An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment 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.

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

The enactment also makes several amendments with respect to the railway transportation sector. It creates a mechanism for dealing with complaints concerning noise and vibration resulting from the construction or operation of railways and provisions for 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.

The enactment also amends the Railway Safety Act to create provisions for the appointment of police constables with respect to railway companies and procedures for dealing with complaints concerning them.

In addition, it contains transitional provisions and consequential amendments.

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.

Votes

June 14, 2007 Passed That the amendments made by the Senate 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, be now read a second time and concurred in.
Feb. 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 5.
Feb. 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

November 22nd, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

I'd say at the outset that there are provisions. The provisions in this piece of legislation clearly indicate that 30 days after the adoption of this piece of legislation, this kicks in—the level of service study will kick in. So that's quite clear.

We want to make quite sure that there are no loopholes that would prevent us from doing that. That's the commitment we've made to the shippers and to the railways.

Second of all, I think that we do have—I might be mistaken here, but I do believe that in the other pieces of legislation we've put forward.... I'm not talking about the one that deals with the bridges and tunnels, but Bill C-11 does indeed provide for municipal input in terms of how they can express their views and their concerns, particularly in areas where there's strong urbanization. I know that there have been long discussions between my friend Mr. Laframboise, who's a former mayor, and myself, who's a former town councillor and your predecessor in that position, on how I think it's extremely important that, yes, municipalities do have a buy-in to this. There are pieces at least in the legislation that was adopted more recently and sanctioned in the month of June to be able to enable that. That concern, I think, is addressed.

November 22nd, 2007 / 9:55 a.m.
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Helena Borges Director General, Surface Transportation Policy, Department of Transport

As you mentioned, Mr. Volpe, there is an elaborate process—not totally addressed in this bill, but it was addressed through Bill C-11—whereby, if one of the main railways, either CN or CP, no longer finds a line suitable for its business, which is providing the transcontinental business, it offers it up for sale to what are called short line railways. We have about 40 of those in Canada right now.

Those short lines are, in fact, providing a lot of the service to the smaller shippers on these smaller lines and then feeding into CN and CP. In fact, there hasn't been an abandonment of a lot of rail lines in the past 10 years. Even though the railways have shed some of their lines, these have been picked up by the small short lines, and we're comfortable that the provisions allow that to happen and that most of the shippers have service.

There are situations, if it is in an area where there isn't a lot of industry, that you may not have it, but there is trucking available throughout most of Canada.

We are, through other programs, helping the short lines ensure that they have good infrastructure to continue the service, through the funding programs the minister has announced through the Building Canada Plan.

So we are taking various measures to protect the smaller rail lines and ensure that they provide service. The objective of the law is make sure there are opportunities for other companies—or for municipalities, if it's related more to passenger service—to take on the lines.

Message from the SenateRoyal Assent

June 22nd, 2007 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend Her Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber Her Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts--Chapter 15;

Bill C-294, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (sports and recreation programs)--Chapter 16;

Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act--Chapter 17;

Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter 18;

Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter 19;

Bill C-277, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (luring a child)--Chapter 20;

Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act--Chapter 21;

Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification--Chapter 22;

Bill C-60, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 23;

Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)--Chapter 24;

Bill C-47, An Act respecting the protection of marks related to the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games and protection against certain misleading business associations and making a related amendment to the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 25;

Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, An Act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trade-marks Act--Chapter 26;

Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act--Chapter 27;

Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie)--Chapter 28;

Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007--Chapter 29;

Bill C-288, An Act to ensure Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol--Chapter 30.

It being 12:23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, 2007, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

The first session of the 39th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on September 14, 2007.

Canada Transportation ActStatements By Members

June 19th, 2007 / 2:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, our government introduced a bold bill to regulate the activities of railway companies, particularly to deal with noise in the vicinity of marshalling yards.

This bill was debated at length and was even improved by members of all parties in committee, after lengthy discussions, in order to protect citizens and to ensure that their rights are respected.

Unfortunately, the Senate diluted the bill by giving in to pressure from the railway companies. Consequently, Bill C-11 will not benefit from the improvements made by the members of this House. It is regrettable that some members of the Senate substantially altered a bill adopted by Parliament and did not respect the will of those elected by the people, even members of their own party.

Rather than playing ping-pong with the Senate and having the bill delayed indefinitely, we will forge ahead in order to provide Canadians with the means to limit unreasonable noise near marshalling years, after years of waiting. Despite the obstacles, our government is doing its job.

Motions in AmendmentAeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at the report stage of Bill C-6. After first reading and the debate at second reading, the Bloc Québécois was opposed to the bill. We had a lot of concerns about comprehensive safety management systems, which came with no guarantees that the detailed inspections by federal check pilots could continue. At the same time, there were many signs that the number of check pilots would be reduced in the future.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and I studied the bill carefully. The committee held 11 meetings to hear witnesses from all the stakeholder groups—pilots, federal officials, lobby groups—and six special meetings to examine the bill clause by clause. After studying all the clauses, we wrote a report, which was recently tabled in the House and proposed 20 amendments to the bill.

The Bloc's concerns have to do with the safety management system and the designated organizations, because we did not have a clear idea of what responsibilities they would have in the overall system.

We heard the different parties, including Justice Moshansky, an aviation expert who even conducted an inquiry into a plane crash. He said that the clause on designated organizations should be kept, but with provision for oversight. This is what we did, as it was clear to us that, in light of all the positive comments we had heard, this safety management system could give good results.

However, we made sure government inspections would continue, in particular by means of the Bloc amendment, which stated:

The Minister shall maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety established by the Minister.

We proposed this amendment, which was included in our committee report, because we wanted to ensure that the inspections that are already part of the air transportation system would continue, despite the more general implementation of safety management systems.

In this way, we made sure that Transport Canada would not just have audits of the systems themselves done and not carry out its own visual and technical inspections of aircraft. By doing this, we are bringing about what the minister and the department were talking about—a dual safety system—and not just replacing inspections with a safety system. Continuing with the inspections and implementing the systems across the board ensures that, as a basic principle, all companies will be governed by a safety management system. We can at least rest assured, thanks to the continuing inspections, that the system itself will improve safety overall within companies.

However, I am particularly disappointed that 16 last-minute amendments are being introduced at this stage. Of these, 10 or 12 have been moved by the NDP. One amendment asks for the elimination of clause 12. We studied designated organizations together at length and now, all of a sudden, we are told that all that will be eliminated, at the last minute, even though these views were not accepted when the bill was studied in committee.

