House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was strategy.

Topics

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right about the rail crossing at Patella Bridge. The bridge is over 100 years old. It has been identified for the last 25 years as needing to be replaced. Again, the federal government has neglected western Canada. It is another example of western alienation. We need to have proper funding. This infrastructure in western Canada benefits all of Canada. It is not just benefiting western Canada. It is moving rail traffic across our country.

We need to properly take care of western Canada. If we do not invest, we cannot expect benefits. This gateway project has to be only part of a down payment for western Canada.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, the member's speech was excellent, to the point and very positive. I am delighted that the Conservative members are positive about this project. The member talked about how it served all of western Canada.

I have a question related to my riding of Yukon. One of the member's colleagues suggested that we should stop taking diamonds out of the Yukon because the government would take all the money and it was not worthwhile. I would like to ask the member if that is his party's policy.

First of all, the diamonds do not come from the Yukon. They come from the Northwest Territories. The diamonds coming from the Northwest Territories make Canada the third largest producer of diamonds by value in the world. It represents 12.6 millions carats for approximately $2.1 billion and provides approximately 4,000 direct and indirect jobs in Canada. A number of the direct jobs are in the north. They are filled by northerners and many by aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories. Of course, their income taxes go toward health care, hospitals, farmers and those types of things.

I know the member is sensitive and thoughtful. I would like to ask him if it is Conservative Party policy that we should shut down diamond mining in Canada.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's compliments, but the topic of discussion is the Pacific gateway project, not diamonds. I am glad that the hon. member woke from his slumber and is now asking a question.

What we are talking about is the Pacific gateway and it is for moving traffic and people in an efficient way in western Canada. We need that. We need to have federal investment into the gateway project. The question is how to do it efficiently and whether the funding is sufficient.

The gateway is only a down payment, just a start. There are so many needs, $30 million per rail overpass or more. For that whole area only $30 million is being offered on the table. It is insufficient. We need to properly invest federal funds into the gateway project. I hope that federal funds are going to be based on need and merit and not on patronage.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in this debate. I regret, however, that the conceptual approach to Pacific trade has not been stressed heavily by the two previous opposition speakers.

It is important to recognize what the approach is and not to get bogged down in whether there is a specific rail bridge, or highway crossing or left turn lane for trucks, which is a problem at the present time. Every one of us from western Canada, Ontario, Quebec or the Maritimes could probably come up with quite a long list of things in their ridings for which they would like federal money.

We have to recognize this is a very strategic issue. As we know, Canada was created because of the construction of western rail transportation links to British Columbia. That is why my province came to be in 1871 instead of 1867. However, because there was a considerable length of time, while the railway was being built, there were some doubts as to whether that connection with Canada would remain.

We have created the links and the fastest transportation system from the Orient to Europe. Crossing the Pacific by Canadian Pacific ships, or crossing Canada by Canadian Pacific Railroad or crossing the Atlantic by a number of shipping lines was the closest and fastest connection. We developed extensive trade through the port of Vancouver and eastern ports as well by that means.

This also should be looked at not just from the point of view of Canadian exports and imports, but as something which will allow us to continue that same type of development. This time it would not necessarily be to Europe. Through the United States, we would have the ability to bring goods in from China, South Korea, Japan and other countries of Asia. Then they could be distributed by rail throughout North America, Canada and the United States, and even Mexico as well. This is where we have some real advantages. I know that will be pursued because it has been the approach over time with our development of western transportation.

I had a look at the speeches of the opposition when this was first presented. The major criticism is that this does not do enough, and I believe $4 billion was mentioned as being necessary for transportation improvements in western Canada. Maybe it does not and maybe $4 billion is the correct figure. I am quite sure that if we all got together, we could work that up to about $10 billion or $15 billion quite easily, as we added little things or big things to the list.

We are starting with a more conceptual approach to the whole issue, not just of the port of Vancouver trade, or the port of Prince Rupert trade or the port of Victoria trade, but of the whole Pacific coast and the rest of Canada in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and right through to Ontario. A lot of trade will cross this link through the facilities, about which we have spoken, into Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes as well. As I mentioned a moment ago, they will also cross into the United States. Remember that this is an attempt to take a more strategic look.

