the deficit would not only be bad fiscal policy, it would mean that the Liberal government would be unable to implement the programs and policies it was elected on," they said.

As a former business person, I know that there is a time to save and a time to invest.

Our government’s willingness to work with our provincial, territorial and municipal partners to tackle some of our most pressing local issues from affordable housing, childcare and home care, to employment and skills training, the cost of post-secondary education and clean water and transit infrastructure will have a positive impact on our community.

By making key strategic investments where they are needed, and with the fiscal capacity to do so, we will reduce the social deficit, help many low and modest income Canadians join the middle class, support long-term economic gains, and maintain the quality of life Canadians have come to expect.

Stand against Islamophobia

After the murders of six men at a Quebec mosque last month, Canadians quickly rallied around our Muslim neighbours.

The voices that spoke publicly, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were measured and rational, emphasizing our values of inclusiveness and diversity.

How quickly we have forgotten what is important.

In the last few days, my colleague Iqra Khalid—the Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erin Mills—has been subjected to a flurry of baseless accusations, hateful spoken attacks and death threats because her motion 103 calls on the House of Commons to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; and condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Several constituents have expressed their fear and outrage that Parliament would even consider supporting such a motion, seeing it as an affront to their right to speak out about radical Islam and, in their view, paving the way to a permanent curtailment of their rights.

Much of their fear has been fuelled by misinformation and a misunderstanding of parliamentary process.

The fact is that while reported hate crimes across the country are decreasing, the incidents of reported hate crimes against Canadian Muslims have doubled.

Khalid is a Canadian Muslim woman concerned about growing racism and discrimination in our society, especially against Canadian Muslims. 

Yet, in exercising her right to express her concerns, she has been accused of elevating one religion above all others and trying to undermine every Canadian’s right to freedom of speech.

Khalid’s motion does none of that. 

The motion is neither binding on the government nor can it change our laws or take away our rights and freedoms.

Freedom to speak out against rising discrimination is what makes Canada egalitarian.  

Over the 150 years of our history, parliamentarians have tabled motions against racism, anti-Semitism, gender bias and homophobia.  

And each time we have identified the discrimination, we have created a more cohesive and diverse society, not a more divided one.

Words do indeed have power and effect, and debate will continue about the use of the word Islamophobia in motion 103. 

While I have expressed my preference to remove it, I agree with the spirit of the motion, which is that we have a responsibility to address all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination, including anti-Muslim sentiment, in Canada.

By rejecting racism and discrimination, we are bringing this issue to the surface and acknowledging the difficulties some of our communities face. 

If we can make it work here, we will continue to be a beacon for the rest of the world.


A drug law with weight

As Parliament pauses for the holiday season, I want to share with you two important announcements made this past week that will have an impact on our community and country in 2017.

Marijuana task force reports to Parliament and Canadians

Our government has committed to legalizing, strictly regulating and restricting access to cannabis, to help keep it out of the hands of youth and keep profits out of the hands of criminals.

In June, our government established a task force to consult on issues fundamental to the design of a new legislative and regulatory system for restricted access to marijuana.

At the same time, a discussion paper, which included background information and key questions, was provided as a starting point for consultations.

The task force, which was led by Anne McLellan, chancellor of Dalhousie University and former Liberal cabinet minister, travelled across Canada, and to the U.S states where cannabis was legalized.

They met with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and experts in relevant fields, including public health, substance abuse, criminal justice, law enforcement, economics, industry and those with expertise in production, distribution, and sales.

The task force also engaged representatives from Indigenous governments and organizations, as well as Canadian youth.

As of Dec. 13, the task force’s final report has been completed and submitted to our government, and been made available to the public and all parliamentarians at the same time.

The final report is available online in both official languages at http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/task-force-marijuana-groupe-etude/framework-cadre/index-eng.php.

The government will carefully consider the task force’s advice as it develops legislation to be introduced in Parliament in the spring of 2017.

The new legislation would come into force after being passed by Parliament and once the requisite regulations have been developed.

As we move forward with legislation, we will continue to work closely and collaboratively with the provinces and territories as well as with Indigenous communities, our partners and stakeholders. 

I encourage constituents who have an interest in this issue to review the report and share your thoughts with me.

Safe consumption sites

Health Minister Jane Philpott announced the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, which will replace the national anti-drug strategy with a more balanced approach.

A record number of Canadians have died from drug overdoses this year, including those involving fentanyl.

Building on actions taken earlier this year, our government is updating its drug strategy to provide for a comprehensive approach that will reduce the harm being experienced by individuals and communities.

The bill would repeal the previous, burdensome legislative regime for establishing supervised consumption sites by streamlining the application process.

It restores harm reduction as a core pillar of Canada’s drug policy, alongside prevention, treatment, and enforcement and supports all pillars with a strong evidence base.

The legislation also proposes to prohibit the unregistered import of pill presses, and remove the exception currently placed on border officers to only inspect mail weighing more than 30 grams.

The new legislation would allow officers to open international mail of any weight if they suspect the item might contain prohibited, controlled or regulated goods.

The opioid crisis has taken a toll on many communities across Canada. Our renewed, evidence-based approach to Canada's drug strategy will allow the government to better protect Canadians, save lives, and address the root causes of this crisis.

For those looking for more information please go to: http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca.

I want to wish everyone a safe and peaceful Merry Christmas and holiday season. May you all find time to be with those you love and take time to rest from your busy lives.  

I look forward to serving you in the New Year.

More MP Report articles

About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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