The most surprising is the government's amendment No. 2, which seeks to eliminate everything pertaining to safety systems. The NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals worked together to come up with a good definition, which was not in the legislation. It is a matter of regulations, establishing regulations for safety management systems.

We went to the trouble of spelling out the definition of these systems. Suddenly, at the last minute, just before the vote, the government wants to eliminate this definition—which is very binding for the government, it is true—that allows us to give our full support to this bill.

My colleague read it earlier, but I think it is important to read it again:

(c.1) safety management systems and programs that provide for

(i) the appointment of an executive

(A) responsible for operations and activities authorized under a certificate issued pursuant to a regulation made under this Act, and

(B) accountable for the extent to which the requirements of the applicable safety management system or program have been met,

(ii) the implementation, as a result of any risk management analysis, of the remedial action required to maintain the highest level of safety,

(iii) continuous monitoring and regular assessment of the level of safety achieved, and

(iv) the involvement of employees and their bargaining agents in the development, implementation and ongoing operation of the applicable safety management system or program;

This is a set of obligations for companies and their staff to ensure real involvement in this safety management program.

We also looked at railway safety, where safety management systems were implemented roughly five years ago.

We heard from a number of witnesses during consideration of safety. Most of the witnesses said they had never heard of a safety management system in their company.

With this legislation, we want employees and bargaining agents to be involved and play an active role in the safety management system. We do not just want to have a nice system that comes from management and is in the company's files, but does filter down to the core to ensure full involvement of the entire company.

Today, the government is proposing to eliminate this entire nice definition that we worked on together. It is not very reassuring as far as any wish they might have to implement a good safety management system, which we subscribed to only after examining it and hearing from all the witnesses.

I noticed earlier that the representatives of the official opposition will not support such an amendment. They took part in this, just as we did. We do not want this amendment to be adopted. They put forward three or four other admissible amendments that simply make corrections to the text.

I hope this amendment will not be adopted. I also hope that after the bill has been considered by the other place, there will not be any surprises, like the ones we had with Bill C-11.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House to speak the a bill that has just come to the House for second reading. Therefore, we are debating the bill in principle. It is an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, railway transportation. I know the NDP transportation critic, the member from Burnaby—New Westminster, has already given a lot of thought to the bill.

In looking over the bill, the NDP is prepared to support Bill C-58 in principle. We will very carefully examine it when it goes to committee. Obviously witnesses need to be heard and we will look at moving amendments that stage of the review. At this point we feel the bill deserves support in principle. It seems to address some of the valid concerns shippers have had for many years over the current conditions of the Canada Transportation Act, which allow for the potential of use of market power by railways.

We believe the intent of the bill is to lower the shipping costs for farmers, and that is very important. Farming in the country has so much Canadian history, culture and heritage. It is increasingly difficult to carry out, in part because of the shipping costs farmers face. It is very important the committee have the opportunity to examine the bill and amend it to deal with the concerns of farmers and shippers.

There is no question that the Canadian Pacific Railway, CP, and the Canadian National Railway, CN, have a virtual duopoly on shipping prices, which is an interesting term. We often talk about a monopoly, but in this context we have a duopoly. There is also no question their financial stranglehold is choking Canadian shippers that rely on the rail system to transfer their products from the farm to the marketplace. Under the current environment, transportation costs are the second or third highest cost of business for bulk shippers. Under this duopolistic regime, these shippers do not have an alternate way to transport their products. This is the reason for the bill.

This is a very serious situation for shippers and the goods they ship from our farming communities. They rely on these railways to get their products across the country or to international market, yet there has been this monopoly stranglehold that has produced a very difficult financial situation.

Although there are over 30 federally regulated railways in Canada, many freight rail customers are captive shippers. That is, only a single railway company offers direct service to their area. For these shippers the railway transportation is not naturally competitive and in the absence of adequate legislative measures, there is a tendency for the railway company to take advantage of its position as a monopolist in a region. Again, that is a very serious situation where local producers and shippers have no competition. They have to rely on a single server, a single railway company, and are held completely captive. I cannot imagine anyone would consider that to be a healthy business environment.

A monopolistic railway would have an incentive to offer lower levels of service at higher prices than it would under competitive market conditions.

Shippers believe this problem must be alleviated with modifications to the Canada Transportation Act that can facilitate real competition.

We heard from the member opposite a while ago. We know that in 2005 the previous government brought in Bill C-26, which allegedly sought to amend the Canada Transportation Act to deal with some of these problems. It needs to be said on the record, that bill was denounced by the Western Canadian Shippers’ Coalition and by other interest groups because they saw it as a half measure. It was not, in any substantive, way dealing with the very real problems these shippers had. In fact, ultimately that bill failed and did not become law.

Now we have a new bill that was introduced by the transport minister on May 30. We believe that this bill has had a more favourable response than the previous bill put forward by the Liberal government. That does not mean it is a perfect bill, but as we are debating it here in principle, we think it merits support and should go to committee.

One of the positive impacts of this bill is that it will remove the requirement for the Canadian Transportation Agency to be satisfied that a shipper would suffer substantial commercial harm before it grants a remedy. I think this is a very key point. The current requirements are so onerous that it becomes very difficult for any mechanism that would grant a relief to any shipper to kick in, so that effect of this bill is very important.

The bill will also extend final offer arbitration to groups of shippers on matters relating to rates or conditions for the movement of goods, provided that the matter submitted for arbitration is common to all and the shippers make a joint offer that applies to them all.

Again, we see that as a positive measure that will allow groups of shippers to act together to take advantage of final offer arbitration in a more flexible way than before. They can have a reasonable expectation there is going to be a settlement when a conflict has occurred.

The bill also allows for the suspension of any final offer arbitration process if both parties consent to pursue mediation. Again, it provides a flexibility, which we think is important.

It also permits the Canadian Transportation Agency, upon receiving a complaint by a shipper, to investigate charges and conditions for incidental services and those related to the movement of traffic contained in a tariff that are of general application, and to establish new charges or terms and conditions if it finds those in the tariff unreasonable.

I am certainly not an expert in this area. The New Democratic Party's agricultural and transport critics are both very well versed in this. Our general opinion is that these provisions will provide a greater sense of certainty and an ability to resolve problems when they arise by ensuring that where there are complaints made they will be investigated. The CTA would have the ability to establish new charges or terms if it finds the current situation is unreasonable.

