House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

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Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

I declare the amendment negatived.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you will find unanimous consent for the question to be put now on the motion for third reading of Bill C-18 and that the vote just taken shall be applied in reverse to the motion for third reading.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

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Some hon. members


(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed.)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.14 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

High Speed TrainsPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should immediately take the required measures to authorize the construction of a high-speed train (HST) linking the cities of Windsor and Quebec City, as well as the necessary infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise again today to speak about the high speed train between Quebec City and Windsor.

For the Bloc Quebecois, this public transit system, which is effective, fast, convenient, comfortable, pleasant and environmentally friendly, is a key component for the economic development of our main urban centres in Quebec and Ontario.

We all know that communication links inevitably entail trade deals and industrial business. This was well understood by our ancestors who invested in railroads between both our provinces to start with, and then throughout Canada.

Traditionally, prosperity in Quebec and in Canada has been very closely tied to our investments in transportation. Our standard of living and our competitive position largely depend

on decisions that are taken today regarding the transportation infrastructure of tomorrow.

Unfortunately the railroad network and facilities used for the transportation of passengers and goods in Canada are considerably behind and our obsolete infrastructure has progressively given a competitive edge to other means of transportation such as cars, buses and airplanes.

Has the government forgotten that the increasing use of airplanes between Montreal and Toronto has put more pressure on airports and the highway system? Has it forgotten that increased dependency on cars has wasted more energy and hurt the environment? The government appears to have neglected facts which are nevertheless obvious.

It is more important than ever that Canada and Quebec have an efficient public transportation infrastructure which promotes the use of non-polluting and renewable energy resources in order to protect our ecosystems as much as possible, in keeping with the concept of sustainable development.

The government must consider this high-speed train project, which will make the transportation system more productive and provide technological benefits as well. It must establish a general policy involving Canadian transportation technology considered one of the most advanced in the world. It offers a unique opportunity to engage in an international industrial strategy that will allow Canadian and Quebec entrepreneurs to be leaders in introducing the high-speed train to North America and to the developing world.

The high-speed train, also called the HST, or the TGV in French, is the logical way to develop passenger rail transportation in Canada. Some 10 million people, that is 40 per cent of the total population of Canada, live in the Quebec-Windsor corridor. This section, which covers the most densely populated area of Canada, is used every day by 10,000 people. The Canadian HST could take over at least 35 per cent-and, according to another realistic scenario, up to 45 per cent-of the total passenger market between Montreal and Toronto. Such a concentration is sufficient to support an HST which will definitely improve the quality of service in the most densely populated urban corridor of Canada and relieve congestion in the airports and on the roads.

Besides, we firmly believe that the government should have committed itself to putting into place permanent job-creating projects that would really help stimulate economic growth while reducing unemployment. For the Bloc Quebecois, a high-speed train for the Quebec City-Windsor corridor is an initiative which largely meets these objectives.

The HST will bring about the creation of some 120,000 jobs, directly or indirectly related to the construction of the system and its equipment, operation and maintenance, to the technological transfers and to the industrial agreements to follow, not to mention the positive impact that it will have on the tourism industry.

The crucial role of the corridor for the Canadian economy has been stated many times and the high-speed train is practically the most efficient mode of transportation between larger cities. The European experience clearly shows that the high-speed train draws people to hotels, office buildings, convention centres, restaurants and other commercial or tourist activities.

A high speed train service will have additional economic spinoffs beyond those directly related to building and operating the train. Indeed, the increased number of passengers travelling the Quebec City-Windsor corridor will spend money for meals on board, accommodation and entertainment, and developers will invest in infrastructure to provide additional services needed to meet the growing demand.

Thus, a high-speed train will encourage the public and private sectors to better promote their communities and to develop package deals for tourists travelling aboard this train. Several communities along the corridor will also benefit from a faster connection to much larger cities and, consequently, improve access to their numerous facilities.

At the same time, connections to other modes of transportation intended to improve the total passenger transportation system will be an important advantage for some of the communities close to cities on the HST line.

