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 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Jean Lapierre  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of March 24, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 amends the Canada Transportation Act. Certain amendments apply to all modes of transportation, including amendments that clarify the national transportation policy and the operation of the Competition Act in the transportation sector, change the number of members of the Canadian Transportation Agency, create a mediation process for transportation matters, modify requirements regarding the provision of information to the Minister of Transport and modify and extend provisions regarding mergers and acquisitions of air transportation undertakings to all transportation undertakings.

This Part amends the Act with respect to air transportation, in particular in relation to complaints processes, the advertising of prices for air services and the disclosure of terms and conditions of carriage.

This Part amends the Act with respect to railway transportation. It includes the creation of a mechanism for dealing with complaints concerning noise resulting from the construction or operation of railways and the modification of provisions relating to the setting of rates payable by shippers for transport of goods and of provisions dealing with the transfer and discontinuance of operation of railway lines. It also establishes a mechanism for resolving disputes between public passenger service providers and railway companies regarding the use of railway company equipment and facilities.

This Part amends the Act to establish an approval mechanism for the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels and to provide for the regulation of their operation, maintenance and security.

Part 2 amends the Railway Safety Act to include provisions for the appointment of police constables with respect to railway companies and procedures for dealing with complaints concerning them.

Part 3 enacts a new Act governing VIA Rail Canada, including its mandate to provide passenger rail service in Canada.

Part 4 makes consequential and coordinating amendments and provides for the coming into force of the various provisions.

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

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

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 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member fo rLévis—Bellechasse will be simple. He talks to us about his good government. I have a question for him about Bill C-44.

The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities told us today that what was proposed in Bill C-44 has been incorporated virtually word for word. So why does this Bill C-11 not contain the VIA Rail component that was in Bill C-44 and that was the gateway to developing high-speed train service from Quebec City to Montreal and Montreal to Windsor?

I would like the member to explain why his good government, once again, has decided to disregard Quebec’s interests, not to discuss them, not to include in this bill what VIA Rail was asking for—to become a real company that could bring about real development. I would like the member to explain this for me.

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 / 1 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate the hon. member who did a good job describing what Bill C-44 was and what he sees now in Bill C-11. However, I have the feeling that I understood something that I hope I failed to understand. The hon. member said that the train subsidies were eliminated in Bill C-44 and that is continued.

I have the feeling that I must have misunderstood because trains are the future, the future of our country, and not the past. They are the method of transportation that will be the greenest and the most economical and that will support all our industries and jobs.

Do you not think, Mr. Speaker, that the government should encourage a transportation system that will both protect the ozone layer from greenhouse gases and do miracles in regard to energy expenditures?

All countries now help their railways. The leader is the government of the United States, right next door to us. Although the United States favours private enterprise, it provides generous assistance to railway companies because otherwise they would not exist. I ask the hon. member, therefore, why he thinks the subsidies for railway companies should be eliminated when we provide lots of them for roads.

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.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

moved that Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-11 which contains proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. Many of the clauses in Bill C-11 are taken from omnibus legislation tabled by previous governments which never passed despite repeated attempts. Bill C-11 is strategic in selecting high priority items, like powers to address railway noise, ensure proper advertisement of airfares and facilitating commuter rail for quick passage.

Bill C-11 is the second transport bill I have selected for second reading because it addresses high priority issues that were not addressed by previous governments. The current bill contains amendments to the Canada Transportation Act related to the general provisions, air provisions, rail passenger provisions, railway noise and grain revenue cap. Some of these issues were raised by members in the House during the second reading debate on Bill C-3. I am sure those members will be pleased that we are proceeding with the proposed amendments.

The government plans to table a third bill soon on amendments to the rail freight provisions of the act. These amendments will reflect the views heard during a final round of consultations with shippers to develop as much consensus as possible. The government has assured shippers that it takes their concerns very seriously and will be proceeding with a third bill on a priority basis.

I would now like to focus on Bill C-11, which aims to strike a balance between the interests of communities, consumers, commuters, public transit companies, and air and rail carriers.

We believe that these changes will translate into a better strategic framework, which will help Canada achieve its economic and environmental objectives, increase the efficiency of its transportation system and improve the quality of life of Canadians, especially those living in urban areas.

The proposed amendments include a modernized and simplified national transportation policy statement, which sets out the guiding principles in a way that is simpler and clearer than in the past.

The statement provides direction and guidelines for possible action plans, along with information on how to process complaints and arbitration applications submitted to the Canadian Transportation Agency. The improvements made to this statement are intended to address the concerns expressed by shippers.

Bill C-11 contains a number of provisions related to the role and structure of the Canadian Transportation Agency. The number of full time members of the agency would be reduced from seven to five, all of whom would be located at the agency in the National Capital Region. I believe that the efficiency of the agency would be increased if all members were located at the agency on a full time basis. This would be more consistent with the nature of the agency's decision making processes, which normally require more than one member to sign off on decisions, orders and findings.

At the same time, the concentration of members at the agency office in the same location makes it possible to reduce the number of members to five. This is not only an efficient measure; it would bring financial savings as well.

The proposed amendments would give the agency the statutory authority to engage in mediation upon request on matters within its jurisdiction. The amendments would ensure the adequate safeguards are in place to maintain its quasi-judicial role.

Mediation solutions can be simpler, quicker and less litigious and costly than other options. The lines of communication between parties during mediation typically contribute to a healthy commercial relationship after disputes are resolved. In addition, mediated agreements have higher commitment levels as parties jointly craft solutions and the process can assist in narrowing the gaps on disputed issues if brought before the agency at a later date.

Bill C-11 also provides for new measures designed to protect air passengers.

The government realizes that Canadians want to know the real price of a plane ticket in airline advertising. It would like the prices advertised for air transportation to be clear and transparent, and not misleading. The airlines have listened to consumers and taken major steps to guarantee greater transparency in their advertising. At the same time, consumers wish to make sure that the industry will continue on the right track.

The amendments proposed in Bill C-11authorize the minister to make regulations that would apply to all media, as necessary. The Air Travel Complaints Commissioner’s Office was created as a temporary, transitional measure in 2000, following the merger of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International. Bill C-11 would replace the temporary function of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner with a permanent, transparent function imposed by the law for handling complaints about air transportation. This activity would be part of the regular activities of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The government recognizes the importance of the air travel complaints program for Canadians. Thanks to the amendments under study, Canadians will still be able to address their air travel complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The proposed amendments in Bill C-11 will improve the framework for passenger rail service in Canada by allowing commuter rail operators and VIA Rail Canada to seek adjudication from the agency if they are unable to reach agreement with the railways on access to track and other services when new agreements are negotiated or existing agreements renegotiated.

