Bill C-68 (Historical)
Pacific Gateway Act
An Act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Jean Lapierre Liberal
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Motions in Amendment
April 30th, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would ask the members to calm down, since things seem to be getting a little out of hand. We must be calm while doing our work.
I am pleased to speak to Bill C-10.
We must remember that, unlike what some government members have been insinuating, violent crime and the number of homicides are on the decline in Canada. Since 1992, crime rates have been decreasing in Canada, and there is every reason to be happy. Is crime going down because our economy is doing well, because, demographically, there are fewer young people? These are explanations that should be considered.
Let us talk about the solutions put forward by the government. It does not tend to take action in terms of prevention, to trust the judges, and to invest in social programs, but rather to resort to incarceration. It is inclined to go for mandatory minimum penalties, in its push for incarceration.
We in the Bloc Québécois are convinced that there are situations that call for incarceration. Moreover, it was the Bloc Québécois that took the initiative in the mid-1990s to propose measures to combat street gangs and criminal biker gangs. The Liberal government at the time said that the conspiracy provisions were enough to dismantle biker gangs. The Bloc Québécois, together with the police association and a number of other stakeholders, called for a new offence and new legislation. In response, the government introduced Bill C-95, which was amended by Bills C-24 and C-36.
Today, the government is addressing a real problem, compounded by the street gang phenomenon: the use of firearms in the commission of crimes. But the government is taking the wrong approach. It is focussing on certain specific offences, which are admittedly serious, disturbing and reprehensible. I am referring to attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, hostage-taking, robbery and extortion. For each of these offences, the government wants to increase three-year minimum sentences to five, five-year minimums to seven and seven-year minimums to as much as 10. The government is completely ignoring the fact that true deterrence means that a judge who is sentencing someone who has committed an offence involving a firearm, which is reprehensible, must assess the overall context in which the offence was committed. Does the individual have a criminal record? Was the offence premeditated? Did the individual act on behalf of a street gang or organized crime? In light of these factors and using judicial discretion, the judge must hand down the most appropriate sentence. In criminal law and especially in sentencing, the punishment must fit the crime. It is not a question of being soft on crime or saying that individuals should not be convicted.
Why are minimum sentences not the answer to the problem we are trying to solve?
First, let us start with the studies that were provided by the Department of Justice.
When former minister Allan Rock—I do not know if I am conjuring up good memories or bad in this House—had Bill C-68 passed to create the firearms registry—a registry the police want to have and which is consulted 11,000 times every day across Canada and that the Conservatives want to abolish—he created mandatory minimum sentences for a certain number of offences, particularly those involving firearms. Minimum sentences of four years were created. The logic behind minimum sentences is that they are deterrents and studies have been done to determine whether their intended purpose is being achieved. Allow me to read what an expert said at the University of Ottawa, which is a good university. Criminal lawyer Julian Roberts, from the University of Ottawa, conducted a study in 1977 for the Department of Justice of Canada, which the parliamentary secretary should have consulted. He found that, “Although mandatory sentences of imprisonment have been introduced in a number of western nations...the studies that have examined the impact of these laws reported variable effects on prison populations”—he was referring to the rate of recidivism—“and no discernible effect on crime rates”.
In other words, just because some countries, some legislatures, or some justice systems have mandatory minimum sentences that restrict judicial discretion, that does not mean they have lower crime rates. All the studies show that a true deterrent to crime is the real fear criminals have of being caught red-handed and ultimately being charged. Being caught has more to do with our ability to lay charges, with having police in the field, with the ability of crown prosecutors to review the evidence, and so forth.
Furthermore, several witnesses told us about the perverse effects of mandatory minimum sentences. I would like to quote some of the witnesses. André Normandeau, a criminologist at the Université de Montréal—which is also a good university—said:
Minimum sentencing encourages defence lawyers to negotiate plea bargains for their clients in exchange for charges that do not require minimum sentencing. Minimum sentencing can also force a judge to acquit an individual rather than be obliged to sentence that individual to a penalty the judge considers excessive under the circumstances, for cases in which an appropriate penalty would be a conditional sentence, community service or a few weeks in jail.
Obviously, minimum sentencing can have extremely perverse consequences. We are not saying that people who commit offences with firearms should be let go. What we are saying is that there are maximum sentences and that judges have the discretion to impose appropriate sentences somewhere between the maximum sentences and acquittal, sentences that take into consideration the circumstances surrounding the offence. That is why the Bloc Québécois, which has an extremely tough attitude toward criminals when severity is required, does not want to have anything to do with the artificial, ineffective logic underlying mandatory minimum sentencing. That is why we do not support either the bill or the amendments.
We have proposed a whole range of solutions to the government, solutions that include maintaining the gun registry, reviewing the parole issue, reviewing the double time issue, and doubling the budget for the national crime prevention strategy. We think that all of these options are far more appropriate than automatic sentencing, which does not stand up to scrutiny and which makes Bill C-10 a very bad bill.
November 27th, 2006 / 4:25 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My first question is for Mr. Cannavino, whom I would like to welcome.
Ultimately, you'll agree with me that it's the duty of legislators to make decisions based on the most conclusive and most current information. As you'll no doubt remember — I don't know whether you were president of your association at that time, but you were definitely an active police officer — in 1995, a bill was passed, Bill C-68, which, in addition to creating the firearms registry, of which you are an ardent defender, added 10 mandatory minimum sentences for 10 offences. The reason we're coming out in favour of mandatory sentences is that we think they have a deterrent effect. We have to evaluate periodically whether they have a deterrent effect. That's not the only reason why we decide to impose such sentences. But that's part of the thinking.
I admit that few studies have been submitted to us by academics, by scientists. I'm not talking about interest groups. We understand it's not their work to do that, and I'm not asking you to conduct studies of that kind today. However, has any scientific study in the least satisfying been brought to your attention that would suggest that, since 1995 — we're just talking about firearms; there are roughly 40 mandatory minimum sentences in the Code, but let's just talk about those concerning firearms — mandatory minimum sentences, in the context of the commission of firearms offences, have had a deterrent effect? Would you be prepared to share your sources?
Transportation Amendment Act
November 28th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.
Jim Gouk Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the two points that he raised. I most assuredly want to talk about the first as well as the second.
First, the member mentioned forcing the election. What a lot of crap. I know this hon. member and I guess I cannot say “Larry of the North”, so I will not, but we say that affectionately when working with the member on committee and at other times.
To say that the Conservatives are forcing the election is wrong. Bad government is forcing the election. Corruption is forcing the election. A loss of moral authority to government is forcing the election. If the government had not signed a deal with the devil as it were to keep it on life support, when it certainly did not deserve it, we would have ended its rule, its reign, and its dictatorship last spring.
The Liberals signed a deal with the NDP and I understand why the NDP did that. It has very much been the champion of social programs. On the surface the budget amendment looked as though it actually addressed social programs, but it did not. If we were to read the budget amendment, we would find that there are only 68 words that describe how $4.5 billion is going to be spent.
When we listen to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, he actually said in the House that it does not mean we are going to spend it. It is an enabling bill that would allow us to spend up to that amount. In actual fact, nobody is going to see any of that money.
