Transportation Amendment Act

An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

David Collenette  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of March 25, 2003
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his very relevant speech and question. Indeed, this bill has already required some compromises. It is more lenient than our citizens had hoped. I am referring not only to Quebeckers, but also to Canadians who have marshalling yards in their municipalities. We are using Quebec as an example, because that is where we are from and because we know our constituents and their needs. The same needs are felt everywhere, however.

How is it that compromises have already been made regarding the original text of the bill and that the few things that were added are now being removed, the few things that people agreed to add? Everything is now going to be wiped out, until the bill is of no use to anyone and will do nothing to achieve the intended goal, after years of hard work on Bill C-26, which then became Bill C-11. We worked on that bill for months, nearly a year, only to take the easier route in the end, the route that was imposed on us by the lobbyists and the large companies.

How can any member who truly cares about their constituents vote against this? Can one vote against this bill at the outset and then accept the amendments? I find that unbelievable and I cannot help but wonder, how are the members across the floor going to explain this to our citizens?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, at present we have before us an amended bill that flies in the face of current trends and that truly does not make sense. Throughout the world, there are now more and more trains, travelling faster and faster and governed by more and more regulations imposed by governments with regard to noise, safety and quality of railway traffic.

In this House, we are moving in the opposite direction. We are trying to pass a bill—a modest one at that—and we are being blocked by a lobby of large railway companies. I emphasize that point because, in my riding, a small railway line known as Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, seemed prepared to make changes and to cooperate when I met with it about two weeks ago to discuss this matter. The large companies, not the small ones, wanted these changes.

It is unacceptable for the big companies to demand that they be subject to absolutely no instructions or constraints, although they are subject to those things when they arrive in the United States, and they accept them and deal with it. As you know, in the United States, noise and pollution regulations are much stricter than in Canada. In fact, the Canadian companies have to have locomotives that are completely adapted to meet the requirements of the American standards in order to cross the border. On the other hand, we have old, noisy and polluting locomotives travelling Canada's east-west corridor. It is hard to understand why this lobby is looking at history in its rearview mirror.

Myself, I was very proud to see this bill moving forward. In the riding where I live, the Farnham switching yard, located in the town of Farnham, is getting bigger and bigger. The fact is that this yard has been causing problems, not for two or three years, but for decades. It is an old switching yard, and the people who live right nearby are the ones enduring the growing noise. At one time, rail transportation was very seldom used, and people found it acceptable. Now, however, with business booming and plans for passenger trains to pass through Farnham—and we are working on this—people have to expect that the noise and vibration will be reduced.

And so when I saw that the bill was moving ahead and was going to pass, following the normal procedure, I could not have imagined that an unelected body like the Senate would tell us that we had to do what the train lobby said and backtrack. Frankly, this could not have been expected.

I therefore went out to meet with the public, and there were only two topics raised, one of which was trains. The residents of Farnham and the mayor and city councillors were invited, and I explained the bill to them. I read them sections 95.1 and 95.2, and they were overjoyed. At first, people in the room were saying that the government would never pass a law to limit noise, because there had never been one. As well, in the last Parliament, the Liberal member who was elected in my riding had told them that his government was not really in favour of proposing measures to reduce noise, and he ignored them and did not want to help them.

I, on the contrary, thought that it was entirely reasonable for rules to be made by the government about how the companies must behave, like good citizens, toward the public which they serve. This is not simply a matter of them saying we will make our profits and then leave.

I met with the public and I read them the sections and they were very happy. They were persuaded that at last there would be changes. Imagine, now, how it will be when they learn that the bill has been amended by the Senate, under pressure from lobbyists.

Who is going to explain to them that the bill was not passed as it was proposed by the committee and as it was passed in this House? Will it be the Conservative members, who would in fact love to take my place? Will they be the ones who will come and explain it to the residents of the town of Farnham? I would suggest that they come in a well armoured car, because they might get a bad reception. Will it be the senators? No, because we know that senators never leave home. They are not accountable, in any riding. So they will not be coming to explain it.

I will personally have to explain the situation to them. Imagine the situation I will be in when I go to tell people: “The Liberals did not want it and the Liberal senators proposed some amendments”. To cap it all, I will have to tell them that Bill C-11 was a government bill but the government members voted to destroy it. Frankly, it is the height of ridiculousness. They say that in politics, six months is a long time but they can count on me to remind them of these events in the next election and they will remember it. The people of Farnham will be very happy to vote for a candidate who wants to reduce vibrations.

Earlier, I raised a point about vibrations and, as it happens, in Farnham, that is a very important factor because of the clay soil. If there are vibrations, the sound of the vibration can be heard very far away, as is the case at Farnham.

So, the matter of vibrations was vital. It was not just a matter of noise but also of vibrations. This means that a company must ensure that the trains reduce speed when they are in the marshalling yard, that shock dampers are installed on the rails and that there is a layer under the rails to absorb vibration. This is the case all over the world, except here. We do not understand why.

We know about the technology, but we do not apply it. Thus, at some point, faced with a modest bill, someone came forward and said, “No, that is going to upset my routine and cost me money. Let us leave things as they are”. That is a complete anachronism.

As I have said, the railway industry is now moving towards faster and safer trains, and much longer trains. Moreover, the Americans who send trainloads of merchandise to Canada, and who receive trainloads as well, are becoming more demanding about how those shipments are handled in Canada because they do not want any accidents and they do not want any complaints either.

It is only the lobby here in Canada that is holding us back. If we had American-style lobbying with American standards, everything would be satisfactory for our fellow citizens. We are here to act for our constituents.

I do not understand how we are supposed to say to the municipalities that it was in the bill but it was taken out. I read as follows: “The Agency must consult with interested parties, including municipal governments, before issuing any guidelines.”

That is what I did in my riding. I consulted the various municipalities and they totally agreed and were happy finally to have some rules imposed. The rules were not very hard to comply with, but at least there would be some. Now there will not be any at all and we will be back to square one. What is reasonable and what is unreasonable is not very specific. When this bill arrived, I suggested that there should be a standard for decibels, which represent the loudness of the sound at a certain distance. If we had done that, things would be very clear. But we did not. All we said was that the noise would be reduced, as appeared in the wording. We said as well that the noise adjacent to the railway could be harmful to people.

Now they are going further and withdrawing this proposal. It defies understanding. Why? To please a few railway companies, but not even all of them. It is important to know that not even all the companies wanted this, just a couple. They must have managed to lobby the current government very quickly to get it to change its mind. It used to be in agreement. It changed its mind at the last minute and is dropping the amendments, which would have been really destructive for the future of trains.

I want to tell the House about Farnham in my riding. Other hon. members have spoken about various marshalling yards, but in my riding there will be trains to other places as well: to Bromont, to Magog and maybe to Sherbrooke. We will be able to have trains to these places because the tracks are there, but they are hardly ever used. Some companies are interested in using them for passenger trains, and they will be, if people accept them. People will only accept them, though, if they make less noise. If is perfectly obvious that if there is noise pollution, if there are vibrations and other kinds of incessant pollution, people will not be interested. They are willing to travel by train, but they do not want the trains to upset their lives. There are already people living close to the tracks.

When people go to Japan, France, Italy or the Scandinavian countries, they see how quiet trains can be, even freight trains. They are made up in marshalling yards at low speeds, with much more flexible, less noisy couplings.

We are not asking for something that does not exist. We are just asking for something that exists everywhere but in Canada. Why take a step backward? This is not 1890, when people had to put up with steam trains. Now, we have technology, so why not use it? This was a long-term solution, not something that would last two or three months. It was a tailor-made solution that would have produced an acceptable sound level. Once it became part of rail culture, it would have lasted a very long time. But no, we are going back to the way things were before and changing absolutely nothing about the archaic, accepted technique that dates from a time when train use was dropping dramatically. Today, rail transportation is enjoying a resurgence.

We should have responded to this recovery of the rail sector by embracing new techniques. The government will have Bill C-11 on its conscience for a very long time, especially since Bill C-26 was never adopted.

This time, it could have been adopted, but they will have it on their conscience and bear the responsibility for it.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Speaking of noise, I can hardly hear myself talk because of my colleagues opposite.

That was the benefit of this bill. We discussed it in committee and weighed the pros and cons. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities—which you support, Mr. Speaker, as the head of this House—heard both sides, the railways and the citizens' groups.

In Quebec, these are not minor problems. We could talk about marshalling yards such as the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, Joffre in Charny—now in the city of Lévis, in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse—, Farnham in Brome—Missisquoi, and Pointe-Saint-Charles in Jeanne-Le Ber. We are familiar with all the problems and the legal proceedings in Outremont and the rail transportation problems in Quebec City and Montmagny. All these people affected by the noise came to tell us about their failed discussions with the railway companies, which were not interested in talking to them. They knew very well that no legislation could force them to deal with the noise pollution.

That is why, after discussions among all the parties, the committee was able to table a unanimous report on Bill C-11. Amendments were proposed unanimously and no one opposed the bill as tabled and discussed in committee.

I will read section 95.1 of the bill adopted unanimously by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities when it was studied clause by clause. It is worthwhile reading so that those listening will fully understand.

Section 95.1 reads as follows:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company, must cause as little noise and or vibration as possible, taking into account

(a) its obligations under sections 113 and 114, if applicable;

(b) its operational require2ments;

(c) the area where the construction or operation takes place; and

(d) the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

We all thought it struck a good balance to take into account both the operational requirements of the company and the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway, and we did so by adding, “as little noise and vibration as possible”. All parties were unanimous on this.

Imagine that Bill C-11 goes back to the Senate. It decides to give in to pressure from the industry. That is clear because I have the list of witnesses who were heard in the Senate committee. Not a single citizens' group was heard during this discussion. The Senate heard from the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Transport Canada, the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Western Grain Elevator Association, the Western Canadian Shippers' Coalition, the Railway Association of Canada, and the Canadian National Railway Company. Not a single group of citizens experiencing problems with noise was heard from.

We did not come up with the words, “as little noise as possible”. These terms were used in Bill C-26 tabled by the Liberals in the last Parliament. We used the terms, “must cause as little noise as possible” and we added the word “vibration” because it has come to that. As I was saying, because of the length of the trains, we have to deal with the noise and vibration caused by railway transportation. But we opted for “as little noise as possible”, which was proposed by the Liberals in the last Parliament.

Today, in the Senate, the Liberal majority decided to change that. It decided to hear from witnesses, but not from citizens groups. It gave in to pressure from lobbyists and decided to table the amendments we are discussing today in this House and which the Bloc Québécois will vote against.

Worse yet, and this is where I have a problem understanding the Conservatives, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said, when he appeared before the Senate committee:

Today, however, I would like to discuss the many benefits of Bill C-11. The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made a number of improvements to Bill C-11 during committee review, following almost two months of meetings last fall with witnesses from across the country. I want to thank members of that committee for their diligent work. We now have a very solid piece of legislation that I hope this committee can deal with expeditiously.

He went on:

The bill will require the railway to cause as little noise and vibrations as possible when constructing or operating a railway, taking into consideration the requirements of railway operations, the interests of affected communities and the potential impact on adjacent residents. As well, the Agency would be given authority to resolve noise complaints if a voluntary settlement cannot be reached between parties. This is a long-awaited remedy that we believe will balance the needs of communities with the need for continued rail operations to move ever increasing trade volumes.

In addition, Senator Dawson, one of the people who orchestrated the amendments for the Liberal majority in the Senate, said himself in the Senate:

—the Department of Transport tells us that it can live with the text as it stands. The department is your partner. The minister could have decided to pay us a visit here in the Senate to tell us that he found the amendment tabled in the House of Commons to be unreasonable—let’s not mince words—and to ask us to change it. Instead, he came here and told us that he could live with the bill in its present form.

That is why I cannot understand the Conservatives' position today. The minister could live with the bill. The definition came from the old Bill C-26 introduced by the Liberals. The Conservatives did not see what the Liberal majority in the Senate was doing or what all the Liberals in both houses were doing, unbeknownst to the entire House of Commons.

