Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege raised in the House on March 1 by the member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam concerning a report on the grain handling and transportation system for the 2001 crop year, pursuant to subsection 50(3.2) of the Canada Transportation Act.
I sent you a letter on Friday, Mr. Speaker, to explain my position since I was unable to respond on March 1. With the consent of the House I propose to table the letter. I sent a copy to the hon. member and to my colleagues, the House leader and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
I would like to clarify the matter that was raised by my hon. friend. The government's policy reforms on the grain handling and transportation system announced on May 10, 2000 included a commitment to hire an independent private sector third party to monitor the system
The intention was for the independent monitor to provide information to the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, and other interested parties on the impact of the 2000 policy reforms and on the overall performance of the system.
The Canada Transportation Act was amended in the summer of 2000 to implement the government's policy decision. This included amendments to facilitate grain monitoring.
An amendment to section 51 of the act authorized the Minister of Transport to communicate information, including confidential information, for the purpose of monitoring the grain handling and transportation system. The amendments also specifically added monitoring the grain transportation handling system as a purpose for which regulations on transportation related information could be made under section 50(1).
The government accepted an opposition amendment, and that is very important here, requiring the Minister of Transport to table in parliament a report on the monitoring of the grain handling and transportation system. The amendment is contained in subsection 50(3.2).
I note that the obligation to table a report in parliament under subsection 50(3.2) is conditional on the Minister of Transport making regulations pursuant to paragraph 50(1)(e.1) and the minister using or communicating the information provided under the regulation for the purpose of monitoring the grain handling and transportation system.
The obligation to table a report on the monitoring of the grain handling and transportation system is clearly contingent upon the happening of certain events. Those events are the making or the amending of regulations under the authority of subsection 50(1) subsequent to the coming into force of the obligation and the use or communication of information under those regulations for the purpose of monitoring.
As regulations have not been made or amended under the authority of subsection 50(1) and since the coming into force of the obligation, there is no legal requirement to table a report.
Rather than resorting to regulations to force industry stakeholders to submit information to the minister to share with the grain monitor, the preferred approach was for industry stakeholders to voluntarily provide information directly to the grain monitor.
I also note that the carriers and transportation and grain handling undertakings information regulations were made pursuant to section 50 and have been in place since 1996. No substantive amendments have been made to these regulations since December 1999.
I wish to emphasize however that it is the Minister of Transport's intention to release a report on grain monitoring and to make copies available to parliamentarians as soon as possible once I have received the annual report for crop year 2000-01 from the grain monitor, Quorum Corporation.
Quorum Corporation was hired last summer through a competitive process to perform the duties of the grain monitor and one of its main responsibilities is to prepare an annual report on the performance of the grain transportation and handling system. The report is to be submitted to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board and the Minister of Transport.
The implementation of the grain monitoring program has been fairly complex and has taken a considerable amount of time primarily as a result of work related to the development of a comprehensive database that includes information from the railways, the grain companies, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian Ports Clearance Association.
The information and data received by the monitor provide an objective basis for conducting analysis. This is the first time such an extensive database and analysis has been put in place for monitoring the grain handling and transportation system. Once the process and database are established it is expected that Quorum Corporation will be able to submit its annual report on a more timely basis.
Generally speaking, grain moved well in the 2000-01 crop year and is moving well so far this year.
I might add that was a prediction that my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and I made during the discussions on Bill C-34 two years ago.
The Canadian Transportation Agency has determined that the grain revenues for CN and CP for crop year 2000-01 were under the revenue caps established as part of the May 2000 policy decision. As well, the Canadian Wheat Board and the grain companies have implemented new commercial arrangements to cover the logistics of wheat board movements.
Quorum is in the final stages of preparing the annual report for crop year 2000-01. As noted above, it is my intention to release a report on grain monitoring and to make copies available to parliamentarians as soon as possible once he has received the report from Quorum.
I would hope that these remarks would clarify the alleged question of privilege raised by my hon. friend. I submit that there is no prima facie case, that I have met all the statutory requirements and met them faithfully.