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 trade.

Topics

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, the reason I did not refer to that is because I am not sure if we are selling the port. I would have to get back to the member on that. If I knew, I would tell him.

The hon. member spoke to equalization, which is a very important issue. When we are discussing this type of strategic initiative from the government in the future, we should actually stick to this initiative. I find that lately in the House we have had to stand up on relevance issues on almost every speech.

I spoke very specifically to the Pacific Gateway strategy and to its importance, not only to all of Canada but to my riding in Saint Boniface. It is a very important initiative for the people of Saint Boniface and I am very proud that our government has advanced it.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am proud to speak to Bill C-68, an act to develop Canada's Pacific gateway. As we have heard from many of my colleagues in the Conservative Party, we do support this initiative.

I would like to speak to the bill on two fronts, first, as a representative from the west, and second, as the official opposition infrastructure critic, and address some of the challenges I still see that we need to address in moving forward.

As many Canadians know, the opening of the west has been an important part of Canadian history, from the development of the railroads to the building of the Trans-Canada Highway. For the Conservative Party and myself from Edmonton--Strathcona, it is paramount that the west not only receives fair treatment from Ottawa but also the respect it deserves. Unfortunately, we have seen over a decade of Liberal rule that the federal government is really out of touch with the west.

We are looking at initiatives of how to strengthen this gateway. My colleague from Cambridge asked the parliamentary secretary about the funding and the lack of funding. The greatest accomplishment of the public safety minister, who is a Liberal from Alberta, is the gun registry, for which I think most Canadians would agree we have seen no value. The $2 billion from that program could have helped fund the initiatives required in this particular project.

The whole gun registry is a scheme to register the long guns of duck hunters while the Liberals totally ignore the underlying causes of crime, such as drugs and gangs. If the Liberals did have respect for the west, they would go after these sorts of problems instead of focusing all the feigned outrage on western hunters who simply wish to share this unique experience of hunting with their children. If the government were in touch, we would see initiatives such as this actually being funded properly.

Canadians living west of Kenora realize that the Liberals are out of touch. This is why they continually, election after election, select a majority of Conservatives to represent them here in Parliament. It is something that I think Canadians in central and eastern Canada are also realizing. In the last election, Canadians overwhelmingly moved their vote away from the Liberals to other parties, namely the Conservatives who were the recipients of that benefit in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. In the next election, I think the Liberals will finally realize what Canadians already know. They will find that Canadians do not want an arrogant, tired, corrupt Liberal government that specializes in playing regions against each other. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that the Liberals have not yet learned.

We can take this bill as an example. It is a clear, unabashed attempt to win votes for the Liberal Party in British Columbia because of the way they tried to sell the plan. The Liberals think they can buy off one region of Canada against another and they are playing British Columbians against the rest of country, telling the detractors of this bill that if they do not support this bill they do not support B.C.

This sort of Liberal trick to try to play this game has not worked as well as they think. As a western Canadian, I am here to tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves and that this sort of thing has actually created more divisions and alienation across the country resulting in Canadians feeling disconnected with their parliamentarians here in Ottawa, especially the Liberal Party.

I also want to address Bill C-68 in my capacity as the infrastructure critic, first and generally, on the issue of infrastructure and then some specifics according to the bill.

The past 12 years of Liberal rule have brought Canada many infrastructure projects meant to boost Canada's transportation networks, and yet, in many ways, these programs have failed as the infrastructure deficit continues to grow. We have seen the FCM estimate the infrastructure deficit at over $60 billion.

The Canadian Automobile Association is another one of those groups that estimates the country needs to invest about $20 billion in our roads in order to bring them up to snuff. Where does it get this figure? It gets this figure from the provincial highway ministers who said that the figure in 2000 was about $17 billion. Of course, since then that has risen due to inflation and the lack of regard by the Liberals to the roads that we drive on across the country.

This is a very serious issue and I need to underscore this point. I would like to read an action plan that was developed by the CAA and published earlier this year in February trying to warn the government of warning signs, especially when it comes to our national highway system and our roadways.

The first action the CAA talked about was that they see roads as an investment, not an expense, and that when we consider all the gas tax money collected in the country, more of that money should be going into our highway system. The federal government should make better and safer roadways a major goal and consider them as an important part of the federal productivity agenda.

