House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organized.


Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Algoma—Manitoulin Ontario


Brent St. Denis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-3, the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 at third reading. Bill S-3 was tabled in the Senate on January 31 and was examined and reported by the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications. In the House it received second reading on May 15 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations chaired by my hon. colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

The committee heard from a number of witnesses, including: Transport Canada, the sponsoring department; public safety organizations like CRASH, otherwise known as Canadians for Responsible and Safe Highways; the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents the for hire trucking industry; the Forest Products Association of Canada, whose members ship products by truck throughout North America; the Manitoba Department of Transportation and Public Services, the director of which was at the committee representing the federal-provincial-territorial Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators. We also heard from the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, whose members ship products by truck, and the Canadian Bus Association, representing the scheduled intercity bus transport and bus charter industries.

These witnesses presented many different perspectives on road transport. All supported the principles of Bill S-3 and none opposed its passage, but there were some good suggestions made nonetheless.

That is not to say that passage of the bill would solve all the problems of motor carrier regulation and heavy vehicle safety. Two principal concerns came to the fore during the discussions and these concerns were remarkably consistent among the different witnesses.

First there was a concern that commercial vehicle safety needs more leadership and that such leadership should be provided by the federal government. Second and more specifically, the national safety code for motor carriers, based on the 1987 federal-provincial memorandum of understanding, is being inconsistently applied across the country. This inconsistency has possible safety implications. As well, it causes difficulties for the national and international motor carrier industry.

I take those concerns as statements of the challenges that exist in motor carrier regulation. We are taking note of those statements and suggest that this House do the same. Bill S-3 is an important step toward effective solutions. The bill states that its objective is to ensure that the national transportation policy is carried out with respect to extra-provincial motor carriers. Specifically it states:

(a) the regulatory regime for those undertakings is focused on safety performance assessments based on the National Safety Code for Motor Carriers; and

(b) the operating standards that apply to those undertakings are applied consistently across Canada.

Bill S-3 reflects the challenges that remain for motor carrier regulators. While it does not provide complete answers for all issues it provides an important framework or umbrella legislation with clear goals to address them. Heavy truck traffic is increasing dramatically, and as we have confidence that our economy will continue to grow trucking will surely continue to grow with it. It is important that we recognize this inevitable result of economic success and take the necessary measures to ensure that commercial road transport is carried out in the safest possible manner.

This point was recognized in 1987 when the national safety code memorandum of understanding was signed by federal, provincial and territorial ministers. It was also recognized in 1997 when the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, representing all Canadian governments, began development of national safety code standard no. 14, safety rating.

Safety rating is very simple in principle but very complex to carry out. First, it requires that all accidents, traffic violations and non-compliance with motor carrier safety regulations be recorded in a consistent manner wherever they happen. This may be anywhere in Canada or North America. Second, it requires those records to be related to a particular motor carrier and transmitted to the home province of that motor carrier. Third, it requires the home province to receive data from all other jurisdictions and to develop a profile of that motor carrier. From that profile a rating is calculated by the home province in such a way that the result would be the same as in any other jurisdiction.

None of these steps is automatic and all require development and co-operation among provinces as well as judicious use of advanced communications technology. The result is, however, far reaching. A key goal of safety rating is expressed in the introduction to standard no. 14, which states:

Responsibility for motor carrier safety resides, first and foremost, with motor carrier management.

This is most important. With many thousands of vehicles operating in every corner of our country and into the United States and Mexico, no government by itself can take responsibility for all aspects of commercial vehicle safety. The full co-operation of each and every motor carrier is an essential ingredient of safe road transportation. Safety rating is designed to demand and foster that co-operation.

Safety rating by one province is recognized by all other provinces so that duplication of safety enforcement effort is avoided together with unnecessary impediments to motor carrier movement. Sources of information on the safety of operation of any motor carrier are multiplied since data is received from wherever the carrier operates.

This is likely to produce red flags against unsafe motor carriers much more quickly than when each jurisdiction enforces in isolation. It will help to ensure that motor carriers who do not operate safely will be rapidly removed from the road. In a more positive vein, when the accumulated information consistently shows a motor carrier to be operating safely, that motor carrier will have freedom to operate throughout Canada and North America with a minimum of red tape.

Safety is a primary goal, but the importance of trucking to our economy means that efficient and objective safety regulation and enforcement is a real bonus. The same applies to the bus industry. Extra-provincial bus transport is a much smaller activity in Canada than trucking, however, it supplies a vital transport need to many Canadians and does so with an impressive safety record. The bus industry also requires clear and consistent safety rules. Safety rating addresses those requirements.

I would like to return to the two challenges identified during the committee hearings, that is, for the federal government to show leadership in motor carrier safety regulation and to take the necessary steps to ensure that the national safety code is implemented consistently across the country.

The Motor Vehicle Transport Act authorizes provincial governments to regulate extra-provincial motor carrier undertakings. Without the federal act, provincial governments are not able to regulate the federal motor carrier entity and can therefore only enforce safety standards in a piecemeal manner. This legislation alone is an important demonstration of leadership by the federal government.

The federal-provincial-territorial consensus, national safety code standard no. 14, will be the standard base upon which the provincial governments will regulate extra-provincial motor carriers as well as their own local carriers. In this way, not only are national and international motor carriers subject to the same safety standards across Canada, but so are local carriers, which represent nearly half the heavy trucks and buses on the road.

There are currently two sets of regulations under the Motor Vehicle Transport Act. The proposed motor carrier safety fitness regulations would replace the current extra-provincial truck undertaking licensing regulations and would base motor carrier regulation firmly on safety performance.

As part of the effort to implement these regulations, Transport Canada is contributing funding of about $5 million per year to provincial governments. The department is also active in supporting research and in participating on committees and working groups of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators.

The federal government is taking the lead on a project group to examine remaining issues of consistent national application of standard no. 14 and of other national safety code standards. The other regulation under the Motor Vehicle Transport Act is the commercial vehicle drivers hours of service regulations, which are based upon national safety code standard no. 9. These are of great interest to the public and to the industry.

Amendments to standard no. 9 have been proposed by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators. These proposals will be the subject of further review by the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations. This is another example of federal leadership in developing a consensus based national standard that is applied by provincial governments.

In conclusion, the bill we are about to pass would provide an important new framework for national safety standards that apply consistently to local, national and international bus and trucking companies. The objectives of the legislation are to pave the way for the best available national safety standards and to have the many thousands of motor carriers in Canada take their own full responsibility for the safe operation of their buses and trucks.

Much work remains to be done to fully achieve these objectives. However, the federal government along with its provincial partners is committed to following through to ensure that the regulations in the national safety code would provide the right regulatory framework to achieve the objectives.

We look forward to our provincial colleagues to ensure that their safety rating regimes are in place and fully consistent with the national safety code standard. The ultimate objective is to have Canada's roads the safest in the world while commercial vehicles continue to provide efficient and safe transportation of our people and goods.

I therefore urge all members to support Bill S-3.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on this important bill.

I noticed that the parliamentary secretary who just spoke stated “the bill which we are about to pass”. I just cannot let that go without comment. He is presuming that all members of parliament will vote in favour of this bill. Maybe he heard rumours that the official opposition will be supporting it. Perhaps he has also heard rumours that the Liberals will be voting for it, so maybe it will pass.

That was just a little comment there, a little sarcasm. I guess Hansard does not report that the member was dripping with sarcasm when he said that.

I would like to address this whole issue of transportation. When we look at the broad picture, Canada is a vast country. I think that members of parliament from Ontario probably do not recognize it, but I am presumably a member of parliament from the west. When I cross over from Ontario to Manitoba my flight from Ottawa to Edmonton is half over. In other words, the Ontario-Manitoba border is approximately the midpoint before we start hitting what is called the west. Then of course there is another equal distance from the border all the way to Edmonton and another 1,600 to 1,700 kilometres from central Alberta to the west coast.

