Debates of Sept. 27th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mmt.
- Canada Marine Act
- John Child
- The 150Th Anniversary Of The Séminaire De Joliette
- Prime Ministerial Appointments
- Drayton Festival
- Arthritis Month
- Vaughan Interact Club
- Anne Hébert
- Young Offenders Act
- Impaired Driving
- Canadian Unity
- Health Care
- The Minister Of National Defence
- The Late Bert Hargrave
- Reference To The Supreme Court
- Criminal Justice System
- Canadian Armed Forces
- Jerusalem Tunnel
- Revenue Canada
- Canada Pension Plan
- Government Assistance
- Gun Registration
- The Canadian Radio-Television And Telecommunications Commission
- Canada Communication Group
- Hong Kong
- Returning Officers
- Business Contracts
- Committees Of The House
- Business Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Canada Marine Act
- Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
- Income Tax Act
On the Order:
September 27, 1996-The Minister of Transport-Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Transport of Bill C-44, an act for making the system of Canadian ports competitive, efficient and commercially oriented, providing for the establishing of port authorities and the divesting of certain harbours and ports, for the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway and ferry services and other matters related to maritime trade and transport and amending the Pilotage Act and amending and repealing other Acts as a consequence.
Canada Marine Act
Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I move:
That Bill C-44, an act for making the system of Canadian ports competitive, efficient and commercially oriented, providing for the establishing of port authorities and the divesting of certain harbours and ports, for the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway and ferry services and other matters related to maritime trade and transport and amending the Pilotage Act and amending and repealing other Acts as a consequence, be referred now to the Standing Committee on Transport.
Canada Marine Act
Stan Keyes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport
Mr. Speaker, as always, I consider it a great privilege to rise in the House. Today I am speaking in support of the proposed Canada marine act which was introduced on June 10, 1996.
The new Canada marine act will enable ports to respond more effectively to the needs of their customers and will eliminate needless bureaucratic interference in the marine sector. Modernization of the marine sector has a direct link to jobs and growth. A stronger and more efficient marine transportation system will improve Canada's international trade performance. That means jobs right here in Canada.
The legislation will make it easier for ports to operate according to business principles. It will enable the Government of Canada to commercialize the operations of the seaway and to improve the way pilotage authorities and ferry services operate in Canada. It will serve to enhance the competitiveness of our marine sector, preparing it for the 21st century.
At this point I wish to acknowledge the contribution already made to this bill by the Standing Committee on Transport, which undertook a comprehensive study of the national marine sector early in May of 1995. The SCOT report contained a number of recommendations to improve the marine system, many of which have been addressed in the legislation.
I would like to address the main elements of Bill C-44. I want to begin with ports. The major ports in Canada will be managed by Canada port authorities. These CPAs will operate under the following guiding principles. Any port can apply to become a CPA, and there is a process in place to evaluate criteria proposed in this legislation. I expect anywhere from 10 to 15 ports will meet the criteria and be eligible for CPA status in the very near future.
Port authorities will be established by letters patent as non-share capital corporations and will pay an annual amount to the crown based on gross revenues.
The board of directors will consist of a federal, provincial and municipal appointment and then a majority of directors nominated by the port users. Boards of directors will have a defined code of conduct and conflict of interest provisions as set out in their letters patent and regulations.
For the port users, local communities and financial community there is a new public accountability regime with new disclosure requirements that will ensure access to more detailed information. This accountability is achieved by an unprecedented transparency of operations and through rigorous disclosure requirements.
The following documents and procedures will be made public on a mandatory basis. There will be an annual report. There will be an annual audit, a public land use plan requiring public input in the development process and amendment process. There will be annual meetings throughout, open to the pubic. Directors' and officers' compensation and benefits will be reported in the annual report.
There are further aspects of the accountability regime which will be put in place by the proposed Canada marine act.
The port authority will be required by law to have financial audits conducted annually in accordance with generally accepted auditing practices. Furthermore, a special examination of the management, operations and financial performance will be conducted no less than every five years and the results reported to the Minister of Transport.
Perhaps the most important accountability mechanism stems from the fact that ports will have to raise their financing in the private sector.
Financing will depend on what the market sees as the realistic future cash flows of the ports. Their development aspirations will be subjected to ordinary measures of commercial risk. The government will no longer be responsible for their debt. In fact, this means they have to be more efficient than they are today. The government will not be on the hook for their liabilities.
