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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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will pass on the compliments by the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest to my father. I am sure he will be happy to receive that positive news.

I can assure the member that the government always takes the questions on the Order Paper very seriously. I understand the urgency of this matter and I will make every effort to ensure that those questions are answered, not only thoroughly, as all questions are, but in a very speedy manner.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, An Act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2005 / 3:20 p.m.

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan LiberalMinister of State (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the House as we debate Bill C-68, an act to support the development of Canada's Pacific gateway.

As the member of Parliament for Richmond, I am particularly delighted to speak in favour of the bill. When we talk about a Pacific gateway initiative, there is no city better situated than Richmond. With both the Fraser Port and the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, we are at the forefront of any large trade initiatives with Asia-Pacific. Indeed, this announcement today means more investment in Richmond, more business for Richmond and more high paying jobs for our community over the long term.

The Governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are collaborating on Canada's Pacific gateway strategy and building on B.C.'s strategic advantages to strengthen western economic prosperity in ways that will benefit all of Canada.

Canada's western provinces represent about 30% of Canada's geographic area, roughly 30% of Canada's population, about 30% of our labour force and a little over 32% of Canada's GDP. The west is therefore a major contributor to this country's prosperity and its future.

A 21st century economy is an economy open to the world. Canada's goods, services, capital, knowledge and people must be able to reach international markets and Canada's west coast is our door to markets located in Asia.

A fundamental shift is taking place in the global economy. With Asia occupying an increasingly central role in global commerce, it is a region vital to Canada's future prosperity. Canada's west coast, because of its location, is the ideal North American gateway for trans-Pacific commerce, trade, transportation and cultural linkages.

For a trade dependent country like Canada, it is not good enough to be among the most competitive economies in the world. We have to be among the best.

In May 2005, western premiers identified several top priorities essential to maintaining and improving the competitive position of the west and Canada in international trade markets. These priorities include transportation infrastructure, trade training and post-secondary education. The western premiers agree that British Columbia will lead the development of a comprehensive strategy that will deal with road, rail, marine ports, air and strategically placed inland container ports.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring Canada's west coast becomes a major opportunity gateway for trans-Pacific trade, investment and tourism.

When the Prime Minister visited China in January 2005, he noted that for Chinese businesses, the closest North American city with a deep water port and a major international airport is Vancouver, British Columbia.

The federal and provincial governments will continue to work together to increase the competitiveness of B.C. ports. Considerable investment has already been made. For example, the Department of Western Economic Diversification Canada is assisting container expansion in B.C. by investing in the expansion of the Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

Improved port competitiveness is a key long term initiative that will move the gateway concept forward, creating new jobs and economic spinoffs for all of Canada. Some $60 million in joint federal-provincial support have already been spent to establish a new container port on B.C.'s north coast at Prince Rupert, North America's closest port to Asia. Goods arriving at Prince Rupert will be able to reach the centre of the continent quicker than through ports at Seattle or Los Angeles.

Western provinces are putting together a multi-province strategy that will ensure gateway access and competitive benefits will reach much deeper into the Canadian heartland. There are already more than enough goods coming from Asia to use the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert to full capacity. The transportation linkages that flow from the Pacific gateway provide a significant advantage for other businesses, sectors and developments across the entire economy.

Western priorities include a growing emphasis on international trade, investment, business competitiveness and tourism. The dynamic growth of the economies of China, India, South Korea and other Asia-Pacific countries represent significant opportunities for western Canadian small businesses and large companies. The Government of Canada is collaborating with the western provinces on Canada's Pacific gateway strategy to strengthen the west's cultural and business ties with Asia and to establish the region as Canada's natural Pacific gateway.

Western Economic Diversification Canada works with a broad range of public and private sector partners in western Canada to strengthen the region's competitiveness in international commerce. It promotes new investment in western Canada and supports activities designed to increase the presence of western businesses in domestic and global markets. Western provinces must continue to strengthen trade with rising economic superpowers such as India and China, especially with lingering trade disputes in the U.S. over softwood lumber exports and mad cow.

Every region of the country stands to benefit. Strengthened trade, transportation, and investment links will preserve and strengthen the country's economic prosperity, protecting a continued high quality of life for all Canadians and improving opportunities for Canadian business.

