Transportation Amendment Act

An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Jean Lapierre  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of March 24, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 amends the Canada Transportation Act. Certain amendments apply to all modes of transportation, including amendments that clarify the national transportation policy and the operation of the Competition Act in the transportation sector, change the number of members of the Canadian Transportation Agency, create a mediation process for transportation matters, modify requirements regarding the provision of information to the Minister of Transport and modify and extend provisions regarding mergers and acquisitions of air transportation undertakings to all transportation undertakings.

This Part amends the Act with respect to air transportation, in particular in relation to complaints processes, the advertising of prices for air services and the disclosure of terms and conditions of carriage.

This Part amends the Act with respect to railway transportation. It includes the creation of a mechanism for dealing with complaints concerning noise resulting from the construction or operation of railways and the modification of provisions relating to the setting of rates payable by shippers for transport of goods and of provisions dealing with the transfer and discontinuance of operation of railway lines. It also establishes a mechanism for resolving disputes between public passenger service providers and railway companies regarding the use of railway company equipment and facilities.

This Part amends the Act to establish an approval mechanism for the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels and to provide for the regulation of their operation, maintenance and security.

Part 2 amends the Railway Safety Act to include provisions for the appointment of police constables with respect to railway companies and procedures for dealing with complaints concerning them.

Part 3 enacts a new Act governing VIA Rail Canada, including its mandate to provide passenger rail service in Canada.

Part 4 makes consequential and coordinating amendments and provides for the coming into force of the various provisions.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

December 9th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

I don't have a lot of time, Mr. Banack, but I agree with you. That's not just infrastructure that's lost--that's infrastructure that we as Canadians paid for. But that's a different topic that we'll get on to.

I've done a lot of work on the shippers. As many of you know, I've met with many of you in the past on the shippers' bill of rights. But one of the things we're really losing sight of today is that it wasn't about the level-of-service reviews or costing reviews.

When we first came into it, the first step was legislation. It was Bill C-8 and the shippers' bill of rights that we put in place. The former government, the former parliamentary secretary, didn't even address that in Bill C-25 and Bill C-44 when they were in government. It didn't address half the issues. It didn't identify shipper service issues, disconnects, or railway shipper accountability. It didn't define solutions to address service and accountability issues.

I think we need to at least admit that we already took the first step in the last Parliament. Would you guys agree that Bill C-8 was a good step forward and triggered the level-of- service review?

March 28th, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
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Roger Tassé Legal Counsel, Gowling, Lafleur and Henderson, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning, gentlemen, madam.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before your committee to answer your questions.

This review began in May 2006 at the request of the Minister of Transport. There were concerns about whether the Toronto Port Authority had well managed its responsibilities. There were allegations in the press and elsewhere about actions that the authority had taken with respect to the fixed link, which eventually was approved and eventually was cancelled, and the settlement that occurred thereafter.

The purpose of my review was to do just that: review the decision regarding these matters. The minister wanted to be satisfied that the principles of good governance had been upheld.

My mandate, which you will find as attachment 2 of my report, sets out specifically the questions that I had to look into in the context of a very important agreement that was entered into in 1983 between the federal government and the then Toronto harbour commissioners and the City of Toronto.

I had the assistance, for the purpose of my review, of Jeffrey Smith, who was retained by the Department of Transport. Jeffrey Smith is a member of the BDO Dunworthy firm of forensic accountants. You have a summary of his findings attached to my report.

For the review, I had the assistance and cooperation of quite a number of people: the City of Toronto, the staff of the city, members of the Toronto Port Authority or TPA, the Department of Transport in Toronto and at an office here in Ottawa, and the Department of Justice lawyers who had been involved in the various events under review.

I received great collaboration from all the people I talked to. I have looked at hundreds and hundreds of documents, if not more. I met with anyone who wanted to talk to me about the TPA and their management, the decisions that had been made, the concerns they had. I received a lot of e-mails and had a lot of meetings, including meetings with representatives from the community associations on the Toronto waterfront. You have a list of the members.

Now for my findings.

In summary, I've come to the conclusion that the Toronto Port Authority had complied with due diligence requirements in all respects on the matters that concerned the proposed construction of the bridge, the purchase of the new ferry, and the commercial arrangements that were entered into as part of the settlement agreement. This is discussed on page 3 of my report.

The overall settlement after the cancellation occurred, as you will well know, cost $35 million, and there were a lot of questions relating to that amount. People were saying, why would it cost $35 million to settle claims? We don't have a bridge, and the bridge itself would have cost $14 million. So there were a lot of questions.

And people were concerned that one of the difficulties, perhaps, was that in effect there was not much information that could be made public and was made public at the time regarding the process of negotiations.

But I've come to the conclusion, and I will say more if required later, that the amount of $35 million was reasonable, that the principles of good governance here again had been respected not only in reaching the global settlement but also in the way the $35 million was allocated to each of the parties who were involved and who had been damaged by the cancellation of the bridge.

I looked at the Aecon contract. Aecon was the builder who had been retained, after a process of tenders, by the authority to construct the bridge. There had been allegations that in effect the construction contract had been purposely and inappropriately accelerated to ensure that the bridge could not be stopped by a new municipal administration. I deal with that in my report very carefully, at pages 64 and 68.

My conclusion, after having looked at all the circumstances, talking to people, and having looked at the documents that were available, is that such allegations were grossly exaggerated, and I have set out the reasons on page 66 for my coming to that conclusion.

There were also many questions about the environmental assessments that had to be performed before the contract could be let. There were assessments in 1999, in 2003 regarding the bridge itself, and in 2006 regarding the ferry, after the bridge had been cancelled. I reviewed in detail the various stages of the environmental processes, from the beginning to the end. You will find that on seven pages, on page 68 and following. Again, my conclusion was that principles of good governance have been complied with.

