House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was authorities.

Topics

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Foreign Aid
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the agreement of members to go back to this part of the proceedings.

I am presenting a petition from hundreds of citizens in Port Moody, Coquitlam and New Westminster. I am a proud founding member of the Greater Vancouver Gogos. “Gogo” means grandmother in Zulu. This organization wants to see Canada live up to its decades-old pledge to increase aid to 0.7% of GNI.

The petitioners say that Canada, shamefully, ranks fifteenth out of the 22 countries that have made this pledge. They note that 25 million to 30 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, yet only one in five has access to lifesaving anti-retroviral medication. It is appalling that 1,400 children die every day from AIDS. The petitioners call on the government to allow generic anti-retroviral drugs to be exported to Africa, and they ask the government to honour the pledges that Canada made at Gleneagles in 2005.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that infrastructure is the responsibility of our provincial partners, but the federal government is allocating the most money in 60 years to help our partners and to help the deficit, which the member has brought up.

Indeed, we have developed really good policy, which the member knows--or at least the member who sits on the committee knows--in relation to consultations with the communities. Indeed, board members and council members have to act in the best interests of the city they represent, just like board members of the port have to act in the best interests of the port itself. There is a fiduciary obligation on them to do so.

However, I did notice that the member from the Bloc mentioned earlier that there was no money for the St. Lawrence and Quebec. That is just not true. The St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes even had $15 million allocated some time ago from the government in relation to security, as well as $350 million for climate change for the province of Quebec, $1 billion for security, and $2.1 billion for gateway and border crossings. All of these things are great initiatives by this country, which Quebec, the people of the St. Lawrence and the people of Montreal can take advantage of. All the ports in Quebec can do so.

In relation to the member's comments earlier, he said that the NDP was not trying to obstruct the legislation, so I would ask now for unanimous consent to pass Bill C-23 at all stages.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

We know the Liberals are in favour of it. We know the Bloc is in favour of it. We know the Conservatives are in favour of it. Ten per cent of the House is objecting to it: the NDP.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

We are here to do our job and debate it.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Let me say that if the hon. member is not trying to delay the legislation, we know that 90% of the House is in favour of it, as is everyone we heard from, from all cities, all provinces, all municipalities and even the member's own city, the city of Burnaby, as well as the cities of Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni and Port Moody. All of these cities have been consulted on this and we have not heard any negative effects of that consultation.

At this stage, if the NDP is not trying to delay it, I would ask for unanimous consent. We know that the other parties will agree, so will the NDP agree to pass Bill C-23 at all stages now?

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I must advise the hon. parliamentary secretary that even during his presentation I sensed that there was not unanimous consent, so we will focus on the question he asked and ask the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas to reply to the question. He might want to clarify whether in fact there is unanimous consent for the motion to be moved by the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think you have already ruled on whether you heard unanimous consent or not. I would certainly defer to your expertise. That is your job to make that determination, not mine, and you have already done that, so there is no need to go back to that.

I am interested in what the parliamentary secretary had to say. We are going to do our job in this corner of the House and we are going to raise our concerns. We are not going to be put off that track because we do believe that we have raised serious issues and I can continue to do that.

I thought two things were notable about the commentary from his recent intervention. He said that the government put more money into infrastructure than any government in 60 years. That may well be true, but the reality is that it is not nearly enough.

The FCM, as I have pointed out, has said that there is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit and that the Conservatives have not even approached the very basic need in that regard.

There is a huge problem there. We have seen that the Conservatives have chosen to gut the physical capacity of our government, so that we cannot possibly meet those kinds of needs.

The government has chosen to give big tax breaks to large profitable corporations, instead of seeing to the needs of Canadian communities and their infrastructure needs. I do not think this serves us particularly well. I do not think it is anything to be particularly proud of.

There might be some humility in the ability of not being able to meet the infrastructure needs of Canadians and now we are setting up another major demand on that infrastructure funding by allowing the ports to compete with municipalities for that funding. It does not bode well for the needs of our communities.

