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House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was columbia.

Topics

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, first of all, on the issue of people who have endorsed the legislation, my name can be added to the list. I have endorsed the legislation because it is a half step in the right direction, but it is not a series of solutions.

My criticism is not that the government is not doing anything, it is that the government is treading water rather than leading forward and aggressively doing something substantive in dealing with these issues. If he wants to add the Conservative Party, we are going to be voting in favour of the bill, not with great enthusiasm but with a why not, it is a small step in the right direction. However, they are not the substantive policies that are needed right now.

I would guarantee the member opposite because I have spoken to CN, to CP, with Gord Houston at the Port of Vancouver, and they are happy with this in a sense, but they would be thrilled if they had a government that was actually going to put forward some substantive policies, the kind of policies that we have decided are needed for the port expansion.

On the second question, we are prepared to sit down with the transport minister and with his office to look at Bill C-44 and the provisions in it. Bill C-44 is flawed. In a minority Parliament situation, omnibus legislation such as Bill C-44 is a huge mistake. Every political party in the House will find flaws in omnibus legislation. In order for the government to pass any bill in the House due to the mathematics of the seat arrangements in the House, the government needs the support of two political parties.

Putting forward omnibus legislation is fundamentally stupid, which is what the government has done. There are provisions in Bill C-44 that we fully support, issues that deal with passenger rail and allowing better clarity and transparency on that front. We support the provision in Bill C-44 that would allow the quick adaptation of a second bridge going from Windsor to Detroit. We support that thoroughly. What we do not support in Bill C-44 are some of the other provisions, the provisions that allow the government to regulate the air industry even further with regard to ticket price.

We do not support making VIA Rail a crown corporation. There are a number of things in the bill that are not good for the transportation industry while some are good. Our party is prepared, as I said openly at the transport committee when the minister was there on Thursday, to sit down with the transport minister, to go through the bill clause by clause, and see if we can find some kind of compromise to divide the bill into those areas that we find acceptable and therefore will find passage, and those that are unacceptable which the minister indicated he is prepared to move on.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech on transportation. I hope some day that the member will be the transport minister and indeed I believe he will be.

I am in a rural riding and agriculture is probably in the biggest crisis that it has ever seen. We have a crisis because of commodity pricing. Although the beef industry is starting to get back with some prices, certainly grains and oil seeds are hurting big time. I do not have to go into the pricing structures and why that is, but I have had a number of calls this past week about the transportation of our grain.

For example, I contacted a couple of elevator operators in my riding. One elevator operation down by Trochu, last year from June until September, loaded a thousand cars. This year it has been 150. In another community, another AgPro elevator operation, in the last two months it has not been able to ship one load of grain because it does not have the cars to transport the grain.

Farmers are beginning to wonder how they will pay their input costs. They are saying they cannot even sell their grain because the elevators cannot take it and the railroads will not move it. The government, again just before an election, is to be given an A for an announcement, but when it comes to delivery, it really fails every time.

Could the member make some comments in regard to some of the frustrations that we are facing out west? We have talked about western alienation. This is part of why we feel that we are being forgotten out west. The government has been in power for 13 years. Now it says it is going to study it. Where has its priorities been over the last 13 years?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I thoroughly agree with my colleague from Crowfoot. CN has had great profits this year; so has CP. The issue is not with how the railways are operating themselves. The issue is access to markets and what the government is doing with regard to running rights. There are a whole host of issues the government is not addressing that deal with supporting the port of Prince Rupert and the port of Vancouver.

Let me summarize it. There is a very good reason why in the last four federal elections together, every single rural riding in western Canada, even Quebec with the Bloc Québécois, where agriculture is the number one economic issue, absolutely decimated and defeated the Liberals. It is because for a decade, for my entire adulthood, the Liberal government has done nothing for Canada's agricultural communities and constituents recognize that the Conservative Party has the answers. When we form the government, we will put them into place.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-68, an act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway.

This bill provides a policy and management framework for the future development of Canada's Pacific gateway. This new concept of Pacific gateway sounds interesting to us Bloc Québécois members, because it involves a global vision of the chain of transportation and requires a significant improvement of the intermodality between the various means of transportation.

So, the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this new approach in the transportation sector. This is an approach that we have been advocating for a number of years.

Intermodality has the advantage of combining the strengths of each transportation mode, to make the whole network more effective, both in terms of speed of delivery and consumption of energy. In this regard, the marine-rail combination is particularly effective. It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also reducing traffic on our highway system.

The federal strategy recognizes the importance of establishing real cooperation among stakeholders in order to define a consistent transport policy, and this is a good thing in itself. Indeed, in order for integrated management of our transportation network to be effective, there must be a coordinated approach by a number of players, including transportation groups, the private and public sectors, and experts on safety and trade relations.

It is also essential not to manage in silos but, rather, to integrate the various components, namely highway, rail, marine and air transportation, into an organized structure.

In his speech, the Minister of Transport indicated that Transport Canada is currently developing a strategic framework on gateways and corridors. This framework will be used for future initiatives designed to adapt the gateway approach to other regions. So, the gateway concept could potentially be applicable to the St. Lawrence River, and this is why the Bloc Québécois is taking a particular interest in this bill, since the federal government might decide to duplicate, in Quebec, the approach advocated in western Canada.

