National Public Transit Strategy Act
An Act to establish a National Public Transit Strategy
Olivia Chow NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-305.
- Sept. 19, 2012 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business
September 19th, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
The House resumed from June 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-305, An Act to establish a National Public Transit Strategy, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
September 19th, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.
September 19th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.
Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce a petition today signed by thousands of people from across the country in support of Bill C-305, which was introduced by my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina.
The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to implement a public transit strategy so that we have a permanent plan to provide sustainable, predictable, long-term and adequate funding in order to increase access to public transit.
Statements By Members
September 19th, 2012 / 2:15 p.m.
Mike Wallace Burlington, ON
Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes public transit as a key part of our communities. Since 2006, our government has invested close to $5 billion in public transit, more than any other previous government.
We recognize that municipalities are best suited to make their own transit infrastructure decisions. Our government's $33 billion building Canada fund is providing historic investments in support of several transit projects.
Additionally, our government has passed legislation that makes the gas tax fund a $2 billion annual permanent transfer to provinces and cities. This allows municipalities to continue to count on stable funding for their transit needs.
Tonight the House will vote on Bill C-305, An Act to establish a National Public Transit Strategy. Unfortunately, this strategy would fail to assist municipalities in delivering tangible results for the transit infrastructure priorities. On the other hand, our government continues to remain a strong, stable funding partner for our municipalities, and they can count on us to realize their transit goals.
September 17th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
National Transit Strategy
September 17th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.
National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2012 / 7:20 p.m.
Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-305, concerning a public transit strategy.
While I appreciate, support and applaud the member for Trinity—Spadina. who proposed this bill, I would like to provide my own perspectives on the whole definition of transit and to arrive at a little bit of a comparison or at least a contrast to other public priorities related to transportation.
Investment in transportation infrastructure obviously is very important to a country as vast, as huge and as densely populated as Canada. Transportation infrastructure is a costly but necessary venture.
The substance of the bill deals with the conveyance of people on that infrastructure. It is about how we provide the means to convey people over an existing transportation network. It is the rail cars on the rail tracks. The transit portion would be the rail cars, the transportation infrastructure would be the rail tracks. The bill focuses in on the transit, on the conveyance of people and goods, but, most specifically, people.
It is worth pointing out that the needs of Canadians are ever evolving when it comes to transit, to transportation infrastructure, our cities modernized, but as well, the needs of our rural communities and our suburbs also change as well.
Often we look at public transit and we assume that it is necessarily a big city issue. In fairness, Bill C-305 does indeed seem to reflect that while there are notions or elements in which communities are invited to participate, generally speaking, this is about city transportation, city transit, intercity transit.
The needs are evolving because, as we know, the government of the day is not demanding the mass mobility of people in rural areas. With its employment insurance reform and conform requirements, it will be expecting citizens to travel up to one hour away from their principal homes to wherever employment may be. That may not seem such a daunting task for some, but when we consider that an hour's travel from a rural area could be over roads that are just not kept up, but, most important, from a transit point of view, travelling one hour's distance from one major city to the suburb of a city to inner city, s a transit system is available to convey those passengers.
For example, for the people of the lower north shore of Quebec to transit one hour's distance from their own community to where a potential job may be available, there is no transit system. It does not exist.
In my own home province and in my own riding, the community of Conche, for example, is a beautiful place, absolutely incredible in terms of not only the scenery but its people. Unfortunately, in the off-season and certain times of the year there are very few jobs. For them to transit just 28 kilometres away to the community of Roddington, for example, they would travel over a dirt road, but, most important, they are expected to do so with no transit system available.
For a single mother, a single person or for someone who is making a very small wage and does not have access to the means to buy a vehicle, that transit is not available to them and they do not have the means themselves.
If I were to make one point on this matter before moving on, it is absolutely essential that this Parliament be seized with understanding that the needs of not only transportation infrastructure but of transit requirements is constantly evolving and we are not keeping up.
