Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to address this issue today. First let me say that from some of the questions asked earlier, that lack of vision comes through over and over again. We have a government that really does not have its act together. The government jumps from pillar to post. It never thinks long term.
I will give some examples of what I see in the transportation bill and why I feel the way I do. First, when it comes to dealing with the Kyoto issue, as our member mentioned, there is no mention of Kyoto at all yet we are talking about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the use of carbon based fuels, by 20% per individual across this whole country, man, woman and child.
Transportation is one of the major producers. About 37% of the carbon dioxide released comes from transportation. With this key issue facing our country, facing our industries, we have a government that does not deal with it in its transportation legislation. The bill is a total failure.
Kyoto is not in effect yet. Right now about 100 countries represent 43% of the emissions. The protocol does not come into effect until we hit 55% of the emissions, representing of course enough countries.
There is also a stipulation in section 3 of the Kyoto accord that by January 2005 we must show substantial reductions in CO
. In Canada we have a real problem, because in 1999 we were 15% over the 1990 levels. We have agreed to get to 6% below the 1990 levels between 2008-12. In 1999 we were 15% over. By 2000 we were 20% over. Now, in 2003, we are 23% over. By 2008 when this comes into effect, we are going to be about 30% over. We are going in the wrong direction.
What the government fails to understand is that once it is ratified, and that is all dependent on Russia, the Kyoto accord says that within six months there must be a meeting of all those countries. They then have six months to decide on what the penalties will be. Since the European Union is dominating this because nobody else really is a part of it, it is saying it will introduce, through the WTO, sanctions on those countries that have not shown a reduction in CO
A person does not have to be very bright to figure out that this means us. Our emissions going up and Kyoto says that by 2005 a country's emissions must be going down and countries must show that they are doing things to bring emissions down. This is so the IPCC bureaucrats in New York can say, “Yes, they have a plan”.
With transportation being the biggest producer of CO
, would we not think that the government would be starting to think that 2005 is not very far away and we had better have a plan? Yet there is no mention of it at all. The government totally ignores this very major item. I have to assume, then, that the government has no intention of living up to its Kyoto commitments, that it was just a political move to make the Prime Minister feel good in Johannesburg in saying, “Yes, count us in, we are one of the guys, but we are not going to live up to it”.
The Auditor General said that we have had 200 other international agreements on the environment that we have not lived up to, so why should this one be any different? However, there will be penalties. How is the government going to deal with that and what will Canadians think when that happens?
The way we are going to deal with it is that we will be forced to buy emissions credits. We will buy those credits from all the countries that have them. The government has guaranteed a cap of $15 per tonne. Where will the money come from to buy these emissions credits?
Obviously there is only one source. If the government is guaranteeing that price, the only source, then, is the taxpayer and that comes in the form of a carbon tax. We will have to tax the carbon used to make electricity and heat our homes and used for transportation. Would we not think that the government would have dealt with that issue in a transportation bill? If the government had any kind of foresight at all, it should have been there. Either one department does not know what the other department is doing or, as I say, the government has no intention of living up to Kyoto.
What should we be doing? Let me repeat that obviously we should do something. We should have a plan. We should be looking at conservation, transitional fuels and alternate energy. To develop all of those things we need leadership to work with industry, with the provinces and with the world. What are we doing? We are frigging around with a bill that has nothing to do with it, that does not even deal with the issue. I do not think that says very much for the government and its real commitment to the environment and certainly to dealing with the issue of transportation.
I would like to deal with a couple of other areas of the bill. Let me start by looking at VIA Rail. The members who have spoken are more aware of what the committee has done in looking at this whole issue, but I found it very interesting when the parliamentary secretary said that we will just put the railways back in. We have spent 20 years taking them out, but now we will just put them back in.
I can only speak from the example in my own city, where we now have a freeway and major business development where the railway used to be. The government encouraged and promoted getting rid of the railway. Now the member across the way says we are going to have to put the railway back in. I question whether any of the landlords who own that land are going to be that enthused about knocking down the buildings, removing the freeways and infrastructure and putting the railway back into downtown, nor will they be wherever in Canada. I think it was pretty flippant of her to answer in that way.
Second, when we talk about creating a crown corporation out of VIA Rail, that is going backward. That is again a belief that government-run anything will work more efficiently than private enterprise. This also means that VIA Rail is going to start competing with private enterprise like the Rocky Mountaineer, for instance, where VIA is planning to run a rail line across Vancouver, and with WestJet, which this rail line will supposedly replace. For any members who care about jobs and the environment, it would seem to me logical that they would want the free enterprise system to operate and not depend upon taxpayers to keep it alive. I cannot believe that having VIA Rail as a crown corporation is going to help anyone, except to eliminate the competition and thus encourage inefficiency and all we see with that sort of ownership.
Again the bill simply fails bitterly when it looks at solutions like crown corporations for something like VIA Rail. If VIA Rail cannot make it, I think we should ask why. We certainly should not be supporting it so it can compete with other industry.
Next I will look at grain transportation. Certainly our critic for agriculture would have a lot more to say about this than I do, but I will say that the farmers in my constituency are certainly not happy with the way grain is being moved.
