House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

Topics

Autism
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fourth petition has been signed by 44 people. The petitioners ask that therapy for children with autism be recognized within our health act.

Firearms
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to stand in the House to present a petition that came mostly from University of Alberta students, which is, I might just parenthetically, probably the best university in the whole country, and also a number of others.

The petitioners presented this issue to me with a lot of passion. It is the issue of the international trade in firearms, ammunition and other devices that are used to inflict pain and suffering on a lot of innocent people.

The petitioners would like to have the House of Commons reform the law to restrict the international movement of firearms and other things related to that. Particularly, they are eager that we have a permanent licence application process that includes a more rigorous analysis on the impact of the trading on human rights.

I am very honoured to present that petition on their behalf to day.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Agriculture
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

April 28th, 2006 / 12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair has a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie.

Agriculture
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am putting forward this motion under Standing Order 52(2) to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing an urgent matter that needs our immediate attention. It has to do with the agricultural crisis. I am aware of the motion put forward earlier this week by my party, but the farming crisis gets worse with each new day.

A farmer in my riding pleaded with me to not forget the farming crisis. He and his fellow farmers have to go back into the fields to work. They cannot be on Parliament Hill or involved in demonstrations to educate Canadians every day. They need to go to work and they need us, as elected members of Parliament, to do something about the crisis they face.

Higher interest rates announced this week will worsen the crisis. There have been more farm bankruptcies in the past 24 hours. Parliament needs to take the necessary steps to prevent this. If the government were to give a bankable commitment of sufficient emergency funds, as we have suggested, of $1 billion more than announced previously by the government, the farmers could go to their banks and have a fighting chance to deal with those across the table, who are being asked to loan farmers the funds they need to buy the seeds to produce the wheat for the food we eat.

Spring planting is a very small window for these farmers. If they cannot borrow the money now to purchase the seeds to put in the ground, some of these farmers will go under and they will not come back.

Our farmers work very hard to be productive. This crisis is not of their doing. It comes from years of bad trade deals and neglect on the part of successive Conservative and Liberal governments, which have reduced the once proud industry to begging in its own country on its knees by protesting in front of Parliament Hill.

Our farmers have done everything possible to shine a glaring light on the real and immediate danger to our food sovereignty that our country now faces. They have made it abundantly clear that if we are so reckless as to allow the family farm industry to go down for lack of seed money, we will forever regret it as a nation.

This is a life and death emergency for the family farm and our farmers. I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to allow this emergency debate today.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie for his submissions, but as he has indicated in his remarks, he knows that I have disallowed this debate on an emergency basis for the last two days and, I think, on another occasion before that.

While I am sympathetic with the issues that he has raised and I am aware of the continuing difficulty being faced here, as I am sure all hon. members are, and tempting as it is to spend an afternoon discussing this, I think we are moving ahead with other important matters.

Rather than change the order of business for today, I will rule as I have in the past, that in my view this application does not meet the exigencies of the Standing Order at this time.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that BillC-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, be now read a second time and referred to a committee.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When I interrupted the debate for oral question period, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert had the floor. She had 12 minutes left to make her remarks. The member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert can now continue her speech.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will explain the situation for people who are listening to us. I will also remind them of the context in which I started my speech, which lasted for eight minutes.

The subject was Bill C-3, which deals with international bridges and tunnels. I started by saying that the Bloc Québécois was in favour of this bill, with some reservations.

There is only one international bridge in Quebec, the Sutton bridge, located in the Mississquoi valley, across the Mississquoi-Sutton river. It is an old metal bridge that was built around 1929. It is at least 50 metres long—which is quite long—and spans a gorge in a wonderful landscape. It is worth seeing. It is the property of Vermont and, to a lesser extent, the municipality of Sutton.

I noted the positive aspects of this bill. A legal vacuum existed, and the Bloc Québécois is happy that there is finally an act governing international bridges and tunnels. The purpose of the act is to improve the security and safety of these structures. Local stakeholders are generally in favour of the provisions of the act as presented. Still, the bill has some pieces missing, and when there are pieces missing from a bill about bridges, that is not a good thing. I talked about the pieces that were missing and the provisions that were excessive. For example, the Bloc is a bit concerned about the broad policing powers that the government has. The government also gives itself legislative powers, but someone else has to shoulder the financial responsibility. In the end, this situation can lead to conflict.

Bill C-3 came out of the former Bill C-44, which was withdrawn and simplified. However, we left several pieces of the former bill behind. A number of sections were very interesting, and several measures were needed. I mentioned more transparent advertising of airline ticket prices.

I will pick up where I left off. I was talking about railway transportation. Bill C-44 contained interesting measures that allowed for legislation on railway transportation. These measures are not included in Bill C-3, and the Bloc is sorry that they are gone. Bill C-44 proposed to improve the shipper's protection system for clients of railway services and repeal the requirement that the Canadian Transportation Agency determine whether the shipper would suffer substantial commercial harm before allowing the shipper recourse against a carrier.