It was not easy. Every step had plenty of difficulties, but my conclusion is that the TPA itself managed the issues well, and the processes as well.

There was a question as well that had been specifically raised by many, and that was part of my mandate. There were questions about how it was that the Toronto port had come to be governed by the Canada Marine Act. I have read fascinating debates in the House of Commons and in the Senate. This is related at page 90.

In effect, there were two administrations involved. They were two Liberal administrations, but there was an election between. First, Bill C-44 was introduced; there was a lot of debate about it. And there was another, Bill C-9, which followed the election of the Liberal government.

Again, if you're interested, I can tell you more about that. I've learned a lot about Toronto and about the Senate committee and the House of Commons committee debates on these matters. I found them fascinating.

But my conclusion was that Parliament had decided that the Toronto Port Authority qualified as a national port and that it should be on the list. Parliament itself—you people—had decided that it should be on the list. It was not a function or a responsibility that had been left to a minister afterwards.

There were provisions for the minister later to look at applications that other ports in Canada might make, and there were some criteria. These criteria were before the House when the list was devised and when steps were taken and amendments were made to get the Port of Toronto and the Port of Hamilton on the list. I didn't find anything wrong with that.

Although the department itself initially had proposed and the minister had agreed that Toronto should not be on the list, eventually—I guess there were caucus meetings and members' meetings—the decision was made, and there was an all-party agreement that the Toronto Port Authority should be on the list.

That's enough of that.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11. I hope that this bill will be passed.

Earlier, I asked my Liberal colleague some questions. Things are not easy in this Parliament, particularly because of the very different approaches to development or to problems the public may be having. Too often, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party have great plans, but neither of them solves people's real problems. Bill C-11 will try to offer a little salve for the wounds of people who are suffering all sorts of upsets because of railway company operations.

The railway industry is expanding rapidly and has undergone major technological changes. Although it provides a useful and increasingly profitable service, it imposes constraints on the neighbouring communities. This has gone on for years, as I said earlier.

The problems associated with the noise, vibration and odours generated by railway operations as a whole have existed for a long time and are becoming more serious with the development of new technologies.

The people listening to us—Quebeckers and Canadians—will understand that for reasons having to do with economies of scale, the way things are done in the railway industry has changed. For one thing, in the mid-1990s, coupling of locomotives and cars was done by human beings. Starting in the mid-1990s or early years of this century, human beings were replaced by remote coupling, which is done electronically or electrically.

Once this way of doing things was changed, once they wanted to achieve economies of scale by reducing the number of employees in switching yards, the problems associated with noise, vibration and odours became worse. This is done following Transport Canada's standards. As yet, there is no technology that would allow this to be done while making the least noise possible. Since the mid-1990s, many groups of people who live alongside switching yards have got together and formed associations to try to control the noise and odour pollution generated by the railway industry.

Wanting to limit problems for neighbouring communities does not mean being opposed to rail transportation. On the contrary, we want the rail industry to expand. Railway companies, like Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, make profits. While they had some problems during the 1980s and 1990s, I think that since that time they have paid their shareholders a very handsome return. In fact, it rises every quarter.

Phenomenal profits are being made. Profits like these had never before been made in the railway industry.

Pressure is being taken off the roads, and that can help combat greenhouse gases. We are aware of this. Rail transportation can limit greenhouse gases, because it reduces the number of trucks on the roads. It also imposes constraints, however.

Since 2000, that is, since the 37th Parliament, this House has been trying to solve the noise problem. The Liberals introduced Bill C-26. It was virtually an omnibus bill which addressed a number of problems in the railway, airline and other industries, and which made VIA Rail an independent corporation, a corporation with share capital. This could have helped it to expand. From the outset, the Conservatives were against expansion by VIA Rail, which could have engineered its own expansion and could have created VIAFast. Members will recall that debate. The Liberals were divided: there was the Chrétien clan and the clan led by the member for LaSalle—Émard. The result was division on Bills C-26 and C-44. Bill C-26, which was introduced in the 37th Parliament, never saw the light of day because of that division. In the 38th Parliament, Bill C-44 also failed to get passed.

Once again, the people who live near marshalling yards and suffer from the noise pollution and other by-products of the railway industry have not seen any improvement. This problem was buried in omnibus bills. One of the methods used by the Conservative Party in this 39th Parliament was to divide the previous Bill C-44, which was debated in the 38th Parliament, into three.

The Conservatives say now that they broke it up in order to speed things along, but they are concealing the real reason, which is that they wanted to remove everything that had to do with VIA Rail from Bill C-44.

The Conservatives have never wanted the railways to really develop. They did not want the railway companies to compete with airlines for passengers. That was their choice. They wanted to protect WestJet rather than help rail develop sufficiently, the kind of development that the Bloc Québécois has always supported.

It is very important for the transportation sector to become more competitive. Rail is healthy competition for the airlines. There is talk of a fast train, although not a high speed train, between Quebec and Montreal and Montreal and Windsor. The Bloc Québécois has always supported this vision. The Conservatives, though, divided up Bill C-44 because they did not want VIA Rail to become an independent corporation ensuring its own development or the famous VIAFast project to see the light of day, that is to say, a fast Quebec City-Montreal, Montreal-Windsor train. That is the real reason.

All the same, we would have supported an omnibus bill that included all of Bill C-44. We supported Bills C-44 and C-26 at the time, and now we support Bill C-11, which will deal once and for all with the noise pollution problem.

It is never simple. I use this example because, at the same time, the people listening to us will understand how Parliament works. It is never simple. Insofar as the noise issue is concerned, the Conservatives took it upon themselves to bring a bill forward that touches on this problem. However, there is not just noise pollution but also vibration pollution and fumes. There are all kinds of sources of environmental pollution.

