Mr. Speaker, in light of some of the debate we have heard already today, it will be a truly enjoyable experience speaking to Bill C-26.
We do not often have the opportunity to support legislation with which the government comes forward. I am happy to say at this point in time that we intend to support Bill C-26. We look forward to the bill going to committee where we will have the opportunity to discuss it more thoroughly and ensure that what the government has put in the bill is really upfront with what it suggests it will do. I do want to indicate that and I have indicated that to the minister as well.
The bill is an attempt by the minister to right some of the wrongs that the government has done for the last number of years. I want to emphasize that these wrongs were followed through as a result of bad actions, deregulation overall and the whole idea that a marketplace, capitalistic approach was the only way to go within the transportation industry. I want to emphasize that the Liberal government's agenda was supported wholeheartedly by the Reform party and now the Alliance Party.
My colleague from Red Deer spoke today about understanding the need for differences throughout the country, and I am glad to hear that. In reality that is not the message the Alliance Party has brought to the House time and time again on numerous issues.
New Democrats, and even Canadians who are not New Democrats, do not believe for one second that a marketplace attitude is necessary in every aspect of building a nation. It is certainly not necessary in every aspect of transportation, not if we are going to do things to benefit the entire country and do things to address the different geographical aspects of this nation.
Initially it was just men who had a vision for Canada and they realized that as part of that vision they had to recognize the different geography of Canada and the differences in the provinces. They realized that some commitments had to be made as a whole to benefit all regions of Canada.
The rail line that brought our nation together was done with one area putting a little more out than another because it was nation building. We have to look at things differently with regard to transportation, if we are to meet the needs of a country from coast to coast to coast.
I will use Nunavut, the territories and Yukon as a major thrust of this because they do not have the road system that the rest of the country has because they are newly developed areas of Canada. As a nation, are we going to tell Nunavut and the territories that they have to pay for it all themselves because the Government of Canada believes that the transportation system of tomorrow should remain largely market driven where the government sets a competitive framework and intervenes only as a last resort? In spite of that, I suggest that we support the legislation at this time and deal with some of the issues in committee.
However the government is still saying that a marketplace economy is the only thing it will look at. I suggest that cannot be done in a nation such as Canada because there are certain areas of Canada that cannot offset those costs. We cannot just deal with the issues of marketplace and making profits.
To my colleagues from the Alliance, from the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, farmers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are dealing with issues right now with regard to the additional cost for trucking their grain and other farm products as a result of rail lines being taken out. I hope farmers and people in rural Saskatchewan and Manitoba are listening. The issues and hardships they are dealing with are a direct result of the Alliance Party and the Reform party pushing for a market driven economy. There is no question that they are a direct result of the Alliance pushing and the Liberals saying “We are going to do what they want because this is really a right wing agenda and it is what we want to do anyway”.
In the history of the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, people worked together. People did that in rural communities. They had to work together for the benefit of each other. In the early years people got together to build homes and farms. They helped each other out when there was a disaster. If someone could not get his crops in on time and another person was done, they rallied together to do the job.
The promotion that has come out of the Reform and Alliance Party is if it is more costly for farmers to get grain from White Fox, Saskatchewan, they will have to pay more than the farmer right along the American border. We do not want that one farmer along the border to get less profit because he is that much closer to maybe shipping it across the border. We work together in a co-operative spirit to ensure fair marketing for everyone. That was what we did as communities.
The reason I mention that is because my colleague from Red Deer talked like he believed it when he talked about transportation policy. It is necessary to recognize there are some differences in different communities, We are not going to be able to have a profitable line that runs from Montreal to Toronto or to Ottawa. We have to recognize there is greater opportunity for profit in those areas and we will have to offset that somewhere else. I agree with that. I just quite frankly do not agree that we should be building a transportation system within our country based upon profit alone. That service should be there for all Canadians.
In my five years here in Ottawa, time and time again we have dealt with the crisis in the airline industry, a crisis that was that much worse because we had a situation where companies were out strictly to make a profit. There were threats of anti-competitive actions. They were out strictly to make a profit with no consideration of providing service to the smaller communities, to smaller regions on the east coast and the smaller regions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. As a result, we had this action where we want to make a profit, be the biggest and have everything. We lost one major airline in this country. The others are at major risk. Then when another crisis happens, it is just that much worse because everything is being done purely because we think there should be a marketplace approach.
That is wrong for any nation that has any kind of a vision to provide services. I believe the entire country, every business and every person living in a community, benefits from an officially run transportation service and one that is there providing service throughout. I do not think every person who hits the airport should have to pay an additional fee as an airport improvement fee. I do not believe everyone who drives on a road should have to pay a toll charge. Even though others are not on that road or in that airport, they benefit from access to those services and by others having access to those services. Whether that means other business people can come in and work in their community or sell their products in their community, we all benefit, and that is what it is about.
I mentioned that I support this bill and I want to talk about a couple of the key points in the bill. There is no way I can get into all of it. It is an omnibus bill and it deals with a lot of issues. I do not agree with everything in the bill but I believe this is an attempt by the minister to right some of the damaging wrongs that have happened in the past, and I am acknowledge that.
