Fair Rail Freight Service Act

An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Denis Lebel  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Transportation Act to require a railway company, on a shipper’s request, to make the shipper an offer to enter into a contract respecting the manner in which the railway company must fulfil its service obligations to the shipper. It also creates an arbitration process to establish the terms of such a contract if the shipper and the railway company are unable to agree on them. The enactment also amends provisions related to air transportation to streamline internal processes and certain administrative provisions of that Act.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

  • May 30, 2013 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • May 29, 2013 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration), not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the Bill; and that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-52, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (administration, air and railway transportation and arbitration), not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at the third reading stage of the bill; and

that, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

As tempted as I am, Mr. Speaker, to draw some attention to what just took place with my friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands and the whip for the Conservatives, I will at least say it was a touching moment. The House was able to share new-found compassion across the political spectrum.

In all seriousness, there is frustration and confusion around this recent closure motion that has been invoked today. The government has left the category of feeling shameful about shutting down debate in the House of Commons and usurping our democratic rights and now does it with a certain glee and excitement, even on bills that the opposition has talked to the government about agreeing with and about agreeing to limit the number of speakers so that we can move through the legislation in a proper way.

Conservatives are pushing an open door now. They are saying that the opposition is in their way, that they cannot get their jobs done and they have to invoke closure again and that it is so tragic. They seem to take some sort of joy out of further shattering the record of any government in Canadian history for shutting down debate in Parliament. There is no prize for this. They do not get an extra set of balloons for having broken the record so badly.

Is it not feasible or imaginable for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities or anybody in this place to realize that actually talking with opposition members and finding common ground on legislation that we can agree to is so much more preferable than coming in with these closure motions, one after another, and invoking some sort of fear tactic about opposition that does not even exist. It just does not seem very parliamentary or decent for the Conservatives to constantly say that their hands are forced and that arms are being twisted in the House when no such thing is going on.

I simply do not understand why they keep doing this.

The Minister of Transport and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons say that this undemocratic motion is necessary, but they need to justify it.

Where is the proof? Our critic is willing to work with them. That is not a problem. Members of the House of Commons can work together to benefit all Canadians. It can happen.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
See context

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we announced on December 1, 2012, that it was very important for all shippers in the country for us to pass this bill.

I understand what my colleague is saying about working well together.

When I agree with something, I vote for it. I do not try to suspend discussion or to block discussion. In committee, New Democrats spoke about the evolution of the Canadian Wheat Board, truck traffic, infrastructure replacement, rail safety and budget cuts. I have sheets of paper listing what they spoke about, but they were supporting those things. What it is, is what they do not.

When a bill like this is so important for the shippers of this country, we take the measures necessary.

Taking the measures necessary means passing this bill for the sake of the country's economy. Our government does not stand to gain anything from this bill. We do not want a set of balloons; we want a bill that makes sense for this country's shippers, whether they are in agriculture, business or industry.

We know how important it is for everything to be done right when it comes to our country's rail system. A wide variety of products are being shipped, and all of the country's shippers support our bill.

Today, after months of delay, deferral and stalling, we feel it is time to move forward.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister's response, and we will get a chance to talk about the bill itself, but what I want to focus attention on is not the bill but rather the process. The government has demonstrated it knows no shame in terms of closure inside the House of Commons. That is something that all Canadians should be concerned about.

Every piece of legislation has some sense of urgency to it. What is unique with this government is that it has this driving force to limit debate, to prevent members of Parliament from debating. No matter how simplistic or complicated a bill is, the government is determined to shut down debate on important issues. That is what is so wrong with what the government is doing.

We have seen it with this Conservative-Reform majority government. It is a change in attitude. It is either my way or the highway. It is either we get behind the bill, stop talking about it and allow it to pass or the government will bring in time allocation. Time and time again—and we could repeat it 36-plus times—the government has brought in time allocation.

This is new for the Government of Canada. No other government has used this measure so willingly and shamelessly in the history of our country.

My question is not for the minister responsible for the bill but for the government House leader. Why does the government House leader continue to bring in time allocation? That is shameful behaviour, and the Conservative majority government has to take responsibility for its lack of respect for the House of Commons and all members of the House. Why is the government continuing to bring in time allocation as part of a normal procedure?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have some quotes from Canadian organizations that are supporting the bill.

These measures will create the conditions for improved railway performance and accountability. It will help ensure all shippers can gain access to an adequate level of service.

It was Kevin Bender, President of Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, who said that.

Stephen Vandervalk, president of Grain Growers of Canada, said, “We especially thank Agriculture Canada and Transportation Canada and the federal government for listening to farmers and moving this legislation ahead.”

