House of Commons Hansard #202 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was species.

Topics

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the Canada Transportation Act and the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency to give the Agency the additional responsibility of protecting public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.

Mr. Speaker, members of an opposition party are often told that they “are there only to criticize”. Well, as this motion shows once again, we often suggest to the government solutions that could change things.

In this case, the problem is a real one affecting citizens day and night. Since the CN has been privatized, approximately when this government came to power, the activities have intensified, traffic has grown and some rail yards have undergone some streamlining.

For example, the Taschereau station was closed and its activities were redirected to Montreal and Saint-Lambert so that, in my region near Quebec, there is more freight train traffic and more coupling activities every hour, day and night, at the Joffre station in the former municipality of Charny, which is now part of Lévis. Previously, the traffic was not so intense and the railroad employees could do most of their work during the day.

Since 1998, however, the people of Charny, who have always been aware of rail activities in their area—this being the main rail centre in Quebec, next to Montreal, being located in the middle of Quebec—have noted increased traffic and changes in methods. With privatization, staff has been cut and technology has improved.

For example, trains were made up by human beings, local people who were concerned with respecting the people of the community. They therefore made up the trains with as little commotion as possible.

Today, many mechanisms are more or less set off by remote control. The railway employee is often quite a distance from where the train is being made up and has a tendency to couple more cars than necessary in order to be sure not to have to do it again. This can produce up to 75 decibels of noise, which hon. members will realize is an awful lot.

People started to complain back in 1998 and I got complaints in my riding office. I have always been, and still am, pro-railway. At first, I was a bit hesitant, and told people “It's normal to have noise when there is a marshalling yard”. There is a golf course a bit further on and the golfers do not seem to be particularly bothered. This is not, however, the case for those living nearby. Families with young children have them wakened up several times during the night, and this is becoming more and more frequent.

That is why people started complaining to the CN, but their complaints fell on deaf ears. The people at Transport's response was “There is a case before the courts in Oakville Ontario and CN appealed, because it contended that present jurisdiction did not allow the transportation agency to monitor and regulate this aspect of the problem”.

I will read a paragraph from the July 21, 2001 letter in which CN explains to the city that:

Departmental representatives are monitoring railway activities on an ongoing basis in order to ensure that they are operating safely.

Hon. members will see that safety is emphasized here. Certainly, the department and the transportation agency still have authority over safety. However, there are no regulations on pollution from trains and no federal power exists to deal with the noise and pollution resulting from railway activities.

For this reason, even though they had formed a citizens' committee—and the ruling for other cities confirms the fact that the Canadian Transportation Agency has no authority—, people had a noise study produced by an engineering firm by the name of Dessoprin Inc, in the hopes of influencing CN. The study demonstrated that the level of noise sometimes reached 75 decibels.

This is high. The World Health Organization says that no human should be exposed to sound levels greater than 60 decibels for extended periods of time, they even say 20 to 30 decibels.

This elevated sound level, given the frequency as demonstrated in the aforementioned study, was apparently not enough to convince CN of their case. The people therefore went to the Régie régionale de la santé et des services sociaux de Chaudière--Appalaches. A study was done to see if the noise was affecting people's health.

Obviously, I will not reveal the entire contents of the report, it would take too long. However, the representatives of the Régie said that the noise did indeed affect residents' health, because it occurs mostly at night and because it is continuous. People are forced to close their windows in the summer, and in addition to the discomfort, it is stressful, which in the longer term can affect the health of vulnerable people, such as children and seniors.

In fact, Maréchal-Joffre Street is located adjacent to the Joffre rail yards. The high level of activity in the yards—given that all of the routes are now being used—, means that trains are being moved and connected in close proximity to residents.

In the standing committee on health, there was a proposal to negotiate with CN—which did happen—to have a sound barrier built, as is done with freeways, as well as undertaking other measures to rectify the situation. I spoke publicly on this for the first time during the election campaign in order to meet with the citizen's committees following these studies.

I went to the citizens' committee and local authorities in Charny. This was before the municipal amalgamation, and negotiations with CN were underway, but behind closed doors. It was during the election campaign in the November 2000.

I told them they should rely on good faith and the negotiations, because passing legislation can take a long time. But the negotiations were so protracted that when I introduced this motion, a few weeks ago, and even now, they are still not concluded.

