House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gender.

Topics

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I also am happy to support Bill S-4 and the importance of rail infrastructure in this country.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North spoke of the nostalgic element of rail. That reflects the fact that we have not invested in rail for so long that we almost have an antique system for passengers. We also have not invested sufficiently in safety for freight. We need to upgrade. We need to expand sidings, so that in the competition for rail use between passenger and freight, passengers are not needlessly delayed.

We need investment. There still is currently pending the $7.5 million that is needed for the former E&N corridor rail on Vancouver Island. We need it, it makes sense and it has wide community support.

In the same way that the hon. member spoke of the fact we can no longer travel by rail from Regina to Winnipeg, people cannot travel from Edmonton to Calgary or from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Sydney, Nova Scotia. Many commercially valuable rail lines have been abandoned by governments that have not been looking to the future.

Does the member agree that on top of Bill S-4 we need to see substantial investment in safety and modernization and, yes, high-speed rail, particularly in areas like Edmonton to Calgary?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the past, whether it was former prime minister Paul Martin or Jean Chrétien, they recognized the value of infrastructure spending. They realized that by investing in the infrastructure we can in fact make a difference.

What I would suggest is that we do need to look at our rail lines as a whole, as an industry and as something that could be of great value and benefit. We need to look at how the Government of Canada can invest scarce tax dollars the best it can in terms of building that infrastructure so our rail lines are safe and ultimately progressively moving forward to where we could actually see the expansion of rail lines, which the member is talking about.

The sky is the limit in terms of the potential that is there within the rail lines, but what we need to do is come together. We need to see strong national leadership that will demonstrate a vision that will incorporate the benefits, economically and socially, of investing in the rail line infrastructure.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague and friend for a terrific speech and for the history.

Transport Canada is responsible for the transport of dangerous products, including by rail. The Environment Commissioner has reported that Transport Canada has not designed and implemented the management practices needed to effectively monitor compliance with the act. Key elements that are missing are a national risk-based regulatory inspection plan and necessary guidance for inspectors. In many instances the nature and extent of the inspections carried out are not documented.

There is little indication that the department has followed up on identified instances of non-compliance to ensure problems are corrected. Transport Canada is not adequately reviewing and approving the emergency response assistance plans. In fact, nearly half of the plans submitted have been given only an interim approval, some for five and ten years.

I am wondering what my hon. colleague thinks about this and what can be done.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member, someone who has a caring heart for our environment. I appreciate the concerns she has expressed.

The member is quite right when she says we could ultimately pass this legislation, maybe even bring in some amendments to make it healthier and better legislation. However at the end of the day if it is not enforced, if there is not compliance to the rules we are passing, whether in the form of legislation or regulation, then we are going nowhere.

It is one thing to talk the line that we want safer rail lines. However, given everything that is on the rail lines nowadays, it is critical that there be a very strong compliance element to it. Otherwise, for all intents and purposes, we are doing more of a disservice when we talk about doing something and try to give the impression that we are doing something, but we are not enforcing any sort of compliance to what it is we are actually talking about doing. I appreciate the question.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place today and speak to this important bill on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport in Toronto.

The bill addresses many important issues, one of them being rail safety, which I will get to a bit later. It also puts some focus on the importance of rail infrastructure, which a number of my colleagues have spoken to this morning. They have spoken of the need for a heightened focus on our rail infrastructure for a number of different reasons.

Of course, Bill S-4 is pertinent and weighs heavy on our minds and hearts right now because of the tragic accident that happened in Burlington in February.

We in our party have long called for heightened rail safety measures and so we are very supportive of seeing Bill S-4 get through the House.

This bill seeks to do a number of different things. When we look at the way our rail infrastructure has been developed and how our cities and towns have developed around it, it is increasingly important to ensure that issues of rail safety are really top of mind when we are talking about urban development, safe cities and environmental issues.

As for my riding of Davenport, I know that everyone in the House likes to study maps of Toronto and if we looked at one we would see that my riding is the only landlocked riding in the downtown core of the city and is criss-crossed with rail lines, some coming right up against backyard fences in many of the neighbourhoods. Rail lines run right up along parks and playgrounds. Fences are very much a part of the streetscape of my riding. Rail safety becomes a very real issue in a riding like mine with many level crossings, and so we take the issue of rail safety and rail infrastructure seriously.