One very interesting point is that Bill C-44 proposed to give the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to review noise complaints and require railway companies to take steps to minimize the harmful effects of noise resulting from the construction or operation of railways, while considering the railways' operational and service requirements and the interests of the communities concerned. This affects many ridings in Quebec, including Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher and Saint-Lambert, which neighbour on mine.

Bill C-44 also proposed to change the current provisions governing the process of abandonment of rail lines that are no longer necessary for the transportation of goods. Currently, the lines must first be offered for their continued operation. They can then be offered to the different governments. Bill C-44 would have allowed public transportation companies, which in some urban areas serve several municipalities, to benefit from such offers. Thus, they could have obtained corridors and used them for public transportation purposes. Also, the provisions extended to portions of the right of way, such as spurs and sidings, which, in some cases, can be used for public transportation.

Bill C-44 also proposed to improve the dispute settlement process with line owners by allowing operators of publicly funded passenger rail services to ask for arbitration by the Canadian Transportation Agency when commercial negotiations are not successful, in terms of operating conditions of railway lines under federal jurisdiction, including service fees and charges imposed by the host railway company. Bill C-44 was really comprehensive. It also proposed the conveyance of lines to municipal authorities.

That is particularly interesting.

The clause in question provided that a railway company wishing to sell a railway line could offer it to urban transit authorities concerned before offering it to municipalities, but after offering it to the federal and Quebec governments. This measure would have ensured the protection of the unique transportation network provided by urban railway corridors, by preventing them from becoming unusable for public transportation as the result of non-collaborative municipal policies.

The Bloc Québécois considers that railway transportation is an excellent alternative to road transportation. This is why its development must be fostered. It is in this frame of mind that we had asked for and obtained the introduction of Bill C-44.

Bill C-44 is not Bill C-3. It contained one other measure not found in C-3, regarding train noise. Railway noise, particularly near marshalling yards, is an irritant that affects several Quebec ridings. Clause 32 of Bill C-44 gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine noise complaints and to order the railway companies to undertake measures to prevent unreasonable noise. In its mediations, the Agency was to take into account the economic requirements of the railway companies. Up to 2000, the Agency deemed that it had broad powers, based on section 95, enabling it to force the company subject to a complaint to keep damage to a minimum. However, the Agency was exercising an authority that it did not have.

For this reason, even though some citizens rightly noted that clause 32 of Bill C-44 did not give the Agency as much power as it had in 2000, we must bear in mind that under the old Transportation Act there was no recourse. Furthermore, Bill C-44 did not amend section 95. Thus, the criterion of minimal damage in the operation of a railway was retained. This section gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to arbitrate disputes and balance the need to permit railway companies to do business against the right of people living along rail lines to enjoy a peaceful environment. Thus, the Agency could have forced railway companies to adopt measures to minimize noise from their activities while taking into account the financial imperatives.

A criticism could have been raised about this provision, because it did not limit other nuisances such as fumes from oil and gas or vibrations. Nothing is perfect.

Bill C-44 contained other very interesting proposals. It bolstered consumer protection for air transportation. These measures are not found in Bill C-3.

Bill C-44 also included provisions on airline advertising. It provided for greater control over the sale of airline tickets, among other things by giving the agency jurisdiction over ticket sales advertising, which would respond to a great need. Taxes and hidden fees would have to be included in the advertised price, which is not always the case. Ads giving a one-way fare conditional on the purchase of a return flight could have been prohibited. Some contractual conditions would have had to be posted on the Internet.

Theses transparency measures would have benefited the consumers and the airlines, who would have benefited from a better framework and enjoyed healthier competition. Consumer groups had called for these measures.

Bill C-44 contained other interesting provisions on Via Rail Canada, which are not included in Bill C-3. It enacted legislation on Via Rail Canada that would have replaced the articles of incorporation of the crown corporation. When it was created in 1997, VIA Rail was incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. It did not obtain its own act.

The purpose of Bill C-44 was to manage and ensure rail transportation service that was safe and efficient. This new framework gave Via Rail more flexibility to make its own business decisions. The rights and obligations of Via Rail were upheld in Bill C-44, but all that has disappeared with the Conservative government.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois has a great number of very serious reservations about this bill on international bridges and tunnels.

As we know, there is only one international bridge in Quebec, in Sutton, as I mentioned earlier. We have some reservations about Bill C-3, which I have just talked about, especially since it was based on Bill C-44, but is a lot less complete. It was totally simplified.

Nonetheless, as I was saying earlier, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill C-3 in the hopes of seeing the clauses from Bill C-44 reappear in another form as soon as possible.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to comment on Bill C-3, an act respecting international bridges and tunnels.

