House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.

Topics

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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 Kildonan--St. Paul, Copyright Act; the hon. member for Langley, Justice; the hon. member for Prince Albert, Softwood Lumber.

We are now on questions and comments. The hon. member for Fort McMurray--Athabasca.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that we have problems with infrastructure all across this country, especially in places such as British Columbia and Alberta and even in Fort McMurray where 98% of this great country's oil is located. There is a single lane highway going in and out of Fort McMurray which some 30,000 to 70,000 people travel on frequently. We do have an infrastructure deficit.

I would like my friend to comment on some of the issues that were brought up by the previous speaker when he said that this government had been firm with our trading partners.

I started to add up the issues in my head. There is the softwood issue. The government has thrown loop into Bill C-64 by trying to stall it for guarantees for the softwood industry. The government says it has been firm with the United States with respect to our cattle industry. There is also the safety issue around shipping in Atlantic Canada that has been brought up by some of our members. The fishing industry is an absolute failure with the U.S. and other countries.

Other issues the government says it has been firm on with respect to the United States are textiles, wheat and especially the environment, for instance, sumas energy 2, which our caucus, especially the member for Langley, has been so adamant in trying to fix with the U.S.

I fail to see where our government has been firm with the United States with respect to acid rain, the Great Lakes and Devils Lake. Could my friend enlighten me as far as the Liberal government's firmness is concerned during any of the years it has been in office?

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I indeed have the same problem that the hon. member has. I have been looking for some indication of firmness, some action that may have taken place since the Bush administration arbitrarily ripped up the dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA. I have not seen a single example.

As the hon. member well knows, it took two months for the government to make a phone call. We have seen from the government absolutely no action, even though the NDP's three point plan called for an immediate recall of Parliament which did not happen. We have been calling for an end to the continued negotiations on NAFTA plus.

At the same time, as the dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA has been ripped up, we are seeing the government sit down and continue to negotiate concessions with the Bush administration. It is unbelievable that at the same time as we are purportedly upset with the Bush administration, we have the government negotiating further concessions in some 300 areas, including vital areas like food safety and air safety.

We called for an end to those concessions, those continued negotiations, and nothing has happened there. The government is continuing every day to negotiate further concessions with the Bush administration.

We called for an export levy on our energy exports because energy has been part and parcel of the negotiations around dispute settlement. In fact, as the member well knows, in the very early days of the free trade agreement and with NAFTA, our objective purportedly was to obtain a dispute settlement mechanism that would be binding and at the same time the American objective was to have privileged proportional access to our energy.

The Bush administration has that. In fact, we supply the American market before we can supply our own. In the event of a national emergency where we reduce supply most of our energy supplies will still go to the United States. Yet, the government has done nothing on that front either. There has been absolutely no action.

What has been disturbing, and I know the hon. member shares my concern, is that there has been very little support for the industries most affected. The only option seems to be litigation which is the second worst thing possible, but at least, given that the industries are getting that support from the government, this would be something that would help support them. However, the government is not allowing the bill to go through to actually provide some support for the litigation for those companies.

The second disturbing development is the open statements in the House that have indicated that it is no longer $5 billion that the government is pushing the Bush administration to repay regarding the punitive levies that we saw through the Byrd amendment, but only $3.5 billion.

Therefore, we are already sending a very clear signal from the government that we are conceding even before there is any negotiation. It is unbelievable that we are reducing already the bar on moneys that clearly, through the binding dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA, should be coming back to Canada.

I have real concerns about the lack of firmness of the government and its indication of posturing and speechifying rather than dealing with the fundamental issue. If we were to negotiate away the dispute settlement mechanism for the softwood industry, any other sector could be impacted similarly. If we do not stand up, if the government does not stand up for Canadian rights, then we are going to experience similar problems in other sectors.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member from Fort McMurray brought to this House's attention the SE2 issue and the fight. I appreciate his hard work in this House and also bringing attention to SE2. It is very important to the Fraser Valley.

The question that I have relates to the presentation by the member for Burnaby--New Westminster. He was speaking in relationship to the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery report. He said that he is concerned about the culture of entitlement and that this government has not cleaned up its act.

This has been a concern in this House since the Auditor General's report of two years ago, November 2003. We have said all along that there has been a huge problem with entitlement, corruption, and improper use of taxpayer money. He is quite right that there is a huge problem.

Why is his party supporting the Liberal government and supporting the loss of moral right to govern this country? It is his party that has bolstered up this government. Then he expressed a concern about the advisory board, the appointment process, the cronyism and the patronage.

