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NEWS: Harper communications strategy sees Barlow as threat to perimeter deal

The Globe and Mail reports that, “The Harper government is bracing for a backlash over a border security agreement it is negotiating with the United States, anticipating it will spark worries about eroding sovereignty and privacy rights, a document obtained by The Globe and Mail shows.”

“The communications strategy for the perimeter security declaration – which the document says will be unveiled in January, 2011 – predicts one of the biggest potential critics will be the federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. …It also anticipates criticism from civil rights groups and others such as Council of Canadians chairwoman Maude Barlow.”

“Under a perimeter deal, Canada and the United States would harmonize rules and practices for screening offshore imports and travellers. They would more closely collaborate on the defence of North America including on immigration, border protection and law enforcement. …Such a deal would seek to assure the Americans that Canada is adequately screening offshore imports arriving by ship or plane so that they would ease up on security restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border.”

“The Canadian government is refusing to discuss the negotiations, but the communications plan mentions a joint press conference by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in January to announce a declaration on the matter and hold an official signing ceremony. Afterward, officials from both countries would have 120 days to work out the details, the documents obtained by The Globe say.”

The Toronto Star adds that, “In what could be the biggest challenge to Canadian sovereignty since free trade in the 1980s, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is secretly cooking up a deal with the Obama administration that would give Washington a much bigger say in Canada’s border security, immigration controls and information-sharing with American law-enforcement agencies.”

“The proposed pact envisions closer cooperation among police, security and military officials, as well as shared border management facilities, increased exchanges of law enforcement information and enhanced cooperation by authorities on both sides of the border…”

“Building a security perimeter around Canada and the U.S. in hopes of easing border congestion and expediting two-way trade is a ‘tired and dangerous idea’ that won’t work, said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. …’Canada has armed and secured itself to the teeth to satisfy the U.S. but no new perimeter plan can bring the U.S. economy back to life. That’s the real reason trade is down across the border,’ Trew said.”

“Opposition MPs said government officials are saying privately that Harper has taken a personal interest in the enhanced security and trade deal with the U.S. and may see it as a legacy project for his prime ministership.”