House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Auditor General's Report

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Auditor General of Canada on the Export Development Corporation's environmental review framework.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), this document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding changes to the parliamentary calendar.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 16th report later this day.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002.

The report was the result of a very full and frank discussion with both the Minister of Human Resources Development and status of persons with disabilities, and the Minister of Labour. The discussions ranged over skills, union-management concerns, employment insurance, disability issues and homelessness.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move that the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented earlier today be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present, on behalf of the workers of the Sigma mine, in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, and of the residents of the City of Val-d'Or and of the Vallée de l'Or, a petition asking the government to take action to reinforce its presence and increase its activities in resource regions that are experiencing difficulty in adapting to the new economy.

The petitioners are asking the government to make the rules governing existing programs more flexible and to ensure they are used in resource regions.

At the same time, the petitioners call upon parliament to set up a financial assistance program for thin capitalization mines in Quebec and Ontario resource regions.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have a petition signed by any number of people in Edmonton, Cold Lake, Bonnyville and the Northwest Territories. These people are very concerned. They are asking that practitioners of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, and herein after referred to as Falun Gong, are being discriminated against and persecuted in China by government officials and around the world through agents of the Chinese government.

The petitioners pray and call upon parliament to pass a resolution condemning the discrimination and persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong and request the Chinese government to lift the ban on the practice of Falun Gong.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present another petition from citizens mainly of the Peterborough area who would like to see VIA Rail service between Peterborough and Toronto re-established. They point out that this would strengthen Peterborough as a business community, as an educational centre and as a tourist centre. They also point out that it would save the environment by reducing greenhouse emissions, reduce accidents on the main highways and generally, by the way, improve the efficiency of public transit in the greater Toronto area.

This is a petition which has support in eight federal ridings. We are pleased that it has already resulted in one very constructive meeting with the Minister of Transport and representatives of the Peterborough area, and also very constructive discussions with VIA Rail.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition on behalf of constituents in Saskatchewan concerning the use of liquid strychnine for controlling Richardson's ground squirrels. The Richardson's ground squirrels have been doing a great deal of damage to rural Saskatchewan. The constituents who have forwarded the petition to me wish to have the government take this issue very seriously.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Government Orders

May 15th, 2001 / 10:10 a.m.

Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet
Québec

Liberal

Gilbert Normand for Minister of Transport

moved that Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Algoma—Manitoulin
Ontario

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to open the second reading debate on the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987.

Bill S-3 focuses motor carrier regulation on safety and specifically on the federal-provincial national safety code for motor carriers. The bill is one of several initiatives to further improve road safety with the overall goal of making Canada's roads the safest in the world by the year 2010.

Canada currently ranks ninth in the world when measured by the number of people killed per 10,000 registered motor vehicles; a stark statistic. That is why the council of ministers responsible for transport and highway safety have announced an extension of the national road safety vision initiative to the year 2010. Included in the vision is a national target calling for a 30% decrease in the average number of road users killed and seriously injured during the 2008-10 period compared to the five years from 1996 to 2001.

Those countries at the top of the league, notably Norway, the U.K. and Sweden, are themselves still working hard to improve road safety. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that Canadians enjoy the safest roads in the world.

To focus this work, the minister and his provincial colleagues have identified nine subtargets. One of these subtargets is a 20% decrease in the number of road users killed or seriously injured in crashes involving commercial vehicles, a toll which currently stands at 500 killed and 11,000 injured each year. It is this subtarget to which Bill S-3 will contribute directly.

The target for deaths and injuries involving commercial vehicles is 20% and not the same 30% as the overall target. Why should this be? The reason is a very important one. According to the best information we have, in collisions involving commercial vehicles it is much more often the non-truck vehicle involved that is found to be at fault. For example, drivers of vehicles other than commercial vehicles are found to have committed a violation in 45% of such collisions. Drivers of commercial vehicles are found to have committed a violation in 20% of those same types of collisions.