He also said that the government had taken great pains to ensure cooperation between port authorities and municipalities, and that the port authority and board members were going to be told that they should operate in the best interests of those municipalities.

The reality is that the people elected to act in the best interests of those municipalities are municipal councillors, the members of city council, the local mayors. It is those people who have a direct mandate from the people of their communities to represent those interests. We believe that they should be very directly involved in the governance of port authorities. Because of that electoral mandate that they have from the people of their communities, they should be involved in that process.

We believe it should not be up to the goodwill of those people who are appointed to the boards of port authorities, but that it should be directly related to the mandates given by people in local elections to municipal elected officials.

That is a very important point I think that needs to be made in all of this and it is a deficiency of the legislation that we are debating today.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has taken, and rightly so, quite a bit of his time to talk about the intersecting set of interests between the port authority and the municipality in Toronto. For example, there is a huge difference of opinion about the island airport as a niche part of the infrastructure. There is a difference between the port authority's attitude toward that and that of the municipal council.

I think this House would agree that those kinds of issues have to result in some sort of a compromise, one that serves the needs of the city. One also must recognize that there is a national strategy with respect to air transportation and there are also strategies with respect to marine. We are talking about marine here.

My question is, would perhaps the approach taken for the airport's authority and how it is appointed be somewhat of a model that might be applicable here, where the municipal council has an opportunity to appoint and put forward appointees that may or may not be accepted by the authority?

They are nominees that are considered for their background of experience from municipal matters and so on. In some cases they may be past members of council and so on, but at least they have a perspective.

Would the member wish to comment with respect to that kind of an approach? Would it be possible, when the national policy framework for strategic gateways is debated, to propose an amendment through that window with respect to changing the appointments process for port authorities?

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member raised the question of the Toronto Island Airport because that has been a significant irritant for the city of Toronto and the local port authority. It is a specific example of the kinds of issues that arise when port authorities have responsibility for non-marine uses, and airports are a non-marine use, as far as I could determine. There are sea planes, I suppose, but I do not think the Toronto Island Airport deals in sea planes either.

That is a very pertinent example of the kinds of problems that we see arise when port authorities do not have to divest themselves of non-marine uses of their lands or developments. That would be a very important example to resolve because we know that the city of Toronto has had a very different perspective than the port authority.

Also, city councillors in Toronto have had some very serious conflicts with the port authority when it comes to how port authority lands will be developed. I know city councillor Adam Vaughan in Toronto has pointed out on a number of occasions the kinds of run-ins he has had on what would seem to be very simple development issues that he has not been able to resolve in a friendly or cooperative way with the port authority. It sometimes has meant that he has ended up in court because of those kinds of measures.

Those are the kinds of things, when we are looking at legislation about port authorities, that we should be seeking to ensure are resolved. That kind of cooperation is part of the mandate in the legislation. Port authorities need to provide that kind of cooperation and their non-marine uses are governed by municipal authorities, the people who are elected by the residents of those communities.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if could inquire as to how much time is available for debate.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for York South—Weston has 20 minutes for debate and then 10 minutes for questions and comments, of which I hope there will be several.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After I am finished speaking, you may change your mind.

I welcome the opportunity to talk about this particular piece of legislation, particularly with respect to the most recent commentaries made and concerns raised by the member from the Bloc and the member from the New Democratic Party. It behooves us just for a moment to reflect on what has actually happened with respect to marine issues and so on.

Recently, many members of the House were invited to the Corporation of Mid St. Lawrence Pilots where a tape was presented which outlined some of the very up-to-date and extremely important issues related to safety that the pilots associations are having to contend with. The whole issue with respect to security in today's modern milieu has been alluded to by other speakers.

The pilots also talked about the legislative approach that is now challenging us to match a global competitive economy with the infrastructure we have, both legislatively and with the ability to meet our safety responsibilities, and the whole issue with respect to environmental spillage and all those things.