International shipping activities on the St. Lawrence River are critical to Quebec's economic development, and they require an integrated and consistent strategy. Therefore, it would be a good thing to eventually apply such a global vision to the St. Lawrence River, which is also a gateway for international trade in Quebec, central Canada and the U.S. midwest.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind hon. members that, in recent months, the Bloc Québécois conducted extensive consultations in all the regions of Quebec, with a special focus on the St. Lawrence River and its economic development potential. We found out that marine transportation industry stakeholders all hope for an improvement of intermodal links between marine and other modes of transportation, and rail in particular.

These consultations also made us realize that an integrated management policy for the St. Lawrence River was urgently required. The federal government's silo management, neglect and lack of vision have significantly hindered the economic development of the river. The concept of a gateway is a step in the right direction, at least for transportation activities. Real integrated management, however, requires that other considerations, such as environmental considerations, be factored in.

Therefore, while we support the bill in principle, I will make a few comments and express serious concerns about the structure that is proposed in the bill and the process for appointing directors, as this structure would be totally unacceptable to Quebec.

One of the key elements of this bill is the establishment of Canada's Pacific Gateway Council, a new advisory council which, as stated in the bill's summary, will be tasked with providing advice and analysis to maximize the effectiveness of the Pacific gateway. More specifically, the council's primary responsibility will be to advise the federal government on how to use the $400 million that will be invested in western Canada's transportation infrastructure over the next five years.

The wording of the bill is surprising, to say the least. The structure of the council is defined very precisely, while far more important bodies such as the Competition Bureau, are far less precisely defined in their enabling legislation. Yet the bill has nothing to say about its real mandate.

One of my main reservations has to do with clause 6, which sets out the membership of the council. All members are appointed by the federal government. All chosen by Ottawa, including the 11 provincial representatives. What justification can there be for this federalist vision of wanting to control everything? It is all the more surprising because the policy statement refers to the promotion of strategic partnerships and collaboration between governments and stakeholders. This federal desire to control the composition of the council would certainly appear to cast doubt on its representative nature.

Why are the members not appointed by a process that requires the participation of their community of origin? How can there be any reference to partnerships and collaboration if the community cannot be trusted to select its representatives? The most amazing thing is that clause 6 even specifies that the representatives of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be appointed by the federal government. How then can they talk of a shared vision of integrated intermodal transport? In addition to the clause on Ottawa's appointment of the provincial representatives, the bill has nothing to say about the role to be played by the provinces in implementing this national strategy. The information document that goes along with the bill is no clearer. Important questions on the decision-making capacity of the provinces as far as allocation of these vast sums remain unanswered.

Once the council submits its recommendations to the federal government, what is to prevent it from making decisions unilaterally? Can a province reject a decision it does not like? Is the role of the provinces limited to sending to the council a representative appointed by the federal government? There are no answers to those questions. Everything would indicate that the strategy would be imposed on the provinces rather than developed in partnership with them. This aspect of the bill could bring the very effectiveness of the council into question. Given its important mandate, we would prefer an independent and unifying agency. This is not what we are seeing. We fear this agency will become a refuge for Liberal Party friends. You can understand—once bitten, twice shy. We have to make sure that, when the federal government proposes such development strategies, it does so in respectful partnership with the stakeholders in the community and the provinces.

Another aspect also open for discussion is the number of meetings the council is to have. According to clause 8 of the bill, the council must meet only twice a year, and its members' mandate is part time only. That strikes us as very little, given the examinations and recommendations expected of it.

To help it in its work, the council will create two committees with the task of supporting it by supplying it with analyses and advice. The committees are the pacific Gateway Transportation Advisory Committee and the Pacific Gateway Opportunities Advisory Committee. I have concerns about their roles. Is there not a player overlap and surfeit?

Another important aspect of this bill is its impact on trade with Asia, including the impact of Asian exports on traditional industries. The Bloc Québécois has concerns about the potential impact of rapidly increasing trade with Asia. This part of the world is essentially a pool of cheap labour producing quantities of consumer goods for a fraction of the cost of their production in Quebec or Canada.

As a result, in traditional industries such as furniture, textiles and clothing, many companies are having difficulty competing with these new producers. This is the reason for the many plant closures and the resulting flood of layoffs.

We are not opposed to an increase in trade with Asia. However, we feel that the federal government must be aware of the impact on workers in traditional industries. Companies must be given time to adjust to the new economic circumstances and assistance programs must be put in place in the most vulnerable sectors.

This is, moreover, something that we have been calling for more than a year for the textile and clothing industries, but the federal government has turned a deaf ear. It is this refusal to recognize reality, combined with the desire expressed in this bill to open up precipitately to the economies based on cheap labour, that worries the Bloc Québécois. The increase in trade with Asia is not inherently bad. However, we need to bear in mind the negative impact on the workers in traditional industries.

It is vital that the federal government provide better support for companies in this industry to enable them to adjust to the new economic realities. In western Canada, British Columbia is the gateway for trade with Asia. The goods arrive primarily through two ports, Vancouver and Prince Rupert, and are then shipped to the centre of the continent along the road and rail corridors.

The rapid growth of trade between Asia—primarily China—and Canada is producing increasingly frequent congestion in the transportation network in western Canada. Although the Port of Vancouver is operating virtually at full capacity, the main problems with congestion are currently occurring in the road and rail networks of British Columbia and Alberta.

The effects of the congestion can be felt as far as the head of the network. Because of delays in the Port of Vancouver, goods have recently had to be diverted to other ports on several occasions. This has generated concerns among shippers about the future reliability of the transportation infrastructure on the west coast. It is worth noting in this connection that the British Columbia ports are in direct competition with the American ports, which will soon be enjoying massive investment, since the United States government has announced its intention to invest $286.5 billion over five years in its transportation network to increase trade flows.