The bill will also increase the notice period for augmentations in rates for the movement of traffic from 20 to 30 days to ensure that shippers receive adequate notice of rate increases. This is obviously very important. It will require railways to publish a list of rail sidings available for grain producer car loading and give 60 days' notice before removing such sidings from operation.

Again, we believe this is very important. It has been a longstanding problem for the shippers. They do not get adequate notice. One operates a business and understands a certain set of conditions, but then suddenly things change. The list of rail sidings may change and may not be available to the shipper any more. Obviously that would have a very dramatic and unnecessary impact on a local shipper.

This bill also ensures the abandonment and transfer provisions apply to lines that are transferred to provincial short lines and subsequently revert to a federal railway, including the obligation to honour contracts with public passenger service providers.

We do know that at this point the bill has been supported by the Canadian Wheat Board and the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. It is important that we note their support.

When this issue was before the agriculture committee just about a month ago in April, Mr. Martin VanderLoo, the president of Huron Commodities Inc., spoke before the committee. His testimony reflected and highlighted very well the current problems for these shippers and producers in dealing with the present environment under the Canadian Transportation Agency.

I will quote for members some of his testimony before the committee:

Huron Commodities moves oats from western Canada to Ontario for processing and further export to the United States. We ship oats from Ontario and Quebec to the U.S. via rail. We ship rye from Ontario and western Canada to major distillers and flour millers in the United States via rail. We ship food-grade soybeans to Japan and Southeast Asia via rail to the west coast and ocean freight further on.

Over the years, we've seen increasing rail transportation costs with severely declining rail service. All the while, Canadian railroads are posting consistent record profits. Although we're not opposed to supporting a profitable railroad, we don't agree that it should be done at the expense of the farmer. For example, as mentioned earlier, we ship oats from western Canada to Ontario for further export to the United States. Unless we are a mainline shipper in western Canada, willing to ship 100-car-unit trains to the west coast, we are just denied service. The same situation is the case with our rye shipments out of western Canada. Unless we can provide 100-car shipments to the railroads for export to the U.S., they are simply not interested.

The railroads have consistently refused to spot cars for any of our shipments, jeopardizing our reliability as a shipper to our customers.

Mr. VanderLoo said to the committee:

We ask you to push for immediate regulatory reform to the Canada Transportation Act before we lose further markets we currently hold.

I wanted to read that into the record because to me it is a very good example of what is at stake here. Here we have companies that are doing their best to operate within the existing system, but they are held captive by these two rail companies. They do not get adequate notice. Provisions can change. They do not get notice of the rail sidings that are changing. It makes their business operations insecure and it makes their operations difficult, with these rail companies racking up huge profits all the while.

Earlier in the debate the member from the Liberal Party was asked a question about whether this bill would deal with rail safety. I do not believe it does. I think it is a bill that deals more with the mechanism of the movement of goods and with ensuring that there is better accessibility for producers and shippers, which is a good thing.

However, I do want to say that certainly from our point of view the issue of rail safety is absolutely huge. We have had horrendous situations just in my province of British Columbia alone. I do not have the list in front of me. I know that our NDP transportation critic in British Columbia, David Chudnovsky, who appeared before the transport committee about six weeks ago, gave a whole list of the derailments and talked about the lack of safety and the increasingly poor environment in operation in our railway system. We are talking about dangerous situations. We are talking about workers whose lives are in jeopardy.

Let us not forget that it was this House, by a majority, that legislated the workers of CN back to work. The NDP was in opposition to that and I believe the Bloc was as well. In case people have forgotten, the issue has not gone away, and the reason why CN workers were out on a legal strike in the first place was their very serious and ongoing concerns about the safety of our railways.

We think of our railways as part of the Canadian dream and Canadian history. Of course they are, but I do not think people understand how seriously diminished these operations have become and how these monopolies have taken over now. There are issues around access, certainty and reliability for the shippers and producers. These things are now at risk.

There is the issue of health and safety conditions for the people who work on the railways and who are very much in jeopardy and at risk. We have seen a recent labour conflict with the CPR workers that involves the same issue. I wanted to bring this forward because it came up in debate. Although this bill does not deal specifically with railway safety, it is a very important matter that should be addressed.

In fact, earlier today we debated another bill that dealt with railways, Bill C-11, which has been approved. We were dealing with a Senate amendment that dealt with the impact of railway noise from the point of view of local residents. It is very interesting that these issues are coming up. It tells us as members of Parliament that these issues have not been addressed adequately in the past. While the previous bill that was brought in by the prior government in 2005 fell far short of what needed to be done, today we are hopeful that this bill, Bill C-58, will do the job.

The NDP will support this bill in principle and we will examine it thoroughly when it goes to committee. We will ensure that witnesses are heard so that we can make sure we really are addressing the legitimate concerns of producers and shippers. I hope there also will be an opportunity to address the equally important issue of safety on the railways. Again, it is not going to disappear. In fact, things are going to get worse.

We will be supporting this bill at second reading and then working in committee to look at what amendments are necessary before it comes back to the House.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-58 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.

I will summarize this briefly for the benefit of our constituents who are listening. The main purpose of this bill is to clarify the Transportation Act and strengthen the existing provisions that protect shippers against any abuse of the commercial power of the railways. It relates mainly to western Canada and has to do with grain producers and grain transport. Although this has less to do with what goes on in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois stays informed about various situations across Canada. We are always interested in participating in the debate so that we can stand up for anyone who is oppressed by the commercial power of the railways, as an example.

Today, we have two fine examples of this. Earlier, the representative of the government who gave a speech about Bill C-58 said that the bill was one of three pieces of legislation to modernize the Transportation Act. Today, we discussed Bill C-11. The idea was to modernize the Transportation Act in relation to the noise pollution and vibration produced by the railway companies. The Conservative government has caved in to the power of the railway lobby. The lobby had its standard bearer, the Senate, which decided to carry the torch for the interests of the poor little railway companies.

And the end result is that the government supported an amendment to the bill that had been passed unanimously, Bill C-11. In committee, the noise pollution provisions and the bill had been supported unanimously, clause by clause, by all parties.

Today, the Conservatives have caved in to the Liberal position adopted in the Senate. I hope that we will not see the same thing happen with Bill C-58, that we will not see the Conservatives caving in to the Liberal majority in the Senate if the Senate decides to amend the bill.