During our discussions with the government about Bill C-44, we touched on these issues but were not successful because of the entire VIA Rail question, even though we were working on fixing the pollution problems. If we are going to fix them, let us really do it. But with government things are never as straightforward as that. We have to understand. The Conservatives have never had any vision of the future; it is always short-term. So they decided today to include noise pollution in Bill C-11. Like us, all my colleagues and all the citizens out there say that if they are going to fix the railway pollution problem, why not take advantage of this opportunity to include fumes in the bill and the issue of locomotives turning night and day and producing fumes and environmental problems.

Sometimes you walk along the rails and you see pollution. Because the rails have been changed, stacks of wood are piled up along the tracks, and so on. The Bloc Québécois wanted to solve all the environmental problems related to railways, but the government decided that the noise was the problem. The Bloc Québécois tried in committee to put forward its own proposals. We wanted to solve the problems of noise, vibrations and fumes. We had clearly understood that, by including only noise, Conservatives did not want to solve all the environmental problems. So we went with vibrations and we asked ourselves whether we could perhaps solve at the same time the problems of vibrations and fumes from locomotives.

This is where we attack the law clerk of the House. The government knows quite well that, when it introduces a bill, we cannot move the amendments that we want, even though we have a lot of goodwill, even though all my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois are experiencing major problems, since, for example, some of their fellow citizens live close to the Moreau railroad yard, in Hochelaga, or the Joffre railroad yard, in Lévis. Even though this committee is now represented by a Conservative, we will ensure that all this will change in the next election. However, the fact remains that the people of Lévis complained to us and we never stopped defending their interests. There is the same problem close to the Farnham railroad yard, in Brome—Missisquoi, and to the Pointe-Saint-Charles railroad yard, in Jeanne-Le Ber, east of Montreal. All these people wanted us to solve all these problems, including fumes. Thus, we introduced an amendment, but the whole part concerning fumes was taken out. The law clerk of the House told us that it was out of order.

So, it is not like we did not try. We wanted to show our goodwill and our good faith in this issue. We tabled everything that we could think of. We even wanted to include public health, because there are now international standards on noise pollution. We really wanted to comply with public health standards. One of our amendments asked that public health not be unreasonably affected, given these essential operational needs. We wanted to include the issue of public health in the bill.

However, because the bill introduced by the Conservative Party was totally silent on public health, the law clerk of the House told us that this amendment, even though quite interesting, was out of order, because it would change the meaning of the legislation.

Those citizens who are listening to us must understand that a government is something that is complex. And when it is a Conservative government, it is twice as complex. That is how things work. That is the reality. The government uses every possible trick to prevent us from succeeding and achieving our objectives. In this case, we were able to reach an agreement on noise.

So, as we are speaking, clause 95.1 of the bill reads as follows:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company, must cause as little noise and or vibration as possible,...

This is what we have before us now. The original bill introduced by the Conservative Party talked about not making unreasonable noise.

We managed to get an amendment in that goes further. That was done with the support of the Conservatives, who finally realized that we wanted at least to settle once and for all the issue of noise and vibration, so that we would no longer talk about it, and so that citizens would be able to win their cases.

So, we managed to agree to include the expression “as little noise and or vibration as possible”.

One day, this bill will come into force, but not today. It is at third reading stage, then it has to go to the Senate and come back here. Canadian federalism is complicated. There is another chamber, the upper chamber, called the Senate. It has to study the same bills. The Bloc Québécois has been wanting to get rid of the Senate for a long time. The Conservatives have decided that senators will be elected by universal suffrage. We are far from getting rid of it. The federation will become even more complicated. However, one day, we will no longer be here—we hope. One day, Quebeckers will decide to have their own country and they will not have a Senate. That will be best. There will just be a parliament and it will be far less complicated.

However, in the current situation, the bill as amended by the Bloc Québécois, among others, reads as follows at clause 95.1:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company, must cause as little noise and or vibration as possible, taking into account

(a) its obligations under sections 113 and 114, if applicable;

This has to do with operations.

(b) its operational requirements;

[...]

(d) the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

We managed to get that included. The following clause—and this is the crux of the bill—gives powers to the Transportation Agency, which is new. During its operations, it will have to take into account the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway. From now on, it will have to take into account those who live close by when there are problems with noise and vibration. That is how it will be for their operations.

Clause 95.2 states:

The Agency shall issue and publish, in any manner that it considers appropriate, guidelines with respect to:

This requires the Transportation Agency to establish and publish guidelines that the railway companies will have to follow. Just to get this part into the bill required many hours of discussion. Finally, the agency can be forced to establish and publish guidelines. It is all well and good to say there will be as little noise and vibration as possible, but there still need to be guidelines. This bill will force the agency to establish and publish guidelines.

Once the guidelines have been established and the railways are operational, we proceed to clause 95.3.

On receipt of a complaint made by any person that a railway company is not complying with section 95.1, the Agency may order the railway company to undertake any changes in its railway construction or operation that the Agency considers reasonable to cause as little noise or vibration as possible, taking into account factors referred to in that section.

Before this bill, the Canadian Transportation Agency had no power. Its only role was that of intermediary. Judicial power was tested in that respect in an Ontario court.

One might have thought that after getting involved in a file and participating in negotiations, Transport Canada could have made recommendations and ordered the company to take certain measures if no agreement could be reached in the end. In a decision concerning an Ontario community, the Ontario court ruled that the Canadian Transportation Agency had no power, that it was simply a mediator, not even an arbitrator. It could participate in discussions, but it had no power.

The real purpose of this bill is to give the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to order measures to be taken. That is, once it receives a complaint, it will analyze it and order the railway company to take measures.