To unite and serve our people with delivery of goods and services and to move our products across the country, not only to each other but also for the export markets most of which then goes on to ships at various places, we need to have an efficient transportation system. We also are very aware that the transportation of people is very important, so we think of trains, planes and automobiles. I make no reference to the very famous movie in which John Candy starred. However, nowadays some of the things that we go through in Canadian airports reminds one of that movie.

There are many aspects to transportation. Certainly the magnitude, the very size of our country, is one of the largest considerations. The fact that we are fragmented to the point where each province has its own rules and regulations, in some cases makes it very difficult if not impossible for transporters from neighbouring provinces to enter into the neighbouring province. That is a detriment to our economy, our efficiency and indeed our productivity. Productivity is a buzzword which the government is starting to use, that is, how productive are we? How much productivity do we get for each worker?

This bill is paying specific attention to the safety aspect, which is of course that is important. We want to do everything that we can to provide for the safe transportation of people and goods. That has to be of primary importance to all Canadians. I am sure they would support some level of co-operation between the federal and provincial governments so that this goal could be reached.

It just so happens that transportation, like health care and education, is constitutionally a provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, the federal government has a substantial challenge in trying to bring the provinces together in the area of safety.

I would like to say a few things about the safety aspect.

I guess when I look back at my life, some of my happiest years were spent in a truck. I drove the big rigs when I was a youngster. I put myself through university driving the semi-trailer units. I was fortunate to live in an age before young people were automatically discriminated against as they are now.

Right now if a young person of university age would like to get a job driving a big rig, he or she would be out of luck. Young people are considered to be high risk. Therefore, most transportation companies will not hire youngsters under the age of 25 because their insurance rates escalate.

I would like to say one thing about that. During my tenure as a truck driver, I worked both behind the wheel and also in another aspect of trucking during the years. In all those years most of the accidents I saw involved people who were older than 25. The young guys were eager and like myself liked to drive.

I took great pride in handling my unit. I used to practise driving with my right wheels on the edge of the right line, so I gave the maximum space to the left. People behind me could see if they wanted to pull out to pass and also it gave the maximum distance for people coming from the front.

I always practised an exit route. When two cars were coming toward me I always practised in my mind what would I do if the one following the first vehicle pulled out to pass and suddenly was in my path. I practised that exit strategy in my mind.

I was always very careful when I had a load. One thing I hauled was machinery. I always inspected my load to make sure that none of it was insecure. I was not the driver but I know of one instance where a shaft from an implement came off a truck and dug into the pavement. It made about a six inch hole in the pavement. Fortunately there was no car there, because this thing landed in the oncoming lane.

The act in Saskatchewan where I worked specified that it was the driver's responsibility to make sure the load was secure. I took that responsibility very seriously. That is certainly an area where there should be agreement among all provinces so that these types of accidents do not occur.

Another thing which I find interesting is the evolution with respect to brakes. Surprisingly enough, back in the mid-fifties and early sixties when I was driving, the braking system on the trucks was entirely different from what it is now. At that time we had an auxiliary tank on the trailer so that when the trailer became disconnected from the tractor unit the air in that auxiliary unit would automatically activate the brakes on the trailer. If the trailer became disconnected the brakes were on.

Unfortunately, the whole system, whether the units were connected or not, was dependent on the supply of air. If the air failed and if the driver failed to take note of it, then he or she would suddenly be driving a unit down the road that weighed many tonnes without any brakes. It was a very uncomfortable feeling, if the truck was approaching a hill.

There were all sorts of warnings. The trucks I drove the most had two warnings. One was a buzzer that buzzed if the air pressure in the system went below 90 pounds per square inch. One truck I drove actually had a little metal flag that was up behind the sun visor. It was held up there by air pressure. If the air pressure failed, the thing came down and waved right in front of the driver indicating that the air pressure was below 90 and that driver had better stop the truck while there were still some brakes.

We always carried chocks for blocking the wheels if we had to stop. When the air was gone the only brake we had was that little emergency brake which did very little.

The braking systems on trucks now have been vastly improved. In my day the loss of air supply meant the loss of brakes. Now they are set it up in such a way that the part of the braking system is inactivated by air pressure. There are huge springs that actually apply the brakes when the air is removed. I think we would have to say that is a good plan and is certainly better than in our day. Now if the air system fails, our emergency brakes on the trailer unit, as well as the tractor, come on. This is much safer.

By the way, I have never heard of a unit actually becoming disconnected from the towing unit because the safety mechanisms are in place. However, I suppose it could.

I want to digress and tell the House a sidebar. One thing we did was pull a travel trailer. This is another issue where perhaps governments across the country should start looking at some better restrictions and better training for drivers who drive the big motor homes and the travel trailers.

Having grown up on a farm in Saskatchewan and having been taught by my dad that safety always comes first, I always paid close attention to the hookups when we pulled a trailer. I had that mandatory hookup so that if our travel trailer became disconnected from the towing vehicle, then the emergency brakes would be activated by the onboard battery in the trailer.

We were in Los Angeles with this unit. In Los Angeles there are some intersections where U-turns at the intersections are permitted. One could either turn left or do a U-turn and go back. We missed our turn and had to make a U-turn. Somehow the little cable which pulled the plug on my emergency brake became tangled in my hitch mechanism. My emergency brakes came on in the middle of an intersection in Los Angeles. Of course I could not drive forward because my brakes were on. Fortunately or unfortunately in the trailers, electric brakes only work in the forward direction, so I was able to back up to straighten my vehicle enough so I could free up that little thing and get back underway. It was a rather embarrassing, however it shows again a mechanism to provide for additional safety.

Unfortunately, the trailer brakes on travel trailers are woefully inadequate. Electric brakes are activated only in the forward direction. Their backward braking effect is almost zero, which means that if people end up with a motor failure when going up a hill with a travel trailer combination, then start backing up, they better depend on the towing vehicle for brakes because the towed unit does not have adequate brakes in the reverse direction.

Now back to the issue. We are talking about interprovincial transportation. When I was driving, again I hauled across the provinces and also into the United States. For efficiency sake, for cost sake and for safety sake it is important for there to be constant regulations. People should not be required to do something in one province, then when they cross the border into the next province suddenly the vehicle is illegal. There should be standardization. I believe this can be accomplished in co-operation with the provincial ministers of transport. That needs to be done in order to provide for safety.

I think of the issue of drivers. Truck drivers generally do not make as much as airline pilots. Airline pilots are given a work regimen which theoretically would prevent them from ever flying an airplane when they are totally fatigued. They have only so many hours that they fly, then they have mandatory time off until their four week work cycle has ended. Then it repeats again.

Last fall we had a number of flight cancellations because the union said a number of Air Canada pilots had put in their hours. Therefore, Air Canada no longer had any pilots at the end of the month. That is important for airline pilots but it is also important for truckers. Truckers should be able to drive only when they are awake and alert. They should not be driving when they are sleepy.

I have another personal anecdote. One of my colleagues where I worked got married. He was the boss' son. He happened to have the nicest truck in the unit. When he got married he said to his boss, his dad, that he did not need anybody else to drive his truck. He said “Only Ken Epp can drive it because he is the one who is fussy”. I got to drive the boss' son's truck for a whole week while he was away on his honeymoon.

Of course that meant that the truck I usually drove was driven by another person, but I had a wonderful time driving that big Mack H-67. Anyone familiar with the old units knows that there are two sticks, three on one and five on the other; it is a 15-speed. It is quite a good experience. Once one gets to know the gears, truck driving is actually not a boring job.

I was driving from Edmonton to Saskatoon on a beautiful moonlit night. At about two o'clock in the morning as I came around a corner, off in a field I saw a semi-trailer with its wheels up in the air. Obviously the driver had gone to sleep, had gone off the road as he went around the curve and rolled the truck. Since it was the middle of the night and I knew the truck had not been there when I was driving toward Edmonton, I stopped because I thought I should check to see whether the driver was still there and take whatever action was necessary. I took my flashlight and went out there. I was totally surprised to realize that the truck with the wheels up in the air was my truck. It was the truck that one of these other sleepyheads took over while I was driving the boss' son's truck.