Bill C-58 is an attempt to strike a better balance between the power of the railway companies and the people who produce and ship products, including grain producers, who do not own the rails and who have to get their hopper cars to destinations all over Canada. They feel oppressed by the railway companies.

The purpose of this bill is to strike a balance. The proposed amendments respond to the concerns of shippers, and particularly western Canadian grain producers, about prices and railway service, while also providing the railways with regulatory stability. The amendments to Bill C-58 will deal with arbitration, charges for incidental services, notices of changes of tariff, sidings for producers' railway cars, leased railway lines and obligations in respect of the level of service. It is time we had some balance, in the interests of those who use the railway system, including grain producers, to get the railway cars that belong to them to their destinations.

The Conservative government and the Liberals have this strong tendency to let the free market do as it wishes. In such conditions producers are over-exploited. That is what this bill seeks to correct. When we refer to the various amendments, we refer, among others, to arbitration. The objectives of the Transportation Act, prior to these amendments, require that the Agency take into account the matter of substantial commercial harm. Bill C-58 proposes that the reference to substantial commercial harm be removed because whenever we hear from the railway companies there is always some substantial commercial harm. In the end, those who do not own the rails lose every time. The railway companies always succeed in proving substantial commercial harm where there is none. That will now be subject to arbitration, which will be a means of settling disputes between a shipper and the railways involving the rates and conditions of transportation service.

If merchandise is shipped by railway under a confidential contract, the matters subject to confidentiality cannot be submitted to arbitration without the consent of all parties. Still, there are some safeguards. It will be possible to make a joint submission for arbitration to settle a dispute concerning the rates and conditions for movement of goods, where the matter submitted to arbitration is common to all the shippers.

Finally, all those who are experiencing the same problem will have recourse to arbitration. They can join in a class action and the Transportation Agency can hear the case and render a decision.

The bill also provides for suspension of any arbitration proceedings if the two parties agree to accept mediation. In fact, this will also encourage use of mediation. That is one reason the Bloc Québécois is in favour of these amendments.

The rates charged for incidental services will be discussed. The railways earn most of their income from the rates charged for transporting goods, such as the carloads of grain from the Prairies to Vancouver, but charges also have to be paid for services that are incidental to the conveyance of goods or that are not directly related. These are known as incidental or associated charges; the cost of parking, additional charges to a shipper who requires more than the scheduled time, the cost of cleaning and or stocking cars and weighing the goods are examples of incidental costs.

In recent years, the rates charged by the railways have become a burden to shippers. However, the means of dealing with this problem are limited, since arbitration does not apply as a distinct remedy for incidental charges or associated conditions. The act will be amended to permit the agency to investigate a complaint from any shipper who is subject to a general application tariff that provides for rates and conditions. Finally, incidental charges invoiced by the railways could be subject to arbitration.

There is also the notice of change of tariff. The act defines the tariff as being a schedule of rates, charges, terms and conditions. At present it requires that the railway publish any changes to this tariff at least 20 days before raising rates. Such notice is not required for rates pertaining to incidental services or related conditions in the section on tariffs. This will be amended. The act will be amended so as to extend the period of notice from 20 to 30 days so that shippers can receive sufficient notice of any increase in the rates for transportation. Notice is therefore extended and incidental charges will be included.

There are also the sidings for producer cars. During the consultations, some parties asked for tighter regulation on abandonment of sidings used for loading grain or loading producer cars on the Prairies. Sidings are not subject to the provisions of the act on discontinuing a line. Complaints about the closing of sidings used for loading cars arise in part from the fact that shippers do not know which sidings are in service, since at present the railways are not required to inform those concerned.

The act will be amended so as to require the railways to publish the list of sidings available for loading grain producer cars and to give 60 days’ notice before putting a siding out of service.

All this means that, on their own lines, the railway companies used to operate as though they were the only ones using them. That was the problem. As far as I am concerned, the federal government failed in its original mission. Over the past 20 years, it has got rid of all the railway tracks that belonged to it and transferred them to private companies: to Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. Today we realize that that has created a problem. The people to whom they were transferred, often for paltry sums, are today making incredible profits. In the end they regard this asset as their own. When the time comes to make the rails available to other users, they know that tracks cannot be laid just anywhere. There needs to be a corridor across Canada and such a thing cannot be created on a whim. The government, as far as I am concerned, made a mistake in this regard. It should have kept them.

There is also the example of the bridge at Quebec City that we are having so much difficulty getting painted. The Quebec bridge belongs to Canadian National and it says it does not have the money to get it painted. That does not matter very much. The Liberals tried legal proceedings to force CN to paint the Quebec bridge, especially in view of the 400th anniversary. It will be great to show visitors Quebec, the oldest city in America, with a rusty bridge. But that is how it is.

When the Liberals were in power, they fell flat on their faces. They could not get anything done and instituted legal proceedings. The Conservatives, thinking themselves more intelligent, said that they would set the legal proceedings aside and change the legislation. But no, the minister had to do the same thing six months ago. He too launched legal proceedings to try to force CN to paint the Quebec bridge. I predict that it still will not be painted in 2008. They will not get it done, unless they pay what CN has been asking since the very beginning. If they want it painted, they should get out their money and pay for it. That is the hard truth.

Today, once again, the federal government has given up. The free flow of goods and services between the provinces is a federal responsibility. This always makes me laugh because we have been trying for decades to get a new bridge built right here between the Quebec Ontario banks of the river. I have always wondered what use a Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is if we cannot get goods, services and people moving freely between provinces. No new bridge or new infrastructure is being built to join the two banks.

The federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities cannot serve as an referee or as anything at all. He dare not get involved because he is powerless. The problem today is that they are trying to give some powers by means of the Canada Transportation Act. It is good that we are here because one day they got rid of the railways and now they are forced to regulate a bit or else the railway owners are going to decide to operate their way and, often, raise rates without warning. That is what we are telling the House now.

In all these regards, it is evident that the Bloc Québécois is very sensitive to the problems of farmers, including western grain growers on the prairies.

We have always been very sensitive to the problems of Quebec farmers. That is why we always defend supply management so staunchly. If the Conservative government defended the supply management interests of Quebec farmers as fiercely as it defends the transportation of grain in hopper cars, they would probably be doing pretty well. The problem is that there is always a double standard in this country. There is one standard now for western farmers and another for eastern farmers, especially those in Quebec.