It was good publicity for the NDP. I understand that. Unfortunately, that is part of the workings of this House. It was certainly a good deal for the Prime Minister. He said he would sign off on that. It really did not cost him anything and it kept the government going a bit longer.
Then the Liberals had other opportunities. They had an opportunity to accept a deal put forward by the NDP that would have prevented this election happening until after the new year. It would have given the government time to bring forward bills, such as Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill.
In fact, the government could have met with the House leaders and said, “Okay, which bills can everybody support? What is your priority? Let's move forward with the ones that people support, so we can get those things passed”. The Liberals would have found that a lot of bills would have passed, including Bill C-68.
People have to understand that it hits me right here every time I say something favourable about Bill C-68. I recall the $2 billion useless firearms registry under that same number.
As far as ACAP funding goes, the member who raised the question is absolutely right, it has been a good program. The funding is sliding downward rather than up. There is no stability in it. There is an incredible cost to apply for it, as I mentioned earlier on, and it is a crap shoot. The funding is applied for and nobody knows if they get the funding or not. Applications are not made frivolously.
When a runway is crumbling and a small airport is trying to service an entire region, it is critically important that these projects be funded. The government could do a lot better than it has done.
Transportation Amendment Act
November 28th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
Jim Gouk Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my speech by sending a special message to someone very special. I spoke in the House last week and made a member's statement. I thought that would be the final time I would address the House. It turns out that much to my surprise the government has brought forward one of the more useless bills it has on the order paper. It talked about bringing this forward a number of times. I do not know if common sense prevailed or what, but it never did. Now suddenly on the final day of the government, we find ourselves with Bill C-44.
I am pleased to hear the parliamentary secretary to the minister say that he would concentrate mainly on air transportation. That is the part I would like to speak to as well.
Other bills could have been brought forward. I heard one mentioned. One of the questions the parliamentary secretary received from a member of his party caused him to raise Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill. That is a prime example of a bill that should have come forward, along with several other bills in the House. The government introduced it a long time ago. We indicated very clearly to the government that we would support that bill. For some reason it chose not to bring it forward. It is probably so the Liberals can campaign in British Columbia and say that it offered the bill and the Conservative Party caused it to be defeated.
We did nothing of a kind. The Liberals had more than ample time to bring it forward. They never did, and instead we find ourselves discussing Bill C-44.
Let us talk about the genesis of the bill. When the new Minister of Transport came forward in Parliament, one of the things he said to our committee and to me personally, as the vice-chair of the committee, was he would reintroduce Bill C-26. Bill C-26 was the predecessor of Bill C-44. He did not say that he would take the intent of Bill C-26, redesign it and try to respond to the needs that had come up with all the problems in Bill C-26.
That was one of the dumber things I have heard him say. I have some measure of respect for the minister, and I temper that with the word “some” very strongly. However, bringing Bill C-26 forward and reintroducing it definitely has to go down as one of his more foolish moves. Bill C-26 was so bad that with a Liberal majority government it could not get the Liberals to vote for it. Why on earth would the government want to bring it forward in a minority?
Let us talk about some of the things that are wrong with the bill. As the parliamentary secretary addressed primarily the air industry, I will do the same, although I would be remiss if I did not put a few words in at the end of my speech on my old arch concerns about VIA Rail.
First, I would like to talk about airport rent. The parliamentary secretary to the minister said that the government wanted to help the air industry, that it recognized how important air transportation was. Those are funny words coming from a party that has done everything it can to destroy the air industry in the country.
Members of the Standing Committee on Transport have studied this both in Ottawa and across the country. We have listened to witnesses from every aspect and every sector of the air transportation industry. We made a series of recommendations by way of an interim report. One of the first recommendations was that the government immediately reduce airport rents by at least 75%. The government responded to that. It said that it already had taken care of this and that it would bring in a 60% reduction in the rent paid by the national airports over the term of their leases.
As my colleague said in questions and comments, after the parliamentary secretary spoke, that is not a rent reduction. That is a 60% reduction in the amount the government will increase it by in the future.
I have said that when I retire I will practise the three g s, namely garden, golf and grandson. My grandson is a year old. If he should happen to grow up, get into the air transport industry and even become the CEO of one of the airport authorities, then perhaps he may have something to be thankful for the government bringing in the 60% future reductions. That is provided the air transport sector survives under Liberal policy. We need rent reductions now.
Toronto airport was spoken very strongly about, and I would like to address a couple of the comments the minister has made in the past with regard to it. Many people have been crying loud and clear for reductions in the rent at Toronto airport in particular because of it having the highest landing fees in the world. The minister's response to that was twofold.
First, he said that if we did not like the fees there and if we did not like landing at Toronto airport, we could always land in Montreal. It is an interesting thing for the minister from Montreal to say. Maybe it will garner him a few votes there, except I hope the people in Montreal have the good sense, and I am sure they do, to recognize that if he is that out to lunch in terms of airport rents in Toronto, it will eventually affect them as well.
The second thing he said was that the rents were not all that big a deal, that they were only 14% of the budget of Toronto airport and that its debt load was 40%. Therefore, it is not the rent, it is the debt. Let us talk about that debt. Let us talk about why airports have debt and have spent a ton of money.
In Ottawa the terminal building that the airport authority took over was deplorable, as it was in Toronto and several other airports around the country. It financed $335 million to build the new terminal that was long overdue. It did not cost the government or taxpayers a dime. The reason it was needed was the government of the day and governments in the past ignored the infrastructure needs of our airport system.
Airports used to lose for the government over $200 million a year. That was while the government was not putting any money into it. That was just its operating cost, a $200 million loss. Now all of a sudden it is saying that they have to have fair value. If it cost $200 million to run them and they were run for free, they have received fair value.
Over and above that, by the parliamentary secretary's own words, $6 billion has been spent at the Toronto airport to build up the infrastructure that the government neglected. In fact, in the case of Toronto it was even worse. The Liberal government cancelled the newly signed Pearson contract that would have built a new terminal at no cost to the taxpayers whatsoever. It established, through legislation, that the contract holder would not be allowed to sue the government, and decreed how much it would get for damages by way of a settlement.
I listened to the Liberal rhetoric. I was green, I was new. I thought that if the government was saying it, it had to be true. I was shocked that it was going to give the airports as much money as it did. As the new transport critic, a member of Parliament and a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, I decided I would hit the books and study this so I could come up with arguments as to why they should not even get that much money, having done all the bad things the Liberals said they did.
Surprisingly, the more I studied this, the more I discovered it was not such a bad deal at all. In fact, it was a pretty good deal. It was such a good deal that I found a memo from the department asking how on earth the it manage to get such a great contract. The department could not believe it got such a good contract on the department's behalf, and that is what the government cancelled.
Pearson has languished ever since. As part of the settlement that it finally was forced to make, it ended up buying terminal 3 back from private sector operators. That is where a lot of this debt has come from, all generated by the government.