Again, why is he permitting this to go on? It is his party that is keeping this ongoing problem, which is a huge problem for Canada.

He talked about the infrastructure needs. He is absolutely right. I think Canadians are very suspect about recent political announcements that there will be $590 million coming for the gateway project. It is an incredibly important project, the gateway project, for not only B.C. but for Canada because the goods will be moving out of the west coast for all of Canada. He shared his concern about the infrastructure moneys being just a token, and I agree.

The three concerns that he had are legitimate concerns. I agree with them. Yet, when there is an opportunity to hold this government accountable, he does not hold the government accountable and so it is just words.

Why does he keep propping up this government and preventing--

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster. Very briefly, please.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to respond briefly to a question like that.

Very clearly, the hon. member is referring back to last spring. There were two votes on the budget. The first vote was on $4.6 billion in corporate tax breaks and the Conservative Party chose to maintain the government at that time. We were opposed.

Then, after talking and knocking on doors in my communities of Burnaby and New Westminster, I got very broad feedback that people in my communities wanted Justice Gomery to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal. They did not want an election at that time. Very responsibly, in this corner of the House, we moved forward to push this government to, instead of dumping $4.6 billion on the wealthy corporate sector, actually invest in housing, post-secondary education accessibility for people across this country, the environment and foreign aid.

We forced the government to do that and we voted to maintain the government at that time. Ever since then, as the hon. member well knows, there has not been a confidence vote in the House. We are as appalled by this report as any other Canadian is. It is a catalogue of the type of mismanagement and corruption that is not permissible in this country.

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the member for Burnaby—New Westminster talk. On the one hand he is worried about an advisory council. At the same time he is worried about government decisions. He is worried about $190 million being dedicated to worthy causes of necessary infrastructure, that it is too much, but now he says we need $5 billion worth of infrastructure in British Columbia. I am a bit confused by his confusion.

Let me respond to his initial observation that the Gomery inquiry suggests that we cannot trust our government, that somehow there is something scandalous going on across government. Mr. Justice Gomery says that in general, the administration of government programs by the federal bureaucracy is competent and praiseworthy, a conclusion that has been emphasized by the Auditor General herself. He goes on to say:

The fact that the Inquiry has been held demonstrates that in this country persons at even the highest levels of government are accountable for their actions, not only to Parliament but also to the citizenry....Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians do their work honestly, diligently and effectively, and emerge from this Inquiry free of any blame.

Therefore, I would suggest to my honourable friend that he relax with respect to his concern.

My question is with respect to his observation on infrastructure. Is he aware that over the last eight years the government has expended over $12 billion in infrastructure through the Canada works program, through the Canada provincial infrastructure programs, through the border infrastructure programs, through the highways infrastructure programs and now through the rebates to cities of the GST and the $5 billion on top of the $12.5 billion that goes to cities through rebates on the return of gas taxes?

In what sort of a state does the hon. member think we live? I look across at my Conservative friends and sometimes, when I listen to them, I think we live in a failed state. In fact, we are one of the most successful countries in the world. I look at our friends across from the Bloc and I think we live in a foreign state. Now I hear from our friends in the NDP such things on infrastructure and I think they think we live in a fantasy state.

Does the member for Burnaby—New Westminster think we are living in a fantasy state?

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister has raised many questions. I will start with the last one first.

He is well aware, the New Democratic Party administrations have the best financial fiscal period return record of any party in the country and that comes from the Department of Finance. It is not New Democrats saying that, it is Liberals saying that. They have analyzed from 1981 to 2001 the actual fiscal period returns, not the budget, not the smoke and mirrors. The Liberal administrations had the worst record over that period. Eighty-five per cent of the time they were in deficit. Conservatives were only a bit better. Two-thirds of the time they are in deficit.

Every time the NDP projects a surplus, most of the time we get it right and that is why we are the party of realism. We believe there have to be appropriate financial mechanisms of control and that the money is there to invest. We would never approve $4.6 billion for the corporate sector, which has experienced record profits, when our post-secondary institutions are closed, when our health care system is in crisis, when homelessness has tripled in the greater Vancouver area alone and increased across the country. We have 1.1 million poor kids across the country and we have infrastructure needs that have not been addressed in--

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Resuming debate, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport).

Pacific Gateway Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on behalf on Bill C-68, which is something that is quite extraordinary in the modern history of Canada. It recognizes that the west of Canada, British Columbia, is the gateway to the Asia-Pacific, which is an extraordinary area of the globe in terms of growth, population, immigration and part of the very special makeup and diversity of the country itself. British Columbia is being recognized as the gateway for a national project.