That is the big problem for me. Today the Conservative Party is supporting the amendments that were submitted by the Liberal majority in the Senate. I am going to read the text that I read a while ago to my NDP colleague. It is worth it because, after all, there are Conservative senators in the Senate, too. It is interesting to see how their own Conservative senators operate.

I am going to return to the statement by Senator Hugh Segal, who said, “I point out with great respect that Senator Munson and Senator Dawson [these are two Liberal senators], who played such a constructive role, have undertaken that when this chamber, in due consideration, ships this bill, should it decide to do so, back to the other place, they will consult broadly with their colleagues in that other place [here he is speaking of the Liberal MPs in the House of Commons] so that the bill comes back quickly”.

So I understand the Conservative senator, when he says that the Liberals, are proposing amendments, and asks whether they think that will work. The Liberals then confirm to Conservative Senator Segal that, indeed, when it happens, they will turn around and be in favour of the amendments. However, the Conservative senator never says that he consulted the Conservative members and the minister. He does not say it. He does his work nicely.

Of course Senator Segal adds, “They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place dither and not approve it--“that is, if we in the House of Commons decided not to approve it”--they will move quickly to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration--“speaking of the Senate”--to pass the bill quickly through this chamber”.

Throughout the text, Senator Segal says that the Conservatives want to advance the bill, that they are non-partisan and have only heard the railway companies. They are in favour of what is proposed by the Liberals, who say they have reached an agreement with their colleagues in the House of Commons. Thus the bill will come back to this House and everything will be settled. Still, Senator Segal had a moment of lucidity. At least he took the time to ask himself what the Liberals would do if ever the bill were not passed by the House of Commons? This is not a problem: they will pass it as amended by the House of Commons. This is what the text of the Debates of the Senate, Issue 101, of May 30, 2007, tells us.

I do not understand the Conservatives who are voting today in favour of the amendment by the Senate, knowing very well that if they held the line and that if they insisted at any rate on what had been adopted in committee, we would vote against the Senate amendments and the Senate would adopt it because there is already an agreement between the Conservative senators and the Liberals. If we blow hot and cold and are not in favour they will quickly adopt it.

Why not do it as early as possible today? Let us send it back to them and tomorrow they will return it to us. In that way we would have respected the wishes of the public and not just the interests of business.

I will not stop there. The representatives of the City of Quebec and the City of Lévis appeared before the committee. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse, in the Quebec City area, even had his picture taken with all those people and the photo was published in the local weekly newspapers. He was very pleased. The member for Lévis—Bellechasse was not present because he was no longer a member of the committee but when the witnesses appeared before the committee he was in favour. The definition that was contained in Bill C-11 is the definition advocated by the City of Lévis. Yet, this evening or at some other time, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse will vote in favour of the Senate amendments, which are contrary to the position put forward by the City of Lévis.

Conservative colleagues, the public have had enough of this and they want it settled. The balance that we achieved and that was defended by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, is a good balance, and he said it well, because the demands of the public were much greater and a great deal more critical about the railways than what ended up in this bill.

That balance is found in the definition “as little noise and vibration as possible” and the condition relating to the potential impact on persons residing adjacent to the railway. It is simple; it is to balance the power of the railway companies, which for business reasons have no interest in the problems of noise pollution and do not care.

As I said from the start, we can no longer ignore this noise pollution. The pubic are entitled to have their problems dealt with in an intelligent way and to come back to the definition of the word “reasonable,” a definition that was in the previous legislation and about which there was much less than unanimous agreement.

Speaking of the witnesses, the residents of Charny, which is now part of the City of Lévis, formed committees and they studied the court decisions, including the Oakville decision.

They are very much on top of this issue. They have organized fundraisers and were ready to go to court over the noise problem. There really is a problem with noise pollution. They are not doing this for the fun of it and do not spend their time in court because they have nothing else to do. When they decide to institute legal proceedings, it is because all the discussions with the railways have gone no where. Marshalling yards are hell.

There is a company now that converts old locomotives using truck engines that can be turned off at night. The managers of this company have been trying to meet with CN management, but CN does not want to see them. It does not want to meet with them. It would rather keep its old locomotives in the marshalling yards. Railway cars obviously have to be moved around for maintenance and repairs. Engines are left running night and day. That is how it is done in the winter because if a diesel engine is turned off, it cannot be restarted. That is the reality. They do not want to modernize, do not want to listen, and do not want to know anything about new technologies. What interests them are the profits they pay to their shareholders every three months. They do not give a damn about anything else.

For once we would have a bill that would help citizens achieve a balance because that is what the Transportation Agency is supposed to do. If the company and the people filing complaints cannot agree, the Transportation Agency has the power to impose directives. What directives? They would provide some oversight and say that the railways have to cause as little noise and vibration as possible and consider the possible impact on people residing close to the railway, while at the same time continuing to operate and construct railways in the places where they are. There already were some guidelines that enabled them to say that certain things had to be done, while at the same time they had to take into account the fact that they were located near particular neighbourhoods. The legislation already gave them the ability to say that their facilities were in certain locations and they had certain operational needs. The only balancing required was that they had to take into account the impact on people living in adjacent locations and cause as little noise and vibration as possible.

As the Minister said when he appeared before the Senate, it was a good balance. I agree with that. My problem is that the Conservative members—particularly those from Quebec—are still kowtowing to the railway lobby. Probably the members from the West are pressuring the Quebec members. We will not hear from them today: they are not making speeches. They will listen obediently to what the parliamentary secretary tells them when he tries to make them understand that nothing can be done. If it goes back to the Senate, it will take time, because if the Senators do not agree, the Senate can decide to send the bill back here, and we want it to pass quickly.

I will read what Senator Segal said again, since the parliamentary secretary has just arrived. I quote again what he said about his colleagues, Senators Dawson and Munson.

They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place [that is us] dither and not approve it, they will move quickly to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration [the Senate] to pass the bill quickly through this chamber.

I reiterate to my Conservative colleagues that they should not be afraid to stand up for their constituents' interests, once and for all. I say to the members from Quebec—the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, the members for the Quebec City region, and their minister—not to be afraid to stand up for their constituents. Just once, let them rise in this House to stand up for the only defensible tool, the one that was even defended by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities before the Senate committee. He said that it was a good balance. Let them stand up and defend the interests of their constituents. Let them stop being doormats for the members from the West. Let them stand up and stand tall. Let them defend the interests of their fellow citizens by saying no to the Senate and to the amendments before us today. And let the Senate make its decision again. That is what it says in the Senate report, in the statement by Senator Hugh Segal, that they already have an agreement: if we send the bill back and do not accept the amendments, they will pass Bill C-11 as it stood when it was unanimously agreed to in committee.

What I am asking the Conservative members from Quebec to do is to stand up, to defend the interests of their constituents and to do what the Bloc members, who were elected solely to defend the interests of the public and not for their personal careers, are doing. That is what we will see at the end of the day.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2007 / 8:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would take a lot more than 15 seconds. I am glad to see that the hon. member has a good sense of humour as well. I guess it is about 8:15 p.m. and if the hon. member did have a sense of humour it must have run down a track at an awfully fast rate.

At any rate, the hon. member would know of course that we had the bill before. What we have been talking about are amendments to the bill, of course, in terms of substance for railway safety, railway efficiency, and talking about the way to move forward in terms of building an infrastructure that is consistent with Canada's needs not only for today but for tomorrow and to ensure that the mechanisms and the technology that is in place is consistent with the expectations of the Canadian public.

There is a lot more than the member would be able to understand in the few short seconds that she felt she needed to express her disappointment that she did not get everything that she wanted to get tonight.

The member might have followed the debate when it was held in the House at second reading, when it went through report stage and when it went into third reading. She might even have expressed an interest during committee.

It only lasted about six months, so in 15 seconds I would say that we never have to apologize for having taken care of the people's needs, people's safety, people's future and people's sense of progress and forward looking.

That is why we introduced Bill C-26 and that is why we were pleased to support this bill. That is why the members in the other place made the amendments they made consistent with all of those ideals to move this forward.

Some would say some of those people are unelected, but there was cooperation between Conservatives and Liberals. Even though they were upset, they were outnumbered two to one, they agreed that this was something that should happen.

The parliamentary secretary reflected the support that Conservative members gave to this amendment. Therefore I thank them all.

The hon. member wants to have a lesson on what is in the bill, no problem. She can call my staff and we will give her a seminar.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11. I hope that this bill will be passed.

Earlier, I asked my Liberal colleague some questions. Things are not easy in this Parliament, particularly because of the very different approaches to development or to problems the public may be having. Too often, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party have great plans, but neither of them solves people's real problems. Bill C-11 will try to offer a little salve for the wounds of people who are suffering all sorts of upsets because of railway company operations.

The railway industry is expanding rapidly and has undergone major technological changes. Although it provides a useful and increasingly profitable service, it imposes constraints on the neighbouring communities. This has gone on for years, as I said earlier.

The problems associated with the noise, vibration and odours generated by railway operations as a whole have existed for a long time and are becoming more serious with the development of new technologies.

The people listening to us—Quebeckers and Canadians—will understand that for reasons having to do with economies of scale, the way things are done in the railway industry has changed. For one thing, in the mid-1990s, coupling of locomotives and cars was done by human beings. Starting in the mid-1990s or early years of this century, human beings were replaced by remote coupling, which is done electronically or electrically.

Once this way of doing things was changed, once they wanted to achieve economies of scale by reducing the number of employees in switching yards, the problems associated with noise, vibration and odours became worse. This is done following Transport Canada's standards. As yet, there is no technology that would allow this to be done while making the least noise possible. Since the mid-1990s, many groups of people who live alongside switching yards have got together and formed associations to try to control the noise and odour pollution generated by the railway industry.

Wanting to limit problems for neighbouring communities does not mean being opposed to rail transportation. On the contrary, we want the rail industry to expand. Railway companies, like Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, make profits. While they had some problems during the 1980s and 1990s, I think that since that time they have paid their shareholders a very handsome return. In fact, it rises every quarter.

Phenomenal profits are being made. Profits like these had never before been made in the railway industry.

Pressure is being taken off the roads, and that can help combat greenhouse gases. We are aware of this. Rail transportation can limit greenhouse gases, because it reduces the number of trucks on the roads. It also imposes constraints, however.

Since 2000, that is, since the 37th Parliament, this House has been trying to solve the noise problem. The Liberals introduced Bill C-26. It was virtually an omnibus bill which addressed a number of problems in the railway, airline and other industries, and which made VIA Rail an independent corporation, a corporation with share capital. This could have helped it to expand. From the outset, the Conservatives were against expansion by VIA Rail, which could have engineered its own expansion and could have created VIAFast. Members will recall that debate. The Liberals were divided: there was the Chrétien clan and the clan led by the member for LaSalle—Émard. The result was division on Bills C-26 and C-44. Bill C-26, which was introduced in the 37th Parliament, never saw the light of day because of that division. In the 38th Parliament, Bill C-44 also failed to get passed.

Once again, the people who live near marshalling yards and suffer from the noise pollution and other by-products of the railway industry have not seen any improvement. This problem was buried in omnibus bills. One of the methods used by the Conservative Party in this 39th Parliament was to divide the previous Bill C-44, which was debated in the 38th Parliament, into three.

The Conservatives say now that they broke it up in order to speed things along, but they are concealing the real reason, which is that they wanted to remove everything that had to do with VIA Rail from Bill C-44.

The Conservatives have never wanted the railways to really develop. They did not want the railway companies to compete with airlines for passengers. That was their choice. They wanted to protect WestJet rather than help rail develop sufficiently, the kind of development that the Bloc Québécois has always supported.

It is very important for the transportation sector to become more competitive. Rail is healthy competition for the airlines. There is talk of a fast train, although not a high speed train, between Quebec and Montreal and Montreal and Windsor. The Bloc Québécois has always supported this vision. The Conservatives, though, divided up Bill C-44 because they did not want VIA Rail to become an independent corporation ensuring its own development or the famous VIAFast project to see the light of day, that is to say, a fast Quebec City-Montreal, Montreal-Windsor train. That is the real reason.

