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.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2007 / 7:45 p.m.
See context

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to support the amendments to Bill C-11 that the Senate passed and to explain why as well.

Bill C-11 primarily amends the Canada Transportation Act. The Senate amendments affect two provisions of C-11: one regulating railway noise and vibrations and one regulating airfare advertising. I will deal first with the so-called “noise” provisions.

The noise provisions give the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to resolve disputes related to railway noise and vibrations. This is a great thing for Canadians. It has been hailed from Quebec through to the Atlantic provinces and all the way to British Columbia. A lot of people are looking forward to these amendments and that is why this government is moving forward with this agenda.

The agency used to adjudicate disputes related to noise vibrations and other nuisances. However, in December 2000 the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the agency did not, that is correct, did not have the jurisdiction in such matters. As a result of that, it takes this government to bring clarification to the issue and Bill C-11 reinstates the agency's authority in this regard.

The amendments passed in the Senate deal with two elements that are at the heart of the noise provision. The first is the obligation that railways must live up to it and, indeed, the factors that are taken into consideration with respect to this obligation. There is also a coordinating amendment to the section that gives the agency the authority to hear a complaint and order corrective action, if warranted.

Bill C-11, as originally tabled in the House of Commons, proposed to add section 95.1 to the CTA. This section required that when constructing or operating a railway, a railway company “must not cause unreasonable noise”. It also specified three factors to be taken into consideration in determining whether or not this standard had been met. These factors include: the railways' level of service obligations under sections 113 and 114 of the act; the railway's operational requirements; and the area where the operation or construction takes place.

Members should take note of the third factor, the area where the operation or construction takes place, because I will be dealing with that.

Section 95.1 was amended based on recommendations from the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the amendment consisted of three main elements. First, it extended the agency's authority to vibrations as well as noise. This is very important. As we are aware, people who live next to railways must deal with the constant vibrations of idling engines.

Second, it changed the railway's obligations from “not causing unreasonable noise” to “cause as little noise and vibration as possible”.

Third, it added a new factor, the potential impact on persons residing on properties adjacent to the railway. Coordinating amendments were also made to section 95.3 to reflect these changes.

Section 95.3 authorizes the agency to hear complaints and order the railway to take corrective measures. As I noted earlier, the Senate amendments change the obligation that is imposed on the railways. Under the Senate amendments, a railway “shall cause only such noise and vibration as is reasonable”.

In addition, the Senate dropped the factor that was added by the transport committee, the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway. I do not want anyone to get upset at that because we feel we have covered that in other amendments and with the original text. Coordinating amendments were made to section 95.3.

The government supports the Senate amendments for various reasons. It establishes an obligation based on “reasonableness” and, as all members of the House know, reasonableness is found in many sections of the law and many acts throughout this country. In fact, this is the same concept that was reflected in the original Bill C-11.

The concept of reasonableness, as I said, is found in hundreds and hundreds of acts and has been judicially interpreted on countless occasions, so there is no question as to what judges will do once they find the issue of reasonableness as coming into consideration. These interpretations make an obligation based on “reasonableness” a lot easier to understand and circumscribe than one based on “as little as possible”, which has very limited use in federal legislation.

The expression “least possible noise” was used in Bill C-26 in 2003, a predecessor of Bill C-11. It was changed in the next version of the bill in 2005 to reflect the notion of reasonableness because this is a concept that is used consistently in Canadian legislation.

Furthermore, it is a concept that the agency must apply on a daily basis. That is correct, on a daily basis. There are over 30 references to the word “reasonable” or “unreasonable” in the existing Canada Transportation Act.

A review of the agency's previous decisions on noise complaints clearly indicates that the agency applied the concept of reasonableness in rendering its decision. It is a concept with which the agency is very familiar and of course judges are familiar with it. In conclusion with respect to this, an obligation based on “reasonableness” is preferred to one based on “as little as possible”. That obviously makes sense.

The government also supports the Senate's amendment that drops “the potential impact on persons residing in properties adjacent to the railway” when determining if a railway is fulfilling its obligations. This is very important but it is already included in the act.

The “area where the operation or construction takes place” will remain as one of the three factors. I will repeat that because it is very important: the area where the operation or construction takes place. The government believes that this factor is broad enough to include the impact on persons living in homes or apartments adjacent to the railway. It is inconceivable that the agency would not take this into consideration.

Finally, the government supports the coordinating amendment to section 95.3 which brings the section into line with the amended language in section 95.1.

The amendments to the Canada Transportation Act passed by the Senate also affect air transportation.

This is such an important bill. That is why we are so happy to have some of our friends from the opposition support us on this endeavour.

Bill C-11 will improve protection for air travellers by requiring the agency to prescribe regulations on airfare advertising. The guidelines and objectives of the government regarding airfare advertising are clearly set out in legislation and will assist the agency to develop adequate regulations.

In the version of this bill tabled by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in May 2006, the provision on airfare advertising indicated that regulations may be developed by the agency “on recommendation of the minister”. The bill was subsequently amended following testimony before the standing committee last fall removing this particular stipulation and was adopted by the House on February 28.

Earlier in May the Senate committee on transport and communications heard from a number of witnesses from the air and rail industries. The committee supported the amendments regarding airfare advertising that were adopted by this House. That was good.

However, the committee also felt strongly that this particular provision should come into force at a later date, one determined by the governor in council. This is reflected in the amendment to the bill, a new clause 64, relating to the coming into force of the airfare advertising provisions.

The Senate committee was of the view that further consultation should take place between government, the airline industry and other interested parties, such as consumer advocacy groups in Canada, before advertising regulations are developed by the agency.

Very clearly we consult stakeholders on a continuous basis. We make sure that we listen to them and act on their suggestions.

The government agrees that additional consultations across Canada will help to ensure on a consistent and timely basis that all information and views are received and the development of the regulations would take into account the views of all stakeholders, as we usually do on this side of the House.

This government wishes to ensure that consumers are offered clear choices, so that they know what they are buying before they buy it, as it relates to advertising of air travel by airlines. The government is very aware of consumers' concerns that airfare advertising be clear, transparent and not at all misleading to consumers. Consumers have told us on a consistent basis that they want to be able to compare different airlines' advertised prices and to know up front how much they will pay for any air service that they wish to buy.

The additional time for consultation and review will be well used. We believe that these new amendments are excellent.

In closing, I urge all members to support Bill C-11 as amended by the Senate. Stakeholders were first consulted on amendments to the CTA in the year 2000 and after seven years they are very anxious for this bill to be passed, preferably before the summer recess.

I have one more point that is very important. This bill provides for a one time adjustment to the grain revenue caps. That is expected to save western farmers $2 per tonne, or more than $50 million per year. This government is standing up for farmers. Any delay to the passage of this bill will preclude the farmers from getting this money. We support this bill and we would hope that all other members come forward and support it as well.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2007 / 7:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, 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.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the government, in proposing this motion today, has chosen once again to maintain its habitual lack of consultation and reluctance to attempt a collaborative approach to organizing the business of the House.