The Vancouver airport has similarly attempted to place itself as the gateway. We have been talking about that time after time in the House and outside of it. Those of us who have been involved in public life in British Columbia over the last decade and a half and before have talked about the need to ensure that same concept of making the west coast the gateway for this tremendous development takes place in Asia as well.

I should add that the trade increases in the countries involved are extensive. We should never overlook the importance of Japan. Much of the talk has been about Korea. I gather the Conservative Party's first spokesman on this did not like the levels of trade with Korea. He thinks it is a hazard to us in some respects such as the automobile industry. That is fine. I think we can compete and he does not. That is a point we will see in due course.

Also, we should recognize that there is a tremendous increase in China trade which has taken place. I have had the privilege of seeing that. I also had the privilege of living a good part of my life on the other side of the Pacific in then British crown colony of Hong Kong , now the autonomous region of China. Before me, my father spent some 30 years in Hong Kong. There has been a close family connection with the Pacific transportation link that had the family partly in Hong Kong and partly in Victoria.

There is a tremendous opportunity in China, but we must not overlook the opportunity in Japan. Once again, I would differ with my Conservative friends across the way who have said that somehow to deal with China, we have to link up with Japanese companies. That is not the case. We can compete directly. We can link up with Japanese companies, European companies, American companies or companies from anywhere else in the world. However, there is no need to think that there is any particular country which will be our logical and obvious partner in a general sense for trade with China, any other country other than China itself.

This proposal, as has been pointed out rather frequently, is for a council. The criticism that has been made is that the council has some $30 million or $35 million allocated, under the approach outlined by the hon. the Minister for Multiculturalism when the bill was introduced, and that this is somehow too much or extravagant. Those criticisms may be correct. Time will tell.

However, as I mentioned to my hon. friend from Edmonton who spoke earlier today, my concern is more the issue of duplication of roles. We have the gateway council. It is only advisory to the various governments. Therefore, the representative from the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan or British Columbia who sits on the gateway council will be unable to negotiate or discuss with any authority to make decisions. That is a weakness at which we will have to look.

It seems to me that frequently we set up councils of this type. Then when they in turn report to the provincial government of British Columbia, the federal Department of Transport, the Alberta minister of overseas trade or the Manitoba minister of agriculture, as the case may be, we start to get a disaggregated voice and we do not have the correct line authority to make decisions.

If the council is to be so important, all governments should consider giving it the authority to make such decisions and giving it a separate budget much greater than $30 million. However, if on the other hand we just want the views of a wide-ranging number of people, I have to admit I kind of wonder why the Government of Canada and Minister of Transport would not pick up the phone to the Alberta minister of trade, or the British Columbia minister of forests responsible for wood exports or something like that. We know what will happen. We know those intergovernmental connections will be made. Therefore, I see the role of the council as being a bit difficult to envisage in the smooth working system of decision making which I think should take place.

That is something we have to watch for, and we certainly will. The costs of it are definitely very important.

I would like to quickly point out however, as a British Columbia member of the House, that there has been strong support for the gateway concept. The Premier of British Columbia, the hon. Gordon Campbell, has been very supportive. He said:

It is critical that we recognize our [transportation] infrastructure reaches beyond the mountains....This Gateway will invite jobs and opportunities into the country, and invite people to come and trade through Canada to provide their goods to North America.

That was a very positive statement. We recognize and thank Premier Campbell for those comments.

Gordon Houston, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Port Authority, called the initiative a “great announcement”. He said:

The federal government's announcement of $600 million in funding for infrastructure and programs to enhance the Pacific Gateway takes British Columbia's ports a giant step closer to realizing the tremendous economic potential of expanding Asia-Pacific trade...

Fred Green, the executive VP of CP Rail, praised the announcement as:

--an encouraging sign to the private sector...The federal initiative helps further strengthen the Pacific Gateway as a key access point for all of North America. It also complements the Province of British Columbia's efforts to reinforce the importance of the gateway.

Bruce Burrows is another very important player in the transportation sector. He is the acting president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. He praised the strategy for helping to fast track infrastructure needed to “enhance Canada's role as a preferred trading partner with China”.

