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House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.

Topics

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Kildonan--St. Paul, Copyright Act; the hon. member for Langley, Justice; the hon. member for Prince Albert, Softwood Lumber.

We are now on questions and comments. The hon. member for Fort McMurray--Athabasca.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that we have problems with infrastructure all across this country, especially in places such as British Columbia and Alberta and even in Fort McMurray where 98% of this great country's oil is located. There is a single lane highway going in and out of Fort McMurray which some 30,000 to 70,000 people travel on frequently. We do have an infrastructure deficit.

I would like my friend to comment on some of the issues that were brought up by the previous speaker when he said that this government had been firm with our trading partners.

I started to add up the issues in my head. There is the softwood issue. The government has thrown loop into Bill C-64 by trying to stall it for guarantees for the softwood industry. The government says it has been firm with the United States with respect to our cattle industry. There is also the safety issue around shipping in Atlantic Canada that has been brought up by some of our members. The fishing industry is an absolute failure with the U.S. and other countries.

Other issues the government says it has been firm on with respect to the United States are textiles, wheat and especially the environment, for instance, sumas energy 2, which our caucus, especially the member for Langley, has been so adamant in trying to fix with the U.S.

I fail to see where our government has been firm with the United States with respect to acid rain, the Great Lakes and Devils Lake. Could my friend enlighten me as far as the Liberal government's firmness is concerned during any of the years it has been in office?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I indeed have the same problem that the hon. member has. I have been looking for some indication of firmness, some action that may have taken place since the Bush administration arbitrarily ripped up the dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA. I have not seen a single example.

As the hon. member well knows, it took two months for the government to make a phone call. We have seen from the government absolutely no action, even though the NDP's three point plan called for an immediate recall of Parliament which did not happen. We have been calling for an end to the continued negotiations on NAFTA plus.

At the same time, as the dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA has been ripped up, we are seeing the government sit down and continue to negotiate concessions with the Bush administration. It is unbelievable that at the same time as we are purportedly upset with the Bush administration, we have the government negotiating further concessions in some 300 areas, including vital areas like food safety and air safety.

We called for an end to those concessions, those continued negotiations, and nothing has happened there. The government is continuing every day to negotiate further concessions with the Bush administration.

We called for an export levy on our energy exports because energy has been part and parcel of the negotiations around dispute settlement. In fact, as the member well knows, in the very early days of the free trade agreement and with NAFTA, our objective purportedly was to obtain a dispute settlement mechanism that would be binding and at the same time the American objective was to have privileged proportional access to our energy.

The Bush administration has that. In fact, we supply the American market before we can supply our own. In the event of a national emergency where we reduce supply most of our energy supplies will still go to the United States. Yet, the government has done nothing on that front either. There has been absolutely no action.

What has been disturbing, and I know the hon. member shares my concern, is that there has been very little support for the industries most affected. The only option seems to be litigation which is the second worst thing possible, but at least, given that the industries are getting that support from the government, this would be something that would help support them. However, the government is not allowing the bill to go through to actually provide some support for the litigation for those companies.

The second disturbing development is the open statements in the House that have indicated that it is no longer $5 billion that the government is pushing the Bush administration to repay regarding the punitive levies that we saw through the Byrd amendment, but only $3.5 billion.

Therefore, we are already sending a very clear signal from the government that we are conceding even before there is any negotiation. It is unbelievable that we are reducing already the bar on moneys that clearly, through the binding dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA, should be coming back to Canada.

I have real concerns about the lack of firmness of the government and its indication of posturing and speechifying rather than dealing with the fundamental issue. If we were to negotiate away the dispute settlement mechanism for the softwood industry, any other sector could be impacted similarly. If we do not stand up, if the government does not stand up for Canadian rights, then we are going to experience similar problems in other sectors.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member from Fort McMurray brought to this House's attention the SE2 issue and the fight. I appreciate his hard work in this House and also bringing attention to SE2. It is very important to the Fraser Valley.

The question that I have relates to the presentation by the member for Burnaby--New Westminster. He was speaking in relationship to the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery report. He said that he is concerned about the culture of entitlement and that this government has not cleaned up its act.

This has been a concern in this House since the Auditor General's report of two years ago, November 2003. We have said all along that there has been a huge problem with entitlement, corruption, and improper use of taxpayer money. He is quite right that there is a huge problem.

Why is his party supporting the Liberal government and supporting the loss of moral right to govern this country? It is his party that has bolstered up this government. Then he expressed a concern about the advisory board, the appointment process, the cronyism and the patronage.