There is no doubt that every effort must be made to maximize international trade flows and to become even more competitive in world markets. It is thus essential to develop a strategy to increase the efficiency of the transportation network, specifically by encouraging intermodal freight movement. This is a laudable principle, but a number of questions remain. We must ensure that the structures we put in place address the needs of the various players.

The federal government’s strategy must not be limited exclusively to western Canada. There are also gateways in Quebec. The St. Lawrence must be recognized by the federal government as a strategic engine of economic development. The trade prospects for intermodal transportation are just as important for Quebec as they are for western Canada.

I would remind the Minister that the St. Lawrence exists and that it has extraordinary development potential. I would urge the Minister of Transport to address the needs of industry in terms of investment for Quebec, to safeguard its competitive position in international trade.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's comments. We certainly appreciate the support that the Bloc Québécois is giving to the bill. At the end of the day, after all the concerns that the member articulated, she knows full well that the bill helps all Canadians from coast to coast, including her constituents in the province of Quebec.

Let us imagine for a moment that the federal government chose not to take advantage of burgeoning markets in the far east. Let us imagine for a moment that we decided to sit still. In trade, if we do not evolve, if we are sitting still, we are moving backwards. That is not an option for the government. It is not an option for Canadians. It is not an option for the Canadian economy.

This Pacific gateway plan deals with the concerns that the member has articulated. She talked about intermodal transportation and coordination of transportation. It also deals with security of transportation arteries, which we know is very important these days with respect to the threat of terrorist attacks. That is what the plan is all about.

I would like to ask the member a simple question. She said that this is a plan that improves British Columbia and the west. It absolutely is, in part because our geography on the west coast of Canada provides a two day advantage in terms of sailing times from the far east to Canada, so there is a reason for that.

Does the hon. member also not acknowledge the fact that while this gateway strategy is centred on improving and maximizing our ability as a nation to take advantage of markets on the west coast, exporters and importers in the province of Quebec equally will benefit from this opportunity? Does she not also recognize that the secretariat we have put together is absolutely essential to ensuring that Canadian taxpayers' money, which has gone into this investment, is utilized in the most responsible way possible to maximize the benefit for Canadians from coast to coast?

I ask her that. This is not exclusive to any other investments that we as a government have made for eastern Canada and central Canada, including her province of Quebec. Does she not recognize that her exporters also will benefit from the Pacific gateway strategy?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, to begin with, I want my colleague to know that we are indeed in favour of the bill in principle. I said so in my speech. We have a number of reservations, as do the people involved. In fact, the marine industry wants the St. Lawrence in Quebec also to be recognized by the federal government. However, we hear nothing from the Minister of Transport and his government about any measures.

Yes, we are in favour of this bill in principle, and we are pleased for western Canada. Congratulations to them on getting their Pacific gateway. However, I would like this government to explain—and we have some questions for the minister—how this will benefit the marine industry in Quebec directly. We get nothing: this government constantly penalizes the marine industry.

But injecting $400 million for a gateway in Western Canada is a much easier thing to do and can be done much quicker. A consensus is reached with western Canadian partners, but when it comes to Quebec, it always a nuisance, more difficult and a lot harder to get a response.

Furthermore, we have other reservations about the entire question of appointments. We all know what has happened in the past. Every time this government sets up boards or committees or the like, unfortunately it is often just to appoint friends of their party. This very rarely serves the people of Quebec or even of Canada.

Whether for returning officers during elections or, now, for Canada's Pacific Gateway Council, will we have any guarantees that people will be chosen together with industry stakeholders in all transparency and that they will be chosen for their skills? They must not just be selected as a favour because they were good party candidates or because they were defeated.

We have several reservations of this kind. We will come back to them and ask more questions of the minister.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to give the hon. member across the way some good news because I know how important shipbuilding is for her province, as it is for mine of British Columbia.

The Minister of Industry is working with his counterparts and the private sector and all interested groups in Canada to put together a new shipbuilding strategy. This strategy will enable us to compete more aggressively in the future for niche markets and will provide opportunities for Canadian shipbuilders and shipping repair groups to compete internationally and provide for our domestic needs. This is important for her province of Quebec, for the Maritimes and my province of British Columbia.

Many of us have worked for some time to bring together the private sector and the various ministers to do this. This government and the ministers involved are seized with this very exciting opportunity.

Members of the private sector in her province of Quebec are working with our government to provide this opportunity and this shipbuilding strategy, which will enable Canadians to work here in highly paid jobs in niche markets, in shipbuilding and in ship repair. As we know, we have numerous domestic needs, from the Coast Guard to the Department of National Defence, with respect to the shipbuilding industry.

I also want to draw to her attention the fact that the Minister of Transport is from Quebec and has been working very hard on transportation issues in Quebec. He has done a lot of work in that area. I am somewhat flummoxed, to put it mildly, that the member would not acknowledge the fact that the Minister of Transport, as the minister from Quebec, has done a lot of work in this area.

I also want to assure her that the people who are to be on those boards will be chosen on merit and obviously will be accountable to the people of this country and the government. At the end of the day, their actions and how successful they have been will be judged publicly.

