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  • His favourite word is transport.

NDP MP for Brossard—La Prairie (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.00% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 20th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, in the opinion of the House, the Government of Canada should keep the “Champlain” name for the replacement bridge that will connect the island of Montreal to its south shore.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the minister of state. The goal is not necessarily to bring all the regulations here. I think the minister of state knows how things are in terms of legislation, so that was not the intent of my comment. My comment was about the fact that we are giving a lot of powers to the President of the Treasury Board and we are giving a lot of powers in terms of putting forward how we are going to apply this rule, how we are going to apply the bill. That is the concern. It is not necessarily in terms of looking at all the regulations. The minister of state knows that is not what we do here in the House.

However, the bill is giving more power to a minister and that is the tendency we have seen from the start when I first came to the House in 2011. We are seeing more and more power given to individual ministers in order to do what they want to do. That is what we have been saying from the start when the government keeps coming out with omnibus bills. It is a way for the government to take more power and do as it pleases. That is the concern. Members of Parliament have to make sure that we hold the government accountable and when we give all the power to a single individual, that is a concern for us.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Hochelaga for asking the question. In fact, it is a concern for us. Quite frankly, being in the opposition and seeing how the Conservative government acts day after day, I find it sometimes disconcerting to see how it is managing security and the regulations that affect Canadians.

Again, it is a question of putting more power in the hands of a single person. In this case, that person is the President of the Treasury Board. He can develop guidelines, single-handedly determine how the rule will be applied—I am referring to the one-for-one rule—and he can make regulations on his own. That takes us, here in the House, out of the equation. As legislators, it is up to us to determine which laws and regulations are the best ones to implement.

We know that the Conservative government has the tendency to want to do less. It wants to take the government out of the business of ensuring that people are safe. It wants to put everything in the hands of one person. The government wants to be able to self-regulate. That is a laissez-faire approach and it is worrisome.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses. I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherbrooke.

To listen to the government, and at first glance, this bill seems interesting. The idea of reducing paperwork is important. Before I was elected, I owned a small business and was the only employee. Therefore, I understand that it is important to reduce the amount of paperwork, the forms and procedures for people in business so that they can concentrate on their work.

As an elected official, I spoke with representatives of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and chambers of commerce on Montreal's south shore. I know that this issue especially affects the business world and small businesses. Business people would not have to waste their time filling out forms and doing the administrative tasks of their companies and instead could look after their business and improve their bottom line, as that is often their objective.

However, we must not forget our responsibilities as legislators. I do not want to generalize, but deregulation seems to be the goal of the Conservative government and the Liberals. They are always saying that the market will take care of itself.

For example, in terms of rail safety, the Liberals first privatized everything to do with railways without putting in place regulations to protect Canadians, and that practice continued under the Conservatives. Unfortunately, we saw what happened at Lac-Mégantic.

Let us return to the bill before us, as that is the reason why I am rising today. I will talk about the one-for-one rule. This means that the government will eliminate one regulation for every new regulation it introduces. This rule is rather arbitrary, but we understand its objective. This would stop the government from introducing more and more regulations.

I will once again use rail safety as an example. I often use that, because I am the NDP transport critic, and we are all well aware of the problems caused by deregulation. In committee, the Liberals are still saying that private companies should be allowed to set their own regulations. They believe that companies should use common sense, and then it would follow that everyone would be safe. Of course, the government says the same thing, and says so loud and clear through the measures it adopts.

The goal of the one-for-one rule seems positive. However, it is troubling that the government is granting itself the power to put a regulation in place—yet another one—that allows it to set certain rules aside and decide how it wants to proceed. This gives more powers to the ministers.

Basically, I am worried about how this government manages regulations, particularly when it comes to rail safety, but also regarding food inspection. The government has a strong tendency to allow companies to self-regulate, and this creates situations like the XL Foods crisis, which led to one of the biggest food recalls in Canada.

Another concern is that the bill seems to lump everything together, without taking important public safety regulations into consideration.

As my colleague said, when we talk about safety, we are also talking about the environment and health. Should we put everything in the same basket? The government would say that this bill does not affect health and safety, because it has to do with reducing red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. Unfortunately, that is not written in the bill, only in the preamble. As a lawyer who studied and practised in this area, I know that the preamble is supposed to give us an idea of the legislator's intention, but why is this idea not found in the bill itself?