The pilots were really at the forefront of preparing this tape just to remind us that this ancient marine activity, which is relatively modern in terms of Canada's geography, has to be updated commensurate with the kinds of issues that have evolved. So, we really are looking at legislation that is not that old.

As a matter of fact, the marine act of 1998 had up-to-date legislative tools within it that made it much more relevant. It also indicated that the Minister of Transport should come back with respect to a review process, and that is what we are all about here today.

We are looking at that process of review. We are trying to match the recommendations that came out of that process as a result of, as I said, a very comprehensive activity by the committee. I was not a member of that committee but I certainly have been following this issue. We are looking at the review and we are trying to determine whether that matches the challenges that have been outlined.

There seems to be a very broad consensus from coast to coast to coast that the amendments that have been brought forward in updating the marine act are in keeping with the concerns that have been raised to see our marine infrastructure as an extremely effective tool in meeting our globally competitive objectives.

The review also concentrated on two areas with respect to the recommendations. It talked about making the marine sector, in particular, the port authority, more financially flexible in order to make decisions quickly that are in the interest of the port authority in its setting. My colleague from Burnaby has indicated, and certainly questions have been raised, that perspective may have applicability in Burnaby but it has different applicability in Toronto.

I would like to make it very clear that with respect to the marine sector's economic flexibility there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to port authorities from coast to coast to coast.

The second recommendation alluded to the construction of a new and flexible federal funding approach for infrastructure. This is where some points of contention have come up.

The Bloc member indicated that he was not satisfied that allocations with respect to the central gateway, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence gateway, were quantitively enough to justify the seaway improvements that are necessary. He talked about the ability to change the seaway in terms of Montreal's capacity to accommodate cruise ships.

It has been a long time since cruise ships have been seen in Toronto but the pilots association has indicated that larger tankers, if not cruise ships, are precluded from utilizing the seaway. The capacity is much greater in terms of the size of those tankers and cargo ships than they were in the early nineties.

Huge investments are not only important from a Bloc perspective in Montreal but they have applicability throughout the seaway into the Great Lakes and cities that are interested in seeing the infrastructure improve.

The parliamentary secretary said that there was more money available, such as the $2.1 billion with respect to the Quebec-Ontario continental boundary, and that investments could come from that fund.

The purpose of this discussion is not to get into whether certain ports will benefit under the Marine Act. It is more about whether there is a national strategy that port authorities, regardless of where they are, can lock into, whether it is in Burnaby, in the most westerly part of our Pacific gateway, or in ports within the Atlantic gateway or Pacific gateway.

It is unfortunate that there has not been much discussion on the national strategy report, which is supposed to come after the bill has been approved. It seems that when we talk about municipalities and their relationship with port authorities, whether it is in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or wherever, it is inherent that the process be one of cooperation, of partnership and of being developed around principles. Without those principles we are really talking about an ad hoc gateway approach, an ad hoc strategy with respect to the central St. Lawrence-Great Lakes gateway, and that the parts do not integrate.

Having a national strategy means that we should be backfilling on planning principles, but someone, somewhere, with some jurisdiction needs to bring them forward. It would enable those who are responsible for implementing a national strategy based on those principles to say in Toronto, when it comes to marine improvements and infrastructure, that this is how the national strategy is being applied right across the country and that whatever program is funding that part of that strategy it will be made by the local port authorities and integrated into the national plan.

We do not have that process yet in place but the objectives of this act is for that to happen. We need to take it on a certain degree of faith that during that next part of the process that kind of thinking will prevail. Without it, we again will not have an integrated marine plan and we will not achieve the objectives of any of the gateway strategies, the Atlantic or Pacific gateways, or how it relates to the borders and the marine activity plays.

Those were the issues raised through questioning and the government and the minister should take note of that. We can be more assured that the amendments being put forward would facilitate the achievement of a globally competitive marine activity that would deal with the issues of concern to people, such as marine safety as it relates to spills and marine activity as it relates to terrorist activity, and those have not really been addressed in this discussion.