Mr. Burrows also said:

--the federal funds to be spent on Canada's international trade routes, coupled with the railways' own operational and capital spending plans, will help them cope with their customers' significant growth in overseas trade.

Many others have added comments.

Kevin Evans, vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, welcomed the strategy “as strengthening Canada's position as a trading partner with China”. The Canadian Trucking Alliance talked about this. Peter Marshall, vice-president for western Canada for CN Rail, praised it. I will not go on. There is very strong support for this strategy, and I am trying to give a flavour of it.

I come back to where I started this discussion. In debates like this we have to recognize the importance of taking an approach which is beyond simply specifics of political advantage on a day to day basis. We need to spend public money to get good infrastructure. If we do not, the private sector does not have a prayer of taking advantage of economic opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. I hope this final point is well understood. We have heard it misapplied and misunderstood time after time by the opposition. We need to have public expenditures at a level for a number of--

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is giving an outstanding speech, but I do not think there is a quorum to hear him.

And the count having been taken:

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

There is quorum. I will ask the hon. member for Victoria to please bring his remarks to an end.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, this is an important point which all members of the House really must understand, particularly the comments from many opposition people associated with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and others who do not understand. If governments do not make infrastructure expenditures, we will not have the educated workforce that is needed. We will not have the transportation links that we need. We also will not have the myriad of other requirements of the modern state that make it possible for us to enjoy the high standard of living about which the preceding government speaker talked. We have not had these successes--

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The hon. member for Langley.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, the importance of the gateway project is to move people, but we want to move them in a safe and in an environmentally friendly way. The member used to be the minister of the environment and shared with us the importance of the environment. I have two questions for him, and they are relevant to the environment.

The member never took a stand against the SE2 project. While he was the minister of the environment, he was asked numerous times to get involved with that. Why did he not stand up for that? Why did he not stand up for a network that protected the environment and the fragile Fraser Valley airshed?

Why has he never fought to stop the dumping of raw sewage into our oceans?

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, neither question is in the slightest way connected to the gateway bill.

Let me deal with the first question of the project to have a generating plant at Sumas just across the border in the Fraser Valley. The member is simply unaware. I must now tell the member, and he should understand this, that the way that project was turned down was on the basis of the science work done by Environment Canada. Without that work being presented in a dispassionate, scientific way, rather than as a partisan or political way, we would never have persuaded the authorities who were involved at the decision-making level to turn it down.

Rather than his statement that somehow or another my department that I was then responsible for was not involved, it was the key department. The member could get a large number of people who were quite willing to come to meetings, and there were plenty of them and I appreciate that work. They had a different role.

The role we had was critical in having it turned down. There can be demonstrations. People can stand up and say that they do not like an American plant across the border. If we do not get the right information before the decision makers, which in this case was the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and the other bodies involved, including the NEB, and it is not reliable, then we do not get the right decision.

The member's position is simple, unfortunately, and I guess based on some of the comments made in a partisan sense in his area rather than on scientific information.

On the second issue dealing with Victoria, the issue has been looked at by scientists from Washington state. Unanimously, there is no negative impact on the environment. That is my riding. I do know it is surrounded by ocean on three sides. We have seven treatment plants. Wherever there is a situation that requires them we put them in. However, there are two outfalls in the south end, Macaulay Point and Clover Point.

The capital regional district is now spending some $630,000 to have a complete review on it done by an international organization with outside people. We have had that done before by Washington state scientists, Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists, and University of British Columbia scientists. We have never had a recommendation.

In fact, last week the capital regional health officer said there would be no health benefits from treating sewage in Victoria. Why? I will explain it to the hon. member. The fact is vast amounts of fast moving well oxygenated seawater moving through at anything up to six knots does what a treatment plant does artificially. It oxygenates the sewage. It eliminates the problem of pathogens. Essentially, we wind up with nutrients, just as farmers do in the member's riding who puts manure on a field. The two problems that we are always watching closely that are always very important--

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh my goodness.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

November 16th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

I wish they would just listen. The reason they make mistakes is because they just do not listen over there.