The government simply wants to adopt a measure to remove a rule every time a new rule is introduced. In light of the study conducted by the Standing Committee on Transport following the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, we know that railway safety regulations are inadequate. Since those events, the government has been introducing measures to make up for its inaction and that of previous Liberal governments.

In that case, we are talking about new regulations. If it is not written in Bill C-21, does that mean that according to the government's one-for-one rule, for every new regulation, another regulation that protects public safety will be removed? For example, we could talk about the phase-out of the DOT-111 tank cars.

We will ask questions, since we do in fact support the idea behind this bill at second reading stage. I have worked in business and I know what a burden red tape and forms can be and how much time is spent on administration instead of work.

I absolutely support the principle, but we must find the right way to go about this. I am especially concerned about the powers being given to the minister. This will be part of the concerns we will raise. I will support the bill at second reading, but studies will have to be done.

The NDP is often criticized for opposing everything, but that is not the case. Having been a member of several House committees, I know that we often, if not always, put forward proposals. However, the government, which holds the majority in the House and in committees, constantly rejects the proposals, even though they improve the bill in order to help Canadians and small businesses. There is concern that the government will not lend its support.

Since we are talking about proposals, I want to step away from the bill for a moment. However, my comments will still be relevant. We have talked about credit card fees. I met with people from my riding so they could sign letters to the former finance minister. They wanted him to be aware of their concerns. They were business people who work hard to earn a living. Unfortunately, once again, since the government does not really like to regulate, it adopted a measure that allows credit card companies to act voluntarily.

In the interests of small businesses, some regulations need to be made. However, the government is not listening to us and does not agree.

When this is referred to committee and the NDP and Liberals make proposals, we hope that the government will listen to us.

Red Tape Reduction Act November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this bill deals with certain rules that are being applied. My colleague mentioned some of the concerns she has about leaving some of the powers in the hands of the government in terms of deciding which bills or regulations to set aside. She raised some concerns regarding the environment, safety, and security. I would ask my colleague to give us some examples of the concerns she has regarding this bill.

Rail Transportation November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there is something troubling happening regarding transport safety under the government's watch. Yesterday we learned from the departmental performance report of Transport Canada that there is systematic understaffing for almost every category of transportation safety and security, with hundreds of unfilled positions. Transport Canada, by its own admission, is saying that it has 700 fewer employees for inspection and oversight.

Why is the government cutting transportation safety and security employees?

Rail Transportation November 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, this morning we learned that another train derailed. This time it happened near Sept-Îles.

This incident, like many others, reminds us of the government's important responsibility to ensure rail safety. The Department of Transport's performance report indicates that 700 transportation safety positions have not been filled. Seven hundred. How can the government protect Canadians when it is reducing the number of inspectors?

Railway Safety Act November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague opposite once more for her speech and for introducing Bill C-627, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property).

As the official opposition critic, I am very pleased to be a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We have had and continue to have the privilege of examining in detail everything to do with rail safety. In the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, this is clearly a very important file for Canadians, especially since they are asking to be better informed and they want to know what the government is doing to ensure their safety.

I will go back to the bill. As I mentioned, the bill amends the Railway Safety Act. As my colleague said, it authorizes the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors to order a railway company or the owner of a crossing—for example, a level crossing—to do certain work, not only when rail safety is threatened, but also when the safety of persons and property is threatened.

I want to say right now that we will support the bill at second reading. At its core, this bill is designed to improve rail safety. I listened to what the member said, but we still have some questions about how the bill will be enforced and what it will do, in particular. One of our questions has to do with why these changes were proposed. That is something I was going to ask the member before my colleague opposite interrupted me.

The member said that the amendments to subsections 31(1) to 31(3) would improve rail safety because it would include the safety of persons or property. However, as I was going to ask her, subsection 4(4) of the Railway Safety Act already provides that in determining whether something constitutes a “threat to safe railway operations”, consideration must be given “not only to the safety of persons and property transported by railways but also to the safety of other persons and other property”.

We will surely have the opportunity to study these issues in committee, but it does not seem as though the bill would change much in the act itself.

I listened closely to the bill sponsor's speech. From what I heard, she spoke more about what the government has or has not done than about the bill. It is relatively straightforward in comparison to the government's omnibus bills. It is about five pages long.