We in the Bloc Québécois do not make such distinctions and when we feel that our constituents are being exploited by private enterprise, we do not hesitate to take action. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-58 in order to help the western grain producers and shippers.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to engage in the debate on Bill C-58, amendments to the Canada Transportation Act.

This is really one of a trilogy of bills. This is the third of the three bills which address various issues within transportation. The first bill, Bill C-3, actually addressed the whole issue of bridges and tunnels, making sure government was able to protect the interests of Canadians in ensuring that our bridges and tunnels on our international borders are protected and maintained properly. The second one, Bill C-11, addressed the whole issue of railway noise, making sure that we had grain caps in place, making sure that communities had a say in what happens when there are disputes with railways. This bill, Bill C-58, addresses the issue of freight across our country.

The railways are what Canada was built around. The railways were a driving force in making sure that Canada became the country it is today. Railway freight is really the object of Bill C-58.

Canadians rely on our railways for their livelihood. Our economy depends on the timely delivery of freight across our country. Not only is freight delivered to the various areas and communities of our country by rail, but our railways are also used to deliver freight to the gateways of our country, the Pacific gateway, the Atlantic gateway, even our border with the United States, a critical gateway to make sure that we protect the ongoing prosperity of our country.

This bill addresses a number of concerns that have been raised over the last five to ten years. The existing Canada Transportation Act is some 10 years old. Shippers in particular have been raising a number of issues with how our railways are administered. They have had beefs with some of the pricing of the services that are delivered. They have had beefs about how railway siding abandonment has been addressed. They have been worried about advance notice for a number of the issues that are dealt with under the Canada Transportation Act. They are also concerned about how disputes with the railway companies are addressed.

This bill is addressing the concern that shippers have with respect to the relatively tightly concentrated ownership of railways in Canada. We know from experience that in industries that have relatively few players, such as the railway industry in Canada, there is always a risk that the players within that industry will engage in predatory behaviour. I am not for a moment suggesting that is what is happening in Canada, but it is one of the concerns the shippers in Canada have raised.

The shippers want to make sure they are treated fairly. Shippers have concerns. They want to make sure they can get their products from point A to point B in a cost effective and timely manner. When there are disputes about the level of service, or a dispute over the prices charged for transporting freight from point A to point B, they want to know that there is an effective and efficient mechanism in place to achieve that.

Bill C-58 actually provides a solution. It is called final offer arbitration. Final offer arbitration already exists under the Canada Transportation Act, but it applies in limited circumstances. Unfortunately, it is an expensive process. It is one that many of the shippers, especially the small shippers, cannot afford.

Typically we would want to make sure that our shippers and railways resolve their disputes in a commercial manner, for example, by negotiating with each other. That is the ideal. If there is a beef about the pricing for getting the freight from one point to another, the shipper wants to be able to sit down with the railway and negotiate something that is fair. Sometimes negotiating does not work and the parties move on to something called mediation where a third party is brought in to review the issues, to review the pricing and perhaps the level of service.

Sometimes a mediator can come up with a solution that the other two parties are not able to arrive at on their own. If that does not work, shippers are left with a problem. They are left with arbitration. As a result of arbitration being expensive, sometimes it can cost up to half a million dollars to arbitrate a dispute. Many of the shippers cannot afford the current arbitration process.

This bill implements final offer arbitration within a broader context. Let me explain to the House how final offer arbitration works.

In those provisions, the shipper and the carrier each make their best offer. They have a dispute, they come to the table, and each comes forward with their best offer and presents that offer to the arbitrator. The shipper is not going to bring in an offer that is totally out to lunch because he or she knows that the arbitrator is not going to take that offer. The arbitrator is probably going to take the railway proposal. The railway is going to be in the same boat. It is going to bring forward an offer that is as close to where it probably should be to make sure that the other party's offer is not taken. This effectively drives the parties closer in their negotiations and closer in terms of the offers that they present.

The arbitrator can only make one choice. He chooses one offer or the other. He cannot amend the one offer or the other offer. He cannot combine them. He cannot come up with a compromise. He picks one or the other. The purpose is to make sure the parties, when they make their offers, are as close as possible. It certainly drives the parties to negotiate these disputes if there is any way of resolving them outside of the arbitration process. There is an incentive for the parties to put forward reasonable offers.

Final offer arbitration is one of the more popular remedies under the Canada Transportation Act, certainly with shippers. One of the reasons is because shippers have considerable control over the process and are not dependent on other parties. In essence, the shippers determine the rates and conditions that are contained in the final offer, so they have some control over that process. This forces the railway to respond in kind.

The decisions that the arbitrator makes are, of course, confidential. On the whole, shippers are satisfied with final offer arbitration under the Canada Transportation Act. However, they complained again because of the costs. Individual shippers really cannot avail themselves of this process because it is just too expensive. Our amendments to Bill C-58 address that problem.

Bill C-58 proposes two main amendments. First and foremost, Bill C-58 extends the final offer arbitration to a group of shippers who are disputing a railway's proposed freight rates or conditions for the movement of traffic across Canada. This allows a group of shippers to come together and share the costs of final offer arbitration. It will generally give shippers more leverage during their negotiations with the railways because now the railways know the costs of this final offer arbitration are going to be spread over a large number of shippers rather than one or two.

To be eligible for this, the shippers have to have issues in common. This ensures that they are not dealing with a scattergun approach and that the arbitrator has a specific issue to address. It would be unfair to expect an arbitrator to consider a group application that lacks sufficient commonality. This legislation clearly addresses that.

The second part of this amendment requires that the arbitrator and the agency must be satisfied that the members of this group of shippers have attempted to mediate the matter. In the ideal world, we want to make sure that the parties try to negotiate first, keep it out of a formal system, and subsequently maybe use a mediator to try to come to a common resolution. Once the Canadian Transportation Agency is satisfied that mediation has been attempted, it will then move to allow an arbitration process to take place. Shippers have strongly endorsed this concept of group final offer arbitration.

Bill C-58 also provides a provision that permits parties to a final offer arbitration to suspend the arbitration halfway through the process to try to engage in negotiation or further mediation.

Again, that makes sense because the parties know the arbitration process is going to end up with one offer or the other being chosen and it is binding on both parties. There is still an incentive for them to consider going back to negotiation and mediation to try to resolve the dispute without having the final decision made by the arbitrator.

It gives an opportunity for the shippers and the railways to take a time out and a deep breath. They can say they are getting close and resolve it among themselves rather than going to the arbitrator. All those options are available under our amendments.

