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.

December 9th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.

I don't have a lot of time, Mr. Banack, but I agree with you. That's not just infrastructure that's lost--that's infrastructure that we as Canadians paid for. But that's a different topic that we'll get on to.

I've done a lot of work on the shippers. As many of you know, I've met with many of you in the past on the shippers' bill of rights. But one of the things we're really losing sight of today is that it wasn't about the level-of-service reviews or costing reviews.

When we first came into it, the first step was legislation. It was Bill C-8 and the shippers' bill of rights that we put in place. The former government, the former parliamentary secretary, didn't even address that in Bill C-25 and Bill C-44 when they were in government. It didn't address half the issues. It didn't identify shipper service issues, disconnects, or railway shipper accountability. It didn't define solutions to address service and accountability issues.

I think we need to at least admit that we already took the first step in the last Parliament. Would you guys agree that Bill C-8 was a good step forward and triggered the level-of- service review?

March 28th, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
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Roger Tassé Legal Counsel, Gowling, Lafleur and Henderson, As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning, gentlemen, madam.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before your committee to answer your questions.

This review began in May 2006 at the request of the Minister of Transport. There were concerns about whether the Toronto Port Authority had well managed its responsibilities. There were allegations in the press and elsewhere about actions that the authority had taken with respect to the fixed link, which eventually was approved and eventually was cancelled, and the settlement that occurred thereafter.

The purpose of my review was to do just that: review the decision regarding these matters. The minister wanted to be satisfied that the principles of good governance had been upheld.

My mandate, which you will find as attachment 2 of my report, sets out specifically the questions that I had to look into in the context of a very important agreement that was entered into in 1983 between the federal government and the then Toronto harbour commissioners and the City of Toronto.

I had the assistance, for the purpose of my review, of Jeffrey Smith, who was retained by the Department of Transport. Jeffrey Smith is a member of the BDO Dunworthy firm of forensic accountants. You have a summary of his findings attached to my report.

For the review, I had the assistance and cooperation of quite a number of people: the City of Toronto, the staff of the city, members of the Toronto Port Authority or TPA, the Department of Transport in Toronto and at an office here in Ottawa, and the Department of Justice lawyers who had been involved in the various events under review.

I received great collaboration from all the people I talked to. I have looked at hundreds and hundreds of documents, if not more. I met with anyone who wanted to talk to me about the TPA and their management, the decisions that had been made, the concerns they had. I received a lot of e-mails and had a lot of meetings, including meetings with representatives from the community associations on the Toronto waterfront. You have a list of the members.

Now for my findings.

In summary, I've come to the conclusion that the Toronto Port Authority had complied with due diligence requirements in all respects on the matters that concerned the proposed construction of the bridge, the purchase of the new ferry, and the commercial arrangements that were entered into as part of the settlement agreement. This is discussed on page 3 of my report.

The overall settlement after the cancellation occurred, as you will well know, cost $35 million, and there were a lot of questions relating to that amount. People were saying, why would it cost $35 million to settle claims? We don't have a bridge, and the bridge itself would have cost $14 million. So there were a lot of questions.

And people were concerned that one of the difficulties, perhaps, was that in effect there was not much information that could be made public and was made public at the time regarding the process of negotiations.

But I've come to the conclusion, and I will say more if required later, that the amount of $35 million was reasonable, that the principles of good governance here again had been respected not only in reaching the global settlement but also in the way the $35 million was allocated to each of the parties who were involved and who had been damaged by the cancellation of the bridge.

I looked at the Aecon contract. Aecon was the builder who had been retained, after a process of tenders, by the authority to construct the bridge. There had been allegations that in effect the construction contract had been purposely and inappropriately accelerated to ensure that the bridge could not be stopped by a new municipal administration. I deal with that in my report very carefully, at pages 64 and 68.

My conclusion, after having looked at all the circumstances, talking to people, and having looked at the documents that were available, is that such allegations were grossly exaggerated, and I have set out the reasons on page 66 for my coming to that conclusion.

There were also many questions about the environmental assessments that had to be performed before the contract could be let. There were assessments in 1999, in 2003 regarding the bridge itself, and in 2006 regarding the ferry, after the bridge had been cancelled. I reviewed in detail the various stages of the environmental processes, from the beginning to the end. You will find that on seven pages, on page 68 and following. Again, my conclusion was that principles of good governance have been complied with.

It was not easy. Every step had plenty of difficulties, but my conclusion is that the TPA itself managed the issues well, and the processes as well.

There was a question as well that had been specifically raised by many, and that was part of my mandate. There were questions about how it was that the Toronto port had come to be governed by the Canada Marine Act. I have read fascinating debates in the House of Commons and in the Senate. This is related at page 90.

In effect, there were two administrations involved. They were two Liberal administrations, but there was an election between. First, Bill C-44 was introduced; there was a lot of debate about it. And there was another, Bill C-9, which followed the election of the Liberal government.

Again, if you're interested, I can tell you more about that. I've learned a lot about Toronto and about the Senate committee and the House of Commons committee debates on these matters. I found them fascinating.

But my conclusion was that Parliament had decided that the Toronto Port Authority qualified as a national port and that it should be on the list. Parliament itself—you people—had decided that it should be on the list. It was not a function or a responsibility that had been left to a minister afterwards.

There were provisions for the minister later to look at applications that other ports in Canada might make, and there were some criteria. These criteria were before the House when the list was devised and when steps were taken and amendments were made to get the Port of Toronto and the Port of Hamilton on the list. I didn't find anything wrong with that.

Although the department itself initially had proposed and the minister had agreed that Toronto should not be on the list, eventually—I guess there were caucus meetings and members' meetings—the decision was made, and there was an all-party agreement that the Toronto Port Authority should be on the list.

That's enough of that.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has to do with operations.

(b) its operational requirements;

[...]

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

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

Clause 95.2 states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am flattered that you were actually listening so attentively to what I was saying.

I was trying to address what I think is a perfect set of circumstances. We have an opposition party that had presented legislation and given an indication of how to actually get things done, and an opposition party, now government party, that is looking for that kind of cooperation. We have a perfect opportunity to apply that cooperative spirit. But what happens? Nothing happens.

Our trade is going down. Lumber mills are closing. Remote communities in Canada find themselves even more isolated. Jobs are being lost. We are losing market share. All of these things are happening. Why? It is because, as I pointed out, of what is represented in the press about a situation within their own party that is preventing the Conservatives from being productive here in the House. They are saying it is a drive-by smear. I imagine members would like me to read all of this, but I will just refer them to the articles. They can be found in CanWest News Service and the Windsor Star on February 22 and February 3 respectively.

Those members will have an opportunity to be able to see the impediment. The public watching this is probably wondering what is so significant that is preventing the government from doing what it needs to do. Why would the government not take advantage of an opportunity to demonstrate that it is actually a proactive government and become involved in one of the most critical situations facing the nation today?

The government waited until the workers themselves started to go back. They went back for their own internal union reasons, not because the Government of Canada was interested in what was happening to communities everywhere.

The forest product sector pleaded with every member of Parliament on the Hill. It looked for members who were willing to listen to its pleas and get involved in this litigation so that products could move. Nobody could be found to listen except for the Minister of Labour, not the Minister of Transport . The sector could not get a response.

It is up to us to raise these issues. The Minister of Transport is the same individual who, on a W5 production some one month ago, turned a deaf ear to the issues of safety that are being represented right here in Bill C-11.

We wanted to give the Minister of Transport the authority to be involved in safety and security issues as they relate to all transportation modes, most especially in the railway industry, and especially because the railway industry wanted the government involved. What did we get? We received a shrug of the shoulders from the Minister of Transport.

The former government had launched an inquiry into the safety procedures of railways. The report came down. Everybody waited with bated breath to tell us what was wrong and what measures were being taken to resolve them. We had already put in place Bill C-44 to address some of those issues.

The Conservative government has been in place for 13 months with the benefit of all of the initiatives of the previous government. What did it do? It did nothing. The minister shrugged his shoulders on national television and said he could not even release the report. Everybody must have been asking why not? Does he not have an interest in transportation issues in the country? Is he not interested in the safety of passengers and the value of the commercial product that is being moved from one end of the country to the other? He said he could not because it mentioned a third party. Imagine a minister of the Crown saying he could not.

The minister is asking for enabling legislation right here. We are giving him all the authority he needs. Why can he not tell us what was wrong with those trains? There is a public inquiry. Does the public not have the right to know? He said he could not. I think he did not want to. Why not? That is a good question.

I met with people from CN. I met with people from the railway industry. I met people from the other transportation modes, but I especially met with the people from CN and asked whether they had an objection to that report being published.

Does anyone know what the answer was? It was, “No, we only wanted to be consulted on the first draft of the report and your former colleague in cabinet, Mr. Member of Parliament from Eglinton—Lawrence, the minister of transport, asked us for input. We gave him the input and out came the final report. You are no longer in government, so where is the report? Why is it not public? Why can't we know as Canadians, whether we are commercial users or personal users of our transportation system, and why can't we know what that public report tells us about how we can move our products and persons safely around this country from point A to point B?”

When the government members applaud themselves, I do not know how they do not get cricks in their shoulders. It must be tough to do this and smile at the same time, instead of giving credit where credit is due to the people who worked diligently to put forward legislation and initiatives that were designed for the benefit of Canadians everywhere, especially in the remote communities of this country, to keep it whole, to keep it solid and to keep it united.

The government should have taken at least one moment to recognize that it has an obligation to the Canadian public and that it should discharge that obligation rather than do nothing. That is the shame in all of this. The government is squandering our cooperative attitudes.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that the opposition side, now dressed as government, is waiting to hear this speech with bated breath, most of it after much libation has passed through the lips.

Without casting too many aspersions on this, one has to be in control of one's senses when one listens to some of the rhetoric of the government side. I wondered why those members would not take just a moment to say that they have a responsibility as parliamentarians to come forward with legislation that is good for all Canadians. It was there and we are going to try to implement it, they could say, even though for partisan reasons they said no in the past. They said they were not going to support Bill C-44.

But in a stroke of blinding light, of genius, let us divide it up, those members said. They came to this side and asked for our support. We said why not, it is in our collective interest to ensure that legislation that helps Canadians is put forward.

I am not going to reread into the record that which the parliamentary secretary has thought useful for his party's business to talk about what is in the bill. I gave an indication earlier on that there are several things that are important about this bill and that attracted a positive reaction from us.

One of them, of course, is in regard to railway lines that are no longer used, that are declared underused by the railway companies, in that commuter agencies in the various centres through which they pass would have access to them for the purposes of developing appropriate commuter traffic. This would allow us as governments, whether it is this Parliament or the provincial legislatures or the municipalities, to develop a transportation policy for commuters in order to address the environmental, economic, transportation and consumer issues that are evident for everyone.

To do that, we have to put an infrastructure in place that would allow the minister to play a proactive role. That is what Bill C-44 intended to do. The government opposite fought that with every breath it could muster. Today the Conservatives want to put themselves in the clothes of shining bright knights who would accomplish the solutions that would satisfy all Canadians' aspirations and needs.

The truth is the opposite. The government has been asking for and receiving the support of the opposition parties. I see my colleague from the Bloc way down at the end to my left--I can say he is here, I do not have to say he is not here, as that would be for those people--and he has been patient. He has offered the same kind of support that we have offered, because in this instance, at least, he too is thinking about the commonweal.

While we have been doing this, we have watched as the Minister of Transport has ignored the larger implications that were resident in Bill C-44. The underlying principles are as follows: do what is good for the economy of the country, do what is important for the infrastructure and transportation policies of this country, and take into consideration the economic impacts of transportation policies, especially, in this instance, on rail traffic.

What did the government do? We found the minister preferred to do nothing with the cooperation the opposition parties have been offering. So what happened? With Canadian National Railway, he allowed a work stoppage, a strike, to go on for ever so long. I am sure my colleague down at the other end has received the same kinds of submissions that I have from all interested parties and communities across Canada. Whether they were in the lumber industry, the mining industry, the wheat, grain and oilseeds industries, the commercial products industries or even, as we now know, the petrochemical and gasoline industries, we had no movement of goods.

There was no movement of goods while the minister's parliamentary secretary and his government stood and said, “Oh my. Aren't we wonderful? We're just like Jack Horner sitting in a corner. We're just marvellous people”.

Meanwhile, there are communities everywhere around the country, especially those one-industry towns, those in northern Ontario, northern Quebec and northern British Columbia, to name just three places, that are completely, totally and undeniably dependent on rail traffic to get their goods to market, to keep the mills open and to keep the mines going. All them were crying for some intervention while two unions, local and international, with CN, played with the economic life of all Canadians and the minister sat there and did nothing.

That government did nothing and then turned around and told us that it was doing all kinds of great things. Look at us, said the Conservatives, we have been here for 13 months and look at all that we have accomplished.

We have asked for the cooperation of the opposition parties, they said, and look at what we in the opposition did: we gave it. We split up a bill, Bill C-44. One aspect of that has been passed. A second one is here before us today. There is a third one down the road. We have been trying to move this along really quickly.

The debate on this should have finished last week, but no, we had the minister for hot air insulting one of my colleagues, the member for Mississauga South, I think, who was here a moment ago. He is moving around the table now. Instead of carrying on with discussions of substance, that minister for hot air wanted to engage in discussions of disruption, and so the bill goes on a little while longer. Instead of capitalizing on the opportunities to build on the cooperative spirit that was here in the House, on this side of the House, with respect to transportation, particularly with this bill and particularly with movement of traffic around the country, while communities everywhere were crying for our help, he did nothing. The Conservatives did nothing. Not only did they dither, but they did nothing.

Let us look at the ports, for example. The ports in the lower mainland in British Columbia were crying for some sort of intervention. No, I am sorry, that would have been too much to ask for. They were looking for some kind of attention and interest on the part of the Minister of Transport to get some things moving. They had to lay off all the personnel, or portions thereof, at the ports. They had boats sitting out in the harbour; others still more. Trains were backed up. Wheat, lumber and minerals were being held up out in the west. Markets out in the Orient and in the States were looking for some kind of product and some kind of interest on the part of the Government of Canada to get that product going. There was nothing.

The Minister of Transport said:

My name is Pontius. I wash my hands.

It was a labour issue, he said.

The Minister of Labour came before our colleagues and asked us if would we help him out and support back to work legislation if it became a real labour issue. We said of course we would do that, but we asked why the government did not get the infrastructure in place. We asked why the government did not do the minimum that is required of all of us, which is to show interest. It is not a question of partisanship.

So now what we have in southern Ontario, for example, in parts of Quebec, and in fact almost everywhere in the country but particularly in southern Ontario, is a huge shortage of gasoline, because some of it has not been able to get to the market. Yes, there have been other interests as well, and there have been other incidents, but the product could not get to market, and there has been an increase in the price, diminishing our ability to be productive and competitive and obviously bringing all things to a standstill.

I am sure that the minister for hot air on the other side will immediately say let me see now, has there been a diminution in the emissions of greenhouse gases? Yes, that must be so in part, because there is a voluntary participation by all of those drivers who could not get their gasoline and so walked to work in the middle of winter. Great.

I guess I am reduced to a little bit of sarcasm because I sat there, watched, waited and in fact offered all the cooperation that this side of the House could offer the government to say, “Get this done”. But those members were of course interested in heckling, as they are not out of the opposition mentality. They were chuckling, laughing and being as disruptive as they could.

Could we imagine that on this side? No, it would not happen.

I know you will be shocked at this, Mr. Speaker, but there is a member of the transportation committee who comes from the riding of Essex, which is a focal point for all of the manufacturing trade in southern Ontario. The trade goes through that riding into Detroit and on to the other side of the border. Of about $2 billion worth of trade, about two-thirds of it goes through that area. What happens? Instead of being able to deal with his own party in government to get the trains back on track, he has to be fighting his own party.

Competition in parties is a fact of life that we deal with. One always has to worry about whether the enemy is on that side of the House or on this side of the House, but there we had a ridiculous situation. I am looking at a CanWest news story dated February 22 about how the member had to worry about “murder threats” from his own riding executive. There are all kinds of soap operas going on within that party. No wonder those members cannot address the issues of the country. They are too busy trying to take each other out.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment before putting my question.

The parliamentary secretary is well aware of the reason why the previous bill, under the Liberal Party, was not passed. In his reply, he said he split former Bill C-44 into three parts. However, he should have split it into four parts, because there is a whole part that the Conservative Party decided not to include, and which provided for the establishment of a new corporation. It would have allowed VIA Rail to become a corporation to ensure its own development. Among other things, it would have allowed VIAFast, a rapid rail service between Quebec City, Montreal and Windsor, to become reality. Everyone knows that the Conservative Party is squarely opposed to VIA Rail's development. That is the reality.

However, this is not about what should have happened, or what we would have liked to see, but about passing Bill C-11.

We talked about noise and complaints. As soon as the bill is passed, many complaints will likely be lodged, because citizens, communities and citizens' groups have been waiting for a long time to see the Canadian Transportation Agency have these powers.

Can the parliamentary secretary guarantee that the transportation agency will have all the necessary staff to deal with the complaints filed by citizens or citizens' groups against noise and vibrations?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there was a blinding light on the road to Damascus. It was more like a blinding light of Conservative government because the people spoke and they got what they wanted. They got a Conservative government that was going to take action.

Let us talk about Bill C-44, the predecessor to this bill, and I think there was another bill before that, but not another one before that one, yet it would not surprise me if there was another one before that. That bill was far too cumbersome, something that just could not work because we could not find consistency.

This is the situation. This Conservative government wanted results, so we split the existing Liberal bill into three bills. So far in eight months we have gotten two of those bills to this point. One bill passed, Bill C-3, another bill is before us today, Bill C-11, and another bill is coming forward in two weeks with some cooperation from members on the other side, as long as they can see and are not be blinded by the Conservative light. It will move forward and we will get results for Canadians.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I am pleased to speak 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. As hon. members could see by the exchange I had with my Liberal colleague earlier, the Bloc Québécois was in favour of Bill C-44, which preceded Bill C-11.

Unfortunately, Bill C-44 did not make it through the legislative process because of the infighting within the Liberal family, namely whether VIA Fast would see the light of day or not. The leadership of the Liberal Party changed and VIA Fast did not see the light of day. In the meantime, an entire section of Bill C-44 was devoted to making VIA Rail an independent corporation that would be able to ensure its own development. Today, once again, the railway sector is stagnating.

However, Bill C-44 was divided into a number of bills, including Bill C-11, which is now before us. Since the beginning, the Bloc Québécois has been very interested in the development of this bill for the simple reason that it includes several sections—I am not saying they are big sections, just that they are very important—on the problems that some of the population might experience, the noise problem in the rail road sector, among others.

The purpose of Bill C-11 is to help all citizens, all Quebeckers, who are experiencing problems with noise. There are some major problems with noise, such as the noise generated by the big railroad yards, the Moreau yard in Hochelaga, the Joffre yard in Lévis—Bellechasse, formerly Charny, the Farnham yard in Brome—Missisquoi and the Pointe-Saint-Charles yard in Jeanne-Le Ber in Montreal's east end.

With the new technology, jobs have been lost. Employees have simply been replaced by remote controlled technology. This causes an infernal noise when the cars are being connected to the locomotives or to other cars.

With the arrival of this technology, in the 1990s, jobs were cut to save money. What was once done by hand, more intelligently and less noisily, was replaced by technology, and no one has yet found a solution to the problem of remote linking. It takes a lot of momentum to join cars together. People living near marshalling yards have to put up with a terrific amount of noise, not to mention locomotives running practically day and night, even during cold weather.

All this causes problems for the people living near marshalling yards, in addition to all the other noise and vibration problems.

I would like to read clause 95.1 of the bill:

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

Previously, the bill mentioned noise only, and the Bloc Québécois worked very hard to have the word “vibration” included. Now, the bill requires that companies cause as little noise and vibration as possible. We hope that the bill will be adopted.

I will continue to read from clause 95.1:

—taking into account

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

(b) its operational requirements;

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

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

The bill amends the act by adding provisions that state that companies operating a railway must cause as little noise and vibration as possible and must take into account the impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway.

For the first time, the Transportation Act is being amended to enable the agency, under clause 95.2, to issue and publish guidelines and receive complaints. This was not allowed previously. Courts ruled that even though the Transportation Agency had wanted to get involved in the complaint process, it did not have the authority to do so. In one case in Ontario, the courts told the agency that it did not have the authority to intervene and that even though it issued recommendations and acted as a mediator, it could not force the company to comply with those recommendations.

That is where the law stood. Obviously this prompted a lot of people who objected to join together and organize to express their opposition. When they became aware of the judgment of the Ontario court, they decided that there was no point and they were spending their money for nothing.

All of these communities got together and wanted to challenge this, and tried to get the railway companies to change, in particular, as I said earlier, the Moreau switching yard, the Joffre yard in Lévis—Bellechasse, the Farnham yard in the riding of Brome—Missisquoi and the Pointe-Saint-Charles yard in the riding of Jeanne-Le Ber.

The people who live near those yards decided to step back and try to reach an amicable agreement. All the Transportation Agency did was arrange a meeting. They met with representatives of the railway companies. The citizens' groups tried to explain their problems to the companies, and in some cases, some of the companies adopted some solutions.

However, when it came to noise, when the noise was a problem for people, the companies came up with all sorts of reasons. When it cost the company a bit too much, they did nothing. And if they were presented with good recommendations, they did not apply them or did not follow them, even though, in some cases, agreements had been made between the company and the citizens' groups.

I myself have met with members of the public, with citizens' groups, and even with representatives of the company, in particular in Hochelaga, the riding next to the Moreau yard. Even though we showed good faith, when we took part in that meeting—my colleague from Hochelaga was there—nothing came of it.

In any event, before the railway company representatives left the meeting, they said that the complaints merited consideration, but they never adopted any solution after that.

This is what people want and what this bill provides that is new: that from now on, the Transportation Agency can receive complaints and make and publish recommendations, and compel the companies to abide by them.

Obviously, it must be understood that we would have wanted more from this bill. It refers only to noise and vibration; it says nothing at all about environmental damage or the other requests that a number of my colleagues had made to me. Even though the railway companies make huge profits, they are not always inclined to comply with environmental standards, to pick up their garbage or what have you. As well, when they lay new tracks, they often leave all the wood lying there all along the rail line. They are in no hurry to clean up.