The truck driver was not there. I looked all over the field for him, all the way from the highway up to where the truck had stopped. I checked with my flashlight and in the moonlight to see whether I could find him. He fortunately was not hurt and got a ride before I got there. However, I again underline the fact that this was a driver who was obviously driving while he was not alert.

We need regulations, but what regulations? How are we going to come to a conclusion on this?

I usually drove single. I had a single unit so I could drive for as long as I wanted to or for as short a time as I wanted to. In the outfit I worked for the boss said that we needed to be sure to sleep when we were sleepy. He assured that by picking up any hotel bills we encountered. When we were sleepy, we stopped and slept and then we carried on with the load. That was a very important principle in this firm I worked for.

In those days I had my own personal motto, which was “If you don't have time to get there safely, what will happen if you don't get there at all?” I used that motto and I often thought of it. If I got tired I would stop and sleep for a while. Sometimes if it had been quite a while since I had slept, I would stay in a hotel for a while, get some rest and then carry on.

However it is very important that this is balanced, because as I said earlier, truck drivers do not make the money that airline pilots do. They do have to work and most of them get paid by the mile or kilometre, some by the hour. It is mandatory that they be given the right, without harassment or without any negative ramifications, to stop and sleep when they are tired. At the same time, I am totally opposed to arbitrary rules. The one size fits all rule usually does not.

If somebody had told me when I was driving that I had driven 12 hours and had to quit, what would I have done? Who gets up at eight o'clock in the morning and goes to bed at eight o'clock at night? No one. We are able to survive on eight hours of sleep very nicely, which means there are sixteen hours left. When a truck driver is on the road, there is really nothing else that he should be doing but his work. There is no point in walking around in a park somewhere and using up the waking hours that way. That is non-productive. The only thing that must stand is, as I said, that every trucking organization must be such that there is no penalty for the person who does stop when he or she is sleepy in order to ensure public safety.

I know there were times when we probably drove more hours than we should have, yet my rule was that if I was feeling sleepy I would stop and sleep either inside the truck or sometimes in the shade underneath the truck if it was a nice day. Somebody would wake me, and that time was usually sufficient to get me going again and away we would go.

Let me speak about vehicle safety. Over the last number of years there has been quite a bit of publicity about various parts of trucks coming off, particularly in Ontario, where wheels have actually become dislodged, a very unnecessary and devastating thing. Something should be done by way of regulation regarding this, just as private aircraft are required to undergo a total inspection and in some cases a motor rebuild after a certain number of hours. Perhaps there should be some sort of regulation to require that wheels be taken apart, with x-ray techniques used in order to determine whether or not the steel holding the wheels onto the truck is beginning to fatigue.

Most reputable trucking and busing companies would agree to do this to keep their vehicles safe, but most times laws are designed in order to pull into the plan those who refuse to go into it voluntarily. Some companies have to be forced into it. I think that a set of uniform regulations should be enacted and enforced all across Canada. There is no excuse for truckers who do not keep their loads and their vehicles intact, thereby endangering the lives of other people with whom they share the road.

Speaking of roads brings me to the next topic in my presentation today, that is, I think we rely too much on our road system. Our national transportation system has so diminished the use and importance of railroads in Canada. I really regret that. I am thinking particularly of the prairies where I grew up and where many rail lines have been abandoned and are now being torn up. That puts huge pressure, literally, on all the roadways in the country, especially when it comes to hauling grain and potash and the other commodities that we trade around the world.

Canada must have a strong railroad system. I am disappointed in the federal governments of the last 25 or 30 years for allowing the deterioration of a very valuable railroad service in Canada. There should be more room for competition. Farmers and others should have the ability to move their product to market by using a very efficient railroad system which is designed to carry heavy loads and is certainly less harmful than a lot of trucks plying Canada's rural roads.

Many of these roads are now in deplorable condition. I believe that the federal government has a responsibility to use more of the money collected in fuel taxes to support Canada's infrastructure. There is a huge lack in regard to this. The government takes millions of dollars out of the economy in the form of fuel taxes and yet the amount of money it puts back into the provinces' coffers in order to provide for the building of roads is something like three cents on the dollar. It is deplorable and it is not acceptable. There is no reason why Canadians who pay fuel taxes and provide transportation should not have those taxes used to provide them with decent roads.

I would also like to say something about our millennium project. We had quite a celebration in the year 2000. The Prime Minister and the finance minister announced millennium projects three years before this event and had people from all across the country send in projects and proposals. There were all kinds of projects such as trees being planted in a pattern to represent this or that, and there were many other projects that may have value in themselves.

At the time I promoted a project that I think would have been a true millennium project. It did not get anywhere but I believe it should still be done. It would have been an ideal time to say “The millennium is the year when the Canadian government will undertake to build a modern, divided highway system right across the country”.

We have a highway called the Trans-Canada Highway. I remember when it first came in, way back in the 1950s and 1960s. I suppose parts of it were already called Trans-Canada before that, but then it was designated Highway No. 1 in every province.

Mr. Speaker, you will smile at this, I am sure, but when I was a youngster the Trans-Canada Highway, Highway No. 1, where I lived was a gravel road. Of course that was early in our history. When I was a youngster, it was very early in Canada's history. Subsequent to that, of course, the roads were paved.

I want to remind the House of the former member of parliament from southwestern Saskatchewan, Mr. Lee Morrison. Many times he stood up in the House during private members' statements and on other occasions and talked about the deplorable conditions of Highway No. 1 in the western portion of the province of Saskatchewan. I happen to be very familiar with that road because I grew up at Swift Current. It is from Swift Current west that the road is in really bad condition. It is a narrow, single lane road, with vehicles passing each other just feet apart. There are numerous places without adequate visibility because of hills and curves. It is a very dangerous road. Only a year or two ago there was a devastating crash there involving two buses and a semi-trailer truck. I think five people were killed.

That was just one of those situations that could be attributed at least 80% to the design of the road. It is inadequate. It is archaic. It follows the path used when we travelled across the country with ox carts, for heaven's sake. Here we are, following that path, calling it the Trans-Canada and having these devastating accidents on it.

What is a life worth? We spend a lot of money on health care and other measures. We are talking about reducing cigarette smoking to help prolong people's lives. I think it is high time that we spent money on infrastructure for a true Trans-Canada Highway, a two lane, divided road right across the country, built to standards of safety.

Here again we need to look ahead a little. In many areas of the United States if the Americans had a road the quality of the Trans-Canada Highway they would label it an unsafe road and advise drivers to stay off it. I remember driving down there on a road that was two lanes divided, with crossing traffic every four or five miles. Huge signs warned people of crossing traffic. We can hardly find a place in Canada where it is more than five miles or eight kilometres from exit to the other. In most instances we have crossing traffic. For example, in Edmonton on the major roads there are stoplights, crossing traffic and accidents galore. Every week there are tragedies.

I am appalled at the indifference that the government shows when it comes to actually building safe roads. Sure, we can have rules and regulations affecting truckers and we can have rules and regulations that limit the things that bus companies, the people transporters, can do, but how about the role of the government itself in designing, building and funding safe roads to start with? I believe that so much can be done in that area.

Another aspect of the lack of standardization is with respect to traffic lights.

In some provinces, when people approach a traffic light that is red they stop. In some provinces, when there is a green arrow people can make a right turn without stopping. In other provinces, people have to stop first and then make a right turn. In some provinces, if people approach a red light without a green arrow they must stop and then make a right turn after ensuring it is safe to do so. In other provinces, people who come to a red light cannot make a right turn even if it is safe to do so because it is against the law. We need to have standardization because truckers, bus drivers and many Canadians travel from province to province.

I have another serious gripe with red lights. We have this presumed problem of people running red lights. That is a simple mathematical problem with a very easy solution and yet no one seems to be willing to implement it. I would like to see it implemented right across the country.

