The recently signed Canada – US border deal was a plan in the making for over a year. The deal was signed by Harper and Obama on December 7th, 2011. The two leaders have a strong belief the deal will reduce governmental red tape and encourage further prosperity. Not all feel this way however.
Back in 2010, Les Whittington piece in the Toronto Star called the deal, “the biggest challenge to Canadian sovereignty since free trade in the 1980s”. The deal Harper drafted allows Washington a bigger voice in Canada’s border security, immigration controls, and information sharing with American law enforcement agencies. The draft agreement that was eventually signed read, “We share responsibility for the safety, security, and resilience of Canada and the US and we intend to address threats at the earliest point possible, including outside the perimeter of our two countries.” Furthermore, the partnership has a vision for closer cooperation amoung police, security, and military officials, as well as shared border management facilities, increased exchanges of law enforcement information and enhance cooperation by authorities on both sides of the border to verify travellers’ identities and “conduct screening at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians stated that since the Sept 11 attacks, “Canada has armed and secured itself to the teeth to satisfy the U.S. but no new perimeter plan can bring the U.S. economy back to life. That’s the real reason trade is down across the border.” Jack Layton of the NDP also criticized the deal, saying “if we could make the border more passable and easier for Canadians and for goods to move back and forth, this would be a good thing but of course there are other implications that could impact on our sovereignty and so that’s going to be of concern to Canadians. That’s why it should be debated in the House of Commons.”
But that’s not all.
To fully understand the scope of the border deal between the US and Canada, the Regulatory Cooperation Council needs to be carefully analyzed. The RCC Document, an extremely important vital reading, states that the RCC consultation process received comments and feedback from inidividuals, businesses, and organizations representing a wide range of industry and business associations representing several sectors of the Canadian economy. These included agriculture and food, health and consumer producers, energy, transportation, manufacturing, and various cross-sectoral business associations. Note that some organizations provided more than one submission.
The sector of Agriculture of food constituted one of the most frequently cited areas for regulatory alignment. Key issues raised by stakeholders included developing common approaches to food safety requirements, biotechnology product approvals, crop protection products, labelling, packaging and product content information, expediting export certification, etc. The RSS report acknowledged, “some [individuals] expressed the view that although sovereignty is important and must be maintained, increased cooperation with the US would be beneficial with respect to trade and communication. Meanwhile, many other individual respondents absolutely opposed to any further Canadian integration with the U.S. and expressed concern for the perceived eroision of Canadian sovereignty, rights and public accountability that would accompany heightened regulatory alignment.”
The RCC’s vision used the EU, and the Australia-New Zealand Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement as the two models to inspire the RCC, or act as foundations to build upon.
The document also breaks down the types of proposals by sector, that the border plan would address. The most relevant were chosen to display below:
The following information is found under Appendix 2 – Specific proposals by Sector
For Agriculture and Food
- The RCC proposed developing common approaches to food safety requirements and policies
- Implementation of the U.S. food safety Modernization Act requirements,
- Mutually recognize food safety systems,
- Establish a joint review process or a Mutual Recognition Agreement for biotechnology product approvals to facilitate synchronized approval
- Align pre-market approval processes and data requirements for crop protection products (i.e. pesticides, seed treatments) to facilitate joint reviews and assessments and improve re-evaluations and re-registration processes.
- Streamline the certification requirements for meat and poultry, including, where possible, the reduction or elimination of redundant certification, data elements and administrative procedures for shipments flowing between Canada and the U.S
- Align nutritional labelling formats and content (e.g., nutrient definitions, required values, daily recommended intakes),
- harmonize approaches to allowed health claims,
- align container size requirements (infant food, bottled, and canned goods).
For Other :
- Eliminate the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board.
For Environment and Energy:
- Streamline permissions for and construction of new cross-border energy infrastructure, e.g., a single Canada-U.S. regime for permitting oil and gas pipelines.
- Ensure common approaches to nuclear liability, in the event of litigation arising from nuclear incidents.
- Avoid policies that discriminate against particular fuel sources such as low-carbon fuel standards (for types of crude oil) or renewable electricity standards (for large-scale hydro)
There are notable discrepancies of labelling and food manufacturing between the United States and Canada, which should be noted. In the U.S., terms such as ‘peameal bacon,’ ‘chicken tenderloin’ and ‘flatiron steak’ are widely used, however these terms are not permitted in Canada. Harper stated, “Every rule needs a reason. Where no adequate reason exists for a rule or standard, and that standard hinders us from doing business on both sides of the border, that rule needs to be re-examined.” The implications of some initiatives within the border action plan may lead to trade-offs. Products that were once governed by different regulations on each side of the border could, one day, fall under one set of guidelines. This could affect a wide range of items, from soup – which is fortified with calcium and vitamins in many American states but not in Canada, to car dashboards, where some symbols are different.
Found in a CBC article, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives John Manley, said the deals were “a valuable step forward.” NDP finance critic Peter Julian said, “Some Canadians are going to reject [the border deal]…we have very different privacy regimes in Canada and the United States.” The Liberals public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia said, “Its very important that Canadians through Parliament have an opportunity to scrutinize.”
According to CTV’s facebook page, several commentators chimed in. Aaron Beldin wrote, “the deal will be “horrible” for our food industry. “True we have had our safe food issues before (eg. Maple Leaf’s listeria outbreak), however you seem to hear about a new U.S. food contamination crisis every week. Also, how far does the U.S. military’s reach go past our borders?” Sheharpe was also cautious due to health and safety concerns and said, “Canadian food processors are reducing salt in their products whereas that’s not the case south of the border.”
However, the most controversial part of the Border Plan deal, which is a plan to exchange entry information for all people crossing the Canada-U.S. border, is not expected until 2014 and with the US in an election year, the deal could be in jeopardy if a Republican president were to win office.
When questioned by the CBC, Canada’s privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddard recently said Canada should not agree to exchange information on Canadians with American border authorities without extensive safeguards against abuse. “Any mistake can have grave consequences, including stranding travellers at airports or branding them as terrorists”
What are your thoughts?