Evidence of meeting #106 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was know.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Keenan  Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
Jacques Fauteux  Director, Government and Community Relations, VIA Rail Canada Inc.
Scott Streiner  Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Transportation Agency

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much Mr. Garneau and Mr. Nantel.

Mr. Badawey.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Minister, for being here this afternoon.

Minister, I'm going to concentrate on the transportation 2030 vision, in particular, highlighting the national trade corridors that you've identified as part of your strategy. Trade corridors, of course, contribute to global markets including waterways.

Minister, I'm going to be a bit parochial today. Niagara, as you know, is my home area, and Niagara is an international border crossing that includes a robust multimodal transportation network.

Minister, can you comment on what your strategy can contribute and what the work you're doing to reduce bottlenecks can mean for Niagara's international economic gateway?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

As you point out, the national trade corridors fund is very popular. It's very heavily subscribed based on our initial first call for interest last summer. There's no question that many regions across the country are interested in this fund, which, as you say, addresses projects where there are issues of bottlenecks or congestion in our transportation corridors.

There's no question that the region you're referring to, which includes the St. Lawrence Seaway, is a very important transportation artery in our country, and as such, is definitely a worthy and viable candidate. At the moment, this is a program that is based on merit. It's not an allocation by province. We look at every submission that comes to us, and in the vast majority of cases co-funding is involved from not only the federal government but also other levels of government and the private sector.

In the announcements we've made so far, we've seen that we've been able to leverage money beyond the federal, but I would say to you that the region you represent is an important transportation corridor for this country in getting our goods from the Great Lakes or to the Great Lakes and the cities around them out to the St. Lawrence and to foreign destinations.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Great.

Do you find it advantageous that, especially with our NAFTA negotiations being under way, we also work with our neighbours to the south, our U.S. neighbours, with respect to integrating a lot of our transportation networks as well as integrating our infrastructure investments so that we have a seamless transportation system that is not only national but international as well?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Yes, absolutely. There are tens of thousands of trucks that cross the border between our two countries every single day. There are hundreds of flights that cross the border. There are many ships, and this speaks to a lot of traffic on the Great Lakes from Canada to some of the eight states that border the Great Lakes. It is in our interest to harmonize to the maximum extent possible so that in essence when any mode of transportation crosses the border into the United States, or in the other direction, they're not faced with a whole set of different rules with respect to safety or other issues. Harmonization has been a priority between our two countries, and I'm glad to say it works pretty darn well. We're not totally identical but we try to make it as seamless as possible.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Thank you, Minister.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you, Mr. Badawey.

Mr. Iacono.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for being here today.

Last month, Quebec's superior court authorized a class action lawsuit to protest noise pollution. In my riding of Alfred-Pellan, a number of people in Laval complaint about noise pollution caused by aircraft. They launched a petition to appeal to the Minister of Transport in this regard. The City of Laval has also called on the minister to intervene, in particular by drawing attention to current and potential flight corridors over Laval.

Can the Minister of Transport shed some light on this and on the measures being taken to reduce this noise pollution?

May 30th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Transport Canada is certainly aware of and understands the citizens' concerns about the impact of air traffic noise. Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport is one of the busiest in the country. Further, it is located in the city.

Transport Canada is actively engaged in this file, for the Montreal area in particular. It serves as a technical expert on the Soundscape Consultative Committee, which was created by Montreal's airports. This committee includes the mayors of a number Montreal boroughs, officials from NAV CANADA, which is responsible for the air space, as well as air carriers, and Quebec government officials. This committee helps advance multiple noise mitigation measures in order to minimize the potential impact of air activity on neighbouring communities. The City of Laval is not far removed from all those activities.

It should also be noted that flights by jets weighing more than 45,000 kilograms that land and depart from Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport are subject to an overnight restriction, specifically a curfew between midnight and 7 a.m. Flights by aircraft larger than that are authorized on occasion, for medical emergencies in particular, or as a result of weather delays or delays beyond our control owing to air traffic. In other words, you have to recognize that when the curfew is broken, it is often for good reason.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Angelo Iacono Liberal Alfred-Pellan, QC

A number of my constituents are also worried by the correlation between noise pollution and airlines' non-compliance with flight corridors. In those cases, the planes apparently fly at lower altitudes than they are supposed to.

Mr. Garneau, can such noise pollution be attributed to a lack of monitoring of flight corridors, that is, aircraft flying at lower altitudes than planned?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

I would say not. NAV CANADA, the agency responsible for providing air traffic control services in Canada, monitors flight corridors on an ongoing basis. NAV CANADA has the power to introduce, increase, reduce or stop air services, to change flight corridors, and to close or relocate the associated facilities.

In instances of non-compliance with the use of the air space, NAV CANADA takes the necessary steps and informs Transport Canada, which is responsible for the implementation of the transport act. Since safety and security are Transport Canada's priorities and raison d'être, you can rest assured that there is zero tolerance for any situation that could lead to an unacceptable increase in the risk to either flight safety or public safety.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Minister.

Mr. Chong.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Minister, for appearing on vote 1.