What am I talking about? When I drive my motorcycle and the light turns amber, I can stop every time. A motorcycle can almost stop on a dime. The thing we need to worry about the most is how close the person behind us is because if we stop too suddenly the person behind us will end up going through the intersection with us sitting on his hood ornament. We need to be careful about that.

If the light turns amber, I can come to a grinding halt with my little Mazda. It is a different story when I am pulling my travel trailer with my Suburban. It then takes a little longer to stop. When I am driving a semi-trailer unit with a couple of trailers behind weighing 50 or 60 tonnes, I am talking a whole new kettle of fish. It now takes a long distance for that unit to come to a stop. Surely in our modern day with the technology that we have available there should be a way of determining how long lights have to be amber before they turn red.

In many provinces now, Alberta included, we have politicians who think they are going to solve the problem by putting in cameras and taking pictures of people who run red lights. I have done the math. Everyone knows I love math and I like solving math problems.

I went to some intersections in Edmonton and Sherwood Park and used my stopwatch to see how long the light stayed amber before it turned red. It was mathematically and physically impossible to stop at many intersections in the country. No one could clear an intersection from the time the light turns amber until the rear of the vehicle clears the intersection unless he or she were going 400 miles per hour, and I do not think we would advocate that. Even then we would be in trouble because the point at which we would make a decision is farther back.

There is a very simple solution and I am proposing it today. I hope it hits the front page of every paper across the country. What we need to do is very simple. Whether I am 100 metres from the intersection or 1,000 metres back, at a certain speed I am either going to get through the intersection on a green light or I am not. It will turn amber before I get there.

Why are the legislators withholding the warning to the point where it becomes an emergency stop if someone is going to stop in time? It is unconscionable. Currently we know how the green light goes off and the amber comes on, which tell us it will turn red and we should prepare to stop. If someone is very close and cannot stop, then he or she proceeds through. If that same person is back far enough to make a judgment, then he or she will stop.

I would simply do this. Five hundred metres back from the intersection, farther back on highways, I would put up a sign. That sign would be round with a line through the middle with green on the top and amber on the bottom. It would be a two coloured green and amber semicircle sign. It would indicate that when someone sees the green light up ahead with the amber, in other words when both lights are on, it would mean that a person would not be able to clear the intersection when travelling the speed limit and should prepare to stop.

As a semi-trailer driver I can now start gearing down. I can come to a safe stop and there is no danger. As an ordinary vehicle driver I would be going along at the speed limit. I know I will not be able to make the next light because I have just been given a warning. The cost is almost zero.

In advance of some intersections a flashing light is planted. That is very costly as wires have to be run, a big standard has to be erected for the light and electronics have to be built in. My solution would be very simple. We would just have both lights on, the green and the amber. If a vehicle is behind such a sign it means it has to stop. If it is ahead of it when that happens, the vehicle can safely go through at the speed limit. I believe it would save thousands of lives.

I wonder whether you would mind, Mr. Speaker, using your influence to make sure that this is on the front page of every newspaper across the country. Let us get this thing rolling and let us start doing something tangible to save lives instead of thinking it can be done by passing laws which defy the laws of science as surely as we cannot pass a law to ban airplane crashes by repealing the law of gravity. We cannot do it, but there are things that can be done.

We cannot physically change the amount of time it takes to travel from point A to point B. We cannot physically change the length of time required to stop a vehicle safely. Every youngster who takes a driving test knows stopping distances. We know that the average reaction time is three-quarters of a second.

Another three-quarters of a second is used in Alberta as an awareness time. That province says that for normal drivers it takes three-quarters of a second from the time they see a reason to stop until they actually start the motion to stop and it takes on average three-quarters of a second from the time they have actually moved their foot from the accelerator to the brake. Then there is the physical part of stopping the vehicle.

Simple physics says that the amount of distance required to stop varies as the square of the speed. If we are going twice as fast as another vehicle of equal mass, it will take four times as long because of the energy that has to be dissipated.

Those changes can be made. Why does the federal government not take some leadership? Why does it not take the idea I have proposed to every transportation minister? Let us get it going in the United States as well thereby saving literally hundreds of lives at intersections instead of losing them. It happens over and over.

Another lack of standards has to do with left turns. I am appalled at the number of intersections in the country at which we can make a left turn from the second lane. In other words there are two left turning lanes but the left lane is also the overtaking or the speed lane. That is wrong. If there is an intersection where we are permitted to make a left turn from two lanes, it should be an absolutely mandatory standard in every province that the left lane is not a driving lane.

There is one intersection in Edmonton that I would be ashamed of if I were the engineer who signed off on that plan. There is a left turn lane which is out of the way and then there is the next lane which has the up arrow and a left turn. People stop there and big trucks pile into them and kill them.

The city engineers there had the gall to put up a sign that says “Caution: dangerous intersection”. I say why the dickens did they build it. There is lot of space there. All they would have to do would be to design the road one lane wider and have the lanes go through. They would then have two lanes that turn left and we could not do anything but turn left if we were in that lane. It is just an anomaly and unfortunately it is a life taking anomaly.

I could go on and on. I am sure the Liberals would love me to because there is so much for them to learn when it comes to a safe transportation policy. I am appalled we are so far behind in terms of our thinking and in terms of our application of true science.

The reason is that too often we simply allow political considerations to enter into these decisions. We do not use our heads and do true math and physics in making our calculations. I urge the government to do what it can to bring the provinces together to work co-operatively to save lives on our highways.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill S-3, probably my last opportunity before the summer recess.

The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill for the pure and simple reason that this is not the time for the government to be introducing it to this House.

Once again, this is evidence of a government that is in over its head and is trying to mark time. We all know that the session is going to be over earlier than expected. Probably, then, there has been an order passed down to each minister and deputy minister to table some bills. Bill S-3 is a striking live example of a bill that ought not to have been introduced in the House at this time.

Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987, is described by the government as a highway safety act. Everyone in this House, including my colleagues and the parliamentary secretary, is making wonderful speeches about how this bill should enhance safety on Canada's major highways, and particularly the monitoring of highway carriers.

However, reading clause 3 of the bill:

3.(1) The objectives of this Act are to ensure that the National Transportation Policy set out in section 5 of the Canada Transportation Act is carried out with respect to extra-provincial motor carrier undertakings, and, more specifically, that a ) the regulatory regime for those undertakings is focused on safety performance assessments based on the National Safety Code for Motor Carriers; and b ) the operating standards that apply to those undertakings are applied consistently across Canada.

This is far from being a bill that will guarantee safety on major highways across Canada. It targets extraprovincial motor carrier undertakings and its purpose is to subject them to a consistent national evaluation and monitoring regime.

Be that as it may, the monitoring and implementation of the regime come under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. It is important that Quebecers and Canadians realize that the Government of Canada has no means, no monitoring policy, no effective policy to guarantee the monitoring of undertakings. It is the provinces and territories that are responsible for implementing the standards that they themselves set.

The provinces and territories have had safety standards for decades. Moreover, they agreed to adhere, among others, to standard 14, which is part of the national safety code for motor carriers. The provinces and territories made it their objective to implement this standard. Finally, the proposed bill would have the effect of implementing standard 14.

In order to implement such a standard, we must be able to set up, in each province and territory, a system of evaluation and compatible assessments across Canada on which, as I said earlier, the provinces and territories agree.

In order for the system to be effective, there must also be a penalty and downgrading process, including the cancellation of permits for major offenders, and also an effective monitoring system.

This is where the problem lies because, as we are speaking, the territories have still not been able to come to an agreement with the federal government to implement this system of evaluation, assessment, penalties and monitoring. Implementation costs are a major factor.

The implementation of an evaluation system with ratings, penalties and monitoring would be very costly for the provinces and territories. Right now, not all provinces and territories have the financial means and the capacity to implement that evaluation system with ratings, penalties and monitoring. Discussions among the provinces have been ongoing since 1999, when a standing committee was struck by the provinces, the territories and the federal government.