Recently, I met with the Railway Association of Canada, which turned up practically in tears to tell us that it made no sense to force railway companies to produce as little noise and vibration as possible.

I might ask all railway employees, who work very hard, why we have this bill before us today. I might also ask the shareholders and the companies that are making healthy profits and doing good business why we are debating this bill. We are debating it because they have been so remiss in past years that we have no choice.

Personally, I took part in a meeting with citizens who live around the Moreau marshalling yard in Hochelaga; the railway company was also present. I will not say its name because they are all the same, regardless of which one it is, and I do not want to discriminate. So I participated in the discussions. It was easy to see that the employees taking part were there under duress. The member for Hochelaga was present to listen to the citizens. I was there as the transportation critic for the Bloc Québécois. My colleague from Hochelaga and the community, who had been following the Ontario decision, were very well informed and proposed some mitigation solutions to the representatives of the railway company. These people seemed interested but in the end nothing ever came about. That is how it is.

It was the same thing when I met with citizens’ groups in the Joffre marshalling yard in Charny. I had a chance to meet the Mayor of Charny, who is now a councillor for the City of Lévis and who really took an interest in this file. It was and still is the same thing. The companies listen, but in the end, when they have to spend some money, it does not go anywhere, not to the next level up anymore than to the board of directors.

Since I am being told I have two minutes left, I am going to use them wisely.

This is how we have ended up where we are today. The Bloc Québécois does not want to be one of those who would prevent the railway from developing. On the contrary, we know that it is developing just fine, that business is good and that it is probably time to put things in order and do something about the pollution that railways can cause. There is noise pollution and other kinds of nuisances.

We will not fix all that today, as I said. And it is not because the colleagues of the Bloc Québécois would not have liked this bill to solve all the nuisances caused by railways. Given that the industry is doing well, maybe it is time for it to make some investments.

At least today the noise and vibration problems should be solved. For any citizens who live along railways or near railway yards this bill should solve any noise and vibration problems they experience. From now on complaints can be filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which can intervene and, in accordance with the provision contained in paragraph 93(3), order the railways to take action. The Agency will be able to order railway companies to take remedial action.

Obviously this does not solve the other problems. In committee, communities came to tell us that the trains are increasingly long. In some places, they are even afraid that emergency services cannot get through. That obviously includes ambulances, firefighters, and all sorts of services. Actually the trains are so long that they block entry into entire neighbourhoods. This problem is not dealt with in the bill. I hope that the government one day will listen and table new bills that will deal with all these issues.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am listening to my colleague, and I even listened to what the Minister of Labour had to say. It is true that what is happening at CN is serious. Railway safety is a serious issue. The only problem, and this makes me smile, is that Bill C-11 has nothing to do with that, but does address an equally important problem: noise and vibration.

This is important to the people living near marshalling yards such as the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, Joffre in Lévis, Farnham in Brome-Missisquoi and Pointe-Saint-Charles in east Montreal. Three Parliaments have debated legislation on this issue, yet these people still have not seen a solution to their problems. Bill C-26 was introduced during the 37th Parliament, Bill C-44 during the 38th Parliament, and now we have Bill C-11. In his speech earlier, my colleague never mentioned what we are trying to deal with today: the problem of noise and vibration.

My question is this: are we finally going to be able to solve this problem today, and will the Liberal Party support us in solving the problem of noise and vibration, so that we can move on to other problems? That is my question.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am flattered that you were actually listening so attentively to what I was saying.

I was trying to address what I think is a perfect set of circumstances. We have an opposition party that had presented legislation and given an indication of how to actually get things done, and an opposition party, now government party, that is looking for that kind of cooperation. We have a perfect opportunity to apply that cooperative spirit. But what happens? Nothing happens.

Our trade is going down. Lumber mills are closing. Remote communities in Canada find themselves even more isolated. Jobs are being lost. We are losing market share. All of these things are happening. Why? It is because, as I pointed out, of what is represented in the press about a situation within their own party that is preventing the Conservatives from being productive here in the House. They are saying it is a drive-by smear. I imagine members would like me to read all of this, but I will just refer them to the articles. They can be found in CanWest News Service and the Windsor Star on February 22 and February 3 respectively.

Those members will have an opportunity to be able to see the impediment. The public watching this is probably wondering what is so significant that is preventing the government from doing what it needs to do. Why would the government not take advantage of an opportunity to demonstrate that it is actually a proactive government and become involved in one of the most critical situations facing the nation today?

The government waited until the workers themselves started to go back. They went back for their own internal union reasons, not because the Government of Canada was interested in what was happening to communities everywhere.

The forest product sector pleaded with every member of Parliament on the Hill. It looked for members who were willing to listen to its pleas and get involved in this litigation so that products could move. Nobody could be found to listen except for the Minister of Labour, not the Minister of Transport . The sector could not get a response.

It is up to us to raise these issues. The Minister of Transport is the same individual who, on a W5 production some one month ago, turned a deaf ear to the issues of safety that are being represented right here in Bill C-11.

We wanted to give the Minister of Transport the authority to be involved in safety and security issues as they relate to all transportation modes, most especially in the railway industry, and especially because the railway industry wanted the government involved. What did we get? We received a shrug of the shoulders from the Minister of Transport.

The former government had launched an inquiry into the safety procedures of railways. The report came down. Everybody waited with bated breath to tell us what was wrong and what measures were being taken to resolve them. We had already put in place Bill C-44 to address some of those issues.

The Conservative government has been in place for 13 months with the benefit of all of the initiatives of the previous government. What did it do? It did nothing. The minister shrugged his shoulders on national television and said he could not even release the report. Everybody must have been asking why not? Does he not have an interest in transportation issues in the country? Is he not interested in the safety of passengers and the value of the commercial product that is being moved from one end of the country to the other? He said he could not because it mentioned a third party. Imagine a minister of the Crown saying he could not.