First, the rail lines have been removed and they now have to truck their grain sometimes long distances. They have to pay for that. Sometimes it is on roads that have not been repaired for many years and which were not designed for the heavy duty equipment that is now being used to haul grain.
As well, the government has done nothing to get the Vancouver port open. The grain is piling up on farms. There are many farms where the grain has been sitting for months now, unable to move because the port of Vancouver has been closed and it must go through Prince Rupert.
It is fine that some say that is okay because they had a very small crop and they should be able to get it all gone by July. A lot of farmers have told me that they do not want to borrow money to get them through the next few months. They do not want to borrow money to seed their crops and take their chances. They want to sell that grain. They want it transported and they want their storage facilities empty. That is what they want. The government has done nothing to address or to help solve that problem.
As I said our critic for agriculture, who has said an awful lot about it already, would have a lot more to say about the plight of the farmers in western Canada.
Let me talk about the roads. There we have a real big problem. Right across the country our infrastructure is in big trouble. Our highways are in big trouble. They are full of potholes.
A group of truckers came to my office a year or so ago and said, “Our equipment has increased in size dramatically, the weight of the equipment and the loads being carried have increased. Do you know what kind of bridges we are driving over? We are driving over bridges that were built in 1950 and 1955”. The next time members go on a bridge on one of our highways, they should look at the plaque on it and see when it was built. The truckers said that the infrastructure is becoming dangerous. It seems to me this is a definite transportation problem that the government should be dealing with.
What has happened? The concept of taxing for the repair of roads was a good idea, but what has happened to that money? If we look at it, in the budget the government has collected $4.8 billion in federal fuel excise taxes. It has also collected tax on tax because it charges GST on the full price of gasoline or diesel fuel. The GST collected amounts to $2.2 billion. That is $7 billion that has been collected in tax by the federal government. The surprising part is that $300 million annually is put back into road infrastructure. The government collects $7 billion and it puts $300 million back into the infrastructure.
A lot of people do not really understand, and I certainly do not either, what $1 billion is. I had it described best for me at a conference I attended: $1 million is like 21 days in time and $1 billion is like 31 years in time. If $1 million is 21 days and $1 billion is 31 years, and we are talking about $7 billion being collected and $300 million being spent, where did the rest of the money go? If the government has spent only 4% on infrastructure, then 96% has gone into general revenue so the government can brag that it has a balanced budget, that it has a surplus and so on. There is something very wrong with that.
Let us look at what the provinces do with their taxes on transportation, gas and diesel fuel. We will find that 91% of the money collected by the provinces is put back into transportation.
The federal government puts in 4% and provincial governments put in 91%. There is a real problem here and it is one Canadians should be really annoyed about. If Canadians want any kind of a break in terms of taxes, obviously they would rather have the money go into infrastructure if it actually went there, but it does not. It does not go to help that infrastructure.
It was interesting too that when I asked the question about toll roads, on February 25, the minister said he thought it would be a good idea to reduce congestion in our big cities by charging tolls to keep cars off the roads and out of the downtowns of our major cities. The answer I got to my question was that it was a municipal issue. Why is the minister commenting on it if it is a municipal issue? Obviously people should communicate with each other. My next question would be, did they talk to the cities and the provinces, or was that just something that came out of the blue? It appears the minister probably has not put much thought into a lot of what the bill is about.
In terms of roads and transportation facilities in our country, it is embarrassing that they are in the state they are in and that they are being mismanaged the way that they are.
As well, many constituents have talked to me about air security and the airline business. Those of us from western Canada get to ride a plane a lot more than members from Ontario or Quebec do. We get to fly at least four hours each way every week. Many people change planes a few times.
In the airports there is a concern about security. Obviously the Americans are concerned and the British are concerned, as are the French, but we do not seem to be all that concerned. We have collected $24 on tickets, which is now down to $14. I am still worried about security, not so much when the passenger goes through, but what about all those people who clean and supply the planes? I have not noticed much change in that security. People want us to make sure that we guarantee that sort of security.
In conclusion, the government has failed in the bill. It has failed to deal with the very real prospects of Kyoto and what it might mean to the transportation industry. It has failed in its plan to deal with VIA Rail and to make it a crown corporation and compete with other private enterprise businesses. It has failed the farmers in terms of getting their grain to market. It has failed the citizens who drive our roads and the truck drivers who are forced to drive them every day with their potholes and cracks. It has failed to put the 96% it collects for roads back into the infrastructure. It would rather use it somewhere else. I believe it has also failed in air safety.
The government has failed. For the first time since I have been here, since 1993, I have really been embarrassed to be here. That is largely because of what has happened in the last little while and what is probably going to happen tonight. I am a pretty proud Canadian. I am glad to be a Canadian, but I am really disappointed.
It is interesting because I wanted to know where my constituents actually stood on the issue. I asked them in a professional questionnaire, if Iraq fails to disarm and if the United Nations fails to act to enforce disarmament, should Canada join with our traditional allies, Australia, Great Britain and the United States, in military action against Iraq to ensure disarmament or not? This was a scientific poll. The answer was that 59% said yes and 38% said no. My constituents want me to represent them on that issue. They want a government that has a vision and that cares. I do not believe this government does and I am embarrassed.