House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my hon. colleague opposite the same questions I have asked others before, with an additional one.

First, I want to acknowledge his comments about the residential schools agreement, which the previous government negotiated and booked. We are delighted the current government has implemented that. Also, I am very pleased that the new government has implemented the water strategy planned and developed by the previous government.

Does the member think it appropriate, and I have asked this question of other members before, that we drain the schools in order to fuel the water policy? We have heard much about education. We have heard about skills shortages. We have heard about lack of facilities in education. We know that moneys are being taken out of education projects and are being put into water facilities. Does he support that kind of activity?

The other question is for the member and his colleagues. I want to get some clarity from members opposite as to whether they agree with the statement made earlier in the day that just under four centuries Canada passed from an unsettled wilderness through agrarian and industrial revolutions. Do they agree with the concept that four centuries ago, this country was an unsettled wilderness? Would he comment on that?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the hon. member that aboriginal peoples met the boats that came over from Europe and discovered the north American continent.

As far as sacrificing education for other programs our government has put forward, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has started work on looking at education as far as first nations. The minister is also pursuing that initiative. We are looking at post-secondary and the committee is looking at from K-12 needs for first nations aboriginal peoples.

How could one ever put a dollar amount before one had a plan? It is interesting that we are looking at this now to try to better understand what needs to be done, how we can facilitate better opportunities for first nations people in education, whether it be from K-12 or post-secondary. Yet a dollar amount was put to that process in the Kelowna accord by the former government.

Where are the estimates and why do we not see a breakdown of a plan. If we had that we can look at it what was to be done, what the outcomes would be and what the costs would be.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been a member in the House for almost 18 years. I have been in opposition, I have been in government and now I am back in opposition. The question of the aboriginal has always been an incredibly challenging one. None of us, Conservative or Liberal, during all of the years we have governed the country, has done a particularly great job of dealing with the aboriginals.

However, why when we finally have an accord, with 10 premiers and most of the aboriginals, why now after promising to uphold this accord, would the government change its mind on this? It is all well and good to piecemeal fund things, but this is the very first time we finally have an accord, where everyone has put party politics aside, where the means are there to do something, where we can work with the aboriginal communities so they can decide what they need and where they go from here.

I am incredibly heartbroken. When I speak to any of the aboriginal communities, I see their disappointment and their frustration. After finally having that accord, it is not being honoured. Shame on the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, shame on all Canadians. I agree with the hon. member on the other side as far as this being an ongoing issue.

I recall when I was mayor of Dawson City, Yukon territory and the minister of Indian and northern affairs at that time was the hon. Jean Chrétien. There was a mandate at that time to do something about the issues confronting aboriginal people. Here we are some 30 years later. We recognize the progress that has been made through the discussions in Kelowna, but we are not a government of paper policy and paper programs. We are a government where the rubber meets the road. We are going to get things done.

I believe that some tangible results will be seen from the government. We will be proud to say that we have moved forward with some of the priorities set out in the agreement in Kelowna.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal Affairs
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 9 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time. Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 20 at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

There are five motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-3.

The Chair has received notice that Motions Nos. 2 and 5 shall not be called.

Motions Nos. 1 and 4 have not been selected by the Chair because they could have been proposed in committee.

The remaining motion has been examined and the Chair is satisfied that it meets the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage. Motion No. 3 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now propose Motion No. 3 to the House.

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Whitby—Oshawa, ON

moved:

That Bill C-3, in Clause 15, be amended by replacing subsection (2) with the following:

“(2) Before recommending that a regulation be made under subsection (1), the Minister shall, if in the opinion of the Minister it is necessary having regard to all the circumstances, consult with the other levels of government that have jurisdiction over any place where an international bridge or tunnel is situated and with any person who, in the opinion of the Minister, has a direct interest in the matter.”

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise this evening on Bill C-3, an act respecting international bridges and tunnels.

As the transport critic of the official opposition, I am very aware of how crucial bridges and tunnels are to the Canadian and international trade transportation networks. The vast majority of Canada’s exports to the United States go by way of these bridges and tunnels and the crossings between Ontario, New York and Michigan have the highest traffic volumes.

It is hard to overstate the magnitude of the trade between Canada and the United States. Under NAFTA, the trade between our two countries grew over the last decade by an average of 6% a year. In 2005, our bilateral trade was valued at more than $580 billion, with goods and services worth nearly $1.6 billion crossing the border every day. Millions of jobs are involved, and our transportation infrastructure is crucial to enabling this trade to proceed efficiently. This is therefore an extremely important bill.

