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Senate report suggests shifting border focus

OTTAWA, Ont. -- A report on border crossings between Canada and the US suggests the federal government has put too ...


OTTAWA, Ont. — A report on border crossings between Canada and the US suggests the federal government has put too much emphasis on revenues and not enough effort on security.

The Senate security and defence committee released a report condemning successive federal governments for focusing on collecting customs revenues instead of focusing on keeping dangerous goods and people out of the country.

The senators note that customs tariffs accounted for about three-quarters of federal government revenues before income taxes were introduced in 1917, but they accounted for only 0.147% of national revenues by 2004.

“If the federal government really needs that 0.147%, it has a multitude of other ways of raising the money, which would allow border guards to guard our borders,” said the all-party committee.

The panel recommended raising the personal exemptions of people re-entering Canada to $2,000 a trip from between $200 and $400, improving electronic identification of people and vehicles crossing the border, accelerating efforts to arm border guards, and negotiating “property swaps” with the Americans so border officers can pre-clear persons and vehicles before they cross vulnerable bridges or enter tunnels.

Also recommended in the 144-page report is to increase staffing at border crossings over the current average of 54 new officers a year over five years, which the committee warns will likely result in a critical shortage of border guards; and stop hiring part-time staff, usually students, and giving them “responsibilities commensurate with full-time staff, despite the fact they have no experience and little training.”

— with files from Canadian Press


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