The second action would be to implement a national highway strategy. The federal government must recognize the national highway system as a strategic national asset and then it must adopt the national highway policy for Canada's NHS as proposed by the provinces and territories. It must then move immediately to fund this national highway system to ensure it is safe, efficient and environmentally responsible from coast to coast.

We have to set funding priorities. The federal government must invest in the national highway strategy to upgrade it to the optimal standard and address the future needs as well. This ties into Bill C-68, especially if we are expanding the gateway. The highway system will be crucial to that. It should also include speeding up the border infrastructure program and develop a rural road safety and improvement program.

We also have to invest in the roads of tomorrow, enhance the role of technology and innovation when exploring the development of better and safer roads and highways, and finally, encourage eco-driving. I think it is interesting that even the Canadian Automobile Association says that there should be some sort of incentives in place, especially as technologies are evolving, looking at new ways to develop hybrid cars and other types of fuel cells, that there should be incentives for Canadians to change their habits and that leadership should come from the federal government.

Those are all actions that as a future government I believe we would definitely support and initiate. The question is whether the Liberals are willing to listen to the motorists of Canada and start working to address those infrastructure needs.

What I have been arguing about this particular bill is that it sometimes seems more politics than policy. If the federal government really wants to support this gateway initiative I believe it needs to finance the initiatives that were identified by B.C.'s comprehensive British Columbia ports strategy. I believe my colleague from Cambridge referred to it. It was developed jointly by British Columbia's ministry of small business and economic development and the ministry of transportation in B.C. The B.C. progress board, a provincially nominated blue ribbon panel of experts, largely supports the recommendations.

Bill C-68 would create an advisory council to help decide how to spend the $400 million that the federal government has announced in support of the specific gateway initiative. The council would have 15 members, 9 of whom would be nominated by the federal government , 5 of whom would be nominated in cooperation with the four western provinces and the final member would be the chairperson of the Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Bill C-68 is a Liberal strategy so it can be seen as doing something to help promote B.C. ports. By setting up the council as a means of subjecting current initiatives to further consultation, the Liberals can continue to postpone their financial commitments while being seen as taking a bold step to support this initiative. I believe it will cost approximately $30 million just to operate the consultation group, which, as has already been proven, consultation has been done by the B.C. government.

The B.C. government estimates that about $3.5 billion will be required to actually identify and enhance the projects that would support the Pacific gateway. The province's number one transportation policy to date was not funded by the federal government's gateway announcement. It is looking at approximately, as my colleague mentioned, $1.5 billion on average, or maybe a little higher, that would fund about 50% of what is required to make the gateway project work.

With this level of shortfall, which I believe was a $400 million announcement for future initiatives, it will not even come close to providing B.C. the money for its initiatives. I know that the costs of some of the projects that were identified were quite large. We are looking at the Kicking Horse Canyon project, the North Fraser perimeter road, Port Mann Highway No. 1, the South Fraser perimeter road and the New Westminster rail bridge. None of these projects, which will directly affect the functionality of the Pacific gateway, were even touched in any of the proposals put forward. These are all significant projects and they have all been identified as crucial to making the new project work.

I will conclude with what we would have done and how we would have approached things differently. Rather than announcing ideas or policies throughout Canada's Pacific gateway, the Liberals have announced more bureaucracy. Western ports need real solutions to their challenges, not this Liberal half-step.

As a government, we would make real policy changes that would allow the Pacific gateway to become a reality, not a Liberal catchphrase. We would eliminate Ottawa's borrowing cap on the port of Vancouver, which is a big problem. We would allow B.C. ports to voluntarily merge for competitive advantage and facilitate their access to more investment. We would streamline security at our ports, offer assistance with dredging, invest gas taxes into our infrastructure, and work with provincial governments and port authorities on high priority infrastructure projects. This would be the proper blueprint.

Canadians deserve better than Liberal catchphrases.

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Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the concerns of my hon. friend and particularly to his last remarks with respect to increasing bureaucracy. There is no question at all about that. Members of the House should be concerned about this and should be looking out for it when new proposals come forward. In fact, I probably will be saying a few things about that myself later in this debate when I speak.

However, there is a question I would like to put to him. His party has frequently proposed that the ports police be reconstituted or has said that it was a mistake to disband the ports police. Yet bureaucracy was exactly why that relatively small police force, which had to work with the RCMP and with the port of Vancouver police, was disbanded: because in fact there was more bureaucracy and there were more police forces than necessary.