The government did another thing, which was done by the minister's predecessor, David Collenette. This is one example of the really stupid things that has been done in the name of helping airports. Mr. Collenette said that there were a lot of problems, that the government was really soaking them with the rent, that he knew it was a problem, especially with the sudden downturn in traffic, so what the government would do was not cut the rent but defer it. They would still have to pay it, but the government would allow them not to pay it for a little while. That did absolutely no good because they had to put the money aside and save it for the day when the government said it had to be paid.
If the government wants to do something short term right away, it should cancel the payment of those deferrals. It was something that was supposedly going to help, at least the members opposite certainly crowed about it, and yet it does not do any good.
Another thing that needs to be brought up is ACAP. One of our recommendations was there should be a flow through of moneys received from airports. We heard a lot of people saying that airport rent should be eliminated. I do not support that. It should be greatly reduced. There should be enough money coming to the ACAP, the airport capital assistance program, for smaller airports that are the feeders for these national airports. We put forward that ACAP should be increased and stabilized. Right now there is no guarantee that it will even continue, and it has not increased. The government said that it was adequately funded. That is a lot of nonsense. The ACAP has not increased since it started. With the cost of everything going up, simply not increasing it means there is less money available for the various projects.
Another thing we asked was that the government simplify the application process. We talked to operators of the smaller airports who told us that it cost as much as $10,000 to apply for ACAP funding. In the grand scheme of things, I know the former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, once said in the House, “what's a million?” A million dollars to the Liberal Party, with all the things it has done with taxpayer money, perhaps is not a tremendous amount of money. However, $10,000 for a little airport with a small budget is a lot of money, and that is only to apply for funding that it may not get. It is a long, drawn out process and it is absolutely unnecessary and unacceptable.
However, the government says that it is all right because they can add the cost of the application to the cost of the project and apply for the whole thing. First, they have to put the money up. Second, they have no guarantee that they will get that funding. The government could do a lot better that it has in this area.
We also asked that no rent should be paid on airports with less than two million passengers. There has to be some base from when they can then generate enough money to run their airports and then start to pay the rent. The government's response to that is it believes that airports with less than 2,000 passengers not paying rent would not satisfy the government's real property policy that states, “Where public assets are leased to private or commercial entities, the government should receive a fair return”.
We already have talked about fair return. Vancouver airport has undertaken a tremendous terminal expansion. It has built a second runway. It is continuing to expand its operation tremendously. It is known as one of the world authorities on the operation of an airport. What has it cost the government? What gas it cost taxpayers? Not one dime, but the government continues to use it as a cash cow to skim money from it.
Another of the recommendations was the government eliminate the air transport security fee and pay for the services through the consolidated revenues fund. The government says that the enhanced air travel security systems benefit principally and directly air travellers. In these circumstances the charge is fair and reasonable.
We have to ask ourselves what exactly is air security for? Is it for the security of the passengers or is this enhanced security that came as a direct result of 9/11 for the protection of the public at large against acts of terrorism?
The overwhelming damage and death toll in the case of 9/11 was not to the aircraft or the passengers on board, catastrophic though those events were. The damage and the largest loss of life was in the buildings. Therefore, we are doing this for the general safety of the public, and nowhere else in security does the general public not pay these security fees. They do not load this on any other sector. The government seems to think that there is so much money in the air transport sector that it can apply whatever charges it wants at any time at all.
Another thing we asked for was that customs services be provided at airports that can demonstrate they have regular transporter or international services. The government's response to that is charging fees for services has been the government's policy, dating back to 1989, and that it will have to continue with that. That is not true either. That is a very inconsistent statement because we do not charge any one sector. We do not charge the people who benefit when they cross the border. If that were the case, why are all the people who do not cross the border paying for those customs services at the border? The Liberals could charge a fee for everybody who comes across, if that is what they truly believe. Therefore, their policy is extremely inconsistent.
I want to get on to my favourite topic, VIA Rail, because this goes back right to my first days in Parliament and some of the things I found out about VIA.
I have a measure of respect for VIA and the service it provides, particularly in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. It is a necessary service. Essentially, it is an extension of commuter rail.
There are basically three types of service provided by railroad for passengers. One is commuter rail, in which I will include the Quebec-Windsor corridor and intercity transportation, but it is still essentially commuter rail and travel in a high density corridor. I think that it is quite justifiable to move people, to keep them off the highways, and to provide better access to travel. It is in a very restricted area.
We have it in Vancouver, not run by VIA Rail. We have a very good commuter service there. We have one in Toronto and we have one in Montreal. Then we have VIA Rail providing this intercity connection as well in the corridor.
We have remote communities. It is appropriate for the government to take a role in ensuring that remote communities are captured by way of differing types of transportation and have some service provided to them and ensure that service is maintained. The third thing is rail tourism. Rail tourism is for tourists getting a tourism experience.
We do not have passenger rail outside of those three items I mentioned. There is no such thing as regular passenger rail. For example, VIA Rail runs from Edmonton to Vancouver. Aircraft fly from Edmonton to Vancouver and the Greyhound bus goes from Edmonton to Vancouver. Only one of those three is subsidized, and that is VIA Rail. Even though it is subsidized, VIA Rail is the most expensive of those three methods of travel. It takes 17 times longer to go by VIA Rail than it does to go by aircraft. Obviously, people are not riding it simply for the transportation. They have to pay more and it takes infinitely longer to get there. The only reason they are on that train is for the rail experience, in other words, rail tourism, so why are we asking the taxpayers of Canada to subsidize tourism experiences?
We have a private sector company in British Columbia and Alberta that provides that amply well. It bought the service from VIA Rail. Travelling on the southern route and as well through to Jasper, VIA Rail used to carry about 5,000 passengers a year and lose money. The private sector company that took it over, and invested millions and millions of dollars in advertising, has won awards all over the world. It just recently won a very prestigious award by the International Tourism Association as one of the best rail experiences in the world. It carries over 80,000 passengers. Yet, we still have VIA Rail wanting to go back and compete with them and the government is looking at supporting VIA Rail on that. It is absolutely unacceptable.
VIA Rail only pays one-fifth of the trackage fees to CN and CP that companies like the Rocky Mountaineer have to pay because the government negotiated that and forced that on the freight rails. That is one-fifth, so they are getting that over and above the $500,000 a day in taxpayer subsidies.
I think the government is being very unfair to VIA Rail. VIA Rail should be allowed to operate commercially within the corridor, do a good job, and probably get a lot of kudos for doing so. I think it is absolutely wrong to subsidize a government operation to compete against the private sector.
I would like to go on about this and many other sectors and talk a lot more about VIA Rail as well, but I will end by saying, first, that I am very disappointed that the government chose to bring such an inappropriate bill forward when there are so many things that needed to be brought forward that we would have helped to pass had it done so. The Liberals have had the opportunity. We even gave them the opportunity to extend the Parliament to get those things through, if necessary, and they have turned it all down, perhaps so they can make a bunch of false campaign statements when they get out there.
The other thing I would like to say is that this will definitely be the last time that I will rise in the House as a member of Parliament. The government's life will end tonight and everyone will go on the campaign trail. I will not be returning. Perhaps some others, particularly on the other side, will not be returning either, but they think they are returning. I know I am not returning.