In addition the line transfer and abandonment provisions will be extended to include urban corridor and urban transit authorities. Bill C-11 will give the agency the authority to settle noise disputes if voluntary efforts are not successful. The agency will be able to order a railway to make the necessary changes in order to reduce unreasonable noise levels associated with railway operation or construction.

Governments need access to good data to help develop and assess transportation policies and programs. The existing data provisions in the Canada Transportation Act will improve to add security as a purpose for which I can collect data. The amendments will also expand the list of stakeholders from whom data can be gathered and improve on the administrative penalties that can be applied if reporting requirements are not met.

The amendments in Bill C-11would introduce a new merger review procedure, which would apply to all carriers and service providers under federal jurisdiction, for example, air, rail and maritime transport, bus and truck transportation, and airports and seaports.

This approach would build on the strong points of the merger review process now in place for airline companies.

This process was put in place with the amendments made to the Canada Transportation Act in 2000 as a result of the issues of public interest raised by the acquisition of Canadian Airlines International by Air Canada. This new mechanism replaced the requirements of the Competition Act respecting merger reviews.

Here are the chief elements of the proposed provision respecting mergers:

Merger applicants must address specific issues in the new merger review guidelines.

I will be authorized to appoint someone to review the proposed transaction if the proposal raises enough issues with respect to the public interest as it relates to national transportation.

The provision provides for a single government decision to be made so as to avoid duplication. I will handle public interest concerns, and the competition commissioner will look at competition concerns.

The proposed amendments include a new provision that authorizes me to enter into an agreement with a provincial authority under which the provincial authority would regulate a federal railway.

One other main element of the previous Bill C-44 that I would like to explain is a proposed new provision on the grain revenue cap, which limits the amount of revenue that Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway can earn from regulated grain movements in western Canada. The provision is linked to the costs of maintaining hopper cars for such movements. On May 4, I announced that the government would retain its fleet of 12,100 grain hopper cars in order to maximize benefits for farmers and taxpayers.

There is a provision in Bill C-11 that would enable me to make a one time only request to the agency to adjust the revenue caps to reflect the current maintenance costs for all hopper cars used in regulated grain movements. This will more closely align the costs in the revenue caps with the actual costs of maintaining the hopper cars in revenue cap service. Estimates show potential savings for farmers of approximately $2 per tonne or about $50 million per year based on an average movement of about 25 million tonnes.

I also want to explain the proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act. They are fairly straightforward. The Canada Transportation Act authorizes federally regulated railways to establish and operate their own police forces. CNR and CPR maintain police forces as do provincial railways and transit authorities. The duties of railway police constables relate to the protection of property owned or administered by the company, and of the persons and equipment on that property. Only a judge of a superior court, upon the application of a railway, is allowed to appoint, dismiss or discharge railway police constables. The power to appoint police constables is being moved from the CTA to the Railway Safety Act. The Railway Safety Act deals with matters pertaining to the safety and security of railways, making it a more appropriate statutory authority to deal with railway police.

In addition, amendments to the Railway Safety Act will require that the railways establish an independent review mechanism for responding to public complaints against railway police. The review mechanism will be filed with me for approval.

In closing, I want to reiterate that Bill C-11 is consistent with the government's legislative strategy for amending the Canada Transportation Act. The strategy is to proceed with amendments that stakeholders are already demanding, have awaited for several years, and that reflect extensive consultations and consensus building.

I believe that the proposals contained in this bill will have strong support from stakeholders and that they look forward to early passage of the bill. I encourage all members to give Bill C-11 their full endorsement.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2006 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak to Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. Since it incorporates part of Bill C-44, which the Bloc Québécois supported, we must support this bill, but with certain reservations, as I will explain later.

This is the first time the Government of Canada has put legislation in place to allow it to exercise its authority over international bridges and tunnels. The new government tells us it wants to ensure that the security, safety and efficient movement of people and goods are in accordance with national interests.

The events of September 2001, it must be noted, made clear the importance of protecting these vital infrastructures. The proposed amendments would give the Government of Canada new and broader legislative powers to oversee approvals of international bridges and tunnels. These amendments would give the government power to approve, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels and to formulate regulations governing the management, maintenance, security, safety and operation of these structures.

The bill would also authorize the federal government to approve the sale or transfer of ownership of international bridges and tunnels. Note as well that it would strengthen federal government oversight of all new and existing international bridges and tunnels in order to better protect the public interest and ensure the flexible flow of international trade. There are currently 24 international vehicular bridges and tunnels and five international railway tunnels linking Canada and the United States. These bridges and tunnels carry the vast majority of international trade between Canada and the United States and play a vital role in Canada’s transportation system.

The provisions of this new bill are almost identical to those of the defunct Bill C-44, which was tabled by the former government and died on the order paper when the election was called. That bill,the 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, was tabled in the House of Commons on March 24, 2005 by the former Minister of Transport. Bill C-44 was itself similar in many respects to the previous Bill C-26, which bore the same title and was tabled in the House of Commons on February 23, 2003. Those two bills each died on the order paper upon the prorogation of Parliament. As you can see, the Parliament of Canada needs a lot of time to get its bills passed.

What affects us in Quebec most closely in this bill is a provision concerning the international bridges and tunnels that cross the St. Lawrence River. This provision corrects a legislative anomaly in the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which requires that a permit be issued for all work that has repercussions on navigable waters but which does not authorize the issuing of permits with regard to the St. Lawrence River. That anomaly had become evident during review of the proposed highway 30 bridges crossing the St. Lawrence Seaway. Those bridges have yet to be built, as you know, and these projects have been making very slow progress for many years.

In his speech last Friday, the minister said that any new crossing over the St. Lawrence would be subject to federal approval. I would like to know to what extent that sort of approach has the approval of the Quebec government, as it is likely to infringe upon its fields of jurisdiction.

Although the bill fills a legal void in the area of international bridges and tunnels, is designed to improve the safety of the infrastructures in that area, and has the consent of local stakeholders, we still have certain reservations. In the context of the regulation of international bridges and tunnels, the bill gives us the impression that the government is being conferred some very extensive, quasi-police powers, for example, a power to investigate without a warrant and a very authoritarian power of seizure.

The government has the power to legislate, but the financial responsibility rests on other shoulders. The Bloc Québécois believes this situation can lead to conflicts. What disappoints us the most is that a number of important measures that were in Bill C-44 were dropped from the current bill. It is important to point that out because we were told that this bill included the measures already outlined in Bill C-44, but only a small number of them are left.

Some parts of Bill C-44 were very important for the Bloc Québécois and for now they are being dropped. I am talking about the requirement that airline advertising be more transparent. The former bill would have required airlines to change their advertising methods. They would have been required to list the total price of the flight including related fees. This measure was much demanded by the consumer associations.

The bill would have improved the conflict resolution process for sharing the rail lines between passenger transportation companies and freight companies.