Patience is wearing thin, especially during the summer. Recently, people made representations to the municipal authorities and they were in touch with me. That is why I decided to introduce this motion. This is not a private member's bill, but simply a motion. I wish it were votable, but the committee decided otherwise. Everybody knows it is not all motions that are votable.

I think that this debate in the House will drive the message home and that the government will come up with and introduce a bill over the summer in order to amend the Department of Transport Act concerning railways. It could grant additional powers to the Canadian Transportation Agency, so that people who have this kind of problem can be heard by the agency.

In my opinion, this should exist in all cases. This is a neighbourhood—that is what originally led to the presentation of my motion and I think other members will speak about this today—the neighbourhood of Saint-Lambert in the Montreal region, where the residents complained to CN for the same reason, as they did in Oakville, Ontario, where authorities lost to CN in appeal. That region of Ontario also agrees, and I am convinced that other members have the same problem in their area.

Personally, I want to be clear. I am not trying to stop operations or to get the rail yards to close. I simply want to ensure that an organization called the Canadian Transportation Agency has the mandate to deal with complaints, and that, contrary to what one of its officials said, the Department of Transport has the power to control noise. If this were made clear to CN, the negotiation process would be different. CN would be more receptive to the public's representations.

Sure, we want CN to be a profitable venture and it is, which is fine. Sure, we want it to create jobs and I agree, because there are 400 jobs in the Charny area that depend on the railways. However, we do not want this to be achieved at the expense of people's quality of life. When we talk about people's health and the stress generated by this noise, I think CN should be more receptive.

Therefore, I invite members from all parties to support my motion. I realize that I filled in for another member at the very last minute. Normally, my motion should not have been on the order of the day, but the hon. member who was scheduled to present his motion today could not do so. Therefore, I was told on Friday that I could bring forward my motion. I am pleased to do so before the summer recess, although no one on this side of the House knows when this will come.

Therefore, I am very pleased to present it this morning. All the concerned citizens in my riding will also be pleased to see that this issue is debated. I will of course save five minutes to reply or urge my colleagues at the end.

Since this is a very important issue, I would ask, through the Chair, the unanimous consent of the House to make this motion a votable item.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent of the House to make this motion votable?

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his presentation of Motion No. 493. I think I have to recognize, even though we are from different parties, that my hon. colleague always try to speak about matters of concern to his immediate community.

I think it really is a member's first role to have an ongoing concern, every day and wherever we are working, not to forget that we are here to represent the constituents who sent us here. That is why the motion he is putting forward to the House must be treated with much respect.

Obviously, the government recognizes that urban sprawl has led to a spectacular growth of municipalities around railway lines. Linked with a sustained rail traffic, that growth is putting more and more pressure on the environment where people and railways are inevitably closer.

Nowadays, railway companies are competitive undertakings that strive to meet the market's requirements. In order to remain competitive, they always have to find means of improving the effectiveness of their operations. In other words, they have to maximize the use of their assets.

To this end, they must concentrate the traffic on main railway lines to increase its volume and reduce unit costs. This requirement can also increase daily traffic on some lines or transfer a portion of the traffic to different lines.

The movement of goods is different in many ways from the movement of travellers. While most people do not want to travel at night, the movement of goods is dictated by industry's needs, including just on time delivery and a continuing and stable service.

We can all understand the great contribution that railways bring to the growth of the Canadian economy, but this contribution significantly increases the concerns of people living near railways, which is the problem raised by the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

These problems include the noise made by the railway equipment, as well as vibration, intrusion and pollution problems.

The member may know that the responsibility for noise reduction belongs, in Canada, at all levels of government without exception. I know that my colleague is aware of this power sharing reality. As for municipalities, they fight against noise pollution through development and urbanism management plans, zoning bylaws, antinoise regulations, traffic plans and the building of antinoise structures.

Antinoise measures can be implemented by any level of government, but municipalities should preferably do it. Having already been a municipal representative, I know that it is a real and constant preoccupation at the municipal level.

The position adopted in the 1989 guidelines on exterior noise reduction is based on the conclusion that exterior noise problems are local problems that are difficult to solve without the involvement of the municipality. I am not saying that the municipality should be the only dealing with this problem, but the basic responsibility lies first with the municipality.

In this context, the member will understand that public and private sector co-operation is essential in any effort to, as he says in his motion, protect public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.

The federal government recognizes the complexity of these matters and encourages communities and the railways to co-operate.