I would like to congratulate the government for bringing Bill C-3 to the floor quickly. This bill, for nearly all intents and purposes, is identical to provisions that productive and progressive Liberal governments brought to the House on two previous occasions.

If I might, I will take a moment to remind the House of the path that the bill has taken.

Amendments to the Canada Transportation Act along the lines of Bill C-3 were first tabled as part of Bill C-26 during the second session of the 37th Parliament. Unfortunately, the current Prime Minister and the rest of the Canadian Alliance, at the time, opposed these measures, voting against them at second reading.

We brought these amendments back as part of Bill C-44 in the 38th Parliament. Once again, the opposition of the day found absolutely no merit in the legislation being considered by the House at that point and chose, instead, to defeat the government, effectively killing the bill for a second time.

As I said, I am very pleased to see that the government has come around to supporting our work now that it has the responsibility of governing. Bill C-3 seems to respect, at its core, its origins as a low profile bill that strengthens Canada. It is about taking one step at a time.

The hon. member for Outremont, my colleague, when he was minister of transport, outlined several benefits of the legislation that I hear the government echoing today.

First, provisions in Bill C-3 give the federal government the legislative authority that is required for effective oversight of international bridges and tunnels to ensure that the interests of Canadians are protected. This is a very important affirmation, an appropriate one, of the federal government's constitutional powers as outlined in sections 91(29) and 92(10) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Second, the hon. member for Outremont presented a bill to Canadians that provided the Governor in Council:

--with the authority to approve the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels, and to develop regulations pertaining to the governance, maintenance, safety, security and operation of these structures.

A broad power, but an important one.

This is a point worth re-emphasizing. Without fail, Liberal governments have invested appropriately in the safety and the security of Canadians. We can see, for example, the positive outcomes of our security investments, in general terms, with the successful apprehension of alleged terrorists in Toronto just several weeks ago.

Third, the hon. member for Outremont, when he was transport minister, stated very clearly that this new governance system for international border crossings “will help expedite the approval of new facilities and ensure the efficient and competitive flow of goods and people”.

The proposed changes concerning the power to issue letters patent will confer a new ability on the governor in council to establish corporations for the purpose of constructing new structures or operating existing ones.

The volume of trade at some of these crossings is simply mind-blowing. Over 23% of surface trade between Canada and the United States, for example, passes through the Detroit River area. One study suggests that if crossings are not properly maintained and developed, Canada can expect to lose up to 70,000 jobs by 2030, foregoing $21.5 billion in production.

In summary, Bill C-3 is yet another example in a long line of Liberal legislation to promote the Canadian economy and protect the safety and security of Canadians. While we may have differences about some of the details of the legislation, and amendments here and there, we cannot in good conscience thwart or stall what is in essence a very good bill.

With respect to the amendment itself, it does go some distance in ensuring that the federal government will consult, that it will consult with other orders of government, with the provinces and municipalities, for example, which have jurisdiction where a bridge or tunnel is situated or is to be built. It also goes some distance in ensuring that the federal government consults with anyone who has a direct interest in the matter, an appropriate balance, we believe, between government's responsibilities for safety, security and maintenance, while at the same time allowing for meaningful input from provinces and municipalities that might be affected and of course any proponent, any lending institution or any developer that might be in the business of building, maintaining or operating such bridges and tunnels.

In closing, when the government puts forward sensible legislation, we are happy to work in cooperation with it to achieve goals that all parties and indeed all Canadians hold in common. I congratulate the government for tabling the bill in such a speedy fashion.

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa South for his comments. I have the pleasure of sitting with him on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

In his speech, the hon. member mentioned the appropriateness of our government’s action in bringing this bill quickly to the floor of the House, pointing out the speed with which we have acted. It is true that we act quickly compared with the previous government. We have also divided the bill so that bills that are more succinct and concise can be passed. That is what allows us to act more quickly.

In his speech, he also said he wanted to amend the bill so that it is possible to consult the other levels of government that might be involved in the management of bridges and tunnels.

How does he perceive the overlapping of provincial and municipal areas of jurisdiction? How is it possible to improve the bill in that regard?