The minister is asking for enabling legislation right here. We are giving him all the authority he needs. Why can he not tell us what was wrong with those trains? There is a public inquiry. Does the public not have the right to know? He said he could not. I think he did not want to. Why not? That is a good question.

I met with people from CN. I met with people from the railway industry. I met people from the other transportation modes, but I especially met with the people from CN and asked whether they had an objection to that report being published.

Does anyone know what the answer was? It was, “No, we only wanted to be consulted on the first draft of the report and your former colleague in cabinet, Mr. Member of Parliament from Eglinton—Lawrence, the minister of transport, asked us for input. We gave him the input and out came the final report. You are no longer in government, so where is the report? Why is it not public? Why can't we know as Canadians, whether we are commercial users or personal users of our transportation system, and why can't we know what that public report tells us about how we can move our products and persons safely around this country from point A to point B?”

When the government members applaud themselves, I do not know how they do not get cricks in their shoulders. It must be tough to do this and smile at the same time, instead of giving credit where credit is due to the people who worked diligently to put forward legislation and initiatives that were designed for the benefit of Canadians everywhere, especially in the remote communities of this country, to keep it whole, to keep it solid and to keep it united.

The government should have taken at least one moment to recognize that it has an obligation to the Canadian public and that it should discharge that obligation rather than do nothing. That is the shame in all of this. The government is squandering our cooperative attitudes.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that the opposition side, now dressed as government, is waiting to hear this speech with bated breath, most of it after much libation has passed through the lips.

Without casting too many aspersions on this, one has to be in control of one's senses when one listens to some of the rhetoric of the government side. I wondered why those members would not take just a moment to say that they have a responsibility as parliamentarians to come forward with legislation that is good for all Canadians. It was there and we are going to try to implement it, they could say, even though for partisan reasons they said no in the past. They said they were not going to support Bill C-44.

But in a stroke of blinding light, of genius, let us divide it up, those members said. They came to this side and asked for our support. We said why not, it is in our collective interest to ensure that legislation that helps Canadians is put forward.

I am not going to reread into the record that which the parliamentary secretary has thought useful for his party's business to talk about what is in the bill. I gave an indication earlier on that there are several things that are important about this bill and that attracted a positive reaction from us.

One of them, of course, is in regard to railway lines that are no longer used, that are declared underused by the railway companies, in that commuter agencies in the various centres through which they pass would have access to them for the purposes of developing appropriate commuter traffic. This would allow us as governments, whether it is this Parliament or the provincial legislatures or the municipalities, to develop a transportation policy for commuters in order to address the environmental, economic, transportation and consumer issues that are evident for everyone.

To do that, we have to put an infrastructure in place that would allow the minister to play a proactive role. That is what Bill C-44 intended to do. The government opposite fought that with every breath it could muster. Today the Conservatives want to put themselves in the clothes of shining bright knights who would accomplish the solutions that would satisfy all Canadians' aspirations and needs.

The truth is the opposite. The government has been asking for and receiving the support of the opposition parties. I see my colleague from the Bloc way down at the end to my left--I can say he is here, I do not have to say he is not here, as that would be for those people--and he has been patient. He has offered the same kind of support that we have offered, because in this instance, at least, he too is thinking about the commonweal.

While we have been doing this, we have watched as the Minister of Transport has ignored the larger implications that were resident in Bill C-44. The underlying principles are as follows: do what is good for the economy of the country, do what is important for the infrastructure and transportation policies of this country, and take into consideration the economic impacts of transportation policies, especially, in this instance, on rail traffic.

What did the government do? We found the minister preferred to do nothing with the cooperation the opposition parties have been offering. So what happened? With Canadian National Railway, he allowed a work stoppage, a strike, to go on for ever so long. I am sure my colleague down at the other end has received the same kinds of submissions that I have from all interested parties and communities across Canada. Whether they were in the lumber industry, the mining industry, the wheat, grain and oilseeds industries, the commercial products industries or even, as we now know, the petrochemical and gasoline industries, we had no movement of goods.

There was no movement of goods while the minister's parliamentary secretary and his government stood and said, “Oh my. Aren't we wonderful? We're just like Jack Horner sitting in a corner. We're just marvellous people”.

Meanwhile, there are communities everywhere around the country, especially those one-industry towns, those in northern Ontario, northern Quebec and northern British Columbia, to name just three places, that are completely, totally and undeniably dependent on rail traffic to get their goods to market, to keep the mills open and to keep the mines going. All them were crying for some intervention while two unions, local and international, with CN, played with the economic life of all Canadians and the minister sat there and did nothing.

That government did nothing and then turned around and told us that it was doing all kinds of great things. Look at us, said the Conservatives, we have been here for 13 months and look at all that we have accomplished.

We have asked for the cooperation of the opposition parties, they said, and look at what we in the opposition did: we gave it. We split up a bill, Bill C-44. One aspect of that has been passed. A second one is here before us today. There is a third one down the road. We have been trying to move this along really quickly.

The debate on this should have finished last week, but no, we had the minister for hot air insulting one of my colleagues, the member for Mississauga South, I think, who was here a moment ago. He is moving around the table now. Instead of carrying on with discussions of substance, that minister for hot air wanted to engage in discussions of disruption, and so the bill goes on a little while longer. Instead of capitalizing on the opportunities to build on the cooperative spirit that was here in the House, on this side of the House, with respect to transportation, particularly with this bill and particularly with movement of traffic around the country, while communities everywhere were crying for our help, he did nothing. The Conservatives did nothing. Not only did they dither, but they did nothing.

