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NEWS: 91 per cent of Canadians demand transparency in border security talks

The Vancouver Sun reports that a new poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid shows Canadians are very concerned by the perimeter security negotiations now under way between Canada and the United States.

TRANSPARENCY: “91 per cent of Canadians say the negotiations (on perimeter security) should take place in public so that they can see what is on the table. …Canadians want Harper to adopt a much more transparent approach to the…negotiations which are being held in total secrecy.”

CONCESSIONS: The poll finds that, “(68 per cent) of Canadians fear Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ‘compromise’ by giving up too much power over immigration, privacy and security to get a deal with the United States on border controls…”

TRUST: “The national survey…also finds Canadians are split over whether they ‘trust’ Harper to craft a deal that maintains this country’s independence. …49 per cent trust him, while 51 per cent don’t.”

ACCEPTABLE?: “The poll found that 63 per cent believe the proposal is ‘an acceptable measure to enhance border security,’ while 37 per cent disagreed.”

The Council of Canadians has raised concerns about the lack of transparency with the security perimeter negotiations as soon as the news about them first leaked in mid-December, http://canadians.org/media/trade/2010/10-Dec-10.html. We have also raised the implications of the talks for civil liberties and immigration and refugee policies, http://canadians.org/media/trade/2010/09-Dec-10-2.html and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=5836. It’s evident that Canadians share these concerns. We expect the ‘acceptability’ of the border proposal will drop among Canadians as details emerge with the release of the report by the US-Canada working group on this, likely in June.

It has also been suggested that perimeter security could become a major issue in the federal election, which may come as soon as May 2 or May 9.

Where do the parties stand on perimeter security?

CONSERVATIVES: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, “The Canada-U.S. partnership on security and economic competitiveness must evolve continually if we are to stay strong and address future security and commercial concerns. This (border security) declaration sets the stage for more effective, long-term collaboration in these areas. It also respects the sovereignty of both countries and the privacy of our citizens.” Government House leader John Baird has stated, “(Conservatives) will always put Canada’s interests first… That means keeping our shared border open to trade, open to investment, and closed to security and terrorist threats.”

LIBERALS: Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has said, “We’re a country that has prided itself on welcoming immigrants and refugees from other countries. We have different standards, the Americans, on these questions. We have a right to do so. And if we get into a security perimeter deal that weakens Canadian sovereignty, we may end up betraying Canadian values.” He has also written that, “A negotiation of this magnitude demands transparency. Canadians need to know what is on the table. Instead, despite months of leaks, news stories and questions in Parliament, Mr. Harper has yet to utter the words ‘perimeter security’ in the House of Commons. The ministers of Public Safety, Foreign Affairs and International Trade have said even less.”

NEW DEMOCRATS: The Globe and Mail has reported that, “NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said his party will strongly oppose the talks because they raise a wide range of concerns over issues such as food safety and privacy.” Dewar has also commented, “the question is what is the cost and what effects will it have on Canadian sovereignty.” NDP leader Jack Layton has said, “We think that there should be a thorough discussion here about the extent to which he may be compromising our sovereignty. We of course want to work with our friends in the U.S. on issues. But we don’t want to compromise our ability to set our own policies.”

BLOC QUEBECOIS: “Bloc Quebecois house leader Pierre Paquette has said, “We are in favour of a security perimeter. We believe we need something like this to facilitate the mobility of people and goods, but we want it to be done through a transparent debate where there is a balance between security, trade and fundamental freedom.”

GREEN PARTY: Green Party leader Elizabeth May has stated, “The recent Washington meeting makes it clear the Security and Prosperity Partnership is alive and well, repackaged and moving ahead on steroids. …Not only are the details of this new security agreement not being made public, but there seems to be no intention to bring this issue to parliament for debate. Harper continues to subvert democracy on all fronts.”

The Postmedia article with the polling is at http://www.vancouversun.com/mobile/story.html?id=4311875.