Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina's bill to establish a national public transit strategy.
The rising economic cost of congestion and traffic delays, under-financed transportation networks close to their capacity limits, and our growing population all point to one thing, that in order to move Canada forward we need a national public transit strategy.
The gap between available funding and infrastructure needs is growing and our communities need reliable and sustainable federal investment in public transit. This bill would secure a permanent investment plan for public transit and innovation research, thereby creating the predictability and stability in funding that lower levels of government need in order to take action.
I was at the FCM conference a few weeks ago, where I kept hearing over and over again from mayors that what they needed was plan-based, long-term and predictable funding.
Canadians living in rural communities have different transportation needs than those living in urban centres. I am proud to see that my colleague's bill, Bill C-305, responds to the needs of Canadians living in rural areas.
My riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is made up of 42 municipalities, the vast majority of which are small communities far from urban centres. The lack of public transportation is a major problem for these people who live outside the larger urban centres and who are cut off from necessary services if they do not have access to a vehicle. This makes getting to work too costly and sometimes even impossible.
My colleague's bill also makes planning possible across the different modes of transportation. A number of excellent public transit projects are being implemented in Canada. This plan would make it possible to ensure that these projects are completed effectively and efficiently and that they work together.
The bill would mean better public transit, which is vital to the movement of people and has immeasurable social, environmental, economic and health benefits. Investment in public transit creates jobs, fuels economic growth, contributes to clean air, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, decreases congestion and reduces the pressure for more roads.
Transportation in rural communities is a matter of health and fairness. Last fall, during a meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Carolyn Kolebaba, the vice-president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, was passionate about how a public transit strategy extended to rural areas could help reduce poverty and greatly improve life for people who cannot afford to own a vehicle. A good public transit service would allow them to participate fully in the life of their community.
What is more, there is currently a health crisis in my riding. There are truly very few health professionals available to serve the remote communities. We are seeing that in Argenteuil, where eight doctors have left the health and social service centre in the past few months. According to the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, in 1991, 14.9% of Canadian doctors were working in rural regions. However, by 1999, that number had plummetted to 0.79% and it is estimated that it will continue to drop to 0.53% by 2021.
In the meantime, the population across Canada is aging and my riding is no exception. Access to public transit is an important solution for providing seniors with access to the health care system, at a time when they might no longer have access to a car of their own.
People with reduced mobility also frequently rely on public transit for their work and community life and in rural areas their needs are pressing. Transportation can make the difference between their isolation and dependence on loved ones, and their independent and healthy involvement in their community.
The lack of public transit is also an obstacle for young people who want to pursue higher education.
These young people should not have to choose between leaving their home regions to pursue higher education and abandoning their studies to remain in their regions.
In my riding, for instance, many students who complete their studies at the Polyvalente Lavigne high school want to study at the Cégep de St-Jérôme. Since transportation is currently very expensive, the RCM is doing everything it can to serve those students. But the RCM needs a lot more support in order to ensure that these students have access to transportation.
The Papineau region is facing the same problem: students are going to Gatineau to study at the UQO. The same thing is happening in the Mirabel region: students are going to study in Montreal. These young people need public transit so they can live at home and still make ends meet.
An effective public transit system, whether by bus or by train for longer distances, would not be an extravagant indulgence. Indeed, it would be an excellent way to keep the lifeblood of our rural areas where it belongs.
This bill can help everyone in my riding in several ways. For instance, a high percentage of workers from the city of Mirabel commute every day between Mirabel and Montreal.
We know the government has studies in its possession showing that daily commuting and traffic have a negative impact on workers and on the environment.
According to a Statistics Canada study done in 2001, approximately 4.8 million workers in Canada, or one-third of all workers, cross municipal boundaries to go to work. Another study done by Statistics Canada in 2010 shows that, for many workers, commuting daily to and from work is a major source of stress and frustration. It is also a waste of time and a waste of potential productivity for them or of time that these workers could have spent at home with their children.
Traffic congestion is a major problem that reduces productivity and, by contributing to pollution, endangers public health. However, there is a simple and accessible solution to reduce workers' stress and solve the environmental problem caused by all this inefficient travel: an affordable, practical and efficient public transit system.
Public transit is not just a solution for public health, for greater fairness and for the protection of the environment; it is also the solution to a major economic problem.
According to a 2006 Transport Canada study, the annual cost to Canadians of chronic congestion in urban and peri-urban regions is somewhere between $2.3 billion and $3.7 billion. These figures are from 2002. The problem of traffic congestion has only gotten worse since. Over 90% of the congestion costs relate to the time lost by drivers and their passengers.
We cannot let workers get stuck in traffic for hours every day. And we cannot ignore this issue by dumping it onto the provinces and municipalities, as this government is doing.
What we have before us is a good bill, both from a collective and an individual point of view.
I am going to conclude by congratulating the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina on this important legislation to promote public transit. I also want to thank the Speaker for giving me the opportunity to address this issue.
I hope all hon. members will support Bill C-305.