The end result is a system where port authorities will be accountable to their customers, their local communities, their financial community, federal, provincial and municipal governments.
We are moving the decision making and accountability out of Ottawa and into the boards of directors of the new port authorities. We are ensuring financial responsibility by having the financial community decide on new port investment.
We are keeping title to the federal lands that are entrusted to the new boards and we remain accountable for important framework issues such as safety. We think these are reforms that will energize our ports and contribute to Canada's growth of jobs and prosperity.
For regional and local ports, the changes to the port system offer an opportunity for local interests in all provinces to manage ports in a manner more responsive to local needs with lower costs and better service.
This act enables these ports to be transferred as operating ports to local interests and, in some cases, other federal departments.
I am pleased to report that since January Transport Canada has already 47 port sites in the Arctic that were transferred to the coast guard April 1, 1996. Twelve fishing recreational port sites were transferred to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans April 1, 1996.
Order in council approval for 199 harbours was proclaimed in June 1996. Fifty-four letters of intent have been already signed as of this month. Five port sites will be transferred to local interests by the end of this month.
I move on to the challenges facing the seaway. Quite frankly, they are formidable. We have a $7 billion asset supported by a declining traffic base and $70 million in revenue.
If we do not take steps now to put the seaway on a stronger footing, we will have a big problem on our hands in a few years. The key to the future viability of the seaway lies in achieving efficiencies, reducing costs and making the system more competitive. Part III of the Canada Marine Act enables the Minister of Transport to enter into agreements with a non-profit corporation or any other private sector interests to operate and maintain all or part of the seaway.
We now have an agreement in principle for a new operator to be put in place, perhaps as early as January and the existing seaway authority would be dissolved at an appropriate date.
Another section of the bill deals with marine pilotage. Maintaining an effective pilotage regime to ensure safety and environmental protection is the primary concern of the government, users, the pilotage authorities and pilots alike.
The Canada Marine Act includes amendments to the Pilotage Act which will allow for faster setting of tariffs to prohibit appropriations from the government and to provide for a ministerial review in consultation with the authorities and users in 1998.
These changes will serve the users better and ensure that the authorities operate in a more cost efficient and cost effective manner. Safety and environmental protection will continue to be the government's highest priority when making decisions with respect to marine pilotage. The changes in the delivery of pilotage services will ensure that the safety of marine transportation is maintained.
Finally, with respect to ferry services, the Canada Marine Act will permit the Minister of Transport to enter into agreements with the private sector or other levels of government to provide the constitutional or other services that are currently provided by Marine Atlantic. These provisions are included in the act to facilitate the increased commercialization of ferry operations as outlined in the national marine policy.
Again, the government will maintain its regulatory role for safety and it will continue to support constitutionally required services.
This has just been a quick overview of the proposed Canada Marine Act. The goals of the marine policy are reflected in this legislation. We want our marine sector to be more competitive, more commercially driven, free from Ottawa bureaucracy and more responsive to the users.
We believe this legislation will help us to achieve these goals and prepare the marine sector and transportation system for the competitive demands of the 21st century.
Canada Marine Act
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
Just so everyone understands the rules of debate on this motion, members are entitled to 10-minute interventions without questions or comments. The
maximum, of course, is three hours of debate on this motion before it is referred to the committee.
Canada Marine Act
Ray Speaker Lethbridge
Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments with regard to the Canada Marine Act.
The parliamentary secretary has outlined the objectives of the act. The objectives are very noble and I certainly congratulate the parliamentary secretary for setting them out in legislation. It is time that our ports were more self-sufficient, self-determining in their goals and objectives and in financial accountability. I want to place on the record my support for the parliamentary secretary's outline of the objectives of the bill.
I have received representation with regard to this issue a number of times since I arrived in Ottawa. As a person who represents a rural constituency in Lethbridge, Alberta, we usually do not talk about the seaway too much, or oceans, travel or marine life at all because we always are worried about having enough rain for the crops, never mind worrying about oceans, lakes and seaways.
Pilotage on the Great Lakes has been brought to my attention. There are certain shipping lines that travel the lakes day after day, week after week, month after month. The captains of those boats are very aware of the travel patterns. They know how to be safe on the lakes and they know how to move from one port to another and avoid any kind of disaster or cause any difficulty in making their way and taking their cargoes of grain, coal or other materials from one port to another.
