Red tape won't boost security: Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the safety of airline passengers, but may not necessarily adapt a watch list approach as the United States has done.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the safety of airline passengers, but may not necessarily adapt a watch list approach as the United States has done.

"We face common threats," Harper told the CBC's Peter Mansbridge in an interview Tuesday, referring to the attempted bombing by al-Qaeda of an American airliner on Dec. 25.

"The incident around Christmas brought in a whole new series of dimensions that governments have to adapt to.

"Obviously there are issues of treating people fairly, treating people equally, of balancing privacy concerns with the ultimate goal of …making sure the travelling public is safe."

While the government announced plans Tuesday to introduce full-body scanners at major Canadian airports, it will review the 14-country terrorist watch list announced by the U.S. this week to see if Canada should adopt this approach as part of its security plan, Harper said.

"We're going to take a look at these measures very carefully and we may arrive at different conclusions," Harper said, adding he questions the idea that security can be improved by adding more red tape.

It's important that "we make sure that we respond in ways that are intelligent, ways that effectively identify threats before they happen, as opposed to simply massive bureaucratic sets of rules," he said, likening this to the "gun registry approach."

"Putting people on a list is not the best way to identify a security threat."

Moving on to another hot button issue, Harper steadfastly defended his decision to prorogue Parliament last week, calling it "fairly standard procedure," and a "routine constitutional matter."

"I don't think it makes sense for a session of Parliament to go on and on without the government periodically examining its overall agenda," Harper said.

He dismissed the notion that shutting down the inquiry into Afghan detainee abuse was behind his decision to prorogue Parliament.

Besides, "[Afghan detainee abuse] is not on the top of the radar of most Canadians," Harper said. "The consensus out there would be no one wants an election."

The economy is the focus of the government and most Canadians, he said.

The government intends to announce the second phase of its economic action plan when Parliament resumes in March, he said, hinting that it may address a looming labour shortage "that will be upon us as soon as the recovery ends."

Harper couldn't resist taking a parting shot at the Opposition.

After four years as prime minister, Harper said he is more patient, less sensitive to criticism and less partisan.

"The more comfortable our government becomes with the Canadian people, the more partisanship becomes the domain of the Opposition."