This is very important because there is often a perception that heavy trucks are the cause of all accidents when in fact the problems which need to be tackled frequently lie elsewhere. Therefore the major opportunity to reduce fatal and injury producing collisions with commercial vehicles is in the hands of the operators of other vehicles, mostly private cars, sport utility vehicles, light trucks and vans. It is a shared responsibility.

This is not in any way meant to minimize the importance of ensuring that commercial vehicle transport is as safe as it can be. Bill S-3 is a major goal for the federal and provincial governments. This is what the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Transport Act are about.

One of the important realities is the undoubted success of trucking as a means of transporting goods in our economy. The preference for road transport is pervasive. It is consistent with other developed countries and very likely will continue into the foreseeable future.

Over the last decade domestic truck tonne kilometres increased by 60% and even more impressively international activity, that is north-south traffic, has tripled. These figures support the observation by many Canadians that there are ever more heavy vehicles on our roads.

The government believes that the House will recognize the importance of truck transport to the Canadian economy and will fully support the goal of ensuring that it is carried out in the safest possible manner. With this background I will talk in more detail about Bill S-3 and the amendments.

Bill S-3 updates the federal government's longstanding involvement in road transport regulation. This is founded on federal delegation to the provinces and territories of federal constitutional responsibility for certain parts of the road transport industry, those parts that cross provincial and international boundaries. There is a shared jurisdiction which will be respected in the bill.

The federal Motor Vehicle Transport Act supports provincial regulation and specifically safety regulation of motor carriers. By so doing it provides a national framework for provincial regulations and enables provincial governments to co-operate in regulating motor carriers that operate from one province to another. The act governs the tens of thousands of truck and bus companies that fall under federal jurisdiction. These are known as extraprovincial motor carriers or federal carriers.

Extraprovincial motor carriers are those that operate beyond the boundaries of a single province. This is a large and increasingly important proportion of all truck and bus operators. Regulation of extraprovincial motor carriers is the constitutional responsibility of the federal government. Provincial governments are responsible for carriers that operate solely within a province, which are known as intraprovincial or local carriers. Provinces are also responsible for licensing drivers and vehicles and for traffic enforcement.

Recognizing the prominent provincial role, the federal government has historically delegated the implementation of its authority for federal motor carriers to provincial administrators. The Motor Vehicle Transport Act provides the mechanism by which provincial and territorial governments are empowered to regulate federal carriers. The legislation is therefore an essential component of a shared responsibility for national motor carrier safety regulation. It is also important for the policy direction it provides to the national regulatory framework.

As I have already indicated, the trucking industry regulated by this act is a vital part of our economy and is a significant engine of growth. The value of trucking activity in Canada as measured by freight revenue is $40 billion annually.

Trucking accounts for 84% of all Canadian surface freight revenues and about three-quarters of this activity is by federal carriers. The trucking industry is diverse. It features a number of large international companies, many intermediate and small businesses, and a great number of individuals who drive their own trucks. There are over 700,000 heavy vehicles in Canada and nearly 250,000 fleet operators.

The Canadian intercity bus industry is much smaller but also meets an essential transportation need. Intercity and charter buses generate a half billion dollars in annual revenues. Buses account for about one-third of all intercity passenger travel that is not made by private passenger car.

It is in all our interests that buses can continue to provide Canadians with economical and safe transportation. Buses have a continuing impressive record of safely transporting passengers. In fact there are years when there are no bus passenger fatalities at all. There is however the occasional tragic accident and any collision involving a school bus rightly creates significant public concern. Bus safety must remain a priority, just as heavy truck safety is a priority.

In February of this year the minister released a report on cross-country consultations on bus safety recently conducted by Transport Canada. The recommendations are currently being considered by the department, the provinces and industry.

