Perimeter Security

We are making progress on a more accessible border with U.S.

Colin Robertson Thursday, Nov. 27 2014 Globe and Mail

Tragedies can divide people and nations. They can also bring them together in shared solidarity as was recently demonstrated by Canada and the United States around our still-developing security perimeter.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States retrenched. The 49th parallel became a real border. Since then both countries, at the initiative of Canadian governments – Liberal and Conservative – have worked to create a security perimeter within which people and goods can circulate. Last month, the perimeter concept passed a critical confidence test.

The recent assassination of Canadian soldiers on Canadian soil by adherents of radical Islam (mental health also played a role) could easily have resurrected American fears of a soft-on-security Canada.A week earlier, Politico, the popular Washington insiders’ daily, ran a story describing “the real terrorist threat next door.”

Headlined “Fear Canada,” it rehashed the tale of millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam and the Toronto 18 warning that the U.S. has much more to fear from Canada. Even if the piece had a South Park “Blame Canada” quality, it could have found an audience in perfervid Washington. But it didn’t.

Instead, the U.S. reaction to the assassinations has been empathetic and understanding.

Within days, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid a wreath at our national cenotaph, symbolizing American sympathy and solidarity. This past weekend, at the Halifax International Security Forum, the congressional delegation led by Republican Senator John McCain and Democrat Senator Tim Kaine expressed the same sentiment, acknowledging that such events could also happen in the United States.

So what has changed?

A lot, including the development of a verifiable security “perimeter” – a word once forbidden from the official Canadian lexicon for fear it would somehow undermine Canadian sovereignty.

The “Smart Border” Accord, negotiated by then Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and Homeland Security Adviser (and later Secretary) Tom Ridge, kicked off the process with its checklist of thirty plus deliverables. It succeeded.

Mr. Manley and Mr. Ridge trusted each other. They set deadlines and demanded that their officials reconcile their differences before the two met.

But progress is not always in a straight line. When former prosecutor Michael Chertoff succeeded Mr. Ridge, border co-operation froze. Enforcement became the order of the day.

A more accessible border was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first ask of Mr. Obama during the President’s visit to Ottawa in February, 2009. When it went nowhere, Mr. Harper renewed his request and, in December, 2011, the Harper agenda became a shared plan for border and regulatory collaboration.

Converging Canadian and American public attitudes towards security help the process.

An IPSOS poll, released at the Halifax Forum, says that 60 per cent of Canadians and two-thirds of Americans see the world as a more dangerous place, underlining the case for co-operation.

A second look by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at recent Canadian and American polling concluded that strong majorities – 57 per cent in Canada and 72 per cent in the U.S. – support closer co-operation on border security.

Border and regulatory co-operation is delivering results:

Enhancing collaborative cross-border law enforcement most visibly through the “Shiprider” program where enforcement officers of both nations jointly police the Great Lakes.

Harmonized approach on who can enter the perimeter. Canada is introducing an electronic travel authorization system that will parallel the existing U.S. visa-free system for pre-screening entry from travellers from visa-free countries.

Systematic information sharing on immigrant and refugee applicants, including entry information on third-country nationals thus allowing our two countries to share information on who has entered.

Joint border infrastructure planning to improve passage, including 28 binational ports-of-entry committees created to ensure local input.

Other tangible improvements include additional trusted-traveller lines at our ports of entry. Over a million Canadians subscribe to the “fast-pass” NEXUS program.

There is still work to do.

We need to merge the various trusted-traveller programs (and include Mexico). We need to roll-out the “single window” program so businesses and travellers can provide information to both governments once, not umpteen times in different formats.

The financing of the Detroit customs plaza remains unresolved. “Once inspected, twice (and eventually thrice) cleared” is still more rhetoric than reality. Border officials on both sides still behave with an “enforcement” mentality rather than as expeditors of goods and people.

We need to make permanent border and regulatory oversight within our Privy Council Office. Changes to the U.S. government’s North American oversight, recommended in the recent Council on Foreign Relations report, deserves attention.

But we are making progress and passing real tests. Our continental perimeter, one that will eventually include Mexico, is taking shape.

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Obama and Canada: the Final Two Years

What does Canada want during the last two years of the Obama administration and what we can reasonably expect to achieve?

Jean Charest, Partner, McCarthy Tétrault and a former premier of Quebec joined Scotty Greenwood, Senior Advisor, Canadian American Business Council; and John Manley, President and CEO, Canadian Council of Chief Executives and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance at a special panel and reception held Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at the River Building.

Colin Robertson, Vice-President of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a former diplomat posted to New York, Los Angeles and Washington, moderated the discussion.

More than 160 Members of Parliament, Senators, staffers, senior government officials from PMO, PCO, DFATD, NRCan, Agriculture and Agri-food, Industry and Transport Canada registered along with Ambassadors, High Commissioners and other diplomats, business and non-governmental organizations plus students and faculty.

This event was organized with the support of Randy Hoback, M.P., chair of the Standing Committee on International Trade; Don Davies, M.P., Official Opposition critic for International Trade; and Scott Brison, M.P., Liberal critic for Finance.

CPAC taped the panel for broadcast at a later date.

power point presentation is available here from Colin Robertson, Vice-President of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

A summer of the discussion from Carleton student note-takers is available here.