Bill C-44 included a section under which a railway company wishing to sell a rail line would first offer it to any interested urban transit authorities before offering it to municipal governments. A number of residents in my riding and in other regions of Quebec are concerned about this issue. Bill C-44 promoted setting up commuter trains across the country.

Our constituents are increasingly aware of the importance of developing public transit as a solution to traffic congestion problems and greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill also included a provision on Via Rail. It gave Via Rail more power to make its own decisions with a view to improving the rail service. Rail transit is a good alternative to road transportation, which currently is about the only option.

Clause 32 of Bill C-44 gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to investigate complaints concerning noise caused by trains. It required railways to implement certain measures to prevent unnecessary noise, particularly at rail yards. The noise issue is causing a lot of controversy in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

According to the British North America Act of 1867, the responsibility for international bridges and tunnels falls exclusively within federal jurisdiction. But in most cases, the Canadian portion of these structures is owned by the provinces. We must ensure that the regulatory and financial application of this act is negotiated and occurs in collaboration with the provinces.

In his speech last Friday, the minister stated that the federal government will be able to ensure that environmental assessments of international bridges and tunnels are conducted in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, when appropriate.

What did the minister mean by adding the word “appropriate”? I believe the minister was implying that jurisdiction over the environment is shared between federal and provincial governments, and that he does not necessarily have the final say in the matter.

I again ask the minister if he held negotiations with the Government of Quebec concerning sharing jurisdictions. Given its declaration of good will toward Quebec, it would be desirable for the new government to demonstrate its good intentions with respect to Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will support the second reading of the bill, despite the fact that it only partially resolves the many transportation problems that still exist in Quebec and Canada.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-44.

As I said earlier, I have two magnificent rail projects in my riding. One railroad goes through Alaska and it is one of the most successful railways in North America. A project is under study now which I have been talking to members of Parliament about for years. I have been asking for that railway to be joined with the rest of the Canadian railway system which would go through my riding of Yukon.

I would also like to talk about the White Pass Railway which goes from Skagway, Alaska--

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, you have always had a bit of difficulty with the name of this riding, but I will not miss this opportunity to wish you a happy retirement, since we are probably fast approaching the end of your mandate. I would also like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who will also retire. I wish him a very happy retirement, and he certainly deserves it. I have been here for only a little more than a year, but it was enough for me to appreciate him greatly. I hope his successor will be as nice as he.

To come back to the debate on Bill C-44, I have a little story I want to tell members of the House. Last summer, I had the opportunity to make a trip to the Maritimes. My wife suggested that we take the train. The last time I had taken the train before that was in 1954, to go to Abitibi, where, incidentally, I received tremendous support and was elected in the last election. Voters from Abitibi are still really happy to greet me when we meet and I will be glad to represent them for a new mandate if they so decide.

But let me come back to my trip to the Maritimes. I was unpleasantly surprised by the instability of the tracks and by the noise. The last time I took the train, there was a whistle, now there is a horn. We were in the observation car, that is at the end of the train but I could still hear the horn which was sounded many times during the night.

I was also unpleasantly surprised to note that the content of the toilets is still flushed directly onto the tracks where children sometimes play or where people walk. I did not see anything in the bill to change that. Mention could have been made of new technologies to reduce noise and stabilize the tracks.

I therefore ask my colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain if he saw anywhere that kind of obligation imposed on VIA Rail or Canadian National.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House, probably for the last time.

I will take advantage of this debate on Bill C-44 to try and “keep on track”. As for transportation, I think I can say that I have travelled a lot, not so much by Via Rail or train, but rather by car. I live in a huge riding located four hours away from Ottawa. The geographic size of my riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain is within 4,000 kilometres of that of Switzerland. It is not a riding, but rather a country that needs to be populated. The population of this small country, the size of Switzerland, is approximately 100,000.

This explains why we know a lot about transportation in our area. Unfortunately, we do not have everything we need.

The environment problem is one area of transportation that I consider important. We know that no mode of transportation will ever really protect the environment.

Coming back to Switzerland, one only has to go to Europe, to France for example, to see how transportation was developed in order to help the world and the human beings who need it, in harmony with the environment.

Obviously, a riding such as mine, with 100,000 inhabitants, cannot benefit from the same services as Switzerland. However, there are ways to adapt rail transportation in order to use it more and to use it better, and in order to protect people properly. Noise pollution due to railways is quite unpleasant, but the situation can certainly be improved.

Last week, I was disappointed that a bill I cared very much about was rejected at third reading. Today, perhaps one mayor in my riding will be happy about this bill since it seeks to improve the effects of the rail system on the environment and, among other things, it seeks to reduce noise.

The mayor of Saint-Tite, which is the capital of western culture, with a western festival of its own, often tells me that it is quite incredible that the railway going by this village bothers people in the middle of the night to the point where it is almost unbearable. Trains must be slowed down and barriers must be erected, because it is dangerous for tourists. Saint-Tite has 5,000 inhabitants. But during the festival, 150,000 people stay there. While being adapted to our needs, rail transportation must avoid problems related to the environment.

I am not going to discuss this bill clause by clause, but I hope that we will focus on developing transportation which is as ecological as possible.

I take the opportunity to thank you, Madam Speaker, and bid you farewell. I know that this is your last day in this Parliament, since you will not be running in the next election. You have been of great service to us. You did a good job chairing the debates in this House and it has always been a pleasure to work with you.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate those who are here to serve us in this House. In a way, they take care of some of our transportation needs as they bring us our water, with a smile. All too often, when we see these people in the House, we tend to forget that they are here to serve us and that we should thank them for that. I want to thank them now on behalf of all my colleagues. Today, I had the pleasure of bringing them a rose so they can remember that they made our life easier. Even their smiles warm up this place and I want to thank them for that.

I also want to congratulate all those who, like me, will not be seeking re-election and are here for the last time.

I wish to thank them for the discussions we had, even for the arguments and the fights, for through it all, we have, I hope, moved society forward.

This Parliament is democratic in nature. If we want it to stay that way, I think we must have the privilege to use democracy. I hope the Prime Minister—I do not know if he will be re-elected and come back—will do what he said he would during the last election, when he talked a great deal about democratizing debate. He has not had much success with this yet. If he comes back, I hope he will work toward that or that the next prime minister will. It is the only way to ensure Canadians will get answers from government. We could get things done if we used this House as a temple of democracy.

Too often, we realize after asking 440 questions that we still do not have answers. It took an inquiry to finally get answers. To me, that is a serious infringement of democracy. I hope that in the future we will be able to use Parliament as a tool of democracy that nurtures democracy in such a way that Canadians have better access to what we do, are better informed about what we do, and encourage us to work harder to serve them better.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Guy Côté Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I wish to point out that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

Madam Speaker, I understand that you are retiring from public life. It was an honour, every time, to hear you call the name of my riding. Had we been here longer, maybe one day you would have done it without hesitating. Anyhow, I was very pleased to hear you every time.