We were very aware of that and we wanted to propose some amendments. Yet the government went ahead and tabled its noise bill. Since we are on the subject today, we have to be very careful when we propose amendments: amendments that change the spirit of the bill are not allowed. As such, our amendments were automatically dismissed by the legislator or counsel representing legislative services here in Parliament.

Our colleagues submitted good changes and good amendments that they would have liked to have seen reflected in the act, but their amendments were found to be unacceptable by counsel for the legislators here in Parliament.

It is not that we did not try; it is that the law did not let us. Clearly, the government only wanted to address noise. Consequently, we could not move on other problem areas. We managed to include vibrations because they can be considered a noise problem.

As to the other interesting and intelligent amendments proposed by members of the Bloc Québécois and others, we could not move them through; the legislator found them to be unacceptable because they would have altered the spirit of the bill.

This bill includes other provisions concerning air travel complaints. There is to be a complaints commissioner who will address these issues directly.

As I am sure hon. members are all too aware, there have been a lot of complaints about Air Canada. So the complaints commissioner's office will also include a section to address complaints from citizens who were not served in their official language when using Air Canada services or who have experienced other problems related to airlines.

This will make it easier to file a complaint, and, once again, the office of the commissioner will have the power to intervene. We hope that this bill will be adopted swiftly.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Liberal colleague. As he very well knows, the Liberals were divided and the Chrétien team definitely wanted VIAFast and the bill concerning VIA Rail to be passed, while supporters of the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard wanted simply to abandon that part of the bill.

Once again, my hon. colleague's memory fails him. As he very well knows, the Liberal Party itself did not want the VIAFast project to proceed. However, the Bloc Québécois always supported the VIA Rail option and Bill C-44.

I hope my colleague will be able to make the distinction, now that he is transport critic. He need only read past editions of House of Commons Debates to see that it was not the Bloc Québécois that prevented the VIA Rail project from proceeding, rather it was his own party.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my Liberal colleague's presentation about how much he wants Bill C-11 to be adopted.

I would like to review the history of this bill because it is a nearly word-for-word copy of part of Bill C-44, which was introduced by the Liberals in the previous Parliament.

One of the reasons Bill C-44 never went through, that is, was not adopted before, is that the Liberal Party itself decided to block its own bill. Bill C-44 had a whole section devoted to developing VIA Rail. It wanted to change VIA Rail from a Crown corporation to an independent corporation to enable it to grow. Among other things, the bill promoted VIA Rail's growth and development. VIAFast would have made it possible to build a high-speed train from Quebec City to Montreal and from Montreal to Windsor.

My question is simple: Why is the Liberal Party in such a hurry today? Why was it not in a hurry when it was in power during the previous Parliament?

Motions in amendmentCanada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 6th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know you are only going to give me a few minutes before you cut off debate and everybody is transfixed to hear what I have to say.

My first reaction is: What a wonderful bill. Another week and another Liberal bill recast as a Conservative initiative.

Members will know this bill because it appeared in the previous Parliament as Bill C-44, and it was for a wider transportation policy to address a series of issues. Now, Bill C-44 has been broken down into three parts, and this is one.

I am going to speak for about 10 minutes to ensure that everybody understands the benefits of the bill. I do not want to be too critical, but I noted that there are some members here who are particularly interested in one aspect of this bill that merits reinforcement; and that is, those agencies, corporations and entities that are engaged in commuter railways and commuter traffic and who depended on a change in the national transportation policy are addressed to ensure that they were included in transportation issues to the benefit of all consumers and commuters because they are one and the same. The bill in its initial format, and now repeated again, addresses issues that are of concern to them.

One is access to federally regulated rail lines that might be declared surplus, or not, but certainly to have commuter agencies at least access them so that they can be maximized in their utilization for the purposes of consumers.

Second, to establish under this act opportunities to arbitrate on what amounts might be charged by the tier one railways to some of these commuter lines. So, to have not only access but to arbitrate on a fair process of remuneration in order that these agencies function in an economically feasible environment. I think I have that right.

Then, finally, to have, when there is a disposition of these access lines, the valuation process be one that makes it feasible for commuter agencies to acquiesce the purchase process and then to make the application for commuter use in an environment where there is a valuation process that makes it fair for those agencies to function.

Members must remember that I am talking about federally regulated rail lines and federally regulated agencies.

What we had envisioned under Bill C-44, and now repeated in Bill C-11, was a process whereby the interests of the user, the end user, in this case the commuter as an end user, be part and parcel of transportation policy.

I know that the debate so far on these amendments has focused on where a member of the board of directors would live or not live and who would get the advantage in terms of getting employment. I think that is nice. It is fine to do that. However, the most important issue is to keep in mind how we develop railway policy throughout the country.

When I said that this is another Liberal bill being re-presented and cast by a minister of transport who is accustomed to borrowing good ideas from the Liberals, it makes one wonder if actually he is a Liberal. Hold on. I think he was.

Nevertheless, we can become once again what we were generated to be, at least through the ideas and legislation that is going to help Canadians everywhere. I think that there were three sections especially that were presented to committee members. While I was not there, they are issues that are--

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am being regaled with expertise on the functioning of the Liberal Party by those who are not associated with it, thank heavens. However, the issue of VIA and a fast train along the Quebec-Windsor corridor is one that goes well beyond the last administration and, indeed, the previous one before that. It is one that was raised in 1989 by the then Conservative government of the day and it was abandoned almost immediately. It was not even willing to do the environmental assessment and feasibility studies associated with enhancing that train travel or any kind of upgrade of the terrain and of the rail itself.

My colleague knows very well that about four years ago, during the Chrétien administration, there was a request by VIA Rail for additional funds to do the appropriate feasibility and environmental studies. Those were the ones being put forward and there was total agreement among Liberals to ensure that it took place. I especially thank him for having recognized that the Conservatives were so narrow-minded in their approach to transport issues and to political objectives in the House that they caused the collapse of Bill C-44, which would have gone well beyond where we are going today.

Will he move away from his desire to reflect on past Liberal Parties and think in terms of going forward with a Dion environmental technological approach to the new transportation modes tomorrow? Would he be so kind as to reflect on that continuity and say that he would like to join that process? There is room over here, by the way, if he says yes.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the introduction given by the Liberal Party's critic, I would like to make certain clarifications.

In my speech on Bill C-44, which was introduced by the Liberal Party, I applauded the merits of the section of Bill C-44 that had to do with VIA Rail.

I also said that Bill C-44 did not go through but died on the order paper because some Liberal members were against making VIA Rail an independent company or independent Canadian corporation. That is the reality. That is why Bill C-44 did not go through. The Liberals are also to blame in this situation because the Chrétien team wanted VIA Rail to come into being, while the team supporting the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard was against it. Where did my colleague stand on the matter? I think that everyone who knows him knows the answer to that.

This bill would have been good for the community, for society and for Quebeckers. VIA Rail could have developed VIA Fast, first with links between Quebec City and Montreal, and Montreal and Windsor, and one day, between Quebec City, Montreal and New York. That would have been advantageous, but that will not happen. The Liberals are partially responsible.

To answer his question, the Bloc Québécois worked to make sure that the federal government would not determine the fees, but would take part in negotiations. We want to make sure that the provinces and municipalities can hold discussions with the federal authority so that everyone together can help the operators choose fees that are in line with the neighbouring population's ability to pay.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I had a remarkable experience. I would like to thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois for making this possible.

Let me explain. A Bloc member just congratulated the Liberal Party and complimented it on initiatives taken in this area during the previous Parliament.

This is remarkable. He also wanted to underscore the fact that the Conservatives did not want a progressive, forward-looking piece of legislation, such as Bill C-44. I am almost speechless.

I have a question for my colleague, whom I have known for several years and who worked hard on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. By supporting Bill C-3, does he want the federal government to control transportation costs or does he simply accept the role that the government can play in cases of national interest?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House for the first time in 2007. I would like to wish Quebeckers and Canadians a happy 2007 full of health and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, I wish you a happy 2007 full of wisdom.

I also want to wish my colleagues wisdom and transparency in their words.

I will be discussing Bill C-3, An act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. From the outset I will say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the amendments to the bill and what the government has introduced, given the fact that in Quebec, only one bridge is subject to this legislation. I am referring to the Sutton bridge linking Quebec and Vermont. Responsibility for this bridge is shared between the State of Vermont, the municipality of Sutton and the Government of Quebec. That is why we have worked conscientiously on this.

In all transparency, I would like to go back over Bill C-3, since the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Conservative member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, told us he finally decided to divide bills introduced by the Liberals that had died on the order paper. However, he did not exactly say what truly happened.

Let us not forget that the bridges and tunnels issue was part of Bill C-44 prepared by the Liberals, a bill that was delayed because his party—the Conservative Party—did not agree with one of its main provisions, which created Via Rail. The issue is that Via Rail is a crown corporation and that Bill C-44 created the Via Rail Act replacing the articles of incorporation and making the corporation much more independent and capable of taking care of its future, especially the development of its industry, which is often linked to government decisions.

Let us recall the infamous project known as VIA Fast. Once again, I must take to task the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for not telling us that the Conservatives were against drafting the legislation that created VIA Rail and that would have given rise to the VIA Fast project for a high-speed train linking Montreal, Windsor and Quebec City. That was the aim and VIA Rail never hid that fact, nor did the Liberals. This is why the new Liberal Party critic, the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, will represent the Liberals on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Naturally, I would like to acknowledge and say hello to him.

Nevertheless, at that time, the Liberals were themselves divided. The minister at the time, Mr. Collenette, wanted to make a concerted effort and provide VIA Rail with a good opportunity to develop. However, not all Liberals agreed on the subject. It must therefore be understood that Bill C-3, before us here in the House today, constitutes just one small part of an interesting platform. This was backed by the Bloc Québécois, especially with respect to the new legislation that would have made VIA Rail Canada an independent corporation. Thus, VIA could have taken care of its future and development, and secured its own loans in order to ensure its development. VIA Rail was refused this by a group of Liberal members who were against it, who were divided.

I would remind the House that, at that time, there was a considerable division between the Chrétien camp and the Martin camp. Moreover, as we have seen, the Conservatives have presented no new legislation regarding VIA Rail, because they are very afraid of VIA's development.

I listened to the Liberal Party critic talk to us about safety. That is fine. However, problems with safety do exist, as we have seen. It was mentioned that General Baril, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CATSA, is taking early retirement on this count.

The fact remains that there are some difficult situations. Some reports have indicated that there are security breaches at Trudeau airport in Quebec. Journalists have to play the role of politicians, to investigate and find flaws. However, in the meantime, the damage has been done insofar as the public is concerned.

In a way, VIA Rail was right to develop a market. However, it is wrong to believe that people who are afraid to fly because of television reports on airport security are going to eagerly buy airline tickets. They will use other means of transportation. The Bloc Québécois truly believed that the legislation to create VIA Rail should have been enacted and that this company would have had the opportunity to develop and to compete with airlines by providing Quebeckers and Canadians with another quick and efficient form of transportation.

We were not talking about high-speed trains, but of the VIAFast concept. For those who remember, this was a rapid rail service that could easily have served the Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor corridor, and perhaps even the Quebec City-Montreal-New York line. We could have opted for development of this service and provided Quebeckers and Canadians with a safe and rapid rail service which would not have taken anything away from the air system.

We must make efforts to continue to ensure the safety of air transportation and strengthen this market. However, we must also provide other means of transportation considered to be just as safe or safer to those who wish to travel . That was the objective.

Today, I find that what has been said does not line up with what took place. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, did not mention that, in the end, Bill C-3 was tabled because Bill C-44 was not enacted. Yes, he did mention that fact, but he did not say why.

The Conservatives were dead set against new legislation that would have created VIA Rail. The Liberals were as well. The Liberal critic did not mention that Bill C-44, which his party had introduced, was never passed because many Liberal members were against legislation that would have created VIA Rail Canada.

As I have already said, there was a huge debate, a huge competition between the Martin and Chrétien camps. But Quebeckers and Canadians are the losers today, because no investment was made. VIA Rail was not given a chance to develop fully and provide faster, safer rail transportation in order to compete with air and road transportation. It would be a good way to encourage travel, to help the economy run properly and to allow people to do business more expeditiously.

Once again, there were internal debates among the Liberals and the Conservatives, who likely were keen to protect WestJet in western Canada. They were afraid that the airline would suffer serious financial difficulties, when it is actually in very good shape, and they knew it at the time. Quite simply, the Liberals and the Conservatives are digging in their heels, because their personal interests run counter to the public interest. That is what the Conservative government is doing, just as the Liberals did before it and are still doing today. Personal interests are taking priority over the public interest.

Members can be sure that this is not true of the Bloc Québécois members. They are always prepared to defend the public interest. That is what we are doing in the case of Bill C-3. We will therefore vote in favour of Bill C-3, which is but a small portion of Bill C-44, even though, as I said earlier, we have only one bridge that will be subject to this legislation, the Sutton bridge. In the event there should be other bridges in future, we have volunteered to monitor the situation.

I will review part of Bill C-3, which required some rather difficult and tough debates, because when the legislation was first introduced by the Liberals—and then reintroduced by the Conservatives—it included three major parts. Of course, the first part deals with the construction and alteration of bridges.

It must be realized that these international bridges come under the responsibility of a number of bodies, both in the United States and in Canada, and may include provincial or municipal governments. Sometimes, private owners are also involved. In each case, individual agreements are reached for every one of these bridges. I can understand why some members who have such bridges in their ridings were really affected by the debates on this legislation. Indeed, we wanted, among other things, to ensure that those who have an interest in these bridges would be able to express their views.

So, whether we were dealing with the construction, alteration, maintenance, security or safety of these bridges, provincial and municipal governments were included in the discussions. That was the purpose of the amendments that were made and that were supported by the Bloc Québécois. We want to allow the administrations, and all the stakeholders, which have to make decisions regarding these most important structures and which have to deal with these situations, to have a say. I believe that, ultimately, with the amendments proposed by the Senate, this objective will be achieved.

It is a case of being able to bring about change when making a decision. Indeed, the first sections that I referred to earlier, clauses 6 to 12, deal with construction and alteration of infrastructure. When alterations are to be made or construction is proposed, the Government of Canada must be informed. That was not the case previously.

We need to understand that many of these bridges are very old and date back to the 1900s. Agreements were signed by private companies who were the owners. They signed contracts with different levels of government. These were separate agreements. I believe that at some point we have to be able to do things and to say to all those bridge administrators that there is now a law that transcends all those arrangements. In other words, regardless of the agreements signed in the past, the law now applies in the same way to everyone. I believe that idea was also well received by the witnesses who appeared before the committee and by the industry, with some minor changes or observations.

Plans for construction and alterations are therefore to be submitted. That is a request that will have to be enforced. Any time someone wants to make alterations to these structures or to build new ones, they have to contact the federal government and also discuss the matter with the provincial and municipal authorities concerned.

Next, in clause 13, Maintenance and Repair, through clause 16, Operation and Use, there is clearly a whole procedure dealing with operation. When work has been done and so forth, there is always a question about cost because many of these facilities collect a toll. Obviously, a whole structure of provisions has been incorporated into Bill C-3 to ensure that the federal government has something to say about the setting of prices. Moreover, a role was added for the provincial governments and municipalities because the places where these infrastructures are located should also have a voice in setting the charges and fees that are often related to the maintenance work that is carried out on these bridges.

The third important issue is the matter of security. Obviously, the government must be able to establish certain standards of security. Since September 2001, we have recognized that safety and security are of the greatest importance. It was time therefore to include in the law an obligation for the administrators of these bridges to meet standards of safety and security.

The only thing that may have hit a snag in committee was the question of hazardous materials. In fact the government did not want to go any further in this bill with respect to hazardous materials because there is already legislation for the transportation of hazardous materials. Still, I wish to make the same observation I made to the committee, namely that we are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. It is true that there is legislation respecting hazardous materials, but it might have been important to include this aspect in this bill. We will see.

The Bloc Québécois is going to be keeping a very close eye on this bill and I am going to do the same thing. I am going to urge my colleagues in the House of Commons to bear this bill in mind when problems arise concerning the transportation of hazardous materials crossing these international bridges and going through these international tunnels. We could have gone further with this bill, pushed things and even clarified the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. We are told that there will be a future amendment to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and that we should not confuse things. In my opinion, though, always trying to go further and to see things more clearly does not confuse anything.

However, we were good losers. We rallied the majority who did not want to see this point in this bill or to discuss the whole section on the safety of transporting hazardous materials. I still think there will always be a safety and security problem and obviously giving carriers clear standards and guidelines suits us. This also goes for the operators these bridges so that there are some very significant security standards when the time comes to transport hazardous materials. This has to be clarified in all the bills having anything to do with transportation.

This bill respecting international bridges and tunnels obviously affects the transportation of all products, people, goods and services, but also the transportation of hazardous materials.

We may understand why the government did so, but I would say the stronger the better. We could have added to the bill all the standards to be met by operators regarding hazardous materials and taken the opportunity, every time transportation and safety came up, to subject all these people to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and made things clear.

The title of the bill reads as follows: An act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. This other act created various administrations to manage the bridges.

So it is amended. When we passed an entire clause on the transportation of dangerous goods, we could very easily have amended the 1992 Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

However, the officials at Transport Canada obviously did not see it this way. They managed to convince the other parties that the best approach was to deal with the transportation of dangerous goods in another act separate from the one on international bridges and tunnels. Apart from these small suggestions for our colleagues that we should closely follow the recommendations made by the operators of the international bridges and tunnels on the transportation of dangerous goods, the Bloc Québécois fully supports this bill. We are in favour of the amendments that were made.

I would like to return now to what I said in my introduction. I want it to be very clear to the Quebeckers and Canadians listening to us that when it comes to Bill C-44, they should not pay any attention to the parliamentary secretary when he says that the bill tabled by the Liberal Party, that is Bill C-44, died on the order paper. A bill often dies on the order paper because the parties do not all cooperate.

If Bill C-44 at the time, which was the original of today’s Bill C-3, died on the order paper, it was because the parties did not all cooperate in the House. I said it before and will say it again: the Conservative Party was against Bill C-44 for one single reason. Obviously, it was not because of all the clauses on bridges and tunnels because they agree now and tabled a bill.

At the time, they introduced another bill on railway noise. They agreed with all of Bill C-44 except for the part enacting the Via Rail Canada act that was the heart of the bill.

The most important part of Bill C-44 was the act to create VIA Rail and give the company the support it needs to develop its service. It was as simple as that. VIA Rail would have been transformed from a Crown corporation to a private company. It would have been called VIA Rail Canada and would have been an independent company subject to the Canada Business Corporations Act. It would have managed its own development and created VIA Fast, a project supported by the Bloc Québécois. VIA Fast would have been a fast train linking Montreal to Windsor or Quebec City to Montreal, thus offering an alternative to air travel and developing a safe rail transport network.

Bill C-44 did not go through. It died on the order paper. The Conservatives were against it and they did everything they could to make sure it did not go through. As for the Liberals, they were divided. Chrétien's camp was in favour, but those backing the member for LaSalle—Émard were not.

Earlier, I congratulated the critic on his new portfolio in the Liberal shadow cabinet, but he did not mention Bill C-44. I hope that he will be among those who support VIA Rail's development, not among those who oppose it. We will have opportunities to discuss this in future debates, debates that we hope will be marked by wisdom and transparency. Bill C-3 is fine, but the Bloc Québécois is very disappointed that Bill C-44 died on the order paper because it would have brought into force legislation creating VIA Rail Canada, thus enabling VIA Rail to develop and introduce fast train service between Montreal and Windsor. Eventually, it would also have introduced a fast train between Quebec City and Montreal and Montreal and New York.

On that note, happy debating in 2007.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin on a very positive note. The parliamentary secretary began to thank the previous government for its initiatives in this regard. In that spirit it is important to acknowledge that the bill deserves support if for no other reason than it is but a small portion of its predecessor, Bill C-44.

Bill C-44, as the parliamentary secretary indicated, was an initiative of the former Liberal administration. I will say a few more words about that in a moment. That bill, which was very comprehensive, strategic, forward looking and proactive in its nature, has now been reduced to something a little bit smaller and has a very specific role. I want to compliment all of those members of Parliament who worked on the House committee, especially the members on this side of the House from my party, including the previous critic for the role they fulfilled so admirably. We in this party are going to support the bill. I will explain the details in a moment.

I was especially struck by the chronology of events the parliamentary secretary thought were significant enough to warrant 10 minutes of parliamentary time. I want to digress for a moment from the courteous diplomacy and positive demeanour I have just indicated and become a little bit more harsh.

In harshness I would say that some people in the morning must get awfully tired of putting salve on all their nicks after shaving as they look at themselves in the mirror and puff themselves up. I do not think the Conservative government can claim it has done something very positive when it spent 13 months during the previous administration trying to tear down a bill that was much more comprehensive than this one and then say that they did something in nine months and it is great news and that none of the members of the other opposition parties in the House ever did anything for it.

Members of the Liberal Party devoted all of their time to ensuring that the bill would pass. It was part of a comprehensive, strategic, proactive forward looking piece of legislation that came out of government policies when the previous Liberal administration was in power. Why did they do that? This cannot be puffery on the part of the Liberals. We do not engage in that sort of thing. We deal with realities.

The member for Windsor West had an interest in this and always made sure that that interest was focused on his party rather than on the government that was doing its job. That member's party was not looking at the things that we in the government at the time felt were absolutely crucial and important: one, security and two, economic.

I do not mean to switch the two, but obviously in a post 9/11 environment, security issues from political and terrorism points of view were extremely important. They were also important from an infrastructure point of view. The government of the day through Bill C-44, the predecessor to this bill, said that we must pay very special attention to the means and mechanisms by which the Government of Canada would assume the responsibilities for ensuring that there be a safe and secure environment from a political perspective, one that would be coordinated very closely, but not subordinate to, the interests of homeland security defence in the United States.

We were establishing a period of cooperation to ensure that our borders would be safe; safe politically, safe for the purposes of maintaining our sovereignty, safe for the purposes of maintaining our economic viability and durability. We proposed a bill and the opposition parties of the day, one of which is currently the government, objected to it every step of the way. That bill focused on putting in a place all the mechanisms necessary to provide the security to keep Canadians safe and assured that their country would be beyond attack, and that the mechanisms for response in the event of any kind of action would be readily available and quickly dispatched.