I believe I heard him mention in his comments this area of protection of the ports. I wonder if his party has now adopted the approach that in fact it does make sense to have the same police forces who handle the onshore security aspects, the same police forces who handle behind the port security, also work on that narrow band of actual waterfront where the docks, some of the warehouses and the ships are. Has his party now accepted the fact that it was a sensible decision or is it still advocating yet more bureaucracy in the ports police area?

Pacific Gateway Act
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I think the hon. member for Victoria is confusing what bureaucracy and concrete measures for protecting Canadians are all about. When I was referring to the increased bureaucracy, I was referring to $35 million that the new Pacific gateway council is going to cost to actually re-study and re-coordinate work that has already been done by the B.C. government and a number of partners in reference to the ports. That is what I was referring to when I said there would be increased bureaucracy.

When it comes to ports police and even to an effective border strategy for protecting our borders, seeing that this is our front line of defence and protection for Canadians, we have been calling, first of all, for a significant border patrol in some of our remote areas. I believe some of our ports are no different. For potential problems, police and the RCMP could be up to an hour or an hour and a half away. This puts real pressure on our customs agents at our land border crossings in reacting to problems.

We have called on the government and said that there has to be a police force, whether we beef up the RCMP or look at an actual border patrol, to deal with protection and security at our borders. It is no different for our ports. I think the hon. member has to realize this. He cannot confuse this with more bureaucracy, which is really going into a vacuum when we look at that $35 million to pay for all these people on the council. Let us compare that to what that money could do if we actually were to put in a border patrol and bring in an aspect of it for our ports. I think Canadians would like to see that sort of security and protection. I do not think it is a duplication at all. If anything, having something like that in place would be a more effective way to patrol both our ports and our borders.

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Chair, I must congratulate my colleague for an absolutely brilliant presentation on this issue. Clearly we want to move forward and help out Canadians as much as we can.

I want to pose this question. In my riding of Cambridge, the government continues to come in and make announcement after announcement. In fact, it makes the same announcement two, three and four times. I suppose that if we added it all up it would be some meaningful money.

My concern is that again we are seeing what appears to be a promise with no end result. If we are going to underfund a project, how does anyone buy into that? Clearly our mayors are extremely happy with any dollar they get because they are so strapped. My concern is that this is just another announcement that will never go anywhere because it is underfunded.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Cambridge for his flattering remarks and also for his very well placed concern. I think he hit the nail on the head when he talked about the idea that many of these groups--and I believe the parliamentary secretary referred to one group, I forget which--said they were thrilled to have this money come down. They really need the money for these initiatives.

Some money is better than no money. We cannot really blame these groups for wanting this money. They have been waiting to actually get going to enhance many of these projects, including the gateway project. Clearly that is a positive step, but I mentioned a number of projects that are crucial to the viability of this Pacific gateway initiative. The Kicking Horse Canyon project is a $730 million project. I also mentioned the North Fraser Perimeter Road, the Portmann highway and the South Fraser Perimeter Road. With the Kicking Horse Canyon project alone at $730 million, the government is way short of even that particular project.

I think the government has to re-evaluate what its targets are. The government has to make sure that if it is going to make announcements like those my hon. colleague asked about, they will create some differences at the end of the day.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House in support of the Pacific gateway strategy and Bill C-68.

As all members know, the dynamics of global trade are changing. Today these dynamics are driven by rapid, seamless and secure movements of goods and people around the world, in global supply chains. Both the human and the physical capital to support these movements are concentrated in key geographic locations also known as gateways. These gateways are primary points where goods and services and people come into or leave Canada.

These gateways are connected to each other and to major markets by corridors. We have long recognized the importance of Canada's Pacific gateway as a critical entry point to Canada and North America. This is where all modes of transportation--rail, road, marine and air--come together and create a world class economic network that stretches back across much of the country.

The challenges are indeed immense. Across the Pacific Ocean, China's economic growth has been nothing short of incredible and it is expected to continue well into the future. While it is currently the world's sixth largest economy, it is predicted to be the second largest by 2016 and the largest by 2041. India is also experiencing incredible growth, as are Asian rim countries such as South Korea.

These developments create tremendous opportunities and Canada simply cannot and will not maintain the status quo.

In addition to infrastructure capacity, gateway performance is also affected directly by a range of factors, such as, for example: labour market issues, including skill shortages in critical fields such as long-haul trucking; operating practices in the supply chain; increasing pressures in border management, where continued efficiency and greater security must be delivered in the context of rising volumes; regulatory and economic policies of all levels of government; and municipal land use policies and practices.

