moved for leave to introduce Bill C-370, An Act to continue VIA Rail Canada Inc. under the name VIA Rail Canada, to amend the Canada Transportation Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Mr. Speaker, even though VIA Rail is a crown corporation, it was given no clear mandate by the federal government. This lack of a long-term plan and direction has had adverse consequences for many Canadians. For instance, VIA can unilaterally end service on a given route without Parliament's approval, which affects thousands of people, especially in remote regions, yet Canadians should have the right to the highest levels of service, protection, and accessibility of travel that can be provided.
Therefore, I am pleased today to introduce a bill that would establish a mandate for VIA Rail. This bill would make it mandatory for VIA to offer minimum services, specified frequencies for those services and would require VIA to increase its level of service with regard to punctuality, and, very importantly, make VIA Rail's decisions to cancel services or close stations subject to approval by Parliament. Canadians must be able to rely on VIA's passenger rail service, which is an economic driver for many regions, but that economic benefit is dependent upon VIA's reliability and efficiency. Moreover, increasing rail travel has the great advantage of reducing environmental and financial costs.
It should be stressed that this bill follows on the great work of former MP for Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Philip Toone, and an extensive consultation with stakeholders. I would be remiss if I did not thank Mr. Chris West and Mr. Greg Gormick of All Aboard St. Mary's for their invaluable assistance.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)