House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was project.


Business Corporations ActRoutine Proceedings

February 15th, 1994 / 10 a.m.

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-12, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read for the first time and printed.)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia


David Dingwall LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency


WHEREAS section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada may be made by proclamation issued by the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons and of the legislative assembly of each province to which the amendment applies;

NOW THEREFORE the House of Commons resolves that an amendment to the Constitution of Canada be authorized to be made by proclamation issued by His Excellency the Governor General under the Great Seal of Canada in accordance with the schedule hereto.

  1. The Schedule to the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union is amended by adding thereto, after the portion that reads

"And such other charges as may be incident to, and connected with, the services which by the "British North America Act, 1867" appertain to the General Government, and as are or may be allowed to the other Provinces;"

the following:

"That a fixed crossing joining the Island to the mainland may be substituted for the steam service referred to in this Schedule;

That, for greater certainty, nothing in this Schedule prevents the imposition of tolls for the use of such a fixed crossing between the Island and the mainland, or the private operation of such a crossing."


  1. This Amendment may be cited as the Constitution Amendment, 1993 (Prince Edward Island).

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that you have read a fair portion of the amendment which we intend to discuss today. The amendment is very specific with regard to the terms of reference between Canada and Prince Edward Island.

I apprise the new Speaker, who has just taken his place in the chair, that this is a very specific amendment. Therefore I would hope that comments all hon. members make have some relevance to the subject matter which we are dealing with and not the broad general topic of constitutional reform.

One hundred and thirty years ago the Fathers of Confederation gathered in Prince Edward Island and created the concept of Canada. Thanks to their genius Canada has flourished throughout the 20th century. Today Prince Edward Island seeks a small but significant amendment to its terms of union with Canada. This improvement will create the opportunity for our smallest province to take its rightful place in the 21st century.

On behalf of the Government of Canada I am honoured to place before the House of Commons a formal resolution to amend the terms of union between the Government of Canada and Prince Edward Island which I am certain all members of this House will want to support in the deliberations to follow.

The amendment, albeit short and straightforward, is important for Prince Edward Island, important for the entire Atlantic region and important for Canada.

The proposed amendment provides the necessary constitutional framework for the replacement of the ferry service between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick by a bridge across the Northumberland Strait. More significantly, the amendment provides a bridge for the future.

The fixed crossing will allow Prince Edward Island to become a full partner in Canada's economy. The fixed crossing will spur Atlantic Canada's economy in the short term and create real hope for viable long term economic growth.

Construction of the 13 kilometre concrete bridge means new skills, new technology, new jobs, new enthusiasm and new prospects for the future.

The amendment before Parliament today will allow a project to proceed which is fiscally sound and financially responsible, a project which represents thoughtful public transportation policy, a project which sets new standards for environmental review, assessment and management.

The federal government is bound by the 1873 terms of union with Prince Edward Island to provide continuous communications between the island and the mainland.

Since Confederation this obligation has been fulfilled by a ferry service. The province of Prince Edward Island now wishes to strengthen, modernize and improve dramatically the means by which the island is linked continuously with mainland Canada.

For that reason the federal government and the Government of Prince Edward Island signed an agreement committing the two governments to make the necessary constitutional change to permit the ferry service to be replaced by a bridge.

The amendment before us today is the last in a series of legislative steps required to enable Prince Edward Island to make that move forward. In the spring of 1993 Parliament debated and then passed Bill C-110, an act respecting the Northumberland Strait crossing.

I would be remiss in my opening remarks if I did not pay tribute to those members of my own caucus who participated in that debate and on previous occasion whereby the House deemed it appropriate to pass Bill C-110.

I want to congratulate all members, some who are present, some who are opposite, who participated in that debate. I wish to thank them sincerely.

In June 1993 the Prince Edward Island legislature passed a resolution authorizing this amendment. In October an agreement was signed by the federal government and Strait Crossing Development Inc. to begin construction of a bridge linking Prince Edward Island to mainland Canada.

The agreement is an innovative, prudent and intelligent approach to the building of public infrastructure. The agreement breaks new ground in government-private sector partnerships. Investment of taxpayers' dollars is limited but also protected.

The people of Canada will not be responsible for footing the bill for delays or cost overruns relating to this initiative. The total contribution of the Government of Canada will consist of 35 subsidy payments to the private sector development. The payments will be made annually at a cost of $42 million indexed to inflation.

This formula effectively caps the cost and limits to 35 years the financial responsibilities of the Government of Canada to meet its constitutional obligation to the people of Prince Edward Island.

By contrast, pursuing the option of the ferry service indefinitely would subject the taxpayer to undue and unexpected cost without any reprieve in sight. As was made crystal clear by the Prime Minister both in our election red book and in the recent speech from the throne, the government's number one priority is job creation. The fixed link and this particular initiative will do that. It will create jobs.

Under the terms of the agreement, 96 per cent of bridge construction jobs will be filled by Atlantic Canadians. In total over 3,500 jobs will be created in the three and a half year construction period. Further, at least 2,000 indirect jobs will be created as a result of spin-offs. That addresses clearly and unequivocally the government's intent with regard to its priority of job creation.

The contracts also specify that 70 per cent of the total procurement requirements will be provided by Atlantic Canadians. Given the size and complexity of the undertaking, extensive spin-offs will offer Atlantic Canadians the chance to develop new construction, management and environmental protection skills.

What is most encouraging is that the economic benefits will continue to flow long into the future. The tourism industry estimates that once the bridge is in operation, the number of people visiting P.E.I. will increase approximately 25 per cent. It will open up new opportunities for even more employment in the vitally important hospitality industry of that province and other provinces as well.

The Prince Edward Island trucking industry will benefit to the tune of some $10 million each year in time savings alone. Mr. Speaker, you are very wise and very learned. I have no doubt you are probably a very well travelled individual. If you have taken or perhaps would like to take a trip in the immediate future to Prince Edward Island, you would quickly understand why the trucking association is so much in favour of this initiative. It will decrease the time you will be parked at the ferry side waiting for the boat to transport you to the other side. Not only is it time saving but it is also an economic saving which will

enhance opportunities and provide many spin-offs for that sector of our economy.

The bridge will provide much greater certainty and reliability of delivery for P.E.I.'s farmers and fishermen. There will be new possibilities of growth for the province's processing and manufacturing industries.

P.E.I.'s businesses will be able to improve their bottom lines. An improved competitive position for the island's economy means an improved future for the young people of the island. I am certain all members of the House regardless of political ideology will want to support that enthusiastically.

