Madam Speaker, I can tell members that long before the federal Liberal government came out with this proposal and with its legislation related to the gateway Asia-Pacific project, the official opposition, our leader and certainly members such as the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam and others had been advocating for full support for British Columbia on this initiative.
I want to say that the infrastructure obviously is essential and I want to talk about that in a minute, but we think big on this side of the House and we have not narrowed it simply to the very important infrastructure requirements. This goes beyond the Department of Transport. This goes beyond transport policy. This includes trade policy. It includes foreign policy. It includes national defence policy.
What we are proposing embraces a far bigger project than what the federal Liberals are proposing, and as with so many of their proposals, unfortunately, they come into the game late, especially in a run-up to an election that may be coming soon and probably in the next several months. In that run-up, their habit is to make announcements on things that we have been advocating for, but always they abbreviate the announcement. They come out with a dollar figure that sounds impressive, but after the election the dollar figure dissipates.
I want to say from the start that we want to work cooperatively not just with the province of British Columbia, but for the few months that the federal Liberals are in power, we do want to work cooperatively with them. As well, something is better than nothing. We want to make that clear. We appreciate the fact that they have realized at least a measure of the importance of what is involved here.
However, to look at just how short the Liberals fall, the infrastructure requirements alone that have been laid out by the province of British Columbia are in the area of $3.5 billion. Even a 50% infrastructure share of that from the federal government, which would be a minimal amount that should be looked for, even that amount of $1.7 billion or so, is far in excess of what the government has committed. The government has committed approximately $590 million over and up to the next 10 years. That is pitifully short.
Let us look at history. Members across might think I am being partisan here, but I am simply stating historical fact. If we look at history, we see how these grandiose announcements--even though this one falls short of being grandiose--play out in the ensuing years. The Liberals never come through, even with the amount that they themselves have talked about. That is our concern.
Yes, I am pleased that the federal Liberals have listened to the province of British Columbia and the opposition and are making some movement, but it is pathetically short of what it should be. If the government is talking of $590 million over 10 years, let us say it is $59 million a year. The government may be front-loading some of this, but let us say it is $59 million a year.
The government is talking about a $35 million price tag just for a council of people who will make the decision on what the priorities will be. That is $35 million for people whom the government will appoint to a council and who will tell the B.C. government and the rest of Canada what the priorities are when the B.C. government has already spelled out those priorities in very clear language. The very fact of this is what we are concerned about. All of that hard work has been done. This council has a price tag of $35 million. That is more than the cost of some of the projects themselves. It would cost $30 million to do the Delta port rail grade separations. The $35 million council is more than that.
We suggest that the Liberals' priorities here are to appoint people who will be of benefit to them politically and then to make announcements at politically correct times. They are missing an opportunity to grab a much larger vision. It is a vision for British Columbia, yes, but this project, as envisioned by the B.C. government, by people in British Columbia and by the official opposition, is good for B.C., good for western Canada and, in fact, good for the entire nation.
Looking briefly at the issue of priorities and how short the dollars fall, I will quote the proposals about British Columbia's priorities. There is very little recognition, if any, of the Kicking Horse Canyon project from the federal Liberals. These are the words from the B.C. government's proposal about the Trans-Canada Highway, “strengthening the province [of British Columbia] as Canada's gateway to the world”. States the B.C. proposal, “This project is the province's number one transportation priority”.
It hardly gets a look from the federal government, just a minimal glance. The B.C. priorities, with the engineers and everybody else doing the work, already have identified the North Fraser Perimeter Road at a cost of $800 million. This is a direct quote from the B.C. government gateway proposal: “it is essential to the expansion of the containerized freight industry”. It is essential, says B.C., but it is virtually ignored by the federal government.
Let us hear what the B.C. gateway proposal says about Port Mann-Highway 1 project. B.C. has already done the heavy lifting in terms of the analysis and states, “Without the Port Mann/Highway 1 project, the growth potential of the Lower Mainland ports will be compromised...resulting in significant economic loss as export traffic shifts to United States competitors”.
An essential priority identified by the B.C. gateway proposal is just given a glance, fiscally and policy-wise. On the New Westminster rail bridge, the gateway report already has said that the province has identified this 100 year old bridge as a “crisis need”. This is virtually ignored by the federal Liberals.
We will work with the federal Liberal government to try to broaden its horizons and help it understand the importance of the priority projects that have already been identified. We will do that. We will cooperate as far as we can, but I have to point out how short the Liberals fall and how much further we will be there. The official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, will be there for the B.C. government for this proposal that is a B.C., western Canada and in fact trans-Canada proposal.
There are other areas that the Liberals do not touch on. Yes, it is important to pursue trade with China. We obviously have concerns related to human rights and individual freedom issues, but it is our party and our leader that have pointed out the importance of a free trade agreement with India, with which we have a common historical and cultural background, and as well, there is the evolution of parliamentary democracy in that country.
There is so little said in the federal proposal about free trade with India, or with Japan, another robust democracy with an invigorated economy. Yes, China is important, but why is there so much focus there and so little focus on other areas like India, Japan and, as one of my colleagues talked about, the other economic tigers in that region?
That is the area of trade policy, but as well, we have heard nothing about defence policy, which goes with this overall approach. Canada has clear responsibilities in the Pacific. We have identified some $1.7 billion in terms of increases related to national defence, Coast Guard capabilities and monitoring capabilities on the Pacific coast. The federal Liberals virtually ignore that in their gateway proposal. This is of major impact. This would have a major impact on the possibilities for shipbuilding alone, for the increased presence of our national defence capabilities on the Pacific, where they should be. This is virtually ignored by the government.
What our leader and the Conservative Party of Canada talk about in terms of the gateway proposal takes in this broad spectrum of fantastic opportunities for British Columbia, which will spread throughout western Canada and in fact all of Canada. It is a big vision and big picture approach to work closely with the B.C. government on the priorities that it has announced. It would have a long term effect and it would mean jobs, economic growth and a competitive edge for all of Canada. It would bring new hope to the rural areas of British Columbia, western Canada and other areas of Canada which would be manufacturing and then shipping through the newly enhanced corridors.
This is a proposal for B.C., western Canada and all of Canada. We are there for the province of British Columbia and the people of Canada in a big and realistic way, not with the minimized, diminished approach that the federal Liberals are talking about.