April 12th, 2012

Border cuts will make it easier to smuggle, slower to cross

Conservative cuts weaken public safety and ensure fewer processing staff at the borders

OTTAWA – NDP Trade Critic Brian Masse says Conservative budget cuts risk congesting borders while seriously weakening public safety. Over 1150 Canadian Border Services Agency Services staff were told their jobs are at risk this week, and New Democrats are raising serious concerns as to how the Conservatives plan to pick up the slack.

“Canadian borders are losing key resources to stop drugs and guns from getting into Canada,” said Masse. “The number of intelligence officers will be cut across the country, and these are the people who help stop weapons and drugs. Cuts to the dog detector program means gutting one of our strongest contraband intervention tools. In short, it will make it easier to smuggle.”

NDP Deputy Public Safety Critic Sylvain Chicoine added that with staff and overtime cut, border crossing will only get more congested.

“You can’t cut staff and overtime hours and pretend things will go smoothly,” said Chicoine. “It will mean longer waits for travelers, slower cross-border business – all while compromising public safety.”

Out of the 1151 affected employees, 325 border services officer positions will be eliminated. Limited staff will force more reliance on automated systems to process commercial vehicles at the border – thereby weakening the ability to detect smuggling.

“With fewer officers on the front lines, we will be leaving it up to computers to ask importers if they’re smuggling. When a border services officer reviews the paperwork, they go over routing, cargo, quantities and any other criteria that would raise suspicion. Increasingly, we will leave this up to computers. It’s unacceptable,” Masse said.

“The two biggest concerns Canadian have about their borders is faster crossing and strong public safety. It’s hard to see how these cuts to staff and resources will help Canada move forward on either of these important objectives.”