I would like to say a word about a related act administered by Transport Canada. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act prescribes safety standards for new trucks and buses. This is an important part of ensuring that all vehicles on the road are manufactured to be as safe as modern technology can reasonably make them. Recent advances in the standards for commercial vehicles include anti-lock brake systems, automatic brake adjusters and reflective markings to increase visibility. The House can be confident that by virtue of these standards new heavy vehicles coming on to the road incorporate appropriate safety technology as it becomes available.

Once a vehicle is registered for use on the road its operation and maintenance falls under provincial jurisdiction. As indicated earlier, each province has laws and regulations governing the operation of commercial vehicles. These provincial safety regimes are patterned after a set of national standards called the national safety code for motor carriers. There are 15 national safety code standards covering all aspects of safe commercial vehicle operation. The standards address the driver, the vehicle and motor carrier management.

Over the past few years federal, provincial and territorial governments in consultation with industry and public interest groups have made a major effort to develop an umbrella standard based on real on road safety performance. This effort recently culminated in new national safety code standard No. 14 under the category of safety rating. This safety rating standard provides a framework for provincial government to assess and rate motor carriers, that is commercial vehicle operators, based on their actual on road safety performance.

Based on this knowledge governments are able to take appropriate enforcement action. Carriers know where they stand relative to the industry and shippers are able to choose a carrier in a more informed way. The safety rating process will ensure that all involved parties will have important real world information on motor carrier safety. At the same time the safety rating standard places primary responsibility for safe vehicle operation clearly where it should be, with the motor carrier itself.

The new standard No. 14 safety rating regime means that records of collisions, traffic offences and violations of safety standards will be collected for each motor carrier. This information will be gathered from every jurisdiction where a motor carrier operates. The province in Canada or the U.S. state where a motor carrier safety incident occurs will transmit the information to the province where the carrier is registered. Based on a compilation of all those records the home jurisdiction creates a safety rating for each motor carrier.

This may be a useful juncture to mention the matter of commercial vehicle driver hours of service. The hours of service regime in Canada is implemented by federal and provincial regulations, all of which are based on national safety code standard No. 9. Drivers' hours of service performance is one of the several elements which contribute to the calculation of a carrier's safety rating. I want to make clear that the specific issue of hours of service is not however the subject of Bill S-3.

Members may know that on April 30 the minister requested the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations to examine the rules governing commercial drivers' hours of service. The matter is therefore the subject of a separate examination, one that is distinct from the bill before us today. I understand the committee has already started those hearings.

As indicated earlier, the federal government has the constitutional authority to regulate extraprovincial motor carrier undertakings. The amendments being debated today will enable provincial and territorial governments to apply the new national safety rating regime to federally regulated motor carriers as well as to local carriers.

In practical terms this means that a province will be authorized to issue safety fitness certificates to all motor carriers registered in that province. Clearly in a national program it is important that carriers are rated in a similar fashion in every jurisdiction.

A carrier has the right to receive the same safety rating in every province or territory for comparable safety performance. For this reason the bill establishes a framework for nationally consistent safety ratings. The certificate will be the carrier's permission to operate anywhere in Canada: one stop shopping at its best.

The volume of Canada-U.S. motor carrier traffic has increased dramatically, threefold since 1991. Bill S-3 recognizes that fact and contains provisions to encourage reciprocal recognition of motor carrier safety supervision in other countries, particularly our immediate neighbour, the U.S. and our next closest continental trading partner, Mexico. In this way motor carriers can look forward to seamless treatment from safety regulators north to south on the North American continent.

I want to close by drawing the attention of the House to the partnership and co-operation that exists among governments and stakeholders in the area of motor carrier safety. The national safety code for motor carriers is the product of a federal-provincial-territorial memorandum of understanding signed in 1987.

National safety code standards are developed and maintained by federal-provincial committees that also comprise industry, labour and public interest groups. Since the inception of the code all governments have made a strong effort to develop national approaches to motor carrier regulation, including vehicle and driver licensing training and enforcement.