Not surprisingly, over the years since the idea of a fixed link was first advanced, support has grown to the point where today over 70 per cent of islanders are in favour of the bridge. I do not mean the people from Cape Breton Island, I mean the people from Prince Edward Island. I wish to make that very clear.

The bridge is an exciting project for Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canada. I know that some people still have concerns. I want to do my best to address some of the concerns this morning and perhaps respond to questions that hon. members might have.

I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitments enshrined in a tripartite agreement made with the provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and the Government of Canada.

The ferry workers who will lose their jobs in June 1997 as a result of the ferry closures will be treated fairly. They will have first choice of employment on bridge operation and maintenance. A fair severance package will be negotiated on top of the provisions of the workers' current contract. We will work closely with ferry employees to find retraining opportunities for jobs in many sectors of the local economy which will benefit from the presence of the new bridge.

Fishermen affected by the construction activities in specific areas of the Northumberland Strait will be compensated for lost opportunity. As part of this particular deal the developer has set aside a $10 million trust fund to be administered according to a plan developed mostly by fishermen themselves.

I also want to reaffirm the commitment to provide financial assistance through another agency which I happen to be responsible for, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for sound business initiatives in order to help the communities of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick in the coming months and years. We will take the appropriate measures to help the affected individuals and communities because it is the fair and just thing to do. I cannot stress too strongly that the overall effect of the bridge will be many immediate and long-term benefits. The bridge will contribute to an increasingly dynamic economy for those of us who reside in Atlantic Canada. In fact, the project constitutes a good deal, not only for the people of Prince Edward Island, not only for the people of Atlantic Canada but, I dare to suggest in the House of Commons, for the people of Canada.

In drawing up this agreement the public servants of my department have done a commendable job of ensuring that the taxpayers are protected from any unexpected, unnecessary or unwarranted costs. All of the risks have been assumed by the developer, including financing, design, construction, maintenance and operation.

I know some people, perhaps in this House, have expressed concerns that the ultimate owners of two of the development partners are not Canadian. But I am satisfied that this is essentially a Canadian undertaking whose benefits will largely accrue to the people of this country. It is true that Northern Construction Company and the GTMI company are Canadian subsidiaries of foreign firms, but both subsidiaries have been operating actively in Canada for in excess of 30 years.

I wonder if those critics-and I do not suggest for a moment that they are here on the floor of the House of Commons-wherever they may be, would seriously suggest stopping as it would be rather ridiculous if we were to say to GM, Ford and Chrysler: "Because you operate a subsidiary in Canada, in Ontario, you should not be allowed to operate because your parent company is a foreign one". That would be intellectually dishonest. We are in a globally competitive world. I know members opposite would want to agree with my conclusion that this is important for Atlantic Canadians and important for Canada as a whole.

Furthermore, this particular developer should be complimented for assembling world class technical expertise. The truth is that the proponent of the fixed link, Strait Crossing Development, is a 100 per cent Canadian owned company which happens to be headquartered in Calgary, Alberta. Who will benefit most from the project? The answer clearly is the citizens of Canada.

The developer was required to have all the project costs in trust at the time of closing, plus a 10 per cent contingency until substantial completion of the bridge has taken place. The developer has posted a $200 million performance bond as well as a $35 million compliance bond and a $20 million labour and material bond. All these are supported by guarantees with the parent companies. The deal was struck in such a way that the parent companies are providing the necessary financial backing to the developer.

I want to emphasize that the developer and not the Canadian taxpayers will be fully liable for cost overruns. If the project is not completed by May 31, 1997, the developer must pay the cost of operating the ferry service until the bridge is ready. Once the bridge is in operation the developer must operate and maintain it to the satisfaction of the federal government before having access to the revenues from the tolls.

The cost for crossing the bridge will be comparable to that of the current ferry service. Over the next 35 years these tolls will not be increased in any year by more than three-quarters of the annual rate of inflation. Through these and other provisions the government has made every effort to ensure that taxpayers are properly protected before, during and after construction.

Similarly, I want to make an honest effort to answer all fair minded questions and reservations raised by Canadians about the fixed link. In that spirit I would like to comment on the question of the possible environmental effects of this project.

This issue has been raised throughout the past five years, 60 months. I know it has concerned a number of members of the House. I do not intend to detail all the environmental studies and expert reviews that were undertaken except to say that there were in excess of 100 studies, most of them very comprehensive.

I was going to seek the indulgence of the House and bring before it the six feet of studies that have been undertaken with regard to this project but I thought it would be rather cumbersome to do so. It would be rather costly for the Government of Canada, particularly the House of Commons, to have reprinted in Hansard each and every word of all of those studies.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, from your study of the transcripts of this debate at another time, I placed before the House a number of studies. I refer to them not in totality but in summary fashion, bringing to the attention of the House just how important those studies were in answering a number of environmental concerns.

Today I am tabling with the permission of the House a list of all of the studies which have been done, both in French and English. If members wish to refer to them I am certain my department can make these studies readily available so they can examine them, study them at night, take them home on the weekend and review them, maybe get an independent study by their particular political party or their particular group. Then we could hear back from them in the months and years ahead on whether the studies, which number in total 100, were appropriate.

I wish to have the consent of the House to table these two documents if members wish to refer to them at a later time.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it agreed?

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members


Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


David Dingwall Liberal Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am also prepared if members deem it appropriate to bring in the six feet of studies which have been done. If members wish me to do that they might want to indicate it to me with a note and I would be prepared to do that so everyone will understand that there are no secrets, no backroom deals that have been consummated with regard to this project.

I want to say that the project was subjected to the most open and fully transparent public consultation process which involved over 80 public meetings attended by over 10,000 individuals. This is quite remarkable in itself. I believe this project sets the standard of environmental review and will become a model of environmental management for undertakings of similar size and similar scope.

There is no doubt and there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that there are Canadians out there who under no circumstances whatsoever would agree to having a fixed link, whether because of the environment, personal bias, personal views, finances or otherwise. However, the vast majority of the people of Prince Edward Island who voted in a democratic referendum passed in their legislature voted in favour of the fixed link. We as a national Parliament must recognize that fact, as I am sure hon. members opposite will want to recognize in their interventions that will fall in line shortly.

In late August the Federal Court of Canada in response to a challenge ruled that the Department of Public Works and Government Services had gone well beyond what would normally have been expected in meeting the federal environmental review guideline order. I will quote from Justice Cullen's ruling when he said:

The criteria accepted and followed by Public Works Canada when making its self-assessment was more than adequate for the purposes and complied with the (environmental) guideline order.