This last month, the Canadian railways made the commitment, through the Railway Association of Canada, to work closely with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to develop a framework that the railways and the communities will all be able to use to settle the disputes arising from local problems due to the proximity of the railways to residential neighbourhoods.

This joint initiative by the railways and the municipalities is a very constructive measure, which they have taken to address the matter of railway irritants in our cities.

It is based on a community/company dispute settlement process announced by the federation and Canadian Pacific at the federation's annual conference in 2001. The goals were twofold: to facilitate community participation in CP's infrastructure projects and major operational changes; and to resolve issues raised by residents of a community or a municipality where CP operated.

These are some excellent examples of measures the railways are taking to improve thei relations with the communities they serve.

The government understands, however, that there are circumstances in which it is not always possible to agree on solutions. In the past, railway irritants have been successfully resolved through co-operation and mediation, but this may not be enough for the future. It may be necessary to couple co-operation with legislative measures.

The member is asking that the government amend the Canada Transportation Act and the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency, and I quote:

[--] to give the Agency the additional responsibility of protecting public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.

The member is perhaps aware that, in December 2000, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Canadian Transportation Agency did not have jurisdiction over noise, vibrations and diesel emissions. The government therefore had to look at possible solutions to this pressing concern.

In July, the Minister of Transport tabled the final report of the committee to review the Canada Transportation Act, which addressed the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. The committee recommended that certain provisions of the act be reviewed and amended as needed in order to confirm and clarify the jurisdiction of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The Minister of Transport is now drafting a policy framework for the federal government's transportation activities for the next decade and beyond. This document will address many recommendations made by the review committee. The minister has said he intends to publish the transportation policy framework in the fall with a view to consultations, after which he will introduce a bill to follow up on the review committee's recommendations.

In the meantime, the Canadian Transportation Agency continues to offer mediation services that have sometimes helped settle certain disputes concerning railway activities.

The agency provides these services to rail and maritime transportation since June 2000. These services help parties settle their disputes with a simple and efficient process that is fast, flexible and focused on co-operation rather than on litigation.

Mediation favours communication between the parties, particularly those who have a permanent relation. It also helps strike an appropriate balance between unequal parties. The mediator and the parties work together to find solutions that fit their situation. This co-operation brings about better understanding between the parties as well as agreements ensuring a high degree of mutual satisfaction and commitment.

We can use this service to settle different railway issues concerning prices, service obligations, railway crossings, the development of railways and railroad stations, the abandonment of lines and noise.

Clearly, the government recognizes the importance of the concerns of the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. The government has clearly demonstrated that it serious about examining solutions to the problems raised by the hon. member.

I thank the hon. member for his interest not only for his riding, but also for many places throughout the country that are experiencing problems as a result of the inconveniences inherent to rail transportation.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, I too would like to congratulate my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois. The Canadian Alliance does understand that the responsibility of every member of the House is to truly respect our fellow citizens and their concerns, not necessarily only the concerns we care about.

Just like my Bloc Quebecois colleague, I am sure that all members who have trains going through their ridings have had calls from people angry about the noise coming from this means of transportation. It is very important that a voice be heard in the House regarding this problem.

I want to tell my Bloc colleague that the Canadian Alliance favours free votes on private members' bills. My views on the topic will not necessarily sway all my colleagues, when the time comes to vote on the motion.

The motion we are debating today from my colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière says:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the Canada Transportation Act and the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency to give the Agency the additional responsibility of protecting public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.

Moving rail cars in yards and shifting the rail cars makes a lot of noise. This is part of the cost of doing business and it is an unfortunate reality. It is impractical and unrealistic for railway companies to erect noise barriers around every action that they do in their rail yards.

To assist in avoiding future proximity problems associated with noise, the railway industry itself, outside of government mandate, has developed guidelines regarding and requiring vibration, noise and safety mitigation measures for new development along railways rights of way.

Since the mid-1980s, guidelines have been integrated into the development approval process in certain Canadian provinces. However beyond this there are no broadly accepted standards or guidelines through which parties may seek direction or resolution of emerging issues.

Consequently, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents over 1,000 municipal governments across the country and the RAC, the Railway Association of Canada, which represents 55 freight and passenger railways operating in Canada, agreed at a meeting in Hamilton on May 31 of this year to “pursue a good neighbour approach to preventing and resolving disputes” according to the railway association's press release.

Instead of more rail regulation from the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Railway Association of Canada would prefer to work with municipalities to address “proximity issues and guidelines to be developed jointly on such matters as land use, noise levels and emissions”, as stated by Federation of Canadian Municipalities CEO James Knight in a press release that he sent just following the meeting and the agreement.