The term “international” makes me think of the softwood lumber agreement signed yesterday. The Prime Minister and members of the government are all puffed up over this agreement, but they should think the matter over a bit more.

A NAFTA tribunal already handed down a decision in our favour. The tariffs imposed by the Americans were excessive, not to mention illegal. How can a government accountable to Canadian and Quebec industries negotiate an agreement when a tribunal has already ruled in our favour? I do not understand. I have a problem with that.

The Conservatives think that losing a billion dollars is a good deal. They should have negotiated knowing that the industry is in a slump and has lost a lot of money. They should have reached an agreement that really benefits the industry, which deserves our support and encouragement in this dispute. We cannot just throw in the towel, sign an agreement with the Americans and present it to the industry, saying that we know its back is to the wall and it has no money because it has already shelled out $5 billion to try to foil the U.S. government's plan to destroy the Canadian softwood lumber industry. I have a problem with that.

Why did the government not support the industry, by recalling that the court had ruled in our favour? Why did it not support it financially so that it could continue to fight? We will not let another government do this to us. We are right and we must support that ruling that was in our favour.

Unfortunately, this is not what the government is doing. It is negotiating a $4 billion agreement, which makes us lose $1 billion. It then says that this is not bad, because everyone, particularly the provinces, is happy that we have reached this agreement with the American government. I do not think that everyone is happy. Businesses had to accept it because they did not have any money left.

Last year, the Conservatives were bragging, saying that this money should have been given to businesses in the softwood lumber sector in order to support them financially. What are they doing now that they are in office? They solve the problem right away and reach a $4 billion agreement, that is $1 billion less than expected. And they are happy with this. However, I believe that the industry is not so happy.

For months, the Conservatives urged the Liberal government to support the softwood lumber industry. Once they get in office, they do nothing of the kind and have reached an agreement that is unacceptable to the industry. I have a hard time understanding how they could stand up and brag that they have settled the softwood lumber dispute, something the previous government was never able to do. I am sorry, but I do not agree.

Let us go back to our bridges. I find equally ridiculous that the government would propose bills that do not mean anything. They do not even know what they are writing. We see a good example in clauses 14, 15 and 16: “The Governor in Council may...make regulations respecting the maintenance and repair...the operation and use...[and ] the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels—”

My colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert was just extolling the bridge in Sutton. I would like to underscore that the municipality is responsible for repairs, through the Quebec Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, while Vermont assumes approximately 70% of the cost, depending on resources. How can the Canadian government make maintenance decisions when the American government is paying 70% of the costs? Really now. The federal government has nothing to do with it. Quebec pays 30% and the Americans pay the other 70%. And yet the federal government wants to decide when repairs should be made? I think it will find itself alone on that bridge.

One clause states that the government will order the maintenance and that the Americans will pay for the maintenance. Can my colleague explain this contradiction?

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to respond to the comments of my colleague from Shefford and to answer his question.

It is true that there is apparent inconsistency. I mentioned it in my speech.

The Minister of Transport is here and is listening carefully. During question period, he said that he met with the Quebec Minister of Transport this morning. I take this opportunity to tell him that there should be a train overpass on the Seigneurial road in the city of Saint-Bruno. That overpass would improve the traffic situation for people from the riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and the surrounding cities.

I am happy to see the minister listening. I hope that he will eventually talk to the Quebec Minister of Transport, if he has not already done so, about this serious problem in the area of Saint-Bruno and Saint-Hubert.

As I told my colleague from Shefford, Bill C-3 is unsatisfactory. Bill C-44 was better. Nonetheless, the Bloc will vote in favour of the bill.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a problem understanding. Why has Bill C-3 been introduced since it is less than Bill C-44 could let us hope for? That bill seemed satisfactory enough.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I cannot answer that pertinent question because I am not privy to the Conservative government's decision-making process.

How can it oversimplify things enough to come up with a Speech from the Throne including only five priorities? How can it avoid other considerations and other sensitive issues beside its five priorities?

Bill C-44 dealt with several sensitive issues. The Conservatives could have continued to serve many different groups. I think in particular of air transport users. We know that plane tickets are advertised in newspapers, but the ads are always wrong. We end up trying to compare things that cannot be compared at all, because prices are not given and because there are several conditions to satisfy. They will sell us a one-way ticket if we buy a return ticket, even though we only need a one-way ticket. Buying a plane ticket is very complicated. Consumers would be well served if they could get all the measures included in Bill C-44, and sooner rather than later .

City-dwellers are victims of the excessive noise coming from railroad yards. Measures should be taken to reduce that noise. I did not feel that the Conservative government was sensitive to that problem. People are affected by many other things that do not count for the Conservative Party. It is sad, of course. In spite of that, we are ready to give the government another chance. We ask it to produce a new bill as quickly as possible.