Budget confirms border projects with U.S.
OTTAWA - The federal budget says new projects related to Canada's perimeter security deal with the United States will go ahead as planned, despite budget woes south of the border.
The federal budget has given the green light to almost a dozen information-sharing and infrastructure projects related to the Beyond the Border initiative between the two countries.
The vaunted deal was announced with fanfare by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in December 2011 at the White House.
The plan aims to speed the flow of goods and people across the 49th parallel while protecting the continent from a terrorist attack.
Key to the deal was a series of pilot projects and other initiatives that were timed to roll out over coming years.
However, questions have hung over the future of the border plan after the latest round of budgetary brinkmanship between U.S. Democrats and Republicans caused Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to predict thousands of possible job losses at U.S. customs.
Government officials said Thursday they're hopeful that subsequent developments in the U.S. Congress may mitigate any possible cuts at the border.
Officials say the plans outlined in Thursday's budget are going ahead regardless of what occurs in the U.S.
The budget outlines six new initiatives aimed at speeding trade, and five others aimed at improving security. All the initiatives are to roll out over the next five years.
The infrastructure spending includes upgrades at the border posts of St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., Lansdowne, Ont., Emerson, Man., and North Portal, Sask.
A cargo-security program aimed at speeding the flow of trucks and trains under the so-called "cleared once, accepted twice" concept at land borders is going ahead, while new customs facilities at the ports of Vancouver, Prince Rupert, B.C., and Montreal are in the works, the budget said.
On the security side, a key initiative — one that has sparked criticism by civil liberties groups and privacy advocates — will go ahead, as scheduled, the budget said.
"Establishing and co-ordinating entry and exit information systems with the United States, including a system where the record of land entry into one country can be utilized to establish a record of exit from the other," the budget said.
Citizenship and Immigration is the lead department on a series of perimeter-security initiatives, the most contentious of which may be a plan to keep track of everyone entering and leaving the country, with the help of information from the U.S.
In turn, Canada will help Washington accomplish the same feat by systematically providing information on all travellers entering Canada from the U.S.
The two countries plan to use the data to detect people who over-stay their visas and to determine whether those subject to removal or departure orders have actually left.
It will also help gauge whether someone has met residency requirements for citizenship by measuring how long they have been present in the country. And it could help prevent people from assuming one identity in Canada and another in the U.S.
The budget also says: "Immigration information sharing will be enhanced between the two countries to improve immigration and refugee determinations and help officials to establish the identity of foreign nationals at the earliest opportunity."