That security is not just political. We cannot conjure up images of people with grenades, missiles, et cetera, at our borders in all instances. No, part of the security, as we know, is economic.

The member for Windsor West knows that in excess of $1 billion a day of business goes through precisely the targets of this bill, our bridges and tunnels. We need to make sure that that $1 billion a day of business is maintained in its security. We need to ensure that the crossing points between our country and our neighbours to the south are always maintained in a fashion that the people of Canada can be assured that their business, their commercial relationship with the United States and the interests of all the businesses that generate activity are always within the reach of the powers of the Government of Canada.

What were the difficulties? I note that the government member did not mention any of them. They have to do with building and maintaining an infrastructure, as I am sure the member for Windsor West will indicate in his presentation, to ensure the free and quick movement of truck traffic now, but also rail traffic across our two boundaries.

The Liberal government of the day had already begun a series of initiatives that were designed to move that commerce quickly to give substance to that just in time economic theory, to ensure that all goods would traverse the border points without undue delay. It is not only people that cross the border but also the goods that provide us with the lifeblood of day to day work environments. We wanted to ensure that all investments made by companies on this side of the border because of the advantages that the Canadian environment provides, would always reach their market in a timely fashion, but to do it with due consideration for the environmental strategies of our country, of the Liberal government of the day.

All these issues that appear to be, if I can judge the parliamentary secretary's 10-minute rendition of chronology, the government's priorities, i.e., one detail after another, do not strike at the heart of what it is that causes legislation to be tabled. It is strategic, as I said. It is always about being proactive. There has to be a purpose to government. There has to be a purpose to the importance of the jurisdiction of the federal government in this affair. That affair is security and economy. It is engendering greater economic interest in the areas being served by the targets of this legislation.

The parliamentary secretary said that there are 14 border points, tunnels and bridges, in Ontario where the bulk of that trade takes place. Were something to have happened at any of those places, the economy of southern Ontario in particular but not exclusively would be in grave danger. We were moving to ensure that would not happen. He said there were another nine in New Brunswick and one in Quebec, almost as an afterthought.

I understand why there would be an afterthought, because for the Conservatives it was of little interest. When we were trying to promote this legislation two years ago, the obstructionism from what is now the government side was palpable. They had no interest in it: why have that bill pass? Today, the Conservatives want to take credit for the fact that we are going to support it, as I said, in its reduced form.

We would love to have much more, because at the time we were putting substance behind our thoughts. We were putting reality behind the political rhetoric that the government of today likes to think is a matter of substance. There was a $300 million infrastructure program specifically addressing the issues in southern Ontario. There were more in other places, including Quebec and New Brunswick, with those other 10 points, the points of contact. For us, there was a material need to ensure that people engaged locally, regionally, provincially and nationally.

It should not come as a surprise to anybody on that side of the House, whether in government or opposition, to know that we on this side will support this bill. The bill retains some of the strategic components that we put into Bill C-44.

It retains, even if in a reduced fashion, the understanding that we must have a macro view to economic survivability. It thinks in terms of, as I said, a proactive role for the Government of Canada. By grouping into one all of those pieces of legislation that governed each and every one of those points through various parliamentary acts, it recognizes that the federal Government of Canada has the responsibility to coordinate all of those issues that ensure the viability of our security, our sovereignty and our economy so that we will have one repository of responsibility and action. With that repository of responsibility and action comes as well an incumbent accountability to be able to say that we have to plan for tomorrow.

There were a lot of people who thought that perhaps we should not get involved because, as the member for Windsor West indicated, there is a private owner. People in the NDP do not like private enterprise and said that was bad and that these people were holding us to ransom.

No. Our response of the day, the fact of the matter, which has now been put into this bill even though nobody wants to give credit to the minister of transport or the former Liberal government and the Liberal government as a whole, is that what we do is safeguard the role of that private owner as we safeguard the maintenance and the management of all of the border crossings, but now the Government of Canada can exercise its authority to ensure that no harm comes to the Canadian economy or the Canadian people, its authority to be proactive and to direct that certain things be done in the public interest.

That is a pretty strong thing for the Government of Canada or any government to do. I imagine the current government has accepted that principle because, faced with having a minority government, it cannot control, except by subterfuge. It must do what has to be done.

I have looked at this because we are talking about security. In the last several days, we have been deluged with issues relating to CATSA and to the way the government is dealing with security issues with the agencies that have been established to ensure that Canadians can sleep well at night in the knowledge that all of those agencies--and the government--that are to take control or care of security issues are functioning properly.

The government loses a most valuable member of the board, General Baril, the chairman of the board of CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. We do not know why, except that it is reported that he no longer has the energy or the will to address all the tasks and challenges that have emerged in this last year.

Can we imagine? Because the chairman of that board disagreed with the government in trying to establish an appropriate modus operandi and to ask for the resources necessary to effect those tasks, he is gone. As for the very terse statement that he just did not have it any more, the Canadian public deserves a lot more.

The kind of oversight and responsibility envisaged by the framers of the bill in Bill C-44, its origin, demanded that the minister not only assume the responsibility but divest that responsibility in an open and transparent fashion, open to public criticism, good or bad. We do not see that now. The minister is not here to explain the relationship between him and his department and an organization that is absolutely crucial to air transport and travel in the country.

I think it is important to keep something in mind in the context of transport issues, especially since the Auditor General has filed a report that does not appear to be very favourable to the minister. We have to take it in the context of what the ambition, the focus or the goal of Bill C-3 was initially.

It was to ensure that the Minister of Transport be vested with the authorities necessary to ensure that the sovereignty, the security and the economic well-being of the country be handled expeditiously, with great dispatch, but with accountability, to ensure that it would be his responsibility by virtue of his mandate as minister. We do not see any of that in the actions of today, but we can say that at least with Bill C-3 we now have the opportunity to give to the minister of the Crown responsible for those things the tools he or she needs--in this case he--to ensure that this begins to take place.

It is a great responsibility. I am not sure that the government opposite is up to that task, but we are going to give it that responsibility because we believe in a parliamentary system that functions for the betterment of its people. Its people are now at the mercy of the Minister of Transport.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 7th, 2006 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

My comment is along the same lines, Mr. Chairman. It was my impression that we were not dealing in this bill with the kinds of things the Liberal Party is suggesting in its amendment.

If people want to discuss it and use it to gain political capital, that's fine, but I have a problem with this amendment. If it is out of order, I would like to know when the mover should have been informed of that. Should he have been told when it was tabled or is it proper to tell him that today? My impression was that this amendment was out of order.

I would not like to see people being given false hopes with respect to what they're asking for. That is legitimate and I believe Mr. Jean is right. This will probably be dealt with in a new bill. It was part of a separate section of former Bill C-44. I wouldn't like to see people being given false impressions and false hopes if the amendment is out of order.

My feeling was that it was not in order because this issue is not dealt with in the bill we are currently reviewing. As I have said on several occasions, I like to see the Committee discussing what it's supposed to be discussing and I'm aware that a number of other things could have been added to the bill to resolve a great many other issues. But that is a choice the government made and it will have to live with it.

So, I'm a little bit uncomfortable today. I'm very much in favour of the idea, but the bill under review is not the proper vehicle for resolving that problem. That is my feeling. I would like the law clerk to clarify matters for us.

November 28th, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I just want to confirm a couple of things. First of all, I mentioned that the powers already exist for air transportation modes, but this would actually expand it to all modes of transportation in Canada. Quite frankly, this is identical language to what the Liberals proposed in Bill C-44.

The other issue is that there are two perspectives in relation to these transactions. First, the Competition Bureau looks at the issue of competition in the marketplace, whereas the Minister of Transportation looks at the public interest good.

Mr. McGuinty, in relation to your other point about transparency and accountability--and I don't believe this has been said so far--we on the government side would be open to a compromise on having the minister make public the guidelines on information regarding the public interest. However, as Mr. Scott could probably attest as a former minister, a minister does need some amount of discretion in relation to the criteria and the decision itself, but certainly making public those criteria and the decision itself would alleviate the concerns Mr. McGuinty has put forward.

Does that answer your question, Mr. McGuinty?

November 23rd, 2006 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

I have a problem with this, Mr. Jean. Here we have a report that summarizes the transportation situation in Canada, and the Department of Transport doesn’t want to table annually the report on the transportation situation in Canada.

What’s going on here? Are you proposing to us the abolition of the Department of Transport? Maybe that would be a solution. It could merge with another department.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that you don’t want to publish an annual report. We’re talking about the report that is signed by the minister, on the state of transportation in Canada. All kinds of things could come up in the area of security, for example, and three years would go by before it’s reported on! I have a lot of trouble accepting that the minister is refusing to sign the report, in light of the way security is evolving in Canada, especially in transportation.

You probably tabled that while the Liberals were in power. Did Bill C-44 or the other bills provide for the same thing?

I think it’s extremely important that the minister produce a report every year that summarizes the state of transportation because of the way things are evolving in Canada, because of security-related issues, etc. I’m telling you, it’s not a waste of paper.

I have a lot of trouble with you telling us it’s too complicated to do the work.

November 21st, 2006 / 11:25 a.m.
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Executive Director, Western Grain Elevator Association

Wade Sobkowich

To pick up from there, Transport Canada told us the reason we weren't able to get these amendments in the past is that as a shipping community, we were never able to agree on what sorts of changes we needed. Earlier this year, they said if we could reach consensus as a group of shippers in Canada they would seriously consider and, in fact, make the amendments we requested, using Bill C-44 as a starting point--the old Bill C-44.

So we created a coalition of these groups Rob mentioned. I have the list for folks who may be interested. In April we reached an agreement and took our proposal to Transport Canada and staff from the Minister of Transport's office.

It's important that members of Parliament recognize that in just reaching this consensus we're talking about 80% of all the rail shipments across Canada, and the different organizations, the different industries and associations, left a lot on the table. In the interest of doing what we were challenged to do, we did reach this consensus and we took it to Transport Canada.

On May 5, 2006, Transport Canada rejected some of the requests put forward by the shipper consensus, but also agreed to some. For example, shippers had proposed amending the legislation to explicitly ensure railway accountability for service. The specific wording we wanted included in the act was: “A railway company shall not provide a level of service that impedes the ability of a shipper to conduct its business in a competitive, economic, efficient and effective manner.”

This particular component was rejected by Transport Canada, so the May 5 package excludes that particular component. The outcome was a further compromise that was less than what was requested by our coalition, but we reluctantly agreed to the May 5 package, recognizing that it would not solve all the grain industry's problems; however, these changes were seen as a significant step forward toward more balanced accountability.

The changes are intended to address railway problems before they occur, primarily by changing railway behaviour through greater accountability, and also improve upon the shipper remedies to be used once an incident does occur.

The May 5 agreement also includes a commitment by the Minister of Transport to undertake a more detailed review of level of service and railway accountability concerns within 30 days of the passage of the bill. We believe an independent review of this nature would be the best way to properly identify the magnitude of declining rail service and determine solutions to reversing this trend.

With respect to the content of what was specifically agreed--I don't want to read through all of them, they can be made available--former Bill C-44was used as a starting point, and some of the more notable changes to Bill C-44 were multi-party level of service provisions.

The CTA level of service provisions would be clarified to state that they apply to multiple party filings as well as to terminal operators. Another key one was that final offer arbitration provisions would be amended to enable groups of shippers to use the FOA process--right now it only applies to individual shippers--enable groups of shippers to arbitrate ancillary rules and charges, like demurrage for example, in addition to the line haul rates and services as at present; and remove the requirement that terms of an offer under final offer arbitration apply to all shippers in the group equally.

This was seen as pretty important, because if it were a requirement that each of the multiple parties had to be equal, they would never be equal. They all have different business sizes, different shipping locations. You would never have a situation where they could all be equal. So we agreed that item should be removed.

A review of the railway service. It was recognized that the changes we talked about above only go part of the way to address problems in rail transportation; more work needs to be done. So we proposed the CTA be amended to require an independent and comprehensive review of the level of service provisions and the effectiveness of these provisions, and that this review take place no later than six months after the passage of the bill. Transport Canada and the minister did not agree to this particular insertion in the legislation, but they did commit to undertake the review of effectiveness of the CTA level of service provision. So they agreed in principle, but they didn't agree to put it in the bill.

That's what happened in the last year to get where we are today. The grain industry was part of that overall coalition of rail shippers.

October 17th, 2006 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much to all the witnesses for coming today or for attending by way of teleconference.

First of all, I want to clarify that my understanding is that section 95 of the act does allow the CTA, with authority, to issue orders against the railways, and these are mandatory orders of law. I do think there's some incorrect information out there as far as the authority of the CTA, and I'd like you to comment on that.

I'm not surprised that Mr. McGuinty said that no consultations have taken place, because most of the consultations, obviously, even for this bill, were from the previous Liberal government under Bill C-44. Fortunately, we do have a minister who sent some of us out on the ground to see what was going on with rail and transportation issues all over the country.

I'm also curious about whether any of the five witnesses today have consulted with FCM, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, in relation to their railway association consultation on voluntary measures. I would like to hear from the witnesses on that.

October 17th, 2006 / 4:55 p.m.
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Coordinator

Christian Jobin

Since I have worked on bills C-26 and C-44, since CN went all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling of the Canadian Transportation Agency in 1999, and since I was involved in mediation which, after 18 months, bore no fruit, I can tell you that there still is not a level-playing field between citizens and the railway companies. The companies just don't want to make the appropriate changes. That is why we want this bill to be amended. I'm not saying it is specifically to protect citizens against the companies, but rather to protect them against the abuse of power which those companies exercise. I think that today they are not acting as good citizens and that is unfortunate.

Everyone knows that CN helped develop Canada. When the railway was built, CN contributed to the growth of Canada's major cities. We are in favour of the development of the railway sector, but we want there to be a harmonious relationship between citizens and this sector, as is the case in some European countries. That is why we are asking for wording referring to the health of people to be included in the bill, along with quantitative standards referring to the allowable noise level during the day and at night.

We agree with Mr. Ménard that the word “unreasonable” is too weak. This would allow the railway companies to claim, in the name of financial or operational criteria, that they cannot correct the situation. These standards exist in Europe. As for a national rail-noise-reduction policy, we would like it to be permanent and that it allow for remedial measures over time.

CN, as well as Canada, have grown over time, but the two events did not happen in a harmonious manner. The parties did not agree, and that's why we are here today. We have to deal with the fact that railways generate noise, but ignore municipal and provincial regulations.

If a citizen made the type of noise during one night which CN generates throughout the year, he or she would be immediately thrown in jail. What we want is to level the playing field. The changes we are asking for may seem radical, but for a long time, since 1998, we are in the same boat as the citizens. And that is why we are making this request.

September 26th, 2006 / 3:45 p.m.
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Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 11:40 a.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with that aspect of the previous Bill C-44. I take it that my colleague is. I would suggest that this issue be taken to the committee.

The role of public operating agencies, whether they are intercommuter or commuting longer distances, and within those major corridors connected by rail and shared corridors, be it high speed or interurban systems, cannot help but serve the country better. When we look at the Pacific Gateway concept there is the opportunity to connect up those hubs with the best transportation mode that connects up into the overall gateway.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2006 / 11:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill contains an interesting provision, whereby railways may be offered to transit authorities when they are no longer used to move freight and can be assigned. This will have an impact on public transit.

It will also have an economic impact on the contribution that can be made to improving public transit. For example, Bombardier's facility in my riding produces subway cars, and can also produce railway cars.

I would like my hon. colleague to tell me something. In the same spirit, would it not have been worthwhile for the current government to integrate in this bill what Bill C-44 provided for, which enhanced VIA Rail Canada's ability to develop its operations? We want transit authorities to be able to make the use of public transit more widespread. Should the provisions concerning VIA Rail not have been included and should the rapid rail concept not have been given a chance to be developed, as was attempted in the past with the high speed train? There are also other forms of activities in support of that.

Should the government not have included that in the bill it has introduced and which is before us now?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2006 / 5:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak 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.

I want to point out at the outset that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle. Naturally, more in-depth consideration is advisable in order to grasp all aspects of the bill. Amendments will likely be necessary to improve it. But on the whole, as I said, the Bloc Québécois supports it in principle.

I want to make clear that my remarks will focus exclusively on the part of this bill dealing with railway noise, specifically clause 29. As we all know, the racket made by trains is a widespread problem. My riding of Drummond is unfortunately faced with such a problem.

Located close to Drummondville, the community of Saint-Germain de Grantham in particular is seriously affected throughout its jurisdiction. This is a rural community of nearly 4,000, with five railway crossings. The railway goes through it over a stretch of 8.5 kilometres, running alongside hundreds of homes.

Train whistles can be heard from one end of Saint-Germain de Grantham to the other at all hours of the day and night. There are engine noises, bells, squealing brakes, vibrations, smells, and the sounds of iron hitting iron. One can easily imagine what residents of that municipality must put up with. And because Saint-Germain de Grantham is in the middle of a boom, the problem is only getting worse. More and more residents are forced to endure this noise pollution.

Everyone recognizes that rail traffic is a necessity and that it contributed to the development of several municipalities. Everyone also acknowledges that rail safety is very important. However, the rights of those residents affected cannot be ignored. Solutions to this noise problem exist and must be brought forward. The quality of life of citizens must be considered in this debate. The interests of rail companies and the pursuit of economic development cannot be the only acceptable arguments. We cannot ask the people of Saint-Germain de Grantham, who are my main concern here, to pay such a high price.

What power do they have against the rail companies? The power to discuss and negotiate, but that may not be enough. When the power to make decisions lies only with the other party, abuses can occur.

Let us review how Saint-Germain de Grantham has attempted to deal with this problem.

In 1993, residents wrote to CN to complain about the noise. They received no response.

In 1994, the municipality requested that train whistling be eliminated, at least at night. In its response, CN said that each level crossing would have to be inspected.

In 1996, three level crossings were inspected, and it was found that constant warning time devices and barriers would have to be installed.

In 1997, these devices were installed at two level crossings.

In 1999, the municipality asked me to intervene on its behalf to have the devices installed on the third level crossing. The minister responsible at the time said that even though the crossing was near Saint-Germain's urban area, it was not considered a priority. At the same time, CN demanded a $2,000 dollar report on the possibility of enacting a regulation to eliminate train whistling.

Work was done on the third level crossing a few years later.

In 2004, at the municipality's request, I wrote to CN asking what more Saint-Germain de Grantham had to do to put a stop to train whistling within municipal boundaries. A stakeholder meeting was arranged, and it turned out that improvements would have to be made to yet another level crossing to fulfill the requirements.

Steps were taken to get this done, but funding was delayed and still has not come through.

So, the municipality is waiting. In the meantime, the train is whistling away, and the people are suffering.

In fact, early in 2006, a citizen wrote the city council, reminding it that the people of Saint-Germain de Grantham have been asking for 13 years that trains stop whistling. We can only sympathize with their frustration and despair. “When can we hope to finally be free of noise pollution from trains when we sleep?”, she asked the council.

In bringing up such representations, we realize that there really is not much the municipality of Saint-Germain de Grantham and its residents can do. What can one do against a giant like the CN?

They are also dependent on government decisions about grants, because this kind of work is very expensive. At the same time, it is important to point out that all this work is designed to enhance public safety, thus improving the railways' quality of service. Following the same logic, this work also has to help ensure that the quality of life of our fellow citizens is respected.

These people need a mechanism through which they can make themselves heard. They need a mechanism to increase their strength and add weight to their legitimate demands.

The provision contained in Bill C-11 which deals with railway noise is giving these people some hope. Clause 29 of the bill gives the Canada Transportation Agency the authority to investigate complaints about unreasonable noise, with a view to forcing railway companies to make changes to prevent unreasonable noise.

This clause gives the Canada Transportation Agency jurisdiction to weigh the need to allow railway companies to operate against the right of those living alongside railroads to quiet enjoyment. The agency will therefore be able to force rail transportation companies to make changes to limit the noise associated with their operations.

The municipality of Saint-Germain de Grantham has carried out all the work requested over the years. Major changes have been ordered over the past 13 years. After the work was completed, more was ordered.

These men and women are right to be angry today. They want their questions answered. This little game of delays and grant requests has to stop. The time has come to show them some respect. I hope that Bill C-11 will make that possible.

They have been patient enough. They have paid enough.

In 2005, l'Union des municipalités du Québec prepared a brief regarding Bill C-44, which was also introduced to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act.

The Union claimed that:

Railway companies under federal jurisdiction are not subject to any legislation governing damage caused by their activities. They are like aliens in our regions. This situation was confirmed in a December 2000 decision made by the Federal Court of Canada in Oakville, Ontario, which deprived the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) of its power to make decisions concerning irritants, such as the noise arising from railway activities.

The Union des municipalités du Québec also pointed out the fact that a number of municipalities have failed to reach agreement with the railway companies and Transport Canada on the requirements for a no-whistle by-law. In this respect, the UMQ recommends that the CTA be given authority to examine any request to prohibit the use of train whistles within the limits of a municipality in the event that the municipality, railway company and Transport Canada fail to reach agreement concerning the requirements and conditions of a no-whistle by-law.

I wish to conclude by indicating that I am in favour of the principle of Bill C-11 as it will give citizens of Quebec and Canada some power in dealing with railway companies.

I am in favour of this bill because I want the citizens of Saint-Germain de Grantham, after 13 years of negotiating, searching for solutions and hard work, to be heard and to have their rights acknowledged.

I believe that it is our duty as parliamentarians to provide such legislation. It is our responsibility to meet the legitimate expectations of the residents in our ridings

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 20th, 2006 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak at second reading of Bill C-11. This bill is about 60 pages long and is one of those bills that we cannot read in isolation. We have to have the existing legislation there so we can follow the amendments. Unless the House is prepared to give me an extension of about two hours, I am not going to address the whole bill. I will address certain aspects of it.

We are talking about the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. There are certainly many provisions of interest in this bill and they have been debated and discussed by hon. members through this debate, but I would like to look at a couple in particular.