The committee is studying the best way to put in place an evaluation system with compatible ratings, the necessary penalties and the monitoring required to reach the objective. There is still no agreement.

Why introduce Bill S-3 if, in the field, the recommendations contained in the bill cannot be implemented? Once more, here is a government that does not care. I do not doubt the sincerity of the parliamentary secretary or the Liberal members of the committee. However, the bureaucrats were let loose and they proposed a bill to try to kill time. Finally, we have too much time. Right now, the rumour is that we will adjourn earlier than expected.

Public servants were left to introduce the bill, which cannot be implemented in the provinces and territories for the simple reason that no agreement has yet been reached on how to supervise, harmonize the entire assessment and rating system, lower ratings, or cancel permits, and for the regime as a whole. The government has not reached any agreement with the provinces and territories.

Worse yet, the officials had the gall to come before us in committee and say they had the agreement of all the provinces and the industry. On three occasions, I had to correct the government officials. I told them that Quebec had not given its approval when Bill S-3 was introduced for the simple reason that Quebec's standards are higher than the Canadian ones.

If a province applied the rating of this standard to its industry, it would limit the industry's competition. Imagine if a province or territory decided to sanction its carriers more strictly than other provinces or territories. It would make the motor carrier industry less competitive if the industry had to meet tighter standards and face stricter sanctions with fines attached.

This would threaten competition among industries in Canada, and this is why it is important to have a single standard across Canada. Each of the provinces and territories must also have the means to implement this standard.

From the very start, with the lack of cohesion in relations between the provinces and the federal government, I said whenever I spoke in committee that the bill had been introduced too soon. The provinces are in agreement with standard 14. The problem is that there is not enough money to harmonize Canada wide in such a way that the trucking industry is not worse off in one province than in the others.

The government kept telling us that there had been consensus. Again, I had to remind officials that, as far as I was concerned, Quebec had not given its approval.

In committee, we were able to hear from industry stakeholders, because the committee had decided that it would be a good idea to invite them to appear before it anyway. The following is from the brief submitted by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents 70% of the trucking industry. It sits on the standing committee and therefore represents the industry at the table, and is very knowledgeable about harmonization problems and the provinces' and territories' lack of financial resources to enforce the standard:

However, it is our fear that without a significant commitment of political will and increased funding on the part of the federal government to ensure that the National Safety Code consistently applied in all jurisdictions, leadership will be lacking and the safety rating standard may prove to be an unattainable goal.

The representative went on:

In our view, the time has now come for the federal government to expend the political capital and financial resources necessary to effectively exercise its constitutional authority over trucking.

Obviously, this is a strong appeal from the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents 70% of the industry. It says that there is indeed a problem with respect to harmonization and that the federal government has to set a Canada-wide standard. However, the government must also provide the necessary funding to ensure the implementation and enforcement of this standard by the provinces and the territories, who are the only ones who have the required monitoring equipment and the resources.

In spite of the amendments recommended by the Canadian Trucking Alliance, there is nothing in Bill S-3 to include the setting up of a standing fund to support enforcement and harmonization.

In this bill, even if all the stakeholders, including the industry, say that there is a money problem and that it costs a lot of money to have the rules enforced from one end of the country to the other—since the provinces and the territories do not all have the same capacity—in spite of this problem, even the industry, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents 70 % of the industry, has not even dared to ask the federal government to pay its share in the enforcement and monitoring of this standard.

This is where the problem lies. I come from another environment. I spent 18 years in municipal government before coming to this House. I have great difficulty understanding that stakeholders, people as aware as the representatives of the Canadian Trucking Alliance—70% of the industry—realizing that the federal government collects excise tax on gasoline, the GST on gasoline and finally half the taxes on everything that truckers or motor carriers pay in most jurisdictions, do not even dare—they are shy—ask the federal government for money, and indicate that the federal government “should”.

Even in their recommendations and their amendments, believe it or not, they asked for this instead, “the minister shall, by order, remove the power of delivering certificates from the provinces that are unable to ensure follow-up and monitoring”.

So, instead of asking the federal government to pay its fair share, the industry suggested—probably on the recommendation of federal government officials—to remove from provinces the power of delivering certificates, whereas the federal government does not even have a single person able to do so in the whole country, for the simple reason that this is a provincial jurisdiction.

Of course, once again, the pressures the industry may face from government representatives, particularly at such a crucial moment, are due to the fact that, even though work began in 1999 and all the provinces and the territories are discussing and trying to find solutions, the issue of funding for all those measures has not yet been resolved.

It is not enough to just put in place standards with which the industry must comply, there must also be a mechanism for monitoring this standard. Monitoring costs big bucks.

I repeat, I am a representative of Quebec. The province of Quebec is not the one that lacks the means to ensure compliance with standards at this time. In some ways, Quebec standards are stricter than the national safety code, particularly as far as motor coaches are concerned.

The industry in one province must not be penalized because it enforces stricter standards and stricter penalties, lays comparatively more charges against certain types of industry than in other jurisdictions.

Obviously, if there is to be healthy competition, the principle of this bill must be applicable and applied across Canada, which is far from the case at this time.

In conclusion, this is a consensus that must be obtained before such a bill is introduced. That is what should have happened. As I have said, the provinces did not give their okay to the introduction of this bill; Quebec did not.

In closing, I would just like to state that I believed the departmental officials when they told us that all provinces and territories were in agreement with Bill S-3, despite the fact that I had told them on three different occasions that this was not the case for Quebec. They insisted it was the case for all provinces and territories, and for the entire industry. Obviously, I will share with the hon. members what Teamsters Canada had to say before the committee as well as the content of their brief. They are hardly insignificant, representing as they do 80% of unionized truck drivers throughout Canada. They said, in part:

Moreover, it was stated that provincial governments and industries were consulted on this and that they agreed on Bill S-3. Teamsters Canada does not believe that all the provinces agree with this bill. In the eyes of the public, Teamsters is synonymous with the trucking industry. We are the pillar of highway transportation and we were not consulted on this bill.

It is difficult for me to support this bill, especially when I hear the statements by government officials. Again I am not blaming the parliamentary secretary or the Liberal members who sit on the committee. The bureaucracy is the one to blame. It probably received a mandate from the very top to try to fill the time in the House, because we will be adjourning earlier than expected.

I blame public servants for presenting a bill that cannot be implemented and that may create a malaise between the industry and the provinces that had not given their approval. This malaise could jeopardize the implementation of that standard, which is meant to be acceptable to the provinces, the territories and the industry. The problem is that this bill is being introduced too soon.

It is for these reasons that the Bloc Quebecois will oppose Bill S-3.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party to third reading of Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

New Democrats will be opposing the bill at this important juncture for reasons I will elaborate on shortly. I will not spend 20 minutes giving our concerns. I do not think it will require that long. However I will lay out our concerns and why we oppose the bill.

Bill S-3 would establish a framework for harmonizing the way provinces administer parts of the national safety code for motor carriers. The national safety code pertains to buses and transport trucks and is administered at the provincial level.

The code was introduced by the Mulroney government in 1987 in response to safety concerns due to the deregulation of the trucking industry. However the federal government left the provinces to adopt and administer the code themselves. So far none have fully adopted it. In essence, therefore, the national safety code is nothing more than a set of suggestions. That is a major concern for us as New Democrats.

The framework established in the bill would allow provinces and territories whose safety compliance regimes are compatible with the national safety code to give extra provincial bus undertakings a safety rating and to issue safety certificates. It is a nice idea, but unless all or most of the provinces adopt the code it is functionally useless. That does not appear likely in the foreseeable future.

In the words of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the safety code harmonization framework is putting the cart before the horse. Regardless of the administrative framework the federal government comes up with, the national safety code will remain toothless unless the provinces adopt it.

The Liberal government has the constitutional authority to impose the national safety code on the provinces but is not doing it. We need federal leadership in this area. Regrettably we are not seeing that from the Liberal government.