The collaborative strategy of a dynamic Canada Pacific gateway will integrate the elements of international commerce, infrastructure, transportation and border management, innovation, immigration and skills development, and Canada's multicultural connections.

Canada is as much a Pacific nation as it is an Atlantic nation. As the west becomes Canada's gateway to the Asia-Pacific, Asia will look to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as its gateway to North America.

Economic growth in Asia means increased demand for our products and services. Asia sees Canada as a limitless source of natural resources. Its rapidly expanding economy will need Canadian metals, minerals, grains and wood products.

Western Canada's natural resource exports to Asia have grown even faster than its imports. China's escalating purchases of our raw materials were a large part of the reason our dollar rose in recent years from 63¢ to 85¢.

Oil hungry Asian economies will provide Canadian energy producers with an attractive market alternative to the United States. From a western Canada perspective, there are tremendous opportunities for energy firms to expand trade and investment with Asia-Pacific nations.

Through joint ventures, direct investment, technology transfers and other means, the west can help develop Asian economies to achieve their social, economic and environmental goals and at the same time, create jobs and prosperity in Canada.

Canada's gateway strategy will promote B.C. and the west as an attractive market for Asia-Pacific trade and investment, products, services, expertise and as a tourist destination. It will also promote Canada's credentials as an Asia-Pacific nation and give us a higher level of global leadership, innovation, immigration, skills recognition and learning.

Canada's west coast, with its strategic location on the Pacific, is the ideal North American gateway for trans-Pacific commerce, trade, transportation and cultural linkages. This is an enormous competitive advantage for the entire B.C. economy now and into the future, and provides a competitive advantage for the west that benefits all of Canada.

A truly competitive Pacific transportation gateway involves a strong transportation infrastructure and more will be done as we seek to nurture and enhance this trade connection between Canada and Asia. The public and private sectors in Canada are already investing about $2 billion in highway, rail, port and border infrastructures in B.C. to ensure that goods move more efficiently there and across western Canada.

There is more to our interest in Asia-Pacific than simple economics. Canada, and in particular the city of Vancouver, has deep cultural ties to the region. Vancouver offers enterprises and knowledge-driven organizations with culturally diverse employees, many of whom have strong cultural and business links to Asia.

There are close to three million Canadians of Asian origin, many of them going back several generations. In Vancouver alone, there are close to 690,000 people of Asian origin. Canadian diversity, one of our key assets, gives us unique cultural links to Asia-Pacific, as well as powerful entrepreneurial, trade, financial and industrial ties.

Today, western Canada, and British Columbia in particular, is a bridgehead to Asia-Pacific investment, trade and tourism. This major initiative of the Government of Canada combines the goal of global competitiveness with the achievement of a sustainable future for all Canadians. Building a Pacific gateway means a stronger B.C., a stronger west and a stronger Canada.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I recognize this member who in a former Parliament was involved as the secretary of state for Asia-Pacific. He understands that area; I acknowledge that. However, I must ask, why has it taken so long?

Why, when this Liberal government has been in power for the last 12 or 13 years, has it taken so long? Why have the Liberals only now finally got around to a half measure? I just do not understand.

Where is the emphasis on British Columbia? It is not only for the people of British Columbia; it is for the whole nation of Canada. We indeed are, as described in the member's speech, in British Columbia, the gateway to Asia-Pacific. To this point, in spite of the fact that he had a significant role, in Asia-Pacific, in representing Canada, in the Chrétien government, nothing ever happened. This Prime Minister has now finally come forward with this measure, which is a measure that our party certainly is going to support. I would not say it is too little too late, but I would say it is too little. Why has it taken so long?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, since 1994 the Liberal government has appointed me as the minister, the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, to develop our connection, our business opportunities, and our cultural links in the Asia-Pacific region. Before that, under the Conservative government, there was no focus on the Asia-Pacific. We were focused so much on Europe.

I visited some of the countries in the Asia-Pacific region like India, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines back in 1994. I was the first federal minister who ever visited those countries in eight or ten years. It was amazing how the Conservative government ignored that region.

During that time we organized trade missions, particularly the team Canada missions, to bring our businesses to develop ties with that region. We went pretty well throughout the different regions of Asia-Pacific to build those links. As a result of that, we are bringing in many businesses, trade and other opportunities into Canada. It builds up the demand of our infrastructure in the Pacific region.

