Reported security deal draws House sparks

The federal Liberals raise questions over a reported agreement in the works between Canada and U.S. that would see their security bureaucracies more interlinked.

The federal Liberals are raising questions over a reported agreement in the works between Canada and U.S. that would see their security bureaucracies more interlinked.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives cannot be trusted with Canadians' civil rights in reported secret negotiations with the U.S. on security. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))
The National Post first reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives are set to announce a landmark perimeter security and trade agreement with the U.S. aimed at ensuring the trade flow isn't restricted by American security agencies.

In a heated lead-off exchange during Thursday's question period in the House of Commons, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff queried whether the Conservatives can be trusted with protecting Canada's sovereignty and Canadians' civil rights in "secret negotiations with the Americans."  

"This government has already surrendered energy policy and climate policy to the Americans," Ignatieff told the House. "The question is, what is next?" 

The prime minister was not in the House. But after Mark Warawa, parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, replied by stating the government's goals at the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun, Ignatieff then angrily demanded the Conservative MP "wake up and treat the House with respect."

That drew a response from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who quipped: "Well, Mr. Speaker, I thought it was a secret, and so that was the appropriate response."

Toews then said Ignatieff was asking him to comment on "media speculation and hearsay," and slipped in a barb at Ignatieff's career abroad as an academic in the United States. 

"I can only speak to the facts, and that is that all Canadians win from increased co-operation, national safety and protection with the Leader of the Opposition's homeland," the minister said.

The media reports cited a draft agreement stating the two countries intend to establish a "Beyond the Border Working Group" of officials to "pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at and away from the borders of our two countries in a way that supports economic competitiveness, job creation and prosperity, and in a partnership to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people and goods between our two countries."

Canadian officials have long been concerned that enhanced security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States would hinder the flow of daily trade between the two countries along the border.

The reports also said it was not clear how close Canada and the U.S. are to signing a deal.