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Canada-US border delays

“It is often harder to move goods and services across provincial boundaries than across our international borders”

October 2007 Speech from the Throne

As if Erin Weir and I have not already beat this one into submission, another reminder from today’s Globe and Mail that is it NOT easier to trade across the Canada-US border. The main story draws on a number of quotes from Industry Minister David Emerson, who “hears more and more ‘horror stories’ of companies forced by border delays to warehouse costly inventory on either side of the Canada-U.S. border and ‘referring to it as a just-in-case supply chain rather than just-in-time.’” Emerson has apparently not read the Throne Speech.

Here’s a list of the latest from the Globe story:

More costs, more delays

March, 2007: Less than six months after a softwood lumber truce is signed by Canada and the United States, Washington disrupts the peace by formally complaining over allegedly unfair conduct by Ottawa and the Canadian provinces, launching arbitration that could impose more costs on this country’s timber producers.

April, 2007: Talks collapse between Washington and Ottawa on a pilot project to conduct customs inspections well before reaching the border, following a dispute over whether U.S. authorities could fingerprint individuals on Canadian soil even if they didn’t cross the border.

June, 2007: Washington plows ahead with controversial new border taxes and inspections for trucks and railway cars from Canada – part of a rash of new levies that will extract more than $75-million (U.S.) a year.

June, 2007: A Conference Board of Canada report says the harsh security crackdown at the Canada-U.S. border since 9/11 has forced exporters in key industries to abandon just-in-time delivery and return to the outdated practice of stockpiling goods.

Summer, 2007: Border crossing wait times worsen, according to some observers. Stan Korosec, vice-president of operations of the Blue Water Bridge, which links Sarnia, Ont., and Port Huron, Mich., calls 2007 the “summer from hell,” saying he saw some of the longest waits since 2001, adding that U.S. border guards are asking more questions and sending more trucks to secondary inspection.

November, 2007: Anti-terror security measures put in place by the U.S. and Canadian governments since 9/11 have burdened Canada’s transportation industry with up to half-a-billion dollars in extra costs, a Transport Canada report says.

Back home, there was an interesting exchange on Alberta’s TILMA implementation legislation, with the Leader of the Opposition asking for any examples that would justify the deal:

December 4, 2007 Alberta Hansard

Dr. Taft: … Aside from very, very minor irritants to interprovincial trade, what’s the issue here? Why do we need an agreement of this scale? Why do we need things like $ 5 million penalties? Why do we need new legislation when, as far as I’m aware, the issues we’re addressing are quite minor?

I’m looking, for example, at a list from the website of the agreement on internal trade. It documents over a period of 10 years only 23 complaints about barriers to international trade. These cover a range of topics, but one by one they can be addressed in their own right. They cover things like paramedic licensing, hair stylist licensing – and that wasn’t even between Alberta and B. C.; that was with Nova Scotia – practical nurse licensing involving Ontario. In fact, when I go through this list, there’s only a tiny handful of complaints involving B. C. or Alberta that affect interprovincial trade. There was one in 10 years on paramedic licensing. There was one on opticians’ registration criteria that involved British Columbia. There was one on municipal fee differentials that involved Alberta and one on residence requirements involving B. C. So in 10 years the agreement on internal trade, if I’m reading the website correctly, identified a grand total of four complaints about barriers to interpro-vincial
trade between B. C. and Alberta.

Now, I have to ask myself: why can’t we just deal with those one at a time? Why do we need a whole big, highfalutin interprovincial agreement and a push for bringing in other provinces when we could solve these with pretty minor tweaks of standards and regulations? Question 1.
Coming at this from a free trade and efficiency provision . . . [ interjection] If the Deputy Government House Leader can answer my questions, I’m here for genuine debate. Do you want to rise? We’re in committee. I’m happy to participate. [ interjection]

Ms Blakeman: That’s a no.