The two problems of course are heavy metals, which have been dramatically reduced by source control. The other is gender bender pharmaceuticals. They would not necessarily be removed by any treatment. We find that in areas where we have treatment plants, gender benders go through at a substantial rate. Therefore, we are using source control. We are quite willing to put in treatment plants when the indications are that it would be a sensible expenditure of money.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have my chance to speak at second reading of Bill C-68, an act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway. In other words—since much has been said on this without any real explanation—it would be a sort of multimodal network of transportation infrastructures focussed on trade with Asia. I therefore feel able to take part in this debate because I am the Bloc Québécois critic for Asia and the Pacific. Those two regions are of the greatest interest to me, since we all know how buoyant the markets in Asia are.

I thank the hon. members from all parties who have spoken so far in this debate, especially my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in particular, our transport critic. I mention this because this whole matter is interrelated. Among other colleagues who have spoken was our critic for international trade, the hon. member for Joliette. Hon. members can see how interrelated this all is, and I will go into that a little later on. My colleagues from Berthier—Maskinongé and Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel have also made contributions.

I am not likely to make a habit of this, and it may not happen again, but I will certainly be supporting my colleagues' position on this bill introduced by the Minister of Transport. At least I shall support it in principle. I will tell you my reasons why. First, as has been said, this involves the concept of a gateway to Asia that opens from western Canada, a concept we support. As I said, this is not our usual habit and will not happen again. In this instance, however, we find this an interesting way of dealing with the problem of integrating everything in the way of modes of transport connected to trade with Asia.

We have some reservations, of course. They relate to a number of factors. We have reservations about the role reserved for the provinces, which is not well delineated in the bill. Once the bill is passed, creating the council itself will be very costly. We wonder how all of this will be put in place. We have a number of reservations about that.

There will be federal government support for businesses and employees in Canada's traditional manufacturing sectors and in Quebec, specifically, in sectors of employment such as textiles. A lot of products are imported from Asia. We would like a few more guarantees in this regard. We are aware that the rapid growth of trade between Asia and Canada, through this Pacific gateway in particular, is creating growing congestion in ports and the western transportation network.

I would like to elaborate on some of these reservations, but for the moment I will say why we support this concept. First of all, the gateway as it is called is very interesting. It requires a comprehensive view and a spirit of integration. It will be welcomed by those who work in the port facilities or manage them, both in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, because the integration involves a number of facets of public policy formulation. Physical infrastructures are of course involved. I mentioned the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. However, roads too are involved, as are airports and customs facilities. The list is long, because intermodal facilities are involved.

The bill also provides for policy and regulatory integration, which will have a major impact on labour and the labour market. It will also have an impact on operating methods in the supply system and even in security matters. We recall the immigration issue involving the periodic discovery of Chinese people in containers. This whole policy will have ramifications for the security of the ports in the west.

Trade promotion and standardization will be affected. Accordingly, municipal policy on land use will also be affected. This has already been addressed by other colleagues on both sides of the House. There is also the whole matter of sectoral cooperation.

As the critic on Asia and the Pacific, what I particularly like about this bill is the aspect of integration and, we must admit, a certain strategic consistency. This bill addresses principles that the Bloc Québécois defends, including sustainable development. We believe in it a great deal and the Bloc has been advocating this type of approach for many years.

In a more general sense, we can say that the network improves as it becomes faster and more energy efficient. Everyone applauds this initiative that encourages sustainable development. The sea and rail combination outlined in this bill could be another interesting niche. We would be wise to develop this niche and take it a step further.

Nonetheless, in order to put all this in place, a cohesive policy is needed and not one imposed by a dictatorship, but one developed through dialogue. A little later I will explain the reservations we have about working together with the provinces on this.

The intermodal transportation and gateway concept is quite interesting to the Bloc, especially because we think it could be applied generally. There are some aspects that could apply to the St. Lawrence River for example. There are some potentially interesting applications for the development of the St. Lawrence River.

Last spring, the Bloc Québécois held a series of consultations in various regions of Quebec on the future of the St. Lawrence. I am not getting off topic, since this still relates to shipping. Several shipping industry stakeholders told us during these consultations on the St. Lawrence in Quebec, that they would like to see improvements to everything involving “intermodal marine and rail connections”.

