Craig's Take: Anti-terrorism laws re-introduced to satisfy U.S.?
Craig Oliver, CTV Chief Political Correspondent
Published Friday, September 9, 2011 9:48PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:55AM EDT
OTTAWA - From the moment of the devastating terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York and two other targets, we knew that our lives had changed forever. Ten years later we are still impacted every day in one way or another by that horrifying day. It is near impossible to put a number on the cost to the economies of the U.S. and Canada, nor can the human cost really be measured. We all know that air travel has become a Darwinian jungle. But that is an inconvenience at most, although an expensive one for taxpayers.
Another cost has been in the change in the thinking and the priorities of American political leadership. Security trumps everything else. The most profound change has been the growth of a massive police and security establishment, centred in the Homeland Security Department and a vastly expanded law enforcement presence of all kinds, many of them top secret without, some experts fear, satisfactory civilian watchdogs. Hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars and a significant portion of Canadian cash that could have been well used for other purposes have been funnelled into anti-terrorist measures, even including a seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan.
For Canadians it has also meant that what we once proudly boasted as the world's longest undefended border is now armed and patrolled on the ground and in the air. We have lost the great economic advantage Canada once benefited from as a result of its sharing a continent alongside the richest country in the world. We remain friends but far more warily than we did in years gone by.
Again, no one can really measure the cost to the economy of the sluggish movements of goods and services between the world's two largest trading partners. Even some of America's most senior officials believed that 9-11 killers came across a weakly supervised Canadian border.
U.S. and Canadian negotiators are trying once more to work out a perimeter security arrangement that will satisfy U.S. concerns and it will inevitably result in the necessary sacrifice of some Canadian sovereignty. We are still struggling with the implications for U.S.-Canadian trade. Policy makers in Ottawa now hold as a priority the need to reduce our overdependence on the U.S. and find other trading partners, especially in Asia.
The prime minister announced this week that Canada will re-introduce draconian anti-terrorist laws introduced in the months after the 9-11 attacks but allowed to lapse 4 years ago. One can be forgiven for suspecting these measures are being revived more to satisfy American fears than for our own domestic needs.
On Question Period this week we will question the public safety minister about the need for these changes. We will also go to New York City to report on the events commemorating 9-11, and to Newfoundland and Labrador where Canadians opened their hearts to airline passengers forced to land there when U.S. air space was shut down in 2001. And, we will talk to the top Canadian official making life and death decisions about people's lives and airline travel that day.
It will be our first program of the new season and the introduction of my new co-host and old colleague Kevin Newman.