A still broader set of issues reaching far beyond infrastructure will determine how well Canada takes advantage of its Pacific gateway. These include trade promotion, sectoral cooperation, standards harmonization and innovation in the Asia-Pacific context. Concerted efforts in these and other fields are required to ensure that the Pacific gateway's contribution to Canada's prosperity is as great as possible.

Canada's Pacific gateway strategy has been developed to address these interconnected issues and opportunities in an integrated way and accelerate the development of the Pacific gateway and its benefits for British Columbia, the western provinces and, indeed, the entire country.

A new policy approach of this scale requires a new type of governance mechanism as well. That is why Bill C-68 includes the creation of the Pacific gateway council. The council, headquartered in Vancouver, would advise decision makers on the priorities among the full range of transportation and other issues that impact the effectiveness of Canada's Pacific gateway and how well the Canadian economy takes advantage of it.

The council will be inclusive. Its members will reflect important areas of expertise such as trade, transportation, security, labour and municipalities. It will also include representatives selected after consultations with the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

In total, the Government of Canada has announced up to $590 million over five years to support the Pacific gateway strategy.

Immediate investments totalling up to $190 million over the next five years include: up to $125 million in transportation infrastructure; up to $20 million in funding to address border management capacity at key points where increased trade and travel will stretch existing capacity; up to $10 million for measures, led by Industry Canada and the Standards Council of Canada, to deepen links with the Asia-Pacific region through increased cooperation in standards related activities and harmonization; and up to $35 million over five years for Canada's Pacific gateway council.

Additional amounts of up to $400 million will be dedicated to future initiatives to develop and exploit the Pacific gateway, including initiatives in response to the recommendations of Canada's Pacific Gateway Council.

The Pacific gateway strategy reflects leadership that is both decisive and collaborative. It also reflects the efforts of dedicated stakeholders across western Canada who have been advancing an integrated approach through a range of gateway issues for years. The new strategy would build upon those efforts and take the concept even further. The response already has been powerful.

As we debate issues in this chamber, it is also important to view this initiative not in isolation, but to view it as part of a bigger plan to enhance Canada's productivity, to enhance trade among Canada and to enhance emerging countries and the ability of a nation to face the challenges of global competition.

The bill speaks to that reality. It speaks to the fact that we as a government have recognized the need to expand trade opportunities, to develop greater markets and to provide greater employment for our citizens. In a broader context this also is very much part of a strategy that recognizes that in order to enhance the standard of living of Canadians and to enhance the quality of life for Canadians we also need to view things through a productivity prism.

What I mean by this is there are elements, when dedicating one's self to strengthening an economy, that we need to address. We need to ensure that we have a micro economic environment that works. We need to have a tax system that rewards effort, innovation and productivity enhancement measures. We need to have a flexible workforce. We need to engage in trade. Trade forces companies to specialize and to innovate. It forces firms to ensure that they can compete in the global marketplace.

That is why the bill should not be viewed in isolation. It should be viewed as part of an economic plan that in many ways works quite well for the people of Canada.

When we look at the government's economic record, when we look at our performance and we look at people's incomes and how low unemployment is today, we need to have faith that this is yet another measure taken by the government to bring about the type of prosperity and productivity gain that will result in higher income for people, greater opportunities and more disposable income for Canadians, and not just out west. It would be a mistake to think that this would only benefit western Canadians. This is a national program and initiative that would benefit Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I have paid attention to many of the comments hon. members have made and I have taken note of those. However, I have great confidence in this initiative because it truly will open up Canada to great world opportunities.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noticed near the end of the hon. member's speech he mentioned two things, which I would like to question.

The initiative the government is proposing will increase the disposable income, and I believe that was the term the hon. member used, of Canadians which is a great thing. He also said that he had great faith, and I am glad that he does because I do not.

Given the fact that over the last decade of Liberal rule the disposable income has not significantly increased for Canadians, how could he possibly have faith that this underfunded project would do that for Canadians?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, I tend to view things not in their singularity but rather in their cumulative effect.

I sat in the opposition from 1988. I remember those times with not a great deal of affection because our country faced a serious crisis. I remember as a 32 year old finding out that the IMF was knocking on the door of our country, a country of which I am really proud. I also remember the double-digit unemployment numbers. I remember, with not fond memories, the double-digit interest rates. Those were very damaging times for our nation. Not to mention the escalating debt that future generations of Canadians unfortunately will have to continue to pay. Not just my children, but my children's children and the children of the children of the children of the children will be paying that national debt.

