Madam Speaker, it will be a pleasure to answer the question put by the hon. member for London East.
First of all, regarding the Pont de Québec, since that is the main thrust of his question, I think that basically, it all boils down to the federal government's habit, inspired by Minister Martin himself, of offloading its responsibilities onto the provinces.
The bridge was built by the federal government and used by CN. The Government of Quebec already pays an annual fee for use of the paved section, but the bridge was built for Canadian National. Quebec has already done its share under an agreement which, I believe, was for forty years.
Quebec pays this fee under the agreement. However, the federal government now claims that because of inflation, although it certainly is not excessive these days, the Quebec government should help the federal government meet its obligations. This is fantastic.
I think that in Quebec like anywhere else, when you have a tenant-landlord relationship, the tenant-and the Quebec Minister of Transport made this quite clear-may be willing to renegotiate the lease and pay more. This was in fact suggested in a letter. The Quebec Minister of Transport said that once the repairs had been made, he was prepared to pay for annual maintenance, but because the federal government has been cutting its maintenance budget for the past ten years, the bridge is in a sorry state.
In his preamble, the hon. member said that employees in his riding were interested in buying shares. Madam Speaker, I want the hon. member to listen very carefully. In February of last year, at the invitation of the minister, CN employees across Canada submitted a purchase offer. A year later, they got together with the actuaries and, using their pension fund, they made the same offer, and the response they got from Mr. Tellier, president of CN, and from the government, was the back-to-work legislation passed in February. That was their answer. "No way". That was the answer they got.
On June 1, the union made the same offer. It is an interesting proposition because of the excellent working environment this could create. Since the employees would run the company, they would not want it to show a deficit. And they would save their own jobs. All this was dismissed out of hand. No, they prefer grandiose gestures; they prefer to call upon the international community while ignoring two or three dimensions that I wanted to stress in closing.
The railway companies in all of the big European countries, France, Germany, etc, are public. Yes, in all of them. Why? Because they feel that this public infrastructure is a building block which is necessary for regional development. And what are we doing in Canada? In addition to the things I said earlier, the government is cutting transport subsidies for the regions. The hon. member for Ontario and people from the Maritimes know this. And why is the government doing this? It wants to replace them with new road infrastructures. Some gift. While the federal government would contribute to the cost of building new roads, the provincial governments will end up having to maintain them.
We know that during the spring thaw, a single tractor-trailor wears down highways as much as more than 17,000 cars, according to engineers.
We know that all of our highway maintenance problems in Quebec and Ontario, in Toronto where it is obvious, are caused by trucking. And the upkeep of roads is the responsibility of the provinces. The hon. member would like to see me encourage the Liberal government to reply that, at a time when the federal government is trying to offload its deficit to the provinces, the Government of Quebec should help the federal government meet these responsibilities, which it is no longer able to do alone. No, Madam Speaker.