All the same, we would have supported an omnibus bill that included all of Bill C-44. We supported Bills C-44 and C-26 at the time, and now we support Bill C-11, which will deal once and for all with the noise pollution problem.

It is never simple. I use this example because, at the same time, the people listening to us will understand how Parliament works. It is never simple. Insofar as the noise issue is concerned, the Conservatives took it upon themselves to bring a bill forward that touches on this problem. However, there is not just noise pollution but also vibration pollution and fumes. There are all kinds of sources of environmental pollution.

During our discussions with the government about Bill C-44, we touched on these issues but were not successful because of the entire VIA Rail question, even though we were working on fixing the pollution problems. If we are going to fix them, let us really do it. But with government things are never as straightforward as that. We have to understand. The Conservatives have never had any vision of the future; it is always short-term. So they decided today to include noise pollution in Bill C-11. Like us, all my colleagues and all the citizens out there say that if they are going to fix the railway pollution problem, why not take advantage of this opportunity to include fumes in the bill and the issue of locomotives turning night and day and producing fumes and environmental problems.

Sometimes you walk along the rails and you see pollution. Because the rails have been changed, stacks of wood are piled up along the tracks, and so on. The Bloc Québécois wanted to solve all the environmental problems related to railways, but the government decided that the noise was the problem. The Bloc Québécois tried in committee to put forward its own proposals. We wanted to solve the problems of noise, vibrations and fumes. We had clearly understood that, by including only noise, Conservatives did not want to solve all the environmental problems. So we went with vibrations and we asked ourselves whether we could perhaps solve at the same time the problems of vibrations and fumes from locomotives.

This is where we attack the law clerk of the House. The government knows quite well that, when it introduces a bill, we cannot move the amendments that we want, even though we have a lot of goodwill, even though all my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois are experiencing major problems, since, for example, some of their fellow citizens live close to the Moreau railroad yard, in Hochelaga, or the Joffre railroad yard, in Lévis. Even though this committee is now represented by a Conservative, we will ensure that all this will change in the next election. However, the fact remains that the people of Lévis complained to us and we never stopped defending their interests. There is the same problem close to the Farnham railroad yard, in Brome—Missisquoi, and to the Pointe-Saint-Charles railroad yard, in Jeanne-Le Ber, east of Montreal. All these people wanted us to solve all these problems, including fumes. Thus, we introduced an amendment, but the whole part concerning fumes was taken out. The law clerk of the House told us that it was out of order.

So, it is not like we did not try. We wanted to show our goodwill and our good faith in this issue. We tabled everything that we could think of. We even wanted to include public health, because there are now international standards on noise pollution. We really wanted to comply with public health standards. One of our amendments asked that public health not be unreasonably affected, given these essential operational needs. We wanted to include the issue of public health in the bill.

However, because the bill introduced by the Conservative Party was totally silent on public health, the law clerk of the House told us that this amendment, even though quite interesting, was out of order, because it would change the meaning of the legislation.

Those citizens who are listening to us must understand that a government is something that is complex. And when it is a Conservative government, it is twice as complex. That is how things work. That is the reality. The government uses every possible trick to prevent us from succeeding and achieving our objectives. In this case, we were able to reach an agreement on noise.

So, as we are speaking, clause 95.1 of the bill reads as follows:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company, must cause as little noise and or vibration as possible,...

This is what we have before us now. The original bill introduced by the Conservative Party talked about not making unreasonable noise.

We managed to get an amendment in that goes further. That was done with the support of the Conservatives, who finally realized that we wanted at least to settle once and for all the issue of noise and vibration, so that we would no longer talk about it, and so that citizens would be able to win their cases.

So, we managed to agree to include the expression “as little noise and or vibration as possible”.

One day, this bill will come into force, but not today. It is at third reading stage, then it has to go to the Senate and come back here. Canadian federalism is complicated. There is another chamber, the upper chamber, called the Senate. It has to study the same bills. The Bloc Québécois has been wanting to get rid of the Senate for a long time. The Conservatives have decided that senators will be elected by universal suffrage. We are far from getting rid of it. The federation will become even more complicated. However, one day, we will no longer be here—we hope. One day, Quebeckers will decide to have their own country and they will not have a Senate. That will be best. There will just be a parliament and it will be far less complicated.

However, in the current situation, the bill as amended by the Bloc Québécois, among others, reads as follows at clause 95.1:

When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company, must cause as little noise and or vibration as possible, taking into account

(a) its obligations under sections 113 and 114, if applicable;

This has to do with operations.

(b) its operational requirements;

[...]

(d) the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

We managed to get that included. The following clause—and this is the crux of the bill—gives powers to the Transportation Agency, which is new. During its operations, it will have to take into account the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway. From now on, it will have to take into account those who live close by when there are problems with noise and vibration. That is how it will be for their operations.

Clause 95.2 states:

The Agency shall issue and publish, in any manner that it considers appropriate, guidelines with respect to:

This requires the Transportation Agency to establish and publish guidelines that the railway companies will have to follow. Just to get this part into the bill required many hours of discussion. Finally, the agency can be forced to establish and publish guidelines. It is all well and good to say there will be as little noise and vibration as possible, but there still need to be guidelines. This bill will force the agency to establish and publish guidelines.

Once the guidelines have been established and the railways are operational, we proceed to clause 95.3.

On receipt of a complaint made by any person that a railway company is not complying with section 95.1, the Agency may order the railway company to undertake any changes in its railway construction or operation that the Agency considers reasonable to cause as little noise or vibration as possible, taking into account factors referred to in that section.

Before this bill, the Canadian Transportation Agency had no power. Its only role was that of intermediary. Judicial power was tested in that respect in an Ontario court.

One might have thought that after getting involved in a file and participating in negotiations, Transport Canada could have made recommendations and ordered the company to take certain measures if no agreement could be reached in the end. In a decision concerning an Ontario community, the Ontario court ruled that the Canadian Transportation Agency had no power, that it was simply a mediator, not even an arbitrator. It could participate in discussions, but it had no power.

The real purpose of this bill is to give the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to order measures to be taken. That is, once it receives a complaint, it will analyze it and order the railway company to take measures.

Recently, I met with the Railway Association of Canada, which turned up practically in tears to tell us that it made no sense to force railway companies to produce as little noise and vibration as possible.

I might ask all railway employees, who work very hard, why we have this bill before us today. I might also ask the shareholders and the companies that are making healthy profits and doing good business why we are debating this bill. We are debating it because they have been so remiss in past years that we have no choice.

Personally, I took part in a meeting with citizens who live around the Moreau marshalling yard in Hochelaga; the railway company was also present. I will not say its name because they are all the same, regardless of which one it is, and I do not want to discriminate. So I participated in the discussions. It was easy to see that the employees taking part were there under duress. The member for Hochelaga was present to listen to the citizens. I was there as the transportation critic for the Bloc Québécois. My colleague from Hochelaga and the community, who had been following the Ontario decision, were very well informed and proposed some mitigation solutions to the representatives of the railway company. These people seemed interested but in the end nothing ever came about. That is how it is.

It was the same thing when I met with citizens’ groups in the Joffre marshalling yard in Charny. I had a chance to meet the Mayor of Charny, who is now a councillor for the City of Lévis and who really took an interest in this file. It was and still is the same thing. The companies listen, but in the end, when they have to spend some money, it does not go anywhere, not to the next level up anymore than to the board of directors.

Since I am being told I have two minutes left, I am going to use them wisely.

This is how we have ended up where we are today. The Bloc Québécois does not want to be one of those who would prevent the railway from developing. On the contrary, we know that it is developing just fine, that business is good and that it is probably time to put things in order and do something about the pollution that railways can cause. There is noise pollution and other kinds of nuisances.

We will not fix all that today, as I said. And it is not because the colleagues of the Bloc Québécois would not have liked this bill to solve all the nuisances caused by railways. Given that the industry is doing well, maybe it is time for it to make some investments.

At least today the noise and vibration problems should be solved. For any citizens who live along railways or near railway yards this bill should solve any noise and vibration problems they experience. From now on complaints can be filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which can intervene and, in accordance with the provision contained in paragraph 93(3), order the railways to take action. The Agency will be able to order railway companies to take remedial action.

Obviously this does not solve the other problems. In committee, communities came to tell us that the trains are increasingly long. In some places, they are even afraid that emergency services cannot get through. That obviously includes ambulances, firefighters, and all sorts of services. Actually the trains are so long that they block entry into entire neighbourhoods. This problem is not dealt with in the bill. I hope that the government one day will listen and table new bills that will deal with all these issues.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am listening to my colleague, and I even listened to what the Minister of Labour had to say. It is true that what is happening at CN is serious. Railway safety is a serious issue. The only problem, and this makes me smile, is that Bill C-11 has nothing to do with that, but does address an equally important problem: noise and vibration.

This is important to the people living near marshalling yards such as the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, Joffre in Lévis, Farnham in Brome-Missisquoi and Pointe-Saint-Charles in east Montreal. Three Parliaments have debated legislation on this issue, yet these people still have not seen a solution to their problems. Bill C-26 was introduced during the 37th Parliament, Bill C-44 during the 38th Parliament, and now we have Bill C-11. In his speech earlier, my colleague never mentioned what we are trying to deal with today: the problem of noise and vibration.

My question is this: are we finally going to be able to solve this problem today, and will the Liberal Party support us in solving the problem of noise and vibration, so that we can move on to other problems? That is my question.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / noon
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will begin my speech today with a brief outline of the legislative history of Bill C-3, a very important bill to Canadians regarding the safety and security of this nation and the transportation of goods across our borders. This includes the developments while the bill was considered in the Senate.

The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities introduced the bill to the House of Commons on April 24, 2006. Members may remember that at that time the bill borrowed heavily from two predecessor bills, Bill C-26 and Bill C-44, both of which were put forward by the previous Liberal government but both of which actually died on the order paper. Those previous bills dealt with amendments to the Canadian Transportation Act and included the addition of new provisions for international bridges and tunnels, which are very important to our nation.

The House Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities discussed Bill C-3 at five of its meetings. An amendment to the bill was made by the committee concerning the minister's powers with respect to the setting of toll rates. During the third reading stage, further amendments were made to the bill adding clauses dealing with consultations with other levels of government, especially municipalities.

All members of the House are aware that the government is concerned about stakeholders and listens to stakeholders, especially those stakeholders, such as municipalities, and those levels of government. The bill was then passed in the House on June 22, 2006. Bill C-3 was read for the first time in the Senate on that very same day. Again in the Senate, the second reading debate was completed on October 24 2006, and the bill was referred to the Senate standing committee on transport and communications for considerations.

The Senate committee met a total of seven times to study the bill and it heard a lot of testimony. It heard testimony from the Minister of Transport and Transport Canada officials. As well, it heard testimony from four stakeholders in particular: the Bridge and Tunnels Operators Association; the City of Windsor, to which this bill is very important as it is important to its citizens; the Canadian Transit Company, the owner and operator of the Ambassador Bridge; and the teamsters union. These are the same stakeholders who appeared before the House Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities when we were studying the bill. They were very informative and provided us with a lot of very valuable information.

The Minister of Transport told the Senate how supportive the majority of the stakeholders were with this initiative and how important this bill was to Canadians regarding safety, security and transportation of goods. He indicated that the government had demonstrated its willingness to consider stakeholder input at all times and that it was very important for the government to listen to stakeholders and implement their needs if they meet the needs and priorities of Canadians.

The House of Commons did amend the bill in response to concerns raised by a municipal government.

During its clause by clause review of the bill, the Senate standing committee on transport and communications made five technical amendments. The amendments were to ensure consistency between the English and French versions of certain sections that had been previously amended by the House at third reading. Another important thing that the government does is it listens to the communication issues that we have in our great country.

The bill was passed in the Senate on December 12, 2006. In Canada there are 24 vehicle and 9 railway bridges and tunnels that link our country to the United States. No one needs to hear how important our trade with the United States is to Canadians and how important it is to have a border that our citizens can cross back and forth to encourage trade between our nations and the relationship of our nation.