Dr. Taft: Okay. Anyway, my point being that we may well be using much too big a tool to solve this problem. Unless there’s other evidence – I did hear the only example I recall coming from the government side . . . [ interjection] Sorry?

9: 10
Mr. Hancock: I’d be happy to.

Dr. Taft: You’d be happy to . . .

Ms Blakeman: Deal with it.

Dr. Taft: Okay. All right. I look forward to some debate here. Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness.

Mr. Hancock: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition has been waxing eloquent about the internal trade agreement. I have a little bit of knowledge of the internal trade agreement. From 1997 to ’ 99 I was minister of intergovernmental and aboriginal affairs and was just coming in as chair of the Internal Trade Secretariat when I moved to the Justice portfolio, but I had attended a number of conferences dealing with the internal trade agreement. In fact, the labour mobility chapter was about 10 years old at that time and still wasn’t done. No progress had been made. In fact, the internal trade agreement had a structure, it had a secretariat, and it had a lot of hope and promise, but the problem was that it didn’t have an awful lot of commitment.

I attended a Western Premiers’ Conference just out of Campbell River, actually. B. C. was hosting it that year, and Premier Glen Clark from British Columbia was in the chair. Let me tell you what a difference is made by changing government there. The fact of the matter is that the Clark government in British Columbia was very, very protectionist, and notwithstanding the fact that they had signed on to the free trade agreement, they did not adhere to the principles of the free trade agreement and had no intention of promoting free trade even bilaterally with Alberta much less across the country. The problem with the internal trade agreement and the reason why that tool doesn’t work for what we’re accomplishing with TILMA is that you cannot get all the partners to really get to the table and understand the value of doing the agreement, the value of putting the chapters together, the value of achieving the labour mobility issues and the other issues under the free trade agreement. A good concept, in fact, a pretty good agreement. It’s just that the chapters weren’t developed, the principles weren’t utilized, and it hasn’t been effective. It’s small wonder that nobody has made complaint under it. It hasn’t made the progress, and it hasn’t achieved the promise. Part of that is because the partners haven’t come to the table. Now, with TILMA the partners have come to the table and have an opportunity to start and show – in fact, even at its very preliminary stages the promise of it is demonstrated to the extent that other provinces really are looking at it and saying: can we be a part of this? Not to probably build a new internal trade agreement to replace the old one, but with Alberta’s leadership and British Columbia’s leadership we might actually be able to build a trade structure in this province where it’s easier to trade across this country between provinces and easier to have labour mobility across this country between provinces, easier for Canadians to do business in Canada and to live in Canada, to work in Canada, to raise their children in Canada than it is to trade north-
south or off the continent.

Right now that’s not the case in many cases. That’s the reason why it’s important to start with TILMA and to build on the TILMA partnership: to make it more possible, more practical for Alberta people and Alberta businesses to do business and to live with other Canadians in harmony and in concert across the country, to be able to trade freely, to be able to move freely, to be able to live and work freely across the country, Alberta and B. C. providing leadership in that through TILMA, the type of leadership that was never extant in the internal trade agreement.

The Deputy Chair: The hon. Member for Edmonton-Riverview.

Dr. Taft: Thank you. I appreciate that very much. I’d like, though, when I’m looking at legislation like this to really understand in concrete terms the problems that the legislation is trying to address. The Government House Leader – and I genuinely appreciate having some real discussion here – outlines some of the challenges or some of the considerations. But, for example, when I hear concerns about labour mobility and then I look at the evidence – we hear day after day in this Assembly about the tens of thousands of Canadians who are moving to Alberta. In fact, most people agree there’s been a real resolving of labour mobility issues within Canada in the last 10 years, and the old impediments to labour mobility in Canada have largely gone. I’ve read any number of economists and even right-wing commentators who have expressed surprise at how mobile the Canadian workforce has become. That’s played out most dramatically, I would say, in Fort McMurray, where something like 40 per cent of the population is from Newfoundland or from Atlantic Canada. So I see within Canada a lot of labour mobility already occurring.

