By BETH DUFF-BROWN
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 13, 2007; 3:38 AM
WINDSOR, Ontario -- Canada plans to spend more than $368 million over the next five years to protect its border from terrorist, economic and environmental threats.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced the initiative Friday at the border crossing between Windsor and Detroit, the conduit for one-third of the $1.6 billion in daily trade that passes between Canada and the United States.
"I even sometimes surprise my American friends when I remind them that the trade that comes across the Ambassador Bridge in total is greater than all of the trade that exists between the United States and Japan," Day told a news conference.
Experts have long said Canada should tighten security along its side of the 4,000-mile border, especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
When he was elected nearly a year ago, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to strengthen the frontier between the world's largest trading partners, including these new security measures and eventually arming Canada's border guards.
The bulk of the money, $337 million, is for the electronic-Manifest program, which allows for computer-automated risk assessments of cargo shipments before they reach Canada.
The 18,000 trucks that cross the U.S.-Canada border each day, as well as all railroad, air and marine cargo carriers, will eventually be required to file electronic manifests before their shipments arrive. This will allow border service agents to determine in advance whether the cargo, or those who deliver it, should be further screened.
The eManifest program will ensure that background checks on crew and risk assessments of cargo are in the hands of the Canada Border Services Agency 24 hours in advance of the arrival of shipments by sea; and several hours ahead of railroad, highway and air cargo.
The program was developed in cooperation with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, launched in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin, President Bush and then-Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Day would not give a precise date of when the electronic manifests would become mandatory at the 119 border crossings.
"There's still going to be that human element at the border, to look at material and talk to the driver, but the amount of time that's going to be saved is going to be significant," he said of the requirement to file electronic manifests in advance of cargo shipments.
Another $20 million has been earmarked for business leaders and emergency responders to plan for the immediate resumption of trade across the border in the event of a terrorist attack, medical pandemic or natural disaster.
Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said his and other associations would work with governments and emergency response teams on both sides of the border to stage exercises and develop protocols that would get trade moving within hours of an emergency.
"If al-Qaida can damage us, either physically or economically, they win," Beatty told the news conference. "It would be foolish for us to assume that there will not be any further incidents along the border."
Another $10 million will expand the existing Partners in Protection program, a voluntary scheme in which businesses and their employees help border agents detect and prevent contraband smuggling of drugs and weapons.
On the Net:
Canada Border Services Agency: http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/