Some of this is addressed in the transport minister's bill. We would be interested in seeing how this type of integration could promote the development of the St. Lawrence River in the future.

However, in our opinion, the federal government lacks enough vision when it comes to the development of that river. We hear the government talk about it during elections. We get the feeling that the federal manna is going to fall, like a nice snowfall on Christmas Eve, and is going to favour the development of the river. However, the government does not have a more strategic vision.

This is not new. For example, the Quebec bridge in my riding of Louis-Hébert is falling into disrepair. We would like to see the federal Liberal government make the same commitment with regard to infrastructure in eastern Canada, such as the Quebec bridge and the airport. Yet this same Minister of Transport is also responsible for Quebec.

We applaud this willingness to foster the development of infrastructure in western Canada. It is impossible to oppose a great principle such as the Pacific gateway, since it is such an excellent principle. However, we do observe more willingness to act in western Canada than in eastern Canada, particularly when it comes to infrastructure in Quebec.

I would like to remind the hon. members that having a vision for Asia in the bill is a huge advantage. The spinoffs for Canada and all the provinces are attractive. At the same time, we need to point out that this same generosity should apply to Quebec.

In my opinion, it is important to adopt an integrated management policy and put an end to what I call silo or individual management.

I support the principle of the bill for the reasons I gave a little earlier. However, I hope that we will see this principle applied again—and I think my colleagues will agree—in connection with the St. Lawrence, which is so dear to our hearts.

I said earlier that the Bloc Québécois had concerns about this bill. Although we support it, we still have some serious reservations. Our first concern relates to the structure and appointment of members of the council. We have the following questions: why would all the members of the Pacific Gateway Council be appointed by the federal government, as set out in the bill? This concerns us, because we know that, in the past, some appointees have not always been the best candidate for the job. We also have questions about the council's structure and mandate. We have a number of questions in this regard.

Finally, we have a number of other concerns, but I want to stress above all else—and I will conclude here—the more positive aspects. We are opening ourselves up to the Asian market.

However, in order to do this, the federal government must understand the consequences of this and give the textile and other industries the time to adjust.

Once all that has been done, of course, we will support Bill C-68. The Bloc Québécois will work to improve this bill during consideration in committee.

Pacific Gateway Act
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5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased that my colleague likes and supports the bill. I want to mention to him that he, as a Quebecker, can speak here today and discuss this bill because Quebec is part of Canada. It is Canada that is a neighbour to Asia and is at the door of that continent. It is Canada that has a direct link to the incredible and exceptional market that Asia has to offer.

My colleague will not be surprised to hear me say that his is a sovereignist party, a party that wants to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada. Today, as a Quebecker, he has a direct link to Asia, since he is part of Canada. However, if ever separation happens—although I doubt it will—there will be another country between Quebec and Asia and that is Canada.

In his view, how will Quebec's separation, his goal, help Quebeckers gain access to the Asian market?

Pacific Gateway Act
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5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, the question from the member for Honoré-Mercier is a very interesting one and casts light on a number of factors.

We cannot, of course, deny the proximity of Asia and Canada. I do not need to give him a geography lesson, nor does he need to give me one. Quebec is, of course, still part of Canada, and that is why we are working so hard to have our own country, a country that would respect the member's country as much as it did China, Asia and the developing countries. That is the context.

Historically, I would remind the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier that Canada has not always kept its commitments. This is the same country that is known to have mistreated the Chinese workers when the Canadian railway system was built, that same system that will be affected by the Pacific gateway. Canada has made mistakes, sometimes virtually unpardonable ones.

I will not speak on behalf of Canada, but it is interesting that this bill introduced by the Minister of Transport refers to the close proximity of Asia and the fact that we need to be far more open to it. We do not want to hear any more statements about their country being better than our as yet non-existent one. This is nothing but an aberration. As the holiday season approaches, we will be seeing many such bills sprinkling millions in largesse over Quebec. Caution is required. The government may be playing at Santa, but we do not want to find any trick presents under our tree.