New Democrats have other issues with regard to the crafting of the bill. Several concerns about Bill S-3 arose in committee but were not dealt with. In their mad rush to pass the bill before the House recesses for the summer the Liberals restricted many of the witnesses to unreasonably short presentations. As mentioned by the Bloc member, the teamsters were very concerned by the process. The teamsters, who are central to the trucking industry in Canada, expressed concern that the government did not consult them while drafting the bill. However the government maintains it held wide consultations in drafting the bill. There is a real contradiction there.

Several witnesses raised specific concerns about the national safety code, notably the hours of service regulations for motor carriers. The Liberal government is changing the regulations to allow truck and bus drivers to be on the road 84 hours a week. Hon. members should stop and imagine what it would be like to be behind the wheel of a truck 84 hours a week.

I live in a province where truck traffic is already involved in many of the accidents on our highways. I shudder to think that the number of accidents could be drastically increased by having exhausted drivers behind the wheels of trucks.

By endorsing proposals from the Canadian Trucking Alliance that would put many truck drivers in the position of having to work an 84 hour week, week after week, we would be ushering in by far the most lax regulations for truck drivers' work hours in the western world. That is not a record we should be proud of.

Politicians and bureaucrats have apparently been convinced that improved trucking industry profitability would be good for the economy. There appears to be little concern about the likely downside of the change: more deaths and injuries on the road.

Governments and the trucking industry are proposing that truck drivers work five consecutive 14 hour days, take one day off and then drive another five days. The result is that drivers could be legally required to work 84 hours in a week. An alternative work cycle would let truck drivers drive up to 96 hours every second week. That is insanity by any sense of the word.

The NDP is greatly disappointed and frustrated by the lack of progress on this vitally important bill. Unless we see real commitment to a national safety code that is truly national in nature, we cannot support Bill S-3.

Furthermore, the changing of the hours of service regulations is another grave concern to us. As I have just stated, it could lead to untold tragedy with increased accidents.

At this point I regret to say that the New Democrats will be opposing Bill S-3.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will say a few brief words on Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act.

This is the third transport bill to go through the House in very short order. The word on the street is that the minister might soon be taking off on a diplomatic career. We get the impression he is trying to clear the decks before his successor takes over.

Bill S-3 outlines the federal government's role in extra-provincial bus and truck transport. An updating of the same is in order from time to time. We have no problem with that.

Bill S-3 would allow provinces and territories whose safety compliance regimes are compatible with the national safety code to give an extra-provincial carrier a safety rating and to issue a safety fitness certificate. Such a certificate would be recognized by other Canadian jurisdictions.

Bill S-3 would also allow a province or territory to apply sanctions to extra-provincial carriers for poor safety performance. Such sanctions would include downgrading their ratings and revoking their safety certificate. It is about time we had standardization across the country.

Bill S-3 would allow Canada to enter into arrangements with other countries for reciprocal recognition of carrier rating standards. This refers to enabling legislation which outlines the framework under which regulations are made for the safe operation of commercial vehicles on our nation's highways. As such, we can support the bill. We have a problem with the regulations and standards coming under the bill, not the bill itself.

Last August Mr. David Bradley, head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the chief industry association, said that the national safety code upon which the ratings system would be based was neither national nor a code and that not one of the sixteen national safety code standards agreed to by the provinces in 1988 had been officially adopted across the country.

In 1987 the federal, provincial and territorial governments signed a memorandum of understanding to implement the national code by 1990. The most recent status report in 1998 showed that no province had by then adopted all fifteen mandatory standards and the one voluntary standard. The standards dealt with hours of work, driver training, driver testing, vehicle maintenance, roadside inspections, et cetera.

In February of this year the Ontario Trucking Association stated that safety rating systems lacked consistency across the country. Consistency is important to carriers because safety ratings are a matter of public record. Shippers and insurance companies are encouraged to use them in choosing a carrier or setting insurance rates. Consistency is also important to drivers, the majority of whom cross borders on their runs.

A standard issue which is a source of controversy relates to proposed hours of work for drivers. While changes to hours of service standards are not part of the bill per se, the act that the bill amends sets out provisions whereby the codes and hours of service may be changed.

As I said earlier, the bill is enabling legislation. The problem is in the details of regulations that can be made under the act.

While the trucking industry and the government appear to be singing from one page of the same hymn book, truck driver unions and public safety advocates are singing quite a different tune. What is being proposed is quite incredible. It would give Canada the least safety minded regulations in the western world. That is not something we should be proud of.

Sleep impaired drivers could be required to work a maximum 84 to 96 hours a week, forgo two consecutive nights of rest and drive without on board recorders, black boxes as we call them, to keep track of it all.

As we listen to what drivers could be expected to do under the legislation, we think of old trucking songs that led to an understanding of the dangers inherent in being a truck driver. One that stands out which everybody knows is Six Days on the Road and I'm Going to Make it Home Tonight . If regulations are not tightened up some of our truck drivers will be six days on the road.

The transport committee has been asked to study a federal government proposal that could see truck drivers on Canada's roads having to drive 14 hours at a stretch or up to 16 hours on alternate days. When this boils down to a truck driver's work week that can run anywhere from 84 to 96 hours, surely it is not in the best interest of either truckers or members of the general public with whom they share the road.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented there has been a large increase in north-south traffic. However American truckers are not required to work more than 10 hours per shift. Given the increasing integration of the North American economy, I do not see why there should be such a difference between American and Canadian hours of service.

It was proposed in the transport committee that we hold hearings across the nation on this important issue. However the government majority on the committee, as usual, voted down the proposal.

Truckers' hours are a matter of driver and public safety. The government would do well to err on the side of caution on the issue. That is certainly the public's view. An Angus Reid poll found that 84% of Canadians surveyed favoured a maximum 60 hour work week for drivers and 78% of Canadians wanted black boxes on trucks to monitor what is going on.

The government gives lip service to the need for consistent regulations across the country but stands by while the provinces fail to implement the national code. Mr. Bradley of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, quoted earlier, said last August:

The federal government has the constitutional authority to introduce federal regulations and standards, to show national leadership, but it does not appear prepared to wade in—

One final point is that the bill would provide for, and Transport Canada is working toward, an agreement with the United States and Mexico to give motor carriers seamless regulatory treatment across North America. NAFTA requires nothing less if we are to ultimately see the free flow of goods across the continent.

The bottom line, however, is that the federal government has done a poor job of leadership when it comes to providing a seamless web of transport regulations and standards within the country. How does the government expect to harmonize with the United States and Mexican systems if we have not yet harmonized ourselves?

Bill S-3 has laudable goals. The problem is that such a bill would require considerable leadership and detailed groundwork, things the federal government has so far failed to take seriously. Leadership on the file would require hard work and consistency. Leadership in a federal democracy is never easy but we have a government that prefers a quick and inadequate fix. It is a babe in the woods compared to our neighbours to the south.

The new rule of the road, whether one drives a car or a transport truck, is: Drivers beware; government asleep at the wheel.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this afternoon and speak briefly to Bill S-3, the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Transport Act.

As my hon. colleague from the Progressive Conservative Party noted during his remarks, Bill S-3, despite the speedy process with which it has been brought through the House, has some rather lofty goals. I will start by informing the viewing public what Bill S-3 hopes to accomplish.

The summary at the front of the bill states:

This enactment modernizes and streamlines the regulation of extra-provincial motor carrier (truck and bus) undertakings in Canada, building on the reforms introduced in the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 . The objective is a consistent national regime for motor carriers focused on carrier safety regulation.

The key components of the enactment include:

(a) a national regulatory framework for provincial administration of a safety performance-based regime for extra-provincial motor carriers, based on the national safety standards developed by the governments of Canada and the provinces in consultation with industry and embodied in the National Safety Code for Motor Carriers;

(b) provision for national policy direction supporting the implementation of that framework; and

(c) provision for international arrangements for mutual recognition of carrier safety performance assessment.