As has been mentioned on numerous occasions, we support the principle of Bill C-44. I wish to speak specifically to the part concerning rail transportation.

A railway line runs through the entire Portneuf RCM, in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. Indeed, rail is a critical component of intermodal transportation. Earlier, my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel talked about the importance of the St. Lawrence Seaway. There is a good example in the Portneuf RCM which, with the Portneuf wharf, combines very successfully sea transportation, rail transportation and trucking. I think of a number of businesses in my riding that rely on these three transportation modes, including Ciment Québec and Alcoa.

I wanted to talk to you more specifically about the railroad part, because one of the aspects of this bill involves trying to resolve certain irritants relating to intermodal and railway transport of goods. I can confirm, as can all of the people of Pont-Rouge and its environs, that the railroad runs very definitely on time. Every evening at 10 p.m., a train passes within a kilometre of where I live. It and its whistle can both be heard very clearly.

I know when I hear it it is time to turn on the television for the national news. It does not bother me all that much, because my house is some distance away from the tracks. However, a few years ago, I lived much closer to them. So, in addition to the noise of the train, there was the problem of the vibrations. We can all see glasses clinking together in the cupboard, in our mind's eye. It is annoying sometimes.

In principle, as I was saying, we support Bill C-44. Unfortunately, one of the negative aspects is that the provisions governing excess noise do not permit the limiting of other annoyances. I think the agency has the legislative framework needed to be given authority over annoyances. It does not perhaps go far enough in terms of oil and gas fumes and vibrations.

It will be noted that, in the context of C-44, and more specifically clause 32, reference is made to noise of a railway and more specifically, the noise near marshalling yards, which is an irritant met in a number of Quebec ridings. As I mentioned that can be a problem not just near marshalling yards. It occurs in the many villages along the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway. I mentioned Pont-Rouge earlier as an example, but I could have mentioned the towns of the Portneuf RCM.

Clause 32 of the bill gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise to order the railway company to take certain measures to prevent unreasonable noise. It should be pointed out that, in its mediation, the agency must consider the railway company's economic requirements.

Consequently, again, as is often the case, we must find a balance between the comfort of residents, the comfort of citizens, the right to a relatively quiet private life and certain economic and commercial factors.

In fact, up until 2000, pursuant to section 95, the agency believed it had an extended power allowing it to force a company against which a complaint was made to limit disturbances to a minimum. However, the agency was using a power it did not have.

This is why, when certain people say that, and rightly so, section 32 of Bill C-44 does not give the agency as much power as in 2000, we must keep in mind that the old act did not allow it any recourse, either.

Moreover, section 95 is not amended by Bill C-44, and the requirement for minimal disturbance during the operation of a railway line stays the same. This section empowers the agency to reconcile the need to allow rail companies to do business with the right of residents to live in a reasonably peaceful environment. Accordingly, the agency will be empowered to order a railway company to undertake any changes in order to prevent unreasonable noise, but it must take financial factors into account.

The orders of the transportation agency are like orders of a superior court. Anyone who contravenes such an order may be guilty of contempt of court and may be liable to imprisonment.

Accordingly, as I said earlier, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-44. Indeed, there are a number of provisions, especially in this section, that allow the agency to regulate, up to a point, the noise aspect of rail transportation.

However, there are still a number of criticisms. If this bill is introduced again in a future Parliament, one will need to be raised. Actually, besides noise, the clause does not provide for other nuisances to be curtailed. The Bloc Québécois believes that the agency has the necessary regulatory framework to give it jurisdiction in terms of fumes, such as oil and gasoline, and vibrations. It would be very important that these elements appear in any future incarnation of this bill.

Ten minutes go by very quickly. I was talking about the possibility that this bill be introduced again in a future Parliament. Allow me to take my remaining few minutes to thank the constituents of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, who put their trust in me in June 2004. In all likelihood, within the next hour, a very rare event will take place in this chamber: thanks to a very clear motion, the opposition will withdraw the confidence it previously placed in the government. All my constituents in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier know that I will run again for the Bloc Québécois. I hope that they will put their trust in me again, like they did in June 2004.

Let me conclude by saying that we are in favour of Bill C-44, even if some of its clauses need to be reviewed.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-44, whose title bears repeating: 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 is an important bill. In fact, it is an exact copy of Bill C-26, which the government had introduced in the previous Parliament. This is surprising, since this bill, when it was introduced the last time, was almost a national emergency. We had worked hard in order to make the government understand that some parts of the legislation needed to be reviewed and amended, but there was suddenly an election. The current Prime Minister decided to call a snap election and, ultimately, the bill died on the order paper.

So it is surprising to see this bill introduced once again, when we know full well that this government will fall today. We are talking about it, but everyone in the House is well aware that this bill will not, once again, be passed in this parliamentary session.

Ultimately, members are here, particularly when considering bills such as this, to defend the interests of their constituents. Earlier, my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse told the House about the potential problems in his riding due to the Charny yard. Likewise, my colleague from Hochelaga just talked about similar problems experienced by the constituents in his riding due to the noise from the Moreau yard, in Montreal.

Clearly, the Bloc Québécois wants to resolve these problems. As my colleague from Hochelaga said so well, the unrelenting efforts of my colleague from Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher forced the Minister of Transport to re-introduce this bill. We wish it had been introduced last spring, but it was put off. The Minister of Transport made that decision. I am always surprised to see the member for Outremont tearfully defending public interests when he knows full well that the public deserves to see its interests defended on several fronts with regard to transportation. He will not have done so, because once again, this bill will go no further.

The problem of citizens who live close to railroad yards in Quebec and in Canada and are bothered by the noise of whistles will not be solved because the bill will not be adopted by this House, even though the Bloc Québécois wants to take part in the debate, discuss the bill and move it to the next step. That is what we would want. However, it is worth talking about the bill today. It is by talking about it and explaining its importance to Liberal members that we will surely see it adopted during the next Parliament.

The bill has four parts: one on railway transport; a second one on air transport; a third one on complaints; and finally, one on VIA Rail. As for railway transport, it is a rapidly evolving market. We saw the rail market go through a low and it is now picking up momentum. All those who saw railway lines disappear here and there in Canada will be surprised to see new advocates for railway transport or new stakeholders in the area.

I had the chance to experience the situation in my former incarnation. Before being a member of Parliament, I was reeve of Papineau regional county municipality. There still is a railroad in Papineau. It now belongs to an independent corporation which manages it under the name Quebec Gatineau Railway. At one time, Canadian Pacific wanted to dispose of the railroad and transfer responsibility for it to the adjacent landowners. I was one of the first persons to intervene and say that the Outaouais did not have a highway. At the time, there was no highway 50 and it has not been completed yet, but it is in the development phase now. That could be the subject of a debate at a later date. So losing the railway meant losing all industrial development potential.