We are fairly confident, based on the support we have seen across party lines, that this is a very positive thing for Canada and a positive initiative for Canadians. It will make a huge difference in our ability as a trading nation, an exporting nation, to continue to be competitive, create highly paid jobs in our country and improve the health and welfare of all Canadians.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I do not know whether the hon. member was being ironic when he said that the Minister of Transport is from Quebec and that he has been working very hard on transportation issues in Quebec. In fact, I would have liked the hon. member to elaborate and tell us what exactly the minister has done for Quebec. Personally, since the minister took office, I have not seen him do anything for Quebec. On the contrary, he keeps quarrelling and fighting. The fact that he is from Quebec does not really mean anything. Today, we have before us a bill that benefits western Canada.

The fact that the Minister of Transport is from Quebec does not mean anything. In my opinion, it does not mean that this bill will be good for Quebec. Usually, when federal government members come from Quebec, they often do us more harm than good. That was a short digression in response to the member's comment.

As for the rest of his remarks, I remind the hon. member that the bill is silent on the role of the provinces in the implementation of Canada's Pacific gateway strategy, and it is also silent on the true mandate of the council. As I mentioned in my speech, many questions remain unanswered, and the member's comments do not shed light on the concerns that the Bloc Québécois has at this point.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, the government has brought in legislation, at a very suspicious time in our electoral process, with little to no hope of it getting passed through. It raises a suspicion of electioneering at a time when the west coast of Canada needs sound investment and a sound strategy to actually achieve the status on international trade that we have talked about in this place for many years but have done little to support.

The Pacific gateway strategy, Bill C-68, which has been a long time coming and which was thrown together and presented on the west coast with little chance of making it through this House, leads one to all levels of suspicion. While the intent of the bill is perhaps good, the timing erodes any confidence that Canadians should have in the government's attempt to, as the Prime Minister put it, finally end western alienation as a mark of his prime ministership. I would suggest that once again he has failed the west coast, British Columbians and Canadians in general.

With respect to the vitality of these ports and shipping routes, few Canadians realize that shipping a product from central Canada or the United States via the northern route, in particular, through the Port of Prince Rupert, is three days shorter than any other known route on the continent right now. In terms of saving time, energy and money for Canadian businesses and for our American partners who want to join with us in manufacturing, this is the route to go and yet for almost three decades the Port of Prince Rupert has had to struggle to get the attention that we finally got by, I would suggest, potentially electing a New Democrat to the region, enabling the government to pay some attention, at long last, to invest in the container port in Prince Rupert. Now we have Bill C-68, which is too little too late.

I previously asked the minister what interest he had in participating in the region where much of this line through this so-called Pacific gateway will pass, a region that has been plagued by the boom and bust cycle of much of the resourced-based economies in Canada, the inability to attract the proper investment for secondary manufacturing, the inability to attract the political will to solve some of the problems that affect the region, the province and, as such, the entire country. I would point to the softwood lumber dispute, bugwood and a number of other issues that the government has found a way to ignore in its time in office.

Infrastructure in British Columbia has been neglected for a number of years. Report after report has shown us that. Whether it is the infrastructure in the lower mainland, whether it is some of the transportation around the province or the main corridors of transportation, such as the one we are talking about today through the northwest of British Columbia, we know that neglect has held Canadian productivity back and has held our ability back to truly access the Asian markets in a meaningful way.

The bill was introduced late, without a lot of specifics but with a lot of fanfare. The Auditor General recently handed down a report that the government has a penchant and excitement for announcements but is often gone before the confetti hits the floor. The actual rolling out of its decisions and strategies is a long time in coming, if we ever see them at all.

The actions this past year in the Port of Vancouver by the Trucking Associations and independent truckers show how susceptible the facilities are and how close we are with our transportation in this country to near and total shutdown. The government is unwilling to step in and start to make the investments and alleviate some of the problems that are happening in our transportation corridor. In a heartbeat we could lose that connection to the rest of the world. One of the key advantages we have in British Columbia and in this country is our incredible and close access to some of the greatest and strongest growing markets in the world.

As we explore these markets, what is also seemingly to be absent is that when our trade delegations are here in Canada, before leaving for places like China, they are strong on the human rights and environmental front and yet when they arrive in Asia Pacific, when they arrive in China, nought is to be seen. There is no improvement on the human rights issue within China. There is no official talk and calling into question the human rights abuses that go on.

A Chinese state-owned firm run by a Communist, a completely non-transparent government, recently made a proposition to buy the Noranda Company in Canada, one of our major resource companies, with nary a word of concern in the House from the government benches.

We have opened the doors to 11,500 foreign acquisitions and counting without one concept that one of those deals may actually have been bad for the people of Canada. What an incredible string of good luck. The government is suggesting that acquisition after acquisition by foreign companies, and in this case, a Communist foreign government, our government's wide open door policy is in listening to Bay Street rather than main street, reigns supreme again.

In terms of transportation, we are the only G-8 country that has no long term sustainable national highways program. We do not see the concept of actually investing strategically in our highway systems to improve on efficiency and lower some of the pollution and congestion that Canadians face every day. The government has had no real interest for 13 years and counting, unfortunately, in developing a strategy and engaging the provinces and the municipalities that are in such desperate need. Instead it makes announcements, such as the gas tax rebate, that are gone before the confetti hits the floor. We wait for the details but they never come.

The United States just committed $270 billion to improving its highway system. In Canada the silence is deafening as to how we are going to improve the efficiency and the capacity of our transportation system.

As many of the previous speakers have pointed out, the bill is very short on details . It contains broad sweeping terms about a strategy, as if somehow the idea of Asian markets and moving Canadian goods to Asian markets is new to the government, so it should set up committees to look at where the investments should be.