Again, why is he permitting this to go on? It is his party that is keeping this ongoing problem, which is a huge problem for Canada.

He talked about the infrastructure needs. He is absolutely right. I think Canadians are very suspect about recent political announcements that there will be $590 million coming for the gateway project. It is an incredibly important project, the gateway project, for not only B.C. but for Canada because the goods will be moving out of the west coast for all of Canada. He shared his concern about the infrastructure moneys being just a token, and I agree.

The three concerns that he had are legitimate concerns. I agree with them. Yet, when there is an opportunity to hold this government accountable, he does not hold the government accountable and so it is just words.

Why does he keep propping up this government and preventing--

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster. Very briefly, please.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to respond briefly to a question like that.

Very clearly, the hon. member is referring back to last spring. There were two votes on the budget. The first vote was on $4.6 billion in corporate tax breaks and the Conservative Party chose to maintain the government at that time. We were opposed.

Then, after talking and knocking on doors in my communities of Burnaby and New Westminster, I got very broad feedback that people in my communities wanted Justice Gomery to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal. They did not want an election at that time. Very responsibly, in this corner of the House, we moved forward to push this government to, instead of dumping $4.6 billion on the wealthy corporate sector, actually invest in housing, post-secondary education accessibility for people across this country, the environment and foreign aid.

We forced the government to do that and we voted to maintain the government at that time. Ever since then, as the hon. member well knows, there has not been a confidence vote in the House. We are as appalled by this report as any other Canadian is. It is a catalogue of the type of mismanagement and corruption that is not permissible in this country.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear the member for Burnaby—New Westminster talk. On the one hand he is worried about an advisory council. At the same time he is worried about government decisions. He is worried about $190 million being dedicated to worthy causes of necessary infrastructure, that it is too much, but now he says we need $5 billion worth of infrastructure in British Columbia. I am a bit confused by his confusion.

Let me respond to his initial observation that the Gomery inquiry suggests that we cannot trust our government, that somehow there is something scandalous going on across government. Mr. Justice Gomery says that in general, the administration of government programs by the federal bureaucracy is competent and praiseworthy, a conclusion that has been emphasized by the Auditor General herself. He goes on to say:

The fact that the Inquiry has been held demonstrates that in this country persons at even the highest levels of government are accountable for their actions, not only to Parliament but also to the citizenry....Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians do their work honestly, diligently and effectively, and emerge from this Inquiry free of any blame.

Therefore, I would suggest to my honourable friend that he relax with respect to his concern.

My question is with respect to his observation on infrastructure. Is he aware that over the last eight years the government has expended over $12 billion in infrastructure through the Canada works program, through the Canada provincial infrastructure programs, through the border infrastructure programs, through the highways infrastructure programs and now through the rebates to cities of the GST and the $5 billion on top of the $12.5 billion that goes to cities through rebates on the return of gas taxes?

In what sort of a state does the hon. member think we live? I look across at my Conservative friends and sometimes, when I listen to them, I think we live in a failed state. In fact, we are one of the most successful countries in the world. I look at our friends across from the Bloc and I think we live in a foreign state. Now I hear from our friends in the NDP such things on infrastructure and I think they think we live in a fantasy state.

Does the member for Burnaby—New Westminster think we are living in a fantasy state?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister has raised many questions. I will start with the last one first.

He is well aware, the New Democratic Party administrations have the best financial fiscal period return record of any party in the country and that comes from the Department of Finance. It is not New Democrats saying that, it is Liberals saying that. They have analyzed from 1981 to 2001 the actual fiscal period returns, not the budget, not the smoke and mirrors. The Liberal administrations had the worst record over that period. Eighty-five per cent of the time they were in deficit. Conservatives were only a bit better. Two-thirds of the time they are in deficit.

Every time the NDP projects a surplus, most of the time we get it right and that is why we are the party of realism. We believe there have to be appropriate financial mechanisms of control and that the money is there to invest. We would never approve $4.6 billion for the corporate sector, which has experienced record profits, when our post-secondary institutions are closed, when our health care system is in crisis, when homelessness has tripled in the greater Vancouver area alone and increased across the country. We have 1.1 million poor kids across the country and we have infrastructure needs that have not been addressed in--

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Resuming debate, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport).

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Western Economic Diversification and Minister of State (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on behalf on Bill C-68, which is something that is quite extraordinary in the modern history of Canada. It recognizes that the west of Canada, British Columbia, is the gateway to the Asia-Pacific, which is an extraordinary area of the globe in terms of growth, population, immigration and part of the very special makeup and diversity of the country itself. British Columbia is being recognized as the gateway for a national project.

