Ontario government calls for urgent action on Border Roundtable Report

Archived Release

Ontario government calls for urgent action on Border Roundtable Report

OTTAWA, Nov. 21 /CNW/ - Economic Development and Trade Minister Bob Runciman today released Ontario's action plan for dealing swiftly with the serious economic and security issues developed in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States.
Ontario's Roundtable report details the results of discussions with Ontario's corporate executives, business leaders and senior government officials from the provincial, federal and New York State governments, at the Industry Leaders Roundtable on Border Issues, held Nov. 2 in Toronto.
The forum, initiated by Runciman, discussed the best ways to ensure the continued free flow of goods, services and people across the Canadian/U.S. border while improving the necessary security precautions.
"One major theme was the need for a North American security perimeter that would allow for free flow of trade while maintaining the safety of people on both sides of the border," Runciman said. "It is obvious that for the continued prosperity of both Ontarians and Americans, we need to address security concerns without hampering the smooth flow of trade between our countries."
"This is an issue where tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars are at stake," said Roundtable participant Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. "The Ontario Government has provided important leadership in looking for a solution that will protect both our physical and our economic security. It's important to defeat the terrorists on both of these fronts."
"CFIB's surveys show that border delays and disrupted business travel in the wake of September 11 are serious concerns for many small- and medium-sized businesses," said Judith Andrew, Canadian Federation of Independent Business' Ontario Vice-President. "Ontario's commitment to work at all levels to resolve these concerns-- in the context of beefed up security--will encourage small business entrepreneurs to move forward."

Included in the report's recommendations are the need to:

- establish a North American security perimeter
- harmonize border procedures between Canada and the United States
- increase the use of pre-clearance and identification procedures
- utilize new and existing technological measures

Runciman said he would present the report to his federal counterparts and called for urgent action by all parties on the report's recommendations.

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The events of September 11 were devastating tragedies and the people of Ontario have responded swiftly and generously, lending support to those suffering sorrow and pain.
These events transcended our borders and demonstrated the depth of relationship between Ontario and our American neighbours, both as friends and as partners in security and trade.
To protect Ontario's residents and economy, the government recently announced that it would invest more than $30 million to enhance the province's emergency management and security capabilities, and bolster tourism marketing in domestic and American markets. The Industry Leaders Roundtable on Border Issues builds on these actions by encouraging all parties to work together to keep the borders open for trade and maintain economic prosperity for both sides.

Protecting the People of Ontario

The provincial government has moved to introduce a series of initiatives, specifically designed to protect Ontarians from terrorist-related activities. These include:

- Appointing RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster and retired Major-General
Lewis Mackenzie as security advisors, to recommend improvements on how
the province deals with terrorist threats.
- Introducing legislation that would improve the security of vital
statistics documents and protect Ontario citizens' birth certificates
and other important documents.

More recently, the province announced it would:

- Enable Emergency Measures Ontario to offer municipalities more help
with community emergency planning;
- Build an anti-terrorism training facility for local police; and
- Build an emergency management training centre for firefighters and
ambulance personnel.

Other specific initiatives that have been announced to protect the people of Ontario include:

- Providing $4.5 million to create a new rapid-response unit of the
Ontario Provincial Police that will be specially equipped to combat
terrorist threats and provide protection for nuclear and water
treatment facilities;
- Investing $3.5 million in an anti-terrorism unit that will proactively
work to investigate and track down terrorists and their supporters;
- Giving front-line police officers $1 million to invest in equipment to
respond to chemical, biological and other kinds of attacks;
- Creating a counter-terrorism taskforce of specialized Crown Attorneys
to prosecute terrorist offences and to provide expert legal advice to
police and the government;
- Committing to vigorously prosecute the perpetrators of terrorism-
related hoaxes to the full extent of current law. Senior Crown
Attorneys from across the province will co-ordinate all terrorism-
related responses, including the prosecution of hoaxes. Ontario is also
calling on the federal government to create a new Criminal Code offence
to specifically deal with terrorist hoaxes;
- Reviewing Ontario statutes governing charities to ensure that the
provincial government can investigate and stop charities from directing
funds to terrorist activities;
- Proposing amendments to the Executive Council Act that would allow the
Lieutenant Governor in Council to extend certain court deadlines so
that any disruptions caused by an emergency do not prevent the people
of Ontario from having access to their justice system.

The province is also investing:

- $3 million per year to increase the capacity of Emergency Measures
Ontario to respond to emergencies and assist municipalities (including
adding 28 new staff);
- $2.5 million per year and $1.4 million in one-time funding to improve
Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario's intelligence-gathering
- $2.5 million to train people who are first at the scene of emergencies.
This will include training in heavy urban search and rescue --
responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear
emergencies and dealing with hazardous materials;
- $1 million to expand the mandate of the recently-announced provincial
Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement squad to target individuals who are
illegally in the province;
- $1 million to establish Volunteer Community Emergency Response teams.
The teams will comprise Ontarians who volunteer their time and
expertise in preparing for and responding to emergency situations;
- a one-time $600,000 expenditure to work with the owners and operators
of large buildings to develop evacuation procedures;
- $600,000 to develop more specialized forensic capacity in the Centre of
Forensic Sciences and make modifications to the current morgue. This
will allow for testing of explosives and toxic or chemical agents and
larger scale testing of DNA;
- $400,000 annualized, and additional staff, to expand the Ontario
Provincial Police Hate Crimes and Extremist Unit; and
- $200,000 to establish a new, mobile back-up Provincial Operations
Centre for Emergency Measures Ontario.

Supporting the Economy

In addition to ensuring the safety of Ontarians, it is also vital that Ontario's economy continue to prosper to ensure the province continues to be the best place to work, live, invest and raise a family. This requires that Ontario and the United States continue to have a free flowing trade of goods, services and people across our borders.
To that end, Ontario has called on the federal government to harmonize rules, coordinate customs procedures and to create a common North American security perimeter in order to facilitate Ontario's trade and commerce with the United States.
After meeting with New York Governor George Pataki on October 16th, Premier Harris announced that Ontario would convene a Roundtable on Border Issues. Chaired by Minister Runciman, the Roundtable brought together business leaders and government officials from the provincial, federal and United States governments to help develop an action plan on how best to approach the many economic, cross-border and security issues that have emerged since September 11.

Even before convening the Roundtable, the Ontario Government has already taken swift action to protect Ontario's economy by:

- working with key stakeholders since September 11 to monitor significant
economic and security issues, listen to their concerns and suggestions,
and provide support; and
- Introducing legislation to accelerate cuts in personal income taxes,
corporate income taxes and capital taxes;
- Providing up-to-date border crossing information through Travel
Information Centres, the 1-800-ONTARIO line, and government web sites;
- Issuing weekly bulletins to the tourism industry with up-to-date
information on the ministry's actions and initiatives;
- Investing $14 million in a new and aggressive marketing and research
campaign focused on traditional domestic and US markets, a 35 per cent
- Establishing strategic partnerships with tourism operators and
associations to increase the impact of marketing efforts and to help
attract more visitors; and
- Contacting counterparts in the states of New York and Michigan to
maximize bi-national opportunities.

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For more information visit www.Ontario-Canada.com

To view the Report on the Industry Leaders Roundtable on Border Issues :
For further information: Media Contact: Hal Vincent, Minister's Office 416-325-8779