Adjournment Proceedings – Airport Security

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to pursue a question I first asked on February 15, which is in relation to the loss of RCMP services at a number of class 2 airports in British Columbia and elsewhere. The response I got from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety at the time was that the deployment of RCMP assets was an operational decision of the RCMP and not related to a decision of this particular administration.
It is a loss for the airport in Victoria, which is actually in Sidney, B.C. in my riding. The presence of these RCMP officers was enormously helpful. With dedicated RCMP officers at the Victoria airport, there was coverage seven days a week. Now if there are problems at the airport, the local RCMP detachment based in Sidney would have to juggle other calls and demands in order to come to the airport. It is a busy airport and the RCMP presence was very important for security.

As well, the RCMP presence was withdrawn from Kelowna. Although Kelowna is in quite a spectacularly beautiful part of Canada, in the Okanagan, it happens to be, according to security experts with whom I have consulted, something of a thoroughfare for the smuggling of drugs and weapons. It is in an area where there are significant markets in northern Alberta and, without the RCMP detachment at the Kelowna airport, there is a concern that there will be an increase in drug dealing and other offences.

This comes at the same time as significant cutbacks in border security agents. According to the union representing the border guards, the Canada Border Services Agency has had cuts of up to 1,000 people. A lot of us saw the news coverage of the loss of the canine division, which was very efficient, effective and accurate at detecting the presence of illicit drugs and narcotics and so forth at borders. We have lost the canine division, we have lost the workforce of Canada Border Services agents who worked with that canine force, and we are losing security along the Canada–U.S. border at the same time that these cutbacks at the RCMP have lost us protection in our airports.

I have to say that I find this rather baffling, coming from an administration that has fashioned itself as being tough on crime and as being one that wants to protect Canada and Canadians from the threats of violent crime and the threats of illegal and illicit activity. This is in fact not just affecting particularly the Canada Border Services agents, not just affecting so-called backroom arrangements, agents and operations, but actually will affect the front-line operations of border security agents in such a way that the president of the union feels that smugglers will get the upper hand.

It really would be appropriate for the federal government to revisit these ill-advised cuts and to restore and replace the presence of RCMP officers in the class 2 airports, such as in Victoria and in Kelowna, and at the same time to revisit the cutting of border security agents. These are ill-conceived cuts that will cause far more damage through the loss of security than they can possibly gain in austerity.

Pierre Poilievre: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for providing me with the opportunity to respond to some of her concerns. Like other police services across Canada, the RCMP in British Columbia provides on-site policing at airports. Airport security in Canada is designated into three tiers across the country.

Tier 1 includes larger airports with policing detachments such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and similar other larger centres. The policing detachment in each tier 1 airport is provided by the police of the jurisdiction in that municipality where the airport is located.

Tier 2 airports are located in medium-sized municipalities that include cities like Kelowna or Victoria.

Tier 3 airports are located in small communities across Canada and do not have dedicated police presence as part of their security measures.

Security assessment of all airports is a continuous effort of Transport Canada.

The funding for airport security measures is paid directly by Transport Canada to the airport authorities and the municipality.

The RCMP provision of policing services under contract is conducted through co-operation with the municipality and the chief operating officer in each airport.

Total security operations for each airport include various measures, for example, perimeter fencing, employee security passes and controlled access zones. Budget allocations by Transport Canada are based on the assessment to determine the risks and need for security at each airport.

In 2012, Transport Canada estimated that existing security measures as a whole at tier 2 airports, including Kelowna and Victoria, other than dedicated police officers and detachments, were sufficient to ensure public safety at these airports.

We have confidence in Transport Canada’s assessment that the overall security package at Canadian airports, including Kelowna and Victoria, provide maximum security and safety measures for all Canadians. Let me assure the House that the policing presence at Kelowna and Victoria airports is ongoing through routine patrols and by responding to all emergency 911 calls for service.

With that being said, I thank the member for her query and I now anticipate her follow-up.