Once again, if the bill is referred to committee after second reading, we should be proposing some changes and asking some questions. It seems as though she chose to use certain terms instead of others, which could have an impact on environmental protection. It does not make much sense.

Getting back to public safety and level crossings, it is true that people's safety is important. During the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, I was the deputy critic of the NDP, the official opposition. After the tragedy, I travelled across Quebec as part of a railway safety consultation to hear what people had to say. We also wanted to hear what mayors and elected municipal officials had to say on the subject. This is a very important issue when we consider all of the communities, even downtown areas, through which trains travel. We need to ask questions, especially when it comes to level crossings.

When I asked the member that question, I briefly mentioned that the government said it was making progress on rail safety and that this is very important, especially in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. However, the fact is that the rail safety budget was cut by $5 million between 2012 and last year. Every year, the rail safety budget shrinks. The most ironic thing is that, in this case, we are talking about level crossings.

The government has a plan for level crossings, but the money allocated to that plan is not being spent. There was $3 million left over that was supposed to have been spent on improving level crossings.

We asked the government about that in the House, and it gave us a number of reasons. When I toured around talking to people about rail safety, elected officials told us that the program existed, but that it was hard to get funding from it. I wonder if the government makes these funding announcements with the full intention of making it very hard for anyone to actually get the money.

When I went to Verchères on Montreal's south shore and to Montreal, I attended a meeting where I talked with various municipal elected officials. My colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie was there too. They told us that the program exists, but that they had a hard time getting information and funding.

One of the problems that keeps coming up again and again inside and outside the House is the government's way of doing things, even though it says that rail safety is very important. I must admit, the government has taken action since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, but could it have taken action sooner? Yes, it could. Can it do more? Yes, it can.

The budget does not seem to contain any measures to ensure that Transport Canada and rail safety organizations have the tools, training and resources needed to ensure public safety. Unfortunately, the budget has been reduced. It is completely incomprehensible and goes against all common sense.

This bill gives the minister the power to intervene should any problems related to level crossings arise. However, the Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board have made it very clear that the department does not have enough resources.

When I asked the parliamentary secretary how many railway safety inspectors there are, he could not answer. We still cannot get those figures. Regulations are being put in place, as is the case here, but no one knows how or if they will be enforced.

Why use a private member's bill to amend something as important as the Railway Safety Act, which has to be reviewed periodically anyway? Why not conduct a full review of the act itself in committee?

We are making a change here. I noticed some irregularities and some confusing passages in this bill. That is why we want to study it in committee. Often, the problem is that we are unaware of the unintended consequences.

Why use a private member's bill? Why is the government doing nothing to ensure that railway safety legislation is solid and much safer?

The government has a tendency to allow companies to self-regulate. That is its approach, which the Liberals support. We often hear the question, “Why is the company not doing anything?” The government allows these companies to do what they want. Sometimes, both the Liberals and the Conservatives wonder why the company did not act on its own initiative.

In 2010, the Transportation Safety Board made recommendations specifically on crossings. Those recommendations have still not been implemented, despite what the hon. member said. I will quote an excerpt:

Transport Canada must implement new grade crossing regulations, develop enhanced standards or guidelines for certain types of crossing signs, and continue its leadership role in crossing safety assessments.

Regulations should be implemented, but that still has not happened and we do not know why.

Why is the government taking so long to implement the recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board?

Railway Safety Act November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should have listened to his colleague's speech. My question is directly related.

The government is reducing the amount of money allocated and not spending the money budgeted for rail safety, especially when it comes to level crossings, which are very important in this bill because that is what the bill seeks to improve.

I would like my colleague's reaction to the government's actions, particularly with regard to the change she proposed to subsection 4(4) of the Railway Safety Act.

Railway Safety Act November 5th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Winnipeg South Centre for her speech and her bill.

She mentioned that rail safety is very important and that is why she introduced this bill. She spoke at length about what the government has done with regard to rail safety.

I would like her comment on the budget that the Conservative government has allocated to rail safety. In 2012, it was $38 million. In 2013, it was $34 million—which is already a reduction of $4 million—and last year it was $33 million. The budget for rail safety has therefore been reduced by nearly $5 million.

To make matters worse, $3 million set aside for level crossings has not been spent. A program that exists to get things done with regard to—