The Pacific gateway is something that is good for every Canadian. There are three billion people in the Pacific Asian market who are building a middle class. With 250 million people who now have joined the middle income ranks of the Chinese population, they are looking to purchase goods and resources to build their extraordinary economy that is growing at 10% a year, and has for almost the last 20 years.

The gateway concept is extremely important. We are trying it out. The concept understands that for economic growth, prosperity, tourism and the quality of life in our country, we have to take advantage of gateways to the world. There is a gateway in southern Ontario to the United States and a gateway in Halifax over to Europe. We will be developing more gateways on this model as it develops.

However, let me just mention a few aspects of this important Pacific gateway. First, it will deal with infrastructure. We have heard some comments about inadequate infrastructure. The federal government has invested over the last 10 years some $12 billion to $13 billion in infrastructure along with and in partnership with provincial and municipal governments. That is leveraged to over $30 billion of infrastructure.

The government leads on the concept of infrastructure. When the Pacific gateway initiative was announced by the Minister of Transport last month, he said that $590 million would be the down payment, the same words that the Prime Minister used, on future infrastructure needs. However, we are starting out in a cautious way to prove the model and to ensure that these investments are in the very most needed and important ways.

It will deal with border infrastructure, security and efficiency at the border. We must have both. That means high technology. It means expanding our border services, and that will come out of this Pacific gateway initiative.

We know the demographics of the country demand that we increase our immigration, not only in numbers but also to ensure that those people are paired with the necessary skills needed and when they have foreign skills and training, that they receive appropriate certification as soon as possible on integrating into Canada.

There are the cultural, skills, border and transportation links. Harmonization of standards is extraordinarily important and this Pacific gateway initiative addresses that. The money is only a start. We know the British Columbia Greater Vancouver Gateway Council, which has been a sectoral transportation council for the last eight years, has identified many projects that will decrease the congestion, particularly around the movement of goods around the greater Vancouver area. This will start to address, in partnership with the provincial government of British Columbia, some of those very desperate needs.

However, it will go beyond that. It will go to increasing the port facilities at Prince Rupert. Last April the government made the announcement of an investment of $30 million into a container facility in Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert is an extraordinary place in terms of this Pacific gateway.

Prince Rupert, as I think many people know, is the deepest port on the west coast of North America. It has a sheltered, ice-free harbour, but it has clearance to it through the south of Haida Gwaii. Most important, it is close to Asia. If we look at the configuration of the continents as well as the curvature of the earth, it puts Prince Rupert 40 hours by ship closer than Seattle and Vancouver to major Asian ports.

Vancouver itself a major part of the gateway at the current time, is itself over 50 hours closer to Shanghai by ship than is the port of Los Angeles.

We have tremendous aspects to our gateway concept that merely need to be invested in and developed to provide greater employment, investment and trade and therefore a higher quality of life for people across our country.

The previous speaker spoke about the gateway council. He had some difficulty with it, although I am not sure why. The way it is set up in the bill, and I am glad to see he is supporting it in general, it is widely representative. It would include transportation sectors, the environment sector, the aboriginal community, appointments recommended or made in consultation with the four western provinces and representatives from municipalities in the various advisory committees of this council.

This is an extremely important recognition of the reality of new governance, which goes beyond any one government getting its own act together or even coordinating well with other levels of government. It goes out to civil society, to business, to the professions and to our research and teaching universities. Quoting from the bill, clause 5(b):

promote consensus among interested stakeholders and raise awareness among decision makers regarding solutions to problems identified by the Council;

What could be more conciliatory and collaborative? However, it goes on in clause 5(c):

promote collaboration, engagement and complementarity of activities with existing networks of stakeholders that have an interest in the Asia-Pacific region or Canada’s Pacific gateway.

What could be a better example of the reality of modern governance, of bringing the ideas from the people who are most involved to government for consideration through their recommendations.

The history of the Pacific gateway did not start last month when this initiative was first announced. This has been going on for some period of time.

There are 300,000 people of Chinese ancestry who live in British Columbia and a further 300,000 from other Asian countries with Asian descent. This is an extremely important competitive advantage of our country. Our multicultural makeup itself is an advantage in our trading relationships.

A project that has gone on since 2002, through my department, Western Economic Diversification, also is called Gateway to Asia. It was started to link new immigrant entrepreneurs from Asian countries with manufacturers and suppliers in British Columbia in order to take advantage of two things. The first is the need for new markets, and previous speakers have mentioned the need to diversify our markets. The second is to link back to those networks, those contacts that new Asian entrepreneurs have with existing manufacturing companies in British Columbia. Now that has spread into Alberta and it will spread across the west.