Of the bridges that carry vehicle traffic, 14 of them are located in Ontario, 9 in New Brunswick and 1 in Quebec. The rail bridges and tunnels are all located in Ontario except for one which is located in New Brunswick.

The bill, when enacted, will be the very first law to apply to all of Canada's international bridges and tunnels. It took the Conservative government to take this initiative and follow it through.

Bill C-3 contains several themes. First, the bill declares that these bridges and tunnels “to be works for the general advantage of Canada”. Therefore, it reinforces the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction with respect to these structures as stipulated in the Constitution and reinforces the government's priority on the safety and security of Canadians.

Second, the proposed act would also require governmental approval for construction or alteration of new and existing bridges and tunnels, which is because it is so important. It would also require governmental approval for all sales or transfers affecting the ownership and control of these international bridges and tunnels, another important first by the government.

Finally, the bill would authorize the government to make regulations regarding bridge maintenance and repair, safety and security, and operation and use. These regulations are very important to those people using the bridges and tunnels.

Passage of this bill would not be the end but simply the beginning of more work in this area. It marks the first step that a Conservative government had to take the initiative on to actually implement.

Government officials would also need to develop guidelines for the approval or alteration of international bridges and tunnels. They would need to begin the regulatory process and consultations with stakeholders would again take place so that these regulations reflect the intention of the bill and the intention of we in the House of Commons and the Senate.

During the debate on this bill we often heard that the development of regulations was a lengthy process. I and Canadians would urge departmental officials to begin work immediately so that we do not leave these bridges and tunnel structures vulnerable to the safety and security matters that are so important in this post-9/11 world.

I would like to thank all members of the House and of the Senate for their great work on this bill. I would also like to thank the members of the transport committee, with which I was personally involved, for all their work in getting it through so quickly.

I would like to especially thank Madam Bacon, chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications, for her leadership during the Senate standing committee meetings. The discussions in this committee were very candid and thought provoking and helped us push this agenda through. I appreciate the committee's diligence in making several technical amendments so that the French and English text better reflect each other and the consistency of what we in the House of Commons intended.

I would also like to thank the stakeholders who appeared before both the House and the Senate committees: the Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association, the City of Windsor, the Canadian Transit Company and the teamsters, all members of which are very important. The contribution of stakeholders who are directly on the ground, who would be tremendously impacted by this legislation, is very important for all bills that we pass through the House. The significance of their contribution highlights how this bill would affect them and their membership.

I believe the passage of this bill will serve Canadians and our international visitors well by ensuring that our international bridges and tunnels remain safe and secure.

I would encourage my colleagues to pass this bill, as amended by the Senate, so that the government can proceed with drafting the guidelines and regulations authorized by it.

As everyone in the House and most people who are listening today know, sections 92.10 and 91 of the Constitution give exclusive jurisdiction to the federal government for international bridges and tunnels. Despite this exclusive legislative authority, no law up to now in the history of Canada has ever been adopted that applies to international bridges and tunnels. It took this Conservative government, this Prime Minister and this minister to get it to the point that it is at today. I am proud to be a part of a government that gets so much work done for Canadians.

October 19th, 2006 / 3:55 p.m.
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Jean-Pierre Bazinet President, Chutes-la-Chaudière East Sector, City of Lévis

Since my knowledge of English is limited, I will speak to you in French.

To the Chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, first we want to thank the members of the committee for allowing us to speak about our experience with noise generated by the Joffre switching yard in Charny. Our comments will pertain to an aspect of rail transportation which bears witness to the problems associated with the co-existence of rail traffic and daily life in an urban environment.

You have received our brief. I want to read you a summary that will be provided to you, if you so wish.

My name is Jean-Pierre Bazinet and I am a municipal councillor for the City of Levis. I am also president, Chutes-la-Chaudière East Sector, which includes the neighbourhood of Charny, Breakeyville, Saint-Jean-Chrysostome and Saint-Romuald.

I am accompanied today by Mr. Alain Lemaire, who is the municipal councillor for Charny and former mayor of the City of Charny, now part of an agglomeration. I am also accompanied by Mr. Alain Blanchette who is chief of staff of the mayor of the City of Levis, Ms. Danielle Roy-Marinelli. Finally Mr. Michel Hallé, a lawyer and legal advisor at the Direction des affaires juridiques for the City of Levis, is also here with me.

First, that current City of Levis is the result of the merger of 10 former municipalities which became neighbourhoods of that city on January 1st, 2002. This city is home to some 127,000 people, making it the eighth largest city in Quebec.

The history of the railway and Levis heritage are intertwined. The railway was an important leader for economic development throughout the ages, and its rich tradition has grown over the years. Currently we want to maintain rail operations within our area, but in a more harmonious way.

Our brief deals with the following aspects: noise generated by the Joffre switching yard and its effects on public health; Bill C-11 and its amendments; finally suggested additions to the Bill.

As part of its activities, Canadian National operates a switching yard within the boundaries of Charny and Saint-Jean-Chrysostome. Given the elevated noise levels generated by switching operations conducted by Canadian National, numerous complaints have been laid by residents of the three former neighbourhoods that existed prior to the merger in 2000, as well as by residents of the other neighbourhoods that I mentioned earlier.

These residents believe that the noise pollution caused by CN's operations, particularly in the evening and at night, is affecting their health and impedes their peaceful enjoyment of their property. This situation came about in 1998 — and that date is important. Previously, the switching yard and the residents lived in harmony. The new situation coincided with the privatization of the company, which streamlined its operations not only in Quebec, but throughout Canada.

In that respect, the problems experienced by the residents of Charny are similar to those encountered in other cities in Canada. The preceding testimonies are compelling.

When CN failed to take action, a large number of affected residents signed a petition that was presented to the council of the former City of Charny in 2000. The municipality also received letters from home owners describing the situation as unacceptable and intolerable.

The former City of Charny decided to support the citizens' committee opposed to the noise from the Joffre switching yard in Charny. It hired an engineering firm Dessau-Soprin to conduct a noise study to measure the effect of CN's operations. The study, tabled in February 2000, copies of which I have, showed that the impulse noise mainly comes from such activities as switching of cars, acceleration and deceleration of locomotives, hooking together of cars, breaking of trains, train whistles, train movement, loaders, tow trucks and other vehicles and back-up beepers.

In 2001, the Public Health Department of the Chaudière-Appalaches Health and Social Services Board conducted an analysis of the situation and produced a report entitled “Assessment of the public health risk associated with environmental noise produced by operations at CN's Joffre switching yard in Charny.”

The study concludes, and I quote:

Based on the available noise measurements the literature review and the specific context, we find that the environmental noise to which many of the people living in the residential area adjacent to CN's Joffre switching yard adversely affects their quality of life and potentially their health. Such noise levels are therefore a nuisance to the peace, comfort and well-being of the residents near the Joffre switching yard in Charny. From a public health stand point, these noise levels are likely to have an adverse affect on health by disturbing sleep, which in turn has a number of side effects. These noise levels are in our view incompatible with residential zoning unless special measures are taken to reduce the noise.

Around the same time, the residents of the City of Oakville, Ontario, filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency under the Canada Transportation Act. In its decision, the agency determined that CN was not doing as little damage as possible in the exercise of its powers. Accordingly, the agency ordered CN to take certain measures, among them preparing a long-noise reduction plan satisfactory to the agency.

This decision was a source of tremendous hope for the residents of Oakville and Charny. In response to the decision, CN decided to challenge the Agency's jurisdiction in the Federal Court of Appeal. In a ruling handed down on December, 2000, the court found that the Canadian Transportation Agency did not have jurisdiction under the Canada Transportation Act to deal with complaints about noise, smoke and vibration from duly authorized railway operations.

In the wake of the decisions in the Oakville matter, the Canadian Transportation Agency decided to offer a mediation service in a bid to resolve disputes similar to those in Oakville and Charny. In March 2001, the former City of Charny and the citizens' committee submitted a request for mediation to the Canadian Transportation Agency. CN agreed to mediation. Unfortunately, after several meeting between the parties, we concluded that the mediation was not going to work. Bound by an undertaking to preserve the confidentiality of the discussions, we are unable to provide further details. We can say, however, that the City of Lévis which succeeded the former City of Charny on January 1st, 2002, made every effort to find a solution acceptable to its residents and even delegated to the mediation meetings three elected representatives, including two members of the executive committee at the time.

Section 29 of Bill C-11 introduces four new sections dealing specifically with the noise caused by operation of a railway. We are especially pleased that Parliament decided to fill a major void in the process of resolving disputes between the community and the railway company by giving the Canadian Transportation Agency clear authority to make orders to rectify a noise problem.

The new section 95.3 restores the monitoring authority the agency lost as a result of the Federal Court of Appeal decision in the Oakville case. This section restores to Canadians a mechanism for control that they had lost for more than six years, and which was causing problems. This would make it possible to turn to a tribunal with jurisdiction in order to condemn situations affecting public health.

Without making any assumptions about the agency's future work, we hope that the attitude the agency showed in the Oakville case will govern its orders. We believe that the wording used in Bill C-26 in 2003 requiring railway companies to make the least possible noise was better than the wording used in the current bill. We believe that the current wording waters down the obligation of railway companies to operate their facilities in a way that respects their neighbours. On the contrary, we want section 29 to be reinforced by adding a clause stating that railway companies are not to harm public health in the course of their operations. We are concerned that the obligation of railway companies to refrain from making unreasonable noise is subject to operational requirements.

Operational requirements should not be allowed to preclude that obligation. It should therefore be made clear that what must be taken into account is the company's essential operational requirements not just any requirements. For example, operational profitability should not be used to relieve a railway company of its obligation to refrain from making noise.

Section 7 of Bill C-11establishes the framework for the mediation process the Canadian Transportation Agency has been using for several years. As a result of our experience in this area, we are very hopeful that the prescribed 60-day mediation period will be reduced to 30 days as proposed in Bill C-26. We believe that 30 days is enough time to try to voluntarily resolve a dispute provided the parties make the necessary effort. More than 18 months should not be allowed to pass between a request for mediation and an outcome as was the case in Charny.

In addition to expressing support for the amendments as indicated above, we would like to take this opportunity to suggest that Bill C-11 be amended to give the Canadian Transportation Agency jurisdiction over the use of train whistles. More specifically, we believe it would be appropriate for every request to prohibit the use of train whistles within municipal boundaries to be reviewed by the CTA in cases where the municipality, the railway company and Transport Canada cannot agree on the requirements for no-whistle regulations.

Furthermore, we support the request from the Union des municipalités du Québec made by its President Jean Perrault in his letter of July 6th, 2006, to the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport of Canada, to establish tangible measures for ensuring the rigorous application of Rule 103(c) of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules, which states that “no part of a train or engine may be allowed to stand on any part of a public crossing at grade for a longer period than five minutes”, and to permit the application of Rule 103(c) of the Canada Rail Operating Rules to moving trains. In fact, vehicle and pedestrian traffic blocking a crossing for more than five minutes can lead to public safety problems, especially where the blockage prevents safety services such as firefighters police and ambulance vehicles from providing the required services.

The problem of noise, caused by railway operations is a fundamental priority for the City of Lévis. This situation is causing problems for more than 10,000 people in our area. A great deal of effort has been made in the past to restore the peace and quiet the neighbourhood so amply deserves. Unfortunately, our efforts have been in vain. That is why we support the federal government's desire to give Canadians a forum in which to assert their rights. However, we believe that the wording of section 29 of Bill C-11must be amended to ensure that the objective of the legislation is met.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I want to thank you for your attention.

September 26th, 2006 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, I wish to extend my congratulations on the exceptional choice that the members have made to reconfigure, or re-elect, or push you into the position of chair. I want to congratulate also the two vice-chairs.