A number of my colleagues today have talked about the importance of investing more fully in this infrastructure. The GTA loses $5 billion to $6 billion a year in lost productivity due to gridlock. It is going to be hard to build more roads to accommodate this gridlock because, as we know, if we build another road it will soon fill up.

We need to start thinking much more seriously about how we can incorporate more passenger rail service, speedier passenger rail service, more affordable passenger rail service. When we start talking about intensifying rail infrastructure, we necessarily have to talk about how to deal with greater safety measures and better technology as well.

Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Chambly—Borduas.

The speeches this morning have been interesting. I say that because on this side of the House we talk a lot about environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions and local environmental issues. An increase in public transit, in mass transit, is one of the most obvious ways to deal with both greenhouse gas emissions and gridlock, and the way we can build and develop more intensification in our urban areas.

We need to do this. Countries around the world are investing in clean rail technology. Just as an example of how backward we are in doing things here, we have a link from Pearson airport to Union Station being built right now to run diesel trains. Toronto is the only major city in the world right now that is building rail infrastructure from its downtown core to its international airport using diesel. Not a single country in the world is doing this but us.

For a long time we have been calling on our federal government to engage in this very serious issue. So far it has been willing to sit on its hands and has been doing that for years. I would add that the Liberals before it had a similarly poor record on this file. The Liberal government, when it was here on the other side of the aisle in 2001 and 2003, ignored calls from the Transportation Safety Board for additional rail safety measures. We have been calling not just for increased rail safety but also a heightened focus in the House on the need for municipalities to develop green transportation infrastructure.

I recall the days of the Mulroney era, and I know the folks on the other side do not necessarily like us to use the former prime minister's name, but we do. They were cutting passenger rail transit back then. I was on one of the last trains across the prairies to Toronto, then they were cut. As some of my colleagues this morning have underlined, one cannot get from A to B in many places in the country by train. One can get from Toronto to Ottawa by train, but at virtually the same speed as driving a car, and so there are a lot of missed opportunities there. There is no doubt that Canadians would love to have more access to passenger rail transit.

One of the reasons we need to see greater safety measures, accountability and transparency and a better order of things, a better chain of command, is that we really need to focus our attention on this mode of transportation, because this is the future of mass transit. As a matter of fact, in my city of Toronto, we have a rail corridor that runs along the west end of my city. It is a perfect place to run greater mass transit. We need to be looking at all opportunities to do that.

However, if we are going to do it, we have to look at greater measures for rail safety. That is why this is an important bill and why we on our side are going to support it. I am happy to be standing here in this place today on behalf of the great citizens of Davenport in Toronto speaking on this issue.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that Canadians from coast to coast actually do want to be able to travel from coast to coast in something that reflects a modern rail system.

I was intrigued that the member from Davenport mentioned the fact that when one travels from Toronto to Ottawa the rail speed is never much more than if one was actually driving. Speed, though, can also be dangerous, and without adequate regulation and the automatic brake systems that we need, speed can cause derailment.

I would like to ask the hon. member whether in his view we need to substantially invest in the modernization of the railbeds so that we can bring in high-speed rail and actually live with the advantages of modern societies around the world that buy Canadian technology from Bombardier to have high-speed trains?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, members on the government side love to talk about how they are great fiscal managers and brilliant economic planners, but the fact of the matter is that if we look at emerging economies, they are investing in high-speed electric train technology right now.

We have the tracks laid. We need the major infrastructure investments to bring our rail transit up to speed for the 21st century.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I took the Operation Lifesaver training offered by CN. I believe that CP offers a similar course. I worked as an officer and manager of inspectors on the commuter trains in the Montreal region. I have always admired the fact that the rail companies have always been focused on safety. Also, as a regular VIA Rail passenger, I am extremely impressed with all the effort that is made with regard to safety.

However, as a passenger and a father, I have concerns about this bill. I believe that safer is always better. That being said, the problem is that, today, we recognize that the rail system is a system of the future and so imposing more safety requirements on private companies without considering the investment aspect of the issue is not necessarily the best approach.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with my hon. colleague. The bill is a step and not the last word on rail transit development in Canada.