That is why the port facilities and transportation infrastructure in B.C. and other parts of western Canada are so congested now with traffic. That is why this gateway strategy is timely. We have to ensure that in order to meet the challenge, we have to develop this strategy, open up the northern transportation corridor to allow B.C. and the west to fully develop our capacity as the gateway to the Pacific.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have lived and worked in Asia, so this is important to me. My riding is in the lower mainland of British Columbia, as he knows, so these issues are important.

As my hon. colleague has mentioned, we do not know why it has taken so long, but I suppose an election is coming, so we are a little suspicious about that.

As part of the initial announcements, the Liberals talked about funding for the Pitt River bridge, which the hon. minister has gone over many times, as have I. I am wondering if he could tell us whether there will be funding for the Golden Ears Bridge, which is also in the works.

I would also like to ask whether the Pacific gateway initiative will involve removing the somewhat arbitrary cap on commercial borrowing that the Vancouver Port Authority is facing. It has asked for years that it would be allowed to borrow according to their means and whether there is new money for dredging in the Fraser River, especially around the New Westminster Port Authority and all the way up the river. That would help the Pacific gateway as well. I wonder if the minister can make any commitments about that.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, this gives me the opportunity to explain a little bit on where we should go from here. After the initial infrastructure investment that we have announced in the gateway strategy announcement, there is another $400 million we have dedicated for infrastructure to improve the transportation system in B.C. and so on.

After the announcement, we will form a council with representation from all four provinces as well as the business sector, the municipalities and other experts in the field. Any other transportation infrastructure improvement will be coming from this council.

The proposals that have been mentioned by the hon. member will be considered, like the dredging of the Fraser River and the funding for the Golden Ears Bridge. As well, in Richmond, we have the Blundell exchange, where people could easily get on and off Highway 99 as well as the tunnel going down to the Delta area. All these infrastructure programs will be considered by the council that we will form and the government would then act upon its recommendations.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is quite fitting that the Minister of State for Multiculturalism just gave his speech, because he alluded to the connections that Canada has with other parts of the world through the expatriate communities within Canada.

I know that the Minister of State for Multiculturalism has done an extraordinary amount of work in engaging the communities here in Canada. That is why this bill is so important for him, his portfolio and the work he does with other ministers.

My question for him is a fairly simple one. What vision does the minister for multiculturalism have in regard to the importance of this bill vis-à-vis the connection we have with Canadians from many different ethnic backgrounds, particularly those who come from the Far East? What is his vision for utilizing those people who are Canadian citizens and have connections in the Far East? How does he see that role being played with respect to this bill in capitalizing on those markets?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to acknowledge the hon. member's contribution in promoting the development of the Prince Rupert container port. The member has been instrumental in alerting the B.C. caucus as well as the B.C. ministers of the importance of the Prince Rupert port development and how not only is it going to help develop the local economies up north, it is also going to help Canada develop another channel for our exports and our economic links to Asia. I acknowledge the member for his input and his contribution to that project, which is a key part of our Pacific gateway strategy.

On the issue of the different cultural and ethnic groups in Canada, I mentioned in my presentation that over three million Canadians are of Asian descent, particularly from China. There are close to 1.3 million Canadians who are of Chinese descent and close to one million Canadians who are from South Asia. They all have tremendous knowledge of those economies. They also know how to do business in those regions and have tremendous business and cultural links to those regions.

We all appreciate that the legal jurisdictions and legal systems in those countries are not perfect for trade right now, but at the same time it depends so much on our knowledge about their culture. Sometimes in doing business in that region a handshake is better than a contract. Canadians of Asian descent could help us build tremendous business opportunities and help our businesses reach out to those economies.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties concerning the debate scheduled for tomorrow in committee of the whole, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1. I believe you would find consent for the following motion:

That during the debate in committee of the whole on Tuesday, November 1, 2005, on Government Business No. 20, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Speaker, and that the duration of this debate be a maximum of five hours, not four.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, An Act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to share my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Kootenay—Columbia

I am happy to rise to discuss Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway legislation. I will be speaking in support of this legislation, but I take exception to what was said earlier about how it may be enough. I say it is actually too little and too late, but let us hope that we can salvage something out of it. We certainly do not want to stop what could be a productive move.