This is my last time, Mr. Speaker. To you and to the House, and to all members of the House in all parties, thank you for the experience. I have enjoyed it, these bills notwithstanding, because I know that good work can be done as well. Good work was certainly been done in the committee. That is what I was talking about today. We would have a better government if it would listen to and follow the reports of committees like the transport committee instead of coming up with bills like this.
Transportation Amendment Act
November 28th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB
Mr. Speaker, as members already know, we have made a major initiative with Bill C-68 to further expand the Pacific gateway. That is only one of a number of initiatives that our government is working on. We are a trading nation. If we are to succeed as a trading nation, we have to have a very successful method of transportation to get those goods and services from our own country to others. I would like to commend the member and other British Columbia members for their work on Bill C-68 and the Pacific gateway.
It is not only the province of British Columbia but all of our western provinces and into the central heartland of Canada are looking at this initiative. We have a similar program at least being talked about in terms of the east with an Atlantic gateway and the big gateway going from our central provinces down to the Midwest in the United States.
Transportation is needed to get services from place to place. The hon. member talked about other factors that are so important to us in terms of our Canadian economy. He talked about opportunities for Canadian businesses, not only opportunities to make sure that they do get markets, but more important, opportunities that they see which must be protected by our various Canadian departments.
I can assure the member that in terms of foreign affairs and our international trading relationships, we as a government want to encourage the development of opportunities in other areas around the world, whether they be in Asia, Europe, or more important recently, in South America. With that, our government and the various departments are certainly working toward those initiatives.
Business of the House
November 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I see the hon. member across the way is displaying his charm once more.
I also think the hon. member understands clearly that the call for the election and, ultimately, if there is an election caused, it will be the opposition members who will have to take responsibility since they will be voting to dissolve Parliament and we will be voting to sustain Parliament in order to continue the work that I will now lay out.
This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.
On Friday we will call consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, the do not call bill; report stage and third reading of Bill S-36 respecting rough diamonds; report stage and third reading of Bill C-63, respecting the Canada Elections Act; and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation.
We will return to this work on Monday, adding to the list the reference before second reading of Bill C-76, the citizenship and adoption bill; and second reading of Bill C-75, the public health agency legislation.
Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. There are some three dozen bills before the House or in committee on which the House I am sure will want to make progress in the next period of time. They will include the bill introduced yesterday to implement the 2005 tax cuts announced on November 14; Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-67, the surplus legislation; Bill C-61, the marine bill; Bill C-72, the DNA legislation; Bill C-46, the correctional services bill; Bill C-77, the citizenship prohibitions bill; Bill C-60, the copyright legislation; Bill C-73, the Telecom bill; Bill C-60 respecting drug impaired driving; Bill C-19, the competition legislation; Bill C-50 respecting cruelty to animals; Bill C-51, the judges legislation; Bill C-52, the fisheries bill; Bill C-59 respecting Investment Canada; Bills C-64 and C-65 amending the Criminal Code.
In addition, there are the supplementary estimates introduced in October that provide spending authority for a wide variety of services to the Canadian public and we the government would certainly like to see this passed.
November 17th, 2005 / 1:05 p.m.
Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the opposition motion presented by the leader of the New Democratic Party which proposes that the Prime Minister should ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament during the week of January 2, 2006, and set the date for the election for February 13, 2006.
I must admit that it is a bit disappointing that the NDP has not put forward a substantive motion for debate today. Last time around, the NDP took a constructive approach to its opposition days by putting forward issues that matter to Canadians. For example, Canadians had the benefit of a full discussion on such matters as environmental aspects of automobile emission standards, access to employment insurance, which is obviously a big concern in my riding and in other rural communities across the country, and the health risks of trans fatty acids.
Today, the NDP wants to talk about scheduling, about how to ignore constitutional convention and speed up the next general election by a mere eight weeks.
Clearly, the priorities of opposition members have changed. Today, they are more interested in procedural tactics rather than substantive issues that Canadians want this Parliament to address. Opposition parties are not interested in the process of governing. The opposition day motion today is really about manipulating the parliamentary and electoral calendar to serve what are clearly partisan interests.
The motion calls for an election to be held on February 13, 2006, despite the fact that the Prime Minister has already promised to call an election in early 2006.
The Prime Minister made that promise to Canadians last spring. We all know by now that an election will be called within 30 days of the final report and recommendations of the Gomery inquiry, which are scheduled to be tabled on February 1, 2006.
According to the Prime Minister's promise, the next election will be held in March, or early April at the latest. By then Canadians will be familiar with Justice Gomery's recommendations and will be able to benefit from a much improved legislative environment.
Nonetheless, that is not enough for the opposition. They want to hold an election in mid-February, which is 8 weeks, at the very most, before the date the Prime Minister proposed to all Canadians on national television.
An election any sooner would be held before Justice Gomery has completed his work, and therefore, before Canadians have all the answers regarding the problems with the sponsorship program and—equally important—regarding the measures that will need to be taken to prevent such a situation from happening again.
It will be incumbent upon the opposition parties to explain to Canadians why they are disrupting the work, not only of the government, but also of Parliament, in order to force a premature election in the middle of winter, thereby going against what most Canadians want. In fact, Canadians are still waiting for a good reason for all this.
The opposition parties are saying they do not have confidence in this government. Yet, they want to use opposition days to confirm their confidence for a just few more months. This flagrant contradiction highlights the purely political motivation behind today's motion.
As the government House leader indicated, some opposition members seem to believe that the notion that a government must have the confidence of the House was somehow divisible, that we could have confidence today, but tomorrow? Maybe in a few weeks they would see if they had lost confidence. The government would continue to govern, until they decided to put that loss of confidence into effect.
I said a couple of days ago that the opposition members seemed to think that confidence in government, in parliamentary terms, was like Christmas lights. We turn them on in the evening, we turn them off in the morning and then we put them away in January. Canadians will not be fooled by that simplistic analysis.
When the first minority government in 25 years was elected in 2004, the government committed to doing things differently in Parliament. Canadians expected us, as members of Parliament, to work constructively together. The record shows in many cases we have been very successful. In just 19 months we have delivered on a broad range of initiatives that will advance the interests of Canadians and continue to ensure Canada's place in the world.
For example, we passed legislation to implement the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. A federal adviser on wait times was appointed. Steps continue to be taken so we can work with the provinces to protect Canada's public health system.
We passed legislation to implement fundamental reforms to the equalization program. This balanced approach ensured that all Canadians could benefit from social services and enjoy the same quality of life, regardless of the province in which they live. These improvements mean additional resources, additional moneys being transferred to my province, the province of New Brunswick. We already have seen an improvement not only in social services, education and health care, but improvements in infrastructure as well. The government and people of New Brunswick benefit by this cooperative approach.
We passed legislation respecting civil marriage to respect the fundamental values of equality and religious freedoms as well.
We passed legislation to implement a new deal for cities and communities. This unprecedented initiative brings together the federal government, provincial governments and municipalities to ensure that the infrastructure of our communities is responsive to local needs, culturally vibrant and environmentally sustainable. Again, small rural communities in my constituency benefit from this type of initiative.