However, I assure the House this does not mean the end of our environmental concerns. My department, as well as other responsible federal and provincial agencies, will continue to monitor environmental impacts during the construction period and beyond to ensure compliance with the agreement and to take action if it should be deemed necessary.

The fixed link is a very exciting initiative, a very bold initiative. It is an undertaking of historic proportions. It is yet another challenging opportunity to open up the country, to unite the country and to build it.

Yes, the 13-kilometre bridge, the longest ever over waters which freeze, is ambitious but so were the St. Lawrence seaway, the Trans-Canada highway and the great Canadian railroad. The

hallmark of all these endeavours was the determination to bring Canadians one step closer together.

This undertaking demonstrates that Canada has the ability to develop an imaginative approach to government industry co-operation in carrying out a major public initiative: partnership at its best.

I should like to think that the Prince Edward Island bridge project, in addition to its other merits, could serve as a global model for future joint projects of this type. Closer public and private sector collaboration is a major contemporary avenue through which we can stimulate investment and create badly needed jobs.

During the election campaign we heard from every political leader talking about a partnership between industry and government. There is no other better example than the fixed link between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick which demonstrates that point more accurately.

The Northumberland bridge is a very sound and a very important project. The present premier of Prince Edward Island, the Hon. Catherine Callbeck, said:

A tremendous economic boost-that will provide a stable, economic climate for business to survive in this province.

Jim Larkin of the Prince Edward Island Tourism Association remarked that it is "probably the key to the future of this province". The premier of New Brunswick, the Hon. Frank McKenna, said:

I am absolutely confident that history will favourably judge the fixed crossing to Prince Edward Island-it's time to seize the moment and opt for progress in Atlantic Canada.

Clearly the vast majority of the people of Prince Edward Island sees this bridge as an important initiative which will give the people of the province renewed opportunity to participate in the country's economy, renewed opportunity to enhance their own lives and the lives of their families. The bridge is creating a renewed sense of optimism for Prince Edward Island and for the Atlantic region. A strong Atlantic economy is a vital part of a strong Canadian economy.

Atlantic Canadians know within their hearts and minds that the bridge is only one part of the solution, but as Sir Winston Churchill once said: "The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time".

In conclusion I urge members of Parliament from all political parties and those who are independents to support the amendment before us today. I urge members of the House to create the opportunity for Canada's smallest province, Prince Edward Island, and the rest of Atlantic Canada to become economically stronger. I urge members of the House to give a new generation of Canadians who happen to reside in Prince Edward Island an opportunity to become full partners in the Canadian economy and an opportunity for a better future.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean Québec


Lucien Bouchard BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, we have here a situation that has its roots in the distant past. When Prince Edward Island entered Confederation in 1873, the island had set certain conditions which were agreed to by the federal government and the other members of Confederation at the time, conditions which concerned mainly establishing and maintaining a communications link between the Island and the continent, so that Prince Edward Island could in some way be part of the Canadian community.

At the time, this link was provided by a steam service, which is how it was described in the terms of the union. Over the years, the federal government has met the commitments made in the Constitution, which today represent a subsidy of $28 million. That is, the original commitment today works out to $28 million in constant dollars.

My point is that we are not starting from scratch. The province is not asking the federal government to build a bridge starting from zero funds. The government of P.E.I., from a normal desire to adjust to changing times, now asks that the link, formerly provided by a steam service and subsequently by more modern ships, be made more effective and more continuous by building a bridge.

My point is, and this may surprise my hon. friend the minister, who was furiously defending the government's position against the opposition he anticipated from the Bloc Quebecois, my point is that the Bloc Quebecois takes a very positive view of this project, and it is too bad the minister wasted precious ministerial time and energy which would have been better spent on other issues, since after due consideration, the Bloc Quebecois, feels the economics are sound, the financial structures make sense and there is an element of fairness added to the Canadian federation as it exists today.

If we look at the economics, it is clear a bridge will increase economic activity on the Island, that tourism will increase, and by the way, I did not wait for the minister's cordial invitation to visit Prince Edward Island. I already visited the island as a minister at the time, and as a tourist last year. It is a magnificent island, and I know tourism will improve considerably once there is a bridge that provides for easy access at all times. We agree that on the economic side, there is a considerable advantage for the government and the people of Prince Edward Island.

The financial structure is something which the government should monitor very closely. It is true that the financing scheme is quite ingenious. There is no undue burden on the federal government since the subsidy, which it has to pay at any rate and will keep on paying, and which is now $28 million, will upon completion, in 1997, be $41.9 million in constant dollars. There

will of course be adjustments for inflation, but there would be in any case.

As of 1997 we are looking at an annual increase of roughly $14 million which the federal government will have to continue awarding to Prince Edward Island and, given the expected benefits, I do not think it is an exaggerated amount.

We applaud this private sector initiative involving the construction and the operation of the bridge. A word of caution is in order, however. I think that all parliamentarians should demand that the government be extremely attentive and monitor construction activities closely.

I realize that construction will be carried out by a private firm, but it is essential that the government monitor the work closely. What happens if the project goes over budget? This is the point that raises the most concerns. Costs might start to get out of hand. After all, we are talking about a major undertaking, the construction of a 13 kilometre long bridge across a strait in which a great deal of ice forms during the winter. There will be a substantial amount of pressure on the bridge footings. What happens if there are cost overruns?

The documents that we have in our possession do not show what the government's responsibility would be if such an event were to occur. Legally, I believe the government's responsibility is limited to guaranteeing annual payments. However, what would happen if during construction, the private sector companies fell on hard times, financially speaking?

We all know what happened with the Channel. Of course the two projects are vastly different in terms of sheer scope, but the fact remains that constructing a 13-kilometre long bridge capable of withstanding extremely harsh weather conditions is a sizeable undertaking. Has the government considered what it will do if the project goes over budget? It should shed some light on this point and tell us what steps it intends to take to ensure that there are no cost overruns.

Regarding the environment, I am not as familiar with this aspect of the issue as the minister, who clearly has up to date information. Opposition members do not have access to files as readily as ministers. However, when I was Environment Minister, I had sought assurances that a very stringent environmental study would be done. I believe that such a study was carried out and that the minister is correct in saying that the most extensive precautions have been taken.

The government should, however, exercise caution during the actual construction phase because certain operations will affect the environment. The minister has said that he will be taking certain measures, but exactly which ones, that remains to be seen. Perhaps it would be good to know what measures are being planned.

Consideration must also be given to what will happen after construction is completed and the bridge is in operation. We know that fisheries, particularly the lobster fishery, will be affected and that some form of compensation is planned. I think that during the coming debate, the government should tell us a little more about its plans to provide compensation.

I will say it in English for our friends in P.E.I. We think this is an equitable measure of progress which should promote the economic development of this province of Canada. That is why we will support it.

I would also like to draw the government's attention to a problem with the drafting of the constitutional amendment before the House. The problem seems to be one of agreement between the French and the English versions.

This could, in my opinion, cause some major legal problems since as we know, following the 1982 amendments, pursuant to section 56, I believe, of the current Constitution, both the English and French versions are equally authoritative.

The same cannot be said for the Constitution of 1982. Despite the commitments made in 1982, we are still awaiting the official, authoritative French version of the Canadian Constitution. In passing, I have one small question. How is it that a country like Canada, which claims to be bilingual, still does not have an official French version of the Constitution? We will get back to that some other day.

The fact remains, however, that this amendment which will be adopted today will be equally authoritative in both languages since the new constitutional system is in place. Looking at the resolution, we see that the English version reads as follows:

"That a fixed crossing joining the island to the mainland may be substituted for the steam service referred to in this schedule". May be substituted. In the French version we read:

Qu'un ouvrage de franchissement reliant l'île et le continent remplace le service de bateaux. . .

While in English you have something that may or may not happen-the government has the power, the option of replacing the old steam service by a fixed crossing-in French, the government has to do it. There are very significant nuances. I am somewhat surprised that the government's legal services failed

to pick up such a significant nuance, one that could certainly, under certain circumstances, cause major legal problems.

I do not know whether the government intended to be as formally committed as in the French clause or to have a way out like in the English one. I do not know what they intend to do. Perhaps they should tell us which reflects their true intentions and make sure both versions reflect the same legal reality.

I would like to add that, if this is good for Prince Edward Island-and it is-and if the federal government is able to make financial commitments that I would describe as reasonable to ensure substantial economic development in Prince Edward Island for the 125,000 residents of the island, one can wonder why the federal government no longer conducts this kind of projects which in the past have prompted massively enthusiastic responses in terms of economic development. I am thinking of the HST, the high speed train, in particular.

If the government saw fit-and rightly so-in the interest of 125,000 people to get involved in this major project which we support, it would seem to me that, for the 16 million people of Quebec and Ontario, in the interest of connecting the economic heartland of Canada to the United States, the largest economic market place all of us have access to, it may be worthwhile to look into putting into place a link, another type of link, a railway link, taking advantage of the very high technology offered by the HST as part of the same project.

I will not elaborate on this, as some of my colleagues will address this specific issue, but I do urge the government to go further in the direction it is taking today and to ensure that reasonable, practical and forward-looking major projects are initiated.

Finally, I cannot help but notice that, in response to an obvious need, the government has decided to reopen the Constitution. We know that the Prime Minister and his government are claiming left and right that they do not intend to talk about the Constitution: "We will not touch the Constitution. I have absolutely no desire to touch the Constitution". It has become a taboo subject, except when there is a need to address this issue.

There is such a need today and the government, in a practical and realistic fashion, has decided to do what must be done. It is no sin to touch the Constitution when it must be done. And, as it must be done, we are supporting today's motion.

I know that, as far as the Bloc Quebecois's designs for Quebec are concerned, it is not a matter of reopening the Constitution to achieve Quebec's sovereignty; such a decision will be made democratically in due course by Quebecers themselves. As for the current, very serious debate on native self-government and the extremely pressing and critical issues being raised, I think that the leader of Canada's First Nations, Mr. Mercredi, is right in saying that the Constitution should be reopened in this case. We think that, if the government can accommodate this economic need in the case of Prince Edward Island, it should also fill this more urgent, political, social, even ethical need to take steps that will, in the long run, solve the native problem.

We cannot go on like this, as we are experiencing numerous repercussions in every respect. First of all, from a social standpoint, the sad picture of what is happening in some reserves, the extreme hardships suffered by the people should be enough to convince us that we need well thought out instead of piecemeal solutions and that the demand for native self-government in a framework and under conditions that are appropriate should be submitted to the government, which should respond with the same realism it is showing today in recognition of the need to establish a fixed link between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.

I would like to conclude by appropriating an argument invoked by the minister. The minister, perhaps thinking that the Bloc Quebecois would oppose this measure, urged us not to raise objections and to respect the will expressed by the people of Prince Edward Island in a democratic referendum. He made a pressing, emotional appeal to respect public opinion as expressed in a democratic referendum.

We are in total agreement with the minister today and we will ask him to stand by his words in due course, if and when Quebec makes the decision we are hoping it will make.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this constitutional resolution under section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982 to amend the Prince Edward Island terms of union in the schedule, sections 1 and 2. The purpose of the resolution is of course as stated, to allow the substitution of a bridge for a ferry.

This particular resolution comes from a government committed to not open the Constitution, to not even remotely discuss constitutional questions. At least that is the position as we have understood it. But is it really its position to act that way?

Already this is the second constitutional amendment being passed since the defeat of the Charlottetown accord. It is in addition to a number of extra constitutional measures that are either being taken or being considered, such as aboriginal self-government or federal-provincial division of powers and overlap and duplication.

Therefore the position that we are not going to talk about or amend the Constitution or deal with constitutional questions seems increasingly to be restricted to one particular issue, which is the Senate. When it comes to the Senate we will not discuss

the Constitution directly, indirectly or even hint at it, but everything else appears to be on the table.

Since we are talking about the Constitution today, I will use this opportunity to discuss some of our concerns on the Constitution. I am sure some of my colleagues will do the same. I want specifically to discuss our position on the Senate and on some of the reforms that could be made to the Senate, particularly outside of the constitutional context.

Of course, the House is well aware that our party supports a triple-E Senate. We believe the Senate should be elected, it should be fully effective, it should have full veto powers over legislation, and it should be equal. It should have equal representation from every province.

This particular amendment attempts to update the Constitution, to recognize that things are different today from what they may have been in 1873. To substitute a bridge for a ferry seems reasonable. Why not then recognize that certain political and institutional realities are very different today from what they were in 1867?

To recall our constitutional history, in 1867 the Fathers of Confederation established a parliamentary system consistent with the political theory of their time. That was the political theory dominant in the 18th and 19th centuries, a very different kind of theory from what we have today. They established a Parliament that would have three parts: the crown, and in particular two effective legislative chambers, the Senate and the House of Commons.

