House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consultation.

Topics

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colIeague's comments on the amendment and the bill are very important. I think the whole issue of consultation merits some digging in of heels. It is a serious deficiency in the legislation. We have a piece of consultation, but we have not walked the full distance on this issue.

I think my colleague is right to talk about the sham consultation. It is something we have seen in the past when there was not a serious intent to consult with people directly affected. It seems ironic to hear this talk from a government that talks about grassroots democracy so much. It talks about wanting to hear from Canadians about the issues of the day, about wanting the input of Canadians on the issues of the day, yet when it comes to actually setting up the mechanisms to do that in important areas such as international bridges, it is unwilling to entertain the actual amendments that would do this important work.

In my own constituency, although we do not have an international bridge, we are faced with a highway construction project, the gateway project to improve trade with the Far East, the Pacific Rim. We have heard about the supposed need to expand a major bridge across the Fraser River and the major Highway 1 that goes through my constituency.

We have seen a consultation process that people in my constituency have a terrible problem with. We have attended open houses that display the intent of the project. There are great, shiny, glorious posters and fancy pamphlets, but the actual meaningful consultation was almost non-existent. We have seen group consultations with special invited guests. How do we get on the list? Nobody seems to know.

There are serious deficiencies with that kind of consultation, so this issue is very important to people in Burnaby—Douglas even though Bill C-3 does not necessarily affect us directly. I would ask my colleague from Winnipeg if he could expand on that, especially when he says that often the excuse is made that consultation is just too onerous a process, that it will put off important decisions, and that it puts off important decisions around our trading arrangements. Why is it that trade always seems to trump the needs of our neighbourhoods and our citizens and ultimately sometimes even human rights in this country and around the world?

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague does point out a worrisome trend, which is that even grassroots parties, or parties that seem to feature themselves as grassroots parties to get elected, often seem willing to trample on that very concept of consulting with the grassroots at their first opportunity once they assume power.

It is only months into a new government and we are having this argument about whether the government should or should not consult with lesser governments before it imposes some kind of massive development in their backyards. I think that consultation would be in keeping with exactly the principles that the government espoused and under which it was elected.

I think it is one thing that we share, in fact, with the roots of that party. The NDP has always prided itself on being a grassroots organization too. I would like to believe that when we form the first NDP federal government we will be more true to our commitments to consult with the grassroots and to maintain that link with the grassroots. There is something about power.

This may be my last opportunity to speak in the House of Commons in this session of this Parliament and, in these final moments, I would acknowledge how civil this debate is today. Of all the people that I have heard on this issue, the former leader of the NDP, Ed Broadbent, at the end of the last Parliament, implored parliamentarians to try to elevate the standard of civil debate in the House of Commons. I think it is starting to take. I believe that we can win our arguments based on merit, not on who can shout the loudest. Most of us here today agree, I believe, that sometimes we are embarrassed with the antics.

Whether this argument comes down in our favour or not, I have had the opportunity to express my views without being heckled or ridiculed or catcalled. It is a refreshing change. I find it is so much comfortable. If a member's idea cannot survive free and open debate, then perhaps the idea did not have that much merit, but we should not try to win it on the basis of shouting down the other person. I think there is a lesson in that for all of us.

I want to close by saying that the amendment put forward by my colleague for Windsor West was put forward in the spirit of trying to make this the best bill it could possibly be. There is no mischief. There is no political motivation. I hope it is received in that same vein.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to add a few comments on this important debate about an issue that has been championed so energetically, so well and so intelligently by the member for Windsor West. I know of the passion he has for this, his understanding of the issue and the commitment he has made, and I am impressed.

The first question that people watching this might be asking is this one: what is the big deal?

Why is it that we are driving this piece of work here this morning? This is a rather important bill before the House that is going to change the way we manage and govern some very important pieces of infrastructure involving our connectedness with our neighbours to the south. Why are we focused on this little piece at the end of the day, which in some people's minds may not make such a big difference? I have to say that in fact it does make a big difference and it really is important.

As we look at the way our economy is evolving today and the need for us to be connected in some very real and meaningful ways to the world, to the global economy, and most particularly to our neighbours to the south, we begin to understand how important the minutia, the details, are when we discuss and are involved in making plans about and determining the nature of our connectedness with the United States of America. Our bridges and tunnels are ways of getting back and forth across the border. They are really very important and are actually the key to any economic success we will have going forward.

This is actually a chance for us. I thank the government for bringing this bill forward. This needed to be done. We needed to look at the way we manage our bridges and tunnels. Until now, it has been complicated and a bit of a patchwork. Some tunnels and bridges are owned by the private sector. Some have commissions that are locally based. Some are governed by the federal government. There is no real consistency and no real thought-out pattern involved in the way the bridges and tunnels have been managed.

