Mr. Speaker, today I asked the minister—and I got an answer from the parliamentary secretary—about the urgency of finding a solution to the ferry problem between Les Escoumins and Trois-Pistoles.
The cause of this problem is the inaction of the Department of Transport, which has not maintained the wharves properly. We are desperately looking for a temporary solution to salvage part of the tourist season and for a permanent solution to bring the federal government to invest, as a good owner should do, to renovate the wharves and to restore full ferry service.
Today, in answering my question, the parliamentary secretary said that safety was the number one priority for the department. Safety is obviously important, but the ferry service between Les Escoumins and Trois-Pistoles is also important to the tourist industry and to the transportation industry on both sides of the river.
Right now, the inaction of the federal government is resulting in considerable economic losses, particularly in light of the fact that the Compagnie de navigation des Basques received in May, a six-day notice to the effect that the tourist season was compromised, while photos have been showing for years that this wharf is being washed away. We are still waiting for an answer.
Thankfully, the parliamentary secretary said today “We hope to reach a compromise that will be beneficial for all users. I am very confident that we will find a satisfactory solution”.
I know that there was a meeting today at 11 a.m. in les Escoumins. The meeting was still not over at 5 p.m. Can the parliamentary secretary tell us if the work will be done, so that a part of the season will be saved?
This problem did not just crop up this morning. It was raised in September 2000 by 52 municipalities in my riding who, together, told the federal government that it needed to repair the wharves. Back in May 2000, the Minister of Transport informed the Compagnie de navigation des Basques that the repairs would not be done to the wharf. There was even a letter signed May 23 by a public servant that said he could not authorize the use of the wharf.
Thankfully, we spoke to this in the House on a number of occasions; a delegation from Les Basques came and met with the Minister of Transport on June 4; we also wrote letters, with the member for Charlevoix, to get the Minister of Justice, who is responsible for Quebec, to do his job and influence the Minister of Transport. I know that these interventions provoked a reaction in the eastern Quebec caucus of the Liberal Party.
Will we be able to announce to the public today that there will indeed be an agreement and that there will be ferry service? In my opinion, it is entirely up to the federal government. Therefore, the negotiations should not be this difficult.
We need to implement a temporary solution, but also come up with a final decision. Can the parliamentary secretary, on this lovely summer day, promise the people in the region that they will be able to use the ferry? I know that there are two other ferries, but they do not solve the negative economic impact of the fact that the ferry cannot operate. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport will give me an positive answer right now.