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House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was transportation.

Topics

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition on behalf of people who suffer from epilepsy. These petitioners commend Canada's participation in the World Health Organization's global campaign to bring epilepsy out of the shadows.

The petitioners point out that epilepsy is one of the most common brain disorders in every country of the world. It is also one of the most neglected. Seldom publicly discussed, epilepsy remains surrounded by damaging myths, stigma and misunderstandings that have no place in the new millennium. For each person struggling to live well with epilepsy, this lack of understanding can be more debilitating than the seizures themselves.

These petitioners call upon parliament to help launch a national campaign to raise public awareness of epilepsy and first aid for seizures.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by a number of residents of the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Given the problems related to childhood sexual abuse and recognition of those who suffer from the lifelong ongoing trauma throughout their lives from childhood sexual abuse, the petitioners are asking parliament to declare October 7, National Sexual Abuse Awareness Day.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table two petitions in the House.

The first is from a number of constituents in the city of Laterrière in my riding who call upon parliament to take all necessary steps to ensure that the public and its representatives are consulted on the principle of importing MOX plutonium.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, my second petition bears the signatures of 460 people calling upon parliament to take all necessary steps to recommend, as soon as possible, concrete means for dealing with the exorbitant increase in petroleum products and to develop affordable alternative energies.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of many Canadians who are very concerned about the Liberal cutbacks to health care of $30 billion over the past six years.

They are also unhappy with the fact that the current Liberal budget only gives two cents to health care for every $1 in tax cuts. Health care is in a shambles in the country, thanks to the Liberals who are urged on by the Canadian Alliance.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to restore health care funding immediately, not five years from now. They are also asking to stop the for profit hospitals.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a second petition to present from Canadians in British Columbia and other parts of the country. They are very concerned about the lack of an action plan by the federal government with respect to an energy defence system.

We need an energy action plan to defend our economy. The Americans have one, and the Canadian government has refused to defend consumers, farmers and small businesses from the price gouging of the vertically integrated oil companies.

They are asking parliament to establish an energy price commission which will hold the oil companies accountable for their price increases.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by over 100 people calling on the government to do everything possible to stop the monopoly of the international oil cartels in order to bring about a significant decrease in oil prices.

The petitioners call on the government to allocate sufficient funding for research into alternative energy sources so that the people of Quebec and of Canada will, in the near future, be free of the obligation to use oil as their primary source of energy.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 84 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed. .[Text]

Question No. 84—

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

For the riding of Port Moody Coquitlam—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for the fiscal years 1996-97 to the present: ( a ) what federal grants, loans, and other financial provisions were granted; ( b ) in each case, what was the name of the associated program; ( c ) what was the originating agency or department; ( d ) what was the amount; and ( e ) what was the name of the recipient?

Return tabled.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed As Orders For ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that Bill S-17, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain bylaws and regulations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Algoma—Manitoulin Ontario

Liberal

Brent St. Denis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak at second reading of Bill S-17. The introduction of the marine liability act represents a monumental step in the modernization of Canadian legislation regarding liabilities arising from shipping activities.

Its new format and structure are setting a new standard in the way legislation should be implemented to better facilitate the adoption of future improvements and developments in this field.

The modernization of Canadian legislation does not end with the introduction of this bill. It is one of our ongoing policy objectives to ensure that the provisions of the new bill keep pace with a rapidly developing shipping industry and to ensure that the compensation provided by the various liability regimes keeps pace with growing economies.

I take this opportunity to bring to the attention of the House Canada's efforts on the international scene with regard to the modernization of two important liability regimes to better reflect the nature of modern shipping. I refer to the liability regimes for compensation for oil pollution, cleanup and damages, and to the liability for the carriage of goods.

On oil pollution liability, Canada is a party to the 1992 protocol to the international convention on civil liability for oil pollution damage, 1969, and the international convention on the establishment of an international fund for compensation for oil pollution damage, 1971. The purpose of these conventions is to provide adequate compensation to victims of oil pollution catastrophes.