We had no road networks, no highways and we were losing the railway. All the mayors from the communities and municipalities along that track got together. Since the track was going to be removed, everyone got together and agreed that it made no sense to do so. There was potential, industries and clients. Canadian Pacific waged an all-out war until, because of my position as chair of the Outaouais economic council, we made an offer to Canadian Pacific. We simply told them that since they thought the track may never be profitable to them, they could offer it to independent railway owners.

Believe or not, when the call for tenders went out, CP got eight responses, thus eight potential buyers. This railway is in operation today and is called the Quebec-Gatineau Railway. It is a shortline. It is therefore run by an independent, privately owned company. It is a profitable company and it allows the entire region to still develop its industry and have the railway as an industrial benefit.

However, other regions were not as lucky. Train tracks have been removed and others are on the chopping block. The purpose of this bill, among other things, was to allow defunct railways to be handed over to the municipalities and public transportation agencies first.

My riding starts in Gatineau and ends at the border of Saint-Eustache, at the edge of the Montreal urban community, which currently includes Mirabel. In the coming years we hope Mirabel can benefit from light rail public transportation. That would help in the development of the entire Saint-Augustin sector, the entire Saint-Janvier region and other regions as well. These sectors could benefit from rail transportation. For the Mirabel—Saint-Janvier sector, I am referring to the Little Train from the North, which no longer exists today. Some corridors could reopen and light rail could be used for public transportation.

The purpose of this bill is to allow transfer of companies directly to public or municipal transportation agencies wanting said companies for public transportation purposes. There is a strong will on our part.

As we were saying earlier, one of the major concerns is noise. A policy needed to be established because too many people were complaining about being disrupted by the rail industry's operations.

I was asking my colleague from Hochelaga earlier if he did not think that one of the reasons this bill had come so late, and the Minister of Transport, the member for Outremont, had waited so long before bringing it forward, was because of the pressure and the lobbying from the railway industry. That is one of the main reasons. When we talk about changing the industry operations, about forcing it to comply with viable noise standards, the industry only sees big expenses. However, it is simply about how things are done. We have to change the way things are done.

Earlier, my colleague was referring to a noise barrier, to the construction of a soil fence which could block the noise in a whole sector. So, such solutions are not unthinkable. The problem is that the industry must change its operating methods.

Today, we no longer connect the railway cars and the locomotives by hand. It is done mechanically and electronically. To ensure that they are well connected and will not get disconnected, the connections are louder and louder, and more and more forceful. This creates noise, which causes damage. The communities living near the railway yards are more and more inconvenienced by the noise.

I was the president of the Quebec union of municipalities from 1997 to 2000. What the municipalities wanted was to be able to apply municipal antinoise or noise limitation bylaws to railway yards or to railway transport areas.

The federal government obviously rejected this possibility, because—as we know—there is the whole situation in which, in constitutional terms, federal laws take precedence over provincial laws, which take precedence over municipal laws. The government did not want to give up its right in this case. So it has to regulate noise. The problem is that there has never been any regulations on noise in federal legislation on transportation.

Today, they are proposing one possibility. My colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve mentioned it earlier. Clause 32 is a beginning. The transportation agency—prior to today and the passage of this bill—had only qualified mediation powers. That is, it made recommendations to the industry. However, if the industry paid them no heed, then the transportation agency had no authority to force it, to provide a fine or to have the work done and to bill it.

The next version of the act should change that, we hope. Clause 32, which amends the Transportation Act, provides, “When constructing or operating a railway, a railway company must not cause unreasonable noise, taking into account—”.

So this is the first time the federal government would impose a standard on noise pollution on the railway transportation industry. Noise is in fact pollution. I will spare you all the studies that have been tabled. I had the opportunity to receive them from all the defence organizations. Noise pollution definitely exists. The human ear can tolerate a certain number of decibels. Beyond this level, the noise is intolerable and can make people deaf or ill. Obviously, it causes stress and many other symptoms. International studies have proven it. Furthermore, noise at nighttime must be quieter than in the daytime.

As my colleague from Hochelaga mentioned, in the marshalling yards, the problem lies in the fact that railway transportation runs 24 hours a day, to the detriment of the quality of life of people living near these yards.

I am calling on the railway transportation industry: you have to stop telling us that railroad yards were built before residential sectors and that people should not have built houses there. Let us never forget that, when these yards were first created, it was in areas that were developed or that were going to be developed and, in the end, houses were built around these industrial facilities. Today, understandably those who bought these houses can object to something that was not anticipated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Such is the reality.

This bill is a step in the right direction and that is why the Bloc Québécois would have supported it. We wanted to work in committee and to improve this legislation. That will not be the case, because the Minister of Transport took too long to reintroduce Bill C-44, which is a carbon copy of former Bill C-26. The minister cannot claim that this initiative required a tremendous amount of work. Of course, it is a rather large document of more than 90 pages, but it is a carbon copy of former Bill C-26, which had been introduced in the previous Parliament and which died on the order paper, because the Prime Minister and former Minister of Finance decided to call an election in the spring of 2004.

Today, in order to better understand this whole issue, it must also be realized that Bill C-44 sought to implement the VIA Rail Canada Act, which would have created VIA Rail. In fact, VIA Rail already exists, but this legislation would have made it an independent company. The only criticism that the Bloc Québécois could make—as is still the case—has to do with the fact that, currently, VIA Rail is still not subject to the Access to Information Act.

I remind the House about the Gomery commission and what happened regarding VIA Rail's president, Mr. Pelletier. He was in the hot seat a lot. He testified before the Gomery commission. He used VIA Rail's money to buy advertising from ad companies which were receiving kickbacks that were then given back to the Liberal Party.

That is what was revealed by the Gomery commission. The concern with this bill is essentially that it does not make VIA Rail subject to the Access to Information Act. There is no way of knowing how much the president or any of the employees are spending. Were lavish dinners held at the time when Justice Gomery released the reports on VIA Rail? There is no way of knowing if major expenditures were made or if the president treated his cronies to dinner. There is no way, because the Access to Information Act cannot be used to look at what is going on in this crown corporation, VIA Rail.

I am pleased to say that the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, on which I sit, asked the information commissioner to produce a bill, given that the government did not want to amend its Access to Information Act.

I am proud to say that, in the bill he submitted to our committee—which, incidentally, was reported on and, in turn, the report was unanimously passed by this House—the Information Commissioner of Canada, Mr. Reid, expressed the wish that a legislative amendment be passed as soon as possible, requiring VIA Rail to comply with the Access to Information Act, to allow members of the public, MPs and journalists to request documents from VIA Rail, with the exception of anything having to do with trade secrets. Any information on trade secrets would not come under the new Access to Information Act. The Minister of Transport could have dealt with this issue regarding VIA Rail. With the bill before us, he could have decided to immediately bring VIA Rail within the scope of the Access to Information Act—which has not been done—while at the same time protecting trade secrets; after all, we would not want VIA Rail to reveal its trade secrets.