These changes to the arbitration process are going to assist the shippers in getting their problems resolved with the railways. It is also a faster way of bringing resolution to these problems.

The government has heard the shippers. It believes it has addressed these concerns. I have addressed one of the concerns in Bill C-58. My colleagues are going to address a number of other amendments within Bill C-58.

I would encourage all members in the House to support this legislation because it is good for our communities. It is certainly good for the city of Abbotsford which relies heavily on the railways to get grain to the feed mills that provide feed to our poultry growers. We also have a strong manufacturing sector in Abbotsford that needs the railways to provide cost-effective pricing and timely service.

This bill will achieve all of those ends. It is a huge step forward in bringing Canada into the 21st century when it comes to transportation. I encourage members in the House to support Bill C-58.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate 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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether my colleague from Windsor West thinks like me, but at present we can see that the Conservatives and the Liberals are in cahoots with one another to try and please the rail industry and the large railway companies. We can feel it and see it.

The Liberal Senate is proposing suitable amendments. We need only read about the appearances by the big railway companies before the Senate committee to understand that the committee was against the definition judiciously negotiated by all parties. It was also especially opposed to anything to do with neighbouring communities being taken into consideration so as to avoid causing them any harm. There is some kind of connivance going on.

I wonder whether they are not trying to correct an error. At least that is what the Liberals and Conservatives must be saying to each other. Indeed a major error was made under former Parliaments with respect to VIA Fast. If VIA Fast had come into being, this would have created a high-speed Quebec-Montreal—Montreal-Windsor rail system, and that would have made it possible to have a dedicated passenger train track and thus relieve traffic in the freight train corridor.

It was the Liberals themselves, who could not agree among themselves, who killed VIA Fast. Nor did the Conservatives want VIA Fast to see the light of day. It looks as though today they realize that they cost the industry an opportunity. No longer having passenger trains on its tracks would have been a major advantage for the freight train industry. It looks as though today the Liberals and the Conservatives want to make up for this by trying to put as little pressure as possible on the industry regarding the harm it will be causing citizens.

In the end everyone is a loser. The whole population loses in relation to the Conservative and Liberal MPs and to the Liberal and Conservative Senate. Citizens and users of rail transportation who do not have a dedicated line in the Quebec-Montreal—Montreal-Windsor corridor are also losers.

And then the citizens who live along these railway lines will have to battle it out with the railway companies and they will not have the means they would have had under Bill C-11. Once again everyone loses out and once again Liberal-Conservative connivance is trying to make up for a mistake. To my mind, the fact that the VIA Fast project never materialized was a mistake. Today they are trying to compensate for that mistake by putting less pressure on the railway companies regarding noise pollution.

I ask my colleague what he thinks of what I have just said.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak about an important bill, Bill C-11, and the amendments that have been put forth to it.

Two amendments from the Senate are causing considerable problems, and I hope to contribute to derailing those amendments because they go against consumer interest groups.

One Senate amendment relates to airline industry accountability and information that would be provided on an airline ticket purchased by a consumer.

The other Senate amendment waters down the rights of residents who live adjacent to railroad properties and the ability of them to interact with some fairness with the rail operators and have them provide some accountability when it comes to their operations, particularly with respect to noise and vibrations. These problems are persistent across the country.

I want to speak about the railroad operations first. I will provide a couple of examples as to why it is so important that the amendments be defeated and how they are counter to the needs and wishes of people.

I cannot understand the Senate doing this, unless it does feel it is accountable to ordinary Canadians and their ability to enjoy of their residences next to railroads. There has to be a balance in this type of an equation. The balance is often against them by governments and the railway operations. Bill C-11 would have at least rectify some of those injustices they have faced over the years. We have heard in the debate today that there are many examples of this across the country.

I first became involved in one of the original railroad disputes in my political career back in 1997 when I was on city council. The federal government had a program at the time to eliminate rail operations that blocked roads. The government was to build bridges and overpasses.

That program was killed by the previous minister of finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard. It was a good infrastructure project, which has not been brought back. There would have been contributions by the federal government to create this separation of rail and traffic. It was very expensive, but very beneficial for the economy, productivity and also the environment. The program would eliminate idling and would have expedited rail and trucking operations.

Wellington Street in Windsor went down into what some people would call a ditch and a rail operation went over the top of the road. The road underpass was not tall enough to allow transport trucks to pass. Oftentimes many U.S. truckers drove down this roadway and would end up having the top of their truck ripped off. It became known as the Wellington can opener.

When the project finally received some funding of about $22 million, construction was to be undertaken to build around the site. First a bridge would be built to get the rails over top of a new span and then create the actual infrastructure underneath for the future. Adjacent to this area was a derelict rail yard. There had been a station there at one point. It had become a dumping ground of which the railway company never took care. It allowed the weeds and grass grow out of control. It had also become a dumping ground for tires and so forth. The area was never cleaned up and the city was constantly fighting over it. It is important to note that the railway was complicit with the city at that time.

While I was on council, I lost a vote ten to one to allow concrete recycling for the construction to take place on that site. The site was the size of a football field and filled with material and concrete that was ripped up and dumped in the field. The waste was about four stories tall.

Adjacent to that was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Windsor West. It had modest homes and working class families. The neighbourhood had pools and parks. A number of houses were adjacent to this site. Originally the city had agreed to set up a temporary four storey tall concrete recycling operation across the street and down wind. As a community group, we had to fight to reverse council's decision and get the railroad to agree to stop the dumping at this site. It was a big battle.

It was unfair to the constituents of that area because for years they had fought about that. This is another issue not only in terms of pollution, with diesel engines sitting on the tracks for hours and not moving, but also in terms of the vibrations that affect their homes.

I want to point out another example, a more recent one that happened while I was in the House of Commons. It proves the arrogance and unbelievable neglect in terms of community consultation.

In 2003 the VACIS, a gamma X-ray technology, was introduced in the city of Windsor along the rail corridors. At that time, the Liberal government was in power. It did not even consult with the municipality. In consultation with CP Rail and the Department of Homeland Security, it was unilaterally decided to put this X-ray technology system right next to the football field of a local high school.

Further compounding that, as the trains went through the gamma X-ray technology, they had to slow down from 25 to 7 kilometres an hour. Also, about 200 yards before that was a rail crossing with no separation of grade. Trucks, cars, buses and people going to and from the school and the shopping malls were having to wait longer and longer. It was amazing. The city of Windsor had to file a lawsuit against CP Rail to stop it.