In the first two years of that gateway project with the Immigrant Services Society's success in Vancouver, a very outstanding organization, over 750 companies signed up in British Columbia for that link with Asian entrepreneurs. They did over $4 million worth of business in those first two years. That has now gone up to $6 million in the third year with over 900 companies engaged in that process. That is a previous gateway initiative.

We know the Canadian Tourism Commission is being moved from Ottawa to Vancouver to take advantage of the fact that not only will we be hosting the 2010 Olympics, but that Vancouver has been named year after year the most livable city and one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world.

That is very significant, and certainly this expanded gateway initiative will add measurably, and even immeasurably, to the tourism potential of all of Canada, but through this gateway in many cases. We have negotiated and are close to concluding with the Chinese government the assured destination status, which will lead to potentially hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists a year coming to Canada. That is another aspect of this gateway.

Let me say as well that we have an organization created in 1984 by the Liberal government under Prime Minister Trudeau and called the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. This is an extraordinary foundation, a research and cultural communication institution that has recently been given a $50 million endowment by the Government of Canada so that it can enhance, in research into economic, cultural and social issues, our relationship to the Asia Pacific countries. This complements perfectly this new Asia Pacific gateway concept.

Let me say with respect to the gateway, if I may, that there is an extremely talented 92 year old artist from Vancouver, John Koerner, who started a Pacific gateway series in his art in 1979, so that while we all claim credit and pride in this new Pacific gateway concept, it has been in this fantastic artist's mind for some time. He has produced some of the most extraordinary art in Canada. I should declare my interest here. He is my father-in-law. He continues to paint very prolifically on this great theme.

I will conclude these introductory remarks by talking a bit about what is happening in China. The port of Shanghai at the moment is one of the top three ports in the world for container shipments. Per year, it ships 15 million TEUs, twenty-foot equivalent units, out of Shanghai. Over the next four years, that will expand to 32 million TEUs. Where are they going to go?

China is now building ships that are too large to go through the Panama Canal. They will come to the new infrastructure in the ports of Vancouver, as well as the other ports of British Columbia, Canada's west ports, including this extraordinary capacity which can be built up in Prince Rupert.

Not only is Prince Rupert a deep port with unconstricted access and much closer to Asia than any other port of the Americas, it is also uncongested by population or geography. It is connected by the CN network of railroads, some of the best-run railroads in the world, right across to Edmonton, to Winnipeg, into the Sault and the Great Lakes system, down the St. Lawrence,over to the east coast, down through Chicago and the Midwest, down to Louisiana and the gulf, and out to the east coast and New Jersey.

Thus, literally, this gateway, coming through B.C. ports, which of course have both CN and CP, will link Asia not only to all of Canada but right through the United States and even on to Europe through this great increase in container traffic. The opportunities are limitless.

In concluding these remarks in terms of diversification, which we hear a lot about--and my department of course is western economic diversification--I would suggest that we have to diversify in a number of areas. Obviously we have to diversify in markets.

To my amazement, the member for Burnaby--New Westminster decried the importance of NAFTA. I am sure that if he were to realize the trade surplus that we have with the United States, which is quite extraordinary, he would think twice before he downgrades or degrades our relationship with the United States and the wealth that it brings to Canadians, to the strength of our economy and therefore our quality of life.

We must diversify. The softwood lumber dispute shows why not to replace trade with the U.S., because that will continue to grow to the benefit of Canadians, but to provide other opportunities, and of course Asia is one of those great opportunities.

There is a new community on the outskirts of Shanghai, a suburb of Shanghai, which is a demonstration project for British Columbia designed and engineered homes, using British Columbia softwood. It is developing houses for the Shanghai market, which I am sure members know is growing at a tremendous rate. It is one of the largest cities in the world, perhaps the largest, with a greater Shanghai population of approximately 29 million people.

The diversification of markets is critical. We also have to diversify up the value chain to add value to our raw materials. Part of the boom and bust modern history of western Canada has been the problem of the fluctuations in international commodity markets. Of course commodities by definition are low value added and large quantity, with a very narrow profit margin.

I will end with this. With those narrow profit margins, they are boom and bust in the swings of commodity prices, so we must add value to add employment to Canada, of course, but also to have broader profit margins that withstand those commodity price fluctuations. That is another aspect of this diversification. Of course, those products that we are adding value to will be shipped back in containers to Asia. It is obvious arithmetic that if we can fill a container for both ways, we cut its price in half.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 2nd, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties concerning the tabling and adoption of the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, concerning the membership of committees, and I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

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

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 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?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 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

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech that was made by my colleague from Vancouver Quadra, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification.