In fact, we have a national transit strategy that we have presented in the House. We think this is the right way to go. We are one of the only, if not the only, G7 country that does not have a national transit strategy.

In that vacuum we have these issues that my hon. colleague is raising. We can right that course and change direction, and our national transit strategy is the right way to go.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I just have one brief question for my colleague from Davenport. Would he not agree, notwithstanding the relative merits of the bill, that it offends the sensibility of anyone who calls themself a democrat to be debating a bill in this chamber that began in the unelected, undemocratic chamber of the Senate?

Should we not condemn in the strongest possible terms that the House of Commons is now seized of an issue that originated elsewhere, in the unelected, undemocratic chamber of the Senate, and that we should send a clear message to the government that if it wants to introduce legislation, it should do it in the democratically elected chamber of the House of Commons, not the other place.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to answer that question.

Indeed, we have things turned a little on their head, because when we pass legislation in this House it goes to the Senate, which then kills those bills. That is wrong. We know it, Canadians know it and it is time the government knew it.

Passover and Easter
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this weekend marks the beginning of Passover and Easter holidays, both of which represent seminal periods of time in their respective religions.

Easter, as our Prime Minister has said, is a triumph of life over death and the redeeming power of love over evil. This could just as easily be said about Passover, a story of freedom from tyranny and the perseverance of a people.

It is appropriate that these two holidays come at the beginning of spring, the season of rejuvenation. Just as spring represents the beginning of new life, these holidays represent the beginning of a new period of time for their people, a time to be hopeful of the future and learn from the past. It is now that we should look back and reflect on what we can do better, as well as look forward and try to determine what we can accomplish together.

I wish for all Canadians to take this time of rebirth to consider how they can act to improve themselves and the lives of those around them.

For all those celebrating, I wish them all a very happy Easter and Chag Sameach.

National Volunteer Week
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

José Nunez-Melo Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to invite my colleagues in the House to participate in various events taking place during National Volunteer Week, from April 15 to 21. Many events will be organized across the country to celebrate and thank volunteers for their efforts to build a better world.

Across the country, organizations such as the Centre de bénévolat et Moisson Laval are hosting activities to pay tribute to the work of more than 13 million volunteers. National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to thank Canadians who give more than 2 billion hours of unpaid work to support Canadian society.

Our Canadian volunteers are great leaders, people who are passionate and inspiring. We can count on them to take action.

I will again urge members of the House to take part in National Volunteer Week and to thank the volunteers in their ridings.

Battle of Vimy Ridge
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the solemn occasion of the 95th anniversary of the World War I Battle of Vimy Ridge, a battle that showcased the exemplary valour of our Canadian soldiers.

I want to particularly commemorate Captain Victor Gordon Tupper of the 16th Battalion. His father was an esteemed lawyer in Vancouver and his grandfather a former prime minister. Gordie's last letter home to his parents and five siblings reads, in part:

I am writing one of these “in case” letters for the third time...If you are reading it now you will know that your youngest son “went under” as proud as Punch on the most glorious day of his life. I am taking my company “over the top” for a mile in the biggest push that has ever been launched...and I trust that it is going to be the greatest factor towards peace....Think of it--one hundred and fifty officers and men who will follow you into hell, if need be....Good-bye, dear Father and Mother, and all of you. Again I say that I am proud to be where I am now.

Captain Tupper died April 9, 1917, at age 21, and is buried with his comrades in Pas-de-Calais, France.

Plast
Statements by Members

April 5th, 2012 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Oleksander Tysovsky is the Lord Baden-Powell of Ukraine. Just five years after Baden-Powell founded the scouting movement in Great Britain, Tysovsky created its counterpart in Ukraine known as Plast. On April 12, Plast will mark its 100th anniversary.

Now an international organization of Ukrainian youth, Plast fosters personal development to help young people grow into conscientious, responsible, valuable citizens of their local, national and world communities, and always with an abiding love for Ukraine.

I remember how excited our former colleague, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, was that day in 2007 when several hundred Plast members from Canada and abroad gathered on Parliament Hill.

Today we pay tribute to the good work of the Ukrainian scouting movement, including Plast Canada. We salute 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians and we express again our passion for a genuinely free and democratic Ukraine.