I'm accompanied by Helena Borges, who is the director general of surface transportation policy, and Brigita Gravitis-Beck, who is director general of air policy.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the members of the committee. I would like to open by reiterating the government's overall approach to amending the Canada Transportation Act. The act is a legislative framework for economic activities related to air and rail transportation in Canada and covers a number of general matters such as the role and responsibility of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The act, which came into effect in 1996, included a requirement for a statutory review. The panel was appointed in June 2000 and undertook extensive consultations across Canada before submitting its report in June 2001.

In the five years since that review, amendments to the legislation have been introduced through bills tabled in Parliament twice: Bill C-26, in 2003; and Bill C-44, in 2005. Both of these bills died on the order paper.

The government recognizes that there have been extensive consultations and consensus-building with stakeholders over this, and that there was considerable support for many of the provisions that were in Bill C-44.

Stakeholders are anxious for the government to move forward with improvements to the CTA. The government wishes to proceed with CTA amendments on which there is consensus using the former Bill C-44 as the base, with appropriate revisions.

In order to expedite passage of the amendments, the government has decided to split C-44 into three more manageable components. As you know, Mr. Chairman, Bill C-3, an Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another act, is presently before the Senate.

Bill C-11 is the second component and deals with the air provisions, rail passenger provisions, railway noise, the grain revenue cap as well as a number of general provisions.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to take part in the debate on Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

First of all, I want to tell you how disappointed I am concerning the length of time the Parliament of Canada has taken to bring this bill to fruition. We should recall that earlier versions of this bill have already been presented twice, in the form of Bills C-26 and C-44, introduced on February 25, 2003, and March 24, 2005 respectively. However, the adoption of this bill is of major importance for the people of Quebec and for all of Canada.

This delay reminds me of the saga surrounding repairs to the Quebec bridge. Remember the Conservatives’ election promises from last winter. Then they were promising to settle this issue as quickly as possible.

During the last election campaign, the Conservatives enjoyed repeating that the Bloc Québécois could not solve this problem, being an opposition party. The Conservatives boasted that they could finally provide a solution to something the Liberals had been unable to do anything about.

It was not until the company partially mandated to repair the bridge decided to dismantle the scaffolding that the Conservative government woke up.

A government source said that an additional $69 million to $76 million would be needed to complete the work.

The headline in the July 19 issue of the daily newspaper Le Soleil read: “New hope for the Quebec bridge.” There actually were discussions among spokespersons from Ottawa, Quebec City, Canadian National and the owner of the bridge on July 18. No timetable, however, was put forward and the people in Quebec City are still waiting, and waiting.

It is like this bill that is supposed to amend the Canada Transportation Act. Lots of people have been waiting for it to be adopted for a long time, but it has not yet come to fruition and this may prove to be catastrophic for urban transit, as we will see later.

To begin with, I would like to underscore an amendment that I deem to be important and that was added to the bill’s declaration of principle.

For the first time, respect for the environment is being added to the various obligations of transportation systems. In committee we will see what provisions may be added so that this obligation is really enforced and complies with the Kyoto protocol.

I will give the example of the locomotives. The rate at which the old locomotives are renewed has to be speeded up, since only 29% of all diesel locomotives comply with environmental standards.

Furthermore, we must encourage the use of the Green Goat switchers, a hybrid diesel-electric system tested in 2004. It seems that this hybrid switcher reduces fuel consumption by 60%. These are but a few examples.

There are three measures among the legislative provisions proposed in this bill that particularly attract our attention. They deal with air and rail sectors and concern airline advertising, noise relating to rail operations, and the abandonment of rail lines.

I feel that consumer protection is absolutely vital, and that increasing open competition must not in any way penalize the consumer, who is entitled to greater transparency

In this connection, Bill C-11will amend the Transportation Act in relation to complaints processes, the advertising of prices for air services and the disclosure of terms and conditions of carriage.These new measures will provide for greater control over the sale of airline tickets, among other things by giving the agency jurisdiction over ticket sales advertising.

Licensees must in future display, in a prominent place, the rates for the service offered, including the terms and conditions of carriage. This new condition also applies to services offered on the Internet.

So the terms and conditions of carriage must be made accessible.

The Canadian Transportation Agency will have a new regulatory power allowing it to require, through regulations, that the advertised price of air services indicate the fees, charges and taxes collected on behalf of another person, enabling the consumer to readily determine the cost of the service.

Although it is a step in the right direction, we must ensure that the Transportation Agency exercises this power in a rigorous, proactive way and in the best interests of consumers. Consumer associations have been requesting far more transparent pricing for a very long time.

These new measures to improve transparency will benefit both consumers and the airlines, which will be able to engage in healthier competition.

I would like to raise one point. That is the abolition by the former finance minister of the position of Air Travel Complaints Commissioner in the 2005 budget. The previous government announced at the time that the Canadian Transportation Agency would henceforth assume responsibility for the complaints program.

Bill C-11, as proposed by the Conservatives, no longer provides for the position of Complaints Commissioner and includes this function in the ordinary operations of the Transportation Agency.

We take a positive view of the fact that the Transportation Agency can henceforth order carriers to compensate people for damages caused by a failure to comply with the conditions of carriage. This is a step forward because the previous Complaints Commissioner could only make suggestions.

There are some shortcomings, however. For example, the Transportation Agency no longer has to submit an annual report on the complaints and how they were settled. This report would point the finger at the guilty parties and their failings.

The commissioner was also able under the complaints process to demand a lot of information from carriers, something that the Transportation Agency cannot do. The Bloc Québécois deplores this weakening of the role of the Transportation Agency, which loses its ability to investigate and some of its visibility.

We certainly cannot forget the Jetsgo saga, when hundreds of travellers suffered damages when this airline abruptly ceased operations at the height of the holiday travel season. This must never happen again. The Bloc Québécois severely criticized it at the time.

It is clear that, in the Bloc’s view, the government must assume its responsibilities. In particular, it could help set up a compensation fund which would ensure that tickets are reimbursed when consumers buy them directly from carriers, as happens increasingly often.

Therefore, this bill can be improved considerably in a number of ways.

Besides the legislative changes in connection with air transportation, another very important aspect of Bill C-11 concerns rail transport.

The legislation would amend part III of the Canada Transportation Act by creating a mechanism for dealing with complaints concerning noise and by amending the provisions for dealing with the transfer and discontinuance of operation of railway lines.

For some years now, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for legislative changes to deal with the serious noise problems faced by many communities. I am referring to the harmful effects of noise resulting from the construction or operation of railways, and the movement of cars in marshalling yards in particular.

In recent years, the public and the railways have often been at loggerheads. The public bothered by noise has no recourse but to complain directly to the railway concerned or to initiate civil proceedings. No federal agency currently has the authority to intervene in such instances.

Hence the importance of legislating in this regard, so that the railway companies feel some pressure and take the initiative to limit the disturbances caused by railway construction or operation.

These legislative changes are a step in the right direction, but I have some amendments to propose. I will try to ensure that the agency's jurisdiction will not be just over noise, but also over emissions or vibrations from rail cars. In this Kyoto protocol era, environmental issues are extremely important.

I realize that rail transport is an excellent alternative to road transport and is key to economic development in Quebec.

However, there must be a balance between such economic objectives and the environment, particularly in terms of respecting the public's quality of life and well-being.

The powers granted to the Canadian Transportation Agency are in no way prejudicial to the railway companies, particularly since the agency will now have the power to issue and publish guidelines, after consulting with interested parties, and to propose a mechanism for the collaborative resolution of noise complaints. Consequently, each party will know the other's limits. The purpose of this is to resolve such conflicts peacefully and without delay.

I am pleased to see that urban transit authorities will now be recognized. A section has been added under which a railway company wishing to sell a railway line shall first offer it to the federal government, the provincial government and the urban transit authorities concerned.

These new provisions are desirable and will provide better protection for the unique transportation network provided by urban railway corridors. I have always considered rail transport to be an excellent alternative to road transport. Such measures, therefore, should be encouraged.

I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation that this bill has been floating about these halls since the 37th Parliament. Not passing it could have irreparable consequences. If things continue as they are, the survival of agencies such as the Agence métropolitaine de transport, which serves greater Montreal, will be threatened. The new act gives them an arbitrator, the Canadian Transportation Agency. They will also benefit from new regulations that will let them negotiate on a more equal footing with bigger players such as CN and CP, which often behave like monopolies in the face of these agencies. The survival of these agencies is important in the context of the Kyoto protocol, and that is why I sincerely hope this bill will finally be passed.

We support this bill in principle, and we will try to improve it by making amendments in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-11.

Transportation has been integral to our nation's growth and development. Using transportation as a building block to overcome major challenges, Canada has built a mature and robust transportation system that has enabled our nation to compete with the best in the world.

As our transportation system continues to grow and mature, we must adopt innovative policy approaches to successfully meet new and emerging challenges in this sector. A statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act was completed in 2001 and Bill C-11 is the third attempt to legislate amendments arising from this review. Its two predecessors, Bill C-26 and Bill C-44, both died on the order paper with the dissolution of Parliament followed by general elections.

Successive governments have appreciated that new policy approaches are required to meet the emerging challenges in the transportation sector and keep them competitive and stable.

Bill C-11, as my hon. colleague from Ottawa South has pointed out, takes most of the good ideas from the previous Liberal bill, Bill C-44 and starts to adjust the framework found in the Canada Transportation Act. This bill would allow Canada to position its transportation system to respond to the needs and expectations of Canadians and address domestic and international pressures to remain competitive.

The bill includes many of the good provisions found in the previous bills that would make rail and air sectors more efficient, enhance competition and environmental protection, and create stable conditions for investment.

I would like to concentrate my remarks on the rail industry, the industry that helped build this country and still links us from sea to sea to sea.

Although railways make a tremendous contribution to Canada's economy, the growth of the industry has also contributed to a significant increase in concerns expressed by those who live or work near railway property.

At present, Transport Canada is responsible for regulating the safety of rail operations, including the transportation of dangerous goods, under the Railway Safety Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. However, it is not currently involved in matters involving noise or fumes from railway operations, except train whistling.

The Liberal government recognized the complexity of addressing these kinds of issues and obviously wants the communities and the railway companies to seek solutions through collaborative approaches or mediation.

On December 7, 2000, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Canadian Transportation Agency had no jurisdiction to address complaints related to noise, vibration or fumes generated by the operations of railway companies regulated under section 95 of the Canada Transportation Act. Consequently, there are no specific provisions in the act or in any other federal legislation setting out how the agency or any other body can regulate issues concerning railway operations that are not related to railway service or safety.

In this context, in May 2003 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada signed a memorandum of understanding in order to build common approaches pertaining to the prevention and resolution of issues that arise when people live and work in close proximity to rail operations. After May 2003, the Canadian Transportation Agency implemented an improved mediation initiative but it was not enough.

The Liberal government recognized that circumstances exist whereby mutually agreeable salutations may not always be possible. While there have been successful collaborative and mediated solutions to railways' nuisance issues in the past, these solutions are not always sufficient and may not be sufficient in the future given the important role that rail transport may continue to play in Canada's economic future. This being the case, action was required on both the legislative and collaborative fronts.

Following extensive public consultation, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act was first introduced in Parliament in February 2003 that included several provisions related to railway noise and gave jurisdiction to the Canadian Transportation Agency to address noise related complaints. Bill C-26 made it to the transport committee but died when the House prorogued in November 2003, as I previously indicated. In the next session of Parliament, the Liberal government entertained additional representations from the public, members of Parliament and other stakeholders on the proposed legislative amendment. The result was Bill C-44 tabled in March 2005 and now Bill C-11.

The proposed changes to the act authorized the Canadian Transportation Agency to review noise complaints and, if required, order rail companies to make changes to reduce unreasonable noise when constructing or operating a railway or rail yard. The agency must be satisfied that the parties were unable to reach a voluntary settlement of this dispute on their own.

Residents and municipal leaders in the city of Thorold in my riding of Welland have been very supportive of the changes to these sections to all incarnations of this bill. Excessive noise and emissions emanating from a rail yard in Thorold have significantly concerned citizens residing in the close proximity for many years. While prolonged noise like this could be irritating enough during the day, it is far worse to have it going throughout the night and into the early morning hours.