The bill before us today reflects the resulting progress. Since 1987 we have moved from a patchwork of local regulations toward consistent national safety regulations. This process is not necessarily completely to the satisfaction of all safety interest groups or the national and international motor carrier industry. However there is serious interest by all governments and other participants to see it progress and keep progressing to achieve maximum safety results with efficient implementation.

In this regard the Canadian Council of Ministers of Transport is preparing a memorandum to update the original 1987 document to re-energize the national commitment to harmonization of safety regimes. The minister expects the council of ministers responsible for transport and highway safety will consider this document at its meeting in September.

The bill establishes a framework for a program founded on the national safety code and administered by provincial governments in a consistent manner toward all motor carriers. We believe that this co-operative arrangement is the best way to achieve the highest feasible level of safety for commercial vehicle operation throughout Canada.

In conclusion, road fatalities in Canada are at their lowest level in history. In spite of this, road accidents still kill nearly 3,000 Canadians a year and cost Canadian society over $10 billion annually. The toll in human suffering cannot be measured.

All governments need to keep road safety a priority. The bill to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987, is one of several important steps toward improving highway safety in Canada. The bill is a product of consultation and consensus and is founded on partnerships.

The passage of the bill will provide an important impetus for a continuing co-operative process among governments, industry and public interest groups, building on work that has already been accomplished.

The bill would apply safety regulation based on real life performance. It would recognize responsible motor carriers and encourage their efficient operation across Canada and North America.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and with the provincial ministers, together with the motor carrier industry, to further the improvement of highway safety in Canada as provided for in this legislation.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will indicate at the outset that the Canadian Alliance is supportive of the bill. That does not mean the bill is perfect. We feel that the bill is a half measure. The bill deals with the important issue of highway safety in the country and that is a worthwhile area for public policy and for government to be involved with. I will spend some time talking about the role of the private sector in this whole area and also about the areas the bill missed the boat on.

I would like to acknowledge the improvements I have seen in highway safety because of innovation by the private sector. My learned colleague mentioned anti-lock brakes. Anti-lock brakes were developed in the private sector. The government was very quick to pick up on that, take credit for it and make a regulation. However, anti-lock brakes were developed by the industry before government even thought of them. The area of airbags is another area where the industry was away ahead of government. As well, the reliability of motor vehicles on our roads today is far superior to that of the vehicles we had 20, 30 or 40 years ago and there are more innovations on the way. Fuel economy has improved tremendously and from an environmental standpoint that is good.

Why has industry been able to improve the safety and quality of motor vehicles? Is it because of government regulation and bills such as this one? I think not. It has more to do with a competitive global market in which industry cannot stand still. Industry has to constantly improve its products. Improvements also have a lot to do with something called ISO, the international standard that assures quality in parts and in the system of putting products together. ISO probably has a lot more to do with safety than any bill that this House could pass.

I raise these issues to acknowledge the private sector's contributions to improved safety on our highways.

My learned colleague pointed out that there has been a massive move into truck transportation in Canada. For the most part, the reason we have had a massive movement into truck transportation in the country is the government's failure to move on modernizing our rail transportation system.

The government has had two excellent reports on rail transportation, the Estey commission and the Kroeger report, but has been very slow to respond to those reports and modernize the rail system. A lot of shippers are being forced to use the highways and to use trucks. From a safety standpoint I would suggest that there are a lot of products being moved by truck that should be moved by rail. There are hazardous products out on congested highways such as the 401 highway and if there is an accident there is a real problem.

Rail is a much more suitable means of transporting a lot of these goods, but because of our reluctance to modernize our rail system a lot of shippers are forced into shipping by highways whether they like it or not. In that respect government is the problem, not the solution.

That brings me to another point. I am sure that if you asked truckers or people who are on our highways a lot what their single biggest safety concern is today, they would say it is the highway system, the roads they have to drive on. The roads are falling apart. They are full of holes.