I think Bill C-68 is actually a typical Liberal bill in the sense that it is everything and nothing at the same time. The bill does not actually prescribe solving any of the solutions that the port of Vancouver in British Columbia faces in creating a Pacific gateway. What the Liberals are doing is setting up a body so that if they are ever asked about what they are doing about the Pacific gateway, they can say they are doing everything because this body might consider it someday.

The government is not actually addressing some of the specific issues that are of concern to the Pacific gateway, like allowing the ports of Vancouver on the lower mainland to merge, eliminating the cap on borrowing, and allowing them to issue tax exempt bonds dealing with dredging on the Fraser River.

The minister will get up, I am sure, and say that this body will study it and advise the government. The government has been in power for 13 years. We need specific action on these things. I want to ask him other questions in his capacity as the Minister of Western Economic Diversification. In my riding, there are a lot of transportation issues that need a lot funding. They need a lot of support from the federal government.

I have been an elected member of Parliament for going on five years now and I have been persistently dogging the government, trying to get some commitment from it on issues such as the Mary Hill bypass, the traffic jams we are seeing on Lougheed Highway, and the problems we are seeing at the Cape Horn interchange and the Coast Meridian overpass in Port Coquitlam. They need support from the federal government. We need assistance with East Road in Anmore, which is seeing real problems with degradation due to summer traffic, with people going up to Bunsen Lake and into the interior during summer vacation time.

We also need general support for the northeast sector. The RAV line for the 2010 Olympics has received a lot of publicity and a lot of attention from the federal government. It just so happens that it goes through the minister's riding. I am sure that is a coincidence.

The northeast sector of the lower mainland, where I am from, is the fastest growing area of British Columbia. We have huge housing starts happening in Heritage Mountain, in downtown Port Moody along Murray Street, on the south side. All kinds of housing is going in there. The north side of Port Coquitlam is one of the fastest growing communities in all of Canada and the fastest in British Columbia. We have received no support from this federal Liberal government. Even when Liberal member of Parliament Lou Sekora represented my riding in this House, we got no attention whatsoever from this federal Liberal government.

We have a light rail project that is supposed to connect the Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam Centre. We have asked for federal support for it and have received no feedback whatsoever. We have asked for support for West Coast Express so it can continue its expansion to service my constituents and there has been no response on that.

I am going to specifically ask the Minister of Western Economic Diversification, who has done nothing for the northeast sector of the lower mainland, how is this bill going to help my community? The $590 million the Liberals announced had no specific projects in mind. There are a lot of projects in my riding that need attention and the Liberal government has not paid them any mind or any just dues at all.

On behalf of my constituents, I want an answer from this minister. I enumerated all the projects: the Mary Hill bypass, the Lougheed Highway, the Cape Horn interchange, the Coast Meridian overpass, assistance for East Road, assistance for Ioco Road, the light rail that is being proposed, and the support for West Coast Express. Ours is the fastest growing area with a lot of traffic congestion. We need support. Can the minister please rise in the House and tell me if any one of these projects will receive any support from this federal government?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course the member knows that the infrastructure program, which yes, is administered by my department, Western Economic Diversification, in western Canada, is set up so that three levels of government make decisions together. In fact, the ideas come from the local level on most of those infrastructure programs. The strategic ones may be provincial and federal, but they are then done with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

I would suggest to the hon. member that if his constituency is not getting proper attention, then perhaps it is not getting proper representation either because these programs are from the bottom up. He can get together with local mayors in the area and he can go to the provincial government. Of course, all of the issues that he mentioned come under provincial, municipal or regional jurisdiction. They do not come under federal jurisdiction. The federal infrastructure programs have been outside of what is federal jurisdiction, but they are leveraged funds so that it is available for municipalities to pick their own projects that they want to promote.

I suggest to the hon. member that he should be speaking to both provincial and municipal representatives to see why they have not brought these projects forward.

I recall that the hon. member and his party were chastised in the last election for being against the gas tax and the new deal for cities. In fact, the major mayors across the country came forward with great concern before the last election in 2004 because the Conservative Party would not be following through with the infrastructure programs and the new deal for cities.

There is a lot of money going from the federal government to these projects, which are not the jurisdiction and responsibility of the federal government but do allow for the increase in infrastructure right across the country to a great degree.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the comments of my colleague, the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, and the answers from the minister, what I heard was the minister saying the mayors are not doing their job. That could not be further from the truth. My colleague from Port Moody has been incredibly hard-working and the mayors have been incredibly hard-working. The body that has not been there has been the federal government.