They are too important for us not to be doing this. The bridges and tunnels are too important for us not to be asking the important questions that the member for Windsor West has been asking in committee and in the House since this bill was tabled a few months ago. He and his cohort, his partner from Windsor, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, have been unrelenting in their pursuit of this piece of important interaction for the federal government as it decides what these bridges and tunnels will look like, whether they will expand or not, whether they will be repaired or not, and how it will deal with and respond to some of the very real issues that come up time and time again in communities where bridges, tunnels and ferries exist.

These issues do come up. The level of traffic back and forth between Canada and the United States over the last 20 or so years has risen exponentially. It has caused some of the problems that we are experiencing today, which is actually why we in the House are debating this bill. We in the New Democratic Party caucus are insisting that when decisions are made going forward, flowing out of this bill concerning these important pieces of infrastructure, municipal and local governments be consulted, because everything that happens in relation to bridges has a serious impact on the communities.

To give an example of how important the issue of the border crossings is, in the last Parliament and again in this one, an all party caucus of Parliament was formed. Members of every party and every caucus in this place gather on a regular basis to talk about the issues, to consult with each other, to hear from each other, and to be helpful to each other in how we give advice not only to our government but to the American government on how we manage, take care of and run our bridges and tunnels, the means of getting back and forth between the two countries. We bring in guest speakers. In the last Parliament, we had Ambassador Cellucci come and talk to us about the issue of security at the bridges and the tunnels.

Security is a very important issue. Again, this is why it is important that the federal government take on this responsibility. It is also, I think, why it is very important that the government consult with the local communities. Where issues of security are concerned, there has to be cooperation among the federal, provincial and local authorities if we are going to be effective in dealing with challenges that might present themselves at those institutions.

It is actually rather telling that a large number of members of Parliament gathered here over a year ago to meet, to talk with and to hear from Ambassador Cellucci in terms of some of his perceptions and understandings, and to share with him what ours were and get a good dialogue going. Significant numbers of members of Parliament now have actually travelled to Washington to be in consultation with some of the officials in the United States, and again, to talk about the border, how we manage this border that is common both to us, and how we put in place facilities and structures that will be most convenient for everybody concerned.

Again, we have to start, I believe, and this is what the member for Windsor West is saying every time he gets up on his feet in this place to talk to us, challenge us, inform and enlighten us and educate us about this issue. He is saying that we cannot do this effectively, that we cannot hope to be successful in the initiatives we take on, the investments we make and the developments we work with, if we are not talking directly with local government, if we do not have some method or way of getting input and consulting with local government.

As the member said so eloquently this morning in his comments, it is at the local level that we know best. We are closest to the action at the local level. Local politicians live, eat and breathe these issues on a daily basis. They watch the trucks go over. They watch the long lineups. They see the impact it has on local neighbourhoods as those trucks go through and as they stop to get serviced or whatever. The local level needs to be consulted.

I just have to look at my own community of Sault Ste. Marie, where we have a very important bridge that connects Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. It has become, in many ways, a central piece in the further economic development of not only our city but our whole region. What happens to that bridge is critical. The expansion of that bridge, hopefully, the development of the infrastructure at both ends of the bridge where we deal with people coming and going, and the mall that needs to be put up so we can increase commerce with that piece of infrastructure, this is all critical. It is a really important part of the economic development planned strategy that we have going forward in Sault Ste. Marie.

We have begun to think about, work on and make significant investments as a local community in the possibility of a multi-modal transportation hub in Sault Ste. Marie. If members look at Sault Ste. Marie on the map they will see that it is dead centre in the middle of Canada. Not only that, if we expand the map further, it is dead centre in the middle of North America.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Come on.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Yes, it is. The member for Winnipeg Centre probably thinks Winnipeg is, but I would argue with him that in fact if he looks at the map more carefully and takes the bigger view that is there, he will see that Sault Ste. Marie actually is at the centre of North America. It is a very important hub and we are trying to take advantage of that.

In the context of today's discussion on this government bill to have the federal government manage those pieces of infrastructure, it is absolutely essential that it be in conversation on a regular basis with the local authorities. It must be in regular conversation with those people who on a daily basis are putting together plans, developing thoughts and ideas, working with other levels of government such as the provincial government and other municipalities in order to take full advantage of the strategic location in Sault Ste. Marie.

We are at the hub of the Great Lakes. Sault Ste. Marie connects Lake Superior with Lake Huron with Lake Michigan, three of the biggest Great Lakes. The bridge is the one piece of infrastructure that links them in a meaningful way and allows traffic to go back and forth between our two countries and those three Great Lakes.