As my colleague and several speakers prior to me have indicated, some rather lofty goals are contained in Bill S-3. However, when we look at the history of how the government has dealt with the issue and with the bill, we find reason for concern. Given the way Bill S-3 is drafted, we must ask whether it would be able to accomplish the rather lofty expectations laid down in it.

I would like to raise a concern regarding subclause 7(2) which states:

A safety fitness certificate need not be in any particular form.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

How do we get uniformity across the country?

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Exactly. My colleague asks how we get uniformity across the nation if that is the case. That would be my concern.

The bill attempts to establish a national safety code which would be adhered to from coast to coast, something that is quite reasonable. It is also reasonable to expect that there would have to be, as it states in the preamble, consultations not only with provincial governments but also with the industry. We do not want the heavy hand of some Ottawa bureaucrat coming down and deciding what the code will consist of and enforcing it from coast to coast to coast.

After all, to have it taken into consideration in the bill that the safety fitness certificate need not be in any particular form only invites non-uniformity across the country. Subclause 7(3) continues:

Laws of a province respecting the safety of motor carrier undertakings apply to an extra-provincial motor carrier undertaking to the extent that those laws are not inconsistent with this Act.

In other words, as long as the provinces adopt those parts of the national safety code, draft and design their own provincial safety fitness certificate and do not contradict the act, that is good enough. I suggest to members and to Canadians that is not good enough, given the lofty goals of the legislation itself. It goes on in clause 9 to state that under certain circumstances:

—the Minister may, by order, withdraw its power to issue such certificates.

The minister does have that power, but it does not clear up any criteria or specifications as to what would be encompassed by the safety fitness certificate and how the minister would exercise that power given the fact it very clearly states they need not be in any particular form.

Clearly there is a bit of a contradiction in the bill. As my colleague from the New Democratic Party pointed out in her intervention, a number of these concerns were raised in committee. However, because the government decided to speed it through it did not allow enough time for witnesses to appear or for opposition parties and the opposition in industry to appear and put forward their concerns. It is questionable as to why the government decided to push the bill through in this manner.

Let us look at the whole issue of ministerial exemptions because as a number of speakers have indicated it is of some concern. Clause 16 deals with exemptions. I would like to read it so that perhaps other members, and certainly the viewing public, can try to understand it:

The Minister may, after consultation with the provinces that would be affected by a proposed exemption, exempt from the application of any provision of this Act or the regulations, either generally or for a limited period or in respect of a limited area, any person, the whole or any part of any extra-provincial motor carrier undertaking or any class of those undertakings, if in the opinion of the Minister the exemption is in the public interest and is not likely to affect motor carrier safety.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

He can do what he wants.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Exactly. He can basically use his own discretion. I also note there is something that is pretty hard to follow. It sounds like the usual bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that absolutely confounds industry when a piece of legislation is designed with clauses like that in it. The problem, as my colleague from Kelowna has indicated, is the final line that the minister may allow for an exemption if it is in the public interest and is not likely to affect motor carrier safety. It does not say anywhere in there what criteria he or she may use when making that assessment. That should be of more than a little concern.

Most members of parliament and many Canadians are concerned about safety on our roads. Keith McArthur, a transportation reporter with The Globe and Mail , wrote a series of stories on fatigue in transportation that included the airline industry with pilots and other air crew on the ground, truckers, train engineers and other trainmen. In his story on the trucking industry, because that is specifically what Bill S-3 is dealing with, he wrote:

In 1999, the most recent year for which statistics are available, just 67 people died in aviation accidents, compared with 2,969 on Canada's roads and highways.

This clearly shows a serious problem on our highways. It continued:

In 1998, there were 360 collisions involving trucks in which people lost their lives in Canada. But police identified fatigue as a factor in only two of the accidents.

When the bill was before the committee there was a difficulty in assessing when fatigue was a factor in an accident. It is very simple to assess post-accident if alcohol or drugs are suspected. A blood test could be taken and either of those factors could be discounted or confirmed. However it is very difficult for a police officer at the scene of an accident to rule in fatigue as part of the reason an accident actually occurred. Therein lies part of the problem.

I am certainly not opposed to ministerial exemptions for this type of legislation. The proof will be in the pudding and that is always the case when we get into a situation allowing exemptions.

As I pointed out in committee, in my former life in the real world outside Ottawa politics I have had experience in trucking and working in the oil patch both in northeastern British Columbia, northwestern Alberta and into the territories. I understand there is a vast difference between driving a heavy truck hauling oil field equipment down an ice road in the Northwest Territories and driving a heavily laden fifth wheel semi-trailer in rush hour traffic in Toronto.

There is a huge difference when we are talking about stress on the operator. There is a huge difference in trying to come up with regulations that make sense in terms of how the truck is to be operated and what restrictions would be placed on the trucking company that employs the individual.

It is very difficult for us to come up with a uniform set of regulations that make sense in all corners of the country. Therein I find myself in some agreement with the legislation that allows the minister some flexibility and some manoeuvring room. This makes sense in a country as vast as Canada.

I refer to the example raised about hours of operation. I suspect the stress involved for a trucker on the 401 going through heavy traffic in cities like Toronto, with bumper to bumper traffic in four lanes, would be incredibly more difficult to handle on an ongoing basis than operating a truck on a wide open stretch of highway in western Canada or an ice road in the Arctic where there is virtually no traffic. The greatest fear if one happens to fall asleep is driving off the road and getting stuck in a snowbank or perhaps bumping into a caribou or something.

There is a vast difference between what is necessary to ensure safety on our highways depending on what part of the country the truck or the bus is being operated in.

I support the need for some flexibility, but at the same time I am concerned that there is no criteria or specifications set down. Basically we have allowed the minister to have a wide open hand in this area.

I have just returned from a trip to Portugal with the Minister of Transport. We attended the European conference of ministers of transport with over 40 countries in attendance. One of the controversial issues those ministers of transport were grappling with when they met for their annual meeting was the whole issue of trucking rights and running rights in Europe and in the European Union.

I found it incredibly informative and interesting to listen to the debate that took place there because in many cases the unresolved issues they were dealing with were very similar to the issues we deal with in Canada.

The physical size of Europe, even with the expansion to include more eastern bloc countries in the European Union, is about the size of Canada. The problems they are trying to confront with trucks travelling across international borders are very similar to some of the problems we are having in getting a truck from Montreal to Vancouver and across provincial borders. Some interesting debate took place there.

They were also talking about other many of the same things. They were talking about having unrestricted access for a trucking company from Holland or Germany to Portugal and what it would mean for the local economy. I have heard the same issues regarding trucks being given complete unfettered access from eastern to western Canada and what that would do to the local economy if it happens too often.

I have heard about the need for accurate maintenance of log books to ensure that truckers are only operating their trucks for the allowable period of time. The same debate took place in Lisbon.

There can be no doubt there is a need for harmonization of our national safety code to protect the public on our roads. I would have liked to have taken perhaps a bit more time and spoken about the need for infrastructure and dedicated revenue to improve our roads. I could launch into a whole other debate about the need to refocus on our railways and our railroads for heavy traffic, heavy freight hauling, to get more trucks off the road. There are ways in which we could work for intermodal transportation. We have been making some gains in that regard, but a lot more needs to be done.

If anything, the debate today has clearly shown that the national safety code is a myth. Anybody that would argue it is anything else is fooling himself or herself and attempting to fool the travelling public. We need to work a lot more closely with the provinces. The bill sets us on track to do that. It will be interesting to see what we have gained in a few years' time: what exemptions, if any, the minister has allowed and why they were allowed.

Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech of my colleague. I am actually rising on more of a comment than a question.

In my speech I was talking about the solution to running red lights. I missed a very important point that I wanted to put on the record. I talked about showing an amber light and a green light simultaneously to warn people approaching the intersection that the light would be red by the time they got there. I forgot to include that at some stage the green light would go off and it would be amber only, as it is now, so that people would know they must stop. I did not get to that because I was running out of time.