At that time, I asked the Liberal minister, Minister McLellan, about this and it was denied altogether. I had my constituency assistant take photographs of the actual equipment on site as it poured cement and graded the original infrastructure for this project. We had to fight the system. It was amazing that there was no consultation whatsoever, and the consequences are significant.

That is why these amendments fly in the face of the type of things that need to happen to make rail operations more accountable to people. We only have to talk to different people in different ridings to understand that conflicts routinely happen. It is the citizens who generally feel, even though the circumstances are different, powerless and helpless. Finally, when Bill C-11 came forward, we had an opportunity to inject a bit of justice.

It is important to note that the recent history of some of the rail operations has been rather disturbing and troubling. This accountability is very much a significant step forward. It could have had a net benefit across the country.

It is fine that we had a debate in the House of Commons about back to work legislation. We have had a debate in the House about safety regulations. Now that we finally get an improvement, it is being taken away from us by the unelected senate. I find that unacceptable.

In my riding, and in many ridings, people probably do not even realize the amount of hazardous materials involved in rail operations and the different types of substance involved. They can affect the residents nearby.

Other countries have different practices for bringing greater accountability, and a good example is the United States. Railways were shipping chlorine gas through Dade county, Florida, which goes through our corridors as well. The country fought this and successfully had the chlorine gas rerouted to a non-urban area. Then later on, because of that whole debate, it eliminated the chlorine from the destination, which was a pollution control plant that did water treatment, for a more environmentally friendly product.

There are cases where some laws have been changed. Some of the cities across the United States have succeeded in having certain chemicals rerouted because of their concerns with the ecosystem and also the environment.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has declared some of these rail containers of chlorine to be weapons of mass destruction because they can literally, within a 15 mile radius, poison everybody in that area if there were an accident or a terrorist attack. That is why there has been this progression in the United States to move it away from urban areas or to look for other types of materials that would not have the type of danger associated with them.

My constituency has had to fight to get access to rail yards for first responders training and so forth. When we talk about very significant issues like that, which are still causing concern for people, and compare it to the minor step forward for which we are looking, a reasonable one, to establish a process so there will be greater accountability for noise and vibration and empowerment for citizens through mediation, why would we take that away? It is unbelievable and unacceptable.

This is something residents across the country really need to get their heads around. I cannot understand why we would allow an unelected body, which does not have to respond to the concerns of individuals, to decide to usurp a change that would have effectively provided residents a voice. I cannot understand why the government is going on along with that.

This is very much an issue that relates to people's personal property and their values. That is supposed to be the party that claims it has the high ground, understands personal wealth and that people should have protection. At the same time, it is taking away a very modest tool for people to fight back to ensure they can protect themselves, their property value and their communities.

On the issue of rail, it is really important that the amendment is put in the proper context. It is coming from an unelected body that will take away the rights we have fought for over a number of years. More important, I believe it will take away greater accountability on the rail system that would lead to less conflict between neighbourhoods and rail operations. There would be a mandate to try to solve those problems before they became larger issues. That would seem a more progressive approach, in my opinion, in dealing with this.

Rail operations have been in communities for many years without changing. They do not go away. The shunting, the noise and their operations continue. Residents and businesses also continue.

I want to touch briefly on the issue of the commercial airline tickets amendment. When we look at the Competition Bureau, the record of the previous administration and now this one with regard to updating the Competition Act, is based upon a 1969 philosophy.

The minister's briefing book, which I was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act, identified specifically that 40 years ago things were quite different and it needed to be updated. That was at the time of the Woodstock festival. The Competition Bureau and the Competition Act need a mandate that is more modernized.

Consumers should have more opportunity to see the real information about the price of a ticket. What they will receive should not be hidden by other charges, fees and expectations of service that are never delivered when they purchase their tickets.

I do not understand why there cannot be a set of rules around that which allow consumers to know this, especially given what has happened now with the Internet and other types of technology specific to the tourism industry. People are shopping more and more on the Internet for airline and vacation destinations. They do that with the openness and hope that there will be comparable factors. Why the Senate would buckle under the lobbying efforts and allow the industry to continue to hide charges, fees and so forth is beyond me.

What we want to do is create some openness so people can shop around for the best air carrier, knowing what they will get and selecting the price based upon that. If they want greater or reduced service, or if they want to know if there are any extra fees or charges, they should be available so they can make their selections based upon that.

Why would we want to take that away from consumers, especially in an industry where there have been a lot of complaints in the past about competition? We want the consumer to have the opportunity to make some decisions and have some authority and power.

These two amendments are very interesting in the sense that I believe they come about through lobby efforts. They come at the expense of civil liberties, which allow individuals to have more consumer protection, information and awareness. This is at a time when personal information is being harvested by many companies and organizations to be used against people in marketing and so forth. However, we cannot allow consumers to have the same openness that companies, which allows them to target individuals in their marketing. We are not going to allow that provision.

The second part is with regard to the railway system and that is extremely offensive. Bill C-11 is very important in that we do want to have some improvements but, at the same time, when we take away those two elements from the bill, it becomes much weaker. For that reason I believe we need to defeat the Senate amendments because it is important that consumers and neighbourhoods and communities are protected and, unfortunately, that is being reversed by the Senate amendments.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, on his excellent work and excellent presentation.

The last question from the Liberal member is typical of the Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to this bill. In the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we heard from witnesses, both from railway companies and community groups who were experiencing problems. We arrived at a balanced position. The wording proposed by the citizens groups was much more draconian than what we came up with, which is “as little noise as possible”. That was the wording in a bill previously tabled by the Liberals.

Today, a Liberal member is wondering about this change in wording. Yes, it is important. And it is also important to add “neighbouring communities” among the things that should be taken into account by the Canadian Transportation Agency. By eliminating this, we are taking power away from the neighbouring communities. And for that I am upset with the Conservatives: they are caving in to the Liberal majority in the Senate, especially the members from Quebec.

This brings me to my question. What does my colleague think of the behaviour of the members from the Quebec City area? Both Quebec City and Lévis were represented in committee. All the Conservative members represent Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches area, the two sectors where are located the cities who had witnesses before the committee. These witnesses came to tell us that we were not going far enough. Lévis proposed the same definition as the one in Bill C-11. As far as Quebec City is concerned, its definition was much stricter than what we came up with: the balance achieved in Bill C-11.