Let us look at the ports, for example. The ports in the lower mainland in British Columbia were crying for some sort of intervention. No, I am sorry, that would have been too much to ask for. They were looking for some kind of attention and interest on the part of the Minister of Transport to get some things moving. They had to lay off all the personnel, or portions thereof, at the ports. They had boats sitting out in the harbour; others still more. Trains were backed up. Wheat, lumber and minerals were being held up out in the west. Markets out in the Orient and in the States were looking for some kind of product and some kind of interest on the part of the Government of Canada to get that product going. There was nothing.

The Minister of Transport said:

My name is Pontius. I wash my hands.

It was a labour issue, he said.

The Minister of Labour came before our colleagues and asked us if would we help him out and support back to work legislation if it became a real labour issue. We said of course we would do that, but we asked why the government did not get the infrastructure in place. We asked why the government did not do the minimum that is required of all of us, which is to show interest. It is not a question of partisanship.

So now what we have in southern Ontario, for example, in parts of Quebec, and in fact almost everywhere in the country but particularly in southern Ontario, is a huge shortage of gasoline, because some of it has not been able to get to the market. Yes, there have been other interests as well, and there have been other incidents, but the product could not get to market, and there has been an increase in the price, diminishing our ability to be productive and competitive and obviously bringing all things to a standstill.

I am sure that the minister for hot air on the other side will immediately say let me see now, has there been a diminution in the emissions of greenhouse gases? Yes, that must be so in part, because there is a voluntary participation by all of those drivers who could not get their gasoline and so walked to work in the middle of winter. Great.

I guess I am reduced to a little bit of sarcasm because I sat there, watched, waited and in fact offered all the cooperation that this side of the House could offer the government to say, “Get this done”. But those members were of course interested in heckling, as they are not out of the opposition mentality. They were chuckling, laughing and being as disruptive as they could.

Could we imagine that on this side? No, it would not happen.

I know you will be shocked at this, Mr. Speaker, but there is a member of the transportation committee who comes from the riding of Essex, which is a focal point for all of the manufacturing trade in southern Ontario. The trade goes through that riding into Detroit and on to the other side of the border. Of about $2 billion worth of trade, about two-thirds of it goes through that area. What happens? Instead of being able to deal with his own party in government to get the trains back on track, he has to be fighting his own party.

Competition in parties is a fact of life that we deal with. One always has to worry about whether the enemy is on that side of the House or on this side of the House, but there we had a ridiculous situation. I am looking at a CanWest news story dated February 22 about how the member had to worry about “murder threats” from his own riding executive. There are all kinds of soap operas going on within that party. No wonder those members cannot address the issues of the country. They are too busy trying to take each other out.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment before putting my question.

The parliamentary secretary is well aware of the reason why the previous bill, under the Liberal Party, was not passed. In his reply, he said he split former Bill C-44 into three parts. However, he should have split it into four parts, because there is a whole part that the Conservative Party decided not to include, and which provided for the establishment of a new corporation. It would have allowed VIA Rail to become a corporation to ensure its own development. Among other things, it would have allowed VIAFast, a rapid rail service between Quebec City, Montreal and Windsor, to become reality. Everyone knows that the Conservative Party is squarely opposed to VIA Rail's development. That is the reality.

However, this is not about what should have happened, or what we would have liked to see, but about passing Bill C-11.

We talked about noise and complaints. As soon as the bill is passed, many complaints will likely be lodged, because citizens, communities and citizens' groups have been waiting for a long time to see the Canadian Transportation Agency have these powers.

Can the parliamentary secretary guarantee that the transportation agency will have all the necessary staff to deal with the complaints filed by citizens or citizens' groups against noise and vibrations?

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there was a blinding light on the road to Damascus. It was more like a blinding light of Conservative government because the people spoke and they got what they wanted. They got a Conservative government that was going to take action.

Let us talk about Bill C-44, the predecessor to this bill, and I think there was another bill before that, but not another one before that one, yet it would not surprise me if there was another one before that. That bill was far too cumbersome, something that just could not work because we could not find consistency.

This is the situation. This Conservative government wanted results, so we split the existing Liberal bill into three bills. So far in eight months we have gotten two of those bills to this point. One bill passed, Bill C-3, another bill is before us today, Bill C-11, and another bill is coming forward in two weeks with some cooperation from members on the other side, as long as they can see and are not be blinded by the Conservative light. It will move forward and we will get results for Canadians.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 21st, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. As hon. members could see by the exchange I had with my Liberal colleague earlier, the Bloc Québécois was in favour of Bill C-44, which preceded Bill C-11.

Unfortunately, Bill C-44 did not make it through the legislative process because of the infighting within the Liberal family, namely whether VIA Fast would see the light of day or not. The leadership of the Liberal Party changed and VIA Fast did not see the light of day. In the meantime, an entire section of Bill C-44 was devoted to making VIA Rail an independent corporation that would be able to ensure its own development. Today, once again, the railway sector is stagnating.

However, Bill C-44 was divided into a number of bills, including Bill C-11, which is now before us. Since the beginning, the Bloc Québécois has been very interested in the development of this bill for the simple reason that it includes several sections—I am not saying they are big sections, just that they are very important—on the problems that some of the population might experience, the noise problem in the rail road sector, among others.

The purpose of Bill C-11 is to help all citizens, all Quebeckers, who are experiencing problems with noise. There are some major problems with noise, such as the noise generated by the big railroad yards, the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, the Joffre yard in Lévis—Bellechasse, formerly Charny, the Farnham yard in Brome—Missisquoi and the Pointe-Saint-Charles yard in Jeanne-Le Ber in Montreal's east end.