What we do want is for VIA Rail and its employees to be required to disclose their expenses, so that we can get a clear picture of what the president of VIA Rail did, which was to buy advertising, or documentaries, singing the praises of Canada and making frequent investments that allowed ad agencies to pocket sizeable commissions.

The sponsorship scandal is based on this: take the people's money, the taxpayers' money, which our fellow citizens worked hard to earn with the sweat of their brows. They entrusted their tax dollars to the government. Then the Liberal government decided to give out contracts, directly or indirectly through such agencies as VIA Rail, to communications firms to promote and publicize Canada, or to private companies. There was a kickback system in place, however. This was termed a commission, and ranged between 15% and 20% of the total. It was pocketed by the communications agencies and then they gave part of it to the Liberal Party of Canada.

If I had not mentioned Canada in my explanation, many people listening to us would have thought of numerous other countries where there are dictatorships. In some of those countries, the taxpayers' money is used for other purposes, and that is what is happening here in Canada.

That is why the public and the opposition parties have decided today to defeat this government, to say it no longer has our confidence, for the pure and simple reason that we never again want a government in Canada to take the hard-earned money of its tax-paying citizens and use it for partisan vote-getting purposes. We never again want to see a government award contracts to advertising agencies, with generous commissions attached, and for those agencies to make contributions to the Liberal Party in return. We never want to see that again. That is why, today, this government will be defeated.

Obviously, what we have before us is a bill on transportation. Transportation is always important in our eyes, but it is also important for the government to understand today that, whether it be VIA Rail, Canada, Post, the Department of Public Works and Government Services, or all the money it can spend in advertising and promotion, the public will never again allow it to take its money, buy advertising, hand out bonuses or commissions to agencies, and then get kickbacks from them for the Liberal Party coffers.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 5 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate on Bill C-44. We fully believed that the government wanted nothing to do with this bill. I know that the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher has worked hard to ensure that there would be a debate on this bill.

I am not saying that this bill is perfect; we do, in fact, have concerns in some respects. However, it contains provisions— especially section 32, which I will talk about in greater detail—that increase the powers of the Canadian Transportation Agency to mediate complaints in communities with railway lines. Obviously, every member of the House, both on the government and the opposition benches, knows that Canadian Pacific or CP has engaged in extremely delinquent behaviour. It has even been a rail rat, a locomotive low life and, quite often, behaved like a city within the city. This is certainly true in a city such as Montreal.

The bill should have gone further, as the Canadian Federation of Municipalities said, because the scope of section 32 is not clear. It is being compared to a superior court order, but when we read the wording, it is unclear that this is not just mediation.

That said, before I talk about the substance of the bill, I want to make some comments about the current political situation.

Obviously, the House is humming with energy. It is clear that the government is about to fall and that we are writing a page in the history of this Parliament by allowing, finally, our constituents to get their bearings with regard to the Gomery report, all 455 pages of which I just finished reading this morning. Clearly, the most important of the 17 chapters is the last one, about assigning responsibility. It is interesting to see that Justice Gomery is able to clearly identify the centres of responsibility. Treasury Board and other departments had completely abdicated their responsibilities, which was to ensure the proper administration of public funds. The extreme disrespect for Quebec referendum legislation is obvious.

Indeed, we must remember that the creation of the Gomery commission was rooted in a cabinet decision made in 1996. During a retreat, on February 1 and 2, 1996, the federal cabinet decided to authorize a vast visibility plan for Canada. This grand plan came as a reaction of the government to the 1995 referendum, where the yes and no sides were each allowed 50¢ per elector. Therefore, there was a possibility, based on the equality of opportunity principle, to promote, on the one hand, the possibility for Quebec becoming sovereign, as 147 countries in the world have done, or, on the other hand, Quebec remaining part of the Canadian federation.

What is disturbing, and that is the meaning of the next election, is that a government chose not to respect a democratic referendum. A government chose not to respect the rule of law.

In the 455 pages of the report, we can easily see that Coffin, Brault, Lafleur Communications, and actually all five agencies that Public Works and Government Services Canada had hired, made generous contributions to the Liberal Party, with obvious contempt for the political party financing legislation.

That said, I do not want to stray too far from the bill before us. I am well aware that it deals with transportation. However, before getting to the main point, that is Bill C-44, I also wish to congratulate all members, on both sides of the House, who have served their fellow Canadians and who might be in this House only for a few more hours before going on to another career. In particular, that is the case of the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain who will be leaving public life.

Liberal colleagues have told me that some thirty of them could be leaving public life. I imagine that it has nothing to do with the difficult situation the party currently finds itself in, but rather a perfectly reasonable and legitimate desire to do something else in life.

I am convinced, however, that they will have positive memories of their colleagues and the Bloc Québécois, which has remained a party of balance between the desire and interests of the government and of the people of Quebec. The Bloc Québécois has always been on top of what could be done here in this House under the standing orders in order to advance matters affecting the interests of Quebeckers.

Madam Speaker, I believe that this is also your last day in the House, since you have announced you are not going to seek another term.

In my riding of Hochelaga, there is a marshalling yard. This is not surprising, since Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was one of the first neighbourhoods in Montreal to be industrialized. Obviously in the 18th century and 19th century, where industrialization was involved, the ability to link people and to move goods near an industrial centre was an extremely important consideration for businesses when they located.

Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was a city between 1888 and 1918, when it joined Montreal. It was in fact the first city in eastern Montreal to have a francophone industrial middle class. The Dufresne family, for example, held positions on the city council.

Anyone visiting Hochelaga—Maisonneuve can admire its rich heritage in the Centre culturel et sportif de l'Est, an art deco piece today housing an organization of the same name providing cultural and recreational services. The château Dufresne was, for a long time, the only middle class home open to the people of Montreal, where Marius Dufresne once resided. More recently, singer Diane Dufresne, of whom I am a fan and with whom I had the pleasure of having my picture taken—she is in a way Quebec's prima donna—presented an exhibition of photographs. This château is witness to the past prosperity of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, which was once an extremely prosperous middle class city.

Still, industrialization and railways go hand in hand. It is rather distressing to note that, in a residential neighbourhood like Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, at the heart of my neighbourhood, a railway ran along Ontario Street. This was not unusual. It was a time when people thought that economic and residential development should co-exist.

Today, of course, when we think about urban development and municipalities adopting a development plan, we would not tolerate, in the middle of our neighbourhood and in residential areas, nuisance factors such as a railway.

However, in the 18th and 19th centuries until the second world war, people wanted to have economic development close to residential development. A whole generation of labourers worked as railway employees in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. I was pleased that the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel came to meet me with my constituents.