Am I proud of the achievements of our government? First, I want to rephrase that. The achievements are not really of our government per se. The achievements are really achievements of all those Canadians who during that period could have thrown up their arms in despair. Instead, they chose to roll up their sleeves and brought about an economic renaissance that has seen Canada become a world leader.

I guess this is where I differ from people on the other side. I am not down on this country. I am very optimistic. I am also different from members on the opposite side because I give credit to all those Canadians who have brought about the economic renaissance. I give credit to those individuals who started small businesses, getting up early in the morning and working late into the night to bring about positive change in people's lives. I also am very different from the opposition that would like people to look at everything in a very dark way.

I am very hopeful because in 10 to 12 years we have seen a major turnaround in the country. When I travel the country and speak to those people who were once unemployed but are now employed, they are very grateful of the opportunities that Canada has offered them.

It is no wonder people from all over the world line up to come to this nation. Perhaps this is something you and I share, Madam Speaker. We recognize the great potential of our country as immigrants to this nation. We recognize that this is a great land of opportunity, that if we work hard and play by the rules, we will be rewarded.

I can say with all sincerity that there is a great deal of optimism out there. I visited the genome project at the Toronto Sick Children's Hospital. We once spoke in this chamber about brain drain. I have gone to the genome project to find out--

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As we enjoy the speech, could I ask the member to answer the question?

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

That is not a point of order. The member is answering and is getting to what he considers to be the answer to the question. The hon. member for Vaughan has three seconds remaining.

Pacific Gateway Act
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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan, ON

Madam Speaker, I will dedicate those three seconds to thank Canadians who have turned the country around.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia, Health; the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, Justice; the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, Democratic Reform.

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November 16th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree that the gateway project is a national initiative. It will benefit all of Canada, provided there is a fair amount of contribution of federal dollars and that they get to where they are needed.

My riding of Langley, British Columbia will be directly affected by the planned Pacific gateway. This transportation issue is one of the most important regional concerns for all my constituents. I take this issue very seriously on their behalf and have been personally involved in finding solutions ever since I was elected.

I sit on two separate task forces which deal with traffic and rail issues that affect my community of Langley and the surrounding areas. These task forces have originated out of a need to share information and to find solutions with government agencies and other communities directly influenced by the international container traffic coming through Deltaport on the Pacific.

Canada requires safe, efficient and effective transportation to be competitive in world trade. Our Pacific port is crucial and essential to the future of Canada. I understand the necessity for the expansion of Deltaport and I am supportive of those endeavours, but the increased rail traffic will have tremendous impacts on Langley.

I have been meeting with many stakeholders in both the city and township of Langley and regional stakeholders in an effort to bring forward a solution oriented approach to the residual problems for Langley with the projected growth in train traffic as a result of Deltaport expansion projects.

The expansion of the port capacity at Deltaport will profoundly impact an already inferior and exasperated situation by adding more than 30% to train length each day to grade crossings in Langley and Surrey. The Deltaport expansion projects an additional 170,000 feet of train per day resulting in a 32% increase in rail traffic volume.

It is estimated that some trains will take 15 minutes to pass through a crossing. Five major roads already meet criteria for grade separation. The Langley bypass has more than twice that threshold. When a train passes through Langley, all five of those rail crossings are closed off simultaneously, making it impossible for emergency vehicles to cross. This puts our community at high risk.

The impact on road rail traffic in Surrey and Langley from the expansion will be staggering. Already horrendous commuter times will worsen. There are five grade level rail crossings in Langley that are experiencing substantial safety and congestion conditions at present, even before the proposed 32% increase in traffic.

While I am supportive of the expansion project, these concerns with regard to rail traffic through Langley need to be addressed. An integrated total solution is required. Solutions have already been devised and proposed at the local level. Every municipality affected by the tremendously increased volume of train traffic from Deltaport already has its list rail and road improvements they require to handle the increased train volume and at the same time manage vehicle traffic.

The objective of the Langley rail corridor task force, on which I sit, is to address the short and long term impacts of the growing rail and road traffic in the rail corridor going through the Langley communities. This group is working to identify cost efficient measures along with strategies for funding and municipal planning to support a safe livable community and an efficient transportation network.