On December 12, 1999 such a catastrophe occurred off the coast of France. The Malta registered tanker Erika broke in two in the Bay of Biscay, some 60 miles off the coast of Brittany. The bow section floated for several hours before finally sinking. Efforts to tow the stern section out to sea failed and the stern eventually sank approximately 10 miles from the location of the sunken bow section.

The Erika was carrying 30,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil of which some 14,000 tonnes were spilled at the time of the incident. The balance of the cargo remained in the sunken wreck. Approximately 400 kilometres of coastline were devastated and the damage to the wildlife, fishing and aquatic industry is still being assessed.

At a very early stage in the cleanup operations it was recognized that the extent of damages was likely to reach the maximum amount of compensation that the international oil pollution fund was able to offer under its existing arrangement, an astonishing $270 million Canadian.

The realization that the fund could prove to be inadequate to compensate all victims of the incident prompted calls from many of the countries that are party to the fund for a review of the limits of available compensation.

A meeting of the contracting states was held in July of this year. It was agreed that there was sufficient support, including support from industry itself, for an increase in the limits of compensation.

From the outset Canada has been active in the discussions that led to a proposal to increase the limit to the maximum level permitted by the provisions of the international conventions. This proposal, to be submitted next month to the International Maritime Organization, is co-sponsored by Canada and will see the limit of the fund increased to approximately $405 million Canadian. As a result of these efforts Canadians will have an improved compensation scheme available to assist them in the event of such a tragedy occurring in our waters.

Under the title of cargo liability I would like now to turn to our initiative relating to the liability of shipowners for the carriage of goods. The existence of rules that clearly establish the rights of shippers and shipowners is critically important, especially in an era where trade is liberalized around the globe and where trading partners are pursuing initiatives to increase access to international markets.

Internationally Canada has always participated in transport related initiatives to harmonize shipping standards, rules and regulations with other countries. The current legislation governing the liability of the shipowner for damage to cargo during maritime carriage is governed by the 1993 Carriage of Goods By Water Act.

This act was first adopted in 1936 on the basis of a 1924 international convention known as the Hague rules, which were amended in 1968 by the Visby protocol. This amendment essentially increased the limit of liability per package and provided for claims on the basis of gross weight of the goods as an alternative to a per package limit.

In 1978 the United Nations adopted a new international convention on the carriage of goods by sea, commonly known as the Hamburg rules. These rules introduced substantial changes on the basis of liability, burden of proof and procedures for claims.

Prior to the so-called COGWA, 1993, that is the Carriage of Goods by Water Act, Transport Canada published a discussion paper recommending the adoption of the Hamburg rules by Canada. Shippers clearly preferred the adoption of the Hamburg rules and felt that these rules were more responsive to their interests than the Hague-Visby rules, especially in terms of the new approach to carriers' defences and increased limits of liability.

Many ship owners, their insurers, cargo insurers and legal experts strongly favoured the adoption of the Hague-Visby rules because they believed the Hamburg rules would have a major impact on shipping costs and litigation costs as the new regime would need to be tested in the courts since previous case law would no longer hold.

Extensive consultations with the various industry groups on these two options have not resulted in a consensus on the adoption of either of these two international regimes. Eventually a compromise solution was reached with the adoption of a staged approach to both regimes.

This approach involved the immediate implementation of the Hague-Visby rules with provisions to bring the Hamburg rules into effect at a later date when a sufficient number of Canada's trading partners had ratified them. The staged approach would therefore ensure that Canadian law is always in step with that of our trading partners.

It also resulted in the adoption of a provision in the 1993 COGWA, which requires the Minister of Transport to conduct a periodic review of the act to determine whether the Hague-Visby rules should be replaced by the Hamburg rules.

This approach reflected Canada's intention to accept the Hamburg rules when it was proven that they would provide a viable basis for new liability conditions for international trade. In the intervening period the government committed itself to promote the Hamburg rules and to pursue with Canada's trading partners the possibility of a co-ordinated action that would lead to wider acceptance of the Hamburg rules at the international level.