We transferred, for example, the full refund of GST paid by municipalities as simply a down payment on the new deal for cities and communities. If the government of New Brunswick would organize itself to negotiate a deal with the federal government, municipalities in my constituency and throughout New Brunswick, as well as small rural communities, would benefit from this important initiative.
We passed legislation to implement our climate change plan and meet our Kyoto commitments. In two weeks, Canada will begin hosting the conference of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal to make further progress on our important climate change commitments.
To ensure Canadians have the best opportunities to flourish, we passed legislation to implement early childhood learning and child care agreements, which we have reached with many provinces.
To keep Canadians safe, we passed legislation to protect them from pornography and Internet luring.
I am proud of the record of this Parliament so far. We were able to pass a budget bill that further accelerated our priorities in public transit, in housing, in post-secondary education, in national defence and in foreign aid.
We made major changes to improve the employment insurance system, something that is very important to seasonal industries in my constituency. We removed many of the disincentives to work, which created a bizarre situation where a worker in a seasonal industry would go to work for what might be a shortened work period for reasons beyond the control of the worker. If the lobster season was not as productive that week, if the weather did not allow a certain harvest to take place, the workers were disadvantaged by a system which calculated employment insurance based on recent weeks as opposed to best weeks. We changed that in this Parliament and the government has served the needs of seasonal industries and seasonal workers very well, certainly in my constituency.
Contrary to the opposition parties, I believe there is still much work to be done. A premature election could jeopardize over 40 bills currently in the House, bills that would provide important benefits to the well-being of Canadians and to the competitiveness of Canada.
For example, Bill C-67, the unanticipated surpluses act, reflects the government's balanced approach to fiscal management by providing a proportional allocation of unanticipated surpluses to permanent tax reductions, targeted investments and debt relief. Our ability to allocate surpluses is a direct result of the sound financial stewardship of the Minister of Finance and of his predecessors.
Bill C-68, Canada's Pacific gateway act, provides the foundations for expanding our trade with the growing economies of countries like China and India and other Asian countries. This has been a priority for our government. The government of British Columbia has urged us to take action on the Pacific gateway. This is what the government is doing to ensure that the Canadian economy as a whole can prosper by the great opportunities that these markets present.
Bill C-11, the whistleblower's bill, is currently before the Senate and provides vital protection for employees who courageously come forward to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in their workplace. The bill reflects the hard work of many members of Parliament, members from Vegreville—Wainwright, Winnipeg Centre and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. I do not think those members want Bill C-11 to die prematurely.
Bill C-37, the do not call list, is also before the Senate. It reached the Senate through the support of all parties. Jeopardizing this work for the sake of electioneering at Christmas time does not benefit Canadians.
Earlier this month the government supplementary estimates requesting from Parliament the funds needed to implement the programs that allow federal initiatives to operate. These supplementary estimates include additional investments for defence, immigration, climate change, infrastructure, public security, the health of first nations and federal-provincial partnerships.
For example, the estimates include $15 million to implement the veterans' charter; $36.4 million to alleviate and prevent homelessness; over $230 million for investments in first nations communities and first nations peoples; $102.9 million to mitigate the impact of BSE; $34 million to aid the softwood lumber industry; $74 million for the agricultural policy framework; and, $1.1 billion to enhance Canada's national defence.
This is only a sampling of the productive agenda the government has for the next few months and the government continues to move forward this fall to deliver on our commitments.
Next week we will have, for example, a first ministers meeting with aboriginal leaders in British Columbia to address the challenges faced by our first nations. First nations leaders have stressed how important this meeting is for their communities. It would be the responsibility of opposition parties to justify jeopardizing the results of that meeting with a premature election.
Later this month the Minister of Justice will unveil a package targeted at gun crime, which we all know is an important challenge for our cities and for the safety of our communities. This Monday the Minister of Finance presented his fall economic and fiscal update, which proposes significant tax reductions for Canadians and a prosperity plan for Canada's future.
Over the next five years more than $30 billion in tax relief is proposed and over 95% of that would be delivered through personal tax reductions. In addition, significant investments are proposed to create access to post-secondary education and encourage lifelong learning so Canadians can continue to be competitive workers in the global marketplace. Combined with investments and research, innovation and social capital, the economic update sets the stage for accelerated growth and prosperity for the nation.
It is important to highlight that student associations across the country were particularly pleased with the investments in access to post-secondary education. In my constituency I am fortunate enough to have Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. The student groups there had spoken to me many times about the heavy financial burden of a post-secondary education. The measures announced by the Minister of Finance will help the students at Mount Allison University.
These measures will help students in my riding who are registered at the University of Moncton, for example. In fact, students across the country will benefit from these very important measures.
This is where the government's focus has been on governing. Canadians are tired of politicians playing partisan games. It is little wonder that cynicism about politicians is on the rise when people spend more time worrying about the timing of the next election than advancing the interest of their constituents in this Parliament.
Government members are here to represent their constituents and to work on making this Parliament successful. I have outlined the number of important initiatives that we have before us. We know there is an impending election that will follow the finance report of Justice Gomery. In the meantime Canadians expect us to roll up our sleeves and to get to work on delivering the commitments that we have all made to our electors.
The election will be at some point in early 2006. That was the Prime Minister's commitment. However, Canadians also want answers from the Gomery commission's final report before going back to the polls. That also was the Prime Minister's commitment. In the meantime, all parliamentarians should spend time working on the legislation that is before the House, that is in committee and that is in the Senate. They should be looking at many interesting private members' initiatives that are coming before Parliament.
In closing, I believe that Canadians want us to work together on what concerns them and on improving their lives and the lives of their families and fellow citizens. They hope the work we do here in Parliament will improve their quality of life. They do not want the debates to end in the partisan bickering that does little to honour this Parliament.
November 17th, 2005 / 11 a.m.
Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, I suggest there are a number of fundamental problems with today's opposition motion. I will point to a few of them.
First, it is fundamentally inconsistent with the basic principles of a parliamentary democracy which in fact have guided us throughout the history of this institution. It is a serious matter to change long-standing principles and practices with no consideration to the future members of the House of Commons.
The opposition parties essentially are willing to play some political and partisan games with our constitutional conventions. We can hear them laughing across the way. It is exactly what Canadians expect from the opposition parties when talking about our Constitution, nothing more than heckling and laughing. Those parties have proven they do not have any respect for the Constitution.
I want to make a few points and then during the question and answer period we can allow the members opposite to stand and rant and rave, as we expect they will. Nonetheless, I would like the opportunity to make a few points.
We have seen a time when members have worked quite well and quite cooperatively in the House, even in the face of challenges with what the opposition parties were looking to do. Canadians ultimately want to see a House that works on behalf of their initiatives. The House of Commons needs to work on behalf of the citizens.
Canadians want their members of Parliament to work on public business, not the private ambitions of any one party leader. Canadians want parliamentarians to debate the issues that are important Canadians, to address their daily concerns and what they are worried about. In fact, Canadians have not been getting legislation or policy that might make their lives better, more prosperous perhaps, and secure. What they are getting from the opposition parties is endless partisan posturing, political games and positioning for electoral advantage, quite frankly.