Bill C-11 proposes that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be allowed to regulate the advertised pricing of airfare. This is an issue which is of great interest to Canadians, considering the recent history and volatility within the airline industry. It remains to be heard from the minister what his specific intentions are with regard to future airfare advertising regulations.

The whole question of regulations is kind of interesting to note for all hon. members. When we debate bills and vote at the various stages, we do so without the regulations, which do not come until after the legislation is passed, has gone through the Senate, received royal assent and is proclaimed. Then we get the regulations. There always has been this issue about whether or not there is this creeping problem where we have executive-made law, where the cabinet is enhancing what the insinuation of the legislation is through the regulations. It is the reason why we have the scrutiny of regulations committee, a joint Commons-Senate committee, to look at those regulations as they come through and to ensure that the regulations are authorized by the legislation.

I thought I would put that in because it is a very important aspect as it relates to this bill and it is incumbent upon the committee to do this. I am sure we will see this bill go to committee for review. We have to ensure that we get an indication from the government, from the minister, about the intent. What is the intent here? How can we, from an informed point of view, make decisions with regard to appropriate amendments to the legislation, if necessary?

The bill itself provides hints but no guarantees, and that is the issue. That is the problem with the regulations. Subsection 86.1(1) states:

The Agency may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting advertising in all media, including on the Internet, of prices for air services within, or originating in, Canada.

Subsection 86.1(2) of the same clause suggests that the minister may require that prices should include all costs to the carrier and all charges, but it does so without limiting the generality of the minister's power to regulate under subsection 86.1(1). Again it is this uncertainty, as a consequence of having the details, and the devil always is in the details with regard to regulations.

Members may recall that the issue of airfare pricing attracted a great deal of attention a few years ago when airport improvement fees and security charges became prevalent throughout the airline industry. At that time, the Liberal government recognized that protecting consumers was of utmost importance. Much of the materials we find in Bill C-11 are the provisions of the amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, which have been presented in bills in prior Parliaments, but which did not proceed through the full legislative process due to the call of an election.

The provisions that are in question today were inherited from the previous legislation. There are too many situations right now, quite frankly, and what we are trying to address is that every day Canadians are faced with misleading and simply false information. That is the reality that we are faced with when we are trying to decide, as consumers, how to spend our hard-earned dollars.

The wide range of fees and taxes on airfare can be particularly confounding as well. Charges vary depending on which airport one is in, the airport of origin and the destination, then based on whether it is domestic or international. Even then, in some cases when a flight connects through certain particular airports rather than others, there are other complications, so the comparabilities from airline to airline are in some difficulty too.

Then, of course, we cannot forget the taxes. When all the charges, fees and taxes are summed up, the actual price of an airline ticket can be substantially above the base price, which is usually the advertised price. Let me repeat that. The base price, without all those add-ons, is the one that usually appears in the advertising. The consumers really get a surprise when they see the add-ons.

The right to set regulations could simplify these charges into a single tax-inclusive number, which when advertised by one airline would lend itself to comparison with other advertisements by other airlines. It is possible to take for granted the importance of advertising in our society. Market economies depend on competition. The competition itself depends on the ability of purchasers, in this case the Canadian consumers buying airline tickets, to distinguish between prices in a meaningful way.

I would go so far as to say that the efficiency cannot be properly encouraged in a market without clear pricing. That is the issue. We do not really have clear pricing, at least in the eyes of the consumer.

We must see prices clearly in order to choose based on price. Only when we choose based on price do we encourage businesses to offer a better deal. This is competition. That is the purpose of healthy competition. It is to ensure that there is fair pricing. Competitive pricing means that there is a win-win.

Clearly we are supportive of the principle of price advertising clarity. However, we do not know precisely what kind of price advertising regulations the minister intends to undertake. This is a problem and it is something that I encourage the committee to address exhaustively when it looks at this legislation.

Specific types of regulation can certainly have some unintended effects as well. Forcing airlines to disclose a certain amount of information in their advertising may in fact interfere with the message in unproductive ways or confuse the consumer. If we go a little too far we may find that people do not focus in on exactly the key elements of the pricing mechanism.

We have all seen the commercials for automobiles, which contain a great deal of detail. That is an example of listing all these little things. In fact, many Canadians would argue that they contain too much detail to be of much use. Calling on the airlines to display a similar level of detail may in fact not be where we want to go. I think this is another issue that the committee should address very carefully.

As we know, industries are thoroughly interconnected. I am not just talking about the airline industry. When we think about it, even the advertising industry is obviously affected. Depending on what our requirements are, certain modes of advertising are more desirable, more productive or effective than others, so that depending on what we do in this legislation may have some consequential impacts on other industries. We have to ask ourselves whether or not new regulations will cause one type of media to take a greater share of advertising dollars than another type. It could have any number of effects, all of which we can only speculate about.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities began his remarks by outlining some details. We will be required to do our jobs, but full disclosure in any event is certainly essential. We do not know what regulations the minister will be eventually bringing forward. It is going to be difficult for us to assess some of these finer points in terms of the impacts on the industry and related industries or linked industries.

This brings me to another important point. As parliamentarians, we obviously have a duty to consider legislation very carefully, but the government is understandably anxious to more forward with certain priorities. This is one that we cannot rush. This is one that we have to be very careful of. We know it has taken some time to get to this point yet again. When we start the House every day we say prayers and one of our pleas is that we make “good laws and wise decisions”. That is always the case. Certainly we want to make sure that Bill C-11 ultimately makes the necessary amendments to make the Canada Transportation Act a better law.

Whether the bill is the size of Bill C-2, the accountability bill, which is five times the size of a normal piece of legislation, or whether it is like Bill C-3 on international tunnels and bridges, a very few pages, we cannot forget that when we give a bill our approval it eventually becomes law, with consequential effects for Canadians, whether we have had the foresight to see them.

This bill in particular has some potential pitfalls that are going to call on those responsible for scrutinizing the bill at committee to do their very best, to engage the best possible witnesses, to try to foresee, to try to identify some of those pitfalls and to absolutely ensure that the legislation does not have unintended consequences.

In terms of Bill C-11, we are asking the government and the minister in particular to take the time to properly address the many questions that flow from the amendments it proposes. The Minister of Transport spoke about another provision in Bill C-11 that is of interest. He indicated that he intends to amend the Canada Transportation Act to create a mediation process for disputes concerning federal transportation matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

This is very interesting. It is an evolution that was previously found in Bill C-44 in a prior Parliament. Proposed subsection 36.1(1) would require a unanimous agreement of the parties in order to proceed, but in those circumstances it would seem to be a very useful process.

Any time that we can provide for alternatives to litigation in the area of transport, we do a favour to the parties who are looking for win-win solutions. We would like to explore that as fully as possible as well. The process suggests a quicker timeline and would inevitably be cheaper than lawsuits. That usually is the case. Many of our legal friends in the chamber certainly remind us of that from time to time, although for the life of me it really makes me think of the softwood deal and some of the dynamics that have occurred there.

To go back to this bill, in February 2004 CTA chairwoman Marian Robson wrote that 95% of matters that had been referred to mediation by the agency were resolved to mutual satisfaction. We can see that the history is very good in this regard.

Entities that fall under the domain of the Canadian Transportation Agency are more than likely parties that have ongoing contractual relationships. By its very nature transportation infrastructure is not particularly fluid and there may not be many possible alternative commercial relationships. Quick, amicable resolutions free up resources and ultimately lead to better prices and better services for Canadians.

My colleagues and I are supportive of these measures and commend the minister for bringing back these elements of amendments from previous Liberal bills.

Finally, I would like to dwell very briefly on the issue of corporate governance. It is a subject matter that has attracted quite a bit of attention these days and the CTA is a very important agency. The agency is responsible for balancing divergent interests in a fair and open manner. It licenses air and rail carriers and resolves complaints between shippers and railways regarding rates and service. It approves proposed construction of railway lines. It even participates in international bilateral negotiations and administers bilateral agreements.

Eyebrows were raised in the House when the minister asserted that changes to the makeup of the Canadian Transportation Agency will provide for cost savings. I think people's eyebrows usually go up when governments say they are going to save--it is almost like “show me”--but these are initiatives through which, if they are sound in terms of their operational impact, that is possible, and we certainly would like to see that.

It appears that the current board made up of seven part time members will be replaced by a board of five members in the full time employ of the CTA. These five members would be located here in the national capital region. The minister talks about efficiency of centralization, noting that more than one member must sign off on decisions the agency takes, and I would like to hear from the minister about how the agency will do its job better.

As we know, the bill is the third attempt to bring forward legislation on these particular matters. Let me say that Bill C-11 is made up of many, many amendments, some 60 pages of them. It was very difficult. I compliment all hon. members who took the opportunity to do the necessary work, the due diligence, to review the legislation so they could bring an informed debate to the House at second reading and so we could move the bill on through the legislative process with our eyes wide open with regard to the key elements that are of concern to parliamentarians and to consumers and the service providers as well.

An important part of our review was the statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act. I was very interested to hear the Minister of Transport, standing in his place earlier, mention that he would be tabling further amendments addressing the subject of rail shipping disputes. Certainly we have had a great deal of discussion on that. I know that the committee is going to be very cognizant of the concerns raised by all hon. members.

He talked further of consultations that are now complete and new conclusions that the Conservative minority government has drawn. I should note that Bill C-11 requires another statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act, something that makes a lot of sense given its primacy in an area, namely transportation, that is of broad importance to Canada and certainly to all Canadians.

As my hon. colleague from Ottawa South, the opposition critic for transport, has stated, we are looking forward to seeing the bill examined and revised as necessary at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for his wonderful address. I have had the opportunity to sit with the hon. member on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. My question for my colleague is simple.

Several members from the Conservative government tell us today that considerable consultation took place and that the proposed bill is a result of that consultation. It is true that considerable consultation took place for Bill C-44, but not for Bill C-11, since consultations are about to begin for this new bill.

In Bill C-44, there was an entire chapter on VIA Rail. I would like my colleague from Alfred-Pellan to describe his experiences in committee during the last Parliament. In fact, Conservative members exerted tremendous pressure to ensure that everything to do with VIA Rail never come to fruition. All of the Conservatives were against developing VIA Rail. This clearly affects Quebec directly, given the rapid rail project for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

I would like my colleague from Alfred-Pellan to explain the situation in relation to Bill C-44 from the previous session.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2006 / 4:40 p.m.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
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Miramichi New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments on Bill C-44. He comes from that great island of Cape Breton which is part of Nova Scotia. Being an island area, we have a ferry service going from Cape Breton to Newfoundland. We realize the importance of having a good transportation system.

The hon. member has done a lot of work to ensure we have good connections between our provinces and also the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe he would like to comment in the House just what he has done and how important it is to Canada, and especially to the people of Atlantic Canada.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today, especially when we look at some of the excitement and enthusiasm around the Hill today. I do not know if that has been directed at the anticipation of my colleague and the opposition critic's intervention on this legislation or more so for maybe something that will take place a little later on in the day.

The legislation before us is something that has been around in a previous Parliament. It is fairly similar to that one in a previous Parliament. The legislation has been refined. Consultations have been held with the various stakeholders and we believe it is stronger legislation.

The bill is an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. I believe it strikes some balance between the various transportation sector interests. When we talk about mergers and various aspects of the transportation industry, I believe it goes a long way to address many concerns from that sector.

In this era of rapid economic change, technological revolution and globalization, mergers and acquisitions can be considered a legitimate and necessary business strategy. Mergers allow corporations to gain efficiencies from economies of scale. Increased efficiency means more competitive businesses which in turn means a more vibrant economy.

Larger corporations can also mean a concentration of power and possibly reduced competition, but that is why we have merger provisions in the Competition Act. These provisions can stop a merger or restructure a merger to ensure there is no lessening of competition. However, there may be other reasons to stop a restructure merger, as we have seen in the case of banks and airlines.

The government believes mergers can be a viable business strategy, but each merger proposal must be assessed on its own merits. The Canada Transportation Act contains a merger review process for air carriers that came into force in July 2000. This process was established in response to Air Canada's acquisition of Canadian Airlines as part of a series of measures to foster competition in the airline industry while the industry experienced a radical restructuring. The government took these measures to ensure that consumers were protected from anti-competitive behaviour that could arise from a dominant carrier situation. The government now recognizes that we also need a merger review process for other major transportation services.

In 1999 the Canadian National Railway and the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway proposed to combine their businesses. CN and BNSF are two of the largest railways on the continent. In the United States, a moratorium was put on all railway mergers following the receipt of the merger proposal as it was felt that if the merger were permitted under current rules, more mergers would follow until only one or two transcontinental railways were left. After a year long review of the relevance of the existing merger rules, the U.S. released new rules that set higher standards for the approval of any large railway mergers.

At that time we heard from many interested parties in Canada that wanted to express their concerns regarding the proposed business combination. Under the applicable process at the time, these Canadian interests had to go to the U.S. authorities to get information and express their concerns as there was no public process available to them in Canada.

It is clear that Canadians should have access to a Canadian process to review significant transactions and these transactions should include any component of the transportation sector, not just air carriers. This process should apply to the review of both domestic and transnational mergers.

The Canada Transportation Act review panel heard from stakeholders all across the country and noted that the scope of the review process under the Competition Act is limited to competition issues and provides no opportunity to consider broad, national or public interest issues.

The panel noted the growing pressure toward integration in the North American rail industry and as a result its recommendations included a proposal that a transportation specific review process be established to review the national and public interest issues that may arise from merger proposals.

Given the clear need for a process for other transportation services, Bill C-44 would ensure that a merger review process similar to the one applicable to air carriers is available for all transportation undertakings under federal jurisdiction. The bill would introduce a formal and transparent transportation merger review process that builds on the existing processes and experience gained from the airline merger review process.

The government proposes that competition issues continue to be addressed by the Commissioner of Competition. The Minister of Transport will have the power to appoint a person or the Canadian Transportation Agency to review public interest issues that may arise from the proposed merger transaction. These issues can range from the integrity of the transportation network to service to small communities.

As we all know, the pace of business can be very rapid. Lengthy reviews can mean lost opportunities. The bill sets a predictable timeframe and process that should not unduly harm the normal course of business. The Minister of Transport must decide within 42 days whether there are public interest issues that may need to be addressed. Should a review process be initiated, it must be completed within 150 days.

However, we recognize there are always exceptions. While the government is proposing that reviews be completed within 150 days, the Minister of Transport will be given discretion to extend this timeframe if needed. We also know that businesses need to have a predictable framework. The government will provide for the minister to issue guidelines on the merger review process including setting out general public interest issues that would need to be addressed by the parties to the proposed merger.

This would allow the parties to consider these issues and determine whether a merger could continue to be pursued. Should the parties decide to continue, the merger proposal would include an assessment by the parties of the public interest issues and possible remedies.

A strong, efficient and vibrant transportation sector is vital to Canada's economic success. The transportation industry is not only important to the everyday lives of Canadians, it is an important contributor to the economic growth in job creation of this country. Because of the importance of this sector to the economy and society, the policy framework must support its potential for growth and provide the flexibility for the sector to adapt to increasing pressures from globalization.

However, the transportation sector is characterized by a small number of dominant carriers in the air and rail modes. In North America, mergers and acquisitions have been normal business practices in these modes to consolidate operations, reduce surplus capacity, and to improve cost efficiency and profitability.

The review provisions in the bill will help to ensure that we continue to have a healthy transportation sector operating in a competitive global environment, yet responsive to the needs of Canadian shippers and Canadian travellers.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.
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Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-44, 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. I do not think the Liberals, if they tried, could make a title more convoluted or longer. The bill was tabled in the House on March 24, 2005, over six months ago, and the Minister of Transport has shown zero interest in moving it forward since it was tabled. More serious than that, it shows that the Minister of Transport has very poor listening skills.

The Library of Parliament did an extensive analysis of Bill C-44 and stated:

The bill is similar in most aspects to its predecessor bill, C-26, the Transportation Amendment Act, which was introduced in the House of Commons on 23 February 2003.

That is correct. Bill C-44, the new transportation amendment act, is extremely similar to Bill C-26, the old transportation amendment act, which was introduced by the transport minister's predecessor, David Collenette. The fact that Bill C-44 is so similar to Bill C-26 is troubling in a number of ways.

First, on November 12, 2003 the Liberals let the old transportation amendment act die on the order paper when it became apparent that committee witnesses were not in favour of it.

Second, after the mini throne speech of February 2, 2004, the Liberals made no attempt to resuscitate the old transportation amendment act. Presumably the Liberals had learned of the act's flaws and were taking their time to draft much improved legislation.

After the June 28, 2004 election, the member for Outremont was appointed the Minister of Transport in this minority government. In his maiden speech on October 7, 2004 he spoke of his 12 years on the opposition benches and how he had worked hard during that time to restore public faith in elected officials. There was every reason to believe that the new minister, working in a minority government, was interested in seeking consensus and making a difference.

Indeed, on October 15, 2004, when the Conservative member for Niagara Falls stood in the House to debate the transport minister's first bill, he congratulated the minister for introducing legislation that corrected past mistakes. He said:

--[this] bill corrects the mistakes that were made in the last few years by the Liberal government.

I wish all the mistakes that the government has made could be so easily corrected and with so few consequences.

Everyone can imagine our surprise when the new transportation amendment act was tabled embracing virtually all of the old flaws of the old transportation amendment act. Not only was the new transport minister recycling legislation that had been killed by the previous government, he was reintroducing a bill which had been made partially irrelevant by the passage of time.

By way of example, the old transportation amendment act contained provisions that permitted a non-Canadian company to offer domestic air service for “any period of time”. At the time, Air Canada was about to file for protection from its creditors and there were no guarantees that its restructuring would be successful. Indeed, had Air Canada failed, permitting foreign carriers to offer some domestic capacity at least on a temporary basis might have been desirable.

However, the same text exists in the new bill in clause 19. Not only has Air Canada exited from its creditor protection, but WestJet has expanded coast to coast and has started Toronto-Charlottetown non-stop service. The scenario under which a foreign carrier might conceivably be permitted to serve the Canadian domestic market no longer exists. Worse, this clause is present in legislation tabled by the very same Minister of Transport who, in one of his first appearances before the transportation committee, called on members to explore air liberalization.

In fact, at the meeting he handed out a document improbably titled, “Air Liberalization: a Review of Canada's Economic Regulatory Regime as it Affects the Canadian Air Industry”. The transport committee took the minister seriously and conducted hearings into air liberalization, I should mention also at the cost of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Given his call for the committee to review Canada's economic and regulatory regime as it affects the Canadian air industry, the committee made recommendations on ways to improve the same regulatory regime for the benefit of the Canadian air industry and Canadian taxpayers.

The recommendations were unanimous and were the result of considerable industry input. The committee called on the government to reduce airport rents by at least 75% and reinvest the money received into airport infrastructure. Other recommendations included the elimination of the air transport security charge and cancelling the obligation of airport authorities to provide free rent to federal agencies.

Finally, there were calls on the federal government to pay for border clearance at airports with regular transborder and/or international services and to fund the cost of implementing federal regulations at small regional airports. The committee's report was tabled on May 19, 2005 and the Minister of Transport replied on September 21. In his response the minister rejected all of the committee's recommendations and justified airport rents as “the result of satisfying the government's real property policy, which is to receive a fair return on public assets that are being leased to private companies or commercialized entities”.

Yet Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport, which handles 33% of Canada's commercial air traffic, will now pay 63% of Ottawa's total revenue from airport rent or airport taxes. Ottawa's greed for airport rent has made Toronto the most expensive place in the world to land an airplane.

Stanley Morais, general manager of El Al's Canadian operation, is on record as saying it costs the airline $12,000 to land a jumbo jet at Pearson international airport in Toronto, compared with $3,000 at Tel Aviv.

When we think of the cost of security at Tel Aviv, the fact that landing fees would be four times higher at Pearson is simply staggering. It is worse when we realize that much of the rent that the Toronto airport pays to Ottawa is for buildings that no longer exist, such as the outdated and recently demolished Terminal 1.

In fact, the blatant unfairness of Toronto's airport rent situation is underscored by the number of unlikely allies that have united their voices in a call to the Minister of Transport and the Liberal government to act. They include: the International Air Transport Association, the Air Transport Association of Canada, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, including all political parties, the Province of Ontario, the Liberal premier of Ontario, the Association of Airline Representatives in Canada, the Toronto Board of Trade, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Toronto Hotel Association, and the Canadian Tourism Association.

Let us not overlook the fact that Toronto's Pearson airport is Air Canada's hub, so it can be argued that extremely high airport taxes at Pearson airport affect the bottom line of the airline that just recently emerged from creditor protection.

Let me repeat that. The Minister of Transport says he is worried about Air Canada's financial health. Air Canada's hub is in Toronto. The fact that airport fees there were the second highest in the world and are now, because of recent changes, the highest in the world is because the Minister of Transport and the Liberal government are taxing that airport into the ground.

Nonetheless, because the minister is concerned about the potential failure of a Canadian carrier, the new Transportation Amendment Act that we are debating today contains the same clauses as the old bill, permitting him to allow a foreign carrier to offer domestic service in Canada under certain conditions.

This would be a huge step backwards. Not only does it ignore the tremendous management-union collaboration in restructuring Air Canada, but it ignores the fact that the problems in Canada's domestic airline industry are not solved by letting foreign carriers fly domestic routes. They are solved by lowering the government charges and fees that hamper the industry. Lowering government charges and fees is consistent with the unanimous recommendations of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, with the suggestions of all experts and with the advice given by virtually every witness, both foreign and Canadian, who has studied the matter.

Moreover, there is a very basic logical flaw in the proposal to let foreign carriers fly domestic routes under certain conditions. The proposal is based on the idea that where a domestic carrier has failed, a foreign carrier might fill the void, at least temporarily. However, this is by no means certain. In fact, on September 20 at the Airports Council International meeting in Toronto, JetBlue founder and president David Neeleman was asked if his low cost airline would consider serving Canada. “No,” he replied, “the bureaucracy and fees would kill us”.

Finally, the idea is 100% opposed to the spirit of what the Minister of Transport said when he appeared before the transport committee on February 21, 2005. He said:

Our objectives are to encourage the creation of new markets and services, to lower costs and increase competition in the interest of Canadians, while at the same time ensuring that the air transport industry remains strong and vital. We can do this by eliminating legislative and regulatory barriers and by changing the economic policies that unduly restrict air transport services.