Richard Paton, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said:

The level of service offered by Canada's railway can make the difference between companies investing here, or taking their business elsewhere. So this legislation is critical—not only for our industry's competitiveness, but for Canada's overall productivity and prosperity.

David Lindsay said:

Ensuring a fair and balanced relationship between shippers and the railroads will help the forest products industry retain and create jobs for the benefit of the Canadian economy.

That is what we want to do. We want to support the Canadian economy. From the time we came here and up to the last economic action plan, that is all we have wanted to do, and we will continue to do so.

It is time to pass this bill.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Transport is in such a rush to end the debate and even to prevent me, as a parliamentarian, from speaking to this bill, why did the Conservatives wait five years before bringing this initiative forward?

It sounds like double-talk to me. To suddenly be in such a rush sounds like last-minute timing, given that they dragged their feet for five long years. Shippers have been in this situation for a very long time, and the Conservatives have done nothing.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague should familiarize himself with the history of this bill. It all began in 2006, right after the former minister of transport, Mr. Cannon, took office.

A process was instituted that has lasted since that time. Studies and research have been done, and study committees created. A panel composed of three rail transport specialists was created. They toured the country to listen to the people and see how the bill should be framed.

It was a long process. Actually, I think I am the fourth or fifth minister of transport since the process began. When I arrived at Transport Canada, we hired Jim Dinning, who is known nationwide for his impressive administrative skills. Mr. Dinning did an excellent job of laying the groundwork for the bill; it is going to enable us to move forward.

I myself went to the port of Saguenay, in the member’s region, to announce a $15-million investment to provide a railway branch line so that shippers will be able to send their goods from all over Abitibi, all the way from the far north, out of that port.

We believe that rail transport is a very important factor in Canada's economic future. That is why we want to continue supporting the economy and these shippers today. This did not happen in a day. The work was done over several years and is now taking shape.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the Minister of Transport's efforts on this. Obviously this has been an encompassing process from 2006 to today.

I am a little lost for words. We hear some NDP members saying that this is going too fast and we need to slow down, while other members of the NDP are asking what is taking us so long. From my perspective, as a government we have supported infrastructure. My own province of British Columbia has the Asia-Pacific gateway. Obviously, some needs have been expressed by the industry over the years to have access.

Would the minister repeat the economic reasons for seeing this bill go forward so industry can have that sense of certainty and see our economy grow?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill is an important part of our plan to strengthen our economy. Our government is working to improve rail freight service in Canada to better support economic growth, resource development and our ambitious domestic and international trade agenda.

As I have said, the corridors are very important for us. The Asia-Pacific gateway is a success worldwide. I was in Germany last week for the international transportation forum with ministers of transport from around the world, from Korea to China to Japan. All these ministers know the Asia-Pacific gateway very well. We have made a success of that. Why? Because we have invested in the infrastructure in the country to improve our economy. That is why we want to continue to do so.

The bill would change the rules, but that would help shippers have an agreement with rail companies, and that is very important for shippers. They have been asking for that for years. That is why we have to continue.

The goal of this legislation is to encourage railways and shippers to work together. Shippers will have the right to a service agreement with railways to enhance clarity, predictability and reliability in rail service. The bill would help shippers manage and expand their businesses, while ensuring the railway operates an efficient network for the benefit of all users. A strong, competitive rail freight supply chain is vital to Canada's economy as a whole and the challenging global economy. All sectors of the economy must work together to drive growth, job creation and long-term prosperity.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are not here to discuss the merits of the bill that the minister has suddenly declared to be extremely urgent.

There is something else I would like the minister to explain. We do not have any major problems with his bill. However, I do not understand this sudden urgency. The minister is telling us that it has not moved forward since 2006.

That is the kind of thing people say when the previous government was another party. Since 2006, however, we have had a Conservative government, the minister’s own government. As the minister said, he has done studies to get this bill going, as he should.

It is now 2013 and all of a sudden, today, at the end of the parliamentary session, a 40th time allocation motion is being brought in. Can the minister comment on that? Why is it suddenly so urgent? What is so urgent, to the point of shutting down all debate and once again preventing people from coming to testify and democracy from taking its course?

All the ministers want their bills to get passed quickly, right now, and they are all using time allocation motions.

I would like an explanation, because up to now I have not heard anything from the minister.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague had listened carefully to what I said, he would know that I never said that our government had blocked anything. They are the only ones blocking things here because they want to take Quebec out of Canada and I totally disagree with that. I want a strong Quebec in a united Canada. This is not what the member wants. His party wants to prevent Canada from gaining ground in the province, while I want to ensure that all parts of Quebec and the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region can reap the benefits of a growing economy that is capable of creating jobs everywhere.

No one ever said the project was blocked. We said we had done things properly, by the book, by involving the shippers and the rail companies. We set up a committee, a panel of experts who crisscrossed the country. Sometimes things take time, but I never said that it was blocked. He is making things up.