This model was common and still is common in most of the world, particularly the anglo-American world. The United Kingdom has the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The United States has the Senate and the House of Representatives. Even in our own provinces at that time we generally had two legislative chambers. We had the legislative councils and the legislative assemblies. In all provinces the upper house has now disappeared, although traces of it remain in Prince Edward Island.

An effective upper house in 1867 was one that was not elected. That is very different from the view we have today, a very different theory of representation, a very different theory of government. I will not get into that at great length.

Suffice it to say that an upper house had several features in Canada and elsewhere. In particular the principal historic function of an upper house had been to represent the propertied classes. Under section 23 of the Constitution Act, 1867 there were important and the very high property qualifications for the time of $4,000 for membership in the Senate.

There were also other important functions the Senate of Canada was designed to fulfil. It would be a chamber of sober second thought. In other words it would fulfil the function of checks and balances seen in many constitutional arrangements, not just in Canada but in other countries. Sober second thought was the term used. As I pointed out to some audiences the use of the term sober was probably not entirely accidental during the time of our founding prime minister.

In that regard the Senate had important characteristics that reflected that function. Generally speaking it could not originate bills, certainly not money bills; they came and still do come from this Chamber. As a chamber of sober second thought the appointments were lifetime. People were selected. A very different kind of person was expected to sit in the Senate from those sitting in the Commons. We find that under section 29 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

A third function of our Senate originated in recent history in the United States. That is the protection of the partners in the federation and their role in the federation.

Certainly the Constitution of 1867 did not establish an equal Senate. I concede that. However it also certainly did not, explicitly did not, establish a Senate based on representation by population. It established a Senate where there would be three regions or what are called divisions under section 22. At the time that was a very good reflection of the regional balance of power within the country. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec which had been recreated by Confederation were constituted as regions and the two maritime provinces together were constituted as a region.

Consistent with the theory that the Senate was not elected, unlike the United States the members were not appointed by provincial governments but were appointed by the cabinet, the executive. The cabinet or executive in that era was expected to be much more diverse in a partisan sense than we see today, much more diverse in a regional sense, and much more diverse in the sense of personality and importance of the various senior ministers.

The original Senate was selected by a government in which party lines were not as clear as they are today. The government itself was constituted of people of different political persuasions and the Senate was picked in much the same way. That practice has of course changed a great deal.

The Senate was intended to be and was a highly effective body in political terms. It had full legislative powers which remain in the Constitution Act today. It had real power in cabinet and in the legislative process. Five out of 13 or 30 per cent of the original cabinet ministers were senators. Today it is one out of 30. It would shock many Canadians to learn today that two of our prime ministers came from the Senate. They held their prime

ministership in the Senate rather than in the Commons. Of course in Britain it was quite common at that time for a lord to be prime minister as well as a member of the Commons.

Diversity and important political figures were present in the Senate at that time, right from the beginning. The principal Liberal leader of the day, George Brown, was appointed to the Senate after he failed to secure representation in the election of 1867.

Things have changed. Today we have a fuller and more democratic theory of government than we did in the past and effectiveness of the Senate, as with any other political body, requires that it be elected. This is not just a phenomenon of the Senate. I would point out that the House of Commons, as constituted in 1867, would not be remotely considered democratic today. We will talk on another occasion whether this House of Commons is effective and truly democratic. I will leave that to a later date.

In 1867 members of the House of Commons were elected but only by property holders, only by those over 21 years of age, only by those who were male. In some provinces of Canada, in some parts of Canada and at certain times in our history, elections were restricted by racial considerations.

We would never for a minute suggest that would be an appropriate way of choosing the House of Commons today or an appropriate composition for the House of Commons and so we have modernized it. We have modernized the House of Commons but not the Senate. Why have we done that? I will put it in very simple and blunt terms. We have modernized the House of Commons because it is the power centre of Ontario and Quebec. We have not modernized the Senate because it was intended to be the voice for the other regions that have not fared as well in Confederation.

At the centre of this argument I would only point out to my constituents and to those who are watching today the Ontario and Quebec alliance that will shove through this particular constitutional amendment.

It is interesting to see in this century what has happened to upper houses, not just in the anglo-American world but across the world. Those houses that were built mainly or almost exclusively on pre-democratic theory have atrophied or disappeared. I think, for example, of the House of Lords in Britain which still exists today but which has largely been stripped of its powers and exists, I suggest, as a relic of another era.

In the case of our provinces, the legislative councils, the upper houses of the provinces, which really had an exclusive pre-democratic function, have entirely disappeared, the last being in Quebec in 1968.

However, those houses built on the concept of regional representation within a federation have remained and by and large flourished as legislative chambers. The Senates in the United States and Australia have become elected bodies and have become very powerful.

In the case of the Senate in the United States we know what happened there. The United States Senate was not originally elected but rather chosen by state legislatures. That manner of selection was gradually broadened and eventually some states began to have popular elections for their senators even before the constitutional amendment proclaiming such a thing had come to pass. The Senate was largely elected by the time that happened.

In Canada the Senate has survived but its modernization has been slow. We have attempted to move along with the development of the theories but at a very slow pace. We have made no attempts in our history to increase the property requirement that defined the early Senate. It still exists on paper but $4,000 real property is now a modest requirement for many people.

In 1915 we moved to recognize the west. After the west had been in Confederation for about 45 years we decided it was time to formally recognize the presence of the west in the regional chamber. Before that there had been a few senators appointed from various provinces now and again. In 1915 a fourth Senate division was created to recognize western Canada. Since then other representatives have been added in Newfoundland and in the territories.

In 1965 we took the step of ending lifetime Senate appointments. We know there are very few lifers but this has been one particular reform.

In 1989-90 we had the election of the first senator, the late Senator Stan Waters, a member of my party, a good personal friend of mine and a ground breaker, as we all had hoped. Just as in the United States, when Senator Waters was elected there were denials from those who opposed Senate election and regional representation, denials that this could happen, that it could not happen, that it was unconstitutional, that it was illegal. There were a million impediments.

It is amazing how things can happen in this country, in any country, in any political system when people want them to happen. It is amazing how many excuses and roadblocks can be created when there is a desire to thwart the principle underlying the action.

Today the minister, to my surprise, spoke about praising the P.E.I. bridge because it had been approved in a referendum. How many times since this House has reconvened have we heard the government speak against referendums and the danger presented in referendums? When the government has an agenda it wants to see go through, a referendum is possible.

In conclusion, I will certainly not be supporting this hypocritical amendment. I suspect that many of my party members feel the same way. I will not support a selective updating of our federation. I will not support a mentality that says some needs are to be addressed while other needs are to be laughed at or ignored, depending on crass political needs.