I also sit on a task force. It deals with my riding of Langley. It is a task force to deal with the rail traffic going through Langley. Langley has five crossings. When we have these 15,000 foot trains going through Langley, every one of those crossings is blocked at the same time. Sometimes the trains have even stopped and we cannot have any movement of traffic. Emergency vehicles get trapped. It is very dangerous.

We have been asking for support. With Deltaport, it is very important. We have these containers coming to service Canada and we need to have proper movement of rail. We have been asking for help from the federal government.

In a minute I will be asking for a response from the minister on what kind of promises we can have. We cannot have the excuse that the mayors are not doing anything. They are at that task force. The mayors of Langley have been working hard. There are two mayors in Langley. We have Langley township and city. We have every stakeholder at that table. We have been working hard on it, trying to find solutions.

We need some money. We heard the announcement that there will be $30 million to cover rail crossings between Masqui and Deltaport. That is not enough. One rail crossing is going to cost $30 million. In Langley alone we need five.

What is the federal government going to do? We have all the stakeholders there at the table. The mayors and I are all working hard. What is the federal government going to do that will be sufficient?

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a good point. Grade separation would deal with the issue of traffic congestion while long trains go by.

However I find it a little strange that we are getting apparent criticism of this bill when the bill is meant to address some of these very issues. We have now attributed $190 million of the first $590 million to deal with some of these issues that are most pressing and are most obvious. We have another $400 million, for which we will be looking for recommendations coming out of these broadly representative, including municipal, provincial and a full range of stakeholder committees and advisory councils, to deal with some of these very things.

From everything I have heard so far I would think that every member in the House would be roundly supporting the bill. We should make sure we get going.

As I said in my opening remarks, this has been described as just a down payment. We look forward to working with the hon. member and the people of the Langley area to ensure the grade separations needed there are dealt with.

With respect to the member's comments, I was not suggesting that the local mayors were not representing their people properly. I was suggesting that the hon. member who made the previous statement was not properly representing his constituency in ensuring that the issues that he claims are so important, and I believe they are, are brought forward as infrastructure projects by the province and by the local municipalities.

The $12.5 billion for infrastructure, then the $700 million GST rebate and now the $5 billion for gas tax, we are looking for decisions to come from the bottom up, with the three levels of government agreeing on the due diligence and such.

A lot needs to be done in terms of the new governance and different levels of government getting together so that these local needs, whether they are a provincial or a federal responsibility, are properly looked after together.

Pacific Gateway ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-68, an act to support development of Canada's Pacific gateway. That is what the bill is called, but upon reflection, the bill is much like any other Liberal bill and many other Liberal actions. It is misnamed. It is rhetoric with little action to back up the words. Perhaps a better name for this bill would have been an act to appear to support development of Canada's Pacific gateway, without actually doing much of anything. The bill does little to support actual development of Canada's Pacific gateway.

Instead, the bill sets up an official federal advisory council, most of the members of which are to be appointed by the Prime Minister. Based on what we have seen with recent patronage appointments by the government, I am not optimistic about the promise of the Prime Minister to end cronyism with the introduction of this bill.

Nor am I confident that Bill C-68 is the solution to this issue. However this tiny step forward is all we have had from this government in 12 years, so we will take what we can get.

In truth, there is little need for a new advisory panel to attempt to reinvent the wheel. The B.C. government has already studied the issue in depth and produced the B.C. Ports Strategy. While the government continues to dither over Bill C-68, the province of B.C. produced its final plan for the ports back in March.

Let us take a look at what the B.C. government has already set as its vision and goals.

Its vision is for British Columbia to become the leading gateway for Asia-Pacific trade and the most competitive port system on the west coast of the Americas. Achieving this vision will enable the port system to contribute an additional $6.6 billion each year in economic output to the Canadian economy by 2020, with $4.7 billion of that accruing to British Columbia.

The number of ports related jobs in B.C. will grow from 18,000 now to 50,000 by 2020, with the value of wages rising from the present $1 billion to $2.7 billion annually.

By 2020, British Columbia's port system will have: an international reputation for a secure, world-class port system with exemplary service performance from dockside to customer; state of the art port terminals that use an appropriate mix of technology and people; the needs of industry and local communities in balance while preserving the environment and ensuring safety and security; one consistent region-wide approach to infrastructure planning and development with integration across the entire supply chain, avoiding duplication and overlap; a common policy approach across all levels of government that treats the port system as a strategic asset and economic generator, stimulating investment; and finally, a growing, productive and prosperous workforce.