Members opposite always quote Canadians to suit their particular position. I have talked to Canadians and they have said that things in Parliament are not going well and members are yelling and screaming at each other all the time. I continue to make the point that we put forward and passed what I believe are important initiatives. But we have a situation now where the opposition parties, in particular the leader of the NDP, has put forward a motion that in fact does not fit with the constitutional requirements of this country.
I have to say that it is not only I who might say that. I am not alone in asserting that today's motion is a violation of long-standing democratic principles and practices of Parliament. The official opposition has said, and I believe the opposition House leader just said that the government needs to have the confidence of the House. That is absolutely correct. That is the way our system works. It is based on long-standing democratic principles.
The opposition parties collectively, since they are all supporting this particular motion, through the leader of the NDP are saying they want to vote non-confidence in the government today, but they want to have the consequences essentially some time in January because it suits their political purpose. They are saying they do not want an election during Christmas, but they want to vote non-confidence today and have the election later on. In the meantime, while the House remains in session, the House presumably would be passing important initiatives for Canadians that we put forward as a government and they would be voting confidence in the government, all the while indicating that they have no confidence in the government. The opposition wants to defeat the government, but not for another month and a half or so.
Parliament does not work that way and Canadians understand that. We cannot divide confidence. Confidence is not divisible. It cannot be cut up into little pieces and apportioned over different periods of time saying, “It is okay to pass this piece of legislation which is a confidence bill and we understand that. We will pass that bill, but we do not have confidence in the government. The government should not be allowed to put forward programs that expend Canadian taxpayer money because we do not have confidence, but we will hang around while the government does that and then we will come back and say we do not have confidence in the government again in January”.
The government very clearly either needs to have the confidence of the House or not. It is very simple. It is the way the system has worked for a long time. It is very clear to Canadians that the government must have an ability to make decisions that have an impact on Canadians going forward and it must be able to do that knowing that it has the confidence of the House, or at least the confidence of the majority in the House. Even if there are people who do not have confidence in the government, if the government does not have the confidence of the majority of the House, then it is unable to function as a government.
The opposition parties, in what they are saying and what they are reporting in the media, are essentially saying that they do not have confidence in the government, but what they are afraid to do is to take responsibility for what that may cause.
When a motion of non-confidence is put on the floor of the House of Commons, when the opposition parties vote for that and the motion passes, there is an election. The opposition parties have to take responsibility for that. They should be able to say, “We are causing an election. It will be during Christmas. We are dragging Canadians back to the polls even though two-thirds of Canadians agree with what the Prime Minister is saying and his call for an election in the spring, within 30 days of Justice Gomery's report”.
The hon. member opposite said that we should wait another five months for that. He is perfectly free to say that, and I am not going to argue that position because that is the position the opposition parties have taken, but what they must do in that instance is put forward a motion of non-confidence, not a motion that suggests they do not have confidence now but the effect will take place some time in the future because they do not want to have an election at Christmas. They are trying to position themselves as not having to take responsibility for a Christmas election, but Canadians will know that is where the responsibility will lie.
The opposition parties have had an opportunity to put forward a motion of non-confidence. While they go out and speak to the media and say they do not have confidence, in the House, in this chamber, they had an opportunity to do that today and they did not. They had an opportunity to do it this past Tuesday and the opposition parties did not. They will have an opportunity to put forward that motion either next Tuesday or next Thursday. They have an opportunity to express no confidence in the government by voting down confidence bills or important bills to the government. They have an opportunity to express non-confidence and vote down the government's spending estimates which provide moneys for ongoing programs.
The fact that the opposition parties have sought not to do so clearly shows to Canadians that it is not just an issue of confidence that is truly at stake here, there are some partisan political considerations.
The leader of the New Democratic Party has cited a couple of constitutional experts, but the majority of constitutional experts have sided with the government's approach on this motion. The opposition parties continue to say that even in this minority government, the Prime Minister does not have the right to set the election date.
I will quote Ned Franks, a professor at Queen's University who said:
It is the Prime Minister's right and prerogative to go to the Governor General and ask for a dissolution of the House. It is not Parliament's. That's very clear.
David Docherty has said:
[The opposition's] saying, “We like the things you've done but unless you let the opposition decide when there's an election, we will pull the plug and not only not get things done that we think are important, but quite frankly, not get things done our supporters think are important”. In short, they simply can't do it. Parliamentary non-confidence is very specific. It's non-confidence when there is a vote of non-confidence. If it's a money bill, a speech from the throne, a matter the government says is confidence or there is a motion of non-confidence, those are the times that it's clear.
That is what we are saying. Canadians should not be fooled. There is a lot of political rhetoric that is swirling around this place, but the government either has the confidence or does not have the confidence of the House and it is up to the opposition parties to express that.
When Canadians elected their first minority government in 25 years they expected their representatives to work together. They still expect that. They also indicated they wanted us to continue working on their priorities, Canadian priorities, not the political priorities of opposition parties.
The Prime Minister made a commitment to Canadians. He went on national television and said that he would call an election within 30 days of the second Gomery report. He made that commitment and he wants to adhere to it.
I would say that Canadians want their government and their Parliament to deliver results and that is exactly what I have been trying to do and what the government has been doing. We have almost 90 bills before this Parliament.
The opposition parties have indicated that the House of Commons has no confidence in the government but the government has successfully met more than 40 confidence challenges and has been able to continue.
We have a strong record with respect to legislation passed on health care, equalization, a new deal for cities and communities, the offshore accords, climate change and early learning and child care. It is a strong record that we will take to the Canadian people and the Canadian people will decide.
We know Canadians want government and Parliament to focus on their priorities. They do not want a premature election. They do not want their representatives to be focused on political gamesmanship. They want the government and Parliament to deliver results, which is exactly what we are doing.
We are continuing to move forward with these priorities. The Minister of Finance has presented his fall economic and fiscal update that proposes further tax reductions for Canadians, a prosperity plan for Canada's future and it delivers more than $30 billion in tax relief in the current year and the next five years. Over 95% of that tax relief will be delivered through personal income tax.
Sadly, on the one opposition day available to the NDP in this supply cycle, it has chosen to focus on tearing this House down rather than building up this country. I have to say that the opposition day motion is an attempt by the opposition parties to demonstrate no confidence by not putting a motion before the House of Commons and saying that they have no confidence, but having that effect happen some time in January, is pretty convoluted. There has not been an expert out there who has been able to understand it.
We go back to the point of Gomery and when Gomery reports a second time. I know the opposition parties are arguing that can happen anyway and that this is all about some strategy.
The Prime Minister, when making that commitment to Canadians on national television, said that Canadians had the right to all of the facts of the Gomery Commission and all of his recommendations. However they also have a right to hear the response of the government and the response of the opposition parties before they cast their ballots. The opposition should be able to tell Canadians why they are afraid to wait for the final Gomery report before an election is called. If the opposition parties are not afraid, then they should be able to say that.