With the new technology, jobs have been lost. Employees have simply been replaced by remote controlled technology. This causes an infernal noise when the cars are being connected to the locomotives or to other cars.

With the arrival of this technology, in the 1990s, jobs were cut to save money. What was once done by hand, more intelligently and less noisily, was replaced by technology, and no one has yet found a solution to the problem of remote linking. It takes a lot of momentum to join cars together. People living near marshalling yards have to put up with a terrific amount of noise, not to mention locomotives running practically day and night, even during cold weather.

All this causes problems for the people living near marshalling yards, in addition to all the other noise and vibration problems.

I would like to read clause 95.1 of the bill:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company must cause as little noise and vibration as possible—

Previously, the bill mentioned noise only, and the Bloc Québécois worked very hard to have the word “vibration” included. Now, the bill requires that companies cause as little noise and vibration as possible. We hope that the bill will be adopted.

I will continue to read from clause 95.1:

—taking into account

(a) its obligations under sections 113 and 114, if applicable;

(b) its operational requirements;

(c) the area where the construction or operation takes place; and

(d) the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

The bill amends the act by adding provisions that state that companies operating a railway must cause as little noise and vibration as possible and must take into account the impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

For the first time, the Transportation Act is being amended to enable the agency, under clause 95.2, to issue and publish guidelines and receive complaints. This was not allowed previously. Courts ruled that even though the Transportation Agency had wanted to get involved in the complaint process, it did not have the authority to do so. In one case in Ontario, the courts told the agency that it did not have the authority to intervene and that even though it issued recommendations and acted as a mediator, it could not force the company to comply with those recommendations.

That is where the law stood. Obviously this prompted a lot of people who objected to join together and organize to express their opposition. When they became aware of the judgment of the Ontario court, they decided that there was no point and they were spending their money for nothing.

All of these communities got together and wanted to challenge this, and tried to get the railway companies to change, in particular, as I said earlier, the Moreau switching yard, the Joffre yard in Lévis—Bellechasse, the Farnham yard in the riding of Brome—Missisquoi and the Pointe-Saint-Charles yard in the riding of Jeanne-Le Ber.

The people who live near those yards decided to step back and try to reach an amicable agreement. All the Transportation Agency did was arrange a meeting. They met with representatives of the railway companies. The citizens' groups tried to explain their problems to the companies, and in some cases, some of the companies adopted some solutions.

However, when it came to noise, when the noise was a problem for people, the companies came up with all sorts of reasons. When it cost the company a bit too much, they did nothing. And if they were presented with good recommendations, they did not apply them or did not follow them, even though, in some cases, agreements had been made between the company and the citizens' groups.

I myself have met with members of the public, with citizens' groups, and even with representatives of the company, in particular in Hochelaga, the riding next to the Moreau yard. Even though we showed good faith, when we took part in that meeting—my colleague from Hochelaga was there—nothing came of it.

In any event, before the railway company representatives left the meeting, they said that the complaints merited consideration, but they never adopted any solution after that.

This is what people want and what this bill provides that is new: that from now on, the Transportation Agency can receive complaints and make and publish recommendations, and compel the companies to abide by them.

Obviously, it must be understood that we would have wanted more from this bill. It refers only to noise and vibration; it says nothing at all about environmental damage or the other requests that a number of my colleagues had made to me. Even though the railway companies make huge profits, they are not always inclined to comply with environmental standards, to pick up their garbage or what have you. As well, when they lay new tracks, they often leave all the wood lying there all along the rail line. They are in no hurry to clean up.

We were very aware of that and we wanted to propose some amendments. Yet the government went ahead and tabled its noise bill. Since we are on the subject today, we have to be very careful when we propose amendments: amendments that change the spirit of the bill are not allowed. As such, our amendments were automatically dismissed by the legislator or counsel representing legislative services here in Parliament.

Our colleagues submitted good changes and good amendments that they would have liked to have seen reflected in the act, but their amendments were found to be unacceptable by counsel for the legislators here in Parliament.

It is not that we did not try; it is that the law did not let us. Clearly, the government only wanted to address noise. Consequently, we could not move on other problem areas. We managed to include vibrations because they can be considered a noise problem.

As to the other interesting and intelligent amendments proposed by members of the Bloc Québécois and others, we could not move them through; the legislator found them to be unacceptable because they would have altered the spirit of the bill.

This bill includes other provisions concerning air travel complaints. There is to be a complaints commissioner who will address these issues directly.

As I am sure hon. members are all too aware, there have been a lot of complaints about Air Canada. So the complaints commissioner's office will also include a section to address complaints from citizens who were not served in their official language when using Air Canada services or who have experienced other problems related to airlines.

This will make it easier to file a complaint, and, once again, the office of the commissioner will have the power to intervene. We hope that this bill will be adopted swiftly.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 21st, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Liberal colleague. As he very well knows, the Liberals were divided and the Chrétien team definitely wanted VIAFast and the bill concerning VIA Rail to be passed, while supporters of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard wanted simply to abandon that part of the bill.

Once again, my hon. colleague's memory fails him. As he very well knows, the Liberal Party itself did not want the VIAFast project to proceed. However, the Bloc Québécois always supported the VIA Rail option and Bill C-44.

I hope my colleague will be able to make the distinction, now that he is transport critic. He need only read past editions of House of Commons Debates to see that it was not the Bloc Québécois that prevented the VIA Rail project from proceeding, rather it was his own party.

Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 21st, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my Liberal colleague's presentation about how much he wants Bill C-11 to be adopted.

I would like to review the history of this bill because it is a nearly word-for-word copy of part of Bill C-44, which was introduced by the Liberals in the previous Parliament.

