Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bordering on a Good Idea

A couple of weeks ago, the federal government quietly approved the move of an estimated 800 immigration officers over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The idea is that an immigration and customs issue could be dealt with by the same person, thereby speeding up the overall process. Pardoning the pun, this is bordering on a good idea.

The Customs folks have been underclassified, underpaid, undertrained, underequipped, undermanned and undermotivated for quite a while now and this could help. They have been completely underwhelmed by the support of their Minister and their government. This is not a denigration of the efforts or dedication of the current Customs folks. Their situation is the result of government neglect and negligence over an extended period. Sound familiar?

It's the kind of situation that has resulted in over one hundred long guns per day coming through just the Edmonton International Airport during hunting season and disappearing into the wilds without a trace. They're probably going home with the hunter, but no one can prove it. Multiply that by a lot of major airports in Canada. It's the kind of situation that has seen Customs shifts at airports manned at a fraction of specified levels and unable to respond. It's the kind of situation that has seen high tech equipment sitting idle because of lack of personnel and training. It is the kind of situation that sees minimally trained college students manning the front lines at our borders, while the regular Customs folks squeak in some well-earned holidays.

It's the kind of situation that is endemic to the Liberal government's handling of our security and safety, both at home and internationally. This move of 800 immigration officers over to customs will be a good idea only if they do not become just another 800 mistreated customs agents. I go back to the image of our Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety beaming happily at Tom Ridge's announcement that the U.S. is turning back terror suspects at their border every day. Why do we let them get to the 49th parallel in the first place?

This is an idea that might work, but only if the implementation of the idea does not follow the Liberal path of good intentions and really bad execution. To my knowledge the under-things mentioned earlier have not been addressed. Until they are addressed, the jury will stay out.

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