On more than one occasion, as I think the Chair will remember, I asked directly whether the government intended to make use of Standing Order 27. As other House leaders can confirm, the reply was, “probably not”. I do not think we would be off base in the opposition in expecting that if that were no longer the case, if the government had in fact changed its mind, that it would have decently given us a heads-up that it was going to propose this motion today, at least given us that notice some time earlier than around one o'clock this afternoon.

Frankly, as we saw the government House leader making his travels across the floor of the House, I will not say where he went, the heckling and yelling as he departed the chamber obviously indicates the kind of demeanour of which we have to deal.

I do not see what there is on the order paper at present that this motion will get through the House any more quickly than would have otherwise been the case. I presume, judging by the government House leader's remarks, that the government is principally concerned with Bill C-52, the budget bill.

It has represented to the House and to the public that the government is now extremely concerned the bill will not receive royal assent in time for certain expenditures to be booked in the appropriate fiscal year. Let us be clear. The fiscal year the Conservatives are talking about is 2006-07, and that is the point.

The issue is retroactive fiscal bookings for the last fiscal year, not the future fiscal year, as members would have gathered from the remarks of the government House leader. If there is concern about the lateness of the date, the government really has only itself to blame.

Usually federal budgets are delivered in or about the third week of February, which then permits the introduction of a budget implementation bill by the end of that month. If things are properly managed, this would permit the bill to be in committee before the end of March and to be passed at all stages by the end of May or, at the very latest, the beginning of June.

This year the government chose, for its own partisan reasons, to delay the budget until the third week of March. We did not even see it until then. Then it unilaterally interrupted the budget debate. Then having finished that, belatedly, it interrupted, again, the second reading debate on the budget implementation Bill C-52. That interruption lasted for three full weeks, getting the bill to committee only in the middle of May.

As a consequence, the government then bulldozed the bill through the committee, breaking procedural agreements, denying many interested and informed citizens and groups the right to testify on the bill. Let it be clearly understood that any procedural issue on Bill C-52 is a direct result of government breaking the agreement on the process, which had been fully settled by members of the committee.

Nevertheless, the bill is now only in its third day of debate at third reading and there is every indication that the third reading and final stage would come to an end in debate in the House by the end of business tomorrow at the latest.

It is important to underscore what these dates are with respect to the budget. Remember that the House resumed in the final week of January. The budget was not presented to the House until March 19, fully eight weeks into the parliamentary sitting. That was followed by a ways and means motion and the introduction of the budget bill, but that was delayed because the government interrupted its own budget debate on the financial principles of the government.

Its budget was late, the budget debate was unilaterally delayed by itself and then it finally got around to introducing the budget bill on March 29, which was debated at second reading for the first time on March 30. It was then debated in a haphazard, sporadic fashion, brought forward to the floor by the government, until April 23, and then it was hoisted altogether. The House did not see it again until May 14, full three weeks later.

Finally, it went to the committee, not as a result of any filibuster by the opposition or any party in the opposition. The delay was entirely the procedural mismanagement of the government. It was there for less than two weeks and one of those weeks was a break week when Parliament was not even sitting.

It finally passed through the committee, rather expeditiously, thanks to the cooperation of the opposition, and it was brought back to be debated at report stage on June 4. For how long? One day, that is all the report stage took. Now it is at third reading where there have been three days of debate, and probably a conclusion could have been arrived at very easily by the end of the day tomorrow.

This is why I made the point at the beginning of my remarks that there really is nothing on this order paper that could not be dealt with in the ordinary course of business without the measure the government House leader has introduced. Obviously it is a tactic to blame the opposition for the delays that lie entirely within the control of the government.

What is it then? If it is not Bill C-52, what is it that causes the government to move the motion today? Despite frequent requests for the government to outline its realistic legislative priorities before the summer, all we have heard repeatedly from the government House leader and from others on the government's side is a flow of partisan rhetoric. Legislation has in fact been moving along through the House and through committees, despite the government's erratic management of its agenda.

In fact, the most controversial bill on the order paper, and this is what gives me perhaps a little hope here, is probably Bill C-30, the clean air act, as it has been revised by members of Parliament. Significantly, only the government has been stalling it up to now. However, now we will have some extra time, some extra hours of sitting every day beginning on Wednesday.

Can we then conclude that the extra time the government is seeking is to facilitate the work of the House in consideration of Bill C-30? I certainly hope so. It is in this fervent hope that I indicate to the House that my party, the official Liberal opposition, will support the minister's motion for the extension of hours.

In the time available, in addition to Bill C-52, which will probably be done tomorrow, and in addition to Bill C-30, which I hope the government has the courage to recall and put before the House once again, the official opposition also looks forward to making progress on Bill C-11, lowering freight rates for farmers, on Bill C-14, dealing with foreign adoptions, on Bill C-23, dealing with criminal procedure, on Bill C-29, dealing with Air Canada and the use of official languages, on Bill C-35, dealing with bail reform, on Bill C-47, dealing with the Olympic, on Bill S-6 and Bill C-51, dealing with land claims and on Bill C-40, the private member's legislation that would provide free postage for mail from Canada to our troops in Afghanistan.

Then there is an item that was referred to in question period today. This is the bill we are anxiously awaiting to see, the one dealing with wage earner protection. I hope the government will follow through on the commitment given in question period, that it will table the bill in amended form so it can be passed at all stages and brought into law before Parliament adjourns for the summer recess.

Let me mention one other matter, which is outstanding and which should be dealt with by the House, or at least dealt with by the government when the House is sitting. This is the examination undertaken a few weeks ago by Mr. Brown in connection with the matters that have been of great concern to Canadians in respect of the RCMP pension fund.

As we understand it, there is a report due from Mr. Brown on June 15. That was the original undertaking given by the Minister of Public Safety. It would be very important for us to know that the examination is on time, that we will hear from Mr. Brown on time, and that the Minister of Public Safety will take the step that he promised to take and make that report public immediately.

Perhaps the government might also consider, in whatever time that remains before the summer recess, reforming its approach to the mood in the House. The mood could be improved if the government would refrain from certain of its more hostile practices. For example: no more gratuitous attack ads, no more broken agreements on how witnesses will be heard, no more manuals about dirty tricks for disrupting parliamentary business, and no more devious games to misuse Standing Orders of the House. A little good old fashioned good faith could change the mood for the better.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 11th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Wednesday June 13, 2007, and concluding on June 21, 2007, the House shall continue to sit until 10 p.m.

He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a motion that can be made one day a year, not on Christmas Day or Ground Hog Day, but this day, the 10th sitting day before June 23. It is a motion that can be made to allow the House to sit late into the evening.

I know that many members, when they look at that portion of the calendar and they see possible extension of sitting hours, they think that means we get to leave early for summer vacation, but that is not what it means. What it means is that under the Standing Orders of the House we can potentially sit and work late to get as much of the people's business done as possible because there are very important priorities for Canadians.

