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Brison proposes a 'seamless border': Tory leadership hopeful wants a freer flow of goods, people
Sheldon Alberts
Source :  National Post

Scott Brison, the Progressive Conservative leadership candidate, will unveil today a blueprint for increased integration with the United States that calls on Ottawa to negotiate a common economic and security perimeter.

As Tory leadership hopefuls prepare for their first major debate tomorrow, Mr. Brison will release a plan for a new economic and security partnership that he says would create a "seamless border" that allows free flow of goods and people between the two nations.

"The only way to defend economic sovereignty is by creating economic growth and prosperity. For Canadians, the best way to do that is to ensure continued access to the richest market in the world, the United States," Mr. Brison said in an interview yesterday.

The Nova Scotia MP's proposals include a call for the creation of a "continental economic space," which would allow goods to be cleared through a set of common procedures at any Canadian or U.S. port of entry and shift border enforcement away from the 49th parallel.

The plan would see all "marine containers be processed for North American travel at the ocean port of entry, with all customs inspections done at that time." It would then allow "unencumbered travel" within the two countries.

Mr. Brison, the Tories' finance critic, is also advocating a voluntary "North American Travel Identification System" to allow Canadians and Americans to move freely between the two countries. This would include a common travel document shared by citizens of both countries, he said.

"We have the choice to be on the inside of Fortress America. We can't afford to be on the outside of Fortress America," Mr. Brison said.

The 35-year-old MP says the plan is a natural progression from the Tory-negotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, and makes even more sense as U.S. concerns about homeland security increase.

He says negotiations for a common economic zone should coincide with talks aimed at developing shared security standards to protect the continent from potential terrorists.

"It in no way compromises our sovereignty to defend our perimeters. I would argue we are, in fact, strengthening our sovereignty, by putting ourselves in a position where we can defend our perimeters and the sanctity of our perimeters and at the same time, have unimpeded access to the richest market in the world. It is the best of both worlds," he said.

Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador, has pressed the Chretien government to consider the creation of a security perimeter, but Ottawa has rejected the concept amid concerns about the implications to Canada's sovereignty.

Mr. Brison said Ottawa's approach has been too timid and concerns over a loss of sovereignty are misplaced.

"We should define our patriotism based on pride, not paranoia," he said. The Tory candidate stops short of proposing a full European Union-style customs union between Canada and the United States and says his plan "in no way reduces national government autonomy."

Mr. Brison says the Canadian and the U.S. governments should also begin talks to develop common inspection and certification standards for food safety, pharmaceuticals and consumer and industrial goods, so that products are "tested once" and approved simultaneously by each nation.

The proposals are likely to generate controversy in the leadership race. David Orchard, an organic farmer in Saskatchewan, is running for the leadership on an anti-free trade platform that opposes further economic integration with the United States.

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