One of the reasons Bill C-44 never went through, that is, was not adopted before, is that the Liberal Party itself decided to block its own bill. Bill C-44 had a whole section devoted to developing VIA Rail. It wanted to change VIA Rail from a Crown corporation to an independent corporation to enable it to grow. Among other things, the bill promoted VIA Rail's growth and development. VIAFast would have made it possible to build a high-speed train from Quebec City to Montreal and from Montreal to Windsor.

My question is simple: Why is the Liberal Party in such a hurry today? Why was it not in a hurry when it was in power during the previous Parliament?

Motions in amendment
Canada Transportation Act
Government Orders

February 6th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know you are only going to give me a few minutes before you cut off debate and everybody is transfixed to hear what I have to say.

My first reaction is: What a wonderful bill. Another week and another Liberal bill recast as a Conservative initiative.

Members will know this bill because it appeared in the previous Parliament as Bill C-44, and it was for a wider transportation policy to address a series of issues. Now, Bill C-44 has been broken down into three parts, and this is one.

I am going to speak for about 10 minutes to ensure that everybody understands the benefits of the bill. I do not want to be too critical, but I noted that there are some members here who are particularly interested in one aspect of this bill that merits reinforcement; and that is, those agencies, corporations and entities that are engaged in commuter railways and commuter traffic and who depended on a change in the national transportation policy are addressed to ensure that they were included in transportation issues to the benefit of all consumers and commuters because they are one and the same. The bill in its initial format, and now repeated again, addresses issues that are of concern to them.

One is access to federally regulated rail lines that might be declared surplus, or not, but certainly to have commuter agencies at least access them so that they can be maximized in their utilization for the purposes of consumers.

Second, to establish under this act opportunities to arbitrate on what amounts might be charged by the tier one railways to some of these commuter lines. So, to have not only access but to arbitrate on a fair process of remuneration in order that these agencies function in an economically feasible environment. I think I have that right.

Then, finally, to have, when there is a disposition of these access lines, the valuation process be one that makes it feasible for commuter agencies to acquiesce the purchase process and then to make the application for commuter use in an environment where there is a valuation process that makes it fair for those agencies to function.

Members must remember that I am talking about federally regulated rail lines and federally regulated agencies.

What we had envisioned under Bill C-44, and now repeated in Bill C-11, was a process whereby the interests of the user, the end user, in this case the commuter as an end user, be part and parcel of transportation policy.

I know that the debate so far on these amendments has focused on where a member of the board of directors would live or not live and who would get the advantage in terms of getting employment. I think that is nice. It is fine to do that. However, the most important issue is to keep in mind how we develop railway policy throughout the country.

When I said that this is another Liberal bill being re-presented and cast by a minister of transport who is accustomed to borrowing good ideas from the Liberals, it makes one wonder if actually he is a Liberal. Hold on. I think he was.

Nevertheless, we can become once again what we were generated to be, at least through the ideas and legislation that is going to help Canadians everywhere. I think that there were three sections especially that were presented to committee members. While I was not there, they are issues that are--

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am being regaled with expertise on the functioning of the Liberal Party by those who are not associated with it, thank heavens. However, the issue of VIA and a fast train along the Quebec-Windsor corridor is one that goes well beyond the last administration and, indeed, the previous one before that. It is one that was raised in 1989 by the then Conservative government of the day and it was abandoned almost immediately. It was not even willing to do the environmental assessment and feasibility studies associated with enhancing that train travel or any kind of upgrade of the terrain and of the rail itself.

My colleague knows very well that about four years ago, during the Chrétien administration, there was a request by VIA Rail for additional funds to do the appropriate feasibility and environmental studies. Those were the ones being put forward and there was total agreement among Liberals to ensure that it took place. I especially thank him for having recognized that the Conservatives were so narrow-minded in their approach to transport issues and to political objectives in the House that they caused the collapse of Bill C-44, which would have gone well beyond where we are going today.

Will he move away from his desire to reflect on past Liberal Parties and think in terms of going forward with a Dion environmental technological approach to the new transportation modes tomorrow? Would he be so kind as to reflect on that continuity and say that he would like to join that process? There is room over here, by the way, if he says yes.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the introduction given by the Liberal Party's critic, I would like to make certain clarifications.

In my speech on Bill C-44, which was introduced by the Liberal Party, I applauded the merits of the section of Bill C-44 that had to do with VIA Rail.

I also said that Bill C-44 did not go through but died on the order paper because some Liberal members were against making VIA Rail an independent company or independent Canadian corporation. That is the reality. That is why Bill C-44 did not go through. The Liberals are also to blame in this situation because the Chrétien team wanted VIA Rail to come into being, while the team supporting the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard was against it. Where did my colleague stand on the matter? I think that everyone who knows him knows the answer to that.

This bill would have been good for the community, for society and for Quebeckers. VIA Rail could have developed VIA Fast, first with links between Quebec City and Montreal, and Montreal and Windsor, and one day, between Quebec City, Montreal and New York. That would have been advantageous, but that will not happen. The Liberals are partially responsible.

To answer his question, the Bloc Québécois worked to make sure that the federal government would not determine the fees, but would take part in negotiations. We want to make sure that the provinces and municipalities can hold discussions with the federal authority so that everyone together can help the operators choose fees that are in line with the neighbouring population's ability to pay.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I had a remarkable experience. I would like to thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois for making this possible.

Let me explain. A Bloc member just congratulated the Liberal Party and complimented it on initiatives taken in this area during the previous Parliament.

This is remarkable. He also wanted to underscore the fact that the Conservatives did not want a progressive, forward-looking piece of legislation, such as Bill C-44. I am almost speechless.

I have a question for my colleague, whom I have known for several years and who worked hard on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. By supporting Bill C-3, does he want the federal government to control transportation costs or does he simply accept the role that the government can play in cases of national interest?