Mr. Speaker, we have on the west coast a lot of community problems originating from the designation of ports and port facilities and we have some ongoing discussions and negotiations at the local level in terms of how they are going to manage their affairs given the devolution of the wharfs and facilities which have been known throughout the last few decades as the federal dock and so on.
We have a very specific problem on Vancouver Island with the naming or designation of ports. We have a remote designation and a local and regional designation. These have major implications to communities. When we end up with a largely bureaucratic driven decision that impacts a community thousands of miles a way we have to find a way to ensure that the information upon which the bureaucracy is making its decision is the correct information and not something that someone like I would have to ferret out after
months of amazement at how a decision could be made through something like the freedom of information.
Lo and behold, in the cases of the two communities of Zeballos and Tahsis which are adjacent communities on Vancouver Island as the crow flies but over 300 kilometres separate by road, I determined that the bureaucracy in Ottawa thought they were connected by a 10 kilometre road which affected the designation and how this enabling package and the devolution of port facilities is going to affect them in a very negative way. I am still trying to get that sorted out. I hope I will get some assistance from the respective minister.
I have some assurance that where there are port facilities that fall under small craft harbours under the Department of Transport that are adjacent and have been considered by the community to be single facility, these proposals will be looked at with a lot of flexibility by the respective ministers. In this case, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Transport both have jurisdiction. It makes common sense to include both these facilities under one domain and then to move it into a community harbour committee type of arrangement. I am looking forward to co-operation in that regard as well.
This bill has been in the hopper for quite some time. When it was sent to the Standing Committee on Transport there was an awful lot of listening that had to be done. I witnessed a number of amendments that have been made to the legislation. We know it was certainly not a complete package when it was presented and we know there has been a lot of input. We also know that the direction of some of the amendments is very good indeed.
I have a concern that not all the amendments will achieve what needs to be achieved. I think a part of that is due to partisanship and gamesmanship in this place rather than really trying to accomplish what is right. There have been filibusters at the committee stage to block amendments having to do with the St. Lawrence seaway.
Based on a Bloc filibuster the government backed down and withdrew four amendments which were designed to aid the control of the cost of shipping in the St. Lawrence. Government members of the committee rationalized this as a necessary move in order to move the bill along quickly and suggested they would be able to reintroduce them at report stage. This was months ago.
From all outside appearances once again we are in the final days of another sitting of Parliament with an agenda that should not be rushed but appears to be rushed. There were amendments involving ports policing. Ports operating under the umbrella of the Canadian Ports Authority were being policed by the Canada Ports Corporation Police. The bill would bring an end to the existence of the Canada Ports Corporation. However, with the end of the Canada Ports Corporation, also comes the end of the Canada Ports Police.
We have a circumstance where essentially the municipalities do not mind looking after the policing. However, where there are incremental costs which there will be in some cases, naturally they wanted to be compensated. We cannot have federal offloading on to municipalities. I believe there are amendments that will take care of that situation. I hope and pray those amendments will indeed pass.
The legislation also establishes many of the ports previously operating under the Harbour Commissions Act as Canadian port authorities. As such they will be required to pay full grants in lieu of taxes.
We have an amendment calling for a five-year phasing in period. Ports that are not required to pay these grants would pay no less than what they had already been paying and 80 per cent of the difference between what they had been paying in the full value grants in lieu over the next succeeding four years and the full grants in lieu by year five.
No city or municipality would have received less than it had already been getting. At the same time the phase in period would allow time for ports to prepare for the previously unbudgeted impact of these payments. This deficiency in the bill has also been overcome by an amendment that I am supporting as well. However some small ports under the legislation will be placed in financial risk. This is not a good way to start a new program.
There is some good in the bill. In fact there is quite a bit of good in it. The objective of the committee was to examine the bill and make it as good as possible. That has not been met. The issues were clear. The solutions were clear. However the government has failed not because of marine philosophy but because of political gamesmanship. The bill could have been better.