As I mentioned previously, to fulfil the legal requirement contained in the Carriage of Goods by Water Act, 1993, and as part of the first review period, the Minister of Transport submitted a report to parliament in December of last year in which he concluded: first, the Hague-Visby rules should be retained in the current Carriage of Goods by Water Act until the next review period ending January 1, 2005 and, second, Transport Canada should continue to make efforts in consultation with industry and in co-operation with like-minded countries with a view to developing practical options for a new international regime of liability for the carriage of goods by sea, which would achieve a greater uniformity than the Hague-Visby rules.

The outcome of this review was driven by the developments in international law on cargo liability, the stagnant position of the Hamburg rules internationally and their minimal impact on Canadian seaborne trade.

Progress to achieve uniformity of international law suffered considerable setback in recent years resulting from the proliferation of regional or unilateral approaches to the modernization of domestic laws which have attempted to address real or perceived difficulties in the international conventions. Divergent rules on cargo liability now apply in many countries. There is a danger that other countries might pursue a similar path of unilateral solutions.

A concrete example of such independent action is the proposed amendments to the U.S. carriage of goods by sea act, 2000. The U.S. act, if adopted in its current form, would add to the proliferation of divergent regimes thus impeding international uniformity.

Canada and a number of countries and industry organizations have raised concerns about the significant departure of the proposed U.S. legislation from prevailing international law. The uniformity of international law remains a key objective of Canadian policy. The outlook for achieving this objective is improving with the ongoing interest of several international organizations on this subject.

Many of these organizations agreed to undertake important work in a consistent manner by avoiding duplication of efforts and by consulting with other international bodies interested in cargo liability such as the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, and Comité Maritime International.

Currently the subject of cargo liability is on the agenda of the OECD maritime transport committee. The committee recognized that there was sufficient interest internationally to consider measures that would improve the current situation.

UNCITRAL and CMI have undertaken to review current practices and laws on the international carriage of goods by sea to determine why countries cannot reach consensus in this area. As part of this commitment UNCITRAL and CMI have established a working group to gather information, ideas and opinions as to the problems that arose in practice and possible solutions to those problems.

Canada will continue to pursue, in co-operation with trading partners, the objective of a uniform international law on carriage of goods by water and will assist UNCITRAL and CMI in their current efforts. Canada will support any new initiative at the international level that would have a realistic chance at success in achieving this objective. These are just two of the things that Canada wishes to do when it comes to the matter of proving the international liability regimes for the carriage of goods around the world.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, today we are addressing Bill S-17, the marine liability act. The title of Bill S-17 means that the bill originated in the other place, namely the Senate. My party has been advocating for quite some time the idea of an equal, effective and elected Senate. I would like to touch on some of the ideas with regard to whether an unelected place should be putting forward legislation.

Back in 1990 in my home town of Calgary, the Prime Minister in his leadership race was advocating that the Senate be elected. He also went on to make promises to that effect in 1993. If he had upheld his original promise to have an elected Senate when he became Prime Minister in 1993, most of the people in that place at this time would probably be elected. However, he did not live up to his promise to the Liberal delegates in 1990 and he did not live up to his promise to the Canadian public in 1993 that the other place would be elected.

As a result we have a circumstance whereby today legislation has been put forward from that place, from an unelected body that is unaccountable to the taxpayers in this land. I know because we have tried to draw before us in committee people who should by all rights be accountable to the Canadian taxpayers, who should be accountable even to the Prime Minister after he has appointed them, and that would be at least something, or at least accountable to this body, the House of Commons, that is duly elected.

However, by refusing to appear, either at the request of the Prime Minister, this place or the Canadian taxpayers on the matter of their own budget, the whole idea of money and of spending taxpayers' dollars, it has proven that there is no accountability by an unelected body, namely the Senate, to the taxpayers.