[ Mr. Hayden in the chair]

The only example that I recall hearing from the government in terms of justifying TILMA was I think about truck weigh scales on one side of the B. C./ Alberta border and on the other side: why do we need weigh scales on each side of the border when we could have co-ordinated weigh scales? Well, that’s great. Let’s co-ordinate our weigh scales. But I’m looking for more concrete examples and more significant examples than just that to justify bringing in something as far-reaching as TILMA. Again, if the Government House Leader or somebody else there could bring forward a discussion paper saying that these are some specific examples of major impediments, and the only way we can solve these is by bringing in a bunch more laws and a bunch more penalties and all kinds of other red tape. This feels to me like creating red tape rather than cutting red tape. I don’t know if the . . . [ interjection] I appreciate that. Thank you.

Mr. Hancock: Mr. Chairman, I’ll provide another example for the hon. member. I see others want to get into this, so I’ll be very brief. I may be wrong on this because I haven’t had a chance to look in the last day or two, but I’ll give you an example. My son has moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia. He married a young lady there, and they’re making their home there now. He used to teach. In fact, he taught for seven years in La Crête in northern Alberta. [ interjec-tion] Yes, and a wonderful place it is.
In order to get a teaching certificate in British Columbia after having taught for seven years in Alberta – and I think we heard a ministerial statement earlier today from the Minister of Education about the quality of students in Alberta. I think I heard the minister indicate that a good chunk of the results are due to the quality of teaching in Alberta. So this well-qualified teacher, who has taught for seven years, who has good results, who has contributed to those wonderful results in Alberta, moves to B. C. Guess what? He’s teaching on a temporary certificate, and some time in the next five years he’s going to have to take a lab science course in order to get his teaching certificate in British Columbia because – I don’t know – he missed a lab science course, I guess. One-half a credit of a lab science course short of a teaching certificate in British Columbia yet perfectly able to teach in Alberta.

There is, in fact, a very well-qualified person in the education system – I won’t describe him more than that because I don’t have any authority to do that – who’s moved from a fairly senior position in a school district in Alberta to a very senior position in a school district in B. C. He can’t get a teaching certificate in B. C. So there are issues with respect to labour mobility.

The hon. member mentioned, you know, that there’s a great deal of labour mobility. I’m sure the minister of advanced education might be able to add to the story with respect to the accreditation of apprentices and those sorts of issues. This is important in so many ways in terms of the leadership we can provide to the rest of the country on how to live together in our own country with a common set of rules where appropriate.

The Acting Chair: The hon. Member for Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert.

Mr. Horner: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. What a wonderful job you’re doing, sir. I just wanted to add from my perspective not only as the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology but also from my past business dealings, where I was involved heavily in trade not only between Alberta and other provinces and jurisdictions in the United States, but probably 80 per cent of that business was into Central and South America and Southeast Asia.

[ Mr. Shariff in the chair]

I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, that labour mobility is extremely important on a number of different fronts. We just heard from the hon. Minister of Health and Wellness about an example with regard to teaching certificates. There are other examples within the red seal program, there are other examples within compulsory trades, there are examples within the noncompulsory trades in terms of ensuring that our industries have the appropriate skill sets and skill levels, so a welder on this side of the border can do the same type of welding on that side of the border. It isn’t that you can just tackle each one of these things individually. You have to have a basis of an agreement from which to work in terms of a trade relationship and a mobility relationship.

The hon. Leader of the Official Opposition mentioned one example which he’s heard. I would suggest that there are dozens if not hundreds of examples that could be heard should one seek. As I mentioned, welders are a good example. Teaching certificates are a good example. Weights and measures are good examples. Automotive inspections are a good example. As you go down the list, there is a raft of very good examples where the basis of a trade agreement or the basis of an agreement on issues that relate to trade is where we start from to get to a common ground so that we can have freer movement of not only professionals but also of goods and services. …

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