Next up: rush for perimeter security, regulatory harmonization

Harper’s window is closing as the presidential campaign cycle draws near

by Luiza Ch. Savage

With the Harper government winning a majority, expect a sense of urgency on moving ahead with the perimeter security and regulatory harmonization talks with the US. Harper campaigned on this issue and is being warned that the window to move ahead is closing as the presidential campaign cycle draws nearer.

Working groups made up of senior officials from both  governments have been holding consultations with a variety of on what perimeter security and regulatory harmonization should look like. They are working on putting together “action plans” for the leaders. There are expectations for another Harper-Obama meeting this summer at which the leaders would approve the action plans and instruct their governments to implement them.

The consultations in Canada have not been made public, but my story in Maclean’s rounds up some of the proposals the US government is receiving. They include some ambitious ideas such as a two-country visa,  mutual recognition of agricultural inspections, and cross-border embedding of customs inspectors, among many others.

Story is here:

The US and Canada — singing in harmony? US and Canadian groups are urging their governments to coordinate rules and ease restrictions




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Next up: rush for perimeter security, regulatory harmonization

  1. .
    They didn't exactly 'win' a majority, in the classic sense of winning.

    The winner was Nik (the fixer) Nanos, et al, who shaped a land-line skewed bellwether effect toward a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop of public self-conciousness. Repeated attempts to comment on this obscure, but critically important, issue were repeatedly censored off CTV news, although it was amply covered by posters elsewhere, including here.

    Where the public was not led astray however was their perception of Mr. Ignatieff as someone ill at ease in the political arena. He refuses to be true to his natural discourse register, suited mainly to think-tanks, seminars, symposia, the lecture hall, and print media. Why the Liberal party failed to understand this is absolutely inexplicable.

    Layton's was a pyrrhic victory, but the public saw he did well in the debates, and rewarded the NDP appropriately. Hopefully he will vigorously oppose, because that's his job, and not agree with the robot simply because a small bellwether minority happens to religiously answer the phone and obediently speak to the pollsters. Were a demographically balanced, face-to-face survey taken over the past month, and averaged, the outcome would have been very different. But it's unfortunate even then that people take unofficial polls to represent what they feel they are supposed to be thinking.

    An election should be determined by the collective vote of individual opinions, not a collective opinion errantly reflected back on the uncritical collection of individual wills.
    .

  2. Although I was against it for a number of years, I have come to the belief that a passport and customs union, like the Schengen Area in Europe, could be implemented in North America for the benefit of all countries involved. The Perimeter Agreement being negotiated Canada and the US is far less ambitious than Schengen, so I will outline my idea for a North American passport and customs union which goes beyond what is currently being negotiated between Canada and the US.

    As the Schengen Area has proven, the removal of fixed border control stations does not erase your country's identity. And, despite the removal of fixed control booths, various police agencies in Europe still passively monitor their land borders with CCTV/licence plate recognition cameras and mobile patrol units. Based on what I've read, it seems to that Germany's Bundespolizei regularly has patrol cars stationed at the border with Poland to monitor who is entering and leaving the country (I believe many of the motorway borders require you to slow down so police can more easily read licence plates). More vigourous ID check systems are also common at hotels, car rental agencies, and on the railways. The Schengen Area's shared police and immigration database is also useful in capturing criminals who cross national borders. In times of national emergency, fixed controls can be re-implemented for a limited period of time.

    If a customs and passport union were to be developed in North America, it would require the establishment of arms-length agencies (like Europe's Frontex and Europol), and a permanent political working group/council, to ensure that no single country could dominate immigration and customs requirements (If this were not in place, I would be much less inclined to support such a project). National border police agencies would still exist, but they would agree to follow a common set of "best practices" for enforcement of the North American customs and passport union. Common entry visas and exit controls could also be implemented (again, like the Schengen Area).

