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NEWS: On-line consultation finds Canadians want transparency in perimeter security talks

The Canadian Press reports this hour that, “In March, the (Harper) government announced an online consultation (on its perimeter security initiative), saying the feedback would help shape the action plan. …Dozens of people who took part in a federal consultation wanted more transparency in Canada’s move toward a perimeter security deal with the United States, records obtained by The Canadian Press show. …The Canadian Press obtained copies of many of the messages — with names stripped out to protect privacy — under the Access to Information Act.”

“Overall, the online consultation drew about 900 comments, a federal official said. However, because some people likely commented on more than one area, the actual number of respondents was somewhat smaller. Those who took part were generally divided on the merits of a perimeter deal with assessments ranging from ‘great news’ to ‘treasonous’ and a ‘disaster’. Among the initial responses, more than three dozen called for more discussion and openness.”

An Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in February 2011 found that, “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. The poll also showed 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…”

The Canadian Press report notes, “It is ‘early goings’ in the process and the feedback received will inform the next step, said Chris Day, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. A public report on the online consultations is to be posted on a federal website later this year. In addition, the government is meeting with business, labour, aboriginal groups and others to solicit their views, Day said. …The federal government says an ambitious action plan should be ready this summer.”

Maclean’s magazine reported in early-May that, “With the Harper government winning a majority, expect a sense of urgency on moving ahead with the perimeter security and regulatory harmonization talks with the US. Harper campaigned on this issue and is being warned that the window to move ahead is closing as the presidential campaign cycle draws nearer. …Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat to the US (has) warned Ottawa that the governments have a year until presidential politics take over, and with it, a reluctance to talk trade. ‘The American election cycle will effectively shut down the process in January with the onset of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries,’ he said.”

In mid-March, the Council of Canadians issued an action alert to encourage responses to the Harper government’s inadequate on-line consultation on perimeter security, emphasizing concerns about the secrecy of the plans being considered. We also voiced our concerns about the lack of transparency in the process and on what has been speculated to be part of this agreement – given substantive details on the contents of the agreement being negotiated have not been released – when we met with federal government representatives of the Beyond the Border working group in mid-May in our national office. We are now planning a three-day fact-finding trip to Washington, DC to meet with our allies there and to build cross-border opposition to Harper’s border agenda.

The full Canadian Press article is at http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5i4fwzdPdmSZeLQH9oLzM-dh7hhMw?docId=7128557. Our action alert is at http://canadians.org/action/2011/DI-border-security.html. Past campaign blogs on the issue are at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=perimeter+security.