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CCE wants Can-Am relations revamped (January 14, 2003)

TORONTO, Ont. -- The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is calling for the creation of a jointly managed North Am...

TORONTO, Ont. — The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is calling for the creation of a jointly managed North American perimeter.

It wants a common approach to borders, trade, immigration, security and defence.

“What we are really talking about is totally reinventing the border. The border should no longer be seen as a demarcation line between Canada and the United States. It should simply be an internal checkpoint,” says Tom D’Aquino, president of the CCE, which represents Canada’s 150 largest corporations.

“The whole focus on our strategy is homeland security and economic security. The two things are really inseparable,” he told the National Post.

The newspaper reported yesterday that D’Aquino is expected to propose jointly managed North American entry points to combat terrorism, drug smuggling and illegal immigration while opening up most border crossings to the relatively free passage of goods and citizens.

Dismantling the borders would require increased co-operation with law enforcement in both countries and similar policies on travel visas, immigration and refugees.

D’Aquino, who will unveil the group’s blueprint today, says there is a virtual certainty of further terrorist strikes on the North American homeland, making it imperative for Canada to develop a new security and economic coalition with the U.S. or risk a loss of Canadian sovereignty.

But D’Aquino says it need not be presented as a treaty but rather a series of initiatives that would not require congressional approval. The CCE has discussed the strategy with its U.S. and Mexican counterparts.

Former finance minister Paul Martin, before a private speech to the CCE yesterday, downplayed D’Aquino’s proposal for a jointly managed perimeter. “There is going to be a border between our countries and there ought to be. We are different countries with different interests and needs,” he told the media.

He says Canada already has “a border that works” with the U.S., that Canada needs to make it clear to the U.S. that “we protect our border certainly every bit as much as every other country.”

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