While I applaud and will be supporting the private member's bill, I would implore that we look broader and deeper and think bigger when it comes to understanding exactly what the evolving transit needs are in our country. While this is a template and a blueprint for mapping out a strategy for larger cities and their suburbs, it is not an effective means or template for mapping out a strategy for the entire country.
I will also reflect on the fact that while transit is already in play, there are other types of transit systems in which the federal government has an active role. An example is the public transit between Îles-de-la-Madeleine, a small island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and a beautiful part of the province of Quebec, and the province of P.E.I. One of the most significant communication links is not to the St. Lawrence Seaway but to P.E.I. There are other links between Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the port of Montreal but one of its most significant major points of conveyance is between the island and P.E.I.
This bill is about transit. It is about the conveyance of people, goods and services via a mode of conveyance that is supported by the public interest. This bill does not necessarily contemplate the inclusion of those concerns and those needs in with a public transit strategy. I would ask for consideration that the notion of what public transit is all about be broadened from that point of view.
I will also reflect on what the government considers to be public transit. It considers public transit to be that which is available to larger urban centres. However, the provision of a strategy within the transit system is actually funded or encouraged through taxation policy. The government does not actually commit to any public transit strategy that uses the public interest and the public purse to establish the means and mechanisms to advance the strategy. The entire public transit strategy, in the government's point of view, is simply to offset some of the costs to the individual user of that transit system through the taxation system. Specifically, the government grants what I and the majority of people would consider to be a relatively nominal tax rebate on a portion of a limited element of the total fee paid for that transit by the individual. While it is not objectionable, it does not go far enough. It is a very minimalist response to the true needs of the transit and of a transit strategy in this country to offer a 10% or 15% tax credit on payments that are already offered or already provided from the user when the benefits of that tax credit are not realized by the user until as much as 12 to 14 months after the expense has occurred.
It is one thing to talk about a transportation infrastructure strategy but it is another thing to talk about a transit strategy. If we do not have the means to move people because a transit system does not exist, then the availability of a tax credit to individuals seeking work, with the requirements of the pending new EI regulations of having to move up to an hour's distance away from their home communities, is just not valuable. It may be valuable to those who could use it, even with all of its limitations and lack of completeness, what we need in this country is a true strategy and it is, sadly, missing.
National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.
Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Trinity—Spadina for having the tenacity and the doggedness to push ahead with the decision by this party to support a national public transit strategy across this vast land of ours, not just in urban centres but in rural Canada as well.
At the transport committee we conducted a study of a national public transit strategy. Unfortunately, government members opposite decided that they did not want a strategy, so they changed the name of the study, after it had been completed, to a study of public transit, which is an indication, I am afraid, of the government's current mentality when it comes to public transit.
We need a public transit strategy in this country. One has to look no further than Toronto to understand why a strategy is essential. We had a situation in which a political decision was made, not a public decision. The political decision was to build subways in areas where they are currently being very lightly used and to fill in a hole where a subway was being built.
Tragically, that hole is being dug up again. We have spent probably 200 million public dollars by digging a hole, filling it in, and now digging it again, all because of changes in government.
Public transit is a 200-year investment. It is not a four-year investment, as many government members would have us believe. “Is it going to get me re-elected in four years' time?” is the only question they care about.
It is a 200-year investment, and we need thinkers who think in 200-year timeframes, as the people who built this country did when they installed railroads across this country 160 years ago. The bridge over the Humber River that crosses into my riding was put there 158 years ago, and it is still standing and still carrying trains. It is actually being added to, not being torn down; it is being rebuilt to carry more trains, which brings me to the next piece of the folly of not having a strategy.
In the early 1990s the Ontario government, which was at the time an NDP government, decided that there was a need for more public transit in Toronto. The government started a big series of projects to build transit. The Conservative government that took over in 1995—and some of the members opposite were in that government—decided to cancel most of that public transit investment and filled in the holes that had been dug.