I personally visited adjacent homes and heard and saw how serious the problem is. All night idling and shunting of rail cars force some residents to go to sleep using ear plugs. The vibrations are so severe at times that household furniture shakes. Some have complained of air emissions with a soot like material landing on their cars and residences. We all can appreciate that such fine particles will move inside by numerous ways thereby constituting even more significant health concerns. Outdoor pollutants become indoor pollutants. Such particulate matter can adversely affect human health. The very young, the genetically predisposed, the elderly and those with pre-existing heart or lung disease are more susceptible to the adverse effects of this particulate matter.

It is well-documented that long term effects of noise exposure can cause a myriad of health problems. According to the World Health Organization, people may feel a variety of negative emotions when exposed to community noise and may report anger, disappointment, dissatisfaction, withdrawal, helplessness, depression, anxiety, distraction, agitation or exhaustion.

Noise can produce a number of social and behavioural effects in residents, besides annoyance, that include changes in overt everyday behaviour patterns. Residents close windows, do not use balconies or decks, turn TV and radio volume up louder or write letters to elected officials. It can also change their social behaviour for the worse. People affected by noise may experience aggression, unfriendliness, disengagement and non-participation. There can be adverse changes in social indicators such as residential mobility, hospital admissions, drug consumption and accident rates. Finally, their mood or mental health can be affected. They may be less happy and more depressed.

The research of the World Health Organization also states that stronger adverse reactions have been observed when noise is accompanied by vibrations. It is no wonder that these residents want to see a better way of dealing with this noise problem.

This community wants to deal with those noise complaints through the Canadian Transportation Agency. They believe in mediated solutions that are reached through fair and non-confrontational ways. As has been mentioned, this approach is less litigious, quicker, cheaper and a more friendly resolution but they can only stand the aggravation for so long.

We tried working with the rail company to come to some kind of solution, such as allowing the trains to idle in a more rural area. We inquired about technologies so that the diesel engines could be shut off rather than idling for hours on end. However, we met with no willingness to compromise and the rail company hid behind the position that a caveat about the noise had been written into the municipal subdivision agreement that is registered on the titles of the affected homes. Admittedly, a caveat on the titles of their property should constitute notice of many of the concerns expressed. However, the reality is that few are made aware of such notices and no one appreciates their full implications. It also is cold comfort to the residents who have invested their life savings in properties that they cannot enjoy to their full benefit. Caveats on titles to properties must not mitigate or be an unequivocal response to noise pollution or air pollution.

In the rail company's defence one must concede that the changes required may affect their operating efficiencies and most certainly the cost of relocation to a more appropriate location. However, in such situations one must consider the greater good. My support is for the constituents in my riding and in communities in ridings throughout country.

The Thorold community knew the benefits of Bill C-44 and was disappointed when it died on the order paper and can now be hopeful that it is included in Bill C-11.

Another area I would like to address very briefly is the abolition of the Air Travel Complaints Commission. It does concern me. This commission was there to assist consumers with complaints on air travel. The government takes the position now that competition is an informal way of utilizing a complaints process. One can choose another airline. This might be fine for the frequent flyer travelling between major cities who can choose another airline but in many rural areas there is not the luxury of service by more than one airline. Retention of the Air Travel Complaints Commission is most important to service these communities and these flyers.

In addition, clarity in air fare advertising is a very positive initiative. The Canadian Transportation Agency would have the authority to make and enforce regulations to require that the advertising price includes all costs to the airline for providing the air service.

Advertisements would also indicate fees, charges and taxes collected by the airline on behalf of a government body or airport authority. In addition to the prices of airline tickets for both domestic and international travel, the travelling public is often literally shocked when actual ticket costs are far in excess of the advertised costs of the flights.

I am also concerned about the reduction in the membership of the Canadian Transportation Agency from seven part time to five full time centred in Ottawa. With all their increased responsibilities I am sincerely concerned that they will have insufficient manpower to undertake their current responsibilities and the new responsibilities that the act would give them. That would be a travesty if they certainly do not have the tools to deal with the situation presented to them.

In conclusion, I look forward to a full review of Bill C-11 at committee and listening to the comments and concerns of the transportation industry and the public.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Before getting right into Bill C-11, I will provide some background on this bill so that our colleagues in this House, those who are newly elected, and Quebeckers and Canadians watching us, can understand how we ended up today with such a bill that is an amalgamation of parts of other bills.

Bill C-11 originated in Bills C-26 and C-44, which were introduced in the last two Parliaments. Bill C-26 was introduced on February 25, 2003, and Bill C-44 on March 24, 2005. The Conservative government decided not to use the entire content of all these bills.

The minister did in fact say that what is being introduced today is essentially identical to what has been introduced before. However, he failed to say that the bills that were introduced by previous governments and received the support of the Bloc Québécois were much more consistent, especially in matters relating to the railway.

Let us not forget that Bill C-44, among others, had the advantage of resolving the VIA Rail situation. Everyone knows why the Conservative Party decided to split Bill C-44 and not present the same bill: because it was always annoyed with the part of the bill affecting VIA Rail. It was always against allowing VIA Rail to develop so that we could finally have a rail line between Montreal and Windsor, between Quebec City and Montreal, and even between Montreal and Boston. To the Conservative Party, developing transportation does not mean the railway. My colleague from Brome—Missisquoi is absolutely right: this is more than a refusal to subsidize; they do not want to allow VIA Rail to be a corporate entity.

In fact, Bill C-44 would have enabled VIA Rail to become an entity capable of taking charge of its own rail development and of arranging its own borrowing. That did not suit the Conservative Party. We have to look at the context. Today, it is a good thing that we are presented with a bill on railway transportation, but we have already gone beyond Bill C-44. Indeed, we are now involved in some major amendments. However, we have put aside the question of VIA Rail and railway development in such major corridors as Quebec City and Montreal, Montreal and Windsor, and even Montreal and Boston.

It has been very difficult for us to understand that position. It is important that Quebeckers understand the values that the Conservative party is defending. They are values that are completely different from the values that we proclaim. Clearly, rail transport is more environmentally friendly. We should be tabling bills that recognize that fact and allow rail transportation to develop to its full potential. The Conservative party refuses to do this, as I have explained, in the Montreal to Windsor corridor, between Quebec City and Montréal, and between Montreal and Boston.

Thus, they developed Bill C-11, based on Bill C-44, which had been introduced by the previous governments, by the Liberals, and out of which they retained one part dealing with railways.

I do not have time to talk about the entire bill, because it also deals with air transport. I will concentrate on several important matters. If I had the unanimous consent of the House to use the entire afternoon, I would be pleased to discuss it all. However, I will not even make that request because I would be surprised if my colleagues were to give consent.

Nevertheless, there are some important points concerning railway transportation. I will go directly to one issue that in many Quebec ridings has always been an environmental concern, that is, noise pollution.

Pollution cannot always be felt or touched. However, it can be heard. Thanks to new technology, we have replaced humans with mechanical devices and machinery. When trains are being assembled in the marshalling yards, the shunting of cars makes a devilish noise. Many communities have spoken out against these operating companies. The echo has reached as far as the federal government.

I will cite a few examples. Hochelaga has the Moreau yard; Brome—Missisquoi has the Farnham yard; and Jeanne-Le Ber and Lévis—Bellechasse also have yards. They all have problems linked to noise pollution caused by the work carried out in a marshalling yard.

We might all think that new technology allows everything to be done quietly, as circumstances evolve, and that noise pollution is now at the safest possible levels. On the contrary, decreased manual handling actually means mechanical switching that is less effective and very noisy. Neighbouring communities have every reason to complain. Thus, such complaints led to the change proposed in this bill.

I would like to assure the House that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill, especially those sections, which I will summarize here, that address noise pollution.

We would have liked to see even stricter provisions, but we are willing to give this system a chance, a system that involves mediation, cooperation and, finally, decisions taken by the Canadian Transportation Agency. Earlier, I asked the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities this question. Although the municipal level has tried to resolve the issue of noise pollution with decibel standards, as custom dictates, we face a simple problem: federal laws override all other laws, including provincial and municipal. In other words, even if cities want to adopt regulations regarding decibels or noise pollution, the entire federal sector does not have to comply with municipal standards. We should therefore support the content of the bill as tabled today.

I would reiterate to all Quebeckers who endure the problems caused by these yards: we accept this approach to resolving the problem. This is evolution, after all, and the reason for it is understandable.

Clause 29 reads as follows:

The Act is amended by adding the following after section 95:

95.1 When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company must not cause unreasonable noise, taking into account

(a) its obligations under sections 113 and 114, if applicable;

(b) its operational requirements; and

(c) the area where the construction or operation takes place.

These are the obligations “when constructing or operating a railway”.

As such, the standards do not set out a specific limit on decibel levels. Rather, this bill says that you are not allowed to operate unreasonably or to create unreasonable noise pollution. We are setting a standard based on what is unreasonable.

What impact would that have? It would be an improvement over the status quo, which does not touch on this. Any complaints would be addressed as follows:

The Agency may issue and publish, in any manner that it considers appropriate, guidelines with respect to

(a) the elements that the Agency will use to determine whether a railway company is complying with section 95.1 [which I just read to you]; and

(b) the collaborative resolution of noise complaints relating to the construction or operation of railways.

Thus the idea is to promote cooperative measures: sitting all the parties down together and finding the best way to solve the problem. Before establishing guidelines, the agency consults the stakeholders. Nothing would be imposed; instead, there would be discussions and negotiations.

I would point out that in certain locations, including the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, despite ten years of negotiations between citizens' committees and the company that operates the yard, they still have not managed to reach an agreement on possible measures to please the majority. We would like to see that happen, but the only thing now permitted by law is direct intervention by the agency. It can then act once a complaint is received.

Under section 95.3, the agency:

on receipt of a complaint, may order a railway company to undertake any changes in its railway construction or operation that the Agency considers reasonable in order to prevent unreasonable noise.

This is the first time a bill has stipulated that the agency can oblige an operator to resolve the problem based on cooperative measures negotiated between the various stakeholders. This is more or less the case.

This is not the cure-all. We are not yet at the stage of obliging companies to comply with a standard regarding a certain number of decibels. Yet my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who is our expert on the environment, knows very well that international standards regarding noise pollution now exist. It becomes dangerous to human health when certain levels are exceeded. However, we are not quite there yet.

In short, whether the government is Conservative or Liberal, it is often said that one is the same as the other.

There has been a slight change, a slight movement in the direction of change, but we are not yet ready to adopt international standards for noise pollution. We could set the number of decibels that companies must not exceed and we could monitor the noise levels with decibel meters now that this equipment is available. However, we are not quite there yet. Nevertheless, there has been change. We are giving authority and some teeth to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Since it appears that the government, whether Conservative or Liberal, has not wanted to go any further, we will see what happens, and we may be able to exert some pressure in the committee. Nevertheless, it is better than what we had before. Quebeckers will always be able to rely on the Bloc Québécois to represent their interests. If they are not properly represented, we will demand legislative amendments. That represents the first, important part of this bill.

The second part concerns the obligation of airline companies to publish in all media, including on the Internet, their prices for air services in Canada. This is dealt with in clause 27 of the bill. The regulations may require that an advertised price for air services include all costs to the carrier of providing the service, and that the advertisement indicate all fees, charges and taxes collected by the carrier on behalf of another person so as to enable a purchaser to readily determine the total amount to be paid for the service. This has been called for by the Bloc Québécois for a long time.

Families put money aside. We work 50 weeks in a year in order to pay for one or two weeks of vacation. We read the advertising and think we have enough money to cover all costs. When we make the reservation we realize that the price does not include charges and taxes.

For some time now the Bloc Québécois has been asking for this situation to be clarified, so that Quebeckers, who work hard to earn a living and pay their taxes to the governments, can treat themselves to vacations without having any surprises when they make their reservations. It is understandable for the Bloc Québécois to be in favour of the amendment proposed in this bill. So when the airlines post a price, it will be the full price. We are not demanding that hotel expenses be included, although now the all-inclusive package exists. All expenses will be included once this bill has been passed. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to give its consent to this part of the bill.