The Pacific gateway is something that is good for every Canadian. There are three billion people in the Pacific Asian market who are building a middle class. With 250 million people who now have joined the middle income ranks of the Chinese population, they are looking to purchase goods and resources to build their extraordinary economy that is growing at 10% a year, and has for almost the last 20 years.

The gateway concept is extremely important. We are trying it out. The concept understands that for economic growth, prosperity, tourism and the quality of life in our country, we have to take advantage of gateways to the world. There is a gateway in southern Ontario to the United States and a gateway in Halifax over to Europe. We will be developing more gateways on this model as it develops.

However, let me just mention a few aspects of this important Pacific gateway. First, it will deal with infrastructure. We have heard some comments about inadequate infrastructure. The federal government has invested over the last 10 years some $12 billion to $13 billion in infrastructure along with and in partnership with provincial and municipal governments. That is leveraged to over $30 billion of infrastructure.

The government leads on the concept of infrastructure. When the Pacific gateway initiative was announced by the Minister of Transport last month, he said that $590 million would be the down payment, the same words that the Prime Minister used, on future infrastructure needs. However, we are starting out in a cautious way to prove the model and to ensure that these investments are in the very most needed and important ways.

It will deal with border infrastructure, security and efficiency at the border. We must have both. That means high technology. It means expanding our border services, and that will come out of this Pacific gateway initiative.

We know the demographics of the country demand that we increase our immigration, not only in numbers but also to ensure that those people are paired with the necessary skills needed and when they have foreign skills and training, that they receive appropriate certification as soon as possible on integrating into Canada.

There are the cultural, skills, border and transportation links. Harmonization of standards is extraordinarily important and this Pacific gateway initiative addresses that. The money is only a start. We know the British Columbia Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, which has been a sectoral transportation council for the last eight years, has identified many projects that will decrease the congestion, particularly around the movement of goods around the greater Vancouver area. This will start to address, in partnership with the provincial government of British Columbia, some of those very desperate needs.

However, it will go beyond that. It will go to increasing the port facilities at Prince Rupert. Last April the government made the announcement of an investment of $30 million into a container facility in Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert is an extraordinary place in terms of this Pacific gateway.

Prince Rupert, as I think many people know, is the deepest port on the west coast of North America. It has a sheltered, ice-free harbour, but it has clearance to it through the south of Haida Gwaii. Most important, it is close to Asia. If we look at the configuration of the continents as well as the curvature of the earth, it puts Prince Rupert 40 hours by ship closer than Seattle and Vancouver to major Asian ports.

Vancouver itself a major part of the gateway at the current time, is itself over 50 hours closer to Shanghai by ship than is the port of Los Angeles.

We have tremendous aspects to our gateway concept that merely need to be invested in and developed to provide greater employment, investment and trade and therefore a higher quality of life for people across our country.

The previous speaker spoke about the gateway council. He had some difficulty with it, although I am not sure why. The way it is set up in the bill, and I am glad to see he is supporting it in general, it is widely representative. It would include transportation sectors, the environment sector, the aboriginal community, appointments recommended or made in consultation with the four western provinces and representatives from municipalities in the various advisory committees of this council.

This is an extremely important recognition of the reality of new governance, which goes beyond any one government getting its own act together or even coordinating well with other levels of government. It goes out to civil society, to business, to the professions and to our research and teaching universities. Quoting from the bill, clause 5(b):

promote consensus among interested stakeholders and raise awareness among decision makers regarding solutions to problems identified by the Council;

What could be more conciliatory and collaborative? However, it goes on in clause 5(c):

promote collaboration, engagement and complementarity of activities with existing networks of stakeholders that have an interest in the Asia-Pacific region or Canada’s Pacific gateway.

What could be a better example of the reality of modern governance, of bringing the ideas from the people who are most involved to government for consideration through their recommendations.

The history of the Pacific gateway did not start last month when this initiative was first announced. This has been going on for some period of time.

There are 300,000 people of Chinese ancestry who live in British Columbia and a further 300,000 from other Asian countries with Asian descent. This is an extremely important competitive advantage of our country. Our multicultural makeup itself is an advantage in our trading relationships.

A project that has gone on since 2002, through my department, Western Economic Diversification, also is called Gateway to Asia. It was started to link new immigrant entrepreneurs from Asian countries with manufacturers and suppliers in British Columbia in order to take advantage of two things. The first is the need for new markets, and previous speakers have mentioned the need to diversify our markets. The second is to link back to those networks, those contacts that new Asian entrepreneurs have with existing manufacturing companies in British Columbia. Now that has spread into Alberta and it will spread across the west.