I will bear my soul here and say that it was not always my intention to move this motion. It was my hope that it would not be necessary. I was hoping that we would be making good progress.

For example, Bill C-52 in particular, the budget implementation bill was a bill which we believed we had an understanding with the other parties; in fact it had been shaken on by the member for St. Catharines, the member of the Liberal Party for Scarborough and others that it would be over to the Senate by June 6. Somewhere along the way the Liberal Party sought to treat it a little bit differently and as a result we are still debating it here almost a week later than the date we thought it would be over at the Senate. As a result of course we have lost considerable time to deal with other priorities for Canadians.

I want to talk about what those other priorities for Canadians might be, but first I want to focus on that number one priority which is Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill. As we have heard from many people in the House today, if that bill does not pass by the time the House rises for the summer, if that bill has not been dealt with, there are a number of financial priorities on issues that are very important to Canadians that will be lost, because it is a bill that reaches back to the previous fiscal year to spend funds. Those funds have to be allocated. The bill has to be passed and receive royal assent in order for those funds to be available in that fashion. If not, they are lost.

Some of those examples are ones which we have heard about today. The one that is at the top of my personal list is the $620 million in the budget for the patient wait times guarantee trust. This is money that is allocated to assist provinces in addressing what is one of our number one priorities—actually one of our top five priorities; I should put it that way—from the last election. That priority is to achieve a patient wait times guarantee, to help people get the kind of health care they need on a basis that is reasonable, that is practical, that is clinically sound.

For too long we saw patient wait times under the previous government actually double in length. We have this much vaunted Canadian health care system that we all purport to believe in, but if we really believe in it, we have to see that it works. An important part of it working is that Canadians should receive the health care that they need on a timely basis. That is what the $612 million is specifically aimed at.

The provinces are very anxious to receive these funds. It means a great deal for a lot of provinces. In my own province of Ontario that means $200 million plus of real money that Ontario needs for its health care system. The same thing, together with other elements, will mean for the province of Nova Scotia for health care $639 million including the transfer there. There is similar money throughout the country.

We are talking of significant funds. There are other elements in the budget. Much of that transfer will not be lost, as I said, because it is in the main budget funds, but the patient wait times guarantee money, that $612 million, is money that will be lost if we do not deal with that on a timely basis.

Another one that is very important is the $1.5 billion for the clean air and climate change trust. That is to help the provinces implement their plans to reduce greenhouse gases. It is very important.

On January 4 of this year, the Prime Minister addressed Canadians and identified what our priorities would be in government this year. One of those major priorities was to take real action on the environment. We have just seen that at the G-8 summit. In the summit declaration Canada's approach is an approach that is drastically different than it was for 13 years under the previous government when greenhouse gas emissions rose dramatically regardless of the commitments it took on. Now we have a national plan that results in real reductions, an actual plan that does that in both the short and medium term but also very importantly in the long term.

It is that approach by the Canadian government that was hailed as an example not just by world leaders, by other G-8 leaders, but by journalists from around the world, by special interest groups. The World Wildlife Fund, for example, issued a statement heralding Canada's approach as a model. The reason it is held out as a model and an example is it is an approach that can be used regardless of how lousy one's track record may be. This is important for a lot of the major emitters that had not been part of the arrangements up until now or did not have obligations under Kyoto to implement, major emitters like China, India, Brazil and the United States, to get them to the table and realize that if we are going to take on the challenges of addressing greenhouse gas emissions and turning around the risk of climate change and what it can potentially do to our world, we are going to have to take action in the long term. That is the approach of Canada that is being held as a model.

An important critical component of that approach is to engage and involve the provinces and ensure that they have in their hands the resources they need to be able to deliver. A big part of that is that $1.5 billion of ecotrust money, the clean air and climate change trust money. I underline that if we do not get Bill C-52 passed in time, that money will be lost.

This is where the delay and obstruction that the Liberal Party in particular has been conducting has been very harmful to the interests of Canadians who care about the environment, and in fact even those who do not care about the environment, because even if people do not care about it, it does affect them. It is important for all Canadians that they have that healthy environment.

Another example of the money that could be lost if Bill C-52 is not approved, if the Liberal obstruction is successful, is the $400 million for the Canada Health Infoway project. This is state of the art technology so that people can have better health care, taking advantage of technology to improve our health care system. This is something that is very important for the provinces to be able to deliver on the health care for Canadians, for their residents. Again if the Liberals are successful in their delay and obstruction plan this is something that will be lost if the bill is not dealt with and does not receive royal assent in the near future.

There is another one that is of particular of interest to me because it does affect residents in my part of Ontario. In fact the announcement was made in York region where I live and where my constituency is. That is the $225 million to protect endangered spaces, working in conjunction with groups like the Nature Conservancy of Canada to acquire sensitive lands that otherwise might be lost to development, or if not to acquire them, to put in place the kinds of conservation easements to ensure that they will be protected in their natural state for the foreseeable future, for as long as our legal regime remains in place, which is basically for as long as life continues as we know it. That money is very important but that money and the potential to protect those endangered lands will be lost if we cannot get the budget implementation bill passed in the appropriate time.

I also want to talk about the $30 million going to the Rick Hansen Foundation. Rick Hansen is the man in motion, a great Canadian who rolled his wheelchair around the world. He is a very strong personality and a great activist for his cause of spinal cord research. He suffered an injury but he showed that it did not hold him back and he did his around the world tour. I think it was in 1984 when he started his tour, which was an inspiration to all of us. The ongoing work of the foundation from the money he raised then is important. There is $30 million that we would like to see dedicated to that foundation. That $30 million would be lost if the Liberals have their way and they delay and obstruct this bill past the deadline we are dealing with.

For all of those reasons, the budget implementation bill is very important, not just because we want to see it passed, and that is a good reason, but there are actual, real consequences with a ticking clock, because of the fact that a significant amount of the funds are anchored in the previous fiscal year before March 31. That means we have to pass it before the books are closed. Basically we have to get royal assent. We have to get it all the way through before the folks here on Parliament Hill go home to their ridings for the summer. In order to do that, we want to see the potential to deal with this bill for as long as we need to.

I might add that we had hoped to be debating many other bills but the Liberals have chosen to delay this budget implementation bill in every way possible and for as long as they can, as we have seen in the House today and as we saw last Friday and so on. We have tried other measures to speed things along but they have stepped in to block them every time.

The other important bill that we need to deal with is Bill C-23, a Criminal Code amendment. Our justice agenda is very important, and Bill C-23 is a bill to update the Criminal Code provisions. It has come back to the House from committee and it is now at report stage. We would like to deal with that quickly but we will need some time in the House.

Similarly, we are expecting to see Bill C-11 on transport come back from the Senate with amendments. We will need to see whether this House agrees with those amendments or not. Bill C-11 is an important bill that has been around a long time, as members can see by the number, and we have been waiting for about a year to deal with it.