Across party lines, investing in Canada's trade capacity with Asia through a strong Pacific gateway should be a rallying point for us to all come together, but this legislation does not answer that call. The legislation is about delaying commitments, passing the buck while trying to take credit for simply talking about this issue.

The Pacific gateway concept has received much attention, and rightly so. Years of hard work by the British Columbia government, including the Ministry of Small Business and Economic Development and the Ministry of Transportation, as well as the BC Progress Board, a provincially nominated blue ribbon panel of experts, resulted in a comprehensive plan with detailed recommendations.

Instead of trusting the hard work and recommendations of British Columbians, the federal Liberal government has announced its own advisory council to help decide how to spend the $400 million announced in support of the Pacific gateway initiative.

This falls well short of the priorities identified by Premier Gordon Campbell's government. The B.C. plan recommends a $4.9 billion investment in British Columbia's transportation system over the next 10 years. The province is asking Ottawa to contribute on a fifty-fifty basis. The federal Liberals are once again late to the table and about $2.1 billion short. Also, the real work that needs to be done was once again ignored in this Liberal plan.

Let me speak of a few of the recommendations that were ignored. One is the Kicking Horse Pass project. Anyone who has driven through the Kicking Horse Pass realizes what a slowdown it is for freight, especially anyone who has driven through there behind a transport truck and ends up down at about 20 to 25 kilometres an hour. The recommendation was for $730 million to improve this corridor through the Golden and Yoho National Park area. The Liberals decided to ignore that, which is a very crucial part of moving not only people but freight through this pass.

The North Fraser Perimeter Road, at a cost of $250 million, was another recommendation. The B.C. government wanted “to improve the competitiveness of the region's integrated intermodal freight system”. This is essential. The province stated that this would be essential to expanding containerized freight in the lower mainland. There is a tremendous clustering of primary industries around there, but the federal Liberals forgot to recognize that this perimeter road is an integral part of that.

The Port Mann-Highway 1 primary east-west transportation route is another one. The recommendation was for $1.4 billion to improve this route. This is very critical to the freight related truck traffic that goes in and out of that very highly congested area.

Another one is the South Fraser Perimeter Road, at a recommended cost of $800 million. This also was forgotten. This was recognized as a primarily new, four-lane, high standard transportation corridor along the south shore of the Fraser River through the municipalities of Surrey and Delta.

Another is the New Westminster rail bridge, at an undetermined cost. The province has identified that this bridge, being 100 years old, is probably in need of repair. Once again, that recommendation was ignored.

Instead of all these real and important investments that British Columbia and Canada's exporters need, another advisory council of political patronage appointments was put in place, and probably the last thing we need is to discuss something that we all know is broken.

Canada's gateway to the Pacific does not need more bureaucracy. It needs action today.

Federal action needs to be consistent with its international trade strategy. That would be easier, of course, if there were an international trade strategy. What is the point of a gateway to nowhere?

Whether we travel by cargo ship, airplane, rail or road, the fastest way to get between two points starts with knowing where we want to go, but the federal government has not committed to a blueprint or a strategy or even a train of thought on Asia-Pacific trade in the last 12 years.

Canada has had to watch Liberals bounce from country to country, spouting the cliché of the day, trying to suck up to or aggravate the trading partner du jour. The long anticipated international policy statement was more of a rambling question on the issue of Asia.

There is passing recognition of China and India, only an acknowledgement of Japan, and then the ill-conceived selection of South Korea as Canada's entry point into Asia. This will be pursued by a free trade agreement that Canada's trade department is working on as we speak.

There are a few significant concerns in regard to the selection of South Korea. By their own admission, the Liberals have agreed that Canada's shipbuilding sector will be negatively hit.

Canada's auto industry also could be left reeling, as import controls on cheap Korean cars could bring unwelcome pressure on production and foreign investment.

So far, these seem like significant concerns for a free trade partner.

The trade potential with Japan far outweighs that of South Korea and Japan is a more complementary partner that builds on the shared commitment to democracy, human rights and free market economics.

The international policy statement described Japan as follows, “Japan remains the region's largest economy by a substantial margin, the most important investor in Asia, its financial hub, its leading industrial power, and a world leader in R&D”.