I take the case of Trois-Rivières and Kingston which will also be able to benefit from considerable social and economic spin-offs. That might facilitate the transportation to Kingston of our future students who will have to abandon the college in Saint-Jean.

Keep in mind that a community located close to a high speed train line would regain prestige because it would be seen as a modern and expanding community. The proof of this can be found in France where communities located close to the high speed train line capitalize on that in their written and oral publicity.

The Bloc's proposal is not just to promote tourism or economic development of local communities and job creation. We also consider it essential that Canada and Quebec invest in a railway infrastructure that is modern and better adapted to the realities of the 21st century. With improved facilities, we will be better able to face the challenges of the year 2000.

To do so, we must opt for a rail transportation system that will reduce ground and air traffic which has reached the saturation point, that will use non-polluting and renewable energy resources, and that will improve our industrial co-operation with a series of technological transfers between different European and Canadian companies, allowing them to become a technological bridge-head of high speed rail on the North American continent.

Research, development, innovation and technology transfer are one of the best solutions to economic problems and that is why we must speed up our efforts in that direction.

In Quebec and Canada, we have a critical mass of high-tech companies that creates a favourable climate for the development and implementation of advanced technologies. In addition to providing attractive opportunities for our scientists and technicians, these companies are a source of major spin-offs in terms of production and exports in the manufacturing sector. It is therefore essential for the future of our economy that we promote research and development and technological upgrading by supporting the strengths we already have in our high-tech companies. One of our serious problems in this respect is the delay in disseminating and implementing new technologies. The construction of a Canadian HST would make good use of our industrial capabilities in one of the sectors in which we excel, namely transportation equipment.

How much have governments invested in the past 20 years in developing or upgrading our airport facilities and how much will have to be invested in the years to come? What does it cost to maintain our road network and how much will future improvements cost?

We agree all these investments are necessary, but it is high time we took the same kind of action to rejuvenate our passenger train services. More government subsidies for developing transportation by bus or by air means the Canadian HST project is less likely to be realized.

We all know the HST project has been examined a number of times in the past ten years: there was a study by VIA Rail in 1982-84, updated in 1989; there was one by GEC, Alsthom-Bombardier in 1988-89 and another study by the Quebec-Ontario rapid train task force in 1989-91.

All these studies come to the same conclusion, which is that the potential market is sufficient to ensure the profitability of a high speed railway transportation system. The HST project would certainly enjoy the support of communities that would be able to take advantage of an HST service.

In June, a feasibility study on the construction of high-speed rail lines in the chosen corridor is to be made public by the federal, Quebec and Ontario governments. It will be very interesting to see the results of the cost benefit analysis carried out by the tripartite committee on technologies available to build a high speed train. Hopefully, all these exhaustive studies on a high speed train will eventually result in its construction and not gather dust on a shelf. On the other hand, once convinced of the undeniable potential of this project, governments and the private sector should jointly undertake a comprehensive feasibility study to determine the cost of the whole project and how to share responsibilities for this venture.

It is estimated that it will take $7.5 billion over ten years to build a high-speed line between Quebec City and Windsor. The tax revenues generated by this project over the construction period should reach $1.9 billion. At this rate, the high-speed line will be paid for very quickly. One must also take into account that the government's expenditures will be reduced since the high-speed train will provide transportation between cities at a much lower cost than that of upgrading the road and air networks. This is what you call rationalizing government expenditures.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois recommends the construction of a high speed rail transportation system which will provide the following advantages: 120,000 jobs per year in Canada during construction; nearly $1.9 billion in tax revenues also during construction; funding provided mainly by the private sector; use of a well proven Canadian technology allowing speeds of 300 kilometres an hour; new construction and urban renewal in communities all along the HST corridor; increased competitiveness for the corridor cities; a more economical and accessible mode of transportation for individuals as well as for businesses and communities established along the corridor; an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation; decreased highway and air traffic, reducing the need for new infrastructure; finally, technological expertise giving Canadian industry a strategic leading edge on the American high speed train market valued at approximately $250 billion.

