The new Canada-U.S. border deal will cost Canadian taxpayers at least this much

The formal analysis (more solid than the one on self-administered citizenship oaths):

Closing the Canada-U.S. border to asylum seekers is projected to cost Canadian taxpayers at least $60 million over 10 years. But that analysis doesn’t include costs for the Mounties to beef up “challenging” enforcement efforts.

In March, Ottawa and Washington expanded a bilateral agreement to turn back irregular migrants trying to cross into the other country for protection, but a cost-benefit analysis has only been recently published in the Canada Gazette.

“It will be challenging for the RCMP to consistently enforce the Regulations given the size and terrain of Canada’s landscape, challenges posed by Indigenous and private lands, as well as the limitations of existing border technology (e.g. sensors, cameras),” said the public notice about the amended Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA).

“Responding to reports of border crossings and intercepting irregular migrants between the ports is resource intensive and risks diverting policing resources.”

The RCMP is responsible for patrolling unofficial border crossings. It will be funded for broader initiatives to replace and modernize ISR equipment (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) and to form a new project team to determine technological and other needs.

But the notice said these expenditures are not treated as incremental, hence not included in the analysis.

“It is acknowledged that investment in these new resources will likely help support … the broader objective of a reduction in irregular migration following implementation of the regulatory amendments,” it said.

The estimated $61.5-million cost in today’s dollar value only covers transition costs, upfront capital costs, and ongoing processing, operations and enforcement costs for the immigration department and Canada Border Service Agency. It includes:

  • $560,000 this year only for communications products, IT costs, updates to program delivery instructions, other administrative materials, and training costs;
  • $1.28 million over the next decade to purchase vehicles to transport migrants, and for acquisition and installation costs for office equipment and renovations to create additional processing spaces such as interview rooms due to more dispersed arrival points for asylum claimants across the border; and
  • $59.61 million over 10 years for ongoing processing, operations and enforcement costs for tasks such as eligibility determinations, investigations, intelligence, reviews, infrastructure oversight, litigation and vehicle maintenance.

As a result of evolving migration routes, officials say there will be additional policing costs in border communities and in popular destination cities to respond to calls, conduct investigations related to irregular migration, and to respond to suspected cases of human smuggling.

The public notice says there will also be potential costs or risks for asylum claimants who choose to game the system.

“Claimants may face increased danger, such as involvement with human smugglers and may be at risk for physical, mental or financial abuse. They may also face risks from exposure to extreme weather conditions if they cross at remote locations or fail to secure access to shelter,” it said.

“This could increase the health and security risks of living in dangerous natural habitats, as well as a possible lack of access to food, water, health care and other basic services.”

Since 2017, Canada has seen a surge of irregular migrants via the U.S., which reached almost 40,000 asylum seekers last year. More than 90 per cent of them came through the world-famous Roxham Road in Quebec, which put pressure on the country’s asylum system and local housing and community services.

Restricting access to asylum throughout the entire border will improve border integrity and support the standardized treatment of all arrivals, regardless of where migrants cross, said the notice, which also cautions against any promised outcomes on the level of irregular migration.

“The impact on asylum volumes is dependent on many factors, including the ability to effectively address border crossings as new irregular routes emerge and the risk that individuals will continue to evade application of the STCA,” it said.

“As such, the extent to which volumes may be reduced is largely unknown and the magnitude of this impact cannot be estimated; therefore, for cost-benefit analysis purposes, the benefits of a reduction in asylum claimants are not quantified or monetized.”

It also noted that no public consultations were undertaken for the changes to the bilateral pact because it would have created a surge of migrants trying to sneak into the country before the new rule took effect.

Source: The new Canada-U.S. border deal will cost Canadian taxpayers at least this much

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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