The federal government is mistaken if it thinks for a second that it can unilaterally in all of its splendour and position of authority make decisions about that bridge without consulting the people of Sault Ste. Marie. The people of Sault Ste. Marie see themselves as an important part of this country and they send their member of Parliament here to speak on their behalf. If the government thinks it can go ahead and make decisions about that piece of infrastructure without consulting those folks, it is wrong.

I am hoping that with this debate today, with the back and forth and the very respectful nature of that discussion, the government might come to its senses. There is time. We still have a significant bit of time this afternoon before we get to question period. I am hoping the government will sit down with the member for Windsor West, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and others from every party in the House who are involved in this really important discussion. I am hoping for a satisfactory agreement that we who speak on behalf of the people we represent at the local level will be engaged in a meaningful way in any decisions that are made.

When I was the member for Sault Ste. Marie in the provincial parliament I had the privilege to take part in organizing a trade delegation from our area to Ireland and Finland. We were selling the opportunity to come to Sault Ste. Marie, make investments, set up shop, bring what they do or the product they produce to our part of North America and from there to transport it easily across the border into the midwest United States of America where there is a market of millions and millions of people.

In discussions with those people they asked how they would get their goods or services from Sault Ste. Marie into that very lucrative and exciting market. I would mention almost immediately the bridge, knowing in the back of mind that the bridge needs work, particularly if we are going to take advantage of the potential that is there. If we are going to become a multimodal hub to attract investment from Europe into Canada, into our region of northern Ontario so that from there people can sell into the midwest United States, we need to focus, invest and work very hard to develop the potential for traffic to move more quickly across that bridge than it is moving now. The bridge needs to be expanded. It needs more resources in order to build up the facilities. It needs more personnel.

The government needs to be in consultation with the city of Sault Ste. Marie and its economic development arm and to be willing to partner. There is nothing we do in any community in Canada where economic development is concerned where partnership is not required. The community invests the money it gets from its own citizens. With that it tries to lever money from the provincial government. Then it goes to the federal government and says there is money in the pot from the municipal sector, from the provincial sector and the private sector has an interest because the private sector sees it as possibly enhancing its opportunities.

Communities ask the federal government for some investment and in turn the federal government rightly asks what the project is. The project my community is focused on is that transportation hub and how we get our products into the market south of the border. My community is focused on the bridge.

I have written letters to the Minister of Transport both in the last Parliament and during this Parliament to share some of the wonderful opportunities that exist in Sault Ste. Marie. I have told the minister of some of the challenges we are facing if we want to make this happen. I have suggested that the government needs to be generous. It needs to be willing to come to the table and be a partner. It needs to see the potential.

In the context of this bill and the request that is being made by the member for Windsor West, there needs to be consultation. We want the federal government to be involved directly and intimately in running, managing and taking care of the bridge that connects Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

We have a role to play. We have things to say. We have thoughts and ideas that are important and valuable. If the government works with us and the partners we have already brought to the table, we could make investments that would produce positive and exciting results. The government needs to contribute in a more generous way to the further economic development of our area.

A cookie cutter approach does not work. It does not work for any level of government to take something off the shelf and apply it to another circumstance. It does not always fit. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole does not work. We have to be thoughtful, intelligent and understanding of the contributions people bring to the table and in this instance, the contribution that people from local jurisdictions brought to the table.

This debate is important and valuable. I asked what was the big deal; after a fairly lengthy committee process and time in the House, I wondered why the member for Windsor West was insisting that the amendment be made. I have said over the last 20 minutes that the amendment is needed because we have to understand the valuable contributions people at the local level make to further develop these pieces of infrastructure. This is not only about traffic or security measures. It is about the future of our communities. It is about the future of our regions. It is about the future of our country.

In the last hours before we break for the summer and we go back to work in our communities with our constituents, I would ask that the government in its wisdom see a way to adopt the amendment put forward by the member for Windsor West. In the spirit of good relations in the House this morning, I ask that the government sit down with him and find a way to honour the deep commitment and passion and sense of importance that he brings to this discussion and move this amendment forward so we can pass this bill today.

Private Member's Motion No. 161
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Because of suggestions made during the debate on my private member's motion, Motion No. 161, I consulted the Ethics Commissioner to ascertain whether or not my private interests and the motion placed me in a potential conflict of interest.

The House should know that the response from the Ethics Commissioner indicates that there is no conflict, but because the motion is still before the House for further consideration, I believe it is important for the House to have a copy of the Ethics Commissioner's opinion. Because I am the only person who can make this public, I request unanimous consent to table the opinion.

Private Member's Motion No. 161
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the House grant unanimous consent for the hon. member for Simcoe North to table the letter?

Private Member's Motion No. 161
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions between all parties, and I think you will find there is unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding the Order made on Tuesday, April 25, 2006, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security be authorized to continue its deliberations relating to its review of the Anti-terrorism Act beyond June 23, 2006 and to present its final report no later than December 22, 2006.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.