The growth in B.C. ports is going to happen in three areas. First, through maximizing Asia-Pacific container traffic growth opportunities. Second, through maximizing export and regional growth opportunities. Third, through maximizing B.C.s position as a world cruise destination.

That is a great vision and one that is achievable and yet it is going to require significant investment. Absolutely essential is the need to expand our port capacity and transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, the transport minister has offered only a pittance so far from the federal side.

While the $590 million recently announced for roads and bridges is desperately needed and long overdue, much more is needed. The B.C. Ministry of Transportation has outlined a list of priorities that are needed right now to deal with the gridlock and congestion. Among these are the proposed Port Mann-Highway 1 project, which includes twinning the Port Mann Bridge, upgrading interchanges and improving access and safety on Highway 1 from Vancouver to Langley.

The project provides for extending HOV lanes to Langley, allows for transit over the Port Mann Bridge and includes cyclist facilities across the new structure. It will relieve severe congestion impacting commuters and the large number of commercial vehicles that rely on this route, the lower mainland's primary truck route.

Another project is the North Fraser Perimeter Road, which is a proposed set of improvements on existing roads to provide an efficient, continuous route from New Westminster to Maple Ridge.

TransLink is responsible for the section through New Westminster, while the ministry is responsible for the segments from King Edward Street in Coquitlam to Maple Ridge, including a new Pitt River Bridge to replace the aging swing bridges. The proposed upgrades will improve safety and reliability along this important corridor, serving goods movement, commuters and growing communities.

A final project is the South Fraser Perimeter road which is proposed as a primarily new four lane, 80 kilometre route along the south side of the Fraser River extending from Deltaport Way in southwest Delta to 176th Street and the Golden Ears Bridge connector road in Surrey and Langley. It will provide a continuous and efficient route to serve the port facilities, rail yards and industrial areas along this key economic corridor and will also benefit commuters.

Each of these projects is designed to reduce congestion and vehicle idling, as well as speed commercial traffic to the ports. These projects will not only help build the Pacific gateway capacity, but they will also help the environment. Yet, the tepid response of the government so far to funding all these projects demonstrates the minimal concern the Liberals have for the problems faced by the lower mainland commuters and industry and for addressing a real environmental problem.

As a lower mainland MP who has to personally deal with the transportation infrastructure in B.C., I can tell the House the gridlock is a major problem in B.C. and the paltry funding that the Minister of Transport put on the table recently barely scratches the surface of the problem.

I want to mention one other critical problem affecting B.C. ports which the government is actually responsible for causing. That is the lack of an adequate police presence at west coast ports and, indeed, at all Canadian ports.

As co-chair of the parliamentary border caucus, I hear regularly from various front line officers of the Canada Border Services Agency who are dealing with threats to their personal safety and who are aware of the presence of organized crime having a significant foothold in many of our international seaports.

Of course, the smuggling of narcotics, weapons, money, people, stolen vehicles and other contraband can be achieved most efficiently through the seaport, and yet the Liberals are directly responsible for disbanding the specialized ports police when they first came to office.

Restoring integrity to the operation of our ports is essential if we are to attract and keep new business. As part of the Pacific gateway strategy I would urge the government to revisit the issue of port security as not only a criminal justice issue, but also as an issue of strength and competitiveness for our legitimate ports business.

The Prime Minister told the nation at the beginning of his mandate that if western alienation remained unchanged he would have failed. I know that the Prime Minister often forgets the promises that he makes but let him be reminded that actions speak louder than words and Bill C-68 is mostly words and very short on action.

As my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast pointed out recently, the Liberal government is willing to blow $1 billion in an attempt to buy a seat for B.C. in this House, but it cannot seem to find the money to deal with the real problems that British Columbians face.

B.C. has long been a net contributor to equalization in Canada. Now, at a time when our ports need expansion, when traffic congestion grows, when our softwood producers need a national government to defend their interests, when street racing threatens lives, when the salmon fishery is in severe decline, when grow houses fill the suburbs, when waiting lists for surgery grow, when pine beetles threaten the interior forests and when tax relief is desperately needed, where is the Liberal government on these issues?

The view from the west is that Liberals are nowhere on these issues. They have consistently failed to defend B.C.'s interests. They have consistently failed to step up to the table with adequate funding for critical problems. They have consistently failed to reform our criminal justice system and they have consistently failed on every file.