The City of Toronto, realizing that it needed transit, asked the federal government to come forward and help build a subway to the airport. What did we get from David Collenette and the federal Liberals? We received a rapid transit line in the form of a diesel train that was going to be only for business passengers. It was going to be incredibly disruptive and incredibly expensive, and it was not real public transit. However, he told us not to worry, since not one nickel of public money would be spent on the train.
The trouble is, here we are, 13 years after the promise that it would not be public money, and the $1.5 billion investment that we received, some of it from the federal government, will not do anything to improve public transit in the city. We are spending $1.5 billion to build a train to the airport that will only be used by a relative handful of people. We will be the only major city on the planet that runs diesel trains to its airport from downtown.
All the people I have talked to who live along that line have unanimously agreed that to build diesel trains in such incredible numbers is not smart transit. Not only can they not use it, because it is only for the well-heeled, and not only can they not access it, because it will not stop anywhere along the route, but It will also pollute tremendously in every part of Toronto. A total of 464 diesel trains will be whizzing by neighbourhoods in ridings just south of mine. There will be over 300 in my riding, many of which will be running to the airport.
The government said, after a “thorough” environmental assessment, that a new diesel fuel is out there, a better and cleaner diesel, and that we would just run with that.
The public wants electric.
That is part of what a national public transit strategy could give us: a direction from the government so that transit would be funded in an intelligent way, in a way that does not pollute, in a way that actually gives people public transit they can use and in a way that is healthy.
It is remarkable that today the World Health Organization has released a report that now lists diesel exhaust as a carcinogen in the same category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas. The provincial government—with some money from the federal government, as there is a considerable amount of federal money in this project too—is going to expose people and their children to the proven carcinogen of the diesel exhaust coming from literally thousands and thousands of trains a year.
That is not smart transit.
We should, in all rights, go back to the drawing board with the environmental assessment, but what is the government doing with environmental assessments? It has decided that human health should not be part of environmental assessments. The only thing an environmental assessment should look at from the federal perspective, because schedule 2 is missing, is whether aquatic wildlife, species at risk, or fish are harmed. Humans do not matter.
That is wrong.
It is for that reason that we need a strategy. It is not just to make sure that we are spending our scarce public transit dollars effectively or to make sure we are not doing it in a wasteful way; it is to make sure we are doing it in a way that does not actually harm the health of humans, of the people who vote for us.
For that reason, I am supporting Bill C-305, and I would urge the members opposite to think long and hard about supporting this bill as well.
National Public Transit Strategy Act
Private Members' Business
June 13th, 2012 / 6:50 p.m.
Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC
Mr. Speaker, it seems to me it has been a long time since I said I was pleased to rise in this House to address Bill C-305. I see this legislation as a breath of fresh air after the debates that we have had over the past few weeks, and particularly before the marathon session that will begin in the next few hours, if not minutes.
This legislation is refreshing because it has been a long time since we had a bill that presents a vision for the future, a bill that takes Canada into the 21st century, where it should be.
I want to point out, because this is somewhat funny, that while we are often presented with statistics from the OECD to boast about Canada's place in the world, our country is the only OECD member that has yet to adopt a public transit strategy at the national level.
What are the objectives of the national strategy proposed in the hon. member's bill? They are very simple and quite appropriate: to have fast, affordable and efficient public transit in Canada.
We have to be aware of the time lost by people because of traffic congestion. According to a study that I read recently, over a period of one year, a worker in a large urban centre like Montreal or Toronto spends the equivalent of about 32 working days in his car, commuting to and from work. This time could be reduced significantly with a fast, affordable and efficient public transit system.
We must make the necessary investments. I emphasize the word “investments”, because I think one of the main differences between the Conservative Party and the NDP is that the NDP sees the development of a true public transit strategy as an investment instead of an expenditure. It may cost us in the short term, but the return on the investment will be significantly greater than the money spent.
The Conservatives will likely tell us that financial support for transportation infrastructure is increasing every year, and I am not disputing that. However, the growing needs are outpacing this infrastructure more and more rapidly. Child-rearing incentives, particularly in Quebec, have created a mini-baby boom, which means that the population of Canada is growing fairly rapidly and that the need for public transit is critical.