I take issue with the Liberals today. The hon. member just said that she did not think the wording was so bad, but the entire issue of the problems in the neighbouring communities was dropped.

What does my colleague think of the behaviour of these Conservative and Liberal members?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

I will not begin my presentation by saying that I am pleased to rise and speak today because today I do not feel any pleasure, but rather shame, before the amendments that have come to us from the Senate. These amendments defeat the significant amendments that were made to Bill C-11 and passed unanimously in committee.

I am ashamed because the Senate did not do its job properly. It only met with railway companies, which told it all about their dissatisfaction with the bill. The Senate report even quotes their arguments. We read there that the Canadian railway companies claimed that a new standard could have considerable economic consequences in the absence of a standard based on the reasonableness of noise.

So the companies played the economic argument, but we must not lose sight of the purpose of the bill, which was not to try and make railway companies as profitable as possible. That would have been studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Rather the bill was designed to deal with numerous complaints from our citizens who live close to railways. These citizens are penalized by the operations of these companies, which as a rule do not listen to the citizens’ complaints. If you are an MP, you represent all your fellow citizens. MPs contribute by developing bills in our fine parliamentary system in order to improve the living conditions of their fellow citizens.

The members of the Senate said themselves they held five meetings to study this bill, which is so important to us. I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We held 15 sessions just to meet with witnesses. Of these 15, some 10 were an opportunity to meet with citizens, groups of citizens and representatives of cities who told us about the problems they have been experiencing for a very long time. Representatives of the department and railway companies also shared their comments with us on the bill, and answered our questions.

In addition to the 15 sessions we had with witnesses, we held six sessions specifically to do a clause-by-clause study. After meeting with all the witnesses, each of the parties studied the problem and proposed amendments with a view to improving the bill. The committee was unanimous in passing the amendments adopted at third reading.

I am relatively new as an MP and I was pleased to see that we could draft a useful bill that would improve life for my constituents. I have talked about this bill in my riding to illustrate my work as an MP. I do not know how I am going to explain to my constituents the situation we are in right now, but depending on the result of the vote on this bill, I will have to say a few words about those who are undoing the democratic work that we undertook.

It is important to point out, as my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said earlier, that members of the Senate are saying that if their amendments are not accepted by the House, they could nonetheless pass the bill quickly.

The fact that the government party seems to want to give in so easily and destroy everything that was done in committee and in drafting the bill, adds to the frustration and shame I feel about the way the Senate operates. The Conservatives seem to be saying that this will all work out.

This eliminates any possibility of making these improvements. The official opposition party seems to want to do the same thing, since it has the majority in the Senate and was lobbied by the railway companies.

We are in an incredible situation where organized pressure groups, companies that have lobbyists, can interfere with a major bill to improve living conditions, by approaching members of the Senate to influence them during specific meetings and make them change their minds.

I find this hard to swallow, especially since, as the Bloc knows, the very existence of the Senate has been criticized. These are people who were not elected and we do not know to whom they are accountable. The way in which we are currently receiving the report shows they are not improving matters or the impression we have of them. In my opinion, they did not conduct a defined study that allows us to achieve the objectives of the bill.

I find this surprising, especially as the purpose of the amendments we proposed to the provision on noise was to respond to all the testimony we had heard. These amendments were not made out of the blue. We conducted a long review, provision by provision, because we had received various proposals from different parties. We reached a consensus, even though we had been asked to show even greater determination on the noise issue. We said, therefore, that the companies have to cause as little noise and vibration as possible. We opted for this formulation rather than prohibiting any unreasonable noise. Who can say what is reasonable or not and on what basis would it be judged? We wanted every possible solution attempted, therefore, in an effort to resolve this problem.

We know that there can be various different ways of resolving the noise problem, especially in marshalling yards. There are the hours of operation, but also the machinery, the engines, and better locomotives that make less noise when they operate.

We also required the railway companies to take into consideration the possible impact on people residing close to the railway. Initially, the bill did not mention these people. It just said that the operational and construction needs of railways had to be met. When we received a number of representations on the impact of the noise on local people, we decided to add something in order to achieve this objective and make the companies ultimately responsible for the impact on the local population and not just for the physical operation of their equipment.

The involvement of the Conservative members from Quebec could be seen most clearly in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse where there is also a very large marshalling yard. The Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse was very pleased to meet with the sector president in his region who came to voice his complaints.

Since the Senate members did not even make the effort to meet with these people, I would like to quote an excerpt from the testimony of Mr. Jean-Pierre Bazinet, president of the Chute-de-la-Chaudière sector in Lévis. If people take the time to re-read the discussions, they will see what the concerns of the City of Lévis were.

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

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

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

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

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

“Based on the available noise measurements, the literature review and the specific context, we find that the environmental noise to which many of the people living in the residential area adjacent to CN's Joffre switching yard are exposed adversely affects their quality of life and potentially their health. Such noise levels are therefore a nuisance to the peace, comfort and well-being of the residents near the Joffre switching yard in Charny.

From a public health standpoint, these noise levels are likely to have an adverse affect on health by disturbing sleep, which in turn has a number of side effects.

These noise levels are in our view incompatible with residential zoning unless special measures are taken to reduce the noise”.

This is part of what Mr. Bazinet, from Lévis, said in his testimony. It was very important and was much appreciated by the Conservative member in that riding. However, he has not been seen at all during the current debate period. I think that he is not happy with his party's position, or he is not proud of what the parliamentary secretary said, about how the proposed amendments were satisfactory and it would still be a good bill.

I call on all the Conservative members, especially those from Quebec, to take a stand for once and vote in favour of this bill, which offers a solution to the noise problem. We heard from at least five or six citizens' groups from Lévis, whom I mentioned, and also from Quebec City. Quebec City and Lévis are major areas and the noise problem is causing many problems for people. There are certainly Liberal members who are also concerned about this problem in their ridings. I think it is important to show that a realistic bill, unanimously agreed upon by the parties in parliamentary committee, can move forward, and to not show the public that despite what we have been discussing for weeks and months in the House, and despite our best efforts, a few senators can decide what is best for the public. Senators do not have to answer to the people afterwards.

I invite everyone who is even remotely aware of the importance of democracy to vote against these amendments. The Senate must recognize that the House of Commons stands firm, that it has examined the bill, and especially, that it has taken into account the public's arguments in order to improve the situation.