Since that date, the minister appears to have ignored his own advice and the advice of the transport committee. Granting foreign carriers domestic rights in Canada without first demanding reciprocity would set a dangerous precedent and weaken our bargaining position when it comes time to expand the scope of the Canada-U.S. open skies agreement. This would truly undermine our ability to engage in the open skies negotiations that he says he favours.

I do not want to dwell only on clause 19 of the bill. I hold it up only as an example of how a clause that might have made sense two years ago is difficult, if not impossible, to justify today. Quite frankly, a transport minister who would reintroduce stale, two year old legislation from the last Parliament without updating it is not doing his job.

Canada's economy depends on transport and few industries are more fluid than the airline sector. The situation today is dramatically different from what existed two years ago. The fact that the past legislation was not updated and that the transport committee's recommendations were ignored raises serious questions about the transport minister and his job performance.

In fact, he should have a serious and very frank discussion with Louis Ranger, his deputy minister. Mr. Ranger is very aware of the flaws in the old Bill C-26. The fact that he would have allowed the Minister of Transport to re-table the same flawed bill under a new number makes me question the kind of advice that he is giving the minister in this minority government.

For example, on Tuesday, October 28, 2003, during the transport committee's hearings into the old Bill C-26, Mr. Sean Finn, senior vice-president and legal officer for Canadian National Railway, said:

Regarding clause 40, which deals with the competitive connection rate, this new regulatory provision could bring about re-regulation of the rail industry and, in the longer term, Canadian railways could be treated unfairly. It would provide our U.S. competitors with unfair advantages, which could affect the density of traffic required to sustain the Canadian network, thereby impacting all [Canadian] shippers.

Fundamentally, this provision would allow American railways doing business in Canada to benefit from a regulatory environment that could result in an unfair treatment for Canadian railways.

Essentially, if a shipper can request that we require Canadian railways to offer a rate that would allow him to ship his products all the way to [an] American railway doing business in Canada, we recommend that this provision be applicable only if the American railway is also required to provide the same advantages to CN or CP when they are doing business in the United States. So we are essentially demanding that we ensure a level playing field, in terms of operations and competition, by submitting American railways doing business in Canada to the same requirements that apply to Canadian railways that want to ship Canadian system goods that come from the United States.

Mr. Serge Cantin, general counsel for Canadian National Railway, added that, under the previous system, the competitive connection rate, previously known as the competitive line rate, or CLR, had never been used by a Canadian shipper but only by a U.S. railroad, Burlington Northern, which used it to carry traffic over CP's track and then route it into Burlington Northern's U.S. network.

Given the testimony of how the competitive connection rate would potentially hurt Canadian railways without giving Canadian shippers lower rates, it would have been fair to expect the transport minister to redraft the clause. To my knowledge, the only change that has been made to the former clause 40 is that it is now renumbered as clause 42, but the text and effect are identical.

There are other examples where the new transportation amendment act is actually worse than the old transportation amendment act, despite expert testimony drawing the government's attention to the flaws in the old act. Here we find situations where the government listened to the witnesses at committee and then did precisely the opposite of what was recommended.

For instance, clause 16 of the old bill proposed to regulate the advertising of airline ticket prices. Its stated objective was to combat the sticker shock that happens when a customer sees a low fare advertised but has to pay considerably more when taxes and fees are included. A typical example would be an Ottawa-Vancouver discount fare that is advertised at $398 but costs $534.30 when taxes, fees and charges are included.

To address this situation, clause 16 of the old transportation amendment act would have required any advertisement for an airline ticket that shows the price of the ticket to also show the final price. In our discussion of the old transportation amendment act, we pointed out that the Air Transport Association of Canada had voluntarily agreed to do this before Christmas 2002 and that the sticking point was not the Canadian airline industry but the need to get both Canadian and U.S. carriers to adopt similar advertising strategies for tickets on transborder routes.

As I have observed earlier, roughly two years have passed between the introduction of the old act and the introduction of this new transportation amendment act. In fact, the Air Transport Association of Canada had voluntarily agreed to full price disclosure months before the old act was introduced and ever saw the light of day. Nonetheless, when the new Minister of Transport tabled his new act, he went even further than his predecessor to require a behaviour that the airline industry had already adopted.

Clause 30 of the new bill lets the minister:

--make regulations respecting advertising in all media, including on the Internet, of prices for air services within, or originating in, Canada...requiring a carrier who advertises a price for an area of service to

(a) include in the price all costs to the carrier of providing the service, and

(b) indicate in the advertisement all fees, charges and taxes collected by the carrier....

Not only does the minister want to force airlines to do something they are already doing, but he is trying to regulate the Internet.

Yet in his testimony on May 5, 2003, during the transport committee hearings into the old transportation amendment act, Mr. Warren Everson, who was then the vice-president of policy at the Air Transport Association of Canada, questioned the wisdom of regulating airline advertising. He said:

If tour operators or, say, the United States carriers don't have to abide by this or flout the law, they will be posting prices that are 20% [to] 40% cheaper than those posted in the advertisements in Canada. And if a small carrier in Canada, such as a small charter operation, tells a large tour operator in the United States or a cruise line that this is how they have to do it, that this is how the advertising has to be, it leaves no leverage whatsoever. If he insists on it and they don't care to comply, he'll simply lose the contract. We just don't understand how it's possible for the federal government to assign someone to enforce federal law outside their jurisdiction.

Our conclusion, which will come as no surprise, is that we find this proposed section to be very poorly designed. We find it deceptive as to its intent and likely to cause significant difficulties for the airlines, and we ask the committee to strike it from the bill.

He could not have been more clear. He showed the inherent unfairness of the idea, identified difficulties of enforcement and recommended that the idea be rejected.

While it is true that the text has been rewritten substantially in the new transportation amendment act, the intent remains the same and the obvious difficulties of trying to enforce federal regulations on the Internet or in other countries remain true.

The Liberals want the advertised price to include all of those taxes, charges and fees, but we disagree. When we buy a stereo the price does not include the GST and PST and thus the consumer receives the sticker shock when he or she goes to pay. The Liberals opposite used this example to win the 1993 election with a promise to “kill, scrap, abolish” the GST. They recognized the potential electoral rage that sticker shock could provoke.

On this side of the House, we want Canadians to be much better informed about the government's insatiable appetite for taxes. If paying $136.30 in taxes and fees on a $398 airline ticket encourages consumer outrage against a greedy government with a massive $10 billion surplus, we are all for it. In fact, if gas stations advertised gasoline at 75.3¢ a litre and then told motorists that the real price was $1.10 when they paid at the pump, because of taxes, we would see the kind of public outcry that usually marks the impending downfall of a scandal-plagued government.

There are, of course, a few areas where the new transportation amendment act slightly improves the old act. Clause 27 of the former bill required the Minister of Transport to designate the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner to hold office for not more than two consecutive one year terms. Clause 28 of the bill deletes the position. Transport Canada explains the change in policy as follows:

[The] position of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner was established as a temporary measure in 2000, following the acquisition by Air Canada of Canadian Airlines, to address potential consumer abuses regarding the quality of service during the transition period. Since then, the market has changed substantially. Air Canada is no longer the single dominant carrier and no longer the main target of complaints, reflecting the fact that there is competition on most major routes in Canada.

Clause 28 of the new bill is perhaps the only concrete example of where the minister has witnessed the evolution of the transport sector over the past two years and updated his legislation to reflect that evolution. Had he truly updated the bill in light of the progress of the last two years and the testimony of witnesses during the committee hearings into the old bill, he could have given the transport committee a bill worthy of serious and full consideration.

Finally, I must turn my attention to part 3 of Bill C-44. In clause 74, the Liberal government proposes to take the private corporation known as VIA Rail Inc. and make it into a crown corporation. The clause is identical to clause 67 of the old Bill C-26. Curiously, when the transport minister's office contacted us before the tabling of Bill C-44, we informed it that in the interest of having a proper discussion of the bill's merits, the clause dealing with VIA Rail should not be included but rather should be introduced later as a separate bill.

That has not been done and I am aware of members of various parties who are calling for it. The fact that the minister, in a minority government, would ignore such a basic request from people from all parties, knowing that members of his own caucus support this position, clearly puzzles me and the House. In any event, my party is 100% opposed to part 3 of Bill C-44 and on this ground alone we will be opposing Bill C-44.

When the Liberal government appointed the Canadian transportation act review panel and it tabled its report, “Vision and Balance” in June 2001, it made two recommendations about VIA Rail.

In recommendation 11.5, the panel recommended “a full cost recovery policy for Quebec City-Windsor corridor rail and its commercialization. As a first step, corridor operations as a whole should be separated organizationally from VIA Rail's other services” and management should be changed. Recommendation 11.6 made a second recommendation regarding VIA Rail and corridor services for commercial purposes having “the freedom required to become and remain self-sufficient”.

Part 3 of Bill C-44 ignores those recommendations, just as the minister has ignored the witnesses and the transport committee itself. Because he has ignored all of this and the information that has been prepared for him and for his department on Bill C-44, I urge members of the transport committee to ignore the bill if and when the House shows the judgment of sending it to them.

The bill should be divided and put into its proper context. There should be more thoughtful and thorough debate and the transport minister should do his homework before putting an omnibus bill before a Parliament that is about to die and show a little bit more respect for the transportation industry.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments around Terasen and the government's woeful neglect of due diligence, public process, and responding to the public need in the Terasen sell out. It is not just Terasen. Going beyond that, we have seen 11,000 takeovers of Canadian companies since the government came to power, each one of them rubber stamped.

There were 11,000 rubber stamps. In no case was there due diligence or public hearings around this process, not a single time. It is a fire sale. The sell out of Canada is beyond precedence. When Terasen came up, British Columbians very clearly expressed the view that they had serious concerns about the environmental and safety record of Kinder Morgan, serious concerns about a Bush bagman, who was formally with Enron, purchasing the company, and serious concerns about rate increases and the government just rubber stamping it for the 11,001 time. It is absolutely appalling.

The hon. member's question around disabilities and the concern in the disability community about the lessened access to transportation is a very good question.

Here we have a situation where people with disabilities in the year 2005 have less accessibility than they did in 1997 or 1996. We are moving backwards and that is what is so appalling about this. One would have thought that in Bill C-44 the government would have addressed those serious concerns that are well known. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities has a great reputation and is a well reputed organization that has expressed those concerns directly to this Parliament, as well as to the Minister of Transport. Yet, the government did absolutely nothing to address these concerns. However, at the rate the Liberals are going, they may throw out something, maybe a press release, before the non-confidence vote tonight just to say that they have dealt with it.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very helpful intervention in the debate on Bill C-44. I think he made some very important points. In particular, I was impressed with the point he made about effective agencies that enforce consumer legislation but enforce concerns about takeovers and amalgamations of airline companies, about advertising of airlines and those kinds of things, and how he linked that to our concern about Investment Canada and other agencies of the federal government that do not seem to do the job that they are set up to do.

We have seen how the Terasen deal that he mentioned has been solidly opposed by British Columbians who are concerned about what it means for an important natural resource, what it means for a company that was a public company in British Columbia for many years. It is so important, especially when we look at the fact that Terasen has an interest in water systems in some of our major cities.

We have seen 8,000 people in British Columbia file complaints with the B.C. Utilities Commission that decided that public hearings were not necessary. That is another example of a completely ineffective government agency that does not do its job and does not meet the concerns of citizens, so I am very glad that he raised that in conjunction with the bill.

I am also glad that he raised the situation of Canadians with disabilities because I know that it is something that he has worked hard on in Parliament but also before he was elected to Parliament. I wonder if he might just expand a little more on the concerns that Canadians with disabilities have about our transportation systems and how the bill does nothing to address those concerns.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with some frustration today that I rise to speak to Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act.

Members of the NDP caucus will be supporting referral to committee of Bill C-44, although, as I will enumerate throughout my presentation, we have serious concerns about certain aspects of this bill. Other aspects of the bill we are very much in favour of. The frustration stems from the fact that this bill has languished for 10 months. It was introduced in March 2005. We are at the end of November 2005 and lo and behold, surprise, surprise, suddenly the government is moving on this bill which should have been moved back in March. It is now 10 months later and that is absolutely appalling.

When we take into consideration the importance of the transportation infrastructure and transportation in Canada, the world's largest democracy and a country that is with geographic challenges that virtually no other country in the world has to face, our transportation infrastructure is absolutely vital. The fact that the government sat on this bill for 10 months before deciding to move it forward on the eve of a vote on a non-confidence motion is extremely frustrating to members of Parliament who are concerned about this issue.

It is not surprising because we have seen the Liberal government over the last two weeks try to make up for its neglect over the past 12 years. For 12 years there has been inaction in a whole variety of areas and now suddenly in the last two weeks we have seen the government cramming as though it were cramming for an exam, trying desperately to show some progress in areas that it has neglected. I will come back to transportation in a moment, but let us look at some of the other issues.

There is the question of child poverty. We have a record number of poor children in this country and the government has done nothing about that.

There is the issue of the decline in quality of jobs. We know that 60% of Canadian families have seen a decline in their income in real terms on the watch of the Liberal government. Over 60% of Canadian families are earning less in real terms than they were in 1989. The government has done virtually nothing to address that issue. In fact, in a very irresponsible way it has talked about this myth of prosperity, that somehow Canadians are doing extremely well.

We know that the wealthy in this country are doing better than ever. Corporate lawyers and CEOs have had substantial increases in their family incomes, but for most Canadian families it is harder and harder to make ends meet. The government refuses to recognize that, let alone do anything about it.

On the environment there was an announcement this week that greenhouse gas emissions, when the target was a reduction of 20%, have actually increased by 24%. In fact, Canada is one of the worst offenders in the industrialized world. The government has shown absolutely no inclination to seriously address the environmental issues that the member for Toronto—Danforth and the rest of the NDP caucus have been pushing in the House.

There is the issue of for profit health care, another area where the Liberal government has refused to take action. We see public health care dollars increasingly used to finance private for profit health care. We know in the United States that private for profit health care costs twice as much and leaves tens of millions of Americans out of any sort of substantive health care system.

This lack of action on transportation is similar to the lack of action that I have mentioned in a whole host of other areas. That is why in the New Democratic Party corner of the House, along with our colleagues from the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party, the frustration with the government has reached new highs.

Let us get back to the issue of Bill C-44. I would like to briefly enumerate the key amendments to the Canada Transportation Act that were tabled in Parliament, as I mentioned, last March and which we are finally discussing today on the eve of a non-confidence vote.

The bill includes a new, modernized and simplified national transportation policy statement; new provisions addressing the approval and regulation of international bridges and tunnels; a new provision authorizing the Canadian Transportation Agency, on the recommendation of the minister, to regulate greater transparency in the advertisement of air fares, and I will come back to that in a moment; improvements to and expansion of the recourses available to rail shippers while maintaining existing running rights; improvements to the policy framework for publicly funded passenger rail services; a public interest review process for mergers and acquisitions of all federally regulated transportation services; a provision allowing the Canadian Transportation Agency to address railway noise complaints, and I will come back to that as it is one aspect of the bill that we strongly support; legislative framework to consolidate the current powers of VIA Rail Canada; a reduction in the number of members of the Canadian Transportation Agency; and the integration of the air travel complaints function into its normal business. There are other clauses. This bill is fairly lengthy with 60 pages and has a variety of amendments.

I would like to touch on the key areas. I will start with the issue of the modernized and simplified national transportation policy statement. Fundamentally, this is an area of key neglect by the Liberal government. We heard the announcement again in the cramming that we have seen over the last two weeks on the Pacific gateway initiative in British Columbia for transportation infrastructure. The fact is that the infrastructure issue has not been addressed in over a decade. We have seen systematic penny-wise and pound foolish policies. There have been cuts to the kind of capital funding that is needed to allow our infrastructure to keep current with expanding demand. With the transportation infrastructure, it is fundamentally important.

In British Columbia, because we have fallen behind, $2.5 billion would be needed right now for the transportation infrastructure. We saw with the Pacific gateway that about $190 million has been allocated. A big chunk of that is actually going to support the operations of another Liberal appointed board that will be set up to oversee that structure. Three projects have been approved out of that $190 million in total moneys, which falls appallingly short of the actual needs, which as I mentioned are $2.5 billion.

Some $191 million has been allocated for three projects: one in Saskatchewan, one in Delta and one in Port Coquitlam in British Columbia. Another $400 million has been set aside, basically awaiting the election, one would imagine. The money has not been allocated. It is money that will be part of some photo opportunity, I would imagine, over the course of the next few weeks. The reality is that we are falling so phenomenally short of what is needed to address the critical infrastructure needs in British Columbia. I mention that because this is just one example of the neglect we have seen in our transportation infrastructure over the course of the Liberal government.

In my own riding of Burnaby--New Westminster, we have seen with Fraser port that the Fraser Port Authority is being obliged to spend approximately $3 million a year to fund dredging of the Fraser River, when that money should be going toward maintaining and enhancing the capital infrastructure that is needed in transportation with the Fraser Port Authority. There is $3.1 million going to that ongoing dredging maintenance because the dredging is not being funded through the Ministry of Transport. What is happening is that Fraser port is not able to keep up with the capital funding to provide the infrastructure to meet its growing needs and to provide for the important maintenance of the existing infrastructure. It is another example of neglect.

A final example I would like to mention when we talk about the national transportation policy statement is the lack of clarity around the funding for the Toronto Port Authority. I have raised in the House before that $35 million was allocated to the Toronto Port Authority for a bridge that was never built. For all intents and purposes, this is money that is a grant to the Toronto Port Authority when we know that the Canada Marine Act prohibits such a grant. For weeks and weeks we have been demanding answers. For months there have been access to information requests made. The government refuses to come clean on what happened to that $35 million, where it went, to whom it was paid and what the justification was.

I raise all that by way of background. They are three key examples of why the issue of a policy statement is beyond the greater issue which is the Liberal government's neglect of transportation. That is undeniable, British Columbia being a key case where $2.5 billion is needed and $191 million has been granted. That is the first key amendment I wanted to address.

The second is the issue around the approval and regulation of international bridges and tunnels. As I mentioned at the outset, we in the NDP will be supporting sending the bill to committee to get the important amendments. Again we are frustrated by the fact that we have been waiting 10 months for the bill to come forward. It could have easily gone through. We could have applied those amendments and we could be speaking at third reading and passing the bill today, but because of the delay by the government, we are not doing that.

We have concerns about the issue of the approval of regulation on international bridges and tunnels. My colleague the member for Windsor West will be speaking to that very issue in the House later this afternoon.

The third issue I would like to address is that of creating transparency on airfares. This is something that is addressed to a certain extent in Bill C-44, the issue of creating transparency and having an air travel complaints function, but it falls far short of what is actually needed.

I would like to mention some of the concerns that have been raised by the organizations that are involved in the travellers' protection initiative. I would like to reiterate what one of the members of the travellers' protection initiative, the president and CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, Michael Pepper, said.

The travellers' protection initiative is a Canada-wide alliance of consumer protection and industry groups formed to demand greater federal government protection for Canadian airline passengers. It was launched in June of this year. It is comprised of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Quebec-based Option consommateurs. There are also a wide variety of other groups representing consumers from across Canada that are part of the travellers' protection initiative.

They are calling on the federal government to address their six point air travel consumer reform. Very clearly, Bill C-44 does not address their concerns. They are calling for the following elements: greater financial monitoring and disclosure to the public; protection of advanced ticket sales; full price disclosure in all advertising media; reinstatement and strengthening of the position of air complaints commissioner; a national travellers' compensation fund for when airlines fail.

Jetsgo and Canada 3000 are two recent examples where the fact that this is not in place has meant real hardship for consumers. Some people have lost everything. In the case of Jetsgo, last spring people found themselves completely out of pocket for the tickets that they had purchased because there is no protection for travellers. The issue of a national travellers' compensation fund is fundamental to addressing the important issues that Bill C-44 touches on, but it does not address those issues adequately.

Finally, the travellers' protection initiative calls for a program within Transport Canada to collect and publish information on airline service performance in order to better inform consumers about their choices and promote fair competition among airlines.

If the government had chosen to bring forward Bill C-44 last spring, we would have already been able to push those amendments through, because the NDP strongly supports the travellers' protection initiative, and today we would be debating a bill that would be better and clearly more in the public interest.

I mentioned earlier the issue around the noise provisions for dealing with noise complaints in Bill C-44. This is an element that we strongly support. There is no existing noise complaint mechanism. In fact, in my riding of Burnaby--New Westminster, in the Westminster Quay neighbourhood, this is a key concern. People have no effective way of dealing with the issue of railway noise complaints. In the case of the Westminster Quay, this affects many thousands of residents. So, this is one aspect of the bill that is good. It could be improved through investigation at committee. But, again, because of the time when this is coming forward, we are looking at a bill that, through the 10 month neglect with Bill C-44, obviously will not go through the required hoops for adoption.

Finally, there are a couple of other issues. There is the issue of VIA Rail. We strongly support enhancing our national rail passenger service. VIA Rail is a fundamental part of that. We saw with the Conservative cutbacks that the Liberals have basically kept those in place. We continue to have parts of the VIA Rail network that no longer exist. A very important aspect of that is the rail line from Winnipeg, the southern line through to Vancouver. Here we have an issue of the neglect of VIA Rail that would finally start to be addressed. However, given the 10 months of waiting for Bill C-44 to finally be introduced by the government, we will not be able to adequately deal with that section.

Then there are the amendments with regard to a public interest review process for mergers and acquisitions that are part of the bill.

We know full well how effective the government is when it talks about public interest review. We saw an example of that last week with Terasen. Here is a case where a key public utility in British Columbia is being acquired by a George Bush bagman. Investment Canada should have been doing the due diligence on that, do a public interest review on the acquisition. At a time when the government has done nothing about softwood, very clearly, this is an area where we would have some leverage with the Bush administration.

What happened? The Investment Act in theory allows for that due diligence. It allows for public hearings because thousands of British Columbians expressed real concern about this acquisition and were opposed to it. The environmental and safety record for Kinder Morgan is appalling, in some cases involving deaths, environmental fines and repeated safety violations and environmental violations. The government simply refused to look at the public interest, refused to listen to British Columbians, and simply refused to do its work.