Without any hesitation, the Bloc supports the HST project because nowadays, no society and no region can afford not to use its innovative resources.

Construction of the HST would guarantee Canada and Quebec a prosperous future filled with benefits like those I mentioned earlier.

Construction of the HST in the most densely populated area of Canada is a unique investment opportunity. By investing right now, Canada and Quebec would reap dividends for decades. There would be immediate spinoffs during construction, and benefits for Canadians and Quebecers would continue to accrue throughout the project.

The Quebec City-Windsor high-speed train project is undoubtedly a much more useful and desirable investment than the defunct helicopter project was. Particularly in the greater Montreal area, which was so badly hit by unemployment, it will provide an opportunity for industrial conversion in a field where export opportunities and therefore job opportunities are excellent.

I will conclude by telling you that, with the high-speed train, Canada will make the most profitable investment in transportation in its entire history. This investment by the Canadian government will not increase the Canadian debt and will contribute to VIA Rail's profitability. I hope that my colleagues will understand the importance of supporting this project, which fits part of our natural economic development and a good way to use the skills we have acquired.

High Speed TrainsPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I recognize the parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture who, I believe, has the unanimous consent of all members of the House to speak very briefly about an urgent matter.

Points Of OrderPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario


Lyle Vanclief LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members of the House for the opportunity to clarify what has been a misunderstanding of a statement I made at the end of question period today. Unfortunately the time allotted to me did not allow me to make a very critical part of that statement regarding the PVY-n virus in Prince Edward Island and the potato growers there.

As I said then, the minister recognizes and continues to give serious attention to the issue, as he has for the number of months he has been appointed. He recognizes that legal proceedings are inevitably lengthy and expensive to all parties that may be involved. The minister sincerely hopes that protracted litigation may be avoided and can be avoided. He will seek through legal counsel and continuous discussion with the industry to achieve that result.

I apologize to the industry for any misunderstanding that may have been caused by the incomplete statement earlier today.

I again thank the House for the opportunity to clarify this.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

High Speed TrainPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

London East Ontario


Joe Fontana LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the member for Joliette for his very informed speech on high speed trains.

I have no quarrel whatsoever with his enthusiasm for a technology that we are obviously considering. He alluded to the fact a report and a study on which $6 million is being spent by Ontario, Quebec and the federal government is to be released in June. Surely he wants to be true and honest with Canadian taxpayers by at least waiting for the report and until such time as government and Parliament can make a decision on it.

As I said, the governments of Quebec, Ontario and Canada have embarked on a major study to determine the viability of a high speed rail system in the Quebec City to Windsor corridor.

The present study covers a broad range of subjects that have been identified in previous works and is so designed to provide the most comprehensive evaluation of the potential of high speed rail in the corridor.

The three governments hired a consortium of consultants as managers of the project. The consortium is responsible to produce the benefits and the costs and the financial analysis for the overall project.

In addition the consortium is supervising and co-ordinating the following component studies, all very important to the decision making: data gathering, passenger and revenue forecasting, technology assessment, including the operating and strategy and costing.

The member alluded to one technology but he also should know that two technologies were under consideration. New technologies are being developed even as we speak.

The member talked about $7.5 billion. I do not know where he got those figures. The study has not been finished yet and some of his figures, unfortunately, are from previous reports or previous studies that have been done.

Also included are the industrial strategy and the economic benefits, institutional options and the legislative and labour issues, trends in intercity passenger transportation and government support, environmental aspects, impacts of the urban system and settlement patterns and the light freight and station concessions. This study builds on the findings and recommendations of the Ontario-Quebec task force report which identified several shortcomings in its work and the work of previous studies.

One of the main concerns in the task force report work was the inadequacy of the data that formed the basis for the passenger and revenue forecasts. To address this concern one-third of the total allocated budget of $6 million for the current study has been devoted to the gathering of data concerning travel patterns

and attitudes of the travelling public and to the forecasting of future usage.

This is the most critical aspect of the high speed proposal. Will people use it if in fact it is built? Previous studies of passenger travel in the corridor were conducted in a short timeframe and did not address the seasonal variances that may exist.