As I understand it, in the past it was compulsory that they take on pilots at some of the ports. These pilots, either one or two or three, board the boat, find themselves a comfortable seat but the captain is still in charge. He knows where the boat is going. The pilots really do not contribute at all to that passage.
The concern is the major cost that is incurred by that pilot entering the boat, taking a nice comfortable chair, riding from one port to another and supposedly fulfilling his or her commitment in determining what is a safe route and the best way to go.
I can see that this may be necessary when foreign boats comes into the seaway, perhaps from the European continent or some other country. When they enter the seaway it is new territory or it is territory they may only travel a few times each year. Under those circumstances the regulations should require that those vessels should take on pilots as it ensures safety on the Great Lakes. It ensures that the correct route is taken and that the necessary requirements are met. I do not understand all of those requirements.
I do see the case for a shipping company-the hon. minister and the parliamentary secretary certainly know the companies to which I am referring-that is consistently on the lakes and has been for years. They have experienced captains. Perhaps that is another requirement. Perhaps the captains have to travel the lakes so many years. After they have been travelling the lakes and navigating the ship on the seaway for some many years, they have the right to be their own pilot. Maybe some regulations could be put in place to deal with that issue.
Why should the shipping company incur the extra cost of pilots when they are not needed on the boat at that time? It is a major cost to the industry. Certainly it employs somebody and creates a job. I understand that some of these pilot jobs are passed on from one family member to another. There are three or four families in their third or fourth generation of pilots so it is an industry for them.
Under the regulations the shippers on the Great Lakes have to use them. They have a guaranteed income, a wonderful thing, and I know they would not want to upset that. In practical terms it just does not seem right.
I recommend to the parliamentary secretary, the minister and the government that they look at this and maybe set up categories of where the requirements of a pilot are necessary and where they are not necessary. That makes some common sense as I see it.
I am making a judgment, maybe as a prairie gopher. I do not understand all of the things that happen in terms of navigation on the Great Lakes. But after standing back and looking at it in a common sense way, in terms of efficiency and the shipping companies not incurring costs that are not necessary, I think that would be very right.
As a farmer in western Canada, some of the grain I grow travels on the Great Lakes. It is moving on those boats. The Upper Lake Shipping Company, for example, moved some of my grain on the Great Lakes. I guess I am paying something extra because of the pilotage cost that is built into the system.
I certainly appreciate the new objectives that have been set out for the port authorities. It is good that is being done. They sound excellent. The accountability that is built into it is certainly supportable and of merit.
I ask the minister to have a second look at pilotage when regulations are designed to look at what is right and what is not right.
The third objective that the minister set out in his remarks is that the new act will be more responsive to the users. That is a good objective. It is the consumer, the user that really needs it, not the government. It should not be a bill for government. It should not be a bill to protect the bureaucrats of the system and enhance their jobs. It should not be a bill to protect the pilots. It should be a bill that enhances the opportunity of the users, that allows them to be
efficient, to keep the costs down and to have safety as their utmost responsibility. I believe that is built into the bill.
I would like to thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this bill. On that basis I am prepared to support it as an individual member from western Canada.
Canada Marine Act
Paul Mercier Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC
Mr. Speaker, first I will give a brief description of the bill and then I will outline the Bloc's position.
Bill C-44 implements the federal government's new national marine policy. Three hundred and twenty-four Transport Canada ports are equipped for commercial traffic. Ninety per cent of marine traffic goes through 45 ports. This bill mainly affects three major marine issues, namely ports, pilotage and the seaway.
As far as ports are concerned, 324 of them come under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada, which shows the scope of this bill. The bill calls for the creation of Canada port authorities or CPAs, which will be private not for profit organizations operating in accordance with market discipline. The Canada Ports Corporation is being dismantled but the federal government still owns the federal lands on which CPAs are located.
As for the seaway, the government intends to continue to commercialize operations, as the bill allows the federal government to reach an agreement on management and operations with the private sector.
Finally, pilotage authorities will no longer have access to public funds.
Here is our party's position on these provisions. First of all, we must emphasize that we have always supported the port divestment and commercialization policy, as we pointed out in our May 1995 report on Canada's marine strategy. Therefore we support the bill in principle; however, we have four reservations about it.
First, some neglected ports must be rehabilitated. The new managers and owners should not be penalized by the federal government's failure to properly maintain many federally-owned harbours and ports in recent years. They must have access to facilities that are in reasonable shape. In this regard, officials tried to reassure us by saying that $125 million has been set aside for this purpose, but this amount seems woefully inadequate.
