Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Border deal kept secret while planning PR

Federal documents contradict Harper's office on perimeter security talks

The Canadian Press: Months before the Conservative government dismissed talk of a perimeter security accord with the United States as hearsay, senior officials were quietly discussing a draft of the border agreement. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show federal deputy ministers considered a version of the accord early last September.

The planned perimeter agreement is intended to expand joint operations on security, creating a sort of continental fortress while allowing for smoother flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel...

Despite the advanced efforts, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper waved off questions about an accord in December when word began to leak out. 'No such announcement is planned. We don't comment on hearsay or speculation.' Less than two months later, Harper and U.S. President Barak Obama signed an agreement that could ultimately lead to a formal North American security perimeter. Critics say the federal government is risking sovereignty over key policies such as immigration as well as control of personal information about Canadians...

The newly released documents say the deputy ministers and security officials who met Nov. 22 were to be provided with a copy of the federal 'communications strategy' for the declaration, details of which are blacked out. In February, however the Toronto Star reported on a leaked copy of the strategy, saying the government purposely kept negotiations on the border deal secret while it planned ways to swing public opinion in favour of the deal. The newspaper said the 14-page public relations document suggested keeping a 'low public profile' in the months leading up to the announcement.
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