Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his presentation of Motion No. 493. I think I have to recognize, even though we are from different parties, that my hon. colleague always try to speak about matters of concern to his immediate community.
I think it really is a member's first role to have an ongoing concern, every day and wherever we are working, not to forget that we are here to represent the constituents who sent us here. That is why the motion he is putting forward to the House must be treated with much respect.
Obviously, the government recognizes that urban sprawl has led to a spectacular growth of municipalities around railway lines. Linked with a sustained rail traffic, that growth is putting more and more pressure on the environment where people and railways are inevitably closer.
Nowadays, railway companies are competitive undertakings that strive to meet the market's requirements. In order to remain competitive, they always have to find means of improving the effectiveness of their operations. In other words, they have to maximize the use of their assets.
To this end, they must concentrate the traffic on main railway lines to increase its volume and reduce unit costs. This requirement can also increase daily traffic on some lines or transfer a portion of the traffic to different lines.
The movement of goods is different in many ways from the movement of travellers. While most people do not want to travel at night, the movement of goods is dictated by industry's needs, including just on time delivery and a continuing and stable service.
We can all understand the great contribution that railways bring to the growth of the Canadian economy, but this contribution significantly increases the concerns of people living near railways, which is the problem raised by the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.
These problems include the noise made by the railway equipment, as well as vibration, intrusion and pollution problems.
The member may know that the responsibility for noise reduction belongs, in Canada, at all levels of government without exception. I know that my colleague is aware of this power sharing reality. As for municipalities, they fight against noise pollution through development and urbanism management plans, zoning bylaws, antinoise regulations, traffic plans and the building of antinoise structures.
Antinoise measures can be implemented by any level of government, but municipalities should preferably do it. Having already been a municipal representative, I know that it is a real and constant preoccupation at the municipal level.
The position adopted in the 1989 guidelines on exterior noise reduction is based on the conclusion that exterior noise problems are local problems that are difficult to solve without the involvement of the municipality. I am not saying that the municipality should be the only dealing with this problem, but the basic responsibility lies first with the municipality.
In this context, the member will understand that public and private sector co-operation is essential in any effort to, as he says in his motion, protect public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.
The federal government recognizes the complexity of these matters and encourages communities and the railways to co-operate.
This last month, the Canadian railways made the commitment, through the Railway Association of Canada, to work closely with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to develop a framework that the railways and the communities will all be able to use to settle the disputes arising from local problems due to the proximity of the railways to residential neighbourhoods.
This joint initiative by the railways and the municipalities is a very constructive measure, which they have taken to address the matter of railway irritants in our cities.
It is based on a community/company dispute settlement process announced by the federation and Canadian Pacific at the federation's annual conference in 2001. The goals were twofold: to facilitate community participation in CP's infrastructure projects and major operational changes; and to resolve issues raised by residents of a community or a municipality where CP operated.
These are some excellent examples of measures the railways are taking to improve thei relations with the communities they serve.
The government understands, however, that there are circumstances in which it is not always possible to agree on solutions. In the past, railway irritants have been successfully resolved through co-operation and mediation, but this may not be enough for the future. It may be necessary to couple co-operation with legislative measures.
The member is asking that the government amend the Canada Transportation Act and the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency, and I quote:
[--] to give the Agency the additional responsibility of protecting public health by controlling noise, emissions and vibrations caused by rail cars being moved on the tracks and in the rail yards on interprovincial lines.
The member is perhaps aware that, in December 2000, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the Canadian Transportation Agency did not have jurisdiction over noise, vibrations and diesel emissions. The government therefore had to look at possible solutions to this pressing concern.
In July, the Minister of Transport tabled the final report of the committee to review the Canada Transportation Act, which addressed the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. The committee recommended that certain provisions of the act be reviewed and amended as needed in order to confirm and clarify the jurisdiction of the Canadian Transportation Agency.
The Minister of Transport is now drafting a policy framework for the federal government's transportation activities for the next decade and beyond. This document will address many recommendations made by the review committee. The minister has said he intends to publish the transportation policy framework in the fall with a view to consultations, after which he will introduce a bill to follow up on the review committee's recommendations.
In the meantime, the Canadian Transportation Agency continues to offer mediation services that have sometimes helped settle certain disputes concerning railway activities.
The agency provides these services to rail and maritime transportation since June 2000. These services help parties settle their disputes with a simple and efficient process that is fast, flexible and focused on co-operation rather than on litigation.
Mediation favours communication between the parties, particularly those who have a permanent relation. It also helps strike an appropriate balance between unequal parties. The mediator and the parties work together to find solutions that fit their situation. This co-operation brings about better understanding between the parties as well as agreements ensuring a high degree of mutual satisfaction and commitment.
We can use this service to settle different railway issues concerning prices, service obligations, railway crossings, the development of railways and railroad stations, the abandonment of lines and noise.
Clearly, the government recognizes the importance of the concerns of the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. The government has clearly demonstrated that it serious about examining solutions to the problems raised by the hon. member.
I thank the hon. member for his interest not only for his riding, but also for many places throughout the country that are experiencing problems as a result of the inconveniences inherent to rail transportation.