Why did we not think about a free trade agreement with Japan?

Japan is Canada's second largest export market and our largest source of foreign investment from Asia. No lasting success can be achieved in China or other dynamic Asian economies without involving Japan. As a result, this Liberal Prime Minister went out and started free talks with, let us guess, South Korea.

The Conservative leader, supported by his caucus, has repeatedly presented a bold vision for Canada's future economic relationship with Japan. Securing a free market access agreement with Japan will create jobs in Canada, bring the prosperity of trade back to our communities and increase our ability to share this wealth with the world.

The absence of a strong Asia-Pacific strategy has left our trade partners to question Canada's priorities and commitments.

Japan's ambassador to Canada was recently so mystified by the Prime Minister's trade plans that he felt compelled to go public with his country's frustrations at a press club speaking event. The ambassador publicly questioned the Liberal government's priorities and expressed disappointment in the failure to expand trade between Canada and Japan.

Said the ambassador, “it's important to see things in perspective. China and India are emerging economies, yes. At the same time in terms of the relative sizes of the economy, Japan's gross domestic product is three times that of China, five times that of Canada...”.

Once again, Liberals are hurting job creation and prosperity in Canada. We know that employment rates rise to the tune of about 11,000 new jobs for every billion dollars' worth of exports and it is shameful that export opportunities and jobs are being lost due to the Prime Minister's lack of perspective.

Despite the promise of export trade to Japan, Statistics Canada reported in May that Canadian export trade to Japan has dropped by 11.4% since the same month last year, a trend that has seen Canadian exports to Japan decline steadily since the 1990s.

There are a couple of points I would like to make very quickly. The government is not addressing the agriculture crisis. We have an opportunity to address one of the issues that impacts my producers, and that is a very slow system of exporting grain. We have congestion in the lower Fraser Valley. One rail line goes to Prince Rupert. The terminal in Prince Rupert works seasonally.

We think the government could have addressed some of these issues through the gateway legislation, but once again it has missed the target. We will not see improvements made to rail transportation or truck transportation that could benefit my producers.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member understands the intent of the bill, which is to capitalize on international trade markets that have not been capitalized on as of yet.

As a government, one of our responsibilities is to maximize the economic opportunities for our citizens. Right now 85% of our trade is with the United States. It has been by and large a mutually beneficial environment in which to work, notwithstanding things such as softwood lumber. It is important for us as a government to capitalize on other international markets in order to maximize economic opportunities here at home.

As a small country of 30 million plus individuals, we have to trade in order to maintain our standard of living. We have no other luxury but to move forward, to evolve and to maximize the opportunities we have abroad.

Does the member not see that the Pacific gateway strategy will benefit his constituency and many of those of his colleagues? It will maximize our trade opportunities with Asian markets. We do not have the luxury to not capitalize on those markets. The bill and the infrastructure development and investment on behalf of Canadians would maximize those opportunities. If we do not do that, we will be left behind the eight ball and our exporters and private sector will be unable to capitalize on those markets.

Does he not see that the bill is an essential initiative on the part of our government? It would ensure that our exporters and private sector would be on a level playing field, at the very least, or preferably on the upper edge to capitalize on those markets and create jobs at home. It also would provide us with a tax base to provide moneys for such things as health care, which he no doubt cares deeply about as we all do.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I only wish I had time to repeat my speech because not once during my entire speech did I ever say that these investments were the wrong thing to do. I said they were not enough. I would like to hear the comments from the B.C. premier who put forward a far more aggressive gateway initiative. The member's government has missed the point.

When we speak of opportunities, we have failed in the last 12 years. It has only been in the last three months that the Prime Minister has spoken publicly about the fact that we should look outside our largest trading partner, the United States, for those opportunities. The hon. member suggests that I do not understand that fact. It is absolutely critical to not only grain producers in my riding. Beef producers and manufacturers of all sorts of products would benefit from having expanded trade to the Asian market. However, we need a way to get it there. That is where the government has missed the point.