Senate reform is important. It is a federalist solution to the kinds of regional problems that plague this country and I would suggest that in my region problems exist that are much more serious than some people here realize. Senate election, which I have spoken on specifically, is a partial solution that does not even require opening the Constitution in order to proceed. It only requires a basic sense of fairness. Without that sense of fairness do not expect the support of myself or my riding or the taxpayers I represent. Do not expect to keep coming to the trough to ask for these kinds of favours when our concerns on these matters are not taken seriously.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to inform the House that from now on, pursuant to Standing Order 43(2), government members will split the 20-minute period provided for speeches into two 10-minute speeches, each followed by a 5-minute question and comment period.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I thank the government whip. Resuming debate with the hon. Secretary of State for Veterans.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.


Lawrence MacAulay LiberalSecretary of State (Veterans)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and support the constitutional amendment put forward by my hon. colleague from Cape Breton-East Richmond.

This constitutional amendment will have a major effect in the province of Prince Edward Island. It will start to bring to an end a topic that has been discussed in the province for possibly over 100 years.

This is a permanent link to the mainland. In the 1960s we even started the bulldozers rolling and started the approaches to the fixed link or the causeway, as it was worded at that time. This resolution will clear one of the remaining hurdles to the Northumberland Strait bridge project.

Government has made it clear during the election campaign and in the recent speech from the throne that putting Canadians back to work is the number one economic and social problem facing this country. The number one economic and social problem facing this country is jobs.

We are committed to taking every step within our power to support job creation, stimulate economic activity and restore hope and confidence in the future for all Canadians.

Nowhere is this more the case than in Atlantic Canada which has more than any other area of the country suffered too long from high levels of unemployment and despair.

The House is aware that the building of this new bridge to Prince Edward Island will provide a welcome boost to the entire Atlantic economy in terms of job opportunity and increased business activity.

Even more significant will be the long term benefits to the region and in particular to the province of Prince Edward Island. The bridge project represents a long range investment in transportation infrastructure which will almost certainly pay off in increased opportunity and in new business development for the region.

The lack of a fixed and reliable link with the rest of Canada has long restricted the commercial and industrial activity in Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island premier Catherine Callbeck commenting on the issue said recently:

The entire course of P.E.I.'s history has revolved around its isolation from the mainland. The announcement that the fixed crossing will proceed will fundamentally alter the province's relationship with the rest of Canada. In my opinion, that change will be for the better.

The Northumberland Strait bridge project will have an immediate significant impact on the economy of Atlantic Canada in general and in particular on Prince Edward Island. Building the bridge will create hundreds of direct jobs for each of the four years of construction and numerous indirect jobs throughout Atlantic Canada.

Under the terms of the contract between the federal government and the contractor over 90 per cent of the jobs will come from Atlantic Canada.

In an area with high unemployment and needing the jobs, over 90 per cent of the jobs will come from our region. This will provide a tremendous boost for employment throughout the region and will provide thousands of workers with gainful employment and an opportunity to practice and improve their job skills. This will give the tradespeople in Prince Edward Island an opportunity to improve their trade skills.

Direct employment on this project tells only part of the story. The contract also specifies that some 70 per cent of the total procurement requirements will be obtained in the region. These requirements are massive. Thousands of tonnes of cement, reinforcing steel, cable, fabricated metal and manufactured components are needed as well as many other service requirements.

Given that the total project is in the area of $850 million the wages and procurement expenditures paid by the developer will inject more than half a billion dollars into the local economy in the next four years, the economy of the Atlantic region, one of the most depressed areas in Canada. This should be a good kick-start to the economy of Atlantic Canada, an economy that certainly needs a boost.

The massive expenditure will also have a ripple effect into the retail and service sectors of Atlantic Canada and Prince Edward Island, providing new opportunities for expansion and job creation in those areas as well.

Given the positive impact this project will have, it is not surprising that the majority of islanders support this project. One sector that will experience a significant boost will be the tourism industry in the province of Prince Edward Island.

The tourism industry is absolutely essential to the economic health of Prince Edward Island. It represents a larger share of that province's gross domestic product than any other province in Canada.

The effects of the permanent link on tourism have been carefully studied. It has been concluded that it would result in an increase of visitors from the first year of operation. Some figures indicate about 25 per cent. It will certainly draw tourists to look at this major construction project, this megaproject, while it is being built. It will also draw many tourists to Prince Edward Island and through Atlantic Canada after it is built. It will truly be something to see.

An increase in tourists will have a tremendous and positive effect on the Prince Edward Island service industry such as accommodations, restaurants, entertainment, recreation, local crafts, manufacturing, and all other sectors of retail trade. It will encourage new investment in the Prince Edward Island hospitality infrastructure.

Tourism is by no means the only industry that will benefit from this link. The availability of a reliable, faster and ultimately less costly link with the mainland will certainly make Prince Edward Island agriculture and fisheries industries more competitive and should help them broaden their markets. While the direct benefits may occur to the Atlantic region, it is true that the project represents a good deal for all of Atlantic Canada and all of Canada.

The economic recovery that our government is working for must embrace all regions of the country if it is to be successful. By giving Atlantic Canadians a chance to go to work, to strengthen their transportation infrastructure and to create long-term economic opportunities we make the country stronger.

The most effective way to reduce the escalation of and the need for social spending is to put people to work. That is exactly what the government plans to do; that is exactly what the project will do. It will give workers in Atlantic Canada the opportunity for jobs and help them with their trade skills. It will be a major boost to the tourism industry in Prince Edward Island. It will have a major effect on the Prince Edward Island transportation system because there will be no long waits at the ferries.

The four years and over half a billion dollars that will be injected into the economy are badly needed, along with the link we have talked about in the province of Prince Edward Island for over 100 years.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, earlier my leader described to this House the position of our party concerning this link. In short, the hon. member from Lac-Saint-Jean said he understood the economic requirements the government party is faced with. He also noted that the concerned minister recognized he was bound by the referendum, where the will of the people was made known.

With regard to the link we are talking about today, this 13-kilometre bridge which is going to link Prince Edward Island to the mainland, everyone in this House, and especially the government party, maintains that this project should contribute to job creation and economic recovery, and we agree with that. However I would like to ask the previous speaker, in the absence of his minister, if there will be an unofficial guideline preventing Quebecers and Canadians from Central Canada, that is Ontario and Quebec, from working on this project, something similar to the official policy concerning the Hibernia project, in Newfoundland. We know that Quebecers are systematically excluded from this project. On behalf of Quebecers in particular and Canadians in general, I would like some further information on this issue. Will workforce mobility be hampered by some provision, legal or otherwise, concerning this project?

