Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to inform the House the Reform Party is supporting Bill C-81.
The bill amends the act for the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Company, the company responsible for the Peace bridge linking Fort Erie and Canada with the city of Buffalo in the United States.
The Peace bridge is the second busiest border crossing highway link between Canada and the United States. This bridge carried nearly 8 million vehicles in 1994. One million of these were trucks containing over $20 billion of traded goods.
With the implementation of our trade agreements and as a result of positive economic conditions, the Peace bridge finds itself not quite up to the task of facilitating smooth traffic flows.
Commercial traffic has accelerated to the point where there is a lot of congestion on the bridge and at the adjacent plazas. This has caused traffic jams on the access roads and local streets on both sides of the border.
To ensure the bridge can facilitate all trade and traffic, the bridge authority would like to implement bridge improvements called the gateways project.
To finance the gateways project, the bridge authority intends to market two 30-year bond issues in the United States totalling $70 million in 1995 and 1997. It will use its toll revenue to service this debt.
We in the Reform Party recognize that strong north-south infrastructure links are crucial to building on trade agreements we have implemented with United States.
If these infrastructure projects can be financed by the private sector, so much the better. It is our understanding that the bridge authority is profitable and has no long term outstanding debt. It is also our understanding that the government is protected from liability should the bridge authority ever default on debts in the future.
Since the federal government is not financially responsible for the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Company, it is appropriate for the governor in council to approve borrowing increases.
In the future we will have to look at a different way of financing these projects. There will have to be more infrastructure financed by the private sector, by municipalities, as we cannot sustain these from the federal government. That would be looking down the road and I hope that approach could be used.
The other reservation we have is that the bridge authority should be held accountable in its meetings to the public. If various parties want to present briefs on the effects of toll increases or any environmental concerns, these briefs should be available to the public.
With this reservation, the Reform Party would support the bill.