That is a very important feature. It is one of the points I was promoting in my speech as something we could do across the country to promote safety.

Human RightsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the right to freedom of association, the right to join a trade union and the right to engage in collective bargaining are fundamental rights guaranteed under the universal declaration of human rights, the charter of the Organization of American States and the conventions of the International Labour Organization.

These fundamental rights, the pillars of a democratic society, are under sustained assault in Colombia involving also an assault on the right to integrity of the human person, indeed the very right to life itself.

The data are staggering. Since 1991 over 1,600 trade unionists have been killed while thousands more have been detained, beaten, harassed, kidnapped and tortured, all for merely trying to exercise their right to freedom of association. Ninety per cent of all murders of trade unionists in the world take place in Colombia. Over 50 have been killed in 2001 alone. In a word, it is the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.

I ask the Canadian government to call on the ILO to convene a mission of inquiry into these human rights violations and ask the government of Colombia to protect its workers who are also at the forefront of the struggle for peace and help put an end to this culture of impunity.

VolunteerismStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations has declared 2001 the International Year of Volunteers. In order to recognize volunteers in my constituency of Kelowna, a call has gone out to local organizations for the names of those who volunteer their time. The response has been overwhelming.

The efforts of our volunteers are widespread. Some volunteer for large organizations like the United Way. Others give their time to smaller organizations such as the Abbeyfield Orchard City Society. There are many more: those who help their elderly neighbours, a parent who volunteers as a soccer coach, and someone who canvasses once a year for local Scouts and Brownies to raise money for a worthy cause.

Volunteerism is the lifeblood of a stable society and of a caring and vital community. I urge all members to reach out and honour the people in their communities who volunteer.

Jewish Child And Family ServicesStatements By Members

June 11th, 2001 / 2 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to acknowledge the accomplishments of Jewish Child and Family Services of Winnipeg.

This month it is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and I recognize that over the past half century it has provided significant contribution to the Jewish community and to all residents of the city of Winnipeg.

Jewish Child and Family Services celebrates its golden anniversary, knowing it has carried out a mandate of providing services which will strengthen the family and personal lives of its clients. It seeks to prevent personal and family breakdown by keeping its service delivery close to the philosophy of Jewish values and traditions.

With services ranging from counselling for individuals, families and groups, to providing services for older adults who wish to maintain their independence in the community, to providing a multitude of support to young people as well as the integration of newcomers to the country, the impact of this organization cannot go without accolade.

I know it will maintain high quality work into the future and that it will continue to respond to the changing needs of the diverse community they serve.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, most of the members of the Canadian forces deployed within UNMEE, the United Nations' peacekeeping mission at the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, are preparing to come home.

For nearly six months, over 450 of our soldiers have been making a significant contribution to the process of establishing peace between the two neighbouring countries. By helping to establish a temporary safe zone, the Canadian force has enabled two countries formerly in conflict to withdraw their troops from territories that are in dispute.

This operation makes clear Canada's commitment to peace and stability in Africa. Moreover, it represents the first deployment of the United Nations standby forces high-readiness brigade. Canada enthusiastically joined this initiative, which was launched by Denmark and the Netherlands in 1995.

We may be proud of our soldiers' professionalism. We wish them a good trip home and we wish continued success to the six officers who are continuing Canada's commitment in the Horn of Africa.

Road SafetyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, in La Presse , the letter of the week was from Montreal lawyer Sylvain Lallier, and was headed “Time to act”. The letter concerns the government of Quebec's innumerable promises to legislate.

We are still waiting. What is the argument for the lack of action? The hard core. Do members know what the “hard core” is? It is Quebec's 4,000 chronic drunkards, who are untouched by the province's laws and sanctions. The people who fear nothing, neither police, nor fines, nor road blocks, nor judges nor prison. They are not moved by public awareness campaigns or society's scorn.

Each time a tragedy occurs, the SAAQ fails to react, saying it is inevitable because the law would not reach the reckless driver, however severe it might be.

And then there is the “no-fault” aspect of it, which provides unlucky drunks who injure themselves in an accident with generous compensation by the SAAQ. These unacceptable privileges are being stubbornly maintained.

Canadian War MuseumStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, veterans say the government is continuing to ignore them. This certainly was the case with the Canadian War Museum. What will happen to the land at Rockcliffe which was previously dedicated to the war museum? Will it be sold to developers? Where will the profit go?

Why did the veterans have to raise money for a war museum when other museums did not have to do so? Why did the government say it needed the vets' money and then turn around and spend twice as much money as originally planned for the new museum, which most veterans will never see?

Why is the war museum treated like a second class museum? Why does it have to be under the arm of another museum? Will the minister take the war museum out from under the arm of the Museum of Civilization and give it a status that it deserves?

I urge the Minister of Canadian Heritage to give the war museum its own board of directors, make it an independent museum and start showing some respect for our vets.

Nelson MandelaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising in support of Nelson Mandela becoming an honorary citizen of Canada.

Nelson Mandela is a living saint who embodies human rights and reconciliation. He exemplifies the rule of law and not of man. Mr. Mandela is an inspiration to people from all walks of life. He transcends all borders, whether they are social, economic, religious, racial, political or even intellectual. He teaches us the value of conviction and endurance.

Let us name Nelson Mandela an honorary Canadian citizen, but also in his name let us bring justice to the citizenship revocation process and let us put justice into our Immigration Act. This would entail access of people like Nelson Mandela to Canada and would ensure that Canadian citizenship would not be revoked without a right to a judicial appeal.

The EconomyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, last week the industry, science and technology committee heard from members of the Canadian e-business opportunities round table. One of the strongest messages coming from the group was that in today's globally competitive environment those who stand still will fall behind and that we in Canada need to react to this by moving further and faster in reducing taxes.

Mr. John Eckert, the e-team captain and managing partner of McLean Watson Capital, expressed this very well when he stated:

There's much work that still remains to be done. We don't think that the changes that have been enacted or proposed with regard to tax reductions at the personal, corporate or capital gains rate are sufficient; that we've seen the U.S. move further ahead now with recent tax drop initiatives; and that for Canada to really get its share of the e-business and economic slice of the pie, that we have to work harder and be more aggressive to close that gap and make it more advantageous to invest in Canada.

I call upon the government to listen to Mr. Eckert and the Canadian e-business opportunities round table and move immediately to further reduce personal—

The EconomyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Joliette.

Free Trade Area Of The AmericasStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the summit of the Americas is one more illustration of why Quebec must become sovereign.

Who would not agree that our values and our institutions would be better defended by representatives from Quebec than by the federal government in negotiations for the free trade area of the Americas?

What jurisdiction does the federal government have to negotiate anything directly or indirectly related to language, culture, health, education or labour? How can the government in Ottawa defend Quebec's culture, when it daily denies the existence of that culture? What sort of effort will it put into seeing that our unique approach to the management of farming is not endangered?

The sovereignty of Quebec, the sixth largest economic power in the Americas, will give us access to the negotiating tables of the free trade area of the Americas. This will make it possible for us to make our choices and to build alliances so that the agreement benefits the Quebec people and the other peoples of the Americas.

The sovereignty of Quebec is the only way.

Thorold Reed BandStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Thorold Reed Band was formed in 1851 in the present city of Thorold, then just a village. In 1900 the band was so popular there was a waiting list to join, even though each member had to pay 10 cents for rehearsal.

On July 1, Canada Day, the Thorold Reed Band will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. To honour past and present members a march has been composed by the band director of music, Mr. Brian Williams. The Battle of Beaverdams March is named for the battle that took place on June 24, 1813, between the United States and Canada in Thorold, Ontario.

Copies of the 150th anniversary celebration have been sent to other bands across the nation to be performed as part of their Canada Day celebrations.

The constituents of Niagara Centre and indeed all Canadians join with me in offering best wishes to the Thorold Reed Band, a band that has played uninterrupted through the depression and wars, on its 150th anniversary, and congratulating it on the launch of its musical composition Battle of Beaverdams March .