Focus on Republicans as Obama’s presidency nears end, say Charest, Manley

From Embassy Magazine

Hot trade talk at Carleton

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest says that Canada’s visas for Mexicans make no sense; Mexico is our partner country and we should remove them right away. John Manley, head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, agrees but thinks that accepting Mexicans with American visas is a way to lift the visas without actually lifting them. Mr. Charest thinks the United States-European Union free trade agreement will go through because both players want to set the terms of trade rather then let growing powers like China set them. Mr. Manley predicts softwood lumber will explode again in the fall of 2015 and supply management is at the top of the hit list for the TPP negotiations.

All these hot trade talking points and more were batted around on Nov. 25 at Carleton University where a panel of experts came together to talk about the Canada-US relationship during US President Barack Obama‘s last two years. The event was hosted by Maureen Boyd, director of Carleton University’s Initiative for Parliamentary and Diplomatic Engagement, and before things kicked off panelists set out the deals negotiated in the past by Canada and lame-duck US administrations. These deals included the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, which was negotiated during the final two years of the Reagan administration, as well as the Acid Rain Agreement and the NAFTA, which were achieved in the final two years of the George H.W. Bush administration.

None of the panellists, Mr. Charest, Mr. Manley, Canadian American Business Council senior adviser Scotty Greenwood and Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute vice-president Colin Robertson, had high hopes that the Obama/Harper relationship would bear any such fruit. But they felt that provinces and states could still get a lot done in the next few years.

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Midterm Elections 2014

The top task for Canadian politicians: Get to know the new U.S. legislators

Globe and Mail Tuesday, Nov. 11 2014

The United States’ political players and their priorities shifted last week. We need to digest the changes and get to know the new players. Because Canadian interests remain the same, we also need to remember that, in the crowded American political arena, if we want something, we have to go after it.

Three observations from the exit polls stand out:

First, it was more about mood than specific issues. Two-thirds of Americans believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction. Only 20 per cent trust Washington. The Republicans cannot be cocky: The electorate likes neither their party nor their leadership.

Second, the buck does stop at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. President Barack Obama declared his policies were on the ballot and he lost this referendum. But presidents are at a disadvantage in midterms because they measure the incumbent against themselves, rather than their adversaries. Mr. Obama fared as badly as most of his recent two-term predecessors: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower (Bill Clinton is the exception).

Third, you win by getting out the vote. The turnout (36.4 per cent) was the lowest since 1942, but the Republicans did the better job. The GOP is now the dominant governing party in Congress and in the states. The demographics are mostly unchanged: Republicans won 60 per cent of the white vote, Democrats won 89 per cent of the black vote and 62 per cent of the Latino vote.

The results matter for Canada.

In listing their priorities, the Republican leadership included legislative approval of the Keystone XL pipeline because it means “lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers.”

Passage of XL is not a slam-dunk. There is still an outstanding Nebraska court case to be resolved and, in the event of a presidential veto, Republicans would have to muster at least a dozen Democrat senators to achieve the two-thirds necessary for a veto override.

There is no ambiguity about where Canada stands on the XL in Washington, but we should leave the public politicking to the Republicans. Instead, we should focus on other priorities, like ensuring Canadian hydro qualifies under the renewable energy standards. In Washington, no one knows the energy and environment file better than our Ambassador, Gary Doer, armed with his formidable Rolodex.

The Republicans also promise to pass the Trade Promotion Authority that will give “up or down” congressional approval to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (the U.S. version of the Canada and European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

This should galvanize efforts to conclude the TPP, assuming that the 12 partner nations are ready for the end game. It will oblige deals and concessions to achieve the high standard agreement to which all are pledged.

The key will be Japan and the United States resolving their differences on agriculture and autos. If this happens, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will face a decision on the necessary and overdue reform of supply management.

In the meantime, our legislators – federal and provincial – need to get to know the new legislators in the Congress and state houses.

When federal ministers travel south to see their counterparts, they should also meet the congressional chairs and ranking members, especially those in the Senate.

Premiers should send representatives to the gubernatorial inaugurations. Scott Walker (Wisconsin) and John Kasich (Ohio), for example, could well be 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

The premiers should develop an agenda on shared concerns – border infrastructure, securing our electrical grids and pipelines, North American supply chains, invasive species like the zebra mussels – then journey to Washington for the National Governors Association February meeting.

The re-emergence of geopolitics – Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine and Middle East turmoil – reminds us that the values that unite Canada and the United States are vastly more important than our divisions on trade. The relationship between Barack Obama and Stephen Harper is not the camaraderie enjoyed by Brian Mulroney and Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush or Jean Chrétien and Bill Clinton, but they share common cause in face of shared threats.

We have a good partner in U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman. Acting on the message that we were feeling ignored, he has brought to Canada Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Secretary of State John Kerry and various agency heads. Next month, a senior congressional delegation will be at the Halifax International Security Forum, one of the Harper government’s smarter initiatives.

Divided government between a Republican Congress and a lame-duck Obama administration will be the norm for the next two years. But we can still get things done.

Neil Young says he doesn't care if speaking out against proposed pipelines and the Alberta oilsands affects sales of his records. The music icon performed in the national Blue Dot Tour fronted by activist and scientist David Suzuki.

Video: Neil Young says he doesn’t care if his oil sands activism hurts record sales

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