Second, during the divestment process, the federal government will have to take into account the differences between the various port facilities. Some profitable ports will sell easily, but other will need more assistance from public officials and the local community. We, in the Bloc Quebecois, want to emphasize this important point and we will be watching the federal government to ensure it takes regional disparities into account.
Third, even though the federal government wants to withdraw financially from the area of shipping, paradoxically, it wants to impose government representation on the boards of directors. This is just one more of many areas in which the federal government has tried to retain full power while withdrawing financially since the Liberals have been back in power. The government is decentralizing its deficit but trying to maintain control over shipping.
Our fourth and last reservation is with the federal government wanting to divest itself within six years of ports that do not meet the requirements to become part of the ports system: traffic diversity, connections with other transport modes, and financial autonomy. At the end of these six years, it will decide what should happen to those ports that did not sell. This deadline may well cause insecurity in many communities, in Canada and Quebec.
The Bloc Quebecois is for the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway. We are also for government support for the building of ships suited for seaway navigation, which we feel is essential to the continued operation of the seaway and to shipyards in Quebec and Canada. Because of the reservations I have just listed, however, the Bloc cannot support Bill C-44 as it stands. Following the consultations scheduled to start on Monday, my party will propose amendments and, depending on how well these amendments are received, will vote accordingly.
To conclude, Bill C-44 clearly shows how miserably the federal marine policy has failed these past twenty years. The federal government just realized, although a bit late, that its involvement over the years has resulted in costly and cumbersome bureaucratization as well as ineffective management. The St. Lawrence Seaway is a good example of this.
More than $7 billion, in 1996 dollars, has been spent by the federal government on the seaway. But the seaway only generates $70 million per year in revenue, a 1 per cent return on the investment. Add to this the fact that shipping has declined by half since 1970. These figures show how effective federal policies are in shipping as in many other areas.
Canada Marine Act
Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that this intercession is being delivered on behalf of my colleague, the Reform transportation critic, the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke. Reform supports the intent of Bill C-44. However, there are several areas with which we have concerns and I would like to expose those in the next few minutes.
The motion before us is to refer the bill to committee before second reading. We will support that motion but I believe it is in order to state the reasons for that support and the reservations we have.
The first time this procedure was used on a transport bill was the legislation dealing with the privatization of CN Rail. We supported the Liberal argument that this process would allow the bill to be dealt with better in committee and that it would make it more amenable to amendments. Those assurances were false.
The bill was debated at length and our transport critic brought forward several amendments designed to improve the bill that we had already generally agreed with. Although several Liberal members of the committee expressed words of agreement with some of those amendments, when it came time for the vote every amendment was defeated by the same Liberal Party that asked for our support for the new streamlined procedure.
Interestingly, after the bill was passed in the House and implemented it became very clear that the Liberals would have been wise to have accepted some of those Reform amendments.
The next transport bill to come before the House with a motion to send it to committee before second reading was the Canada Transport Act. This time, based on the false promises issued by the Liberals on the previous transport bill, the Reform Party did not support the motion. When the bill ended up in committee our critic once again went to work exposing numerous flaws with a bill that we generally supported. Once again he brought forward numerous motions designed to improve a bill that we did want to support.
Unlike with the previous bill, the Liberals listened and then supported the majority of those amendments. Although there were a couple of rejected amendments which we felt were deal killers, we do acknowledge the Liberals' improved attitude in dealing with our amendments. Because of this improved attitude we are willing to give them another chance to act as they promised when they first introduced this procedure.
Having given our reasons for supporting the motion to refer the bill to committee before second reading so as to make it more amenable to amendments, I will now place the government on notice as to some of the aspects of the bill we have difficulty with.
However, before I do that there is one other item that needs to be brought out. This bill was introduced in the House last spring. The intent of doing so was supposedly to allow the appropriate people to have the summer to study the bill in order to be prepared to study it again upon the reconvening of Parliament in September.
One of the instruments utilized by members of Parliament is a briefing book on the bill supplied by the appropriate department, in this case transport. Our transport critic, the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke, did not receive the briefing book until the afternoon of September 25. That is not acceptable. I hope this disregard for proper and timely action is not an indication of how this bill will be dealt with.