We are still going to be plowing through a two lane road in the Kicking Horse Pass. When I say plowing, it is literally plowing four months of the year. The two lane road, snowplows and freight trucks do not mix. One simply has to take a drive through there in the wintertime, sit for hours on end and wait for the avalanches to be cleared. This has not been addressed in the gateway proposal. We realize we will be unable to double track CP or CN rail lines immediately. However, putting sidings in where we can increase the capacity of those rail lines would help. Those issues are not addressed in the bill.

There are a lot of failures in the legislation. I never suggested we were not doing the right thing. I am very adamant that we are not doing enough.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the chair of the B.C. caucus for the official opposition. The B.C. caucus has been seized with this the entire time we have had the opportunity to represent the good people of British Columbia. Interestingly though, this is not just a British Columbia issue. This is an issue for all of Canada, as I said previously in some questions and comments.

The fact that we cannot easily get our imports and exports flowing off of the west coast of Canada is an issue for all Canadians, as I mentioned to the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism. While in another parliament, as secretary of state for Asia-Pacific, he boasted about the fact he went to Asia. The Liberal government has been around for the last 12 or 13 years. What has it done?

I could not possibly agree more with the member who just spoke. He said “too little, too late”. I can only hope that it is not too late.

The Government of Canada has been pushed almost mercilessly by the province of British Columbia and our caucus on this issue. On October 21 the Government of Canada announced a $590 million Pacific gateway strategy. Let us take a look at the $590 million strategy and what this legislation represents.

The main elements were up to $125 million over five years in transportation infrastructure. Of the $125 million, $90 million is for one project alone, the Pitt River Bridge and Mary Hill interchange to replace the pair of swing bridges that are unable to handle traffic volumes during peak hours. That is $30 million over four years. By my math, that comes down to $7.5 million a year for the construction of a number of new road rail separations within the rail corridor from Mission/Matsqui to Deltaport and a contribution toward an environmental assessment of the proposed south Fraser perimeter road.

It costs in the neighbourhood of $15 million per overhead railway crossing. The $7.5 million a year would mean two more overhead rail crossings in a very busy corridor where trains are a mile and a half long, which effectively cut Langley in half and all the other places where they are at ground level crossings. The $590 million suddenly is coming up a little short. Up to $35 million over five years is to fund the secretariat for the new Pacific gateway council. This is another bureaucracy that we do not need.

An additional $400 million is for future initiatives to develop and exploit the Pacific gateway, including initiatives and response to recommendations of the Pacific gateway council. Of the $590 million, at this point only $125 million, plus $35 million for a total of $160 million has been earmarked. The $400 million will be spent at some future point in time, if we can get around to it.

In fairness this is something and it is going in the correct direction. However, to give the province of British Columbia credit and to a certain extent to the Conservative official opposition from British Columbia, it is something that is finally being announced by the government. It is amazing that it has taken so long.

Over the past two years, the British Columbia government has made numerous visits to Ottawa and two major submissions seeking Canada's commitment to a comprehensive Asia-Pacific strategy. As Canada's only Pacific province, British Columbians know first-hand that Asia looms large in Canada's future domestically as well as internationally.

Until recently, however, the fundamental shift taking place in the global economy was slow to register on the rest of the country and certainly slow to register here in Ottawa. With Asia occupying an increasingly central role in global commerce, it is a region vital to Canada's future prosperity. Because of the west coast's location, uniquely increasing Asian credentials is the ideal North American gateway for trans-Pacific commerce, trade, transportation and cultural links.

The projected growth in marine traffic is quite unprecedented. By 2020, Asia Pacific container traffic is projected to increase 300%. This anticipated growth is validated by today's growth experience. Pacific gateway ports handle half of Canada's maritime exports and 85% of the western provinces' marine exports from grain, coal, forest products, petroleum and petrochemicals. Currently, this trade equals approximately $35 billion a year in trade and contributes approximately $4 billion annually in economic output to the Canadian economy.

What fundamentally has happened is this has occurred in spite of the federal Liberals. Shame on them because they should have been paying attention long before now. They have had 12 years. They have dragged their heels on this and only now have been dragged into this.

However, the Pacific gateway transportation system faces several challenges. Container traffic through ports in British Columbia is expected to quadruple by 2020 and has already triggered a need for more than $1.5 billion in terminal developments in the province. The federal government had only committed to $590 million. At this point, it has not keyed any of that $590 million to this $1.5 billion in terminal developments in the province.