Yes, the amendments call for some provision for a public interest review process for mergers and acquisitions in the transportation sector. However, given the lack of due diligence overall of the government, it is very clear to us that regardless of whether or not there was some framework put into place, the government refined a rubber-stamp process that would override the public interest. So we have some skepticism about that.

Finally, I am very dismayed to see the lack of attention paid to people with disabilities in the amendments in Bill C-44.

We have a transportation infrastructure that is going backwards. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities have left the Ministry of Transport's advisory board in complete frustration because the government has done nothing to enhance accessibility in air transport and rail transport. We are moving backwards when other countries are moving forwards. It is a national shame that the government has done nothing about that.

This is another area where we would be attacking this issue in committee had the government not chosen to sit on this legislation for 10 months. We would be supporting this referral to committee. We would be bringing forward, as is our role in this Parliament, intelligent and effective ways of improving the bill. However, the government has sat on this for 10 months. Also, there is a non-confidence vote tonight.

We know that we will have to look at this in the next Parliament and that is shameful because it did not have to be this way. The government should have acted last month.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for her speech on transportation Bill C-44. I know how keen she was on getting this bill before the House so that we could dispose of it before the end of the business of this House.

My question is on the safety of people living close to rail lines. This was touched on briefly already. There are 12 cities or towns in my riding and 10 of these have rail lines running through them. There is, of course, the noise problem my colleague has referred to, but there is also the matter of vibrations and obstruction of roads into town. The municipal bylaws allow only two access roads to cross the tracks, but often, because of the length of the train, both of these are blocked by the same train, and it may sit there for many minutes, sometimes hours. This is totally inconceivable. The municipalities must take action.

Does my colleague believe there is anything in this bill to reassure the people of my riding that the agency could, in future, intervene to settle problems such as this?

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 12:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague who just spoke. We sat together on the Standing Committee on Transport, and I had the opportunity to get to know this gentleman who is dedicated to transportation services in Canada. I want to pay tribute to him, congratulate him and wish him good luck in the next chapter of his life.

I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-44 to amend the Canada Transportation Act.

First, I want to take this opportunity to say how very disappointed I am that the federal government took eight long months before re-introducing this bill in the House. We have been waiting for over eight months, in fact, to debate this bill, the importance of which the Minister of Transport has acknowledged from the start. However, he waited until the very last day, a few hours before the government is set to lose a non-confidence vote, before re-introducing this bill, which is extremely important to Quebeckers and all Canadians.

The same goes for the aerospace policy and sending a formal notice to CN to sort out the Quebec Bridge problem. He waited until a few hours before the government loses a non-confidence motion.

Today, we are entitled to ask this Minister of Transport what are his interests and what is his motive? Since an election is imminent, the chances of this bill receiving rapid consideration are quite slim. It is quite outrageous that this bill, like its predecessor, Bill C-26, will die on the order paper a second time.

Once again, the entire process will have to start all over, and this will have serious repercussions on a number of transportation sectors and a number of communities. If the minister truly had this bill at heart, he would have introduced it well before today.

I would like to re-examine certain aspects of Bill C-44 which strike me as particularly worthy of mention. We are, of course, in favour of the principle of this bill, particularly since I personally wrote the Minister of Transport in November 2004 asking him to reintroduce this bill promptly. Had time allowed, however, we would have certainly proposed some amendments, because the Minister of Transport, like all his colleagues, does not tend to pay that much attention to the opposition, even if its recommendations are good ones.

Generally speaking, Bill C-44 addresses major transportation issues. Among its main points: increased efficiency in air and rail sectors, and enhanced processes for complaints and consumer protection. There is even some reference made to the concept of environmental protection.

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

I feel that consumer protection is absolutely vital, and that the increase in open competition so much desired by the Minister of Transport must not in any way penalize the consumer, who is entitled to greater transparency.

In this connection, Bill C-44 will amend part II of 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 at their business offices, a sign indicating that the rates for the service offered, including the terms and conditions of carriage, are available for inspection. This also applies to any services available on their Internet site. I should remind hon. members that consumer habits have changed a great deal with the advent of the Internet. I feel it is important to extend this obligation to Internet sites because a high percentage of services are now purchased in this way.

So the terms and conditions of carriage must be made available for inspection.

The Canadian Transportation Agency gets a new regulatory power allowing it to require through regulations that the prices for air services mentioned in any advertisement indicate the fees, duties and taxes being charged on behalf of others, so that the consumer is easily able to determine how much the service will cost.

Although this is a step in the right direction, we must ensure that the agency uses this power in the best interest of consumers and does so in a rigorous and proactive manner. Consumer groups have been calling for more transparent rates for a long time now. These new transparency measures will be as good for consumers as for the airlines, which will be able to engage in healthier competition.

Airline advertisements have often been publicly criticized. Last February, Option consommateurs, a Quebec-based consumer group, looked at over 20 ads published by three airlines including Air Canada, WestJet and CanJet. The conclusion was surprising, not to say scandalous. This type of advertising could be described as misrepresentation. The difference between the advertised rate and the true cost of the ticket was as high as 91%. The problem is with all the other fees added later including navigation fees, the air travellers security charge and so forth.

Another equally misleading practice is offering a good rate. Often that good rate is for a one way ticket. We know full well that in most cases people flying to their destination also have to come back. This is misleading and unacceptable. Airlines looking to build their clientele find it more useful to announce the lowest cost rather than the total including all the fees. Unfortunately, the consumer is duped into believing that he got a good deal.

There is another item I would like to address and that is the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner position, which was cut in the last budget by the Minister of Finance. In the same breath he announced that the Canadian Transportation Agency would be assuming responsibility for the complaints program. Bill C-44 no longer provides for the commissioner's position and incorporates those duties into the regular operations of the agency. In this specific case, there are pros and cons. On one hand it is good that the agency can require the transporter to compensate those affected by the non-application of the terms and conditions of carriage. This a step forward since the complaints commissioner could only make suggestions at the time.

There are, however, a few shortcomings. The Canadian Transportation Agency is no longer required to submit an annual report on complaints and their resolution. This report highlighted errors and shortcomings. The commissioner could also require the carriers to provide considerable information during the complaint process. The agency can longer do so. I find the weakening of the role of the transportation agency most regrettable. It loses some of its investigative powers and part of its visibility.

Last week, I met the Travellers Protection Initiative. This organization considers the measures put forward in the bill inadequate and too weak to protect airline passengers. It advocates strengthening the bill's provisions. Certainly no one has forgotten the Jetsgo saga of last March, as hundreds of travellers were left stranded when the airline abruptly ceased operations at the peak of the holiday period. Such a situation must never occur again. I spoke out against it at the time.

The Bloc Québécois clearly feels that the government must assume its responsibilities. It could, for example, propose a compensation fund be established to reimburse the cost of tickets when consumers purchase them directly from the airline, as is increasingly the case.

Clearly, there is work to be done on the bill in a number of respects.

In addition to the legislative amendments with respect to the airline sector, another very important aspect of Bill C-44 concerns rail transportation.

The aim of the proposed measures is to amend Part III of the Canada Transportation Act, creating a mechanism for dealing with complaints about noise and amending provisions dealing with the transfer and discontinuance of the operation of railway lines.

The Bloc has, for many years, been calling for legislative amendments to resolve the serious problems of noise faced by many communities. I refer to the harmful effects of noise from the construction or operation of the railway, including the movement of cars in marshalling yards.

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 initiate civil proceedings. No federal agency is currently empowered to intervene in such instances.

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

I would remind the Minister of Transport that this is also a problem in his own back yard, because a class action against Canadian Pacific has just been authorized. A group of citizens in the Outremont area can no longer stand the disturbances caused by the CP switching yard. The court found that it was important to decide whether CP is imposing excessive inconvenience on its immediate neighbours in connection with its activities. It would, in my opinion, be simpler, and certainly far less costly, to settle this problem before the Canadian Transportation Agency.

These legislative amendments are a step in the right direction, but I have some amendments to propose, or rather ones I would have liked to propose. However, given the lax attitude of the Minister of Transport, who waited until the last minute to introduce this bill, I imagine we will be coming back to it in another session. Then we will have some amendments to propose in order to clarify the terminology on the rail companies' obligations.

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. Now we are in the Kyoto protocol era, environmental issues are extremely important.

I know 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 municipal governments and 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.

Although we support Bill C-44 in principle, we are extremely disappointed. This is proof of the lax attitude of the Minister of Transport, who has done nothing to bring forward this bill or ensure that it becomes law.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my speech by sending a special message to someone very special. I spoke in the House last week and made a member's statement. I thought that would be the final time I would address the House. It turns out that much to my surprise the government has brought forward one of the more useless bills it has on the order paper. It talked about bringing this forward a number of times. I do not know if common sense prevailed or what, but it never did. Now suddenly on the final day of the government, we find ourselves with Bill C-44.

I am pleased to hear the parliamentary secretary to the minister say that he would concentrate mainly on air transportation. That is the part I would like to speak to as well.

Other bills could have been brought forward. I heard one mentioned. One of the questions the parliamentary secretary received from a member of his party caused him to raise Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill. That is a prime example of a bill that should have come forward, along with several other bills in the House. The government introduced it a long time ago. We indicated very clearly to the government that we would support that bill. For some reason it chose not to bring it forward. It is probably so the Liberals can campaign in British Columbia and say that it offered the bill and the Conservative Party caused it to be defeated.

We did nothing of a kind. The Liberals had more than ample time to bring it forward. They never did, and instead we find ourselves discussing Bill C-44.

Let us talk about the genesis of the bill. When the new Minister of Transport came forward in Parliament, one of the things he said to our committee and to me personally, as the vice-chair of the committee, was he would reintroduce Bill C-26. Bill C-26 was the predecessor of Bill C-44. He did not say that he would take the intent of Bill C-26, redesign it and try to respond to the needs that had come up with all the problems in Bill C-26.

That was one of the dumber things I have heard him say. I have some measure of respect for the minister, and I temper that with the word “some” very strongly. However, bringing Bill C-26 forward and reintroducing it definitely has to go down as one of his more foolish moves. Bill C-26 was so bad that with a Liberal majority government it could not get the Liberals to vote for it. Why on earth would the government want to bring it forward in a minority?

Let us talk about some of the things that are wrong with the bill. As the parliamentary secretary addressed primarily the air industry, I will do the same, although I would be remiss if I did not put a few words in at the end of my speech on my old arch concerns about VIA Rail.

First, I would like to talk about airport rent. The parliamentary secretary to the minister said that the government wanted to help the air industry, that it recognized how important air transportation was. Those are funny words coming from a party that has done everything it can to destroy the air industry in the country.

Members of the Standing Committee on Transport have studied this both in Ottawa and across the country. We have listened to witnesses from every aspect and every sector of the air transportation industry. We made a series of recommendations by way of an interim report. One of the first recommendations was that the government immediately reduce airport rents by at least 75%. The government responded to that. It said that it already had taken care of this and that it would bring in a 60% reduction in the rent paid by the national airports over the term of their leases.

As my colleague said in questions and comments, after the parliamentary secretary spoke, that is not a rent reduction. That is a 60% reduction in the amount the government will increase it by in the future.

I have said that when I retire I will practise the three g s, namely garden, golf and grandson. My grandson is a year old. If he should happen to grow up, get into the air transport industry and even become the CEO of one of the airport authorities, then perhaps he may have something to be thankful for the government bringing in the 60% future reductions. That is provided the air transport sector survives under Liberal policy. We need rent reductions now.

Toronto airport was spoken very strongly about, and I would like to address a couple of the comments the minister has made in the past with regard to it. Many people have been crying loud and clear for reductions in the rent at Toronto airport in particular because of it having the highest landing fees in the world. The minister's response to that was twofold.

First, he said that if we did not like the fees there and if we did not like landing at Toronto airport, we could always land in Montreal. It is an interesting thing for the minister from Montreal to say. Maybe it will garner him a few votes there, except I hope the people in Montreal have the good sense, and I am sure they do, to recognize that if he is that out to lunch in terms of airport rents in Toronto, it will eventually affect them as well.

The second thing he said was that the rents were not all that big a deal, that they were only 14% of the budget of Toronto airport and that its debt load was 40%. Therefore, it is not the rent, it is the debt. Let us talk about that debt. Let us talk about why airports have debt and have spent a ton of money.

In Ottawa the terminal building that the airport authority took over was deplorable, as it was in Toronto and several other airports around the country. It financed $335 million to build the new terminal that was long overdue. It did not cost the government or taxpayers a dime. The reason it was needed was the government of the day and governments in the past ignored the infrastructure needs of our airport system.

Airports used to lose for the government over $200 million a year. That was while the government was not putting any money into it. That was just its operating cost, a $200 million loss. Now all of a sudden it is saying that they have to have fair value. If it cost $200 million to run them and they were run for free, they have received fair value.

Over and above that, by the parliamentary secretary's own words, $6 billion has been spent at the Toronto airport to build up the infrastructure that the government neglected. In fact, in the case of Toronto it was even worse. The Liberal government cancelled the newly signed Pearson contract that would have built a new terminal at no cost to the taxpayers whatsoever. It established, through legislation, that the contract holder would not be allowed to sue the government, and decreed how much it would get for damages by way of a settlement.

I listened to the Liberal rhetoric. I was green, I was new. I thought that if the government was saying it, it had to be true. I was shocked that it was going to give the airports as much money as it did. As the new transport critic, a member of Parliament and a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, I decided I would hit the books and study this so I could come up with arguments as to why they should not even get that much money, having done all the bad things the Liberals said they did.

Surprisingly, the more I studied this, the more I discovered it was not such a bad deal at all. In fact, it was a pretty good deal. It was such a good deal that I found a memo from the department asking how on earth the it manage to get such a great contract. The department could not believe it got such a good contract on the department's behalf, and that is what the government cancelled.

Pearson has languished ever since. As part of the settlement that it finally was forced to make, it ended up buying terminal 3 back from private sector operators. That is where a lot of this debt has come from, all generated by the government.

The government did another thing, which was done by the minister's predecessor, David Collenette. This is one example of the really stupid things that has been done in the name of helping airports. Mr. Collenette said that there were a lot of problems, that the government was really soaking them with the rent, that he knew it was a problem, especially with the sudden downturn in traffic, so what the government would do was not cut the rent but defer it. They would still have to pay it, but the government would allow them not to pay it for a little while. That did absolutely no good because they had to put the money aside and save it for the day when the government said it had to be paid.

If the government wants to do something short term right away, it should cancel the payment of those deferrals. It was something that was supposedly going to help, at least the members opposite certainly crowed about it, and yet it does not do any good.

Another thing that needs to be brought up is ACAP. One of our recommendations was there should be a flow through of moneys received from airports. We heard a lot of people saying that airport rent should be eliminated. I do not support that. It should be greatly reduced. There should be enough money coming to the ACAP, the airport capital assistance program, for smaller airports that are the feeders for these national airports. We put forward that ACAP should be increased and stabilized. Right now there is no guarantee that it will even continue, and it has not increased. The government said that it was adequately funded. That is a lot of nonsense. The ACAP has not increased since it started. With the cost of everything going up, simply not increasing it means there is less money available for the various projects.

Another thing we asked was that the government simplify the application process. We talked to operators of the smaller airports who told us that it cost as much as $10,000 to apply for ACAP funding. In the grand scheme of things, I know the former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, once said in the House, “what's a million?” A million dollars to the Liberal Party, with all the things it has done with taxpayer money, perhaps is not a tremendous amount of money. However, $10,000 for a little airport with a small budget is a lot of money, and that is only to apply for funding that it may not get. It is a long, drawn out process and it is absolutely unnecessary and unacceptable.

However, the government says that it is all right because they can add the cost of the application to the cost of the project and apply for the whole thing. First, they have to put the money up. Second, they have no guarantee that they will get that funding. The government could do a lot better that it has in this area.

We also asked that no rent should be paid on airports with less than two million passengers. There has to be some base from when they can then generate enough money to run their airports and then start to pay the rent. The government's response to that is it believes that airports with less than 2,000 passengers not paying rent would not satisfy the government's real property policy that states, “Where public assets are leased to private or commercial entities, the government should receive a fair return”.

We already have talked about fair return. Vancouver airport has undertaken a tremendous terminal expansion. It has built a second runway. It is continuing to expand its operation tremendously. It is known as one of the world authorities on the operation of an airport. What has it cost the government? What gas it cost taxpayers? Not one dime, but the government continues to use it as a cash cow to skim money from it.

Another of the recommendations was the government eliminate the air transport security fee and pay for the services through the consolidated revenues fund. The government says that the enhanced air travel security systems benefit principally and directly air travellers. In these circumstances the charge is fair and reasonable.

We have to ask ourselves what exactly is air security for? Is it for the security of the passengers or is this enhanced security that came as a direct result of 9/11 for the protection of the public at large against acts of terrorism?

The overwhelming damage and death toll in the case of 9/11 was not to the aircraft or the passengers on board, catastrophic though those events were. The damage and the largest loss of life was in the buildings. Therefore, we are doing this for the general safety of the public, and nowhere else in security does the general public not pay these security fees. They do not load this on any other sector. The government seems to think that there is so much money in the air transport sector that it can apply whatever charges it wants at any time at all.

Another thing we asked for was that customs services be provided at airports that can demonstrate they have regular transporter or international services. The government's response to that is charging fees for services has been the government's policy, dating back to 1989, and that it will have to continue with that. That is not true either. That is a very inconsistent statement because we do not charge any one sector. We do not charge the people who benefit when they cross the border. If that were the case, why are all the people who do not cross the border paying for those customs services at the border? The Liberals could charge a fee for everybody who comes across, if that is what they truly believe. Therefore, their policy is extremely inconsistent.

I want to get on to my favourite topic, VIA Rail, because this goes back right to my first days in Parliament and some of the things I found out about VIA.

I have a measure of respect for VIA and the service it provides, particularly in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. It is a necessary service. Essentially, it is an extension of commuter rail.

There are basically three types of service provided by railroad for passengers. One is commuter rail, in which I will include the Quebec-Windsor corridor and intercity transportation, but it is still essentially commuter rail and travel in a high density corridor. I think that it is quite justifiable to move people, to keep them off the highways, and to provide better access to travel. It is in a very restricted area.

We have it in Vancouver, not run by VIA Rail. We have a very good commuter service there. We have one in Toronto and we have one in Montreal. Then we have VIA Rail providing this intercity connection as well in the corridor.

We have remote communities. It is appropriate for the government to take a role in ensuring that remote communities are captured by way of differing types of transportation and have some service provided to them and ensure that service is maintained. The third thing is rail tourism. Rail tourism is for tourists getting a tourism experience.

We do not have passenger rail outside of those three items I mentioned. There is no such thing as regular passenger rail. For example, VIA Rail runs from Edmonton to Vancouver. Aircraft fly from Edmonton to Vancouver and the Greyhound bus goes from Edmonton to Vancouver. Only one of those three is subsidized, and that is VIA Rail. Even though it is subsidized, VIA Rail is the most expensive of those three methods of travel. It takes 17 times longer to go by VIA Rail than it does to go by aircraft. Obviously, people are not riding it simply for the transportation. They have to pay more and it takes infinitely longer to get there. The only reason they are on that train is for the rail experience, in other words, rail tourism, so why are we asking the taxpayers of Canada to subsidize tourism experiences?

We have a private sector company in British Columbia and Alberta that provides that amply well. It bought the service from VIA Rail. Travelling on the southern route and as well through to Jasper, VIA Rail used to carry about 5,000 passengers a year and lose money. The private sector company that took it over, and invested millions and millions of dollars in advertising, has won awards all over the world. It just recently won a very prestigious award by the International Tourism Association as one of the best rail experiences in the world. It carries over 80,000 passengers. Yet, we still have VIA Rail wanting to go back and compete with them and the government is looking at supporting VIA Rail on that. It is absolutely unacceptable.

VIA Rail only pays one-fifth of the trackage fees to CN and CP that companies like the Rocky Mountaineer have to pay because the government negotiated that and forced that on the freight rails. That is one-fifth, so they are getting that over and above the $500,000 a day in taxpayer subsidies.

I think the government is being very unfair to VIA Rail. VIA Rail should be allowed to operate commercially within the corridor, do a good job, and probably get a lot of kudos for doing so. I think it is absolutely wrong to subsidize a government operation to compete against the private sector.

I would like to go on about this and many other sectors and talk a lot more about VIA Rail as well, but I will end by saying, first, that I am very disappointed that the government chose to bring such an inappropriate bill forward when there are so many things that needed to be brought forward that we would have helped to pass had it done so. The Liberals have had the opportunity. We even gave them the opportunity to extend the Parliament to get those things through, if necessary, and they have turned it all down, perhaps so they can make a bunch of false campaign statements when they get out there.

The other thing I would like to say is that this will definitely be the last time that I will rise in the House as a member of Parliament. The government's life will end tonight and everyone will go on the campaign trail. I will not be returning. Perhaps some others, particularly on the other side, will not be returning either, but they think they are returning. I know I am not returning.

This is my last time, Mr. Speaker. To you and to the House, and to all members of the House in all parties, thank you for the experience. I have enjoyed it, these bills notwithstanding, because I know that good work can be done as well. Good work was certainly been done in the committee. That is what I was talking about today. We would have a better government if it would listen to and follow the reports of committees like the transport committee instead of coming up with bills like this.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / noon
See context

Miramichi New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to lead off debate on second reading of Bill C-44, which makes a significant number of amendments to transportation regulations and policies in our country.

Today I would like to concentrate mainly on the air transportation provisions in support of the proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act.

Air transportation is an essential tool connecting Canadians to each other and the world. Canada's air industry contributes immensely to the growth and prosperity enjoyed by Canadians, providing an economic engine that supports aspects of economic development in all sectors of our society and is an essential component to the success of Canada's trade agenda.

As the House is aware, the federal government's role in air policy has changed dramatically since 1988 when the domestic air industry was deregulated. The objective of deregulation was to allow market forces rather than the government to dictate the supply and price of air services in the domestic market. At the same time, the Government of Canada implemented and maintained strict controls to ensure appropriate oversight and consumer protection.

In the Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to provide businesses in Canada with smart government. By this we mean providing an up to date legislative framework consisting of “a transparent and predictable regulatory system that accomplishes public policy objectives efficiently while eliminating unintended impacts”.