One key issue mentioned in the bill, as my colleague from Hochelaga--Maisonneuve previously mentioned, is the issue of train noise. It has been an ongoing thing that I dealt with as our transportation critic. My colleague from Vancouver East has had numerous related issues in her riding regarding train noise. There was absolutely no recourse for anyone. Can members imagine having something in place where the noise creates such a problem for the residents around an area but there is absolutely no recourse, no type of mediation process or anything that can be done with the rail lines to address the problem for those citizens who have a problem with it?
The bill actually looks at addressing that, to the point where it indicates that there will be a mediation process as well, that the CTA will be given some teeth to deal with it. That is an absolute plus. It might seem like nothing to most people. For the people who do not live by the rail line it is no big deal, but it has been a major issue in many parts of the country and I was pleased to see it addressed.
My colleagues from the Alliance talk about VIA Rail being made a crown corporation. The bottom line is that the process for VIA Rail would be to have it operate as a crown corporation to give it the opportunity, as that corporation, to borrow money from alternative sources, so that we can put in place a much better passenger rail system in Canada, so that we can meet the needs of Saint John, New Brunswick, and so that we can continue to meet the needs of the line going up to Churchill where there is no other mode of land transportation. In Manitoba, from Thompson to Churchill there is no other land transportation for people, and for some other smaller communities as well. VIA Rail has provided that service, sometimes in conjunction with other rail lines. It has provided that service and we need to ensure that this service is maintained.
I think VIA does need to be given that opportunity. Quite frankly, my concern on the issue of VIA Rail was the point made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services when she said that we are not looking to privatize VIA Rail yet. I will actually pull up her comments, because it was pretty clear that there was sort of this intent to privatize VIA Rail. I have a serious problem with that. Even private rail lines in other parts of the world have had to get government support. There is not a single passenger rail service in the world, not one in the entire world, that does not operate without government support. We can mickey mouse around with it and hide the support, whether it ends up as giving them the money for the infrastructure or some grants to do something, but the bottom line is that they do not operate without government support.
I would much rather that we not put our passenger rail service in the same type of situation as our airline service because somehow there is this push that we have to privatize it. What would I like to see? I want to see high speed rail between the densely populated areas in Quebec and Ontario. I think Canadians should be supporting that kind of approach, because it is beneficial for the entire country. We would be getting a lot of cars off the roads and giving people the opportunity to travel where they do not have to be involved, not just because of the CO
emissions, which is highly important, but it also would give them the opportunity to not have the stress of travelling on some of those congested highways. Again it is crucially important that we support our entire country.
Quite frankly, as for me benefiting from the number of times I am going to hop on that rail service, I do not see it as a big thing, but it certainly would be extremely beneficial for the people in Quebec and Ontario. I suggest that it would give the opportunity to people from the east coast, should we improve that rail service again, to also be part of that. Once again we would be working to join our country together and make rail a much more efficient system.
As a last note, as I have a smidgen of time left, so in line with a doublespeak sort of approach by the government, there is this situation. As we talk about improving rail service and the need to get trucks and cars off the roads so that we do not have to put more money into highway infrastructure, or at least keep the costs down, we have a situation in Windsor where there actually is a rail tunnel. The municipality, from what I understand, wanted to improve that system. They wanted to improve the use of the tunnel and support that process. That was the municipality's approach to it. Then we had three Conservative bureaucrats from transportation in the Province of Ontario get together with three federal government bureaucrats and they decided they would pull out that tunnel, that they would not keep that rail tunnel. This is their approach. They are going to pull out that tunnel from the absolutely busiest trade corridor in Canada. They are going to take away the rail tunnel and stuff things back up on the roads.
What is wrong with that approach? It is that kind of hypocritical attitude and approach that has everyone wondering where we are really going. This is why I say I support the bill before us, but I certainly want to be actively involved in our committee process to make sure that what is there is accurate.
We have to stay on the government on an ongoing basis to make sure it is not getting away with some of this. I do not know what to call it. The government talks about improving rail service and getting cars and trucks off the roads, but on the busiest trade corridor it is going to pull out the rail and the tunnel. What can we call that? Quite frankly I call it absolute stupidity and I am sure there are other words for it as well. It is absolute foolishness, especially when the municipality was looking at enhancing that rail service, which is what we should be doing. The federal government should be supporting municipalities with additional funds to keep as much cargo as possible on the rail lines and off the roads.
The other point I will make is about the vision for transportation. “Straight Ahead” was the Department of Transport's title for their new vision on transportation. My thought was straight ahead and over the cliff, because we got this vision and then we had a federal budget with no money, not near enough money, to even look at implementing any kind of vision for transportation within Canada.
I think we will all agree with my colleague from the Alliance, who said that there absolutely has to be a long term strategy. Certainly I will. There cannot be a strategy for transportation policy in any aspect of the transportation sector or infrastructure in a country such as Canada without having a long term vision. I am not talking from budget to budget or even from one federal government to the next. If Canada as a country does not have a strategy that stretches over at least 10 to 20 years, we will be doomed to be fighting crisis after crisis within the transportation industry.
I am looking forward to seeing this legislation before the committee. I look forward to having more discussion on it, and I look forward to questions.