Madam Speaker, to emerge from its economic doldrums, our country needs a large-scale collective project, one which will generate our enthusiasm and mobilize us. Such a project exists, but an act of government good will is needed to get it off the ground. I am referring to the project to build a high-speed train to service the Quebec City-Montreal-Laval-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor corridor. Several studies have already concluded that this project would be economically viable.
The minister is waiting for a new report to be released this summer. However, based on the information he already has, he should be able today to say, without jeopardizing the terms of the venture: "Yes, we will proceed with the high-speed rail project". If the minister were to make this statement now, he would not be hurting the authors of the expected report in any way.
This kind of statement would pleasantly surprise us and would show that our government can at least boast of the three things that my hon. colleague for Laurentides criticized it earlier for not having, namely vision, vision and more vision to create "jobs, jobs, jobs", as promised in the red book.
There are so many reasons to support what could become the major project of this decade that I hardly know where to start, or should I say, I hardly know what I should leave out, to finish my speech on time. In any case, first of all, studies have shown that the market is large enough to ensure the project's economic viability. According to information released by Bombardier, the
company's pre-feasibility study has shown that this railway service would serve a population of eight million and attract nearly 5,300,000 travellers annually, an increase of 3,700,000 over the current ridership.
We now have information that emphasizes the benefits of HST connections for travellers in terms of security, travelling time and cost. According to the study, travelling time from station to station, calculated with a top operating speed of 300 kilometres per hour, would be 1 hour and 35 minutes between Quebec City and Montreal, 1 hour and 5 minutes between Montreal and Ottawa, and so forth. The time saved, even compared with flying, is considerable.
Furthermore, as is the case in Lyon, the HST could provide a very efficient way to solve the problem of transportation to and from Mirabel and Dorval and could also provide a quick connection between these airports by adding a loop where the train would run only at certain times.
Another reason to support the HST is, of course, the environment. Per passenger, the HST consumes half as much energy as the automobile and one-quarter as much as a jet aircraft.
If the line could be fully electrified, as is the case all over Europe, there would be even less impact on the environment, because there would be no emissions and the train would consume energy that is abundant in Ontario as well as Quebec, a province that is trying to export surplus energy.
I will now discuss job creation, since that is the purpose of this debate. The HST would create a total of nearly 120,000 jobs annually. This initiative would reduce government spending under the Unemployment Insurance Program. I say this in connection with the expected loss of hundreds of jobs as a result of the merger between CN and CP. Ideally, the HST would absorb these workers.
Without a plan for the future, Quebec's railway industry is doomed. The HST would give VIA Rail a second lease on life and a chance to finance railway lines operating at a loss, as the SNCF does in France.
The cost, and I have not had much of time to discuss this aspect, is evaluated at $7.5 billion, but there would be revenues-