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Statement by Andrea van Vugt, Vice-President, North America, to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
Bill C-23: An Act respecting the preclearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Honourable Members, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in your consultations on Bill C-23.
The Business Council of Canada represents the chief executives and entrepreneurs of approximately 150 leading Canadian companies, in all sectors and regions of the country. Our member companies employ 1.7 million men and women, account for more than half the value of the Toronto Stock Exchange, contribute the largest share of federal corporate taxes, and are responsible for most of Canada’s exports, corporate philanthropy, and private-sector investments in research and development.
Our country’s economic health depends heavily on the ease with which goods, people and investment move back and forth across the Canada-U.S. border. In the words of Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman of President Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, the Canada-U.S. trade relationship “is really very much in balance and is a model for the way that trade relations should be.”
As the Committee knows, Bill C-23 delivers on a key element of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, the intent of which was not only efficiency, but security. Passage of this legislation presents an opportunity to solidify the progress made to date under Beyond the Border, an initiative our Council strongly supports.
Canada and the United States have a mutual interest in ensuring that legitimate travellers and goods can cross the border as efficiently as possible. Our safe and secure border is a competitive advantage for Canada over every country in the world.
While air preclearance isn’t restricted to Canada, the opportunity for expansion in the land, rail and marine modes is an opportunity unique to our country and we should take advantage of it. My friends at Rocky Mountaineer can speak from experience as to the benefits of this.
Travelers search for the path of greatest convenience in air travel. The ability to preclear in your home country, step off the plane and hop in a cab or make a connection is a tremendous advantage for Canadians doing business or visiting the United States. Expanding this resource to other airports and modes of travel just makes sense.
Additionally, giving Canadian border personnel the ability to conduct preclearance in the United States offers Canada a key competitive advantage. Given our country’s desire for increased trade, investment and tourism, it is clearly in our economic interest to make it easier to cross our border safely.
Going further, Canada can and should use this legislation as a springboard to develop additional cargo preclearance capabilities that will enhance our economic competitiveness while relieving pressure on existing border infrastructure. We know that this is a particularly complicated endeavour given the multitude of US agencies that have a role to play, but it is in Canada’s economic interest to make this work.
In closing, we believe that the legislation sets the stage for an innovative, risk-managed border that could be a model for the rest of the world.
With that Mr. Chairman, I conclude my remarks and am happy to take any questions.