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Auditor General: Ottawa Unsure of Effectiveness of Beyond the Border

Auditor-General of Canada, Michael Ferguson, assessed the current state of the Beyond the Border Action Plan in a recent report to Parliament, critiquing the government’s job thus far to qualify results and appraise costs of the program.

The $1.1-billion plan announced in 2011 aims to enhance border security and accelerating the legitimate flow of people, goods and services between Canada and the U.S.

The report suggested the eight government agencies involved in the project have done a good job implementing the action plan, but the government’s ability to measure any discernable results on border and security issues can be best described as “an incomplete and inaccurate picture of progress and costs.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance recently reported on the increasing number of border fees and penalties imposed on both sides of the border, which is creating additional trade barriers and negatively impacting the flow of commercial goods across the border.

The Auditor General highlighted such key programs as preclearance and the Canada-U.S. Entry/Exit initiative, also known as Bill C-21. Once passed, Entry/Exit would allow Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials to know when and where someone enters or leaves the country, providing officials with the ability to collect basic biographical information on all persons leaving Canada. Approximately $53 million of the program’s $121-million budget has already been spent.

According to the report, the federal government decided to expand the sharing of the entry/exit information with other departments and agencies – something that wasn’t supposed to occur when the legislation was first introduced. The sharing of information with the Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada and the RCMP “has raised several privacy concerns that have yet to be addressed,” says the report.

CTA previously raised concerns about sharing data and was assured it was not the government’s plan to share this data with multiple departments. CTA will be requesting clarification on this matter moving forward.

The Auditor-General’s Office said government testing of the preclearance pilot program “had mixed results,” and indicated more work needed to be done to assess its benefits at the border. Preclearence was one of the high profile promises under the Beyond the Border plan that, in theory, would allow goods to be inspected away from the border.

Reportedly, Public Safety Canada, CBSA, the RCMP and Transport Canada did not dispute the findings of the Auditor-General and vowed to improve and reevaluate performance criteria used to measure Beyond the Border projects moving forward.

The full Auditor General’s report can be read by clicking here.

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