We also have Bill C-31, the election integrity bill. It is in the Senate and the Senate has indicated a desire to make some amendments to the bill. We and, I think, all parties would like to see that bill in this place, or at least three of the parties in the House would. The bill was amended at committee and we, as the government, accepted the amendments proposed by the Liberals and the Bloc.

Unfortunately, the Liberals in the Senate had a very different view of how the bill should work from the Liberals in the House of Commons. The Liberals in the Senate are actually getting rid of the House of Commons Liberal amendment on how to deal with the lists and the disclosure of information to political parties. They actually changed it to a position that was identical to what the Conservatives had originally proposed at committee.

As a result of the Liberals in the Senate deciding that they do not agree with the Liberals in the House of Commons, it means that we as the House of Commons need to deal with that bill one more time once the Senate has dealt with it.

We are waiting for that little ping-pong game between the Liberals in the Senate and the Liberals in the House of Commons to come to an end. When it does end, hopefully we can achieve a resolution on which we can all agree to ensure that future elections will proceed with a greater degree of integrity and probity, something that is very important to all parties and all members of this House.

Another bill that has come back after a long stay at committee is Bill C-42, the Quarantine Act, a very important bill on health matters and something we would like to deal with.

I know of one bill that the opposition House leader, the member for Wascana, has been very generous in showing a willingness to fast track and deal with very quickly and we are hoping to have it at report stage in the House very soon. I think we are in a position where we can do that very soon. I know other parties want some level of scrutiny so the very generous offer of the opposition House leader was one that we took up, but not everybody did. We can seek to get it passed through as many stages as possible in the House as quickly as possible. The bill I am talking about is the one dealing with Olympic symbols. I would like to see it dealt with on the House of Commons side and then go to the Senate.

That is an important bill for the folks who are putting together the 2010 Olympic Games in Whistler and Vancouver. It is important because it deals with copyright, trademarks and the like. We all know how challenging it is to put on these kind of games in this day and age and the ability to protect copyrights, to deal with merchandise and to generate that revenue to support the athletes, the games and the legacy venues that will be constructed as a result of that is important to the people who are involved, whether it be the athletes, the organizers or the people in those communities who will benefit from the legacies.

We are also waiting on other bills, such as Bill C-51, the Nunavik Inuit land claims, and Bill C-59 on video piracy. Bill C-59 was just introduced but the newspapers are saying that it is an important bill because it would create some meaningful consequences for people who engage in the illegal video taping of major films with the ultimate objective of putting them on the black market to sell them illegally without the copyright rights to it. That is something that has been hurting the film industry.

In places like Vancouver and Toronto, in fact all across the country, the film industry has become very important, but those places in particular. It is important that Canada maintains its credibility within that industry and that we support our artists and the people who give value to that intellectual property and that we show leadership as a country in protecting it.

In the future, as we move away from manufactured goods and products to the kinds of services that have more to do with intellectual property, we need to be seen as real leaders in that regard. As I said, media reports are suggesting that all parties actually support Bill C-59, which is why we would like to move it quickly.

Another bill that we recently introduced would support the Red Cross/Red Crescent in the adoption of a new symbol. We need to do that here in Canada through legislation because of a charter that exists. The bill would create an additional non-denominational symbol, which is the Red Crystal, that can be used through ratification of a treaty. If the Red Crescent symbol or the Red Cross symbol creates some discomfort with the local population, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Society would be able to use the Red Crystal symbol as an alternate symbol, which is why as a country we need to recognize and ratify that it would have all the protections under the Geneva convention so that anyone would respect it. However, there would be consequences if people misused the symbol in trying to conduct an offensive military operation. The symbol would need to be used for the purpose intended, which is to protect and save lives in difficult scenes around the world.

All of the bills I have spoken about are on the House calendar. Some are in front of us and we would like to deal with them but others are still at committee.

I did not even speak to the first nations land management, which is a bill that was launched in the Senate.

We would like to see the passage of some bills that are still in committee and which we would like to see back from committee. We thought some would come back a little bit sooner, such as Bill C-6, the amendments to the Aeronautics Act. The committee has been doing clause by clause on Bill C-6 for almost a month now. I am glad to see that the committee is being that attentive but it is a bill that is important and we would like to see it.

The bill that I hope the committee deals with soon is Bill C-32 on impaired driving. I have spoken about the importance of justice and making our streets and communities safer. It was one of the five cornerstone priorities of the Conservatives when we ran in the last election. It was restated on January 4 by the Prime Minister as another priority.

I should acknowledge that we have had some good progress on getting some of those justice bills through the House but it was not easy. Some of them, like Bill C-10 dealing with mandatory penalties for gun crimes, stayed at committee. If one were to listen to politicians speak, one would think there is a consensus on the importance of mandatory penalties for gun crimes. Even the Liberal Party in the last election had that as one of its key elements in its platform.

However, when it came to committee, things were a little bit different. The Liberal Party actually gutted the meaningful parts of the legislation and it held up the legislation at committee for 252 days. Fortunately, that time is past and, thanks to the support of the New Democratic Party, we were able to put some teeth back into that legislation and make it meaningful. The legislation now contains some meaningful mandatory penalties for those gang members and crooks who want to terrorize our communities with guns and commit violent acts. They will face real consequences. When they commit an offence like that they will go to jail. There will be no more “get out of jail free” card and no more house arrest as a solution. They will actually serve real jail time for some of those offences. Where there already were mandatory penalties, they will be tougher and stronger mandatory penalities so that we can take real action.

I know these are important justice issues for Canadians, and that the gun legislation is a part of it, but the other bill that we are waiting for from committee is Bill C-32 on impaired driving. It is very easy to deal with impaired driving on alcohol right now because we have breathalyzers and standards. However, a much more difficult element is driving impaired through the use of other illegal substances, such as controlled or narcotic substances, or, in simple terms, drugs. People who use and abuse drugs and then proceed to drive a vehicle are just as impaired, if not more impaired, as someone who has consumed excessive alcohol. The consequences in terms of the risk to other drivers on the road are just as great. It can change the lives of a family if someone were to die or become injured. The lives of a family could be absolutely shattered when an accident occurs because of that kind of behaviour.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 7th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, today we will be continuing with the business of supply.

Tomorrow we hope to conclude third reading of Bill C-52. In answer to the question on priorities, I would point out that Bill C-52, the budget implement bill, is the number one priority of this government. We can talk about other priorities after we see an indication that it will be heading for royal assent. If we do not have it, it will result in the loss of $4.3 billion in 2006-07 year end measures which include: $1.5 billion for the Canada ecotrust for the provinces; $600 million for patient wait times guarantees; $400 million for Canada Health Infoway; $200 million for protection of endangered species; $30 million for the Great Bear rain forest; $600 million for labour market agreements for the provinces; $30 million for the Rick Hansen Foundation; $100 million in aid for Afghanistan; $100 million to Genome Canada; and so on. It is a long list of important priorities financing that will be lost if the bill is not passed by the end of this session in June. That is obviously our number one priority.