The commitment made by the Prime Minister was very clear. He said that within 30 days of the final report he would make that call. Obviously, it is not good enough for the opposition. They want an election to take place some time in February, which is four to eight weeks earlier than the Prime Minister's commitment to Canadians, but that is the choice they can make. What they should not do is try to hide behind some muddy motion that is not clear to Canadians.
We are talking about four to eight weeks and, if they want an election earlier than four to eight weeks, then they should stand in their place, put down their motion and have this place work the way it is supposed to work. If there is no confidence in the government, then drag Canadians back to the polls during the holiday season and have Canadians ultimately decide. That is the way it works.
The opposition parties are insisting that if we do not accept today's motion, then they will vote non-confidence in the government. They either have the confidence or not. We are focused on moving forward important government initiatives, not spending this day debating a motion that really has no effect.
As I have said, it is the opposition's right to defeat the government if they do not have confidence in the government, but let us consider for a moment the cost of defeating the government before we get through this legislative agenda.
We have Bill C-67, the unanticipated surplus bill; Bill C-68, the Canada Pacific gateway bill; the whistleblower bill in the Senate, which is essentially a bill that has come out of committee with a number of amendments that all parliamentarians provided; and Bill C-37, the do not call list, which is also before the Senate.
By defeating the government from passing its supplementary estimates, it would prevents $1.1 billion for the Department of National Defence, nearly $200 million for investments in public infrastructure and nearly $120 million to promote peace and stability in fragile states.
The opposition parties also jeopardize the possibility of real concrete action stemming from the first ministers' meeting with aboriginal leaders in Kelowna next week. Phil Fontaine, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations who is opposed to Mr. Layton's motion, said that Mr. Layton's pledge to defeat the government could erase “all of the good work that we've done”.
Pacific Gateway Act
November 16th, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.
Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have my chance to speak at second reading of Bill C-68, an act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway. In other words—since much has been said on this without any real explanation—it would be a sort of multimodal network of transportation infrastructures focussed on trade with Asia. I therefore feel able to take part in this debate because I am the Bloc Québécois critic for Asia and the Pacific. Those two regions are of the greatest interest to me, since we all know how buoyant the markets in Asia are.
I thank the hon. members from all parties who have spoken so far in this debate, especially my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in particular, our transport critic. I mention this because this whole matter is interrelated. Among other colleagues who have spoken was our critic for international trade, the hon. member for Joliette. Hon. members can see how interrelated this all is, and I will go into that a little later on. My colleagues from Berthier—Maskinongé and Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel have also made contributions.
I am not likely to make a habit of this, and it may not happen again, but I will certainly be supporting my colleagues' position on this bill introduced by the Minister of Transport. At least I shall support it in principle. I will tell you my reasons why. First, as has been said, this involves the concept of a gateway to Asia that opens from western Canada, a concept we support. As I said, this is not our usual habit and will not happen again. In this instance, however, we find this an interesting way of dealing with the problem of integrating everything in the way of modes of transport connected to trade with Asia.
We have some reservations, of course. They relate to a number of factors. We have reservations about the role reserved for the provinces, which is not well delineated in the bill. Once the bill is passed, creating the council itself will be very costly. We wonder how all of this will be put in place. We have a number of reservations about that.
There will be federal government support for businesses and employees in Canada's traditional manufacturing sectors and in Quebec, specifically, in sectors of employment such as textiles. A lot of products are imported from Asia. We would like a few more guarantees in this regard. We are aware that the rapid growth of trade between Asia and Canada, through this Pacific gateway in particular, is creating growing congestion in ports and the western transportation network.
I would like to elaborate on some of these reservations, but for the moment I will say why we support this concept. First of all, the gateway as it is called is very interesting. It requires a comprehensive view and a spirit of integration. It will be welcomed by those who work in the port facilities or manage them, both in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, because the integration involves a number of facets of public policy formulation. Physical infrastructures are of course involved. I mentioned the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. However, roads too are involved, as are airports and customs facilities. The list is long, because intermodal facilities are involved.
The bill also provides for policy and regulatory integration, which will have a major impact on labour and the labour market. It will also have an impact on operating methods in the supply system and even in security matters. We recall the immigration issue involving the periodic discovery of Chinese people in containers. This whole policy will have ramifications for the security of the ports in the west.
Trade promotion and standardization will be affected. Accordingly, municipal policy on land use will also be affected. This has already been addressed by other colleagues on both sides of the House. There is also the whole matter of sectoral cooperation.
As the critic on Asia and the Pacific, what I particularly like about this bill is the aspect of integration and, we must admit, a certain strategic consistency. This bill addresses principles that the Bloc Québécois defends, including sustainable development. We believe in it a great deal and the Bloc has been advocating this type of approach for many years.
In a more general sense, we can say that the network improves as it becomes faster and more energy efficient. Everyone applauds this initiative that encourages sustainable development. The sea and rail combination outlined in this bill could be another interesting niche. We would be wise to develop this niche and take it a step further.
Nonetheless, in order to put all this in place, a cohesive policy is needed and not one imposed by a dictatorship, but one developed through dialogue. A little later I will explain the reservations we have about working together with the provinces on this.
The intermodal transportation and gateway concept is quite interesting to the Bloc, especially because we think it could be applied generally. There are some aspects that could apply to the St. Lawrence River for example. There are some potentially interesting applications for the development of the St. Lawrence River.
Last spring, the Bloc Québécois held a series of consultations in various regions of Quebec on the future of the St. Lawrence. I am not getting off topic, since this still relates to shipping. Several shipping industry stakeholders told us during these consultations on the St. Lawrence in Quebec, that they would like to see improvements to everything involving “intermodal marine and rail connections”.
Some of this is addressed in the transport minister's bill. We would be interested in seeing how this type of integration could promote the development of the St. Lawrence River in the future.
However, in our opinion, the federal government lacks enough vision when it comes to the development of that river. We hear the government talk about it during elections. We get the feeling that the federal manna is going to fall, like a nice snowfall on Christmas Eve, and is going to favour the development of the river. However, the government does not have a more strategic vision.
This is not new. For example, the Quebec bridge in my riding of Louis-Hébert is falling into disrepair. We would like to see the federal Liberal government make the same commitment with regard to infrastructure in eastern Canada, such as the Quebec bridge and the airport. Yet this same Minister of Transport is also responsible for Quebec.
We applaud this willingness to foster the development of infrastructure in western Canada. It is impossible to oppose a great principle such as the Pacific gateway, since it is such an excellent principle. However, we do observe more willingness to act in western Canada than in eastern Canada, particularly when it comes to infrastructure in Quebec.
I would like to remind the hon. members that having a vision for Asia in the bill is a huge advantage. The spinoffs for Canada and all the provinces are attractive. At the same time, we need to point out that this same generosity should apply to Quebec.
In my opinion, it is important to adopt an integrated management policy and put an end to what I call silo or individual management.
I support the principle of the bill for the reasons I gave a little earlier. However, I hope that we will see this principle applied again—and I think my colleagues will agree—in connection with the St. Lawrence, which is so dear to our hearts.