In the first two years of that gateway project with the Immigrant Services Society's success in Vancouver, a very outstanding organization, over 750 companies signed up in British Columbia for that link with Asian entrepreneurs. They did over $4 million worth of business in those first two years. That has now gone up to $6 million in the third year with over 900 companies engaged in that process. That is a previous gateway initiative.

We know the Canadian Tourism Commission is being moved from Ottawa to Vancouver to take advantage of the fact that not only will we be hosting the 2010 Olympics, but that Vancouver has been named year after year the most livable city and one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world.

That is very significant, and certainly this expanded gateway initiative will add measurably, and even immeasurably, to the tourism potential of all of Canada, but through this gateway in many cases. We have negotiated and are close to concluding with the Chinese government the assured destination status, which will lead to potentially hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists a year coming to Canada. That is another aspect of this gateway.

Let me say as well that we have an organization created in 1984 by the Liberal government under Prime Minister Trudeau and called the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. This is an extraordinary foundation, a research and cultural communication institution that has recently been given a $50 million endowment by the Government of Canada so that it can enhance, in research into economic, cultural and social issues, our relationship to the Asia Pacific countries. This complements perfectly this new Asia Pacific gateway concept.

Let me say with respect to the gateway, if I may, that there is an extremely talented 92 year old artist from Vancouver, John Koerner, who started a Pacific gateway series in his art in 1979, so that while we all claim credit and pride in this new Pacific gateway concept, it has been in this fantastic artist's mind for some time. He has produced some of the most extraordinary art in Canada. I should declare my interest here. He is my father-in-law. He continues to paint very prolifically on this great theme.

I will conclude these introductory remarks by talking a bit about what is happening in China. The port of Shanghai at the moment is one of the top three ports in the world for container shipments. Per year, it ships 15 million TEUs, twenty-foot equivalent units, out of Shanghai. Over the next four years, that will expand to 32 million TEUs. Where are they going to go?

China is now building ships that are too large to go through the Panama Canal. They will come to the new infrastructure in the ports of Vancouver, as well as the other ports of British Columbia, Canada's west ports, including this extraordinary capacity which can be built up in Prince Rupert.

Not only is Prince Rupert a deep port with unconstricted access and much closer to Asia than any other port of the Americas, it is also uncongested by population or geography. It is connected by the CN network of railroads, some of the best-run railroads in the world, right across to Edmonton, to Winnipeg, into the Sault and the Great Lakes system, down the St. Lawrence,over to the east coast, down through Chicago and the Midwest, down to Louisiana and the gulf, and out to the east coast and New Jersey.

Thus, literally, this gateway, coming through B.C. ports, which of course have both CN and CP, will link Asia not only to all of Canada but right through the United States and even on to Europe through this great increase in container traffic. The opportunities are limitless.

In concluding these remarks in terms of diversification, which we hear a lot about--and my department of course is western economic diversification--I would suggest that we have to diversify in a number of areas. Obviously we have to diversify in markets.

To my amazement, the member for Burnaby--New Westminster decried the importance of NAFTA. I am sure that if he were to realize the trade surplus that we have with the United States, which is quite extraordinary, he would think twice before he downgrades or degrades our relationship with the United States and the wealth that it brings to Canadians, to the strength of our economy and therefore our quality of life.

We must diversify. The softwood lumber dispute shows why not to replace trade with the U.S., because that will continue to grow to the benefit of Canadians, but to provide other opportunities, and of course Asia is one of those great opportunities.

There is a new community on the outskirts of Shanghai, a suburb of Shanghai, which is a demonstration project for British Columbia designed and engineered homes, using British Columbia softwood. It is developing houses for the Shanghai market, which I am sure members know is growing at a tremendous rate. It is one of the largest cities in the world, perhaps the largest, with a greater Shanghai population of approximately 29 million people.

The diversification of markets is critical. We also have to diversify up the value chain to add value to our raw materials. Part of the boom and bust modern history of western Canada has been the problem of the fluctuations in international commodity markets. Of course commodities by definition are low value added and large quantity, with a very narrow profit margin.

I will end with this. With those narrow profit margins, they are boom and bust in the swings of commodity prices, so we must add value to add employment to Canada, of course, but also to have broader profit margins that withstand those commodity price fluctuations. That is another aspect of this diversification. Of course, those products that we are adding value to will be shipped back in containers to Asia. It is obvious arithmetic that if we can fill a container for both ways, we cut its price in half.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

November 2nd, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties concerning the tabling and adoption of the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, concerning the membership of committees, and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)