Next week will be getting things done for all of us week when we consider a number of bills that are in their final stages of the legislative process.

The following bills will be placed under Government Orders for debate: Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which the Senate reported with amendments and which is now back before the House to receive the approval of the members, and Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).

We are awaiting the Senate's report with amendments on Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act.

Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts, and to provide for the bijural expression of the provisions of that Act, Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Quarantine Act and 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, will probably be passed by the House at third reading.

Discussions have taken place with the opposition parties, and there may be consent to fast-track some or all of the following bills: Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie), Bill S-6, An Act to amend the First Nations Land Management Act and Bill C-51, An Act to give effect to the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

There is also a possibility of quick passage of a new bill entitled “An act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act, an act to incorporate the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Trademarks Act”, which appears on today's notice paper.

There are a number of other bills I am still hoping we could get included in getting things done for all of us week, provided that they get reported back from committee, in particular, Bill C-6 aeronautics; Bill C-27 dangerous offenders; Bill C-32 impaired driving; and Bill C-44, the bill to grant first nations people the human rights that every other Canadian enjoys. First nations people expect the House to get things done for them as well, so I urge the aboriginal affairs committee to stop delaying Bill C-44 and report it back to the House early next week. It is a priority for this government.

Bill C-280—An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderOral Questions

May 15th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair is now prepared to rule on a point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform on May 3, 2007 in relation to Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), standing in the name of the hon. member for Laval.

In his submission, the parliamentary secretary explained that Bill C-280 proposed to change the manner in which provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would come into effect. That act was amended in 2001 by Bill C-11, which contained a clause, clause 275, providing that:

The provisions of this Act come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

This sort of clause is frequently found in bills and is commonly known as the “coming into force clause”.

Some provisions of Bill C-11 have yet to be proclaimed by the governor in council. Bill C-280 proposes to have three such provisions, namely sections 110, 111 and 171 of the act, brought into effect immediately upon royal assent of Bill C-280, and not by way of proclamation to be determined by the governor in council.

The parliamentary secretary noted that the substantive effect of implementing sections 110, 111 and 171 of the act would be to establish the refugee appeal division at the Immigration and Refugee Board and that this would entail significant new expenditures of an administrative nature. He then went on to explain that through its coming into force clause, Bill C-11 gave the governor in council the power to determine at what time the division would be created and the associated expenditures would be incurred.

The parliamentary secretary contends that by changing the coming into force of these sections of the act, the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation accompanying Bill C-11 are being altered. He read from citation 596 of Beauchesne's sixth edition, which explains that the royal recommendation not only fixes the amount of an expenditure but also the way that it would be incurred.

He went on to cite two precedents from 1985 and 1986 to support his arguments that Bill C-280 should therefore be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

The Chair has examined the two precedents cited by the parliamentary secretary in support of his basic argument that an alteration in the coming-into-force provisions of a bill infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown.

The first precedent, in 1985, concerns a report stage motion to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Small Business Loans Act. The bill sought, among other things, to restrict to 90% the amount of loss sustained by the minister for loans made to small business enterprises after March 31, 1985. The report stage motion sought to maintain the existing law and make the minister liable for the full amount of the loss. On March 26, 1985, Mr. Speaker Bosley ruled the amendment inadmissible because it relaxed a condition of the royal recommendation.

The second precedent, in 1986, concerns an amendment put forward during consideration in committee of the whole of Bill C-11, an act to amend the Income Tax Act. The bill sought to allow the prepayment of a child tax credit in the following taxation year. The amendment would have permitted the prepayment during the greater part of the current taxation year. In ruling the amendment inadmissible on October 17, 1986, the chairman of the committee of the whole simply explained that the proposed amendment infringed on the royal recommendation.

While these precedents may be useful in understanding how programs may be limited or extended in their application, they do not assist us in better understanding the issue at hand.

The fundamental issue in the present case is whether the coming-into-force provision of an act which was originally accompanied by a royal recommendation can be altered without a new royal recommendation.

After considerable reflection on the matter, the Chair would present the situation as follows.

In 2001 Bill C-11 sought an authorization from Parliament to establish the refugee appeal division. As I see it, the action of setting up the statutory framework for the new division required that a royal recommendation accompany Bill C-11 because a new and distinct authority for spending was being requested.

As it happened, Bill C-11 also contained a coming into force provision which would allow the governor in council to decide when the refugee appeal division would be formally established. In the view of the Chair, it is very important to remember that even after the governor in council proclaims the establishment of the division, Parliament would still have to approve spending plans for its operations through the estimates and the subsequent appropriation act.

In this light, therefore, it appears to the Chair that the chief financial components which require a royal recommendation are: first, authorization for setting up the statutory framework for the refugee appeal division, duly provided by Bill C-11 with its original royal recommendation; and the operational funding to be sought in a future appropriation act where financial authority can be duly provided in the usual estimates process.

Although the proclamation of the coming-into-force provision will set into motion the establishment of the refugee appeal division, it should be seen as independent of the royal recommendation and not part of its terms and conditions.

Our rules and practices hold that coming into force clauses of bills have always been open to amendment and a vote. If we were to accept the argument that an alteration in the coming into force provision would somehow infringe upon the royal recommendation, then it should not be admissible for a committee or the House to negative or amend such a clause unilaterally. Such is clearly not the case.

Essentially, it is a question of timing. The royal recommendation originally attached to the bill applies, unaltered, to its provisions irrespective of the point in time at which such provisions come into force and, from a procedural standpoint, the alterations to the coming into force provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, as expressed in Bill C-280, cannot be seen as infringing on the financial imitative of the Crown.

Consequently, Bill C-280 may proceed for debate and a vote at third reading.

I think that the hon. Leader of the Opposition wishes to rise on a question of privilege.

May 7th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

We're being non-partisan, so I just want to acknowledge that Mr. Jean and the minister recognize the fact that all that was old is new and good, because Bill C-6 and Bill C-11 passed thanks to the Liberal members around the table.

May 7th, 2007 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much for coming today, Minister. It's good to see you again.

I want to acknowledge the leadership that you and your department have taken on some of the safety issues. You addressed hopper cars early on, which is very important to our western farmers. Of course, Bill C-11 and railway noise are some things you have taken an active role on and that this committee has worked on. And I look forward to seeing your continued lead on shippers' issues, which will inevitably be coming up soon. I wanted to get my plug for that one in.

I know we've talked about the open skies policy and the lead you have taken on that, but I'd like to get your impression of the positive aspects I'm hearing from the airport authorities I deal with, particularly on issues like Edmonton. There is an enthusiasm for this agreement that they've not seen in years.

I'd like your comment on that, to start.

May 7th, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good afternoon, Mr. Minister. Good afternoon, gentlemen.

I would like to put a brief question regarding the Canadian Transportation Agency. We made a long and careful study of Bill C-11 that will give extra powers to the Transportation Agency, powers that were asked for by many people. The extra powers have to do with noise in marshalling yards and various other nuisances, and the railway tracks that could be handed over to suburban transit authorities. I do not think that the bill has received royal assent yet, but it should come soon.