About a year and a half ago, he left his riding on a Thursday night to come and meet my constituents. I created an antinoise committee. People living on Davidson and Darling streets as well as those living in the western and the northern parts of my riding, near the railway tracks, got together to make representations to ensure that measures would be taken to reduce the impact of railways.

What are these nuisance factors? First, the fact is that railways may be operating 24 hours a day. People wonder how it is that we can tolerate, in a city such as Montreal, in 2005, soon in 2006, a railway that can be operating 24 hours a day. Since this is the case, it means that there is noise associated with the operation of this railway. The noise comes from two sources. Of course, there is the stopping of engines, of locomotives, but there is also noise when locomotives are joined together. You can appreciate that this causes a lot of noise.

There are people who have been living for 10, 15 or 20 years near this railway and who are wondering what that government will do. This is why the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher was well-advised to pressure the Minister of Transportation, the member for Outremont. This is, by the way, a riding which the Bloc Quebecois will not hesitate to conquer in the next election, thanks to our candidate of great ability, Mr. Jacques Léonard, president of the Quebec treasury board under René Lévesque. He is a progressive social democrat eager to defend any cause which has to do with the fight against poverty.

The Minister of Transportation has therefore waited too long before bringing in his bill. We were wondering what was happening. This is a bill which my colleague, our transportation critic, would have liked to improve in committee. Nonetheless, one of its provisions has given a little bit of hope to our citizens.

First, one must remember that, for many years, the Canadian Transportation Agency behaved just as if it had the authority to make orders and to act as a mediator, something which has just been granted to it through Bill C-44. A legal challenge has been taken to federal court. If I am not mistaken, I believe that the case was even heard by the Federal Court of Appeal. This court decided that, unfortunately, the authority of the Canadian Transportation Agency did not allow it to make orders and to go as far as it went in the past. This is why the Minister of Transportation should remedy to that situation and establish clearly, in a bill, that it is indeed possible for the Canadian Transportation Agency to act as an arbitrator.

As I said, the CPR and the CN, the major railway companies, have been behaving like low lives in the city. They were under the impression that, in the name of prosperity and economic development, they did not have to account to anyone. It has taken every ounce of persuasion and kindness which I am known for to convince the CN and the CPR to participate in the noise control committee I had set up. These companies were behaving like railway low lives, like railroad delinquents, not accounting to anyone. That is why clause 32 of the bill is giving some hope to our fellow citizens.

What is not clear to me is to what extent clause 32 really allows orders to be made. I will read the clause for the benefit of those listening. It states:

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

I can already see a problem with the phrase “not cause unreasonable noise”, as it refers to the legal test of reasonableness. What does “not cause unreasonable noise” mean? For example, is it unreasonable to couple two engines at 3 p.m.? Is it unreasonable to let a train idle for 40 minutes between midnight and 0:40 a.m., with the noise this involves?

I hope that the Canadian Transportation Agency will issue guidelines, as provided for by the legislation, to define what is unreasonable when it comes to major national carriers.

Clause 32 states:

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— (b) its operational requirements—

The phrase “its operational requirements” is pretty generic. One might even say that it is general, because it is not clear what it is referring to exactly. Naturally, a company could always plead before the Canadian Transport Agency that its operational requirements require it to be in operation 24 hours a day.

I recall my discussion with the railways, particularly the companies in my riding which service the Port of Montreal. They referred to the necessity, given the importance of that port, to ensure the fastest possible connections. That is why they had no scruples about operating around the clock.

Now for the third criterion to be considered: the location of railway construction or operation. As I have said, when one looks at a city like Montreal, back in the early days of urban planning, it was not uncommon to find residential and industrial areas in the same place, because workers had no cars and needed to be as close to possible to their work place.

Today, of course, there are ecological concerns. Our party has a good record on this, moreover. The Bloc Québécois was the one to obtain a tax deduction to encourage our fellow citizens to take public transit. I myself have no car, and I live between two metro stations, Pie IX and Viau. I get around on public transit.

What is more, in order to encourage our fellow citizens along this path, the Bloc Québécois wants to see monthly transit passes made tax-deductible. The member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, our party's transport critic, got that passed in the House. Although there was no unanimity, it was still a very significant vote. I congratulate my hon. colleague on it.

Now, continuing with the obligations under clause 32. It reads:

The Agency may issue and publish, in any manner that it considers appropriate, guidelines—

These are the powers of a quasi-judiciary tribunal, which is what the Transportation Agency is and thus empowered to issue orders that are enforceable.

I have only a minute left, and I would not want to disappoint you, Madam Speaker, on your last day in this House. In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois would have been pleased to be able to work in committee to improve Bill C-44, the principle of which we support. We would, however, have liked to have beefed up its clause 32, which offers our fellow citizens a glimmer of hope.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a bill which I feel I have to be more vigilant about, because it concerns me. I am the member of Parliament for a riding where rail transport issues are very important, and my constituents are really anxious for certain irritants to be resolved.

When I read Bill C-44, I can see that the government is trying to substantially improve the legislation. We must recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement at present. If passed, this bill will amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. It will also enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and make amendments to other acts directly affected by the new provisions we are about to vote on to ensure that the efforts put into this will not be thwarted by any contradictions.

In principle, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-44. Without overlooking the legislation as a whole, my remarks will focus mainly on rail transport because, as I indicated, this is an issue that is very important to the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse.

There are three major rail transport issues in my riding, including the riding's largest city, Lévis. Needless to say that the infamous engine whistle is extremely disruptive, especially in the middle of the night. In the daytime, it is bearable, but at night, it often lasts longer than necessary and is even less desirable.

In my humble opinion, the legislation should encourage railway companies to leave the 19th and 20th century behind and resolutely move into the 21st century. There are now alternatives to whistling to announce an incoming train and make railway crossings safe. What once was necessary no longer is, especially since the population in urban centres has grown tremendously and railway traffic has increased outrageously in frequency.

In this era where stress is becoming the norm, the impact of sleep disruption, among other problems, should not be underestimated. This is also the era of job performance. How can we balance one against the other?

The second problem in my region, as in many other regions in Quebec and in Canada, is the yard. It is a pain, a real headache for the urban planners and the citizens of a city built around or near the station, as is often the case in North America.

Fortunately, the new act will give the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise. The agency could, for example, require the railways to take measures to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects of noise during the construction of a railway or, what interests me even more, during its operation.

By taking the operational and service needs of the railway companies and the interests of the affected communities into account, we are definitely going in the right direction to find a solution to the disputes related to the operation of a yard.

I am therefore pleased to see that clause 32 of the bill gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints about noise and to require the railways to take measures to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects of noise. And God knows how much noise there is. I am especially happy that the criterion of minimal damage caused by the operation of a railway, the old section 95, is found in Bill C-44, giving the agency a real power that it did not have, contrary to what many believed.

