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Gill Blog

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

PSEP: More than Window Dressing

I received some preliminary feedback on the newsletter published last week from a few readers who thought it was a little presumptuous on my part to compare Canada's new Minstry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (PSEP) to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Some commented that this was nothing more than Canada's attempt to show they are just as important as their neighbors to the south, and creating this Ministry was, as one reader put it, "a cry for attention."

Given the fact the budget for Homeland Security exceeds $38 billion, and PSEP's is $5 billion (Canadian), one might see a basis for initiating such an argument, but when the deeper reasons for PSEP's formation are better understood, it becomes clear that PSEP is much more than window dressing. A tidy summary of the differences and basis for the two organizations is summarized in this excellent presentation that was recently put together by a consortium of three law firms - two American, and one Canadian. After reviewing the document, it becomes abundantly clear that the driving factors for PSEP's formation were: creating a set of uniform standards applicable on both sides of the border; and more importantly, preservating the unique trading relationship that exists between the two countries. As the U.S. and Canada are by far each others largest trading partners, it is vital that both countries better align security protocols so disruption to the flow of trade is minimized.

One of the segments that was particularly well done was by Sarah Diamond at McMillan Binch LLP. Ms. Diamond points out how the funtional structure of PSEP actually existed under two different ministries prior to its formation last December. Therefore, it was vital that in order for all interconnected functions to operate efficiently, these functions all be brought together under one umbrella. The current and prior structures are illustrated in the presentation.

The most important channels for trade are road, rail and sea, therefore, measures had to be put in place to better coordinate security standards at border crossings, while not disrupting the efficiency and free flow of trade. Indeed, over the past two years, there have been incidents that have occurred that have created delays at border crossings, but for the most part, both sides are doing there part in enhancing the infrastructure and taking a unified approach.


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