The third part I would like to discuss concerns the section of clause 39 and following, respecting the abandonment of railway lines and sidings. It was time the government cleared up this situation so that, when a railway company gets rid of a railway line, it can be obliged to offer it before selling it to private enterprise or doing whatever it wants with it.

The obligations contained in the bill seem clear: the railway line is offered first to the passenger service provider. Let us say that VIA Rail operates a passenger train and decides to stop running it. Via Rail must first offer it to the local transit authority, which can then decide to operate it.

As for all the rest, that is, sidings and other tracks that would not be used for passenger transportation, the provision is to offer them to the province, then the transit authority and finally the cities.

I know that the Union des municipalités du Québec has already asked to appear before the committee. In committee we will see what the cities think. We will see whether it is still necessary to make an offer to the transit authority before offering it to the cities. There is still this dilemma, given that the operating budgets of the transit authorities often come in large part from users. Often the transit authorities have grants to purchase equipment, but operations are often subsidized by cities. We will see what the municipal unions ask for in this file.

For us it seems very important that we have a policy respecting the transfer of railway lines, that is, of those that are or will be dismantled. It seems important too that we can offer them and use them appropriately, especially for the transportation of passengers. The future in transportation lies in maritime and rail transportation, more ecological ways of transporting freight and people.

Since the Bloc Québécois is still defending the Kyoto objectives, we seem to be increasingly isolated in this House.

The Conservative Party wants to have its own green program, its own green plan. It seems to be more in agreement with the positions taken by the United States and other countries that are not abiding by the Kyoto protocol, rather than the large majority of countries that have signed the protocol.

Obviously, in our view, railway transportation is a very worthwhile and important way of looking at development. That is why we could never stress enough the importance of VIA Rail’s mission. I will repeat what I said at the very beginning. Sometimes, it is important to state the message that one wants to convey more than once. In Bills C-44 and C-26, there was an entire part dealing with VIA Rail, which enabled it to develop and to adopt a plan that would, in particular, have enabled Quebec to open itself up in terms of the railway. Quebec could then have turned its gaze to the rest of the world, for example to Boston, the United States and Ontario. The Conservative Party has decided to settle the VIA Rail issue. We had been told that one day, perhaps, we might come back to it. I think that what is happening here is that the entire development of VIA Rail is being buried, but that is the choice made by the Conservative Party and it is not adopted by the Bloc Québécois.

The aim of this bill is to solve the various safety-related problems involved in transportation. The minister told us earlier that this bill has set us on the green path. I have taken a few minutes to explain that what eliminating VIA Rail actually did was throw a big lead weight, a big rock, into the canoe the Minister of the Environmentis paddling toward a green development plan using rail transportation.

Earlier, I sensed that the minister was quite uncomfortable when he was asked a question about transportation safety. The title of this bill is, in fact, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. We might then think that this bill is going to solve safety problems. Far from it. There is not one cent for safety. Thanks to what the Journal de Montréal has revealed concerning Dorval airport, we have seen how the minister, the government and Transport Canada manage safety. Plainly Canada is just putting out fires.

Money was put into resolving the passenger problem because at one point passengers had taken control of planes. We also experienced the events of September 11. Then the government decided to focus on passenger safety. However, we can make ourselves at home in the rest of the terminal. As we saw in the Journal de Montréal report, nothing has changed. The more things change, the more they stay the same. There is no culture of safety in Canada. We can forget that.

To have a culture of safety is to ensure at all times, when there is an objective, that absolutely nothing is forgotten and that we are capable of analyzing every plan. That is not what Canada does. Canada has a piecemeal approach. When something happens then we try to address it.

I will close on this idea of the culture of safety that Canada is lacking. They preferred putting our money in provincial jurisdictions. They preferred engaging in regional development, which is a responsibility of the Government of Quebec, instead of taking care of security at the borders. The problem is that the Government of Canada was unable to secure funding for its own mandates. There is no culture of safety. That is what the Journal de Montréal showed in Dorval. And it was just a year later when the same thing happened at Toronto's Pearson airport.

Will the Conservative Party be able to resolve the security problems? Forget about it. It has neither the will nor the means. It wants yet again to interfere in the provinces' responsibilities and it chooses to spend outside its own jurisdiction. This just further proves that the Canadian government does not defend the interests of Quebeckers, since it is unable to take care of its own security.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to respond to the minister and to speak to Bill C-11.

Today we begin debating Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. I am pleased that this debate is taking place as it will enable us to help Canadians understand the path that this project has taken.

Amendments to the Canada Transportation Act were introduced for the first time in 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 were opposed to these measures and voted against them at second reading.

We reintroduced these amendments in Bill C-44 in the 38th Parliament. Once again the opposition at that time felt that the bill presented to the House was not good legislation. It decided to bring down the government and at the same time to drop the bill for a second time.

If this sounds familiar, let me assure the House that it is not déjà vu. One of the last debates that was held before the House rose this past spring concerned Bill C-3, the first bill brought to our consideration by the Minister of Transport in the 39th Parliament. During the debate on the bill, I welcomed the minister's decision to bring important legislation, which had died on the order paper, back to the floor of the House.

Bill C-11 is the second bill that the Minister of Transport has introduced in this session, which relies on the heavy lifting of a previous Liberal government, and it will not be the last.

We are happy to see the minority government again endorsing solid Liberal legislation in actions rather than words, by pushing for Bill C-11's quick adoption in the House. While we agree in principle with much of what is being presented, there have been substantial changes to the workings of the bill. My colleagues and I will address some of these and outline our concerns today and in the days ahead. In turn, though, the onus remains on the government to convince us and Canadians that the legislation is still well-founded.

The parliamentary history of the bill is important at the outset for our context and so too is the wider history of the two bills that Bill C-11 aims to amend.

Back in 1996, a decade ago, the first of the two, the Canada Transportation Act, laid out our national transport policy. It was really a vision to modernize and deregulate rail and airline traffic. It consolidated the 1987 National Transportation Act, which itself had roots in a 1967 predecessor, and the venerable Railway Act into one unified law. At the same time the new Canada Transportation Act took steps to reduce or eliminate subsidies for transport, costs that were borne by all Canadians.

The second act to be amended by Bill C-11 is the Railway Safety Act. The act allows Transport Canada to review and upgrade the regulations, the standards and rules for rail safety oversight. It is precautionary legislation and should be the home of our attempts to improve the safety for the millions and millions of children and pedestrians, motorists, travellers and workers who come into contact with trains every day across our country.

A thorough statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act was completed again by our government in 2001 and it was very important in forming Bill C-11 by way of its earlier incarnations. The bill we debate today is the third attempt to legislate following that review.

Let me begin our consideration with provisions that are similar in principle to the most recent version that we presented, Bill C-44.

I would like to review some of the provisions of this bill beginning with those concerning noise caused by railway operations.

My riding, like a good number of Canadian communities, is home to railway activities and I am fully aware of the disputes arising between residents of the communities and the railway companies because of noise.

I am pleased to see that proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act empower the Canadian Transportation Agency to deal with noise complaints and, if necessary, to order railway companies to make changes in order to reduce unreasonable noise.

This is an important matter, one aspect of the problem that my colleagues and I look forward to examining in greater detail.

Also on the subject of rail, proposed amendments in Bill C-11 involve the expansion of the provisions on railway line transfers and discontinuances to cover rail corridors, such as spurs and sidings, in urban areas that could be used for urban transit purposes.

As members may know, I have long been a strong proponent and advocate of public urban transit. In fact , right here in the city of Ottawa I was pleased to help deliver $200 million of federal funding to expand our own O-Train.

Steps that we can take to improve public transit and advance the use of rail in Canadian cities are worthwhile undertakings. Giving a right of refusal for urban transit authorities to purchase rail that would otherwise be abandoned is very good public policy. That is why two previous Liberal ministers of transport have tried to pass the legislation through the House.

On a related subject, I am also frustrated with the government's ill-informed tax break on public transit passes.

Many riders, as we know, do not have monthly or yearly passes to use public transit. In fact, many users forgo passes for the flexibility of tickets. The most needy riders simply do not have the wherewithal to buy an annual pass. Studies that were shown to the Minister of Finance before he took his decision to make transit passes tax deductible, and brought to his attention by his own officials, demonstrated that tax deductible transit passes did not encourage increasing ridership and did not have the corollary intended effect of substantial greenhouse gas reductions that the government purported they should have. The cost per tonne of GHG reduction through these transit passes is exorbitantly high. This again speaks to the pattern of the government of never letting the evidence get in the way of governing by tax credit.

The Conservatives should have spent the budget money on better infrastructure and lower rates for all users.

However, getting back to Bill C-11, if these amendments mean more urban rail, then I say that we should take a look.

The minister has asserted that Bill C-11 would bring clarity in airfare advertising by giving the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to regulate advertised pricing of airfares. The goal, of course, is to indicate all fees, all charges and all taxes collected by the airline on behalf of a government body or an airport authority. It must also disclose the price of an airline ticket for both domestic and international travel.

If these provisions, which are also inherited from our Bill C-44, ultimately help everyday Canadians to more readily understand and determine the total cost of a travelling ticket and the terms and conditions that apply to its purchase, then I will welcome them on behalf of my constituents who, as consumers, face a barrage of misleading information, often from the travel sector.

Bill C-11 would create a mediation process for disputes concerning federal transportation matters that are within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Transport Agency.

The member for Outremont, as Minister of Transport, delivered legislative language to this House on this for us because mediation is less litigious and therefore quicker and cheaper and ultimately leads to friendlier resolutions in transportation disagreements.

Bill C-11 would add security to the list of purposes for which transportation data can be collected by the minister. This is an expansion of the minister's powers that was fiercely resisted by the Canadian Alliance the last time it was debated and fiercely by the Prime Minister the last time it was debated.

As someone who witnessed the events of 9/11 as a visitor in Washington D.C. on the morning that those awful events occurred, I am open to considering such measures. We need to give our government the tools to protect us in the event of threats to Canadian life that are meticulously planned and malicious.

However, I recognize that this provision sets off alarm bells for many actors in Canadian society, not least because it would allow the minister to set administrative monetary penalties for individuals or companies that do not supply data that the minister might request.

As I indicated earlier, the onus is on the minister to justify this expansion of his powers to all Canadians. I look forward to the explanations from the minister about the import of certain other provisions as well. Let me briefly outline some of them.

Bill C-11 would reduce the number of members of the Canadian Transportation Agency from seven to five. We just heard the minister state that this would lead to cost savings. I would be looking for the numbers. If we move from seven part time members to five full time members now resident in the Ottawa area, I would like to see the numbers to substantiate this claim that it will amount to cost savings while at the same time the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency is being seriously expanded.

Our proposal was to streamline the agency in Bill C-44 and it could have been law by now. The minister will have to explain to Canadians why fewer members can do the job better than the seven who are currently endorsed, while the mandate of the agency is being expanded in the act.

Bill C-11 would allow Transport Canada to review mergers and acquisitions in all federal transportation sectors, not just airlines as our Bill C-44 planned in the last Parliament. This is a very large discretionary power, a power that is being invested in the minister and in the government. I imagine that the government would say that it is necessary to protect the national interest. However, it is a provision with economic consequences. I would ask the minister to outline his rationale for this incursion, for this disturbance, for this fettering of the market. It is unusual to hear a Conservative government speak of fettering the marketplace, particularly as it expands into the precious area of mergers and acquisitions.

Bill C-11 would require companies to set a process for complaints against their railway police constables under the Railway Safety Act. This too was part of our inspirational predecessor Bill C-44. It refers to the creation of an internal complaints process rather than a government process or board of some sort. Is an internal process up to the job? The minister has not addressed the question at all. By demanding that records be kept it should permit us to retrace the facts and timeline of any complaints.

One area that has attracted public attention and will inevitably require the government's thorough explanation is the elimination of the post of Air Travel Complaints Commissioner. Many Canadians will recall that this position was introduced by the Liberal government in 2000 with the merger of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines.