I could go on for a very long time about the problems I have with an unelected Senate and therefore I think a less effective Senate. If it was elected, it would take up the battle cries like it did during the GST, whereby the GST dropped from 11% down to 9% and finally to 7% because of what those in the Senate did. Once again that is one other of the broken promises. I remember in 1993 when the Liberals went about this country talking about killing, abolishing and scrapping the GST and they did not do that. They broke their faith with the people.

The person who used to be the deputy prime minister, the member for Hamilton East, knows all too well that they broke their faith with the Canadian people on the matter of the GST.

Somebody who was booted out of the party and sits now over on this side, the member for York South—Weston, knows all too well that the Liberals broke its faith with the people on its promise to kill, scrap and abolish the GST.

I will now go on to talk about some of the other things in the marine liability act that will have an impact on people. The marine liability act will consolidate various pieces of legislation and concerns into a single piece of legislation. Of course, that fits generally with the tone of the government to go ahead and centralize a lot of different things and to hone its power. That is a typical theme in this place for this Liberal administration.

The bill also touches on this whole idea of the other liabilities, the problems associated with it and the lack of priorities coming out of the government. The government is dealing with this liability act, which will have an impact on our transportation system, when Canada's competitiveness in transportation is slipping. This is a travesty.

Right now we have a serious problem with taxes in this country, and especially in realm of transportation. We collect about $4.7 billion in fuel taxes. That is a lot of money in terms of fuel taxes. If we collect $4.7 billion in taxes, where does that money go? Does it all go back into transportation? That would make perfectly good sense, would it not? That money could used to improve a lot of highways and port facilities.

Although that money could do untold good for all sorts of transportation, and although we have the highest prices for gasoline we have ever seen, what is happening? Of the $4.7 billion that came in by way of gas taxes for the fiscal year 1998-99, which will probably be higher this year, only a paltry 4.1%, or $194 million, went back to provincial transfers for road and highway development. That means that for every dollar the average person pays in gasoline taxes, 96 cents goes toward things other than transportation.

The obvious question that comes up when we are talking about liabilities, which the government is, and priorities in transportation is, what other types of things does that 96% go into? It goes into the general revenue fund.

Let us look at some of the other priorities. Let us look at the serious liabilities that the government lies out for the taxpayer. That 96% of money that people pay goes into dumb blonde joke books. Frankly I do not know what that has to do with transportation but the fact is that transportation tax dollars and fuel taxes are going into those things.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure how accurate the member's comments are, but I wish he would speak about the bill. It is a question of the relevance of his comments.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member has a good point of order. I am sure the hon. member is just about to come back on subject.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, there is no subject more pressing than this whole idea of the liability act, which originated in the Senate.

I will go on to talk about some of the things that the government is once again doing. It is allowing the supreme court to call the shots. It is reacting to supreme court decisions rather than allowing the supremacy of parliament to rule the day.

I could also talk about the violation of provincial jurisdiction. I could go through chapter and verse if the hon. member across the way wants me to, but I want to address the ideas that are involved in this. One of the ideas is that 96% of the money that is raised through fuel taxes for transportation, which this bill deals with, is going to other things. What is it going to? I alluded to dumb blonde joke books. If that is not a liability in terms of the use of taxpayer dollars and fuel taxes, I do not know what is.

Why would the general revenues raised through transportation taxes go toward funding pornography? What sense does it make to take transportation tax dollars and fund pornography films like Bubbles Galore and various other films? That is exactly what is happening. How is pornography a higher priority than transportation, building good roads and building better ports? This does not make any sense.

However, it gets worse. That 96% of dollars, that $4.5 billion, a sum larger than almost any individual can possibly fathom—the biggest purchase most people make in a lifetime is a home—is also going to fund bleach and syringes so that convicts can shoot up their drugs while in jail. That is an abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise again on a point of order. We would really like to hear what the Alliance Party has to say on Bill S-17. If the hon. member does not have any comments, maybe one of the other members here might be willing to do so, instead of putting us through his pre-election—

Marine Liability ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I remind the hon. member again to try as much as possible to keep his comments pertinent to the bill now before the House.