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

First of all, I think it is important for parliamentarians to demonstrate to the Canadian people from time to time that they are capable of working together. In my view, Bill C-3 is a very good example of this.

Next, with the intensification—or urbanization—and emergence of new city-states in Canada, it is almost mandatory to engage in increasing consultation with those provinces and municipalities where a bridge or tunnel now exists or will exist in future.

In my opinion, the amendment will have a positive effect on planning. It will not affect the powers of the federal government as regards its planning with the provinces and with the parties affected by the development or operation of a tunnel or bridge. In 2006, more consultation with the parties concerned and the different levels of government is mandatory.

I would close by saying that in a time of increasing urbanization, at a time when we are seeing increasing densification of population and of Canada-United States trade and the benefits that have flowed under NAFTA in the last 10 years, it will be extremely critical for us to ensure that provinces and municipalities, as well as interested parties, are consulted during the process.

Whether it involves the operation of bridges and tunnels, the construction of bridges and tunnels or the question of security and emergency powers granted to the federal government in this bill, it will be important for the federal government and the minister named in the amendment to deal with other orders of government going forward.

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the commentary and in particular for reminding the House that this is a bill that came from the last government, like many acts, such as the Aeronautics Act and certainly the whistleblower bill that is coming forward. There is quite a large number of them.

Clause 15 of the bill lists a number of purposes for which regulations could be made. One of them is:

(e) requiring any person or class of persons to provide to the Minister any information related to the operation and use of international bridges and tunnels.

I note in the amendment being proposed at report stage, Motion No. 3, that the consultation of the minister with stakeholders that have a direct interest is discretionary. It is at the minister's discretion, so I was wondering whether the member could enlighten the House as to when we have matters that may relate to the privacy issues of individuals. That would not be a matter of ministerial discretion but rather a requirement. Why did the committee not go that far?

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will first enlighten my colleague and let him know that I did not have the privilege of sitting on the committee when that particular amendment was brought forward and others were debated, but let me do my best to answer the balance that I think it is trying to achieve.

In the first instance, I think it is trying to give to the minister authority where it is required, for example, to have those consultations should they be required. There is the ongoing question of the trade secrets type of information and private matters. For example, we have a couple of instances in the country where these bridges are in private hands. It will be very delicate for the minister, for example, when the minister is seeking information, as the member points out.

It will be delicate and I am sure that ultimately flowing from the bill provisions will be made, and also in the regulations that will follow, to make sure that such information that is provided remains confidential. If it does not remain confidential, obviously that will be quite detrimental to the case of private owners and operators. I am quite assured that the bill actually strikes that right balance.

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, to the motion to amend Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act.

I am going to try and paint you a bit of a picture of this file on international bridges and tunnels. This goes back a long way because these infrastructures were under federal jurisdiction and have always been. How do we get today to a bill that specifies the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada respecting something that is granted under the Constitution? This is very Canadian. For the men and women listening to us, we are going to try and understand.

Over the years, for all sorts of reasons, and especially economic ones, the federal government has relinquished its structures and entrusted responsibility for them to other entities. A brief review and a little background are necessary, however. In Canada, as we speak, there are 24 international road bridges and tunnels between Canada and the U.S.: 14 in Ontario, nine in New Brunswick and one in Quebec. They are connected to the States of Maine, Vermont, New York, Michigan and Minnesota. There are also nine railway bridges and tunnels, all in Ontario, except for one in New Brunswick.

The bridges and tunnels are held in different ways: 22 are public property, seven belong to a federal authority, 13 to a provincial or municipal authority, one to a shared authority and one to an American authority, while the other two and the five railway bridges and tunnels are private property. That is the present situation. Of these 24 infrastructures, international bridges and tunnels, only seven are federal property. In a post-9/11 context, a context of high national security, the federal government has just realized that, for the sake of safety and security, we should legislate on this infrastructure, which in any case is under its jurisdiction. So we have to intervene to ensure citizens’ protection and security. There is the rub. Today we are obliged to make major declarations. This motion before us is all fine and well, but action needs to be taken.

Amended clause 5 of this bill must state: “International bridges and tunnels are declared to be works for the general advantage of Canada”, hence under federal jurisdiction. Section 92.10 of the Constitution Act, 1867, placed these works and undertakings under federal jurisdiction. The problem is that Canada has paid less and less attention to its infrastructure.