I said earlier that the Bloc Québécois had concerns about this bill. Although we support it, we still have some serious reservations. Our first concern relates to the structure and appointment of members of the council. We have the following questions: why would all the members of the Pacific Gateway Council be appointed by the federal government, as set out in the bill? This concerns us, because we know that, in the past, some appointees have not always been the best candidate for the job. We also have questions about the council's structure and mandate. We have a number of questions in this regard.
Finally, we have a number of other concerns, but I want to stress above all else—and I will conclude here—the more positive aspects. We are opening ourselves up to the Asian market.
However, in order to do this, the federal government must understand the consequences of this and give the textile and other industries the time to adjust.
Once all that has been done, of course, we will support Bill C-68. The Bloc Québécois will work to improve this bill during consideration in committee.
Pacific Gateway Act
November 16th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.
Mark Warawa Langley, BC
Madam Speaker, I agree that the gateway project is a national initiative. It will benefit all of Canada, provided there is a fair amount of contribution of federal dollars and that they get to where they are needed.
My riding of Langley, British Columbia will be directly affected by the planned Pacific gateway. This transportation issue is one of the most important regional concerns for all my constituents. I take this issue very seriously on their behalf and have been personally involved in finding solutions ever since I was elected.
I sit on two separate task forces which deal with traffic and rail issues that affect my community of Langley and the surrounding areas. These task forces have originated out of a need to share information and to find solutions with government agencies and other communities directly influenced by the international container traffic coming through Deltaport on the Pacific.
Canada requires safe, efficient and effective transportation to be competitive in world trade. Our Pacific port is crucial and essential to the future of Canada. I understand the necessity for the expansion of Deltaport and I am supportive of those endeavours, but the increased rail traffic will have tremendous impacts on Langley.
I have been meeting with many stakeholders in both the city and township of Langley and regional stakeholders in an effort to bring forward a solution oriented approach to the residual problems for Langley with the projected growth in train traffic as a result of Deltaport expansion projects.
The expansion of the port capacity at Deltaport will profoundly impact an already inferior and exasperated situation by adding more than 30% to train length each day to grade crossings in Langley and Surrey. The Deltaport expansion projects an additional 170,000 feet of train per day resulting in a 32% increase in rail traffic volume.
It is estimated that some trains will take 15 minutes to pass through a crossing. Five major roads already meet criteria for grade separation. The Langley bypass has more than twice that threshold. When a train passes through Langley, all five of those rail crossings are closed off simultaneously, making it impossible for emergency vehicles to cross. This puts our community at high risk.
The impact on road rail traffic in Surrey and Langley from the expansion will be staggering. Already horrendous commuter times will worsen. There are five grade level rail crossings in Langley that are experiencing substantial safety and congestion conditions at present, even before the proposed 32% increase in traffic.
While I am supportive of the expansion project, these concerns with regard to rail traffic through Langley need to be addressed. An integrated total solution is required. Solutions have already been devised and proposed at the local level. Every municipality affected by the tremendously increased volume of train traffic from Deltaport already has its list rail and road improvements they require to handle the increased train volume and at the same time manage vehicle traffic.
The objective of the Langley rail corridor task force, on which I sit, is to address the short and long term impacts of the growing rail and road traffic in the rail corridor going through the Langley communities. This group is working to identify cost efficient measures along with strategies for funding and municipal planning to support a safe livable community and an efficient transportation network.
We are considering methods to redirect rail traffic outside of the Lower Mainland, redistribute rail freight within the Lower Mainland, ensure grade separation, relocating rail lines, redirecting rail traffic and creating a joint planning process for the future that considers the needs of transportation and the needs of the community. We are looking at permanent, long term solutions to reduce the bottlenecks caused by rail traffic.
The Pacific gateway strategy includes $190 million in immediate investments and $400 million for undeclared future initiatives. Of the immediate $190 million investment, $125 million is for transportation infrastructure; $90 million for the Pitt River bridge and $30 million for road rail crossing separation from Abbotsford Mission-Matsqui out to Deltaport.
While the comprehensive study of the road rail interface on the entire line would complement work that is being conducted by our task force, there are five grade separations required in Langley alone, and $30 million does not even cover the cost of one rail overpass. One ground breaking will be happening within weeks. It is going to cost over $30 million. The question is what is fair, because of that approximately $35 million, the federal government is contributing $1 million. It is not fair. It is not proportionate.
In Langley there is a need for grade separation or alternate rail routes. Several options have been identified, such as grade separations and exploring an alternate route for at least some portion of the increased rail traffic. The option that perhaps is most appealing from an economic and community standpoint would be to explore an alternate route. Such a route currently exists which would utilize a portion of the Burlington Northern rail line through Surrey and Delta as well as an upgrade of the Fraser River rail crossing, possibly at Douglas Island. Another option would be to consider an additional overpass at Langley. As I mentioned, five locations for rail overpasses have already been identified.
The ultimate solution must work in harmony with the environment all the way along the line. We need railways, ports and governments to come together and come up with integrated, durable and sustainable transportation solutions.
The viability of the suggested alternate route is real. The costs of such an endeavour and whether or not that route can also handle the volume of rail traffic need to be addressed, along with what effect this alternate route would have on the balance of the rail network. We are solution oriented. We are finding solutions to address the rail traffic situation in Langley while at the same time supporting the growth of the Vancouver Port Authority.
Bill C-68 creates an advisory council to help decide how to spend the $400 million in the future initiatives portion of the fund that the federal government has announced in support of the Pacific gateway initiative.
I am concerned that the bill is more about politics than policy. My colleagues whose ridings are also affected by the Pacific gateway and I are concerned about the role, expense and productivity of the advisory council. The advisory council would create yet another level of bureaucracy while affected communities have already studied, analyzed and decided where the funding priorities lie. The communities know where they would like to spend the money. The federal government's role should be to provide a fair portion of the required funding.
While I support the concept of the Pacific gateway act, I would hate to see this legislation be the cause of delay in getting construction going on the solutions which have already been identified as the priorities.
The advisory council must act as a cohesive means to fast-track construction of these projects, not another bureaucratic hurdle to slow the process down. The advisory council would materialize into yet another stumbling block for seeing tangible results. Spending money on real infrastructure like overpasses and bridges is what our communities need, not another level of bureaucracy. Our communities need the infrastructure now.
The federal government should finance the initiatives identified by the comprehensive British Columbia ports strategy which was developed jointly by British Columbia's Minister of Small Business and Economic Development and the federal Minister of Transport.
Premier Gordon Campbell's government has developed a plan to invest $4.9 billion into B.C. transportation systems over the next 10 years. The province is asking Ottawa to contribute on a fifty-fifty basis. We are talking about $2.5 billion which is far from what is being proposed in this strategy. Most of the key priorities in the province's plan for significant infrastructure investment are not funded by the Liberal government's gateway announcement.
In conclusion, I agree that an effective framework or group should be established with appropriate authority and funding to develop long term transportation priorities for commercial goods and transit. Short term solutions must be developed and implemented to resolve immediate transportation needs.
Bill C-68 has my support as it directly affects my community. I hope that the Pacific gateway act will help us to bring transportation solutions into the next century rather than stand in the way with another level of bureaucracy.