The quality and reliability of the base data have also been greatly improved over previous works. We have obtained 60,000 survey responses, three times more than had been obtained in the previous studies. This level of response was possible through the full co-operation of all the carriers in the corridor. Complete access to their passenger facilities and equipment was obtained to facilitate the conduct of the surveys. This is the first time researchers have been able to gain this unconditional co-operation. The survey results were also provided to the individual carriers to validate accuracy and reliability.

We have exerted a great deal of effort to improve the quality of the data to be used as the base for the study. This information is presently being incorporated by many of the consultants who are still in the midst of their work. It would be inappropriate and naturally premature to presume the outcome of their work.

In October 1989 the federal government established a royal commission on national passenger transportation with the objective of reporting on a national integrated, intercity passenger transportation system to meet the needs of Canadians in the 21st century. The commission reported its findings in 1992 and recommended with respect to high speed rail that governments only invest in high speed rail if the overall benefits exceed the costs and taxpayers do not have to pay an operating subsidy.

Furthermore, the commission recommended that there be public consultation on the implications of the government's decision and that the government establish a regulation under which high speed rail would operate, including safety and environmental regulations.

Clearly the royal commission has indicated through its recommendations that a hasty decision should not be promoted and that the full impacts of high speed rail are known prior to making a decision.

The Canadian debate on high speed rail has been ongoing for a long time and has intensified over the last few years with the release of several independent reports. These reports indicated that the governments will have to play a major role in any high speed project in Canada. The scope and the nature of the federal government's participation are yet to be determined or defined.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport addressed the question of the role of the federal government in high speed rail and reported its findings in March 1992. The Member should know that the theme of that whole report was a leap of faith.

The standing committee's recommendations are to a large extent addressed in the many component studies underway within the scope of the present study. Once again, these results will not be known for some time and the government should have all the information at hand prior to deciding on the future of high speed rail.

Canada's national rail passenger service has undergone many changes over the past few years. VIA Rail operations have been downsized in order to reduce subsidies. High speed rail is an option to improve the quality of service that is presently provided by VIA Rail.

A decision on the role of the federal government on high speed rail should not be made in isolation but would have to be addressed in the light of the broader context of the overall transportation needs in Canada. Canada's freight railways, CN and CP, have incurred substantial financial losses over the past 10 years. The railways are preparing proposals for the consolidation of their networks in Canada and some rail rationalization may be inevitable. This does not mean that valuable right of way which can be redeveloped for future purposes will be forgone. However, it would be beneficial to include this aspect in the decision on any high speed rail system.

As I stated earlier, the creation of jobs is a priority mandate of the federal government. A high speed rail project during the construction period will create significant employment. We do not argue with that. The economic impact study which has yet to be completed will quantify the levels that would be generated by a high speed rail project.

The choice of technology is another area that must be identified. As I have indicated, we are looking at more than one technology. A high speed rail project will not see the light of day without significant contributions from the private sector. The motion should not be moved forward without the benefits of the study.

We are prepared to further discuss this matter once the $6 million study, paid for by the Canadian taxpayers, is brought forward and presented to Parliament.

High Speed TrainPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak on Motion No. 112 proposed by the hon. member for Joliette.

The motion calls for the federal government to authorize the construction of a high speed train link between Windsor and Quebec City. That is something which has been talked about in government circles, not to mention within the transport industry itself for many years but to little avail.

Before such a rail line could even possibly be seriously considered by the federal government, a wide array of important details and snags would have to be studied and worked out after

a long period of planning and public consultation. This is a project that could have far reaching ramifications to Canada well into the 21st century.

Although the good side of the coin is pretty evident for all to see, we should first take a good hard look at what some of the potential downsides of such a plan might be. I do not believe the hon. member's motion really addresses any of the essential specifics needed by the House before it could possibly see itself as being well enough informed to consider such a complicated issue.

Transport Canada is presently studying the high speed rail issue at length. Until it releases its report on the matter tentatively for some time in June, I certainly would not consider it wise for this House to blindly approve the sweeping motion put forward by the member for Joliette.