Therefore, I am expecting that the extra powers given to the Transportation Agency will be accompanied by extra funds so that it can act as promptly as possible once the legislation has been adopted.

Now, how do we explain this slight decrease in the budget of the Transportation Agency? Will there be more work for the same number of persons?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today at third reading stage of Bill C-11, the purpose of which is to amend the legislation governing transportation in the Canada Transportation Act.

When the bill was debated at second reading in September 2006, I said that the Bloc Québécois supported the principle of the bill, but that we would try to improve it when it was examined in committee. Well, that is what we did. The standing committee heard 37 witnesses and then did a scrupulous examination of the bill, clause by clause.

Of the 11 amendments moved by the Bloc Québécois, plus the amendments from the other parties, the result was that 21 amendments were adopted in the House at the report stage.

First, and in reply to my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, I would like to point out that, for the first time, the bill sets out the objective of protecting the environment in its declaration of principle. That is still a principle. I think that we are going to have to watch the present government closely when it comes to the actual application of that principle. In any event, it is in the declaration of principle.

With respect to the environment, I would like to refer to the issue of replacing old locomotives. Only about 30% of locomotives in current use meet environmental standards. I think that if the government is really serious about its bill, it will have to set up a program for replacing locomotives. That is only one example. My colleague was talking about the environment in areas around railway lines where there is contaminated land. Now that we have this declaration of principle, we will be able to force railway companies to decontaminate all of the rail lines that crisscross the country, from sea to sea, as you know.

My primary concern with this bill, as a member who represents a riding, was the whole section supporting the development of commuter trains.

Railed mass transit does offer a number of benefits. It is fast, reliable and comfortable and has little impact on the environment. It can be used to reduce our dependence on highway infrastructures that, in my opinion, disproportionately encourage the use of private vehicles, an ineffective solution for our transportation problems in major urban centres, in addition to having a negative impact on the environment. In that respect, the bill is consistent with its declaration of principle.

Under Bill C-11, big railway companies would be obligated to offer urban transit authorities unused railway lines that could be used for public transit. This is a first in the country—that urban transit authorities will be recognized, and recognized in an order of priority. The federal government will be offered those rail lines first, and the offer will then be made to provincial governments, and then to urban transit authorities, even before municipalities. That will all be done precisely to encourage the expansion of public transit in our large urban centres.

The bill will correct the existing situation, in which urban transit authorities are not on a level playing field in negotiations with the big railway companies. The plans they wanted to implement were either delayed, because of tough negotiations, or implemented at inflated operating costs because of the power imbalance.

In one of those amendments, we added that this obligation extends to the entire territory served by an urban transit authority, in addition to the metropolitan region that it already serves.

I want to mention the example of the Agence métropolitaine de transport de Montréal; the territory it serves now extends to Saint-Jérôme, which is outside the Montreal urban area but which is part of a large metropolitan area to be served by public transit.

This line was inaugurated just last month and has been a great success, reducing traffic on our beautiful highways, which are constantly blocked during rush hour.

I firmly believe that Bill C-11 will lead to more commuter trains, which many of our constituents badly need. I am thinking specifically of the people in my riding in the eastern part of Laval, who still do not have access to this efficient mode of transportation.

I hope that this bill will make it easier for the municipality to decide to introduce a commuter rail line in the eastern part of Laval, joining the municipalities of Terrebonne and Mascouche directly to the Concorde intermodal station of the Laval metro, which will be inaugurated soon. The Canadian Pacific rail line is available. This is an innovative solution, because the commuter rail line would stop at an intermodal station instead of going right downtown, making the decision to invest even easier. The commuter rail line will be the crowning touch to the city transportation authority's project to expand the Laval metro system.

The disturbances caused by current railway operations are another major concern for the Bloc Québécois and were debated passionately and at length during our discussions in committee and with witnesses.

Our constituents who live near marshalling yards are seeing their quality of life deteriorate unacceptably. Their pleas to the railway companies to solve the problem have fallen on deaf ears.

Several citizen groups came to tell us how distressed they were that there was no mechanism for negotiating with the railway companies.

Clause 95.1 of the bill, which seeks to correct this situation, originally read as follows:

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

The witnesses, as well as the opposition members on the committee, including the Bloc Québécois members, felt that “unreasonable noise” was vague and open to interpretation, which could prevent disputes between operators and the public from being resolved. We felt that the Conservative government was giving the railways too much latitude, at the public's expense.

The Bloc Québécois decided instead to talk about “disturbances” resulting from the operation of a railway. Disturbances include noise, vibrations, emissions and anything else that can affect populations and individuals.

Further to our recommendations and with the support of the other parties, the amendment passed now reads:

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

This wording is more explicit and closes the door on any interpretation to which a company, having better lawyers than the citizens, might resort, since “as little noise and or vibration as possible” is an appeal to all the latest technologies that can be used to reduce such noise. This problem exists mainly in the marshalling yards. There are different engines on the market now that can lessen the noise of the coupling of rail cars with the engines. The agency can now propose all these solutions and impose them on companies to ensure there is as little noise and vibration as possible.

It is all very nice to have requirements in a bill, but they have to be enforced. To ensure this, a section provides that the Transportation Agency can issue and publish guidelines. To ensure the issuance of such guidelines, the Bloc Québécois proposed amending the section as follows:

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

This amendment was then passed in committee.

Now, instead of the section saying that the Transportation Agency “can issue”, it says that the agency has an obligation to do so. All this is in response to the various representations made to us by citizens’ groups who asked us to establish specific guidelines or specific criteria respecting noise in particular. As you know, some municipalities have decibel criteria for the proximity of residences. The Transportation Agency now has to issue guidelines that can be imposed on the railway companies.

This bill also amends the Transportation Act in order to make air transportation advertising more transparent. This is another subject dealt with in the bill and it is important as well. The agency can now, on the minister’s recommendation, make regulations respecting advertising in all media, including on the Internet, of prices for air services. These measures will regulate the marketing of airplane tickets by giving the agency jurisdiction to make regulations respecting advertising surrounding such sales.

This is to deal with the exaggerations found in the media: they give a price but fail to say clearly that it is just one way and does not include all the airport and security taxes over and above the transportation costs themselves.

These changes reflect the demand of consumer groups that travellers should be adequately protected. These groups came to see us in committee and told us their concerns.

Bill C-11 replaces the old position of air travel complaints commissioner with increased powers for the Transportation Agency, which will deal now with air travellers' complaints.

We felt, though, that the complaint-resolution role that the bill conferred on the agency was not very clear. Bill C-11 states that if a person has made a complaint under any provision of this part, the agency, or a person authorized to act on the agency’s behalf, may review and attempt to resolve the complaint and may, if appropriate, mediate or arrange for mediation of the complaint.

In order to reassure us in this regard, the words “may review” were eliminated and replaced by “shall review”, in an amendment introduced at the report stage that has now passed.