I would like to add that the younger generation is increasingly aware of the importance of adopting a greener approach to the economy and to transportation. The new generation is sending a message to all the slightly older generations, such as the one I belong to, that significant efforts must be made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course this involves a public transportation system that is more effective at every level: public transit within municipalities, within the provinces and even between provinces. I will have the opportunity to elaborate on that later.
So what are the fundamental elements of this policy that we want to see implemented to enhance the development of this country's public transit system? First, we must ensure that we have predictable, ongoing funding. The various stakeholders that have to deal with the problem of public transportation must have a vision for the short, medium and long term. In order for that to happen, they have to be able to count on predictable, ongoing funding.
We have to invest in research and development. For the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee on Transport, where we have been studying new transportation technologies. Witnesses appeared before the committee and explained in very clear terms the changes that could be made if we had a little more support for research and development.
We should encourage the different levels of government to work harmoniously together. We know that transit is a municipal, provincial and interprovincial matter, and one day we will have to sit all the players down at the table so they can harmonize their policies, share their successes and, together, set a course for the future.
We should also develop greater synergy between urban development and infrastructure. The positive outcomes of this type of policy are just as straightforward as they are simple, and they are expected by the vast majority of the population. First, there is a quick and effective decrease in greenhouse gases. For every bus put on the road, for every suburban train, for every interprovincial transit ride, hundreds or even thousands of cars are taken off the road. The means of transportation, together with industry, are the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases. This is a clear, straightforward, specific and quick way to optimally decrease greenhouse gases.
We can also expect improved health outcomes. Studies have shown that, in big cities, traffic congestion has a direct effect on respiratory diseases and on people who are more severely affected. More public transit means lower greenhouse gas emissions; lower greenhouse gas emissions means lower health care costs related to respiratory diseases.
Take my own case, for example. I live in the riding of Trois-Rivières, which is populated densely enough to have a public transit system and has excellent rail infrastructure. We have a magnificent station, but the train does not go there anymore. If I want to travel between Ottawa and my riding every week, I have to go by car.
Imagine if we had a high-speed train. By high speed train, I do not necessarily mean TGV technology. A high-speed train would enable people to travel from one major centre to another within a reasonable period of time. It would also help people save time because they can work while using public transit. For example, there are bus routes that now offer Wi-Fi connections to all passengers. More and more people who work for small, medium-sized and large businesses are choosing this option because they want to make the most of their working hours.
People in my riding are very optimistic that rail services will come back to Trois-Rivières, high-speed rail at that, regardless of which technology is chosen.
Several organizations have confirmed that this bill is a step in the right direction. I will read some quotes quickly because time is short.
The Canadian Urban Transit Association said:
...the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) has always been supportive of a strong participation of the federal government in public transit. Indeed, we believe that close collaboration between all orders of government is essential in addressing the challenges our communities are facing when it comes to offering sustainable mobility options...In order to adequately respond to the growing demand for public transit, communities must develop long-term plans with the support of their local, territorial, provincial and federal governments.
That is in keeping with what I was talking about just a few minutes ago.
I believe that I am running out of time, so I would like to share some statistics that I believe are important and that demonstrate that this truly is a policy for developing and investing in the future, and that this is not about spending and putting band-aids on wooden legs, as we see too often with existing policies.
Canada's transportation industry represents 45,000 direct and 24,000 indirect jobs. Imagine creating growth within this investment sector, and we can already see how the government could quickly and easily see a return on its investments.
Earlier I mentioned 32 days being spent in a car. That is $6 billion in costs related to workers arriving late to work because of traffic jams. We are talking about $115 million in health care savings.
Once passed, the bill will bring together the Department of Transport, provincial transport ministers, municipalities, transit authorities and aboriginal communities to design and establish a national public transit strategy to meet the needs of our communities. The result of this collaboration would be brought before the House of Commons.
That is what we hope to see as quickly as possible.