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I am sure the minister is quite capable of speaking for himself. I am also sure that no project would be handled by public works that would indicate no one in Quebec or anywhere else would get a job.

I have indicated that we come from an area of high unemployment, probably the highest in the country. We need jobs and this project provides jobs in our own area. The point is that we have the work force and we have the project. We would never exclude anybody. The jobs are in the area and the project is there.

I thank the hon. member's leader for his support for the project. When he comes to vacation in the province of Prince Edward Island he will find it much easier to get there in a number of years. He would be very welcome to go there to work on it or to go there to visit us.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the minister today for bringing this resolution to the floor of the House. It is a giant step forward for Prince Edward Island, for Atlantic Canada, and for all Canada. It takes Atlantic Canada into the 21st century. I am very proud to be part of the government that is bringing this resolution forward today.

My riding of Cumberland-Colchester takes in the northern part of Nova Scotia and abuts the Prince Edward Island Northumberland Strait. I would like to ask a question of the hon. member who has just spoken. The current ferry that joins Prince Edward Island with Nova Scotia at Caribou and Wood Islands has been a means of transportation for our tourist industry from Nova Scotia for some time. I am wondering what effect there will be when this bridge is connected from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Cumberland-Colchester for raising an important point that certainly was an issue for me all during discussions on the fixed link. I mentioned that we would have approximately a 25 per cent increase in tourism. That means more traffic. Without a doubt we will have both the major infrastructure and the fixed link. We will also have the vitally important Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service.

I am very pleased that section 14 indicates that Canada acknowledges the distinct and important role the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service provides and recognizes that the construction and operation of the fixed link crossing in no way diminish the importance of this ferry service which is a vital link between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Fernand Robichaud LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest and pleasure that I rise to support the proposed constitutional amendment which will allow for the construction of a fixed crossing, that is a bridge joining Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

We can understand that this project is of particular interest to the residents of Beauséjour, since one end of the bridge will be in their riding, more specifically in Cape Tourmentine. To have access to the bridge, people travelling from Nova Scotia will drive through Port Elgin to reach Cape Tormentine, whereas those coming from New Brunswick will go through Moncton, Shediac, Cap-Pelé, Port Elgin and Cape Tormentine. Consequently, people using this bridge will drive through our area.

As the minister said, this is a major project the likes of which we have never seen in our region before. It is said to be an $840 million initiative, over a period of three or four years.

This project will of course create employment, probably 900 to 1,000 jobs per year, for a few years. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that my constituents are happy to see this project being approved, for the simple reason that, given the current situation in the province and in fact in all of Atlantic Canada, where the fishing industry is collapsing, especially as regards groundfish, any effort to stimulate employment is welcome and supported. People are particularly pleased because we are told, and in fact we know, that 96 per cent of workers will be from Atlantic Canada, which is not to say that workers from other regions will be excluded. You realize of course that people from our region will do their utmost to be hired for that project.

We are also told that 70 per cent of supplies will be provided by contractors from Atlantic Canada. For that purpose, the economic commission for south eastern New Brunswick has hired one person, with the support of ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, who will be responsible for providing local contractors with all the necessary information to offer their services.

I followed the development of this project because the construction of such a bridge has been the subject of discussions for many years. In fact, an overpass as well as an access road were even built at the end of the fifties when there were already talks of building a fixed link between PEI and New Brunswick. Indeed, such an initiative has been discussed for a long time, to the point that people in our community were wondering if this was only a dream. It now seems that the dream will finally come true, and we certainly hope so.

This project may have been in the offing for a long time, but it was also developed very cautiously. A series of public meetings were held to inform Atlantic Canada residents on the building techniques and to reassure those who had concerns about the environment. And I can tell you that a lot of people and groups did raise concerns about the environment. I want to say that my constituents and myself are also very concerned by this aspect.

I do share that concern but, at the same time, I am confident, considering what I heard and all the studies which were done. The minister was not exaggerating when he said that all those studies could make a pile six feet high. Indeed, a lot of studies were done and those are public documents to which everyone can have access. So I am certain that all precautions have been taken to ensure that the environment will be protected.

I also know that all work on the construction sites, on the New Brunswick side or on the Prince Edward Island side, will be governed by strict procedures, both on land and on the waters of Northumberland Strait.

The workers will have to follow strict procedures supervised by a committee responsible for ensuring that all environmental precautions are taken. It is rather reassuring that the contractor and all subcontractors must control their procedures and respect the environment.

Of course, even if we take every precaution, some groups might be affected, and I am thinking particularly of fishermen here. In order to give these groups some protection, especially fishermen, including those who fish for scallops and lobsters, who will be most affected, a committee has been set up to implement a compensation program. From the very beginning, that is what we have demanded, citizens, fishermen and local associations alike: that a compensation program be set up before work begins so that those people would be compensated for their losses if the fishery were damaged.

Although the final mechanism has not yet been determined, a committee of fishermen, fishermen's association representatives and officials is studying this problem.

When I spoke of lobster fishermen, the people of Cape Tormentine will be the most affected first because a way will have to be cleared across the strait where construction will go on and the fishermen of other communities away from Cape Tormentine, like Murray Corner, Aboiteau, Cap-Pelé, Shediac and up the Northumberland Strait to Cocagne, Buctouche and even as far as our area could feel the effects from the construction. I do not think that these effects will be considerable, at least I hope not, but if they were affected, we will certainly have a mechanism in place to compensate them.

I spoke only of lobster fishermen, but there are also scallop fishermen, since scallop banks will be affected by this bridge construction.

There is a group that will be directly affected by the construction of this bridge. That group is the families of the ferry workers who will lose their jobs after construction of the bridge is completed. Right now there are over 400 workers and the bridge will provide about 60 or 70 jobs. I want to reassure those people and members of the House that every effort will be made to offer to those people directly affected a proper compensation and training package in order to minimize the effects of the loss of jobs when the bridge opens. I have been in communication with Marine Atlantic. It has started discussions with the unions to try to put a program in place to minimize those effects.

I certainly offer my assistance in any way to make sure that the jobs available once the bridge opens are offered to those ferry workers and to make sure that those unable to get a job receive a proper compensation package.

In conclusion I support this project. I support it because it will create jobs and give new impetus to the tourism industry. Of course, my colleague from Prince Edward Island just said that Prince Edward Island's tourism industry will develop as a result. I am pleased about that, but we in Beauséjour, by offering tourism facilities like the land of la Sagouine, which you know well, Arboiteau Park, which is now being developed, and other projects under consideration, will try to attract visitors either on their way to the island or on their way back. We will invite them to spend a few hours or a few days with us.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I concur with the hon. member that we have given great consideration to minimizing the environmental effects and the disruption to our fisheries, to guarantee as much as possible that this project is of worthy consideration and is first class for this day and age.