In the spirit of this commitment to smart government, the objectives of the proposed air transportation amendments are threefold: technical housekeeping; improved clarity and efficiency; and above all, consumer protection.

In general, the proposed amendments include provisions that would clarify the intent of the legislation to facilitate the regulatory functions of the Canadian Transportation Agency to respond to changes in Canada's air transportation marketplace and to ensure consistency in the application of the agency's regulatory powers.

I will now speak directly to the proposed measures that would further protect Canadian consumers.

In 2000, when Air Canada acquired Canadian Airlines, it served close to 80% of the domestic scheduled air services market. The Government of Canada took a number of measures at that time to protect consumers from potential abuses and to foster a competitive air industry market that was open to new entrants.

Although these temporary measures were effective during the transition period of the air industry in the last few years, they are no longer necessary in the current reality of Canada's domestic air market. The proposed amendments would return the agency to its traditional well-established regulatory and complaints-based function and structure in place prior to 2000.

Today Air Canada remains Canada's largest and dominant air carrier with over 50% of the market. Canada now boasts, however, several national, regional and charter airlines such as WestJet, CanJet, First Air, Air North, and Air Transat, which provide increased competition and consumer choice in all areas of the country from coast to coast and beyond.

The proposed amendments aim to continue to allow market forces to do their work, and airlines, both new and expanding, to make their decisions based on private sector commercial realities, free of unnecessary or impeding legislation. We intend to stay the course of deregulation, which means letting air industries thrive and, unfortunately, sometimes falter on the merits of the business choices they make.

As the House may recall, in 2000 the Office of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner was created to review complaints and attempt to resolve the matters by acting as a facilitator or arranging for formal mediation of the complaint. The commissioner served a useful function in addressing complaints of potential consumer abuses by a dominant Air Canada and in determining whether complaints should be handled by the agency where the matter related to its exclusive jurisdiction.

Over the past few years, changing market dynamics and the erosion of Air Canada's market dominance by low cost carriers has resulted in a reduction of the number of complaints targeted specifically toward Air Canada. Today, the complaints are distributed more proportionately across Canada's air carriers and relate mainly to regulatory matters falling with the ongoing jurisdiction of the agency.

Our proposed amendments would eliminate the position and office of the commissioner and would make permanent and transparent the complaints resolution function of the agency by integrating this function into the regular operations of the agency. I want to stress that the complaints resolution function and the agency's ability to respond to these complaints remain intact.

I should note that with the recent implementation of the air traffic complaints program, the agency has demonstrated that it continues to respond to travellers' complaints in an informal manner and consistent with its ongoing mandate. In fact, proposed amendments to the legislation would ensure that the agency will continue to have the flexibility to address consumer complaints more efficiently through the existing informal process in place or through the formal quasi-judicial process employed by the agency itself.

This amendment would also allow a more strategic and efficient use of our resources. This is consistent with how complaints are addressed in other modes of transportation in Canada and puts air operators on the same level playing field with these competing transportation modes.

Consumer protection was a major objective of the Government of Canada following Air Canada's acquisition of Canadian in 2000 and it remains so today. Consumers have told us that in the area of airline advertising there remains, however, significant room for improvement. Consumers want clear, transparent advertising that is not misleading. They want to be able to compare different airlines' advertising pricing and to know up front how much they will pay for air services.

Price advertisements prepared by air carriers, either in newspapers, on Internet sites or elsewhere, do not always contain complete or clear pricing information. Often the prices that are advertised are only a fraction of the total cost of the travel, leading to sticker shock when the consumer finds out the final price.

Typical advertised air fares exclude air navigation service costs, other business costs to the airline for provision of air services, and all of these, we feel, should be included with the advertised price. Therefore, the advertised air fares must include surcharges, taxes and any other fees that airlines collect from individual passengers on behalf of others.

While consumers are alerted to the existence of additional airline surcharges and other fees and charges in the small print, travellers often cannot always determine the total price of the ticket until they finalize a purchase.

Other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, have instituted similar regimes to ensure that consumers have sufficient pricing information. Some provinces, such as Quebec and Ontario, require transparent advertising of air travel by travel agents and other provincially regulated operators. Consumers, we believe, want a similar level of transparency for advertising by airlines throughout the country.

The proposed amendments provide air operators with clear directions in line with consumer expectations and will give the agency the authority to regulate and enforce mandatory standards for transparency in advertising in all media. This will ensure that those standards are consistently applied across the country throughout the industry by all domestic and foreign carriers and their agents for flights operating within or originating in Canada.

This clearly will provide consumers with the ability to readily determine and compare the final price for air travel when making their travel plans and will allow consumers to differentiate between costs being charged by the airline and those levelled by governments and airport authorities for other services provided.

In addition, consumers are entitled to know the terms and conditions of the air service before they book a flight. These terms and conditions contain valuable information for travellers on the air carrier's policy regarding matters such as the carriage of persons with disabilities, how passengers would be compensated for denial of boarding on overbooked flights, what the air carrier will do for passengers should a flight be cancelled or delayed, and under what conditions a consumer could expect a refund or credit for a flight that a consumer cancelled or re-booked.

The proposed amendments would take the current consumer protection provision one step further by requiring all commercial air operators, both domestic and foreign carriers operating services in Canada, to prominently display their terms of carriage at their business offices and on any Internet site from which they sell those services. These proposed amendments would ensure that when consumers made travel arrangements, they would be informed of their rights and the obligations of the air carrier for flights offered.

In conclusion, the proposed amendments continue the Government of Canada's move to a liberalized and open air transportation system in Canada, one which balances the need to update statutory and regulatory instruments to protect and to respond to changes in the air industry marketplace with a responsibility to ensure that consumers are protected in a manner that is consistent with a fully deregulated market.

We firmly believe that these changes to the Canada Transportation Act are warranted, will give the Canadian Transportation Agency the ability to continue to serve the travelling public, and will ensure that Canada continues to have a viable competitive air industry in the years to come. With these proposed amendments, we are regulating the industry smartly to ensure that it is as open and fair as possible to both competitors and consumers.

As we debate the bill today, our time may be short in terms of the House, but we do want to say to the other parties that are very active on this issue in terms of the Standing Committee on Transport that we look forward to receiving their suggestions and possible amendments that could further improve the legislation. Shippers and receivers certainly have brought to our attention some of their concerns in terms of Bill C-44. On behalf of the minister and the department, I want to say that we recommend that those who want changes made should attempt to dialogue with us. We want to develop the best possible transportation system for the good of all Canadians.

Transportation Amendment ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2005 / noon
See context

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that Bill C-44, 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I see the hon. member across the way is displaying his charm once more.

I also think the hon. member understands clearly that the call for the election and, ultimately, if there is an election caused, it will be the opposition members who will have to take responsibility since they will be voting to dissolve Parliament and we will be voting to sustain Parliament in order to continue the work that I will now lay out.

This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.

On Friday we will call consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, the do not call bill; report stage and third reading of Bill S-36 respecting rough diamonds; report stage and third reading of Bill C-63, respecting the Canada Elections Act; and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation.

We will return to this work on Monday, adding to the list the reference before second reading of Bill C-76, the citizenship and adoption bill; and second reading of Bill C-75, the public health agency legislation.

Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. There are some three dozen bills before the House or in committee on which the House I am sure will want to make progress in the next period of time. They will include the bill introduced yesterday to implement the 2005 tax cuts announced on November 14; Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-67, the surplus legislation; Bill C-61, the marine bill; Bill C-72, the DNA legislation; Bill C-46, the correctional services bill; Bill C-77, the citizenship prohibitions bill; Bill C-60, the copyright legislation; Bill C-73, the Telecom bill; Bill C-60 respecting drug impaired driving; Bill C-19, the competition legislation; Bill C-50 respecting cruelty to animals; Bill C-51, the judges legislation; Bill C-52, the fisheries bill; Bill C-59 respecting Investment Canada; Bills C-64 and C-65 amending the Criminal Code.

In addition, there are the supplementary estimates introduced in October that provide spending authority for a wide variety of services to the Canadian public and we the government would certainly like to see this passed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

November 3rd, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the debate at third reading of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill.

When this is complete, we will consider reference before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals. I expect that this business will carry over to tomorrow. We will then add to the list second reading of Bill S-36, respecting diamonds and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport bill.

When the House resumes on November 14, we will return to second reading of Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-66, the energy bill; and Bill C-67, the surpluses legislation.

We will also then return to any business from this week that is unfinished and if time permits, consider second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill.

November 15 and November 17, as the hon. member across the way would have known weeks ago had he been at the House leaders meeting, will be allotted days. On Tuesday evening, November 15, we will have a take note debate on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, I will propose the required motion pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1). I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 15 on the subject of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

Air Canada Public Participation ActGovernment Orders

November 3rd, 2005 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak on behalf of the official opposition in support of Bill C-47, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

Basically Bill C-47 is an administrative response to the restructuring of Air Canada that took place last year. In that restructuring, Air Canada, a former crown corporation, became a subsidiary of ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.

Bill C-47 requires that the provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act in respect of the Official Languages Act and the location of Air Canada's head office in Montreal be applied also to ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.

Air Canada has never given any indication that it intends to abandon Montreal and a few months ago, the company signed a long-term lease in that city.

Air Canada, furthermore, views its language proficiency as a competitive advantage. Like Air Transat, Air Canada is a private sector airline with its head office in Montreal, its hub in Toronto and employees who strive to speak both of our official languages correctly.

Air Canada is committed to using both of Canada's official languages. It is also committed to remaining in Montreal.

The Conservative Party caucus is in favour of this bill because its spirit flows directly from subsection 91(i) of the Conservative Party of Canada Policy Declaration, which reads as follows:

A Conservative Government will support the Official Languages Act ensuring that English and French have equality of status and equal rights and privileges—

If English and French truly have equality of status and equal rights and privileges, these obligations must apply to the leading national air carrier, especially since it is the only one to offer service to many international destinations.

Finally, Bill C-47 is largely a housekeeping bill, its spirit flows from the Conservative Party of Canada Policy Declaration, and Air Canada is not opposed to it.

We will accordingly support Bill C-47.

This having been said, I wonder whether Air Canada's government relations department continues its enthusiastic support of the Liberal government.

Senator David Angus, a former Air Canada board member, has informed me that legislation such as the present bill would subject Air Canada to a much higher level of official languages compliance than what is required of Air Transat. He informed me that the difference between Air Transat's version of bilingualism and Air Canada's compliance with the Official Languages Act costs Air Canada some $11 million a year. Clearly, this issue falls within the expertise of the official languages committee, not the transport committee. It would be my recommendation that Bill C-47 be referred to that committee instead of the transport committee.

At the same time, given that virtually every current and former member of Air Canada's government relations team--let me repeat that every current and former member of Air Canada's government relations team--virtually every single one of them has worked either for a Liberal MP or for the Liberal Party during the last election. I can only assume that Robert Milton and Montie Brewer and Air Canada's senior management support Bill C-47.

As transport critic for the official opposition and a very frequent Air Canada passenger, I have official and unofficial contact with Air Canada at many different levels and I can say that its support of the Liberal government is truly bizarre.

Even as recently as October 31, Liberal Senator Percy Downe called on the Senate to examine current government imposed operating requirements on Air Canada. In particular, he is concerned that Air Canada serves Charlottetown from Montreal instead of Toronto. He told the press:

My inquiry will examine the current, government-imposed operating requirements on Air Canada and the responsibility and opportunity for the Government of Canada to impose additional conditions on Air Canada so all Canadians can enjoy reasonably comparable levels of air service at reasonably comparable levels of cost, no matter where they live.

His statement ignores the fact that Air Canada's Charlottetown service now flies from Montreal in accordance with the transport minister's advice that airlines concerned about high rent at Pearson airport move flights to Montreal. He also ignores the fact that WestJet now offers Toronto-Charlottetown non-stop service with much bigger planes than Air Canada offers.

Nonetheless, the Liberal senator argues, “It is entirely within the power of the federal government to impose service and operating conditions on Air Canada”. In fact, such is the Liberal Party's fascination with regulating Air Canada that in the past three years the airline has been mentioned by name in four separate government initiated bills, Bill C-38, Bill C-26, Bill C-44 and Bill C-47. The company has been mentioned by name in the House some 360 times since the 2000 election.

Based on statements made in the House by Liberal and NDP MPs, they want to tell Air Canada what planes to buy, where to maintain them, where to fly them, what ticket prices to charge, how to advertise and how to manage their businesses. Perhaps MPs with these concerns should go ahead and buy Air Canada stock. Personally, given that Air Canada is a private company, I believe that these decisions are best made by Air Canada management. As a result, I believe that Air Canada probably wants as little government attention as possible.

For example, in June 2003 after Air Canada's first Montreal-Beirut flight had taken off, the government cancelled Air Canada's permission to fly the route. Air Canada had promoted the route for several months and informed the government that the national airlines of France, Germany, Holland, Italy and the U.K. were all serving Beirut. Nonetheless, at the last minute the Liberal government cancelled the route, citing security concerns.

A similar situation happened this past July. The federal government had given Air Canada permission to operate Toronto-Calgary-Shanghai freighter service. At the time Air Canada did not have a suitable aircraft so it leased one from California based World Airways. Here it was following the lead of Canada's military, which leases Russian cargo planes to fly our troops and supplies overseas.

A couple of days before the first flight was to depart, Ajay K. Virmani, whose company Starjet flew the Prime Minister during the last election, complained. He said that Air Canada would compete unfairly against him on the Toronto-Calgary portion of that flight. The Minister of Transport ignored the fact that Air Canada is allowed to fly any size plane it wants on any route within Canada and agreed instead with the Prime Minister's friend. Air Canada was forced to cancel the Calgary stop on its flight to Shanghai as a result.

The cancellation of the Calgary stop on the Toronto-Shanghai service had negative financial consequences for Air Canada in the same way that the company was hurt by the previous decision to cancel the Montreal-Beirut service at the last minute.

However, when the Liberals do not directly target Air Canada, their ill-conceived policies can cost the airline significant amounts of money. For example, Air Canada's major hub is Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport. Air Canada and its affiliate Jazz operate up to 660 daily flights and departures at Pearson airport, serving more than 100 destinations, representing approximately 35% of Air Canada's total operations.

From Pearson, Air Canada flies non-stop to three other continents, Asia, Europe and South America. In this respect, Air Canada's operations at Pearson compete directly against United's hub at Chicago O'Hare, Delta's hub at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and those of Northwest Airlines at the Detroit Metro Airport.

When it comes to Air Canada's Toronto operations, the current Minister of Transport is Air Canada's arch-enemy. He is well aware that federal airport rents and charges together with federal agencies that use free space at Pearson have helped to make Pearson airport the most expensive airport in the world. However, he does not care. He thinks that airlines that are concerned about high rents and taxes at Pearson should fly instead to Montreal.

The transport minister wants us to believe that he has Air Canada's best interests at heart. However, on May 9 when he introduced a package to cut airport rents nationwide, he offered average savings of 52% to Canada's larger airports while only offering 6% to Pearson. This unfairness was underlined by the fact that while other airports faced an immediate rent reduction, Toronto's rent actually increased this year due to a requirement to repay the deferred costs of the SARS crisis of 2003.

Compounding the problem is the fact that when Delta sells a Peruvian customer a Lima-Frankfurt ticket, the routing goes via Delta's hub in Atlanta, which has one of the lowest landing fees of any major U.S. airport. If Air Canada sells the same passenger a Lima-Frankfurt ticket, the routing passes through the world's most expensive airport, Toronto Pearson.

Both Toronto Pearson and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson are large well-run airports. However, this year Pearson will pay a staggering $144 million to Ottawa as a result of the transport minister's airport rent, airport taxes policy. On the other hand, Atlanta receives airport support of up to $47 million a year in grants from the U.S. government. The difference has a huge impact on landing fees, taxes and passenger traffic.

As Air Canada and Delta compete for the business of the Lima-Frankfurt traveller, both airlines have similar aircraft and similar costs. However, because of the difference in airport taxes, Air Canada either has to charge more to cover Toronto's high landing fees or make less profit in order to match Delta's price.

By continuing to ignore this situation, the Minister of Transport is delivering a slap in the face to Air Canada's 12,000 Toronto based employees and telling them, “You have to work harder for less so that Air Canada can pay my taxes and compete with foreign carriers”. Unfortunately, although the minister has been made aware of this problem several times, he has chosen to turn a deaf ear.

At transport committee on October 27, one week ago today, in response to yet another call for rent relief at Pearson airport, the minister said, “I have never met a normal person who has talked to me about airport rent unless they have a vested interest”.

I can tell this House that my office is aware of the following vested interests who have called for urgent rent relief in order to let Air Canada compete on a level playing field with its international competitors. They include: the Air Transport Association of Canada; the International Air Transport Association; the Association of Airline Representatives in Canada; the Canadian Airports Council; the Canadian Courier & Messenger Association; the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies; the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association; the Greater Toronto Hotel Association; and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.

However, seven significant non-vested interests have joined the call for rent relief as well. They include: the City of Toronto, including council and Liberal Mayor David Miller; the City of Toronto Economic Development Committee; the City of Brampton, Mayor Fennell; the Province of Ontario, including Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty; the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; the Toronto Board of Trade; the Brampton Board of Trade.

It appears there is no way at all to wake up the transport minister or to convince him to move forward to cut Toronto's rent. I want Canadians to understand that no one should be able to claim to be our national transportation minister while undermining the ability of a major Canadian international airline to compete against foreign carriers.

Let me be clear to this House and to all Canadians, a Conservative government would quickly deal with the tremendous unfairness and the oppressive rents that the federal Liberals are charging Air Canada's Toronto hub.

If Bill C-47 is the transport minister's idea of legislation to assist Air Canada, let me paint a very different picture.

A Conservative government would negotiate an open skies agreement with the United States with a view to promoting increased economic opportunities for Canadian air carriers. One way to do this would be for Canada and the U.S. to grant modified sixth freedom rights to each other's countries.

Modified sixth freedom is a way of describing the situation where a Vancouver passenger buys a Vancouver-Minneapolis round trip ticket on Northwest and a round trip Minneapolis-Montreal ticket also on Northwest and combines both tickets to fly Vancouver-Minneapolis-Montreal round trip.

The granting of sixth freedom rights is attractive because they do not require airlines to offer a single new flight, but offers them increasing flexibility to sell seats on any flights that they offer. For Air Canada, modified sixth freedoms would offer increased revenue opportunities in particular at its Toronto hub.

Like many major Canadian airports, Pearson has Canadian customs facilities as well as U.S. preclearance facilities. Typically, U.S. bound Canadians preclear U.S. customs before departure in Canada, but clear Canadian customs after they return to Canada. Often Canadian and American customs and immigration facilities are actually located side by side in the same airport. This operating reality means it would be theoretically possible for an airline passenger arriving in Toronto from Los Angeles to stay in the U.S. precleared in transit zone and board a connecting flight to New York on Air Canada without ever having to step foot on Canadian soil legally.

Given that Air Canada offers non-stop daily flights to 41 U.S. cities from Toronto, as compared to the 60 U.S. cities served by US Airways from Pittsburgh, granting Air Canada modified sixth freedom rights would allow it to make Toronto a mid-size U.S. hub almost immediately and with virtually no additional cost.

Given that the revenue calculations of Air Canada's 41 Toronto U.S. routes are based on transborder and U.S. international traffic, the income from exploiting its potential modified sixth freedom rights would go straight to the bottom line.

Further, given Toronto's geographic location and the impressive number of U.S. destinations that Air Canada serves from it, the potential economic benefit to Air Canada of modified sixth freedoms is quite significant.

Research was done last May by Professor Richard Janda and students Shy Kurtz and David Dubrovsky of McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law. They argue that for the top 15 U.S. domestic pairs, a routing via Toronto would be competitive with a routing via most U.S. domestic hubs. In other words, as a U.S. hub, Toronto would be competitive with Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.

All that is required for this to happen and to move forward is a forward thinking negotiation and a dramatic reduction in airport rents that the Liberal government currently charges at Pearson airport. The Liberals prefer to see Pearson airport instead as a major cash cow to be exploited, while they take Toronto voters for granted. The Conservatives see Pearson as an engine for economic growth to be nurtured and built upon.

Bill C-47 would require Air Canada to offer bilingual service on all of its flights around the world. Air Canada management willingly embraces this initiative and sees its ability to serve customers in various languages as a competitive advantage, yet another way to lure international travellers to fly Air Canada. This is a positive thing. We have no problem with this as Conservatives. We embrace official bilingualism.

The global airline industry is intensely competitive. The impact of government policy on the major airports that airlines use as hubs cannot be understated. The fact that Amsterdam is served by flights from countries in South America that are not also served from Toronto is symbolic of the problem. Dutch government backed Schiphol airport in Amsterdam has some of the lowest fees in the world, while Toronto has the world's most expensive. This reality and aggressive marketing allowed KLM to profitably serve from Amsterdam destinations which are not flyable from Toronto due to government costs.

Through visionary thinking the Dutch government has positioned Amsterdam's Schiphol airport as a truly global gateway and a major engine for economic growth for its country. For example, the greater Toronto area has three times the population of greater Amsterdam, yet Amsterdam's Schiphol airport is significantly bigger than Pearson and handles nearly 50% more passengers. Amsterdam's airport has flights to 251 destinations, over 100 of which are outside of Europe. Pearson on the other hand has flights to 110 destinations, only 42 of which are outside of Canada and the United States.

I understand that the size of an airport and the number of flights it receives are dependent on a number of factors, such as geography, history and the economic development of the area. Nonetheless, forward thinking Dutch aviation policy has allowed Amsterdam to grow into the world's ninth busiest airport. This is particularly impressive when we realize how close it is to London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, and Frankfurt, all of which are among the world's top eight busiest airports.

I would like to suggest that part of the reason Amsterdam's airport is so successful is that the Dutch government has been at the forefront of negotiating open skies agreements with other countries. In addition, the Dutch government sees Amsterdam airport as a major driver of that country's economy and that is reflected in various government policies which support the development of the airport.

This House will soon pass Bill C-47, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act. The Minister of Transport will be happy to see Air Canada providing bilingual service wherever in the world he flies.