Clause 32 confers upon the Transportation Agency the jurisdiction to settle disputes. Thus, the need to allow rail companies to do business and the right of people living along rail routes to peaceful enjoyment will be placed on equivalent levels. The agency will be able to require rail companies to take steps to limit the noise related to their activities. Financial imperatives will be taken into consideration, but will no longer necessarily take precedence.

Orders by the agency will be enforceable in the same manner as an order from a superior court, so people will need to proceed with caution. Non-compliance will lead to charges of contempt of court and the possibility of a prison sentence.

I myself feel that the provision on excessive noise ought perhaps to have been more extensive. It does not, for instance, allow restriction of other nuisances, although that would not be very complicated to do now. Like my Bloc colleagues, I feel that the Transportation Agency has the necessary legislative framework to be given jurisdiction over other types of nuisances such as vibrations. This would, among other things, be useful as far as oil and gas emissions are concerned, which are not covered by this proposed legislation.

It does not take a lot of imagination to understand how disagreeable those two substances can be when there is an unfortunate spill. We find our hands tied, because there are no provisions for helping people who are victims of such spills, nor to oblige prompt action by those responsible and, and more importantly, preventive measures.

This bill does not really have any teeth in it as far as operators are concerned in numerous negative situations.

This leads me to the third problem in my riding, which will clarify my previous criticism, I hope.

In order to facilitate the shipping of liquid cargoes to Montreal, a kind of semi-circular route had to be set up. One section travelled runs right through a marshy area, which makes daily operations even more vulnerable. There have been three derailments in recent years, and harmful substances have been spilled. Hon. members can well imagine the results. Will the agency have the power to force operators of a rail line to ensure that anyone using the rail service can do so without the risk of constant derailments and the hazards and inconveniences they entail?

There is more to environmental protection than air quality. Soil pollution, in this case, or in similar cases, is dramatic because there is always a risk of groundwater contamination. And this is only one problem that must imperatively be prevented in the future.

This is not the only inconvenience that we have with the bypass. The train has to go further and make a loop in order to come back in the other direction. This involves grade crossings and, thus, mandatory stops when the train uses this route.

In one area, vehicles may have to stop twice to let the same train pass. Worse than that, they may be stuck in the loop for many minutes, depending on the length of the train.

What do we do in an emergency? What do we do for ambulances carrying a very ill patient that remain stuck inside the loop? What do we do for firefighters responding to a fire alarm? What do we do for the police? We have to wait for the train to pass. This is a problem that I would have like to see resolved through this bill, to ensure that this never happens again. It seems to me that people's safety should be a priority.

To add to my previous statements, I hoped that the bill would be more binding on VIA Rail and give it a better legislative framework. This is a Canada-wide public utility and, consequently, it should be under more scrutiny, while maintaining some autonomy.

Upon its creation in 1997, VIA Rail was incorporated under the Canada Business Corporations Act. Today, clause 74 of Bill C-44 enacts the VIA Rail Canada Act. The constating documents of the Crown corporation are changed and its mandate is defined. This mandate is to manage and provide a safe and efficient passenger rail service in Canada. At least, this is what clause 8 of the proposed act says. As a whole, the rights and obligations of VIA Rail are maintained, but, under clause 7, the Minister of Transport is the appropriate minister in relation to the corporation.

The head office continues to be in Montreal. I am concerned about the fact that the governor in council can change that simply by order. This does not seem very democratic or very respectful to me. Let us hope that this situation never comes up.

On another matter, the fact that VIA Rail is not subject to the Access to Information Act is not the best idea. Although some commercial regulations may need protection, that is not a compelling enough argument to exclude this company from accountability in all other areas having to do with information.

At least the new VIA Rail legislation, because of its flexibility, will provide greater autonomy to make more appropriate decisions, which should make the administrators' task easier as it gives them a better framework. We made a wise decision in maintaining VIA Rail's rights and obligations; instead of a break with the past, we are ensuring continuity.

For these reasons that I have just outlined to my colleagues in the House, I will support the principle of separate legislation for VIA Rail.

Air transportation is not my chosen field, but I will give my opinion on it nonetheless. I am glad that marketing is heading toward being more truthful and accurate. Airlines will have to change their advertising methods and that will be for the best, I am sure. By requiring these companies to list the full fare including all related fees from now on, air travellers will be better able to assess the real cost, which can only be beneficial to everyone involved, including the carriers.

In the event of a problem, the transportation agency can require a carrier to take the necessary measures to compensate those affected when sales or transportation conditions are not respected. This a step forward since the commissioner could only make suggestions before.

Unfortunately, the transportation agency, which gained more authority when the complaints commissioner position was cut, will no longer be required to submit an annual report on the complaints or how they were resolved. On the downside, life will be easier for those in the wrong because it will become more difficult to address their lapses. Let us hope to find a corrective measure for this.

The commissioner had the authority to require a lot of information from the carriers when complaints were lodged against them. The transportation agency does not have as much latitude.

So, I wonder whether it is a good thing that the public no longer has access to a commissioner.

Perhaps we could have transferred all the powers of the commissioner to the Canadian Transportation Agency. We will see where this will take us.

Once again, the interests of transparency, to which we refer so readily, are still not protected in the proposed legislation. This is why I deplore this weakening of the role of the Canadian Transportation Agency in terms of its power to investigate and its visibility.

I want to talk about one last negative aspect of the bill. The regulations on international bridges and tunnels are almost dangerous. The government is being given quasi police powers that are simply unacceptable. There is no other way to qualify a power to investigate without a warrant. And what about such an authoritarian power of seizure?

As regards the protection of the environment, the bill proposes to review the transportation policy so as to bring it closer to the objectives of the Kyoto protocol. Indeed, by contributing to the promotion of railway transportation, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is something that all taxpayers will appreciate. If, in addition to that, we manage to reduce noise pollution, we will have made very significant progress.

I want to stress another positive aspect. I am referring to the provision which provides that, if a company wants to dispose of a railway line, it must first offer it to those in charge of transportation services in the cities concerned, particularly municipalities.

These changes would allow public transit companies to receive such offers. Some urban sectors that provide services to several municipalities would undoubtedly be very pleased at such opportunities. They would be able to get these corridors and use them for public transit purposes. This would be a judicious use of these abandoned railways.

If this is approved, it will probably help avoid many misunderstandings, problems and criticisms, while also saving time, work and energy.

For all these reasons, I will support the bill, even though I think that there is still room for a lot of improvement and that it would have been better to make these improvements before going further ahead.

For example, the minister could take the opportunity provided by the new VIA Rail Canada Act to promote transparency and accountability for this crown corporation, particularly as regards the appointment of its board of directors and its advertising which, unfortunately, is often confused with propaganda.

I must say that, as someone living in the heart of Lévis, I would love it if we could silence the train's whistle once and for all.