In addition, consumers felt reassured by the complaints commissioner’s report because of the complete list it provided of the complaints filed. Although these complaints had not necessarily all been resolved, consumers felt reassured to know that at least the complaints had been publicly disclosed. We therefore added an amendment to the bill to ensure that the agency’s annual report will include the number and nature of the complaints filed, the name of the airline involved, how the complaints were dealt with, and the general trends that emerge. In response to consumer requests, the role previously played by the complaints commissioner was therefore transferred to the Transportation Agency.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the various political parties, both in the opposition and in the government, worked very well together on studying the bill and especially during our work in committee. We thought it obvious that the bill was providing solutions to problems that everyone in Canada has noticed.

The Bloc Québécois is therefore very much in favour of this bill and hopes that it passes as quickly as possible, especially as I can recall two previous versions introduced since February 2003 that never managed to be officially passed. We hope that this time, with everyone’s help including the Senate and the entire government, the bill will finally pass.

Both the constituents we consulted and the various commuter authorities urgently need this bill in order to fix the glaring problems that have gone on for far too long.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2007 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-11, the Transportation Act amendments. I especially want to acknowledge the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for the tireless work he has done on this file.

The New Democrats will be supporting the bill but we continue to have some concerns. I know the member for Burnaby—New Westminster had proposed a number of amendments, not all of which were accepted at the committee level.

I have a couple of things that I want to speak to today, one which I know other members have spoken to, which is the issues around noise. Although the legislation before the House does provide some mechanisms to deal with noise complaints from individuals and communities, we will look to the process that has been put in place to see if it works. However, we continue to have some concerns that there should be stronger language. I might add that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster had proposed some amendments but they were not supported.

Many of us in Canada, from coast to coast to coast, do have railway lines in our communities and the level of disruption that happens in our lives as a result depends on the size of the community.

I stayed in downtown Vancouver in a place that was right on the railway lines where there were a lot of sidings and a lot of noise from the various cars. I just do not know how people manage to maintain a life in that kind of chaos. However, we will look to see if what is in the legislation does actually improve the lives of people who live near railway lines. We are ever hopeful that will actually be the case.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster also proposed an amendment to another part of the legislation but it also was not supported by the Liberals or the Conservatives. Currently, the Canadian Transportation Agency has a requirement that its members live in Ottawa.

I come from British Columbia and we often hear people refer to the Rocky Mountains as “the granite wall”. We often feel that the voices from British Columbia are not adequately represented. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster had made some proposals that talked about balanced regional representation. Surely, in this day and age, there are mechanisms to ensure that regional representation is present. We know about teleconferencing. There are all kinds of ways that people can be adequately heard. It is very disappointing that the amendments around the regional representation were not supported. Perhaps at some point more work will be done in that particular area.

When rail lines are no longer being used for rail purposes it is important to have alternatives for the public good. On Vancouver Island, we have been working hard to ensure unused rail lines are kept in the public domain and used for bicycling paths and whatnot. This is an important public interest that needs to be protected.

The legislation did amend the ability to have urban transit authorities being included in the sequence of mandatory offers of railway lines to public authorities, and that is an important step. I would argue that we need to do much more in that respect. In many cases, it would be very difficult for that land to be made available to the public for the public good and if we do not protect that public good, it will be lost forever.

One of the things that was in this legislation was the grain revenue cap adjustment. It is timely to be talking about that given the importance of rail to western farmers. It also talks about how consultation happens in the context of important pieces of legislation that come forward. We are seeing a lack of appropriate consultation right now with the Wheat Board.

When we talk about things like the grain revenue cap adjustment, we would hope as always that the needs of the farmers and community members are adequately recognized.

With respect to the Wheat Board, single desk management has been such an important part of how farmers on the Prairies have functioned for many years. We would hope that their voices are heard so that they can continue to function in that way. A number of farmers were in Ottawa today to make sure that their case was heard and that the facts around what is happening with the plebiscite were understood by everybody. I hope that a more appropriate consultation process is put in place around the Wheat Board and other things that impact on our farmers.

One of the other issues is railway safety. It certainly has been a topic over the last few weeks. There was late-breaking news today about another derailment about two kilometres from Golden in Kicking Horse Canyon. Five cars went off the rails and spilled hydrochloric acid. My understanding is that one of the other cars contained sodium hydroxide. The school in that area has been closed as a precautionary measure.

That is the latest in a long line of problems in railway safety in Canada. Part of the problem is that the railway system has been self-managed. We have seen a cutback in the very important role the public sector plays in watching over that transportation sector to make sure it is as safe as possible.

In a speech given by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, he said:

In 2005 we saw the highest number of railway accidents in nearly a decade, much higher than the 10 year rolling average that existed before. We have seen an increase in railway accidents. We have seen, tragically, deaths in the Fraser Canyon this summer. We have seen environmental damage such as the Cheakamus Lake in the Squamish Estuary and Lake Wabamun in Alberta. We have seen consistently a greater number of railway accidents over the last few years. This is a matter of great concern.

The New Democratic Party has been pushing for the results of the CN safety audit and to date we have had no luck in getting those released to the public. We often hear lots of talk about accountability, transparency and openness. Surely this would be a good time to make that audit available to the public, especially in light of the number of derailments that have occurred recently.

Canadians value their railway system. They want it to be safe. They want their communities to be safe. Many of the railcars that go through communities contain chemicals that impact on the safety of community members. This was the case in today's incident. There have been spills that have killed the fish in rivers in British Columbia. From coast to coast to coast we value the health of our rivers. I would urge the government to release that audit so the public can know what the issues are facing CN Rail around safety.

One of the other issues is that there is no national transportation policy. One of the great things talked about in Confederation was our national railway. In a country as big as Canada it would seem important to have a national policy that shapes what we expect out of rail and air.

Overall this speaks to the lack of a number of national strategies. In the past I have called for a national forestry strategy. Members from Windsor have called for a national auto strategy. The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has called for a shipbuilding strategy. It would seem that a national transportation strategy would only make sense. Yet in this day age, here we are in the 21st century and we still do not have those kinds of strategies.

Given that people are clothing themselves in green cloaks these days, it would make sense if we had a national transportation strategy that looked at the benefits of things like rail transportation. I have some stats here that talk about the benefits of rail transportation and how it positively impacts on our greenhouse gas emissions.

Regarding environmental benefits, the GO Transit website indicates that the average Toronto car carries only 1.16 people. One 10-car GO train carries the same number of people as 1,400 air polluting cars, and one bus can replace more than 50 cars. GO trip projects will provide additional capacity equivalent to 10 expressway lanes and will lead to the reduction of 1.1 million vehicle kilometres of car travel every day. That is significant.

Those of us who have driven in some of the major cities know about the congestion on the roads. When there are rail projects that would benefit us not only in terms of congestion but in terms of our air quality, surely that would be an area in which we could invest.