We are considering methods to redirect rail traffic outside of the Lower Mainland, redistribute rail freight within the Lower Mainland, ensure grade separation, relocating rail lines, redirecting rail traffic and creating a joint planning process for the future that considers the needs of transportation and the needs of the community. We are looking at permanent, long term solutions to reduce the bottlenecks caused by rail traffic.

The Pacific gateway strategy includes $190 million in immediate investments and $400 million for undeclared future initiatives. Of the immediate $190 million investment, $125 million is for transportation infrastructure; $90 million for the Pitt River bridge and $30 million for road rail crossing separation from Abbotsford Mission-Matsqui out to Deltaport.

While the comprehensive study of the road rail interface on the entire line would complement work that is being conducted by our task force, there are five grade separations required in Langley alone, and $30 million does not even cover the cost of one rail overpass. One ground breaking will be happening within weeks. It is going to cost over $30 million. The question is what is fair, because of that approximately $35 million, the federal government is contributing $1 million. It is not fair. It is not proportionate.

In Langley there is a need for grade separation or alternate rail routes. Several options have been identified, such as grade separations and exploring an alternate route for at least some portion of the increased rail traffic. The option that perhaps is most appealing from an economic and community standpoint would be to explore an alternate route. Such a route currently exists which would utilize a portion of the Burlington Northern rail line through Surrey and Delta as well as an upgrade of the Fraser River rail crossing, possibly at Douglas Island. Another option would be to consider an additional overpass at Langley. As I mentioned, five locations for rail overpasses have already been identified.

The ultimate solution must work in harmony with the environment all the way along the line. We need railways, ports and governments to come together and come up with integrated, durable and sustainable transportation solutions.

The viability of the suggested alternate route is real. The costs of such an endeavour and whether or not that route can also handle the volume of rail traffic need to be addressed, along with what effect this alternate route would have on the balance of the rail network. We are solution oriented. We are finding solutions to address the rail traffic situation in Langley while at the same time supporting the growth of the Vancouver Port Authority.

Bill C-68 creates an advisory council to help decide how to spend the $400 million in the future initiatives portion of the fund that the federal government has announced in support of the Pacific gateway initiative.

I am concerned that the bill is more about politics than policy. My colleagues whose ridings are also affected by the Pacific gateway and I are concerned about the role, expense and productivity of the advisory council. The advisory council would create yet another level of bureaucracy while affected communities have already studied, analyzed and decided where the funding priorities lie. The communities know where they would like to spend the money. The federal government's role should be to provide a fair portion of the required funding.

While I support the concept of the Pacific gateway act, I would hate to see this legislation be the cause of delay in getting construction going on the solutions which have already been identified as the priorities.

The advisory council must act as a cohesive means to fast-track construction of these projects, not another bureaucratic hurdle to slow the process down. The advisory council would materialize into yet another stumbling block for seeing tangible results. Spending money on real infrastructure like overpasses and bridges is what our communities need, not another level of bureaucracy. Our communities need the infrastructure now.

The federal government should finance the initiatives identified by the comprehensive British Columbia ports strategy which was developed jointly by British Columbia's Minister of Small Business and Economic Development and the federal Minister of Transport.

Premier Gordon Campbell's government has developed a plan to invest $4.9 billion into B.C. transportation systems over the next 10 years. The province is asking Ottawa to contribute on a fifty-fifty basis. We are talking about $2.5 billion which is far from what is being proposed in this strategy. Most of the key priorities in the province's plan for significant infrastructure investment are not funded by the Liberal government's gateway announcement.

In conclusion, I agree that an effective framework or group should be established with appropriate authority and funding to develop long term transportation priorities for commercial goods and transit. Short term solutions must be developed and implemented to resolve immediate transportation needs.

Bill C-68 has my support as it directly affects my community. I hope that the Pacific gateway act will help us to bring transportation solutions into the next century rather than stand in the way with another level of bureaucracy.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I very much support the member's concerns for rail separation and grade separations in his community of Langley. We know what a serious issue that is in that part of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and how important that is to any workable solution for some of the transportation problems experienced by the Lower Mainland.

Another issue related to rail transport in the Lower Mainland is the New Westminster rail bridge across the Fraser River. The single track bridge is 102 years old and is owned by the federal government. It has to be raised to allow for the passage of river traffic. It is in the up position five hours a day, which causes a major bottleneck for rail transportation in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.

I wonder if the member could comment on the need for a better rail crossing over the Fraser River.