Security and trade tops for Toews, Napolitano chat
Harper and Obama to meet on perimeter security pact this fall
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews talked border security and trade at a Monday meeting with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Canada and the United States have been negotiating a perimeter security agreement, which the government says would enhance trade and security.
Toews and Napolitano reiterated the goals of the talks and said they're making progress, but that they aren't done yet.
Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer sounded cautiously optimistic about the talks.
"You can't put your hands in the air until the puck's in the net. It's not in the net, but we're making great progress," Doer said.
"We also mentioned specifically the role that privacy commissioners would play, both in the United States and Canada, to ensure that information that is used is used appropriately," Toews said.
Napolitano said most Canadians would be surprised at how consistent the privacy environment is between Canada and the U.S.
The meeting also looked at the next generation of joint operations, she said, pointing to the example of putting law enforcement officials on each other's ships.
"We're looking at expanding that basic concept to other areas where we can do more by way of joint law enforcement operation, intelligence gathering … and joint policing, particularly along the border region," Napolitano said.
"Obviously these are areas that require a bit of fleshing out, but are evidence of our mutual intent that this border not be thickened, but that it be made more efficient."
They also announced an upcoming meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama this fall. No specific date was announced.
The talks are based on a joint declaration by Harper and Obama last February. They said the talks would look at addressing security threats early, making trade easier, integrating cross-border law enforcement, and improving critical infrastructure and cyber-security.
Brian Masse, NDP associate critic for the U.S.–Canada border, said the talks are happening in a vacuum, and letting the public submit comments on a website isn't enough of a dialogue. He also said there are no goals to measure against.
"How is it lowering wait times, how is it improving efficiency for the loss of Canadian privacy and the increased cost?" he said.
"We've seen them increase paperwork and other types of measures," he said, pointing to administrative fees for exporters and the requirement of a passport for Canadians travelling to the U.S. "There's a series of things that have been introduced over the years under the auspices of improving security."
Increased security over the past 10 years has slowed traffic crossing between the two countries, referred to as a thickening of the border.
Toews and Napolitano last met in Washington, D.C., in June.