Development of these guidelines will involve consultation with the railway industry, municipal governments, the property development community, transportation planners, acoustical consultants, related industrial concerns and other specialists and academics in the area of industrial proximity.

This is the exact sort of thing that the Canadian Alliance often champions. Here we have a situation where there are local concerns and local problems happening literally in people's backyards and local municipal governments responding directly with the industry without having the big iron boot of the federal government coming down on top of it and expanding the current leviathan state which takes away the powers from municipalities and citizens to react to local concerns with local measures that make local sense.

Rather than dumping more regulation on railways as Motion No. 493 recommends, the voluntary good neighbour approach between the railway companies and over a thousand municipal governments is already underway, including identification of the right and assessable contacts in municipal government, railways and open communication. A proactive approach beginning with municipal land use approvals based on sound planning principles is an effective tool for prevention of future disputes and complaints. Likewise, future railway operational planning would also seek to prevent future disputes and complaints.

Both the Railway Association of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities agreed on current options and best practices for mediation or dispute resolution, both at the local level and where necessary on a more formal level on a broader scale.

The Railway Association of Canada recognizes that the rail industry itself needs to be more sensitive to community and residential realities because Canada has become an increasingly urbanized country, which is common sense.

However the railway association also points out that Canada's economy is the most trade dependent on the planet. The Railway Association of Canada's vision for the future:

--is based on safe, secure, reliable rail corridors that carry both freight and passengers, reduce congestion and pollution. That will add to Canada's overall competitiveness, and Canadians' quality of life, because governments won't have to invest billions of dollars more in building new road systems, as they did in the past.

It is interesting that the motion we are debating on, and I understand will be voting on, proposes that railroad emissions be regulated. However Motion No. 493 was probably drafted without consideration of the fact that Canada's railways were on track to Kyoto compliance voluntarily. They produced 3.5% fewer greenhouse gas emissions in 2002 than they did in 1990, while hauling almost 30% more traffic than they did a decade ago.

I think it is important for my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois to consider this. The Bloc and the NDP are probably the most pro-Kyoto political parties in the House of Commons, although it is easy for them to be pro-Kyoto because of the water that they have their backyards. However overall the transportation sector remains the single largest energy user in Canada, with road vehicles accounting for more than 70% of sector emissions, passenger cars and light trucks accounting for 44.1% and commercial trucks 27.2%.

Rail generates only about 4% of transportation sector pollution in total. Rail carries slightly more than half of all freight ton miles moved in Canada, as well as 51 million commuters, intercity passengers and tourists. In fact the whole workload was handled with some 3,000 units in 2000.

A 100 car freight train, for example, carries the equivalent traffic load of 280 trucks and every commuter train takes hundreds of cars off the highway. This is the sort of thing that contributes to cleaning our skies, cleaning the pollution, getting more people moving faster, enhancing trade and doing the sort of thing that the Bloc Quebecois says that this country needs to do, which is why it supports Kyoto.

I will conclude by addressing my Bloc Quebecois colleague in French. Just like my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord said, we congratulate our colleague on his approach to respect his fellow citizens in his particular riding.

I too have introduced four or five private member bills aimed at dealing with problems that my fellow citizens had brought to my attention. We congratulate our colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

However, we believe that the kind of change that people in his riding and himself are seeking can be achieved without giving increased powers to a federal government that has proved so careless. It is not really a good idea to give it more powers as it has been getting worst and worst.

I congratulate my colleague on his motion and we do appreciate the spirit in which it was drafted. However, the Canadian Alliance will not support the motion.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. This is a very important motion and what the member has outlined in speaking to his motion is exactly the same problem I face in my riding in east Vancouver.

To go back into the historical record, the previous member of parliament to my predecessor, Margaret Mitchell, who was elected in 1979 and whom I am sure some members remember as being a very outstanding member of parliament, took up this issue way back in 1979 and into the 1980s in terms of constituents in east Vancouver who were severely impacted by the incredible noise from rail yards along the waterfront on the port of Vancouver lands.

The issue the member has raised is something that has been ignored for a very long time. As the member of parliament since 1997 in east Vancouver, I have written countless letters to the Minister of Transport, to the Canadian transportation authority and I have sent copies to the committee. I have raised this issue again and again to try to get some relief for residents who cannot sleep at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. as a result of the switching yards and train shunting in east Vancouver.

After hearing the member from the Canadian Alliance, this is not an issue where somehow we are against rail transportation. I would agree that rail transportation is a very exceptional mode of transportation, particularly in an age where we have to be very concerned about emissions into the environment. The people in east Vancouver who have historically lived next door to an industrial port and have had trains going by their houses for decades, do not deny the right and the opportunity for those rail operations to be operated in a way that is efficient, businesslike and so forth. However the reality is that for rail yards, which are adjacent to residential neighbourhoods, there have to be particular precautions put into place to ensure that the daily and nightly lives of local residents do not become completely disrupted. That is why I support this motion.

In my riding people like Shane Simpson, Barbara Fousek and Jim Campbell have spent thousands of hours dealing, in this case, with the CPR trying to get it to understand and be sensitive to resident concerns about noise. I will quote from one of the many e-mails that I have received from Mr. Campbell, a local resident. He said:

Shunting 100+ car lengths at a slow speed means residents endure 10-20 minutes of screeching, grinding and then diesels howling to move the sheer weight of the load.

Imagine that taking place every night. Imagine coming home from work after a long day and going to bed. All people want is to go to sleep but they awake every hour or so, perhaps several times a night or a week. When that happens people end up suffering from sleep deprivation. It begins to affect not only the health of individual families but also of the whole community.

In the case of east Vancouver there have been several local committees such as the Wall Street and Burrard View Residents' Association, for example, that have banned together to take up this issue. They have put forward numerous submissions to the Canadian transportation authority only to find that the CTA now claims it has no responsibility in this area, and I find that very shocking.

We followed very closely the situation in Oakville. I even spoke to the government member of parliament for that area. I was very interested to see that the residents of Oakville, which is a very affluent community, had hired some pretty hot shot lawyers to take on the CN company in that case. They won and then, as we know, the appeal was thrown out.

It was interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary speak behalf of the government today and leave the impression that everything is A-OK, that there are joint initiatives and a dispute settlement mechanism and that mediation services have been offered. If that is the case I can tell the House that they are not working, because obviously there are communities across this country that are still suffering very badly as a result of excessive noise from diesel engines, from shunting and switching and from engines being turned on and off and so on.

If the parliamentary secretary is correct that the minister is prepared to come forward with some amendments to the Canadian Transportation Agency and that there may be some legislation, this is something that is long, long overdue, because the current processes in terms of dispute resolution simply are not working. In my opinion, when there is a flurry of complaints the rail companies, in our case the CPR, may respond to them and may provide some temporary relief, but the fact is that over the long term the situation does not change.

I would also like to address the fact that the parliamentary secretary has kind of sloughed this off and has said that it really is a local problem. I am sure he knows that where these rail tracks and the switching and shunting that is taking place are in a port area or in an area of federal jurisdiction, it is very difficult for the municipality to apply the noise bylaw. We have gone this route in Vancouver. The residents went before Vancouver city council to try to get the noise bylaw enforced. The parliamentary secretary says this is a local problem and that is where complaints should be taken, but I can tell him that the residents have received no relief there.

I want to reiterate my support for the motion. I actually went out on the train tracks with local residents, with the CPR, and we actually drove in a car along the tracks to look at the situation firsthand. I was really quite disturbed by the lack of any sort of process or any sort of facilitation that would resolve the problems these residents are facing.

I too wish that the motion were votable. It would have been a very good motion to have as a votable motion. Based on what we have heard today in the debate and based on the experience across the country, I implore the government to listen seriously to these complaints and to understand that the lives of local residents and communities are being severely disrupted.

We are not talking about a low level background noise like a freeway. We are talking about, in the case of east Vancouver, noise levels that are up to 100 decibels. It seems to me that this is completely unacceptable in an urban environment. We have regulations about airports. No one would expect people to live right next to a runway and hear the decibel levels of airplanes, but when it comes to a rail line or a shunting yard where this kind of activity, which is as noisy, is taking place, somehow all of a sudden there is an absence of any federal regulations that can deal with it.

In regard to the responsibility of the CTA, it is a glaring omission to somehow slough this off. Again I want to implore the government and the minister to take their responsibilities seriously and ensure that amendments are brought forward if the motion is not voted on today. We want these amendments brought forward as quickly as possible so that the CTA will have authority to unequivocally deal with these rail companies. Maybe these companies are busy doing other things and do not think the complaints of local residents are important, but I want to say this: They have a responsibility to act in a neighbourly way. They have a responsibility to act in a way that is sensitive to the needs of local communities, just as local communities are very sensitive to the fact that they have business to do. This can be a win-win situation if only the Liberal government would bring in these amendments and make it clear that the CTA must act on these complaints and must take responsibility and provide relief to the people of east Vancouver and other affected communities.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, I am pleased to add my contribution to the debate on the motion moved by my colleague, the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. First, I would like to congratulate him for this motion. The member, and all of the Bloc Quebecois are terrific when it comes to defending the interests of the citizens they represent. For this, I congratulate the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

Clearly, the Liberal government is trying to outdo itself and surprise me every day. I listened to the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. He sarcastically congratulated my colleague for defending the interests of his constituents, the citizens of Quebec, with some clever explanation as to why the Liberal government could yet again not support my colleague's good intentions.

This was the Liberal government's response, through the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. Basically, he said “We are aware of the problem, but we will not do anything about it right away. The minister will introduce an overview of Canadian transportation policy in the fall. A plan will be developed in the next ten years”. In the end, there will be no amendments to the legislation and the government will not support my colleague's motion. This is the reality of the situation at the end of the day.

This is hard to accept, particularly since we are told that the local authorities can deal with the problem. Municipalities do not have jurisdiction over federal lands. People may not be aware, but the federal government does not pay any municipal taxes, unlike all other citizens and corporate citizens, on any lands where rail lines and rail yards are located. The federal government decides on its own how much it will give to municipalities on federal lands.

That is the way it is. These lands have never been considered to be jurisdictions over which municipal or provincial governments have any authority. Rail lines and rail yards are under federal jurisdiction, and it is the federal government that passes legislation on these lands. It is not for nothing that in Oakville, proceedings were taken.

In fact, they wanted to take the federal government to court. There was an appeal. Canadian National won, and the ruling is clear. The federal government has no responsibility, because Transport Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency do not have any jurisdiction over noise. Clearly, given the fact that the lines and yards are on federal land, there is no legislation affecting these private companies.

Again, those who are listening to us must understand that the Liberal government has privatized rail transportation. It is now operated by profit making corporations. That is essentially what my colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière was saying.

Since privatization has occurred, there is no respect for neighbours anymore. The use of remote controls to connect cars is more common. The noise level is increasing simply because Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, which are private companies, are no longer required to show respect for the community.

Of course, every three months, they have to pay dividends to their shareholders. That is what they have to do. They do not care about the neighbourhood. That is why my colleague is asking the government to take action.

However, I can understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport would be reluctant to criticize Canadian National today, since that company was the fifth largest contributor to the Liberal Party of Canada's election fund in 2000. It contributed $93,148 to that party's election fund in 2000. That is a fact.

Again, they cannot criticize their friends. They say “Let us not worry about it. Local governments can take care of that. We will try to have mediators”. Mediation is the solution. That is pretty much the message that we heard from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, in telling us “We could go and see what is going on, but there is a mediation process”.

People who live in an area like Lévis, that is criss-crossed by railroad tracks, have had the benefit of several studies on this issue. The Chaudière—Appalaches regional health and social services board has conducted a qualitative study on noise. It explains very clearly the public health risk.

So, there was an assessment of the risk, and the international standards of the World Health Organization have been explained. In residential areas, noise is a serious nuisance during the day and at night, at levels above 56 decibels. In residential areas, the nuisance is considered moderate if the noise level is 50 decibels and more. Inside the bedrooms, sleep is disturbed if the noise level is over 60 decibels.

I am summing up here the learned study by the regional board on the residential neighborhood near the Joffre switching yard. Train traffic has increased the noise level over 60 decibels, with occasional peaks of 69 and 74.9 decibels. The use of truck backing-up alarm in the switching yard has been associated with a reading of 71.9 decibels.

This has an impact on public health, and that is what my colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has been arguing. We should make it clear that while we in the Bloc Quebecois are in favour of rail transportation, and the Canadian Alliance member is right, private companies, CN in this case, must protect the health of people living near switching yards.

All we are asking the CN and the other railway companies is to respect public health. As I said, there are internationally recognized standards set by the World Health Organization: the maximum is 50 decibels during the day and 60 decibels during the night. Those are the standards to abide by. When the noise reaches peaks of 74.9 decibels, it is harmful to the health of the people living in the vicinity.

The situation is not limited to the Joffre yard, it is the same in all rail yards. Our colleague from the New Democratic Party told us that she experiences the same situation. It is the same thing for people all over Canada. Why? Because the Liberal government has decided to deregulate and privatize transport. Now the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific are private corporations. All they want is to make the service profitable; they are not interested in protecting the health of the people living in the area.

Therefore, my colleague's motion is well founded. The purpose is to say that the federal government should change the law in its own jurisdiction. I repeat that tracks, railroad lines and rails yards are on federal land, and the provincial and municipal governments have no jurisdiction on that land. As we saw in the Oakville decision, the federal government and the Canadian Transportation Agency have no jurisdiction on noise. It is not mentioned in the Canada Transportation Act. My colleague is asking that we change that act. Let me read the motion once again:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the Canada Transportation Act and the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency to give the Agency the additional responsibility of protecting public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.

Of course, these lines are under federal jurisdiction. Once again, I call upon the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport to review all his notes and to tell the knowledgeable public servants who wrote them—I do not blame him because we are not always aware of what may be brewing in this parliament—that railway lines and rail yards are under federal jurisdiction.

These companies do not pay municipal taxes like other companies. For everything that is under federal jurisdiction, the federal government decides itself to provide the contributions to municipalities. If they do not pay their taxes like any other corporate citizen, it is simply because municipalities have no jurisdiction whatsoever on these areas.

Consequently, it is important for the House to take the matter under advisement. Once again, it is unfortunate that the Liberal Party does not want this motion to be votable. Quebec and Canadian citizens have health problems because private railway companies throughout Canada do not respect international standards on noise pollution.

My colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière simply wanted to raise the awareness of members to ensure that we pass legislation that would guarantee citizens who live close to railway tracks and rail yards that the companies' operations comply with community health rules.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the four colleagues who spoke for their respective parties, with the exception of the Conservative Party. I had been notified in advance that they were in agreement with the motion and I thank them.

As they have said, I believe that the first duty of an MP is to reflect the concerns of the people in his or her riding. That is what I wanted to do. I know that other colleagues have experienced similar problems or have been told of them. My NDP colleague has referred to similar problems in Vancouver. This is not, therefore, the concern of a single member, or a single riding. It concerns marshalling yards in particular, where trains are shunted onto sidings, where trains are made up and so on.

I would like to give a quick reply to the parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who has shared his concerns with us, but at the same time I would side with what my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said about jurisdictions.

As far as noise is concerned, he is right in saying that municipalities have a certain power over this, which he explained very well, but the land belongs to the federal government. Sound travels, so a municipality might decide to erect a wall outside the federal property, but when residential areas are already established this requires expropriations. This, in my opinion, is contrary to the polluter-pay principle. Who caused the noise? The CN, with its railway activities.

In a situation where each party had equal responsibility, there would be mediation and each would propose remedies to its part of the problem. The CN does not care in the least. It says that the others need to adapt to its presence. The usefulness of CN is acknowledged, and of course we want to see it prosper.

The parliamentary secretary's response is “Yes, but we have carried out studies and have presented a report. In the coming decade we will have a plan to address such situations”. This makes no sense.

What makes even less sense is that my colleague from the Alliance seems friendly but talks about Kyoto in his speech. The railway noise issue has nothing to do with the Kyoto protocol. He must have lacked substance or time to think about the position to say that.

The NDP has supported my motion. I congratulate and thank them for that. However, I would like to correct one misconception. When they say that citizens were right in Oakville, this is not the case. They were indeed right in the first round, but CN appealed the decision and won.

It is therefore a really important matter and, as everybody knows, the parliamentary secretary considers it important too.

If I were to ask unanimous consent of the House to make this issue votable, I know that the government House leader is usually listening--he has been criticized for some things--but as far as listening to the citizens, I think that he should accept my motion and instruct his party so that this motion be can be made votable.

If the Alliance members are opposed, they can vote against it. But those who support private members' motions should be allowed to vote freely in the House. This motion is intended to guide the government and not to force it to do one thing or another. It only asks for legislation that would amend the Canada Transportation Act and the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency. That is it. We are not trying to tell the government exactly what to do.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

Was the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière asking for unanimous consent?

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

Noon

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière have the unanimous consent of the House to move his motion?

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

No.

Canadian Transportation Agency
Private Members' Business

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

The hour provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. Since the motion was not deemed votable, the item is dropped from the order paper.