Now we have reached the stage where all the shippers in the country are asking us to do this. When business people, many of them from the area around Victoriaville as well as all the other regions of Quebec and across Canada, ask us to take measures that will stimulate the economy, well, that is what we do. This is why we think it is time for the bill to be passed.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are delighted to hear that the minister is unblocked, finally.

That said, I think this is the fourth time in four days that I have risen to criticize this process, something that now seems to be standard practice for this government. They bring in a gag order to end debate.

What the Minister is not saying is that in 2006, the Prime Minister prorogued the House because he was about to be clobbered by the opposition parties. Such actions tend to derail bills. There were elections after that in 2008 and 2011.

Today, all of a sudden, on this beautiful May 29, we are told there is great urgency—in fact, we hear this every day. This is the fourth bill of its kind, and they are not trivial bills either.

There was Bill C-48, which dealt with all kinds of tax amendments, Bill C-49, meant to change the name and mandate of a museum, and Bill C-54, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act. These are not inconsequential bills.

Now we have Bill C-52 before us. I believe the cat was let out of the bag yesterday when a colleague of the minister rose to say that they were ultimately not interested in what people from the various ridings had to tell them. What interested them was what they, the Conservatives, had to say on those matters.

In their view, once we agree on a bill, we should be quiet, stay politely seated and not say another word because, in any case, they are not interested in what the people of Gatineau have to say, through their member, on the merits of the issue.

Only three hours were allotted for debate at third reading. That is appalling. It is a hijacking, not of a train, but of debate. It is shameful. For reasons unbeknownst to us, this is now part of this government's normal procedure.

I do not want to know whether the bill is good, since we are going to vote for it. I want to know why we are being compelled to do it this way. To date, the minister does not appear to want to give us an answer that is sensible and acceptable, at least for the people of Gatineau.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to recall a little history.

I had the honour of experiencing a byelection in 2007 and the general elections in 2008 and 2011. I am very familiar with the schedule of the last few election years here at the federal level, having experienced several of them. Indeed, elections may have had an impact on the progress of certain business.

Nevertheless, since the NDP members agree on the bill, they will still agree even if we debate it for several more hours. That is what the hon. member just said. We believe it is time to move on.

However, at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, they talked about the ideological struggle to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board, the degree of difficulty experienced by heavy-duty trucks between -40 oC and 40 oC, our government's inaction on railway security measures, cuts at VIA Rail Canada, opposition to the introduction of rail service, and so on.

I have four pages of similar topics that they discussed and that were not necessarily related to the bill being discussed in committee. When time is allotted to us, we should use it to address the proper subjects and to advance arguments that relate to them at the time.

At the committee meetings regarding Bill C-52, we discussed a range of subjects. I can name others: the potential risks associated with the transport of bitumen by pipeline, the national transit strategy, the closing of rail lines between Gaspé and Chandler, and so on. I have four pages of subjects.

If the relevance of the topic at the time we discuss it is so important to them, they should have set an example in committee. Today it is time to pass this bill for the Canadian economy. The government is only acting in the interest of the economy and the people who want to create jobs.

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also attended the meetings of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Strangely, as he looked over his documents, the minister appears to have forgotten the many amendments that were proposed and rejected. I do not want to get into that debate, however, because we are now discussing a time allocation motion. Day after day, minister after minister and bill after bill, we are witnessing the same thing.

I really feel as though the government is operating backwards. It is taking an exception and turning it into a rule. Since we are talking backwards, I will ask my question in a backwards way.

Can the minister speak on behalf of his government and tell the House what the acceptable procedure would be so that a bill on any subject at all could follow the normal process?

Bill C-52—Time Allocation Motion
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
Government Orders

May 29th, 2013 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Denis Lebel Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill will be voted on sooner or later.

I think the ideal would be for all parties to vote together in favour of this bill. I outlined the benefits of this bill a few moments ago in English, and now I will repeat them in my mother tongue.

The bill will give shippers the right to have a service agreement with the rail companies. If such an agreement cannot be reached in commercial negotiations, the shipper can ask for an arbitration process to reach an agreement. The bill also provides that in cases of non-compliance, the shipper can call upon the Canadian Transportation Agency to impose a financial penalty of up to $100,000 per violation on the rail company. The proceeds of such penalties will go into government revenue and help stimulate the economy. We do not want this procedure to be used excessively.

If the shipper has suffered excessive financial losses because of the poor service provided, the shipper can still bring a suit for damages. A civil suit is still possible.

This bill will force everyone in the supply chain to improve their efficiency, which will help ensure that goods move more quickly.

Those are the elements we are really concentrating on. We want to improve the service in order to create and maintain jobs.