After so many years in office, after so many articles written and after so many delegations, team Canada trips, et cetera, now the Liberals introduce a bill to the Canadian people that is short on specifics with some notion of setting up a committee with a budget of something like $35 million to, I assume, take trips. We are meant to believe that appointments to the committee will be based on merit. I suggest that one of the key merits will be, among others, participation in the Liberal Party of Canada.The record of the government in terms of appointing people through the patronage system is deplorable at best.

The confidence we are meant to feel in the committee that will be in charge of the $35 million budget initially and then in an increased budget of $400 million in deciding where the funding spending is actually going, will be anything but transparent. It will be anything but an ethical progress through putting good decision makers in key roles to help this country. I will be very curious as to what the expenditures of the committee are going to be to rack up $7 million, particularly if there is any patronage involved whatsoever.

Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the region I represent, is the terminus point for this investment. The plans for the container port and many other port facilities within the region are the first spark of hope in a region that has experienced a loss of almost half of the population of the city. It experienced 20% and upwards unemployment rates which is absolutely devastating. It is devastating not just on the economic front, but on the social front, on the community's cohesion and on the ability to raise children in the confidence they will be able to progress through their entire education in one place. All of that has been put under threat over the last number of years. Now we have a spark of hope that this community can raise its head with confidence and pride and march forward.

The question is whether the government is willing to participate with all the other communities down the line in northwestern British Columbia who have experienced equally, if not worse, economic conditions. I was recently in Hazelton, British Columbia, a very small, beautiful, picturesque town that has consistently had upwards of 80% unemployment over the last seven years, numbers that are staggering, incomprehensible to most Canadians, and yet these people have been surviving in whatever way they could over the last number of years and now the opportunity arrives of a major corridor passing through.

My office has been working with community groups to help coordinate the conversation that has been long overdue. If this container port proceeds, which it will, and if this major transportation corridor receives the investment from the federal coffers that it should, how will communities like Hazelton benefit? How is it that they will finally start to diversify their economy? How is it that their children will start to feel that sense of hope that they can potentially live, thrive and survive in this community and potentially raise their own families and start to create that growth that is so desperately needed in a region that has just gone through boom after bust after boom after bust?

During the take note debate on the softwood lumber dispute last week the government rattled its sabre again and said how NAFTA should be respected. The Conservative Party's solution was to send a special envoy, its solution to a debate that has raged on while our American counterparts refuse to accept the deal that they signed.

The residents in my region are wondering at what point the government will get serious about the softwood lumber dispute. My constituents want the government to use the tools that we know will bring that issue home to the voters in the United States, which will then bring that issue home to the Congress and the Senate to actually get the Bush administration moving toward some sort of fairness. The U.S. government claims fairness but never moves toward it.

Instead we get the suggestion of a special envoy from the Conservatives, a vague notion of something that has little or no consequence in the circles of power in Washington. From the Liberal Party of Canada, the party that is supposed to be championing this, we get radio addresses rattling the swords but no actual concrete action to end this travesty in our trade relations.

The mountain pine beetle has been absolutely crushing to the economy of the interior of British Columbia and the northwest region of British Columbia. This infestation now has the potential to move over the Rocky Mountains into the boreal forests and perhaps it finally will get the attention in this place that it deserves. To truly diversify these economies that have been affected by bugwood they will need major investments.

These are proud and hard-working people who simply want the tools to facilitate their own growth and future prosperity. These people are not looking for handouts or government largesse. They want to do the work to put their communities back on their feet and get moving but they need the attention of the government which has focused other ways.

We saw a collapse in the sockeye fishery earlier this year, an industry that is increasingly important to the people on the west coast, but the government was not present on the issue. We made some small suggestions in order to keep the boats on the water for next season. Hope springs eternal in the mind of the fishing fleet in British Columbia despite the continued mismanagement of the fishery by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The government was completely absent from the issue. It paid no attention whatsoever in any meaningful kind of way. We are seeking local control of that fishery. We have proposed a number of options so the government can save some face. These options that would allow the people of the northwest to realize the prosperity that they need.

At some point we must decide as a nation, and I think my region is actually representative of this, to no longer simply be the hewers of wood and drawers of water. As a nation we need to make those key investments that our counterparts in the other developed nations of the world have continuously made over the last number of decades.

We can no longer rely on a low Canadian dollar and high commodity prices. We need to build together as a nation the investments that are required for those communities to rise up and to avoid the boom and bust cycles that are absolutely devastating to these small towns and communities right across the country. We need to make the investments that make sense.

Will there be an on and off ramp on this major highway going to the Asia Pacific and the mid-west and mid-eastern United States and Canada? Will there be access and opportunity? When I asked the minister this question I received a vague answer, which is similar to the bill. He said, “We encourage...it is interesting...of some note”. We need specifics.

The people of western Canada, of British Columbia, of central and eastern Canada, of Quebec and the Maritimes needed specifics. They needed to know that the government was moving and progressing toward a very specific and concrete strategy to get this off the ground. After 13 years in power it is as if the government just woke up to the idea that trade with Asia was important enough to invest in key and critical places, rather than setting up a potential patronage committee of five to seven members who will be making recommendations over some years. All of this is in a bill that was introduced a few weeks before the House rises for the Christmas break and potential prorogation, if one were to listen to the rumours flying about this place, but with no serious intent of the legislation being passed.

The government made no serious attempt to introduce the legislation at a time when this could have seen the light of day and could have come before this House for a vote. The committee could then have had enough time to hear the witnesses and experts to find out whether the bill was too vague or whether it was strong enough to actually support the investment.