During summer our transportation critic studied this bill and made notes of his concerns. He then went on the road to discuss the bill with various port operators and users. He began his meetings by asking for their reaction to Bill C-44. He found in virtually every case that many of the concerns of those he visited were identical to his own concerns.
Those areas of common concern include the size and the make-up of the board of directors. Section 6(2)(f) stipulates that the number of directors be between nine and eleven. Most port operators do not need nor do they want that large a board. Of those operators our critic visited, the desired number indicated ranged from three to five. One operator who did support five stated that he could live with seven but would prefer the lower number.
The Reform Party had previously expressed its opinion of board of director make-up in its minority report in the marine study completed by the Standing Committee on Transport last year. We believe in government participation but not government control.
Section 6(2)(f)(v)) of the bill states that one director is to be appointed by concerned municipalities and one by the province, two specifically in the case of the Port of Vancouver, and all other directors are to be appointed by the Minister of Transport. In the case of some of those appointments, the minister is to consult with the users. But no obligation is placed on the minister to appoint those who are chosen by the users.
The government may argue it is its intention to appoint directors selected by the users but if it does not say that, it is not likely to happen. If the minister does indeed plan to appoint those elected by the users, why not just let the users appoint their own directors, but not in the numbers stipulated in the bill? No one group, be it the government, the municipalities or the users, should have in itself a majority on the board.
Section 9 and others within the bill set out a provision that cancels any right that current office holders might have to compensation, damages or indemnity.
Section 11(2) goes further by clearing stating that neither the port authority nor Her Majesty in Right in Canada is bound by any severance agreement entered into between a predecessor of the port authority and any of its officers after December 1, 1995. Given that transport is the same department that gave us the Pearson cancellation bill, we should not be surprised that it would do something like this.
Section 24 restricts the right of a port authority to operate any form of business which may provide needed cash flow revenues for the port. For example, Fraser port does partial assembly of vehicles upon their arrival. That is good business and aids in the
financial viability of the port. The government should not be restricting this activity, it should be encouraging it. Fraser Port is an example of how we should set up the new port authorities. I am glad to see the nod across the way from the parliamentary secretary to go in that direction.
Section 27(3) states that a port authority may not mortgage any property that it holds in any manner. Does this restriction apply only to the crown land turned over to the port to operate or does it include other properties which have or may in the future be bought by the port authority? This we think is overly restrictive and creates serious financial problems for the ports.
Another problem section is 36(5). This either stops a port authority from acquiring a new property or at a minimum requires an amendment to the letters patent each time there is a purchase. The idea of the bill is to get rid of bureaucratic red tape, as stated by the parliamentary secretary, not create more.
Section 45 states that the Official Languages Act applies to a port authority as if it were a federal institution. That is absolutely without merit. Why would the Port of Prince Rupert on B.C.'s north coast need to be bilingual? Why would small ports at other west coast locations need to have this unnecessary expense and hiring restriction placed on them? It is not a matter of not wanting to provide a bilingual service, it is simply that no one would ever use it. Let us be practical.
Section 56 sets it up for the minister to gouge money for little or no service out of certain ports like Kitimat. Considering that the Minister of Transport is also supposed to be the Liberal cabinet representative for B.C., he should be ashamed of allowing such an unfair provision to remain in the bill.
Section 63 is little better and is also likely to cause undue hardship on Kitimat.
While there are some other areas of concern, these are the most contentious. We are giving the government fair notice as to where our concerns lie. I hope it will remain open minded and work with us to make Bill C-44 one which all parties can support and one which will benefit all Canadians.
Canada Marine Act
Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate because, when we deal with the marine sector, the MIL Davie workers, in my riding of Lévis, immediately come to mind. My goal is to see if this bill includes measures that will be beneficial for these workers.
Why do I think in these terms? Because Bill C-44 is pompously called the Canada Marine Act. However, there is nothing in it about marine construction or the merchant navy. Yet, I saw Liberals, including the Prime Minister, come to meet MIL Davie workers and tell them that a summit would be held and a policy would be developed.
In the end, this bill deals primarily with ports. What is it all about? The member for Blainville-Deux-Montagnes, who spoke before me, stated the Bloc's position. In principle, we cannot oppose this bill, because it theoretically seeks to take politics out of port authorities. However, we are not so sure that this will actually be the case.
