Evidence of meeting #122 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 airport.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sheri Benson  Saskatoon West, NDP
Pam Damoff  Oakville North—Burlington, Lib.
Matt Jeneroux  Edmonton Riverbend, CPC
Michael Keenan  Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
Sheilagh Murphy  Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Jeff Knoll  Town and Regional Councillor, Town of Oakville and Regional Municipality of Halton, Halton Region
Hillary Marshall  Vice-President, Stakeholder Relations and Communications, Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Sandra Best  Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group
Renee Jacoby  Founding Chair, Toronto Aviation Noise Group
Robyn Connelly  Director, Community Relations, Greater Toronto Airports Authority
Arif Virani  Parkdale—High Park, Lib.
Robert Oliphant  Don Valley West, Lib.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

As you point out, VIA Rail mostly travels on the rail of class I railways, like CN and CP. The arrangements that exist between VIA and those companies are such that they have to yield to those freight trains. On the one hand, we're delighted that there are more freight trains moving all those important goods to our ports, but there's no question that it has an impact on VIA.

VIA is rightfully concerned and is looking at that situation at the moment to see if there's a better arrangement that can come up to minimize these very long delays, which are compounded in the winter, when there are difficult conditions. It is something that is of concern, and VIA rail is looking at it. At this point, I don't have anything further to say.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you very much, Minister.

We'll move on to Mr. Aubin.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you for joining us this morning, Minister.

The last time I saw you was in my riding of Trois-Rivières. You were there for a forum organized by the Union des municipalités du Québec, or UMQ, to speak to experts on rail transport development. No offence, but I must say I was a bit disappointed by your speech. You focused entirely on rail safety, which is an important issue, to be sure, but we would've liked to hear your vision for developing the rail system. For instance, we would've liked to hear more about the expansion of passenger rail services and possible accommodations involving the Quebec government and its transportation electrification efforts. You made no mention of that.

If you don't mind, then, I'm going to ask you about a wish the UMQ representatives expressed at the very end of your speech. Is your government going to follow through on the VIA Rail high-frequency train project soon, or does it plan to make it an election issue in the upcoming campaign?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for your question.

I know it's an issue you pay close attention to. That's not surprising, since you're from Trois-Rivières.

One of the options we are considering right now is a high-frequency train for the Quebec City-Montreal corridor, via Trois-Rivières. What I conveyed on that wonderful day I spent in Trois-Rivières, speaking to a number of groups, was that we were very far along in our study.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Are you far enough along, Minister, to at least tell us when you'll make an announcement? In a week, in a month, before Christmas, before the election?

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

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

I know you are eager to find out, Mr. Aubin. You're constantly saying that you want an answer by tomorrow. As a government, however, we have responsibilities we have to fulfill. We are talking about a considerable commitment involving taxpayer money. I know taxpayer money is something you worry about, as well.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Absolutely.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

Naturally, we have to examine the viability of such a service, passenger volume and other such important considerations.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

It is clear to me that I won't get an answer this morning, Minister.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

No, but it should also be clear that our government has to do its homework, and that's exactly what we are doing.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

I see.

You mentioned taxpayer money, the perfect segue for my next question. An increasingly persistent rumour is going around that the contract for renewing VIA Rail's fleet was awarded to a German company, which would do the engineering work in Germany but build the trains in the U.S. That would mean a contract committing nearly a billion dollars in taxpayer money would generate no economic spinoff for Canada and would not safeguard or create any jobs in Canada. I have a huge problem with that.

Don't you think you would be justified in following the lead of many other countries and incorporating a national content requirement into all procurement contracts involving public funds, such as the VIA Rail fleet renewal contract?

November 27th, 2018 / 9:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

You should understand that I can't comment on rumours.

That said, VIA Rail is a Crown corporation, as you know. A year ago, I announced that VIA would be replacing its fleet and putting out the contract to tender to find the best possible supplier. At that time, I again made clear that performance and price mattered most to make sure taxpayer money was spent wisely. It's a project that—

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

You're telling me the request for proposals doesn't require Canadian content?

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

I'm getting to that. Please let me finish.

The process is independently conducted by VIA Rail. Although we do ensure a certain degree of transparency, the VIA Rail people are the ones who make the decision. They are the experts, after all.

I know your party isn't in favour of free trade agreements, but we have an obligation to open up federal procurement contracts to all bidders. It doesn't work the same at the provincial level. For projects like these, we can't include contractual clauses favouring Canadian companies. If we did, we wouldn't be living up to our commitments. For your information, it's a two-way street. Our trading partners are under the same obligation. As a country that believes in free trade and seeks to do business with the rest of the world, we have to respect our commitments. In situations like this, we can't impose a Canadian content requirement.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

It's rather strange, though, that other countries we have treaties with do it.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

We hope there will be Canadian content, but we can't require it.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you both very much.

We'll go on to Mr. Badawey, for two minutes.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I want to state that we look forward to seeing the infrastructure minister come here on December 6. I am sure that discussion can be continued then with Monsieur Champagne.

Second, I want to take this opportunity to thank the committee, especially our Liberal colleagues, as well as Mr. Jeneroux, Mr. Liepert and Mr. Aubin of the Conservative Party and NDP, for coming down to Niagara and recognizing the Niagara-Hamilton trade corridor and the assets that are attached to the same. We are within a day's drive of over 44% of North America's annual income—New York, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh; and, in the Ohio area, Cleveland and Toledo; as well as Detroit, Chicago, Indiana, and of course back into Ontario with the GTA, and Montreal.

With that, and with how robust it has been, continues to be, and will be, especially with the investments we're looking at making within that trade corridor, I want to ask the minister, with all the work that's being done with all the partners throughout Niagara-Hamilton, and some of the investments that are being made, including the one he announced the other day in Hamilton, what his expectations for us are as we work within that team down in Niagara-Hamilton with respect to strengthening our Niagara-Hamilton trade corridor.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for your question, Mr. Badawey.

I think there is strong potential in the Niagara Peninsula. We're talking about a very large population density in that area in Canada. There is a great deal of trade done, not only by trucks crossing the border, but also using the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is something we feel is under-exploited at the moment. There's tremendous potential in that area. I think there is growth potential with respect to port activity, seaway activity and trade corridors on land.

I hope we can continue to work, with your implication and those of your colleagues, to identify where we can spend money wisely to grow that capability. At the same time, we're always taking into account that we have to look at all the other factors, like the environment.

There is potential there that has not been exploited. We were delighted to make that announcement at the port of Hamilton, which I think is good news for the port of Hamilton. I congratulate them on their forward-looking vision, in terms of growth.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you.

Mr. Graham, do you have a very short question?

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

If you want me to, I can.

There's one topic I would like to bring up. It's a good way to finish the meeting.

There are a number of companies working on flying cars around the world. Are we doing anything at Transport Canada to think about the regulations required to allow that to actually happen?

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

It's a very good question. In fact, I was visited a while back by a company that makes a flying car. It sounds like a glib expression—a flying car—but I actually saw—

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I want one.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

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

Yes. I saw a video demonstration of it, and it was very impressive. It was electrical, too.

This is something that has to be looked at from a regulatory point of view and not only from a safety point of view. We're looking into the future here, but if people in Orleans suddenly decide they want to come in to work here in downtown Ottawa and you have all of these flying cars coming in—as we see in science fiction movies all the time—then there's an important safety component to it. It would not only be federal, but there would also be provincial and municipal enforcement of the rules of the road—traditionally provincially. In this case, the rules of the air would play a significant role.

It is not just science fiction. It is something that is coming through.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Judy Sgro

Thank you.