I asked the minister some specific questions on security measures that are important to the port of Prince Rupert. It has been asking, for a number of months, that the investments made by the different investors in Canada and North America would be held secure, that security would be held on a level playing field with the other ports in Canada. Again, I received a vague answer back. It is very disconcerting and very difficult for those people in the northwest of British Columbia to feel confidence.

We are talking about the diversification of our economy and the inclusion of the communities in a meaningful way. I will be calling upon the government to support the efforts in the northwest for the communities to actually participate. They could help design this project and help design the container port and the routes that CN is building, so that they may actually access this and receive the investments from the massive EI surplus that the government sloughs every year into general revenue.

This remains a disgrace and a blight in this country. It remains an issue that absolutely cuts to the heart of where the interests actually lie, whether it is fairness for employees and employers or is some sort of piggybank that the government can keep going back to while regions like Hazelton, Prince Rupert, Kitimat and Terrace suffer without the proper investments that were collected on their behalf to ensure that the education and training would be there for them when it is needed.

We need to actually attract those manufacturing facilities, those secondary manufacturing places, so that the resources that we have--and we often forget that the resources are ours. There is a mantra in British Columbia politics right now that is not a right or a left; it is a debate about who these resources actually belong to, the water, the minerals, the wood of this country. Who do they belong to? Do they belong to a multinational firm making a bid on it or do they belong to the people of Canada? Do they belong to every resident within this country?

If the government actually acted that way when it was dealing with foreign acquisitions and dealing with foreign governments in attracting that type of investment, a pride would be present in those negotiations and a confidence that all Canadians would feel about this endowment, this blessing that we have, to be born in this country with the resources that are available to us. We do not want an open-door policy where a come one, come all, lowest bidder, lowest common denominator will have access to everything that we have been endowed with.

This has to fundamentally change. We need to address our trading partners. We need to look to foreign governments that have an interest in participating here with a certain sense of confidence that there is something here that they want. If there is something here that they want, they must negotiate with us on our terms. They must be willing to negotiate with us on human rights issues. They must be willing to negotiate with us on environmental standards.

Perhaps the government has a certain level of shame in this and does not want to bring an issue like human rights to the table because we have the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister condemning the new Iranian president's comments on Israel while at the same time deporting people to that very same government, participating with the United States and deporting people to places like Syria.

What record do we have to stand on when it comes to the environment, when report after report comes out locating Canada near the bottom of the pack when it comes to the performance of developed countries? Perhaps the government feels a certain amount of shame, then, bringing up those issues with our foreign competitors and our foreign partners. Maybe we finally hit upon the reason why they are often exempt from this discussion in any kind of a meaningful way.

The timing of this is suspect. I looked through the bill and the first nations consultation is near to absent. There is one small place for first nations and 30% of the people in my riding are first nations. The courts have spoken time and time again about the need to consult in a meaningful dialogue with first nations prior to any major development, any major action happening within their territory and yet, when I look through this bill, it is near to absent.

When I talk about first nations representatives within my region, they are considered at the very end of the process, as opposed to up front in a meaningful way. It seems the government has a hard time catching up with some of the fundamental decisions that have been made in this land, Sparrow, Delgamuukw and the rest.

There needs to be a true exchange. There needs to be a recognition that the resources that we are talking about, and are so often called upon to sacrifice to is ours. This is our place. This is our country. These are our resources. When we develop links like this, they must be done in a transparent way, where the people of Canada feel ownership over the development, where all peoples of Canada feel an empowerment to directing the government.

Introducing a bill at a very suspicious time prior to an election with little chance of the normal passage and with the government paying attention to a very key trade and western issue happens at a time that leads us to great suspicion at this end of the House.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to say to my new friend from Skeena—Bulkley Valley that I was a little underwhelmed with his speech.

I know members of Parliament who have come from that area and Mike Scott comes to mind. He came here and represented his area. Considering that this is an issue that has direct relevance, particularly to Prince Rupert and secondarily to Kitimat, I am surprised that the member did not have more facts and figures, and was prepared to stand up more for his constituency.

We heard again and again all of the platitudes and NDP bromides, but we did not hear anything specific from him for his constituents. Even the previous member, Andy Burton, would come here and act in a very solid way for his constituents. I wonder if it was the fact that this bill only came down last week and perhaps the member did not have time to get all of his facts and figures together. However, surely to goodness, we should be hearing specifically about how many millions of dollars are going to be required in Prince Rupert for the facilities. What are the facilities going to be?

He should be talking about the upgrading of the rail links, the fact that the tunnels are going to have to be made larger for the double-stacked containers, and the pipeline that is currently being considered. What will that mean to the people of Kitimat? I say with the greatest of respect that I was quite underwhelmed with the member and the way that he just did not represent his constituents.

I wonder, though, if he would care to comment on the fact that of the $590 million announced by the Liberals, up to $125 million over five years in transportation infrastructure is earmarked, but in fact $90 million of that is going to be used for construction of the Pitt River bridge. Although millions of dollars have been announced, in fact what we require in British Columbia is at least $5 billion not $590 million.

Again, speaking of underwhelming, certainly the resources that are being brought to this question by the Liberals are indeed very underwhelming and represent, at the very best, only a down payment in what we are going to require in British Columbia.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague also fails drastically on specifics. He mentioned some former members of the House that represented the region, ignoring that in the short tenure that the NDP has had in this region, it has achieved more economic stimulus and federal investment dollars than at any time in the prior 12 years.