I want to make a comment from a Toronto perspective because I was involved when the local airports authority was established. If we do not have a total understanding and a corporate memory, we sometimes keep making the same mistakes. When the local airports authority was established in the greater Toronto area, it was always the intent that the island airport would be under the umbrella of the airport authority. I agree with the member when he says that we should not be mixing port activity with air activity. If the Toronto island airport had been subsumed under the umbrella of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, decisions would have been made as it relates to the economic activity that air travel, the niche value of the airport, and that would have been defended by the airports authority.

What is happening is that the airports issue has been politicized. Activity has been brought into it from the local community. It is literally a legislative free-for-all with the city taking one position, the airports authority not taking any position and it is a matter of airports. I stress that it was an airports authority in the early nineties that had been established. No one in Toronto can argue that there has not been a tremendous achievement through the airports authority with the improvements that have been made at Pearson and so on and so forth.

I do not mean to digress but since that issue has come up it is just a case example with respect to the ongoing national interest being bolstered and underpinned by an organization, be it local in nature, because most of the people who will be on the ports authority, whether it is in Toronto, Burnaby or Montreal, will be local people. They will be representatives with expertise and so on. However, there will always be that conflict if there is no national plan with principles that are outlined and with the role of the local planning and economic development regime at least intersecting that national plan. Without that plan, there will be no sense of accountability, either in principle or in the decisions, and the satisfaction and faith in the decisions that are brought forward.

I do not mean to mix my analogies but that is no way to build a railroad. One needs to have a sense of what the destination is, how the various lines of communications are channeled together to develop a consensus and then move ahead on the national plan.

This legislation, though, does take a step in that direction and, from my own personal perspective, it is very worthy of support. However, a lighter-handed approach at some subsequent point needs to be taken with respect to the appointment of members to the ports authorities.

In Toronto, there are a number of organizations, such as the Toronto Economic Development Corporation, which attempted to bring in representation from the ports authority and other organizations, the downtown business group. Representation is coming in from labour that feeds into the Economic Development Corporation's representations and deliberations.

That would be the approach that should be taken with respect to ports, particularly in urban areas. Where people have demonstrated some degree of municipal experience and commitment, who are of equal importance as those who have been involved in other aspects of economic activity, whether they come from the trades, business equally, both large and small, so too should there be a representation of people who have a sense of the planning dynamic, the needs of the local city and how those decisions of the ports authority factor in to achieving that.

Municipalities these days try to be as inclusive as they can and as transparent and public as they possibly can be. That is the whole nature of municipal government. It is very difficult when there are nationally established institutions that have grafted on to what should be a happy host but, because there is some basic lack of understanding, both in the qualifications and backgrounds of the people who are sitting on the boards of the ports authority in this case, do not even mention the legislative mandate that the ports authority has with respect to its national character. One can appreciate that one is sewing the seeds of conflict if there is not some legislation or at least some principles that are established with respect to the backgrounds of the people who sit on the boards of the ports authority.

I would highly recommend that two things happen. First, when we have the discussion on the national strategy, that these kinds of issues get a fulsome debate. The development of a national strategy requires that the principles, be they the planning or the objectives, be fully debated so that the port authorities, no matter where they are, are locking into those principles and building a national marine infrastructure that will serve our country in a globally competitive environment.

Second, where the issues related to cities are concerned, more consideration should be given to the representation on the port authorities to those who have municipal experience and have been involved in municipal planning exercises with respect to an official plan, a harbour plan or whatever it is. That then would facilitate the bumping and nudging of the national strategy into place right across the country.

The government would be well advised, during this next part of the process, to look at those kinds of issues. At the end of it, the objectives of this act will be more likely achieved. That is what both sides of the House are attempting to cause to happen. We not only want a strategic alignment of our corridors and an investment in them but in order to integrate them we need to set out the objectives of a national strategy so we can then see Canada with a new legacy of economic prosperity in a globally competitive world for decades to come.