I understand as this is a private member's motion I am speaking on at the moment, it has little chance of successfully passing the skeptical eye of government benches. I nevertheless feel I have not seen enough by way of concrete information that would allow me to support the motion in good faith.

At present the motion before us in the House is simply a standard motion. It basically says there is something we should do and that is about it. There are no details, no dollar figures and of course nothing concrete or of an analytical nature.

Let us not be mistaken here. Properly constructed, a high speed rail line would cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5 billion to $7 billion. That is a little more than pocket change even for free spending members on the other side of the House.

The first question I would have to ask the hon. member for Joliette is where he would suggest the funding for such a project might appear. Is it expected to miraculously materialize out of thin air? Or, does the member actually have some ideas in mind as to where he would raise the necessary funding for this bold and innovative proposal? There is no mention at this point in his motion. Quite frankly that concerns me.

There have been all sorts of rumours flying of late as to who would or should shoulder the burden for such a major expenditure. On one hand let me say right now I would be much more apt to throw my support behind a high speed rail proposal if I had some concrete assurances that the entire multibillion dollar cost of such a major undertaking would be handled entirely by private industry. Unfortunately I have been hearing a number of disconcerting things that would have me believe otherwise.

The concept of a 50:50 funding split between the private sector and various levels of government, including our own here in Ottawa has been discussed and certainly has not been ruled out. From what I understand this possibly means the federal government could be asked to shell out as much as $2.8 billion toward the construction of something that sure sounds nice but carries the potential of turning into a bottomless money pit.

If this $2.8 billion figure is anywhere near accurate and truthful as the truth now stands in the mind of the hon. member for Joliette then I would strongly suggest it may be time to set the alarm bells ringing over this one.

The arguments that have been floating around in favour of publicly funded high speed rail lines are always the same ones we end up hearing when requests for government handouts come up, something to the effect of "do not worry, Mr. Prime Minister, sure you are putting up a big chunk of money but do not be concerned. This is a profitable enterprise and we are going to cut you a chunk of the profits".

As charitable and generous to the government as this offer may seem at first glance, let us be realistic. In the past so-called profitable endeavours the government has been foolish enough to get itself into have turned out to be total financial busts more often than not. The record of government involvement in the sphere of industrial development has been a dismal one as far back as most of us can remember.

This rotten record speaks for itself and it speaks volumes. Ottawa is unable to effectively manage its financial investments in the private sector and this will probably never change, nor should it.

If the high speed train link is supposed to be such a financial benefit for the federal government in the long haul with all the profit sharing that will take place why let us in on a share of the profits in the first place? Certainly it cannot be because private business has suddenly become enamoured with the likes of the Ottawa political crowd.

Considering that the political elites of Ottawa have not had the competence to turn an annual budgetary surplus since the early 1970s, I would certainly be surprised if any viable industry would want to enter into a working partnership with the federal government.

What could possibly be the justification for government participation in this high speed proposal? In short, the crux of the issue is very simple. If the rail line is a financially viable project then the federal government should give its full legislative backing to such a plan, provided there is no fiscal component involved. If that is not proven to be fiscally viable, why then would the government want to sink any of its non-existent money into such a plan? It certainly would be nice for us to be the North American pioneers of high speed rail transportation. If the logic is not there, neither should the taxpayers' money be.

The whole issue of taxpayers' dollars becomes even more acute when one considers the potentially far reaching ramifications of the upcoming Quebec referendum. If Jacques Parizeau and his Parti Quebecois are successful in their next run at the voters, as many polls seem to indicate, then we would certainly expect to see the whole separatism issue shoot to the forefront, a public debate yet again.

As unappealing as I personally find this considering my preference for a strong and united Canada, we certainly must take this situation into account when we examine the possibility of assisting any major infrastructure project between Quebec City and southern Ontario. As distasteful as this may sound to some ostrich-like Liberals with their heads buried in the political sand, it stands to reason that the federal government should have the common sense to refrain from throwing any further multi-billion dollar funding allotments to Quebec until such times as the future of that province is settled democratically and decisively, hopefully once and for all.