It has been successful in finally attracting the investment that the stakeholders in the region of Prince Rupert, Kitimat and other regions have called for. They said they needed the federal government to show up with a portion of investment, $30 million, to make the container port a possibility and that arrived. The NDP delivered after 11 years of Conservative, Reform, Alliance, or whatever the flavour of the month at the time. Mr. Burton had five incantations while in office, which is an extraordinary number of different parties to represent all at the same time.

The member mentioned another former member of this place who represented the constituents of his riding, 30% of which are first nations. Yet he stood in the House day after day after day condemning the Nisga'a agreement from a party that also spoke against the Tlicho agreement and first nations finally coming to some resolution on the land terms.

I sat with a bunch of mining investors and major company officials from the mining sector some weeks ago. They stated factually that until first nations rights and titles are settled on the land base, it makes investment in the northwest of British Columbia, in a serious way, a near impossibility. Yet, for almost a dozen years there were members from that corner of the House representing a view that was contrary to the interests of first nations and contrary to the interests of people in my region.

It is very difficult for me to stand and actually offer any sort of credibility to that line of questioning while we have just begun to finally turn this economy around in the northwest and Skeena—Bulkley Valley. All the key economic indicators from key economic groups within B.C. are pointing to a resurgence in the northwest of British Columbia.

I do not expect the member opposite to offer any credit to the NDP finally having pushed those issues in our region. I do not expect to take all the credit because there has been hard work by many people in this region, but for him to stand and suggest that I do not fight for the interests of my region, perhaps we need to have another conversation after this debate.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I cannot believe what the member just did. His riding, of all ridings, will benefit above all else with respect to the bill. His riding, which has had historically high unemployment levels, will benefit dramatically.

My question is very simple. Does the hon. member not recognize that this is the government that put together the cities agenda? Does he not recognize that British Columbia was the first province to sign on to that? The moneys are to be spent on critical infrastructure, sewers, transportation arteries and an environment aspect to boot?

Will the hon. member say to the people of his riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley that he opposes the bill or will he say that he embraces it wholeheartedly and compliments the Government of Canada for introducing the bill for the benefit of his people, the province of British Columbia and Canadians from coast to coast?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I think the member confuses an announcement with actual work done. Being in office for 13 years, the opportunity existed for true investment in that region but it was neglected.

Some few parliamentary weeks before an election, the government suddenly sees the light of day and expects everyone to slap it on the back for it. It leads one to a certain level of cynicism and it supports the findings of the Auditor General that the government is much more interested in announcements than it is in actually doing the work to set the economy back on its feet.

If the hon. member expects me to be not critical of the government for introducing a bill so late in the session, with so few details, where there is the potential of a huge patronage appointment set up within the bill, then he has another thing coming.

HousingStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Liberal Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that October is renovation month. For 16 years, the Canadian Home Builders' Association has been celebrating the renovation season by providing consumers with information on home renovations as well as showcasing the building industry's professionals and their services and products.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Canada's national housing agency, works with home builders to share with consumers a wealth of housing information and know-how.

CMHC helps point Canadians in the right direction when faced with decisions about buying, renovating and maintaining their homes. By advising Canadians to consult accredited housing experts when required, we echo this year's theme of “Do it right! Work with a professional”.

Through publications such as “Hiring a Contractor”, CMHC provides free renovation information, including contractor agreements and a checklist to ensure that renovations are carried out properly. CMHC is also there to provide practical information on how to improve the energy efficiency of homes.

As a leading source of objective, reliable housing information, CMHC is committed to helping Canadians access a wide choice--

HousingStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Fort McMurray--Athabasca.

Softwood LumberStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, this Hallowe'en the scariest thing we have in Canada is the government's trade policy and the lack of action of our Prime Minister in the softwood lumber dispute.

In the last few months, the Prime Minister's policy has changed no less than five times. At first we were negotiating with the United States, then we pulled out of negotiations and then we were not negotiating with the Americans. Suddenly he was prepared to negotiate with them, and now, of course, the Prime Minister is not prepared to negotiate with them.

I have two questions for everyone in the chamber. After last week, will the Prime Minister have any time to resolve the softwood lumber dispute? After last week, will the president have any time to resolve the softwood lumber issue?

Bill C-364, the trade compensation act, would solve this dispute. It would keep Canadian industry alive and send a strong signal to the United States that Canada supports its industries, all of this with a minimum cost to taxpayers.

The bill is a vote for exporters, for softwood lumber producers, for farmers and for manufacturers, for everyone in Canada. The bill is fair, it is good business and it must go through for our industry to survive.

GolfStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honour of Robbie Collins. Mr. Collins is the perennial club champion at the Yarmouth, the Pubnico and the Clare golf clubs. On August 28, 2005, he won the Canadian mid-amateur golf championship held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

As only the second Nova Scotian to win a championship at this level, Mr. Collins deserves our recognition. Winning at this level is not new for Robbie. In 2001, he was part of the Nova Scotian team that won the Willingdon Cup team event at the Canadian amateur golf championship.

These achievements demonstrate Mr. Collins' commitment and dedication to his sport. He exemplifies the best of what can be accomplished through hard work and dedication.

I ask my hon. colleagues to join me in congratulating Mr. Collins on his historic win.

Abitibi-Témiscamingue International Film FestivalStatements By Members

October 31st, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue international film festival is being held from October 29 to November 3. This joyful celebration of cinematic arts is an extremely important event that is drawing the attention of cultural media in Quebec and elsewhere.