The Railway Association of Canada website talks about the fact that commuter trains generate about one-quarter as much greenhouse gas emissions as urban autos per passenger kilometre travel. There are others.The document “Rail Transit in America” has a substantial amount of information about the benefits of rail transit and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

It is even broader than just greenhouse gas emissions. A national transportation strategy potentially could have an impact on how we develop our cities. When we build these clusters that are serviced by rail, especially in large cities, we could substantially alter the way development happens and it could be much more environmentally friendly.

A national transportation strategy would provide us with the opportunity not only to look at what our transportation needs are but also to look at the benefits which would help us around development and the environmental impact.

Canadians have a great love affair with their railways and realize the importance around the heritage of railways, railway stations and bridges. The Kinsol trestle, one of the oldest wooden railway bridges in Canada, is located in my riding. Unfortunately, it was damaged by a fire a few years ago. We have discovered that although something has been designated as being a heritage, we have this wonderful railway bridge that is in desperate need of repair and there is no money to do it. Many Canadians are very proud of that rail heritage and yet we just do not have a mechanism to preserve it.

When we talk about a transportation strategy, this legislation deals with the fact that there is a mechanism to make sure that urban and other public authorities have access. We have a very good example of that on Vancouver Island. This is from the Island Corridor Foundation's website. The headline reads, “E&N line donated to Islanders”. It states:

The Age of Rail is being preserved on Vancouver Island with a donation valued at $236 million, say a group of municipal politicians and First Nations leaders.

In what the non-profit Island Corridor Foundation is calling a historic agreement, the Canadian Pacific Railway has agreed to hand over its Island rail assets to the foundation, a partnership of First Nations and local governments along the E&N line.

CPR is donating its portion of the 234-kilometre E&N, which averages 30 metres in width between Victoria and Courtenay, to the foundation. That encompasses 651 hectares of land, six historic railway stations and a number of trestles. The company is also supplying $2.3 million in “seed money” to help the foundation continue its work.

Later on in the release by the Island Corridor Foundation, it states:

VIA Rail continues to operate a passenger service on the E&N line, but has tried to shut it down several times, saying it's not a profitable venture.

[The] deal will help preserve rail service on Vancouver Island and keep E&N corridor available for such things as power lines, pipelines and hiking trails, foundation officials said. The ownership change will also allow more flexibility to deal with local concerns.

Priorities include:

Signing a deal to continue passenger rail service.

Upgrading the line.

Developing other proposals for the corridor, including a commuter rail service in the south.

The first section of the E&N line, between Esquimalt and Nanaimo, was built between 1884 and 1886. CPR bought it in 1905, and continued to operate on the Island until the late 1990s, when it decided there wasn't enough business to continue. RailAmerica later took over part of the line for a freight service.

Later on it says:

Also being discussed is the scope of rail service along the corridor and the establishment of a leasing arrangement with a company to run the service, said Lake Cowichan Mayor Jack Peake, the foundation's co-chair. A viable commuter rail service is one topic of discussion, he said.

He said the foundation wants to show what can be done with a grassroots rail service, and with the unique partnership that has been created among the five regional governments and 13 First Nations within the corridor area.

“I think one of the things [where] Canada is still lagging behind the rest of the world is recognizing the value that the railway corridors bring to this country that we live in,” Peake said.

This was also published in the Times Colonist in 2006. This is an example of community partners coming together. I am pleased that this piece of legislation gives some recognition to urban transit authorities and other pubic authorities. This is an example of how municipalities and first nations came together to preserve that railway corridor.

The east side of Vancouver Island is developing very rapidly. If that land had been lost, the opportunities to do some of the other proactive initiatives that the foundation is proposing would have been lost.

It is also an example of the national transportation strategy which the New Democrats have called for. It would make so much sense to have some incentives to encourage the use of existing rail lines for commuter traffic.

We have a passenger line right now. In the morning people in Victoria go north to Courtenay and in the evening they go south to Victoria. Anybody who lives on Vancouver Island understands that the commuter traffic actually goes south in the morning and north in the afternoon. If there were incentives to take some of those cars off the road and people had access to a commuter train from Chemainus and Duncan, and even from Nanaimo, as there are some people who drive from Nanaimo to Victoria for work, it would make sense. We need that kind of access and some incentives to encourage that kind of commuter transit.

That partnership is a really good example. Many in the House often talk about partnerships in a variety of areas. The Island Corridor Foundation is a non-profit organization that has built on these partnerships. One of the things the foundation talked about is that in part the partnership was driven by necessity. Its website talks a little about how it was founded:

When Norske announced that they would move their freight business to truck in 2002 there was considerable concern about the future of rail service on Vancouver Island. Without some significant intervention, it is likely that rail service would be abandoned and the property sold off in parcels to private interests, forfeiting the benefits of a continuous corridor forever.

Cowichan Tribes had the foresight to see the potential of what preserving the corridor and rail service could mean to First Nations. At the same time, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) saw the potential for Island communities. In an extraordinary collaboration between local government and First Nations, the two groups invited all interested parties to participate in two Roundtables on the Future of Rail on Vancouver Island to discuss the situation.

It indicates that this ended up in the formation of the Vancouver Island rail initiative. It mentions the ongoing collaboration that ended up in the formation of that charitable foundation. It has preserved this right of way for all Vancouver Island residents and I am pleased about that, but I also know that the organization needs funds in order to help it pursue its vision.

We will be supporting this piece of legislation. I would argue that we need to use it as a springboard to move toward developing a national transportation strategy and looking at incentives for things like rail travel because of, among other things, the environmental benefits.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This has to do with operations.

(b) its operational requirements;

[...]

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

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

Clause 95.2 states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the comments of the member for Eglinton—Lawrence on Bill C-11, which had to do with the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act.

He wandered into a related subject on the recent strike of UTU workers at CN. If I understood him correctly, he was really chastising the government for not imposing back to work legislation more quickly.

I am a bit surprised to hear the member say that. I think he is well aware that we have a responsibility as members of Parliament to respect a legal strike when it occurs and to respect the negotiating process that takes place. I think he is aware that it very often is much easier to impose an agreement and to end the strike than to take some responsibility for what happens after that. Very often if that happens, then there is bitterness, rancour and unresolved issues and the strike simply drags on.

My question is twofold. First, is it his view that the government should have imposed the back to work legislation even more quickly than it did? Second, what does that say about the member and for that matter the view of his colleague on anti-scab legislation?

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, this House is a great place. It generates and engenders virtues, among which of course is patience. I thank you for drawing that to the attention of other members because I know that they are anxious to understand how to get to a question. Thank you.

The member of the Bloc looks puzzled. He did not ask me his question because he already knows the answer. I gave it to him a few days ago, in another debate on Bill C-11. I asked him what they understood by the amendment they had included in the bill. We could put an end to noise and vibrations tomorrow by eliminating trains and railway transportation. There would be no more noise. However, the point here was to be reasonable and to allow reasonable activity.

Canada Transportation ActGovernment Orders

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

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.