I want us to talk about the Champlain Bridge today, since you're asking for money for the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the Champlain Bridge, and the Federal Bridge Corporation.

Yesterday, the Auditor General came out with a report that's quite critical of the project. I want to focus on one particular area that concerns decisions that your government has taken. Your government has said that it believes in sustainable development. In other words, things should be both economically sustainable and environmentally sustainable. It said that the environment and the economy go hand in hand, yet your government in November 2015 made a decision that actually does quite the opposite. The decision to eliminate the tolls on the Champlain Bridge was a purely political decision that is actually economically unsustainable and environmentally unsustainable.

The Auditor General has said that the decision to remove the toll on the Champlain Bridge had far-reaching implications and has said that the elimination of tolls is expected to result in revenue losses of at least $3 billion over the first 30 years of the bridge's use. That's a huge hole in the fiscal framework, particularly when your government is running significant deficits. Clearly, that is not economically sustainable, and the Auditor General, in his report, also said that the elimination of tolls is supposed to significantly increase vehicular traffic over the bridge by about 20%. The last time I checked, about 50 million trucks and cars cross that bridge each and every year, so that means an increase from 50 million cars and trucks to 60 million cars and trucks per year, an increase of 10 million vehicles per year with the attendant greenhouse gas emissions that entails. That is clearly not environmentally sustainable.

In fact, yesterday in the House we were debating amendments to the Federal Sustainable Development Act, and one of the principles that the government would like to incorporate in its lofty rhetoric around sustainable development is the principle of internalization, the idea that we take externalities to the economic system and internalize them by pricing them. In the decision to cancel the toll on this bridge, you have done quite the opposite. You've taken an internality and externalized it, which is precisely the opposite of what you said you wanted to do as a government.

In conclusion, Minister, the management of this bridge project, and particularly the decision to remove the toll on the bridge, is not only economically unsustainable, not only environmentally unsustainable, it is actually socially unfair. We have the Confederation Bridge that crosses from Prince Edward Island to the mainland to serve Prince Edward Islanders and people have to pay $47 in tolls to cross that bridge. We have a new federal bridge from Windsor to Detroit that's going to cross the Detroit River, on which the government has announced a toll will be placed, yet there will be no toll for the bridge in Montreal.

I don't know how in good faith we can give your portfolio more money when we see such mismanagement of this project and such inconsistency in the principles that the government says it upholds.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you, Mr. Chong.

Minister Garneau, you have 15 seconds.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

What I remember from reading the Auditor General's report is the clear condemnation of the previous government for waiting too many years before deciding to build a replacement bridge. As a result, we are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to keep a very old bridge going, and at the same time, it's forced us to compress the schedule for the new bridge.

We have been managing the construction of that bridge very efficiently since 2015 under the leadership of Minister Sohi from Infrastructure Canada.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you, Minister Garneau.

The lights are flashing.

Do we have unanimous consent to attempt to continue our meeting until we get closer to the vote that has been called?

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

We'll move to Mr. Hardie.

We have the minister here for a bit longer, so there are four minutes for you to utilize.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I just wanted to ask the minister if he had sufficient time to respond to Mr. Chong's comment.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

I have many more things to say about it.

The accusation, which is very valid, that the previous government should have acted years earlier to begin this new project would have saved the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

I cross the Champlain Bridge, the busiest bridge in Canada. This is what a bridge is for, to allow people who live on the south shore and Montreal to cross to the other side. We could have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in not having to maintain an old bridge because the previous government delayed in initiating its replacement.

With respect to the tolls, that was a decision based on the large number of people who chose to live there. This was a replacement bridge, not a brand new bridge, and we're very proud of the fact that we decided not to make it a toll bridge.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I wanted to afford my colleague Hunter Tootoo a chance to ask a question as well.

4:30 p.m.

Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Mr. Hardie and Madam Chair.

Minister Garneau, it's good to see you here.

First, I want to thank you for the five new terminals throughout Nunavut that were announced a few weeks ago. The replacements were badly needed. It's greatly appreciated.

The Government of Nunavut had submitted some other projects under the national trade corridors fund, being the airport relocations in Pangnirtung and Kimmirut as well as a winter road from Kivalliq down to Manitoba. I know they were turned down. I'm wondering why, and if there's any advice we can give to the Government of Nunavut to reapply or look at a different pool of funds to apply to for them.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

As you pointed out very clearly earlier in the week in the House of Commons, transportation is literally a lifeline in the north, and that is why we recognized an amount of $400 million that is reserved exclusively for transportation projects in the territories under the national trade corridors fund.

We are in the middle of the first announcements at the moment, based on the call for interest that we initiated last July. This is an 11-year, $2-billion program, and there will be other calls for interest in the years to come.

So many good projects came forward that we can't fund them all, certainly not on the first call, and yes, if a project that was submitted was not picked up in the first call, there will be other calls in the years to come because we do intend to continue addressing this issue of transportation, and in the case of the north, recognizing the particular nature of the high dependency on marine and air transportation in some cases.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much.

Minister, I understood you would be here until 4:30. Can your officials remain?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Thank you.