For the 24th year in a row, this festival, with its program scripted in detail by an experienced team, is an opportunity for film buffs, actors, journalists and cinematic artists to join together in a spirit of conviviality and share a passion that creates a bond beyond compare.

For six days, Abitibi-Témiscamingue is in full swing. Restaurants, hotels and theatres focus on this event, along with the media, businesses and local organizations, to make it the best possible experience for festival-goers and residents.

The Bloc Québécois salutes the daring and genius of the organizers of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue international film festival. Long live the festival.

Arts and CultureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to highlight the importance of the arts in Canada. The arts enrich our lives and promote an international reputation for excellence, innovation and creativity. They reflect our unique Canadian experiences and perspectives.

In addition, there is tangible proof of their importance. For example, the arts add an estimated $39 billion annually to the gross domestic product and are responsible for 600,000 jobs across the country.

Canada's future depends on creativity and imagination, which inspire Canadian innovation and, in turn, our ability to generate social and economic growth.

For those individuals who work tirelessly in the arts and cultural sector, let me note that their dedication to enriching Canada does not go unnoticed.

Sponsorship ProgramStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians in my riding and across the country are wondering what kind of tricks to expect from the Liberal government on the eve of the interim Gomery report. They are sitting on the edge of their seats, expecting the magic of the Liberal damage control team to make the ugly reality of Liberal corruption disappear into thin air.

It seems that the Liberals have not yet learned the most basic of life's lessons: that one cannot achieve the right results by the wrong means. They tried to buy the loyalty of Quebeckers, but landed up insulting them in the most grievous way. How ironic that the Liberals, claiming to be the saviours of Canada, are themselves the greatest threat to national unity. Separatism in Quebec and disenchantment across the country have reached an all time high.

I urge Quebeckers and all Canadians to turf these corrupt Liberals. I urge them not to waste their votes on parties that cannot muster enough seats to replace the Liberals. Only the Conservatives have the numbers and it is high time to get a trustworthy, reliable, clean, honest government.

50th Anniversary of UNICEFStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 50th anniversary of UNICEF Canada and, this evening, millions of children in Canada will collect money for UNICEF.

It was 50 years ago today that Canadians first found little goblins at their doors trick or treating for donations to UNICEF. As a former officer with UNICEF in west Africa, I can speak first-hand about the importance of these donations.

UNICEF is dedicated to protecting the rights of children and depends entirely on donations.

Since 1955 Canadian children have raised $87 million for UNICEF. This year's goal is to raise $4 million for schools, teacher training, and books in Africa.

I encourage all Canadians to put aside a few loonies tonight for the good goblins with the bright orange boxes. I congratulate UNICEF Canada on its 50th anniversary.

ADISQ GalaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the past week and culminating last evening, the personality of Quebec song in its many facets based on a distinct experience and consciousness expressed itself most eloquently for the 27th year at the ADISQ gala.

On behalf of my Bloc colleagues, I express my pride and admiration for all the artists and craftspeople in Quebec's musical milieu for their wonderful work, be they winners or not.

Their potential is enormous, but it must be noted that the federal government, scourge of Quebec and Canada's cultural sovereignty, is not striving to protect francophone song and to ensure its longevity and popularity in that new broadcast space made available by satellite radio.

When francophone content on commercial radio is reviewed, we call for more space to be given to these extraordinary voices coming out of Quebec.

Mark LowryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today, to recognize Mr. Mark Lowry, who passed away Saturday, October 22nd after a two-year battle with cancer. Mr. Lowry was the Executive Director of Sport for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Mr. Lowry worked throughout his career at the local and national levels of amateur sport. He held positions with the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union, the Canadian Amateur Rowing Association, the Canadian Amateur Diving Association, the World University Games and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

His dedication, passion and vision have led to significant advancements for Canadian sport and athletes.

Mr. Lowry was a dedicated worker and true believer in the Olympic movement.

I wish to recognize his great contribution to sport and offer my condolences to his family and friends.

Assisted SuicideStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the introduction of Bill C-407 on assisted suicide has once more brought to this House a bill dealing with the precious gift of life.

Many in this House will express their painful choices and divulge a wrestling deep within their souls.

This issue is only difficult if one holds to a material, chance view of the universe, if one holds purely utilitarian values, and if one denies that there is an intrinsic value in human life. It can only be tortuous if one holds that the underlying validation of life is wanton service of self.

For those of us who acknowledge that life has value distinct beyond all else, our choice will be instinctive. Our choice will be the affirmation of the immense value of the most vulnerable of our society, a reiteration that every person is of immeasurable worth.

When a society in any way invalidates the sanctity of life, it throws in its lot with evil incarnate. As members of this House, let us do better. Let us choose life. Life: what a beautiful choice.

Kiwanis InternationalStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year Kiwanis International celebrates 90 years of serving the children of the world.

There are more than 600,000 members of Kiwanis in 96 countries.

In 1994, Kiwanis International promised the children of the world to eliminate the most prevalent preventable cause of mental retardation: iodine deficiency. This goal is imminent and will rank as one of the world's greatest health achievements.

Last Friday Ottawa hosted Kiwanis International President Steve Siemens as Rideau Kiwanis celebrated its 50th anniversary. Today we welcome to Ottawa Hazel Brandon of Suriname, the governor of the Eastern Canada and Caribbean District of Kiwanis. Governor Hazel is completing her official visit to clubs in Ottawa and area.

On behalf of all members of the House, I thank Kiwanians across Canada for their good work and encourage Canadians to learn more about Kiwanis in their own communities.