Having said that, when talking about retraining or providing job security for those who will be displaced, it has been brought to my attention during economic development discussions with municipalities in my riding that perhaps we could take our training programs to the job site. As these men and women are working on the new project they would be given the opportunity for upgrading in literacy and computer skills, those kinds of things that take them to the next job. Has the member given any consideration to this in manpower training programs?

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Fernand Robichaud Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments and question. Let me assure her that we will make every effort to ensure that all governmental programs, those of the local associations as well as those of the government itself, will be made available to the workers in order to encourage them and help them find a job both during the construction stage of the project and once the bridge is finished, through the opportunities that will be generated. Every effort will be made to ensure that this project brings about the maximum benefits possible.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the amendment to the Constitution and the building of that bridge. I think it will promote tourism considerably. I have had the opportunity to visit Prince Edward Island; it is one of the

most beautiful islands in the world, and I have seen a good many countries.

But I question the job creation aspect of that project. In the medium term, it will certainly create jobs, but in the long term, there will job losses considering that each year some 400 persons work on the ferry and in five years those 400 jobs will be reduced to about 50. Did he study that aspect of the issue? What alternative does he propose? Did he consult the unions?

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I know the Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs has found the 10-minute period too short. I simply want to remind him that the question and comments period is still shorter. Therefore we would appreciate a brief comment.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Fernand Robichaud Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members from the other side for supporting this amendment and also for supporting the project as a whole.

Unfortunately, as the member mentioned, some of those now working for the ferry system, maybe I should say many of them, will not find a job on the bridge.

As I mentioned during my speech, Marine Atlantic, the company which operates the ferry system, has already contacted the unions in order to find ways to minimize the impact of the bridge opening and help those people find other jobs.

Of course, local communities and economic commissions are trying to develop tourism and that could create jobs for the ferry workers of today. But I can assure you that every effort will be made to help these people adapt to the new situation so that they can find other jobs.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, even though we basically agree with the government, our comments in this House prove that its approach differs vastly from the one members on this side would use.

Regardless of whether we support this project or not, we are concerned by its potential impact on the environment. It seems to me, at first glance anyway, that the government is not very well equipped at this point to answer the many questions and solve the numerous problems which might arise from the project in front of us.

First of all, I must say that after listening this morning to the minister, I was rather shocked to hear that he had assumed, even before being aware of our position on the matter, that the Official Opposition would oppose this project, at least, that is the impression he gave in his argument. It is rather odd. I wonder how he came to the conclusion, even before we had a chance to express our views on the topic, even before the beginning of this debate, that we would oppose this project.

He may have forgotten, or perhaps he never listened to the Official Opposition when we pledged to Canadians that equity and fairness in distribution would be the yardsticks by which we would measure proposals submitted to this House. The minister might have forgotten that, unless he just never was aware of it. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt, but let it be a lesson for him in the future. The minister should never again presume to think for the Official Opposition, especially given the fact that he seems to have enough trouble trying to understand the issues he is presenting to this House. He does not have all the answers, he has to do more work on these issues, and he should get on with it. The opposition will do its job, and the minister should do his.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised when I heard our friends opposite say they have the greatest respect for the results of a referendum held in Prince Edward Island that revealed that the citizens of this province were very interested in the project, were very much in favour of it and considered it a major step forward. I think respect for the will of the people as expressed in a referendum is very important, and I would remind our hon. friends opposite that this should apply to all referendums that may be held in this country and that may have important consequences for the future of its communities.

My own major concern is for the environment. I understand the reasons for the project, and I support it, and I understand what it means to the people of Prince Edward Island, but I have some very real reservations, especially in connection with the issue of ice formation. I am not an expert, but I am told that a major accumulation of ice near the bridge at certain times of the year might alter the ecology of the area and possibly have a major impact on the fisheries. I believe the government has recognized this by providing, if I am not mistaken, a $10 million relief plan to help fishermen who work in the area make the transition to other work. This means the government is aware of a significant impact on the fisheries.

I am one of those who are very concerned about this kind of situation, and I would have liked to see the environmental issues researched more thoroughly. I am concerned. I know that one case has already been brought before the courts. A number of rulings have been handed down, and the court has had a second chance to rule on the quality of the environmental studies. But I must say that a project of this scope, which may have a very significant impact-and one does not have to be an environmental expert to understand this-it seems to me that the whole environmental question should have been researched more carefully in order to get more answers and more clarification. I still have a number of questions about this project. There are definitely negative sides that will affect the future of a number of fishermen. There may be a negative impact on climate and

perhaps on certain social aspects as well, as a result of these major changes.

In any case, I think that instead of hurrying things along, the government should dig a little deeper and be in a position to give us better assurances that these issues have been given the attention they deserve. If there are any problems with this bridge, it will not be the people from Ontario or Ottawa, or Montreal or Vancouver who are affected, but local people, in an area that is economically fragile and has a low population density. Yes, a megaproject in this sector may have some very positive effects if the project is a good one, but it might also have a negative impact if we do not bother to look at all sides of the problem because we are in too much of a hurry to get this on the road.

As for the environmental issues, I think they were disposed of a bit quickly. I have a feeling that we tried to meet this deadline by putting some pressure on the stakeholders. For the time being, what I want to do is register my concern in this respect.

Financing is the biggest concern for this project. The cost of this bridge-which is clearly a megaproject-is estimated at $850 million. It would not be the first time that on a project of this magnitude, and for which we have no precedents, there would be cost overruns.

Already, according to my information, a study by Wood-Gordon revealed, last year, that the cost could be about $1.3 billion. Today-faced with a rather innovative project for which experts have already said that the cost could be at least 50 per cent higher-how can we say with any degree of certainty that the cost will be $850 million?

I do not want to use this argument to block the project, but I am trying to point out to this House, the government and the hon. members on the other side, that it would not be the first time in this country that the cost of a megaproject balloons way beyond the government's initial estimates, and that the government is stuck with the deal and forced to pay, at taxpayers' expense, millions of dollars more to finish the project.

I do not think that we can conclude this debate without the minister being present, and he is not in the House right now.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I wish to remind hon. members that it is our tradition not to make any comments on the absence of a member. We all know that hon. members are very busy. I just wish to remind hon. members that they should not comment on the absence of another member.