    The gradual removal of fixed border controls between Canada and the US would be a positive development for trade and travel on this Continent, and I would also welcome the inclusion of Mexico and some Caribbean nations at a later date, provided they meet strict police, justice and immigration control standards first (which would likely be 15-20 years down the road at least). A customs and passport union does not mean political integration, and I am of the opinion that the European Union has gone a little too far in terms of political union (and their currency union was also poorly conceived). Despite this, I think the countries of North America can benefit greatly from a more enlightened approach to protecting our mutual interests via a travel and trade area similar to the Schengen Zone, whilst still maintaining their own separate identities and political independence.

    Before someone suggests otherwise, I am a proud Canadian who loves this country, and I cherish our political independence. But I am also a pragmatic Canadian, and I can see the immense value in cooperating with other countries in North America to guarantee the mutual security and well-being of everyone living on this Continent. I welcome any and all respectful comments, and constructive criticism.

    • Apart from the removal of fixed border controls, this seems pretty doable. But the US would never give that particular process, and in dense population areas I don't like the idea of unstaffed border crossings. Windsor/Detroit sure would explode cross-border trade, but the amount of guns and other contraband would go through the flipping roof- much worse than it already is.

      • Fair points. Part of my notion of the removal of fixed border controls is reliant on increased passive surveillance utilising cameras and a shared crime and immigration database (which I articulated above), but also the US would have to seriously step-up its gun control and possession laws (which I did not articulate earlier) to at least the Canadian standard. Perhaps it's folly to hope the Americans would go for increased gun control, but I can dream.

        For a crossing like Windsor-Detroit, I envision numerous licence plate-reading cameras and speed reduction devices (i.e. reduced speed limits and/or chicanes) along with police patrol cars at both sides of the border. Anyone who looks suspicious would be stopped and searched, as happens in the Schengen Area.

    • Here is one major reason why the Schengen Area in Europe is not an appropriate example for us. There are dozens of countries in Europe with no one country dominating, even larger countries like Italy, Germany, and France, (Britain is not part of the Schengen) do not have enough power individually dictate terms. In North America there are only three countries with the U.S being ten times our size economically and far larger militarily. It would not be an agreement of equals but a succession of our sovereignty and marginalization of government.

      • That's a definite concern, which is why I would only be comfortable with the idea if there were arms-length agencies for the governance of the zone, like a political council, and something like Frontex and Europol. If the Americans aren't willing to do this, I would not be in favour of it.

        Having said that, I think the people of the United States are slowly coming to the realization that they are no longer the invincible powerhouse (both economically and militarily) that they thought they were. If they are mature about this fact, they would realize that their security could benefit by having a continental passport and customs union with Canada, followed by Mexico and some Caribbean countries at a later date, even if it means their are arms-length agencies protecting the interests of the less populous countries.

        I'm under no illusion that my comments contain a lot of "what-ifs", some of which seem unlikely, but I do not think this proposal is at all impossible. If all the countries involved are willing to cede a small amount of control for a great increase in their collective security and well-being, we could all benefit.

  3. This is a proposal for a problem that might already be fading in significance. Additionally, the USA is going to have to pull back from it's overseas commitments. This will negate much of the need for their agencies to whet their appetite/negotiating position for excessive levels of intrusion. This might be advantageous to us in that when they march in & play big boss man at the negotiating table, we can say, "Get real."

    We really need to look at the situation in the light the fact that the USA has lost (is loosing) it position as a major importer. There will still be lots of trade, but the pressure to devalue the USD will greatly alter the dynamic.

  4. Maye I am naive but I can not see any American giving up one once of their sovereignty or control to Canada or an arms length agency like in Europe. The U.S. is 10 time our size and if there is any agreement they will simple say to us"Canada we make the rules, you follow them and we will give you some token position to may your local happy". Which is basically what now happens in Norad.

    • **"Canada, we make the rules you follow them and we will give you some token position to make your local happy".

      wish there was a tool to edit comments after posting, opps

  5. I a friend of mine told me that one of the exec's at his company had been denied entry to the US recently for some offense committed in Canada that had long been stricken from the record. I came as quite a surprise because she had been making regular trips to the US to golf for the last 15 years.

    The Americans border control now has information on Canadians that they never had before. Welcome to the new world order of the Harper Government (TM).

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