Time's Up!

Dec 15, 2009

We need a National Security Policy with teeth, now. Particularly its Emergency ­Preparedness and Critical Infrastructure ­Protection elements, and one which allies, neighbours, businesses, provinces and municipalities can, with confidence, know is indeed protecting our citizens and resources reliably… as most, incorrectly, expect we now do.

In 2004, three years after 9/11, Canada welcomed the creation of the new federal department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. Today, nearly six years later, with a streamlined name (Public Safety Canada) and governed under another party, we have seen the rotation of people and promises – but little in terms of real action. Policy documents have been couched in the small print vocabulary of dubious codicils to specious warranties, making politically-correct promises to consult with the ever-vague “stakeholders,” and doing so with gravity and urgency in some undefined future. Action and deadlines seem but unnecessary impediments to the process of deliberation. The very title of “Working Towards a National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure,” still the only guidance (June 2008) in one of these two realms, speaks to this lack and attitude.

As we “work through” the Swine Flu pandemic and approach with great gusto the upcoming Winter Olympics, it will be more than time to garner our experiences and expertise and assess our ability to ­coordinate, at all levels, security preparedness in these predictable fields. Following from such a coordinated examination, hopefully next spring, (do you want to mention anything about parliament being prorogued?) might the federal government be induced to produce the effective guidance and concrete procedures for these and future less predictable threats?

It is encouraging that the new Deputy Minister at Public Safety Canada has a reputation for asking the right questions and recognizing and rejecting inaction when he sees it. His department has massive subject area responsibilities but inadequate internal subject expertise. That of itself is an enormous challenge, but it is felt that he has the qualifications and attitude to correct this. It is time then, for the federal government’s national coordinating department for Safety and Security to deliver on promises it has made since 2004.

There is cause and urgency to get this right. Derek Burney summed up the major reasons in his Global Brief at Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, York University, Toronto on 17 November 2009. “Canada is the largest foreign supplier to the U.S. of all forms of power – oil and gas, electricity and uranium – exporting more than CDN $125B annually across its southern border,” he began. “In terms of pipeline products alone, Canada exported 2 million bbls/day of crude oil to the U.S. in 2008, worth US $64 billion and another 500,000 bbls/day of refined products… Canada will remain, by far, the largest ­foreign supplier of natural gas to the U.S.

“The Canada-U.S., or continental, electricity grid operates in a similarly integrated fashion to satisfy peak demands on either side of the border. The blackout that hit central Canada and much of the American Midwest corridor in 2003 highlights the extent to which Canada and the U.S. are integrated in terms of power generation, and should therefore be jointly committed to measures that will enhance the security of energy transmission facilities. It also, incidentally, points to the need to upgrade that grid – a challenge that still remains.

“The extent of cross-border integration between the U.S. and Canadian economies is not unique to the energy sector,” continued Burney. “It is the dominant characteristic of the North American economy, including in automobile manufacturing, as was more than ­evident when the U.S. and Canadian governments acted together to rescue and restructure that industry. The agriculture, integrated rail and aviation sectors are other examples. There is, in fact, a high degree of mutual economic dependence that grows with each economic cycle.” Might I add that disease and weather know no borders and respect no sovereignty, internal or external.

John Hay, in his 2006 study for the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University, observed that, despite the reorganization, “More than four years after … 9/11, it is still not altogether clear who in the (Canadian) federal government does what in terms of responsibility for the protection of infrastructure.” As Groucho Marx would say: “I resemble that remark.”

Though it is recognized that government agencies and departments have a reasonable ability to respond with most actions needed in the face of a serious disaster, when time is available, experts have expressed concern that there is serious lack of known actions to restore things to normal once the disaster is over… particularly from less predictable events.

To truly “deliver on the fundamental role of government to secure the public’s safety and security,” as it states is its role, Public Safety Canada must provide the leadership through a clear strategy and plans that will ensure the Business Continuity of Canada and the safety of its citizens. We will continue to watch Public Safety Minister Van Loan and his Deputy Minister, Mr. Baker in the hopes that they will urgently address this gap.

Surely the amount of process undertaken over the last six years can generate a strategy and business continuity plan in short order. This must be done if Public Safety Canada is to meet even a few of the most generic timelines published in the 2008 “Working Towards” document. “Tempus Fugit”… which, I believe, is Latin for “Get off your @..!”

This winter edition of Frontline Security deals with surveillance and we believe that we have only touched upon its scope, technology and the many realms it affects. I thank all contributors and welcome readers’ comments.  

Clive Addy, Executive Editor
© FrontLine Security 2009