Even if the government had wads of money spilling out of its coffers at this point, which it certainly does not, there would be no sense in undertaking a major high speed rail link, a third of which would be located in Quebec, as long as the separatist threat continues to loom over the economic and political well-being of this great country.

As with the citizens across the rest of Canada, voters in Quebec are no longer willing to allow their support to be bought off with their own taxpayers' dollars. That time has long passed. People from the Atlantic to the Pacific are aware that the national and provincial treasuries are as bare as the trite promises contained in the Liberal's red book. They are no longer willing to let their elected representatives throw oodles of their own hard earned money at dubious megaprojects, especially ones that would be completely lost to Canada in the event of a successful Quebec separatist effort.

These are the hard facts of the late twentieth century, and though they may seem confrontational or narrow minded they are not meant to be so. They are simply meant to set out the honest truth, alarming and brutal though it may be.

I have not arrived at my conclusions lightly, nor have I arrived at them without significant consultation with other various official sources within the transportation sector. This includes extensive and recent meetings with representatives from Bombardier, the Quebec based company hopefully planning to receive a significant chunk of any contractual work which would arrive out of this high speed link.

Despite the admittedly optimistic outlook of Bombardier officials I am afraid past experience has shown Canadian people that their politicians should look a little more before they leap. That is precisely what I am attempting to do now by avoiding making hasty commitments to this very shaky concept. As such I find I am unable to support the motion made by the hon. member for Joliette.

The homework has not yet been done. I believe the proposal for a high speed train line, though intriguing, is simply too much too soon at this point in time.

High Speed TrainPrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 1994 / 6:55 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that Quebecers who are listening to us, and also some Canadians, must be convinced, when they hear comments such as those coming from the Reform Party, that Quebec should become sovereign. I thank the Reform members for behaving in such a way, because they are helping our cause.

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank you for allowing me to support my colleague from Joliette who moved this motion in the House, by asking him to demand that the government take the required measures to authorize the construction of a high-speed train linking Quebec City and Windsor.

As early as February 1, I had the opportunity to address this House and explain why the government should implement this project as soon as possible. I was recently followed by the youth wing of the Quebec Liberal Party, which is determined to pressure the Johnson administration to hold to it. That same federalist youth wing tabled this resolution at the policy conference of the Quebec Liberal Party in Montreal in March. The leader of the Parti Quebecois, Jacques Parizeau, often asked the former premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, to put this project forward as an economic recovery tool. I am telling you all this because the implementation of the HST in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor has almost universal support in Quebec. To be convinced of that, you simply have to look at the 1991 report of the Task Force on the Quebec-Ontario High-Speed Train, co-chaired by the honourable Rémi Bujold, the former member of Parliament for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

I know that the government is expecting a report by this summer, which will make comparisons between competitive technologies. However, this is a question of form, not of substance. I am sure that the report which will be presented to the Minister of Transport will indicate a strong desire to go ahead with the HST and will suggest several ways to do so. Recently the dollar has been in a free fall while interest rates have been rising-we cannot know how high they will go-and the stock market has been very volatile.

In these circumstances, it would be easy to criticize the Minister of Finance for not having reduced our deficit. It would be easy to criticize the Governor of the Bank of Canada for having allowed a rise in interest rates. It would also be easy to ask the government to review its borrowing policy on foreign markets in order to protect ourselves from the fickleness of foreign investors from all parts of the world. But, Mr. Speaker, Canadians are worried and in need of a leader, of a government which will restore their self-confidence, a government which will give them hope in a better economic future in the short term, with an extraordinary venture, the construction of a high-speed train.

Why such a train? The government claims that it is ready to provide venture capital to promote high-tech industry, but are these empty promises? What is it waiting for to give the go ahead to the HST project? In two years it will be too late. The Americans will have forged ahead, depriving us of any hopes of winning contracts for high speed lines. We will not be able to export $200 billion worth of technology over the next 10 or 12 years. At stake are many value-added jobs as well as our competitive edge in the high tech transportation field.