For example, in most cases, the federal government will continue to appoint the directors of a port authority. As mentioned in clause 12(1), there will be an official representing the federal government, but, with the exception of those individuals appointed by the municipalities and the provinces, the others, including those representing the users, will be appointed by the federal government.
I happen to come from the region of Lévis, across from Quebec City, which has a major port.
Over the years, I watched what was going on in the port of Quebec, because there are port facilities on both sides of the river. What happened is that, over the ten previous years, the port of Quebec had accumulated profits of $36 million. This prompted the federal Conservative government, and then the Liberals, to grab $33 million out of the $36 million.
Under the circumstances, you will understand why the port authorities had no real incentive to make profits. The member for Blainville-Deux-Montagnes talked about siphoning off profits and he is absolutely right. This best describes what took place. The federal government was siphoning off the profits and, then it says, in the bill, that the previous policy has failed. This is indeed the case, because, wherever it was cost-effective, the federal government moved in and took amounts for its own administration.
The Bloc Quebecois has certain concerns, one being that, although the port of Quebec City was cost-effective, smaller ports, and there are many of them, are not in the same situation. We are still worried about them. Often, ports are in pitiful shape. The federal government has neglected the maintenance of several small ports and now it would like to turn these small ports over to local entrepreneurs, rely on the spirit of economic development and initiative that local people may have.
It is not much of a gift in some cases, unless the necessary money is invested. We will see, during the consultation, because there will be hearings at which the various stakeholders throughout Canada who are interested in the matter may express their views.
The members of the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, will be present at each of these hearings to listen to people's concerns.
At first sight, $125 million to refurbish all the ports concerned seems insufficient to us. Sometimes, what is needed is an analogy with what is happening in other areas. This morning, I read in the newspaper about a group of five small regional airports in Quebec that have decided to make representations to the federal government. The representatives say that they would be interested in taking over management of these airports, but that they are in unsatisfactory shape at the moment. For a year, or 18 months now, I believe, we have been seeing, if we look at specific cases, that people are realizing that if an adjustment is not made, it is not as interesting for local authorities to take over the administration of what the federal government leaves behind.
I will give another small example. I personally wonder. Take the Toronto airport, You will tell me it is not the same thing, but it still has a bearing on the ports. The Conservative government had decided to privatize Pearson, but the Liberal government wanted to prevent privatization. Why? Because there was more in it for them that way. It makes me wonder. When something brings in money, the government wants to hang on to it to fill its own coffers, but when it is a losing proposition, and when the government itself has contributed to the deterioration of the infrastructures, it wants to hand it over to the local authorities.
At first sight, this strikes me as a real contradiction. So during these hearings on the ports, people will have a chance to express their concerns. I think that these hearings will provide an opportunity for them to do so.
The only thing I see is that the time limit seems very short. In the human resources development committee I have seen that people have not had enough time to prepare a brief because of the time limits. The democratic process, though generally very good, is not always followed as it should be, because people have not been given the necessary time to prepare. At any rate, we shall see what happens.
This the reason for the Bloc Quebecois' serious reservations, despite our support of the principle.
There is also the matter of pilotage. I have had a lot of representations from people about the St. Lawrence, where I understand it will be implemented in 1998. The St. Lawrence pilots have expressed their concerns to me. They are not sure it is a good thing to move the St. Lawrence pilot administration to Ottawa. In this instance, centralization does not seem attractive at first glance.
Finally, as for privatization and increased commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway, I would be in agreement with that. Yet I would point out that, as the member for Lévis, I would certainly like to see this new legislation take into consideration the fact that
vessels plying the St. Lawrence Seaway in future will have to be built with a narrower seaway in mind. We are well aware that it is not all that easy to navigate through all kinds of submerged barriers. As well, environmental protection regulations would be necessary.
If all of this were done, the situation of the workers at MIL Davie, whom I represent here, would also be improved.
Canada Marine Act
Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-44 which concerns shipping.
First of all, I would like to digress somewhat. Speaking of transport, two weeks ago in my riding we opened the Véloroute des bleuets, a bicycle path around the Lac-Saint-Jean that will give all visitors as well as residents a chance to tour this lovely region. It is probably one of the few bicycle paths that forms a loop, in other words, you never cover the same ground twice.
I say this just in passing. Now, from cycling to boating.
Shipping is probably one of the most important economic sectors in Quebec and Canada. Need I add that it helped create our two countries. That is why it is essential to consider every aspect of a bill that concerns this sector before taking action.
