Core Services Review

Each day, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) must meet the demand for border services for an increasingly rigorous travel industry and in a tightening economy. This combination of factors makes the task of maintaining existing programs and services with fixed resources a formidable one. Yet despite this, the Agency is dedicated to ensuring the security and prosperity of Canada by managing the access of people and goods to and from Canada.

Among the CBSA's challenges is how it can fairly and transparently respond to industry requests for revised levels of border clearance services while simultaneously balancing the demands of a dual mandate: support national security and public safety priorities and facilitate the free flow of persons and goods.

With an aim to collaboratively address these challenges, the CBSA embarked on a two-phased Core Services Review of its passenger clearance services. Phase I focused on the air mode while Phase II reviewed the marine and rail modes of travel.

What are core services?

"Core services," in the CBSA context refer to the specific combination of border services provided at a specific port of entry in all modes of travel. This combination of services is unique to each location and is based on the following:

  • the hours of operation during which the CBSA provides its services at each site, such as an eight-hour-a-day or a seven-day-a-week schedule);
  • the types of service that the CBSA provides on behalf of the Government of Canada, such as the clearance of international passengers at airports; and
  • the CBSA's operational capacity at the site.

More information on core hours for specific locations can be found in the Directory of CBSA Offices.

What are the objectives of the review?

The primary objectives of the Core Services Review are to:

  • develop sustainable service delivery approaches for passenger clearance services that are fair, transparent and flexible enough to respond appropriately to the changing demands and contexts of the travel industry;
  • establish transparent criteria for use in determining which services, locations and hours of operation should be delivered on a publicly-funded basis, ensuring the most efficient use of CBSA's resources; and
  • establish a solid methodology that is both easily understood and accessible to stakeholders, and objectively and fairly assesses requests for new and enhanced passenger clearance services.

The Core Services Review did not include a review of commercial processing, nor did it examine the CBSA's cost recovery policies.

Issues raised by stakeholders

Stakeholders have taken the position that the CBSA does not respond to the current needs of the Canadian travel industry, asserting that the CBSA's operational hours at certain locations are not responsive to business needs. Stakeholders suggest that the CBSA's service delivery and cost recovery policies are applied unfairly and inconsistently which, in turn, creates a barrier to regional economic development, particularly for smaller airports, cruise ship operators and the communities they serve. Therefore, industry stakeholders assert that a policy should be in place to offer a consistent and transparent approach to obtaining new or additional levels of passenger clearance services.

Additionally, stakeholders have criticized the CBSA's process of identifying which services are:

  • funded publicly;
  • paid through cost recovery measures;
  • recovered through a combination of both public funds and cost recovery; or
  • denied after a request is made.

Canada's size, diverse geography, and population distribution pose important and costly challenges for the delivery of CBSA passenger clearance services. Every community located near the Canada-United States border could argue that these services are necessary to support regional economic development. The CBSA recognizes the importance of economic development; however, it must carefully weigh and consider all requests for service with a focus on security and cost effectiveness in a way that benefits the greatest possible number of citizens.

Phase I: Air mode

The air mode was selected for the first phase of the review as significant requests to increase levels of service were received by airport authorities, airlines and municipalities. Phase I was completed in 2009. The CBSA released the Air Mode Report to stakeholders, which provides a summary of the review, observations and CBSA best practices.

Upon completion of Phase I of the review, the CBSA met its objectives by developing and implementing the Air Services Policy Framework. The framework aims to establish a consistent, open and equitable service delivery approach for determining where and how to best allocate the CBSA's resources for future service requests.

On April 1, 2009, the CBSA implemented the Air Services Policy Framework and expanded international passenger clearance services at eligible sites. The policy framework uses a set of clear, measurable, and weighted criteria to categorize airports based on passenger volumes, the distance to service locations and flight frequency. All criteria must be met for a location to be eligible for new or enhanced CBSA services.

Phase II: Marine and rail modes

The second phase of the review looked at passenger clearance services in marine and rail modes and has recently been completed. The Core Services Review: Marine and Rail Modes for Passengers Report outlines the key findings, observations, recommendations and next steps stemming from the CBSA's marine and rail stakeholder consultations which was used to develop a policy framework for marine and rail modes.

The policy frameworks for the marine and rail modes are similar to the Air Services Policy Framework in that they provide fair, transparent and flexible service delivery approaches for determining CBSA core services. The frameworks are consistent with the Air Services Policy Framework in that they use a similar scoring system and tiered schema to determine service eligibility at marine and rail ports of entry. However, they have been modified to take into consideration the realities of these two modes of travel.

Moving forward

The CBSA is committed to establishing consistent, open and equitable service delivery frameworks for determining where and how best to allocate its resources for future service requests. In this regard, the CBSA will continue to work closely with industry stakeholders to find collaborative solutions regarding border services. The CBSA intends to maintain realistic but effective policies on its levels of service over the long term.

For more information or to obtain a copy of either on the Air Mode Report or the Marine and Rail Modes for Passengers Report in print or electronic format, please contact the Core Services Review team.

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