Why a high speed train? Because it will travel a corridor more than 1,200 kilometres long. It means more than 120,000 jobs over a 10-year period.

A high speed train will allow municipalities in the corridor to build the infrastructure necessary for the economic development of their citizens and will give them hope for a better future for their children. This venture, worth some $7.5 billion, will be the highlight of this last decade, a landmark future generations will remember about the 20th century in Canada.

When I have the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life in my riding of Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans, the same two issues keep cropping up: the fears of seniors and the exasperation of our youth with our generation.

Let us look at the fears of seniors. They are concerned about developing our country, educating the next generation, establishing in our society all the required structures for education, hospital and other health services, transportation, environmental protection and good quality of life in general. Ten years ago, these people were not worried about their future, they believed the next generation would take care of them and they would reap what they had sowed a hundredfold. But as soon as they meet with economic difficulties, all governments, including the one in place, ask seniors to pay the bill.

Let us look now at young people, those who dreamed of a better world, those who worked hard to acquire a specialty and university degrees, those who were promised a leisure society in the year 2000, those who are presently discouraged, jobless and frustrated because they see the previous generation-our generation-enjoying conditions they will never be able to obtain. We have to give them faith in and hope for a brighter future. We must leave them something besides an accumulated debt of $500 billion. We must show them that we were daring and that we left them with big projects and the opportunity to develop them in the years to come.

The HST project is exciting, visionary and affordable. Affordable in the long run if we learn to expand it according to our means; affordable because each dollar invested will create real jobs for the long term, not temporary employment like the municipal infrastructure program.

Railway companies are less and less interested in operating regional lines. They would rather be travel wholesalers operating only the main lines. After studying the situation in several countries like Italy, Germany, Japan and the United States, we concluded that rail transportation is a state responsibility almost everywhere. Decisions on operation and expansion are always taken by government, which is also involved directly in construction and financing either through subsidies or loan guarantees.

There would be nothing wrong with following the same model used for the bridge between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, which will be done with the help of the private sector and some generous subsidies from the federal government. As for the environment, it is interesting to know that, even when running at 300 kilometres an hour, the HST uses close to half as much energy as a car and four times less than passenger jet aircraft.

The HST would not cause air emissions and would use a type of energy that is abundant in Ontario and in Quebec. Following the cancellation of the agreement with New York State, these provinces have an enormous electrical potential to support this new transportation mode. Besides, this means of transportation is not so new since most big North American cities used this type of energy for their transit from the 1900s to the 1950s. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, our ancestors left us everything we need. Now, all we have to do is demonstrate a willingness to innovate in a transportation corridor that presents many opportunities.

Finally, I strongly urge this House to adopt the motion presented by my colleague from Joliette and to demand that the government rule immediately on its substance, in other words to give the go ahead to the HST, subject to a review of the terms and conditions which will be presented to the Minister of Transport in June.

High Speed TrainPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a brief remark before I start my speech on the TGV.

Goodness knows I am a federalist and I am a deeply committed Canadian. I feel very differently from the people across the way in the Bloc Quebecois. At the same time I would be less than truthful if I did not feel hurt as a resident of Quebec, as a citizen of Quebec, by some of the remarks made by the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke.

I do not believe extreme statements about any part of the country, whether it be Quebec, the west or Atlantic Canada, help Canadian unity. I have always believed in constructive dialogue. We are adversaries at times. At the same time I do not think that loud and extreme statements help.

I am pleased to address today the motion presented by the hon. member from Joliette that the government should immediately authorize the construction of a high-speed rail service between Quebec City and Windsor.

Before stating the government's position on the motion, I would like to provide some background information which will assist in understanding our response to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Joliette.

In November 1991 the federal Minister of Transport of the day, along with the ministers of transport from Quebec and Ontario announced a joint study of the feasibility of operating a high-speed train service in the corridor between Quebec City and Windsor where the prospects for viability are surely the highest in Canada. This study was to take between 18 and 24 months to complete, at a cost of $6 million to be shared equally among the three governments.