Bill C-11 would officially merge the complaints process into the mainstream of the Canadian Transportation Agency dropping the more autonomous ombudsman-like position which heretofore found its way into the office of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner. Why? We have supported this position in the past and we may be prepared to do so again but not without a full and frank examination of the point.

Bill C-11 is composed of amendments that are the fruit of extensive consultations that our government conducted to update the legislative framework of our national transportation system. The way that Bill C-11 is currently written, the minister would be required to report on the state of Canadian transportation every three years and carry out a new statutory review of the Canadian Transportation Act eight years after Bill C-11 enters into force.

All of this being said, I must wrap up on a note of disappointment. Section 43 of Bill C-11 alludes to a major reversal in policy, a decision taken early on by the minister that has rightly upset farmers right across our Canadian western provinces.

The Government of Canada made a commitment in 1996 to transfer the federal fleet of hopper cars to the Farmer Rail Car Coalition. The final commitment was signed in the fall of 2005 but the Conservative government has now reneged. We have no explanation and no understanding. The minister spoke moments ago about cost savings and about a net saving of $2 per tonne of material shipped. No evidence has been presented to the House and I see no evidence at committee. I am looking forward to hearing why it is the government has reneged and why farmers continue to pay more than is necessary to ship their product.

My colleague, the hon. member for Malpeque, has mounted a passionate opposition. We will hear from him again on this subject in due course.

I do commend the government for reintroducing many of our forward looking transport measures in this 39th parliament. For the most part, with Bill C-11 the minister has again lent credence to that old literary maxim that goes something like this, “sometimes good writers borrow, but great writers steal”.

I wish to be clear that there are significant new provisions in the bill. As such, I look forward to working with hon. colleagues from all parties to properly and thoroughly examine and revise Bill C-11 in committee.

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2003 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the motion presented by the Bloc Quebecois. This motion simply asks the Prime Minister to leave office as soon as possible after November 14, 2003, for the good of the government.

I would like to give a very striking example. I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport. This committee has felt the impact of a change in direction by the members of the party in power, the Liberal Party. In effect, the Liberals on the committee were mostly pro-Prime Minister, that is pro member from Shawinigan. Obviously, after we returned from the break last January, there had been a change. Those who favoured the member for LaSalle—Émard had taken control.

The Transport Committee actually did some work then, because there was the airline crisis to deal with. It submitted a unanimous report, agreed to by all members of the committee. Finally, the report was flatly rejected by the government. None of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Transport were retained by the government.

The recommendations were intended to help the industry. They included reducing airport rents. They included lowering the tax on aviation fuel in order to help the industries. They also included completely abolishing the airport security tax. It was a unanimous report. It was completely rejected by the Department of Transport. It is well known that the Minister of Transport is a supporter of the member for Shawinigan. That is recognized here in the House. In fact, he is the person whom the Prime Minister trusts to lead the Department of Transport.

But now, since the month of September, since we returned to the House, nothing at all is happening in the Transport Committee. There are two bills, C-26 and C-27. I predict that they will not be passed by this House because the committee and the Liberal committee members who support the member for LaSalle—Émard have decided that these bills are not to their liking.

So, discussions will go on. We have more than 60 witnesses to hear on Bill C-26. I am giving this example and I believe the hon. members know why. In Bill C-26 there is one part, part 3 of the bill, which establishes the new VIA Rail company.

For example, the Minister of Transport announced several times officially a new rapid rail service along the Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor corridor. Obviously, it was his baby. He wanted this to happen. Since the team headed by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard came to the Standing Committee on Transport, it is clear that the members of this team are opposed to any investments in rail transportation. They do not want this project to happen. Obviously, they are using all the means at their disposal so this bill will not be adopted.

The Minister of Transport announced that this bill was on hold. This morning, against all expectations, the Minister of Transport appeared before our committee. We expected instead to hear from government officials about budget increases. The minister arrived. He was nice enough to answer all our questions, like any other minister at the end of his mandate, meaning a minister who knows he will not be Minister of Transport much longer, in a new government.

He quite openly answered all our questions. As for VIA Rail and the Quebec City-Montreal, Montreal-Windsor rapid rail service, I want to quote him to make sure that his words are understood, “I am keeping this option for the next government”.

That was what he said. That is what the Minister of Transport said about a matter concerning Quebec and also, no doubt, Ontario. It concerned the implementation of this important corridor and rapid rail service between Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor. This is important to Quebec. Why? Because Quebec City and Montreal are tourist destinations, as are the other destinations along the corridor, including Trois-Rivières. It is important so that we can attract tourists, particularly Americans. It is important so that they can travel quickly by train so we can try to promote tourism. This is an important project.

In response to my questions, the minister said that cabinet did not support him and added that the current government—and he said the name of the current Prime Minister, the member for Saint-Maurice—could not afford to invest several hundreds of millions of dollars, that we would have to wait for the next government.

Why would there not be a motion in this House today dealing with this current issue, when even the Minister of Transport tells us to wait for the next government for major investments? I am saying this because the journalists are asking for the minutes. There will be talk about it tomorrow. That is the reality. The reality is that the government is paralyzed. We are waiting for the next government.

What should we tell our constituents in Quebec, those who are hoping for a Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor rapid rail service? What do we say to those who would also like there to be a Montreal-Boston corridor to attract American tourists to enjoy the sights of Quebec and the rest of Canada? What do we say to them? We are waiting for the next government.

The point we are trying to make in this House is that we want to see the next government as soon as possible. We want the current leader of the government, the member for Saint-Maurice, to step down after November 14, and no longer be the leader of the government. It is as simple as that. We should not have to go through what we went through today, where government decisions are blocked and delayed because we are waiting for a new government.

It is not just any member who made that statement. I am not quoting Liberal backbenchers. It was the Minister of Transport talking about a current issue, and what he said was “I am keeping this option for the next government”.

Again, this is unacceptable to us. Quebec needs as much investment as possible to develop tourism, among other things. I need hardly tell you how difficult this past year was for the tourism industry. We all know it.

After the war in Iraq, the number of American tourists decreased. And SARS also had a negative impact on the number of foreign tourists. We need to do everything we can to create projects that will attract tourists. For example, we could reduce the waiting time to travel to Quebec City, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, the Drummondville area and all the most beautiful places in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. This is a current issue that needs to be discussed.

Today, in the Standing Committee on Transport, this issue was totally swept aside for the simple reason that the present government is unable to commit funds. We have to wait for the new government, or at least that is what the transport minister said.

It is just as if we were waiting for the next election. It makes no sense. It makes no sense that we do not even have the support of Liberal members. When they hear that, they should understand very quickly that the point is not to have a new government. If they want a new government, they just have to call an election immediately after November 14. Otherwise, nothing will get done until next spring, until the member for LaSalle—Émard takes over as head of the government. That is the reality.

I am aware that, like my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles said, some committees can go about their work. They scrutinize the former administration. But as far as I know, the sponsorship program has been put forward by the former finance minister, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard. They would have us believe that he will do away with the sponsorship program, but he is the one who set it up.

We should be consistent. I hope a few Liberal members, at least in Quebec, will demonstrate some consistency. And I hope they listen to what their constituents have to say.

The federal government has a lot of money, as we saw again yesterday. The news has been repeated today. The budget surplus stands at $7 billion instead of the forecast $3 billion. Important decisions should be made. If all the ministers say the present government cannot make commitments of millions of dollars because they have to wait for another government, it means the government will stay put until next spring, and that the economy in Quebec and the rest of Canada will be paralyzed.

I am not surprised that the unemployment rate is rising, for the simple reason that Liberal members are unable to take their responsibilities. Otherwise they would vote with us for this motion so that we would have a new leader, so that the government would keep doing its work, and so that the present Prime Minister would leave office after November 14.

Main Estimates 2003-04Government Orders

June 12th, 2003 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the issue of the $9 million going back into VIA Rail. I will acknowledge that one of the few times I made the mistake of not going to a committee meeting, the committee made what I saw as a horrendous mistake in suggesting that VIA Rail have its $9 million cut, and for a variety of reasons.

My colleague from the Conservatives has asked why VIA Rail needs this money and said it will possibly be giving some competition to a private company. He asked why, if passenger numbers are up and revenues are up, it needs the dollars. He does not have the advantage of having been on the transportation committee for the number of years that I have been there, and he probably does not have the advantage of having VIA Rail service in his riding like I do in one of what I consider probably the few remote areas that VIA Rail still serves. It is an absolute need that VIA Rail passenger service is there because there is no other land access into these communities.

I live in the Churchill riding in Manitoba. We have rail service from Winnipeg all the way up to Churchill and along that way we do not have a tourism train on the line. There is great tourism all along the way and up to Churchill, but the bottom line is that along that route are communities that do not have any access other than rail. It brings us back to the early days of the nation, when the train was there to bring the nation together. Over time we have had roads put in place so people maybe do not see the same need for rail service. Quite frankly, I think that because we have coast to coast rail service, although we do not have it in as many areas as we used to, we have an advantage going into the future, the advantage of a nation that already has those tracks in place. When we are trying to put in place good environmental transportation processes we have the rail service and I think we have to maintain it.

VIA Rail still operates much along the lines of a crown corporation. In Bill C-26, an act that was to come before Parliament, which our transportation committee wanted to travel on but was not able to, there were going to be some changes to VIA. The bottom line is there is a real need for VIA Rail. There is a need throughout the country, but especially in communities in which it is the only access.

Like a lot of services, when there are not huge populations travelling on that service it is more costly to operate, but quite frankly I think the people in those remote communities deserve that right of access, the same way those who got the additional highway right of access throughout the country have it, paid for by taxpayers' dollars in a good many instances. I believe that Canadians are willing to support VIA Rail passenger service into those areas and also to continue supporting VIA Rail service throughout the country.

I just want to mention one of the other issues that I think was important in restoring this funding to VIA Rail. A number of cars were purchased from the U.K. to be used by VIA Rail. It seemed like a steal of a deal, but they did not meet the same safety standards and the same stress and strength requirements for the cars. They did not meet the needs of accessibility for the disabled. Some changes had to be made to the cars as a result of security and the placement of certain facilities within the cars. As a result, it has become an endeavour that is a bit more costly than was intended and that is part of the cost, I believe, for this need for the additional dollars for VIA Rail. Quite frankly I am willing to put additional dollars into VIA Rail if it means accessibility for the disabled, if it means safe cars on the tracks and if it means improved security. I think there is a need to do this.

Throughout the VIA Rail system there is a variety of different cars, some old, some new, and some quite old. Some of the quite old ones end up going into those remote communities. It would be great to have even newer cars and better service in those areas, but what has had to happen is a decrease in that service as dollars became tight and companies were not able to continue there. There have been cuts. I want to see those cuts end and I want more improved service.

My colleague from the Alliance mentioned the Rocky Mountaineer, a privatized company. I have had the pleasure of riding on the Rocky Mountaineer and it is a great service. It is a great service, but it is also not the most cost affordable service if one has to travel by train on a regular basis. If people are on holiday and it is a tourism type of thing where they are going to get on the train and enjoy the mountains, it is great, there is no question about it, but it certainly is not accessible to people on an everyday basis. It is not affordable. I appreciated the service and thought it was great, but for the most part it is a tourism service.

If Rocky Mountaineer or another private company were to expand and go into purely tourism areas along the passenger rail line, I would see it like taking the cream off the milk. They will take the cream and that is all they are going to look after. They will leave the rest. Then someone else has to figure out how we are going to support the rest of the system. In my riding, the rest of the system is the communities for which that is their only land access. It is their only affordable access to get out of those communities and to get supplies for our fishermen in the area: by getting access to the trains going along there. Sometimes there is cargo aligned with the passenger train just to have the accessibility for the fishermen to get their fish stocks out to market. That is the reality of what happens in other parts of Canada when we get outside the urban areas.

It is extremely important that as a nation we continue to support VIA Rail and we continue to be willing to put the additional dollars into areas of remote access service. Quite frankly, there are areas of Atlantic Canada that lost rail service.