In the meantime, this same minister must do everything he can to further the economic opportunities for Air Canada and the other Canadian airlines by enacting the measures proposed in this House. From Air Canada's perspective, the minister may well want to address this issue, but his progress to date has been less than impressive.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2005 / 1 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, first of all, on the issue of people who have endorsed the legislation, my name can be added to the list. I have endorsed the legislation because it is a half step in the right direction, but it is not a series of solutions.

My criticism is not that the government is not doing anything, it is that the government is treading water rather than leading forward and aggressively doing something substantive in dealing with these issues. If he wants to add the Conservative Party, we are going to be voting in favour of the bill, not with great enthusiasm but with a why not, it is a small step in the right direction. However, they are not the substantive policies that are needed right now.

I would guarantee the member opposite because I have spoken to CN, to CP, with Gord Houston at the Port of Vancouver, and they are happy with this in a sense, but they would be thrilled if they had a government that was actually going to put forward some substantive policies, the kind of policies that we have decided are needed for the port expansion.

On the second question, we are prepared to sit down with the transport minister and with his office to look at Bill C-44 and the provisions in it. Bill C-44 is flawed. In a minority Parliament situation, omnibus legislation such as Bill C-44 is a huge mistake. Every political party in the House will find flaws in omnibus legislation. In order for the government to pass any bill in the House due to the mathematics of the seat arrangements in the House, the government needs the support of two political parties.

Putting forward omnibus legislation is fundamentally stupid, which is what the government has done. There are provisions in Bill C-44 that we fully support, issues that deal with passenger rail and allowing better clarity and transparency on that front. We support the provision in Bill C-44 that would allow the quick adaptation of a second bridge going from Windsor to Detroit. We support that thoroughly. What we do not support in Bill C-44 are some of the other provisions, the provisions that allow the government to regulate the air industry even further with regard to ticket price.

We do not support making VIA Rail a crown corporation. There are a number of things in the bill that are not good for the transportation industry while some are good. Our party is prepared, as I said openly at the transport committee when the minister was there on Thursday, to sit down with the transport minister, to go through the bill clause by clause, and see if we can find some kind of compromise to divide the bill into those areas that we find acceptable and therefore will find passage, and those that are unacceptable which the minister indicated he is prepared to move on.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2005 / 1 p.m.
See context

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Liberal

Navdeep Bains LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, I understand my colleague's passion for this particular subject matter.

The following organizations have issued public statements endorsing the Pacific gateway strategy, Bill C-68; CN, CP, the Port of Vancouver, the Railway Association of Canada. Would the member agree with these stakeholders and also support the strategy regarding Bill C-68?

The member said that he is in favour of regulatory clarity for the transportation industry. Would he support the early passage of Bill C-44, which would provide regulatory certainty on issues such as railway running lights?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 27th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, unfortunately, takes the opportunity every Thursday to ask the same question, knowing the answer will be exactly the same because it is factual.

The opposition days will begin the week of November 14, and I indicated that some weeks ago to the opposition House leaders. At that point, I thought the matter had been dealt with and that we would focus on the agenda, which is important to Canadians.

We will continue with the second reading of Bill C-67, which is the surpluses bill. Should this be completed, we would then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-66, the energy legislation. We do not sit on Friday. On Monday we will commence the second reading debate of Bill C-68, respecting the Pacific Gateway. We will give priority to these bills over the next week.

On Tuesday evening there will be a take note debate on cross-border Internet drugs.

If debates on the major bills that I have referred to are completed by late next week, we will then turn to report stage of Bill S-38, respecting the spirits trade, second reading of Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill, Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals, second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation, second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill, reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, report stage of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill and other bills that will perhaps come back from committee that we would like to get into the House for further debate.

In order to bring about that take note debate on Tuesday, I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 1 on the subject of cross-border Internet drugs.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 20th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I find the last part of that question a little puzzling, given that the hon. member was at the meeting where I in fact outlined the opposition days. They will begin the week of November 14 and will go right to December 8. We are meeting our commitment and our obligation to provide seven opposition days during this supply period.

We will continue this afternoon with the second reading debate of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, followed by Bill C-64, the vehicle identification legislation, Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention, Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill, and reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals.

Tomorrow, we will start with any bills not completed today. As time permits, we will turn to second reading of Bill C-44, the transportation bill, and reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services legislation. This will be followed by second reading of Bill C-52, respecting fisheries.

I expect that these bills will keep the House occupied into next week.

On Monday we will start with third reading of Bill C-37, the do not call legislation. I also hope to begin consideration of Bill C-66, the energy legislation, by midweek. We will follow this with Bill C-67, the surpluses bill.

Some time ago the House leaders agreed to hold a take note debate on the softwood lumber issue on the evening of Tuesday, October 25.

We also agreed on an urgent basis to have such a debate on the issue of the U.S. western hemisphere travel initiative on the evening of Monday, October 24.

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1), I move:

That debates pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place as follows:

(1) on Monday, October 24, 2005, on the impact on Canada of the United States western hemisphere travel initiative;

(2) on Tuesday, October 25, 2005, on softwood lumber.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 6th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I understand from the member's question that he was obviously not at the last opposition House leaders' meeting where the entire agenda up to December 15 was laid out, including the seven opposition days to which he has referred.

In terms of background, I might also suggest to the hon. member that back in 1973 when there was a minority Parliament, the House opened on January 4 and all seven opposition days were held between March 5 and March 26. Back in 1979, when the House opened on October 9, opposition days started November 6. Opposition days clearly are the purview of the government to schedule. We have scheduled all of them for the opposition parties.

The House will continue this afternoon with the second reading of Bill C-54, the first nations oil and gas bill, followed by second reading of Bill S-38, respecting trade in spirits, and report stage and third reading of Bill C-28, the food and drugs bill.

Tomorrow we will begin with Bill C-28 and if it is completed, we will proceed with second reading of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague Convention and Bill S-36, respecting diamonds.

Next week is the Thanksgiving break week and I wish all hon. members a very happy Thanksgiving.

When the House returns on October 17, we will consider second reading of Bill C-63, respecting the registration of political parties, followed by report stage and third reading of Bill C-49, the human trafficking bill, second reading of Bill C-65, the street racing bill, Bill C-64, the vehicle registration legislation, and report stage of Bill C-37, the do not call bill.

As the week continues, we will add to the list reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting the cruelty to animals, Bill C-44, the transportation legislation, Bill C-47, respecting Air Canada, the reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, and by the end of the week we hope to begin debate on the energy and surplus bills that are being introduced this week. There is also ongoing discussions about a take note debate that week.

As members can see, there is a heavy agenda and important legislation. As I said and as I laid out to the opposition House leaders at our previous meeting, in the post-Remembrance Day segment of this sitting, we will consider the business of supply and we hope to be in a position to deal with the final stages of many of these very important bills before the end of the year.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

September 29th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out the business for the next week.

We will continue this afternoon with Bill C-55, which is the wage earner protection program. Then we will proceed to the second reading of Bill C-57, the financial institutions bill, followed by second reading of Bill C-54, which is the first nations oil and gas and moneys management act.

Tomorrow we will consider report stage and, if possible, third reading of Bill C-25 respecting Radarsat. I understand as well that there are some ongoing discussions about the disposal of Bill C-63, amending the Canada Elections Act. We would also like to deal with Bill S-38 respecting the spirits trade and Bill S-31 respecting autoroute 30.

On Monday we propose to commence report stage of Bill C-11, which is the whistleblower bill. We would like to give this bill priority all week in the hope of completing all of the remaining stages.

We would then return to any business left over from this week and, if there is time, begin consideration of Bill C-44, the transport bill; Bill C-28, the food and drug legislation; Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; Bill S-36, the diamonds bill; and Bill C-52, the fisheries bill.

With respect to the business of supply during the present period, Mr. Speaker, I will reconfirm that you confirmed to the House that there will be seven allotted days during this period. In response directly to the opposition House leader's question, as per our discussion at the House leader's meeting this past Tuesday, we understood we would schedule the supply days after the Thanksgiving break.

In any event, it will be a topic that I look forward to discussing with House leaders at our meeting this coming Tuesday, so that we can in fact schedule all the required opposition days.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to rise and address Bill C-26, an act to establish the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA. The House will be aware that our party is supporting this legislation.

However, I want to state that I am unimpressed with the government over the timing of the bill. The administration created the CBSA in December of 2003, more than a year and a half ago and, perhaps even more disturbing, during the last Parliament. Time and again we see the government creating new departments and agencies and spending money before Parliament has authorized those actions.

Liberals demonstrate no respect for this institution. This is nothing more than sheer arrogance on the part of the government. Nevertheless, the bill represents an important step forward in the effort to bring our antiquated system of national security into the 21st century.

Creating a single agency to provide border services and security at ports of entry is a logical and long overdue action. Of course, providing our border services officers with the resources, training and equipment they need to do this job is another matter entirely, and it has become quite clear to me that the government has failed to deliver on this critical aspect of the plan.

Yes, the government has made spending announcements and even provided for such spending in recent budgets, yet the reality is that those resources are not getting to the front lines.

The famous Peace Arch crossing is in my riding of South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale. As a border MP representing the riding with western Canada's busiest land crossings, I regularly receive reams of information about border ports that are understaffed, under-equipped and completely unprotected.

That leaves our unarmed border services officers vulnerable. Often, the closest armed police presence is many minutes or even hours away. That is unacceptable. I want to share a story as it has been relayed to me by people at the front lines:

Regarding the currency seizure of $292,125 USD in early April - there is no secure manner in which to count proceeds of crime. Pacific Highway Traffic office is made primarily out of windows. During that currency seizure, as with most, the money was counted in an unsecured room with windows on three sides, looking out into the lanes of traffic and the public areas. During the day the windows are somewhat opaque. At night the windows became completely transparent because the office lights are on. Pedestrians who were walking into Canada were able to observe the goings on of the Inspectors inside the office as well as the counting of almost three hundred thousand dollars, which took about 7 hours. The Mounties attended for about an hour, then left. Management views Proceeds of Crime seizures as commodity seizures plain and simple. They must not understand the “Crime” part of Proceeds of Crime and that we are dealing with a high risk seizure with many individuals having a vested interest in the smuggled cash.

The proof of what I hear is to be found in the constant reports of vehicles speeding through land crossings, with 1,600 last year alone. This is not just a matter of a union complaining for the sake of its workers, although they are certainly right to push for safer conditions. This is about national security. What were those vehicles carrying? Were they carrying narcotics, weapons, contraband cigarettes and liquor, or even fugitives from justice? Who knows?

The Deputy Prime Minister has boasted about the work of the integrated border enforcement teams. That is great, but it is only part of the solution. Those teams can crack down on smuggling at isolated spots on the border, but if we are allowing hundreds of vehicles to simply zip across the border on the highways, unchecked, then are we any further ahead? I think not.

It is now the policy of the CBSA to wave through suspects who are known to be armed and dangerous instead of confronting and arresting those who are a threat to Canada when we have the opportunity to do so. We simply wave them through and hope that the police will catch up to them later in our neighbourhoods. This Liberal policy is so confused that it would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.

The other comment I want to make about national security concerns the gaping hole the Liberals created when they disbanded the ports police in 1994. It is quite clear, from reading criminal intelligence service reports and other reports, that smuggling through Canada's ports is a major problem that remains largely unaddressed, despite a minor police and CBSA presence at many ports. Even if we were to tighten up on the cars and trucks that make land crossings, our national security appears to be something one could still drive a ship through.

In an internal RCMP intelligence assessment, Canadian ports have become a haven for organized crime. According to the report, customs and police feel threatened, while workers are coerced to do crimes. Organized criminal involvement in the smuggling of drugs, humans and counterfeit products at Canada's biggest marine ports is so pervasive that customs officers and police have been intimidated and even independent thieves will not dare to work alone.

The Liberal's newly appointed ambassador to the United States has affirmed what our border officers are saying. He made it clear last weekend that our borders were not adequately protected. Frank McKenna made it clear that we have a major problem with narcotics and weapons making it into Canada. Even senior Liberals are now admitting to the government's failure to address this issue adequately.

We can pass the bill, and we will, but let us be clear that this is not the solution to our national security problems at the border. It is only the beginning.

It is because we have such problems at our border that I have taken steps myself to address these questions. In December of last year, I was joined by border MPs from every party in the House and from every part of the country in founding the parliamentary border caucus.

Our co-chairs, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, the member for Windsor West, the member for Saint-Jean and myself have led this non-partisan caucus in addressing matters of national security and trade.

We spent time meeting with the employees and managers of the border services agency and their union leaders. We have travelled to see the problems that exist at our border crossings in different parts of the country firsthand. It is obvious to us that Bill C-26 is not the only action that needs to be taken.

For example, our caucus recently met in Windsor, Ontario, the site of the world's busiest border crossing, to discuss with representatives of the U.S. congressional border caucus, including their co-chairman representative, Bart Stupak, the importance of moving on a new crossing in that area.

Forty-four percent of Canada-U.S. trade crosses at Windsor. If there is a main artery in our economy, this is it and yet, after 12 years of Liberal government, there is no enabling statute to even facilitate the creation of a new crossing. Bill C-44, elements of which could be of some assistance in making a new Windsor crossing a reality, languishes at first reading, and the Liberal government has not even given it an hour of debate since introducing it this past March.

Also, waiting times at some border crossings, especially for commercial traffic, are unacceptable, and the cost to the Canadian economy, not to mention to truckers and their families, is millions of dollars in lost income. Some of this is a result of security measures put in place on the U.S. since 9/11, which Canadians have not fully adapted to yet, but some of it is a matter of inadequate facilities and infrastructure on our side.

The issue of a passport requirement for all travellers to the U.S. was raised recently in the media. While the U.S. legislation requiring secure ID does not specifically require passports, the possibility has raised concerns on both sides of the border.

I have personally travelled to Washington, D.C. on more than one occasion to meet with congressman James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the U.S. judiciary committee, to work on an acceptable resolution. However I do not believe the hasty response of the Deputy Prime Minister, that Canada might require passports as well, has done anything to help the situation.

By all means, let us pass Bill C-26, but I would urge this government, at a bare minimum, to begin to provide proper protection, support, resources and equipment for our border services officers and provide the resources to apprehend suspects at the border.

Let us move on enabling legislation for creating new bridges and tunnels to the U.S. Let us work with our counterparts in the U.S., as the border caucus has already been doing, to reduce waiting times, protect trade and maintain our privileged access to the world's largest market.

Canada Border Services Agency ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2005 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I want to begin my remarks on Bill C-26 by highlighting the importance of this bill in terms of moving forward with more official resources, which I hope will come for our border services at the end of the day. When I say that, I mean it in the context of the men and women who defend our border on a daily basis. I believe they have not had adequate support or legislation to deal with some of the complex problems they deal with in today's world.

I want to at least outline a few important items that the public should know about Bill C-26. This bill will bring together under one umbrella organization the services of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration .

I do not have the time to go into all the details of Bill C-26 and the different departments, but I do want to highlight the importance of this bill for ordinary Canadians. We have often heard, as we have today, the debate about Canada being a threat to the United States in terms of the border.

This perception has been perpetuated even by some U.S. elected representatives, such as Hillary Clinton. She continues to talk, erroneously, about some of the terrorists of 9/11 obtaining access to the United States from Canada. That is not true. It is something that I am greatly offended by because it is not the truth and it also hurts our relationship with the U.S. It should be noted that these terrorists acquired passports from the U.S. itself.

We need to note this because we have many security issues on our side of the border, but we need to talk about the facts. At present on a daily basis there is approximately a billion dollars in trade in the form of goods and services between Canada and the United States. We also have a strong socio-cultural history, in which bonds of friendship, family and prosperity for both nations have developed. When we have the other erroneous elements thrown into the pot, they make things very complicated.

Let me point out that since September 11, 2001, we have seen a significant change on our border. There were problems prior to 9/11. I represent the riding of Windsor West. I can tell members that there already was a significant tie-up of trucks and cargo because of the lack of infrastructure from this government in the past decade. The problem has certainly been seen on the streets of the city of Windsor through more profound effects since September 11. Even the United States side did not have proper staffing.

In past decade the United States will actually have had a 30-fold increase of officers on its border. To put all the blame on the Canadian side is not fair and is certainly not accurate. We need to make sure we understand that this is going to be reciprocal and that we are tied to it enough in destiny.

As well, we hear a lot about our security risks in the United States, but it does work both ways. Let me point to a recent case in Windsor. Brian Bolyantu was killed on the streets of Windsor when an American citizen who had a long record with the law was accidentally let into this country. I do not want to get into the details of the case because it is going through a lawsuit, but tragically, the family has lost Brian because there was a mistake made at the border. It shows the danger that we are faced with.

In fact, a year or so before this case, Lori Bishop, a citizen of Niagara Falls and a mother, was going about her daily activities when there was a car chase through the Niagara Falls area by the Michigan state police. The chase came onto Canadian soil. The chase, which was broken off shortly after crossing the border, led to her death.

There is more. There is the case of Mohammed Charafeddine. He was shot by an American citizen who, once again, had a long history of infractions and a number of different criminal offences but was let into our country.

This is not a problem about nations. This is a problem about people who are undesirable on both sides of the border. Both countries must protect themselves from these people. We must make sure that these individuals do not gain access to our countries. At the same time, the fact is that we have to keep our borders prosperous through the movement of goods and services.

An issue that has not been addressed too much to date is the issue of passports. One change is that the United States has introduced a western hemisphere bill. It is going to final analysis. The American bill will require that every citizen entering the United States have a passport. As well, American citizens will have a passport.

Since that is coming we are actually making submissions to the House of Representatives to make sure that we can get an exemption if possible, but regardless of that, we wanted to make sure there is going to be accountability in this country because we have seen the lack of support for our border services people.

I filed a motion in the House of Commons the day after this came forward. It states:

That the House call upon the government to conduct an audit of the Passport Office to ensure that Canadians can acquire passports at the lowest possible cost and that passport processing fees do not generate surplus revenues.

We are trying to ensure that there is going to be an auditing process to make sure that Canadians can get passports at a relatively decent price, that the services are going to be there and also that there is going to be accountability. If the Canadian passport is not going to be seen as a document that can be trusted or protected, we are going to encounter further difficulties. That is why it is important to have a full audit of the office in terms of its practices.

The effects on our tourism industry will be huge. For example, right now a Canadian passport for a family of four with two teenagers costs approximately $218. For an American family of four with two teenagers, passports will cost $274. To enter and exit between our countries for vacations, personal time and family time is going to require an extra investment in time.

It is important to note this, because when we talk about the safety of our border and the way it works in our economy, this could have detrimental effects on everything from local communities that rely on restaurants and entertainment, for example, to employment opportunities. For my community, I know that the United States and Michigan rely heavily upon Canadian nurses and doctors, as well as a number of other health care professionals, to make sure that they have the proper people for their hospitals. It is important that we continue to have relatively easy access to a certain degree, with security, so people can get to and from work without being hindered.

One of the issues in regard to the border is the perception of the problems that we have related to infrastructure and also accountability. Bill C-26 is an improvement, but we still are lacking, which is why the government has introduced Bill C-44. It is from the transport department and calls for greater scrutiny.

For example, in my riding, there is no border authority in Windsor. There is nothing that oversees the most important trade corridor in North America and probably the world. In fact, a private American citizen owns the border. A private American citizen owns the Ambassador bridge, which controls about a third of the Canada economy, and literally has the entire Canadian economy at a standstill if there is a problem on the border. There is no oversight whatsoever of this border infrastructure. There is no public authority similar to Blue Water or the one in Sarnia.

There is one in Fort Erie and there is in Niagara Falls, but we have been left because, quite frankly, these others have been very influential in terms of lobbying, I believe, to ensure that they are going to have the structures and the tools available to them to have political pressure to avoid accountability.

I have tabled two motions in the House of Commons to create a border authority in Windsor because we have two private proponents that are seeking the next crossing, which is unusual. We have 24 crossings between Canada and the United States, with 22 held by the public sector and only two privately held. They are the Fort Frances international bridge and the Ambassador bridge in Windsor. Ironically, they have the highest rates for car passengers as well as trucks. There is also less accountability. That is why we need this legislation.

Let me conclude by saying that it is important for Bill C-26 to have the proper supports for our customs officers. Mr. Ron Moran was bang on when he presented to the Senate committee and at other hearings when he talked about the fact that we need to have an armed presence at the border. I believe that. It could be a tactical support group, which would ensure that we have greater security and greater trade with the United States.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

June 9th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion. I wish to designate Tuesday, June 14 as an allotted day, which means that the main estimates shall be dealt with that day.

Tomorrow we will begin report stage of Bill C-43, which is the first budget bill. This bill will be our priority until it is disposed of. When Bill C-48, the second budget bill, is reported from committee, it, too, shall be given our top priority.

There are discussions among the parties concerning the early disposal of Bill C-2, the child protection legislation; Bill C-53, the bill respecting proceeds of crime; and possibly Bill C-56, the Labrador-Inuit legislation.

The other pieces of legislation that we can anticipate debating in the next week are: Bill C-26, the border services bill; Bill S-18, the census legislation; Bill C-25, RADARSAT; Bill C-52, the Fisheries Act amendment; Bill C-28, the Food and Drugs Act amendments; Bill C-37, the do not call legislation; Bill C-44, the transport legislation; and Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill.

Fisheries ActAdjournment Proceedings

June 6th, 2005 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Madam Speaker, certainly my hon. colleague knows that we just do not wake up one morning and say we are going to take ownership. Certainly my hon. colleague is not suggesting that we jump in with both feet and say that we are going to disregard any governance and any authority whatsoever that needs to be done in environmental assessment. I certainly hope my hon. colleague is not suggesting that we do things in a haphazard way.

This government is taking all the necessary steps. Environmental assessments are being done. We are talking to all stakeholders. We do not have to deal with only one government but four. Two legislatures in the United States do not make the United States and/or Michigan, and they do not talk for all of the United States or Michigan.

There is a plan of action that looks right across our borders to what we are doing with the United States. This plan of action has been tabled in the House in Bill C-44. When it comes to second reading stage, I welcome the opportunity to discuss it with my colleague.

Transportation Amendment ActRoutines Proceedings

March 24th, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre LiberalMinister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-44, 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.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)