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Senators say Transport Canada not competent to oversee airport security

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:35 p.m. March 21, 2007]

OTTAWA  — A Senate committee released a report on air security Wednesday recommending that Transport Canada be "relieved" of its responsibilities for airport security. 
 
The Senate national security and defence committee said those responsibilities should be transferred to the public security department instead. 
 
"Transport Canada should get out of the security field and focus on areas in which it has competence," the report concluded. 

The report argued that the department's mandate to facilitate the speedy movement of Canadians is at odds with providing effective security. 
 
"Putting Transport Canada in charge of security is comparable to putting Industry Canada in charge of the environment," the report stated. 

At a press conference in Ottawa, Liberal Senator Colin Kenny went further and described bureaucrats at Transport Canada as not competent enough to handle security.
 
Kenny said before the committee held hearings, they met with Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon to outline their concerns about security gaps the committee discovered in researching a similar 2002 report. 

"He was very polite," Kenny said. "He listened to me throughout the whole piece. Two weeks later his deputy minister appeared before us and it was the same old stonewalling. 

"The bureaucrats were running the institution and that's why we don't think they're competent to handle it any more and that's why this committee has recommended that Transport Canada be removed from this responsibility."

After question period, Cannon told reporters that both he and Public Security Minister Stockwell Day will look at the senate's recommendations. 

"We are always in a process of finding better ways to be able to ensure security and safety to the passengers," Cannon said.  

Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe said he will study the Senate report, including the recommendation to take airport security away from Transport Canada. 

"Whether Transport Canada is the appropriate department to address the security issue at airports, that's another story," Volpe told reporters after the Liberal caucus meeting. "I think it's a suggestion that's worth examining and examining further."

The Senate committee made numerous other recommendations in its report, including ones dealing with they called a "lack of transparency over security expenditures generally."

"The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has not provided a full accounting of the money it spends," the report stated. "The public needs to know how much money is being spent, in which areas, to address airport security."

On this front, the committee recommended that CATSA fully report on the amount it spends at each airport for screening, the government introduce legislation allowing the auditor general to audit each airport and the government ask the auditor general to conduct a "value-for-money" audit on security expenditures. 

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