The rapid growth in traffic is putting pressure on the port system. Shippers have serious concerns about the condition, capability and future reliability of ports, road and rail services and infrastructure. Bottlenecks already are causing some shippers to reroute traffic through the Panama Canal to east coast ports, including Canadian east coast ports. I guess there is a bit of salvation there, except for the fact that a major amount of the traffic that is currently being rerouted is being routed into Seattle, Tacoma, Long Beach, all the way down the coast. We are losing business in Canada because of the lethargy and slowness of the federal Liberals to react to this.

Our current share of west coast container traffic is about 1.8 million TEUs. A TEU is a standard 20 foot equivalent unit steel ocean shipping container or 9% of North American traffic. The rest goes to the United States. Our port strategy targets 8 million to 9 million TEUs and that is a 16% to 17% market share compared to 9% today.

In spite of the federal Liberals dragging their feet, the opportunities amazingly are still there. However, in real terms we are faced with challenges as a result, not only because of the lack of attention that the Liberals have paid in coming forward with this specific initiative but also with respect to the Minister of Transport. The Minister of Transport basically has dragged his feet on the issue of the borrowing capacity of the port of Vancouver, thereby effectively tying its hands.

As was pointed out by my colleague from Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, the critic for transportation, the port of Vancouver borrowing capacity should be limitless, that is, it should be to a business plan put together by the people on the ground who know these issues best, the Fraser River Port Authority, the dredging capacity, everything.

The Prime Minister has the audacity to say that he will deal with western alienation. He will pay attention to what goes on in the west. With respect to this bill, I am glad he has at least opened one eye and rolled over.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to our Conservative colleague. First of all, I want to say that the Bloc supports Bill C-68.

The gateway is an interesting concept and increased trade with Asia is not bad in and of itself. However, we must take into consideration the negative impact on workers in traditional industries.The federal government must provide better support to manufacturers in the furniture, textile and apparel industries. They are having trouble competing with their new Asian counterparts who have access to a cheap pool of labour, and this is threatening the viability of some of our companies.

My question is for my Conservative colleague. Along with Canada's Pacific gateway strategy, does he not believe that the current Liberal government should be more sensitive in order to support, assist and help our industries weakened by competition from Asia?

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I understand exactly what my friend from the Bloc Québécois was referring to.

I see this as being a fantastic opportunity for trade, to broaden our ability to get into the world of trade and to broaden our capacity to trade with people other than the United States which we are dependent upon for 85% of the trade as far as our economy is concerned. As a consequence, I apologize to my friend because I am not clear on exactly what it is that he was referring to.

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4:15 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a bit about trade with China and India. Before I do, though, I would like to thank the last two speakers for complimenting our Liberal colleagues in British Columbia.

As we know, before the Prime Minister became Prime Minister he talked about opening these burgeoning markets with Asia, in particular India and China which are growing so fast. Therefore we are putting our emphasis on trade to those areas.

In my riding in Yukon we have a very strong Philippine association, a very strong Chinese association and a large component from India. Our multiculturalism policy, giving them equal stature in our economy, emphasizes their potential in our economy. We therefore are excited about this initiative.

Could the member elaborate a bit on the potential trade with India and China?

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to do that but he should not misunderstand my comments. I am critical of the Liberal members in the province of British Columbia for not being able to drive this Liberal government, first under Chrétien and now under the existing Prime Minister, to anything more than getting the Prime Minister to kind of roll over and get one eye open, which represents this particular initiative. I am afraid he has mistaken some of my comments as being compliments for the Liberals in British Columbia.

With respect to India and China, I think trade is absolutely vital. There can be no question that they are developing economies. I am particularly interested in India. We hear an awful lot about China, and it speaks for itself, but with India being the democracy that it is, as opposed to some of the concerns that we have about some of the issues in China, we should be opening up even more in the area of India, dealing with the democracy and with people with whom we have, perhaps, more in common. It will be good for our consumers and for our business in Canada which, in turn. will be good for the people in those countries.

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, my constituents of Newton--North Delta have been asking for a very long time for the expansion of South Fraser Perimeter Road, a tunnel to be built in North Delta. We have Fraser docks in my riding. We have a huge movement of people and goods. I had a lengthy question I wanted to--

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia.