House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sexual.

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Business of the House

March 21st, 2003 / 10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), it is my duty to inform the House of the motion to be addressed Monday in studying the business of supply. The motion reads as follows:

That this House:

(1) Endorse the decision of the allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq's compliance with its international obligations under the successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;

(2) Express its unequivocal support for the Canadian servicemen and women, and other personnel serving in an exchange program with the United States and for those servicemen and women performing escort duties for British and United States ships, our full confidence in them and the hope that all will return safely to their homes;

(3) Extend to the innocent people of Iraq its support and sympathy during the military action to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and the reconstruction period that will follow; and

(4) Urge the government to commit itself to help the Iraqi people, including through humanitarian assistance, to build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours.

This motion, standing in the name of the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, is votable.

Copies of the motion are available at the Table.

The House resumed from March 19, consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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10:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-26.

I have been waiting for this day for a long time because I represent a community that for many years has been affected by the noise from trains in shunting yards close to a residential area. Other communities across Canada have also been very negatively affected by this issue. From the experience of my own community in east Vancouver in the Burrardview area, up until now there has been virtually no recourse or process to allow local communities to resolve these longstanding grievances against various rail companies around noise and the impact of that noise in adjacent residential neighbourhoods.

I was very pleased to see that Bill C-26 finally addresses some of these issues. To be specific, my understanding of the bill, if it is approved, is it would give the Canadian Transportation Agency authority to review railway noise complaints and require that the railways keep any adverse noise to a minimum when constructing or operating a railway, taking into consideration the requirements of railway operations and services and the interests of local communities.

The bill also develops a mediation process through the Canadian Transportation Agency. Public guidelines for the resolution of noise complaints will be developed. This is a huge relief for people who every single night have been experiencing sleep deprivation as a result of enduring excessive noise levels from the operation of trains, engines, coupling, decoupling and shunting, and so on.

As one constituent in this Vancouver neighbourhood said, “As always, we have no complaint with the railway in general, we just want to sleep”. I would wholeheartedly support that sentiment. For residents in communities such as the one I am describing in Burrardview, there is a recognition that railways, and of course the services they provide, are hugely important in our country.

However, there also has to be a recognition that when these services operate in very close proximity to urban areas and residential neighbourhoods, there has to be very careful consideration and we have to be sensitive and ensure that the processes are in place to deal with problems effectively and quickly. I would emphasize doing it quickly because I know that Burrardview residents have had to resort to phoning at 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning because they have not been able to go to sleep because of the noise just a few hundred feet from them.

In our situation in east Vancouver we have worked with the local health department. We have had noise testing done. Residents have gone to city council to try to apply the noise bylaw. Residents have tried every single thing they could to generate some relief so that they could go about their daily lives and not be completely disrupted. This has been to no avail so this bill is very important.

I recognize the outstanding efforts of a key group of residents in east Vancouver in the Burrardview neighbourhood. Jim Campbell and Barbara Fousek, Shane Simpson, John Lynn, Terry Bulwer and Torsten Kehler have acted as leaders on this issue. They have informed other residents about what they could do. They have monitored the situation and have stayed on top of it.

In our case it involves CPR. I want to congratulate those people for being so diligent in not only keeping me informed of what is taking place but in staying on top of the railroad company itself. We have actually gone out on the tracks. We did a tour on the tracks. We went to visit the various locations along the lines that were causing all of the problems.

I am sure some members of the House will remember my predecessor, Margaret Mitchell, very well, the wonderful member of Parliament for Vancouver East from 1979 to 1993. She too was dealing with this issue. That is how far back it goes.

I hope very much that the provision in Bill C-26 will strengthen what the CTA can accomplish in providing relief to local residents and ensuring that there is an environment of peace and quiet at critical times. People need to sleep and they want to enjoy their homes and neighbourhoods.

I want to speak to another aspect of the bill which is also very important. This is an omnibus bill, so there are many provisions. There is another part that interests me particularly as a member of Parliament who represents an urban community.

The bill will also modify the current provisions governing how rail companies can dispose of railway lines that are no longer required for freight service. The changes would allow urban transit authorities to receive offers where they would be able to acquire corridors that could be used for urban transit. This is something that is very pertinent to urban communities.

Certainly in Vancouver there is an ongoing debate about the critical need for rapid transit. It could be light rapid transit but certainly what is needed is a public transit system and structure that will allow people easy access to rapid transit that is affordable and which will also take account of our environment. This is critical as we face rising rates of asthma and as we see the smog hanging over our cities. As we try to meet the implementation agreements around Kyoto, this is a very key piece.

The rail lines and corridors exist. They sit there for years and years unused and they could be used for public transit. It seems to me we are missing a fabulous opportunity.

I was very pleased to see the provision in the bill that will allow urban transit authorities to look at specific corridors that may be suitable for public urban transit. I hope this will happen in Vancouver because we are surely suffering from congestion and smog and a complete overload of mostly single occupant vehicles on Vancouver streets.

Those are my comments on the bill. The NDP is supporting the bill in principle. We are happy to see it go to the committee where it will have thorough debate and review.

I hope that residents from east Vancouver will be among the witnesses who will be heard so they can put on the record firsthand some of the terrible situations they have had to endure in dealing with train noise. It is hoped that their issues can be addressed in the bill and finally the Canadian Transportation Agency can deal with the issue in a way that is fair, equitable and efficient to ensure that people can enjoy living in peace in their neighbourhoods.

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10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech very closely. I can well appreciate her concerns about the noise level in communities with regard to trains, especially when it comes to shunting and the times of the day, or the night in a lot of cases, that the shunting takes place.

She mentions that they have tried everything, and I know other communities have too, with regard to noise bylaws and that studies have been done. I do not want the member to have a false sense of security that the bill would address these matters. As I have sat in the House, as has the hon. member, I have come to the conclusion that when they say that things will be studied, it could take up to years.

My first question would be this. Does the member not think that there should have been a time frame built into the bill as to when this had to be enacted upon by everybody involved?

I would also like to caution her with regard to opening up vacant corridors. In one aspect, it is a great idea that the corridors should be used by anybody who can take that on. However, when VIA ran into a large problem in the Rockies, a group came in and took over the VIA problem, because of the financial situation it was in, turned it around and turned it into a very profitable tourist attraction, which is making money, thriving and creating business. Now that the railroad has seen the profit margin in this, it wants it back.

To get investors to go into these empty corridors and to put up their own funds, the government should have to give some sort of assurance to them that when the profit margin starts to turn in their favour, it will not decide to take it back.

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10:15 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate and welcome the questions from the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance.

On the timing issue, as we get to committee we will have to get into this issue in a lot more detail. We will want to ensure that there are, hopefully, deadlines and that the government will agree that deadlines should be established so that the proposal does not just sit on the books, so to speak, and nothing happens.

However, what I am particularly interested in, is the proposal includes a proposed mediation process that the CTA would be able to engage in with respect to matters affecting noise, or maybe other matters as well. I think from a resident's point of view, this would be a much more effective way of dealing with this kind of issue than having to hire lawyers. This happened in one case and maybe in the member's case as well. In many communities local residents do not have those resources.

I would certainly agree that we should be pushing as much as we can so that the government is held to account to set out some clear timelines and deadlines for when this will be implemented.

On the second question, I am little familiar with the situation that the member raises. In speaking to the corridors that are no longer being used, I was referencing mostly the situation in urban communities and what opportunities there were for public transit.

However in other situations where a contract has been established and then all of a sudden VIA Rail decides to yank it back because something has become profitable, maybe that needs to be looked at by the committee. There has to be a fair process. We cannot allow a decision to be made and then have it unilaterally changed at some point because the company has decided there is some profit there and maybe it had better take another look at it. Maybe can look at that issue in committee.

Overall some of the proposals in this bill, not all of them but many of them, are good proposals. I am being optimistic but I hope that they will address some longstanding grievances that people have had.

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10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my hon. colleague in the NDP a question that relates to our province.

On Vancouver Island we have the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway that has been deliberately run inefficiently on the part of VIA in an effort to get VIA out of it. For years and years the community on Vancouver Island and MPs on the island have asked the Minister of Transport to work with VIA, work with its current owners, RailAmerica, and work with the people on the island to put this railway in the hands of a private company that will be able to run it in a profitable fashion while keeping ownership in the hands of the public.

I would like my friend's views on whether she would support allowing this railway to be in the hands of a private company that can run it in a profitable fashion for the benefit of the people of Vancouver Island and whether she will ask the Minister of Transport to follow along those lines.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we can see there is a lot of interest in what happens in particular rail lines across the country. We think of Canada as being a place that, in the last hundred years or so, was drawn together by rail service. I think many of us in the House look with a sense of dismay to what has happened over many decades with our rail and passenger service, which connected many communities.

The member from Esquimalt has mentioned one such route from Esquimalt to Nanaimo. Even though I am in Vancouver, I have seen some of the stories about how people have campaigned to save these lines and to maintain this vital service that they have connecting very important communities.

On principle, we very much support the need to maintain and improve and increase these service levels. The NDP does not support the privatization of these services, however, and I think the hon. member knows that. We want to see the public infrastructure. We want to see VIA Rail do a better job of providing these services.

I am not aware of the private company to which the member the refers. However on the principle of the issue, which is to keep these services operating, to strengthen them, improve them and make them more accessible for people, I would say absolutely we have to do that. We have to pressure the government.

Over the years the service we have seen in these passenger lines has been abysmal. We have seen a complete undermining and eroding of these services. Canadians have a very strong view that we should be looking to Europe or even the U.S. where there is a much better passenger rail service. I am familiar with that line. I do not know the details of it. The NDP would not support a privatization but we do support an improvement and an increased capacity for passenger rail.

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10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on second reading of Bill C-26. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.