Canada Marine Act
Pierre Pettigrew Papineau—Saint-Michel, QC
Canada Marine Act
Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Yes, two countries.
The proposed legislation implements the federal government's national marine policy announced in December 1995. This is new legislation that will regulate the entire shipping sector, both in Quebec and Canada.
The government dares to refer to this legislation as the Canada Marine Act. In fact, we are really talking about legislation to regulate shipping in Quebec and in Canada. So why is there no reference to shipbuilding, an important industry in Quebec? Why is there no reference to shipyards? Why is there no reference to the merchant navy? I intend to answer those questions.
First of all, because the federal government's marine policy has been a complete flop. A good example is the St. Lawrence Seaway. In 20 years, the federal government has invested $7 billion-quite a bundle-while annual revenues amount to about $70 million annually. The situation is pretty clear.
The government is definitely in the red, and furthermore, today's shipping is half what it was in the seventies, in the good old days. This is why the government wants to get rid of the embarrassing economic situation of its ports, while maintaining a final say on the membership of the boards of directors that will have the responsibility for managing the ports.
In this regard, clauses 12(1)(a) amd (e) of the bill provide that the federal government will have a representative on each of these boards in addition to appointing the other members in consultation with the users. But the bill does not specify whether or not the minister is required to respect the users' choice. I think that this, in a way, shows the irony of this bill. The government should not try to sell us a bill of goods: it cannot get rid of the infrastructure, and still have a say in this.
The government may well consult with users and then appoint whoever they want, as this seems to be a hallmark of the party across the way. Again, the government talks about decentralization but the facts show a totally different situation. In government language, it simply means getting rid of the federal deficit at the expense of the other levels of government while maintaining control through a federally-appointed board of directors and especially saving the work for its own officials. This is reminiscent of what is happening here in Ottawa, where everyone is working to keep his or her job. Effectiveness does not matter.
Given the state of Canada's deficit, the government should perhaps sell off the whole country, keeping only the Parliament buildings. That would be one way to get rid of its debts.
Canada Marine Act
An hon. member
First they must find a buyer.
Canada Marine Act
Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Right, the problem is finding a buyer. That would be one way for the government to get rid of its debts without losing its decision making power, which is very important.
In the end, I seriously wonder about two problems that might arise from this bill. First, I am very concerned by the wide variation in the commercial viability of the various ports. The government should take into account the differences between the various port facilities. As we know, some ports are more profitable than others and will sell off quickly, while others will need more help from both the public and the private sectors and from local communities. Making them commercially viable will increase our already heavy financial burden.
The second problem that bothers me is this. In what kind of shape will the ports the federal government will hand over to the private sector be? Finaly, as my colleague for Lévis said essentially, earlier, when something is profitable, you retain control over it and pocket the profits, otherwise, you divest ourselves of it. It is a well known fact that several harbours and ports were left to look after their own maintenance and modernization. Officials did try to reassure us by saying that $125 millions will be earmarked for repairs to ports that have not been properly maintained. Given the condition of certain ports, it seems clear to me that $125 million is very definitely not enough. Again, this goes to show that the
government's sole aim is to get out of debt by shifting the costs of repair onto other levels of government and the private sector.
The Bloc Quebecois is very much in favour of the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway. At the same time, we are for government support for the building of ships suited for seaway navigation. We will be looking at the bill with a view to making suggestions on how to improve it, so that it better meets the expectations of all Quebecers and Canadians.
As I said and I repeat, shipping, particularly on the St. Lawrence Seaway, represents an important industry, an economy, which must not be taken lightly. The government must consider the merits of my line of argument.
Canada Marine Act
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
Rather than give the floor to a member for one minute, we will proceed to members' statements and then we will resume this debate after question period.
Statements By Members
John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend my congratulations and praise to a constituent of my riding of Scarborough Centre for his outstanding performance in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
My constituent John Child competed in one of the new medal sports introduced this year, beach volleyball. Mr. Child along with his partner Mark Heese competed against the best players in the world and went on to win a bronze medal in the finals, proving once again that Canada is indeed a force to be reckoned with in this new and increasingly popular sport.
To follow up on their bronze medal, Mr. Child and Mr. Heese went on to win the Canadian National Beach Volleyball Championships which were held right here in Ottawa over the Labour Day weekend.
It is with great pride that I again congratulate John Child on his pursuit of excellence in his chosen sport. Well done, John.