The decision to conduct the study was based upon the recommendations of a joint Quebec-Ontario task force report released in May 1991 which examined the merits of high speed rail service in the corridor. This task force was created by the premiers of Quebec and Ontario in 1989.

The task force concluded that a final decision on whether to proceed with a high speed train project could not be made without undertaking a more detailed study covering such areas as traffic forecasts, routing, available technologies, environmental issues and funding alternatives by the private sector and the three governments. The report also recommended that the Government of Canada should be an active participant in this new study.

So, in keeping with these recommendations, the federal government agreed to participate with Ontario and Quebec in undertaking this more detailed work.

Based on the foregoing, the objective of this feasibility study is to recommend whether governments should initiate and/or support the development of high-speed rail service in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

The study is based on a review of representative technologies which would operate over various routes. Six such technologies are currently under consideration. The study enables realistic projections of impacts, including revenues and costs, to be evaluated and involves the participation of some thirty consultants on various aspects of the analysis. Obviously, we are talking about a very serious examination.

The study was initially scheduled for completion in the fall of 1993 but has been delayed as a result of the magnitude and complexity of the work. I should point out, however, that the study is still within its original $6-million budget, which, as I said, is shared equally between the three governments. The present schedule provides for the completion of a draft final report a few months from now.

As we are just coming out of a recession, we are faced with very high unemployment. Owing to high deficits, governments will want to ensure that projects will not require large amount of public funds. It could be argued, on the surface, that the implementation of a high-speed rail service would be a major initiative for considerable job creation and a major economic stimulus. The results of the economic impact studies will give an idea of how many jobs could be created by such a project.

The jobs would not be created in the short term, however. Should this project be approved, it would require at least several years of detailed environmental studies and assessments.

The government is faced with another reality which has been addressed by the Minister of Finance in a recently tabled budget, namely the deficit and the question of deficit reduction.

The government has demonstrated for the benefit of all Canadians its commitment to deficit reduction in the budget. We must address the unemployment problem in a constructive fashion. Care must be exercised in ensuring that any potential job creation initiatives will not have an adverse impact on the deficit but, on the contrary, should be such as to result in a steady reduction of both our deficit and national debt.

The benefit, cost and financial analysis will only be known at the completion of the study which as I mentioned previously will not be available for some months. Therefore it would not be appropriate to speculate on the results and to precipitate a decision as tabled by the hon. member for Joliette.

It is obvious that for a national government any decision on the potential of a high speed rail service must be examined in the light of the broader context of the overall transportation needs in Canada of Canadians.

Furthermore a decision of the potential of a high speed rail service should be examined in light of the broader context of the overall transportation needs in Canada, as I mentioned earlier. High-speed rail service has gained prominence throughout the world. France, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Japan are some of the countries that have benefited from the introduction of high speed rail services.

While recognizing the very obvious merits of such technology, we should be cautious and not jump to the conclusion that high speed rail service could have similar results in Canada, at least not until the review now under way is completed. Conditions that exist in Canada such as climate, demographics, intermodal competition, and the institutional and regulatory environment are all real concerns and could determine whether a high-speed rail service is viable or not.

Much closer to us, all attempts to initiate a high-speed rail service in the United States have failed. The most promising, namely the Texas project, has failed to raise the required private funding.

At the present time, it appears that only one high-speed train project will proceed in the United States. That is the Northeast corridor project between Washington, New York and Boston. The success of this project depends, to a great extent, on major government subsidies.

The difficulties encountered in the United States are a valuable lesson that we should not ignore and provide a further incentive to proceed carefully only once we have all of the information needed to make a sound decision.

While we treat the initiative proposed by the hon. member for Joliette with all the objectivity and seriousness it deserves, and we think it should be considered objectively and seriously, I believe that it would be wise and appropriate to wait to review this matter until the joint study has been completed. It would be totally irresponsible to rush into a project of this magnitude without taking the time to review it from every angle.

High Speed TrainPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 7.14 p.m. the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 7.14 p.m.)