This began quite some time ago, as these bridges and infrastructure are not new. We can trace the history of each. Over hundreds of years, the Government of Canada, for monetary reasons, decided to no longer look after or to divest itself of these works. Some were transferred to private entities. The American company that owns one of these bridges told us that it dated back to the Depression and that it was a private property transferred form family to family over dozens of years. The Government of Canada at the time did not have any money and consequently a private enterprise decided to take it over.

This is causing serious problems today because various entities are involved, all with different standards and regulations governing the flow of goods and people. At a time when we are hoping that the federal government will deal with the fiscal imbalance, it is evident that the government did not look after what it owned outright, including international bridges and tunnels.

The government can certainly count on the support of the Bloc Québécois. One bridge is located in Quebec, under the responsibility of the Province of Quebec, which looks after it very well.

There are no justified complaints about that bridge.

We support this bill. We even support the government motion, which I will read, to amend clause 15. Clause 15 of Bill C-3 provides guidelines on operation and use. It is fairly easy to understand. I will try to explain it in lay terms so that the people who are watching can understand. It reads as follows:

The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting the operation and use of international bridges and tunnels, including regulations (a) respecting the use that may be made of international bridges or tunnels by different types of vehicles;

So even though this was the responsibility of the owner or operator—private companies in some cases, provinces or municipalities in other cases, and the federal government in the case of seven of these structures—the federal government says that, because this is its responsibility, the minister can step in from now on to regulate the type of vehicle that can use the structures.

(b) respecting the tolls, fees and other charges that may be imposed by owners or operators of international bridges or tunnels for their use, to ensure the efficient flow of traffic;

It will be apparent that the Government of Canada, which did not own the structures, did not set the tolls, fees or other charges. The government just realized that in the interest of national security and safety, it should perhaps intervene.

This is where the amendments come in. The provincial and municipal governments and the private companies that manage these structures told us that this could put them at risk, because they pass borrowing by-laws when they make repairs or renovations to the structures. This can therefore affect their credit.

This is what gave rise to this motion for amendment put forward earlier by the government to regulate tolls by adding a subsection 2 that reads as follows:

Before recommending that a regulation be made under subsection (1), the Minister shall, if in the opinion of the Minister it is necessary having regard to all the circumstances, consult with the other levels of government that have jurisdiction over any place where an international bridge or tunnel is situated and with any person who, in the opinion of the Minister, has a direct interest in the matter.

This means that, if the federal government wanted to intervene in establishing tolls, this subsection 2 would make it mandatory to consult the other levels of government, including the provincial and municipal governments in question, before recommending any regulations or tolls to be paid by users.

I think that is fair since, in any event, the federal government never took care of it because it was not the owner. Even if this were its responsibility in accordance with section 92.10 of the Constitution Act, 1867, it did not take care of it. It got rid of it to the benefit of other entities, municipal or provincial, or quite simply private industry.

It is rather logical that we here in the House today give our support, since public servants told us that it would facilitate fluidity, if the government ever decided to meddle in regulating tariffs, for all kinds of reasons. Public servants must at least be assured that the owner of a bridge can enter into discussions with the government before it tables a regulation for amendment. This is what we are supporting here today.

Since the Bloc Québécois always respects all jurisdictions, it hopes that the federal government will at least take care of this area of jurisdiction, because it was in the Canadian constitution. The federal government meddles far too frequently in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The government would not be criticized here today for trying to take care of its own areas of jurisdiction. We will therefore vote in favour of this motion and, naturally, for the bill as a whole, because the Bloc Québécois respects the federal government's areas of jurisdiction.

All we ask of the federal government is that it also respect the areas of provincial jurisdiction, which it has failed to do all too often in the past.

Motions in amendment
International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

9:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member, my colleague from the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, for his comments on Bill C-3.

The NDP tried several times to improve this act. Indeed, consultation is not mandatory, although this is an extremely important element when it comes to bridges and tunnels. There are several bridges in Ontario, several in New Brunswick and one in Quebec.

In committee, we tried to amend this act to make consultation a mandatory process. Communities are deeply affected by what happens with bridges. The communities in question are not only Windsor and Sault-Sainte-Marie; other communities in Ontario, as well as communities in New Brunswick and Quebec are also affected.

My question is very simple. In the member's opinion, why did the Conservative government reject, in every respect, the mandatory consultation process that we tried to add to this act?