Anyone from my part of the country who wants to take a summer trip to visit relatives in Ontario or Quebec, unless they have their heads screwed on wrong, will find the first interstate in the United States and drive through the U.S. to get to Ontario or Quebec. They do not use our national highway system because the roads are just not that good.

That raises a point. The bill misses a very important angle. The government collects $4.5 billion in fuel taxes. Approximately 5% of that goes back into our highway system. That is not the policy in other countries. Other countries have policies whereby fuel taxes are reinvested in infrastructure and highway systems. The U.S. is a good example. That is why it has its interstate system and a good highway system. However this government refuses to deal with that problem.

I want to raise another point. There is a philosophy that is far too prevalent in the government, which is that the solution to a problem is more government, more laws, more regulation and more bureaucracy. The government thinks that is the way to get results. It has been my experience and the experience of many other people that if we want results we need a plan, teamwork, co-operation, vision, management and enforcement.

The government is too quick to create more bureaucracy, more laws and more regulations. It forgets about all the other components that make for good public policy. The government's attitude is that if we wanted a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup next year we would pass a law saying it is the Montreal Canadiens' turn to win the Stanley Cup. It would pass a law in the House of Commons and dictate that result. We know that is not how the world works.

If we want a result we have to manage that result. Passing laws will not solve a problem. Last week there was a good case in point. Everyone in the House basically got up in support of the feel good motion about safe water in Canada, but no one in the House addressed the real question, which is how we are going to get modern water treatment systems into all the communities across the country. The assumption of course is that if the federal government passes a law, we will solve the problem. If we look at the fisheries, we see that we have more people in the fisheries department than we have fishermen, I think, and look at what has happened to our fisheries. If the federal government is so darned good at water, why are most people, even aboriginals on their reserves, reluctant to drink tap water? Reserves are an area that federal government has had jurisdiction over for 125 years.

However, that is the government's approach: more government, more regulation and more bureaucracy. The government thinks that if we get enough of that sort of thing in place somehow through the vast weight of the state we will get some results. I think there is a better way of doing things and I wish the government would start to look at it. The auditor general has been pointing out for eight or nine years now that the government just does not get results. It comes up with these feel good bills and laws, passes more laws and regulations and hires more bureaucrats, but the results are not there. In fact, sometimes they are counterproductive, but I guess it makes my colleagues on the other side of the House feel good at night because they say all these warm, fuzzy things in the House about safety and so on.

In conclusion I would say that the bill is a half measure. If we expect government to have regulations, laws and bureaucracy in place, the Liberal government is strong in those areas. It knows how to do that and thinks that the more laws, regulations and bureaucracy we have, the better things are. However, in a lot of the other areas the government is deficient. The biggest single deficiency in the bill is the biggest safety issue we have in highway transportation in the country: the state of our roads.

My colleague from the government side pointed out that there has been a massive movement of transportation on our highways, especially extraprovincial. That is a federal area, if I understand my law correctly. When we move into extra-provincial issues, that is federal jurisdiction.

Where is the government's commitment to building our highway system and getting it up to high standards? In the bill there are high standards for motor vehicles, the operators and everything else, but it completely misses the roads on which these vehicles have to drive. It has not done a darned thing about them. It runs away from that.

If the water safety bill ever becomes law, I am sure the real omission in that area will be that the federal government will just not put the money into it. I recall the government moving into the health area, which is a provincial jurisdiction, with the five principles of the Canada Health Act and all the rest of it. However, how much funding does it provide? It provides something like 13% of the health care budget. This is a bad habit of the federal government. It intrudes into an area, passes laws and then does not provide sufficient funding to make the plan work. The thing then falls off the rails, so to speak.

We support the bill but we are not enthusiastic supporters. It is a typical Liberal half measure. The Liberals always lean toward more regulation, more government and more bureaucracy and forget the other things that are required to really manage a result. If we do not have those ingredients, we will have limited results from the bill.