Relationships, whether with people, provinces or other countries are a two-way street. This is something the Liberals fail to grasp. If the Prime Minister wants to know why western alienation is at perhaps an all time high, then he needs to recognize how each of these problems has grown worse under his Liberal administration.

We are willing to cooperate with the government even in its modest efforts to improve our B.C. ports. We are ultimately interested in standing up for British Columbia and Canada, despite our misgivings about the government and its lacklustre approach to the Pacific gateway initiative. As such, our party will be supporting Bill C-68.

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5:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay respect to my colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale for his amazing efforts on behalf of the all-party border caucus and the work that he has done there. It is an important issue to his constituency and to all of British Columbia.

He spoke to many of the frustrations that I have with this bill as a British Columbian, which is to say that this bill is everything and nothing at the same time. It presents nothing. It outlines no specific spending formula and no specific projects that the government is going to announce. At the same time, it creates a body that will be discussing future potential projects so that the Liberals in the coming campaign can ask people if they are in favour of the South Fraser perimeter road for the Fraser port and to ease the traffic there, and they will say, “Of course we are. We had Bill C-68, the legislation that created the Pacific gateway council, so yes, we are for it because that council might recognize it”.

The frustration that I have and I know that the member has is that his constituents deserve specific concrete action. The issue of the Pacific gateway has been studied ad nauseam in British Columbia. The provincial government tabled a comprehensive report just a few months ago. Less than a year ago the BC Progress Board put forward comprehensive ideas on how we can move forward. Rather than actually putting forward specific things that we can do, such as the South Fraser perimeter road which is very important for the member's constituency and very important for all of British Columbia, or dredging on the Fraser River, or any of the dozens of concrete ideas that are out there to actually make the Pacific gateway a reality, the Liberals have created a council which will study these issues and make recommendations.

Right now in this House, given the reality that a budget will be coming up perhaps in January or February, we should be discussing specific ideas like the South Fraser perimeter road, and we are not because the Liberals have put forward a bill that creates bureaucracy rather than a bill that offers solutions. I want my colleague to speak to that.

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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raised a good point. The fact is that this legislation does nothing to address the urgent and immediate needs of British Columbians.

We know in B.C. where the problems lie. We have seen them for more than 12 years now while the Liberal administration has laid back and done nothing about them. Now just prior to an election that the Liberals are fearing they will lose, they are rolling out this council and are pretending to throw money at the problem, without being very specific. They just say, “Here is another slush fund. We will appoint this patronage council and that will solve all of the problems”. That is the way they deal with these problems. That is not good enough for British Columbia.

B.C. residents want to know what the government is going to do. No more talk, let us get down to action. Specific projects like the South Fraser perimeter road and twinning the Portmann Bridge, the North Fraser road and some of these other projects that are clearly identified need action now. They are beyond the point of talking. They are beyond the point of conjecture or speculation. They are at the point where action is needed.

The infrastructure that we are dealing with in British Columbia was constructed in 1963, yet the population has tripled since then. We are drastically behind where we need to be if we are going to serve British Columbia, or serve the country for that matter, as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.

I thank my colleague for raising this issue and for the excellent work he is doing as our transport critic. I just wish we had the opportunity to form government and actually take action on the things that we have been talking about for so long.

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5:20 p.m.

Miramichi New Brunswick

Liberal

Charles Hubbard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I was very much impressed with the first portion of the hon. member's speech. He did speak very effectively of his vision mainly in terms of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. I will make a few comments and let the hon. member reply to them.

First of all, the Pacific gateway is not simply a gateway for Vancouver. It is a gateway for all of British Columbia, a gateway for the three prairie provinces and a gateway for all Canadians. It would appear from my perspective that in terms of what has happened, Vancouver for some time has been concerned with both air traffic and port traffic as it thought in terms of trying to develop an economy facing the Pacific.

With this concept of ports and airports, the improvement of those facilities, and above all the improvement not only of the gateway, the gateway being a gate, but the pathways that lead to that gateway and the opportunities that have to be available to people from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, they too have to participate in this debate. Bill C-68 shows that it is a bigger concept than simply one city or one province. It is a concept for all Canadians. In particular it is a very vital part of the economy of all of western Canada.

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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised the point that the gateway is in fact a gateway to the Prairies and that all of the Prairies will indeed benefit from these projects. But the Prairies will only benefit to the degree that the projects are actually done in British Columbia.

People from Winnipeg or Flin Flon, Manitoba probably are not aware of the South Fraser perimeter road and the impact that would have on the economy of Manitoba. They are just not aware of it. It is not on their radar screen. Yet it is front and centre for the people of British Columbia. They face it on a daily basis. The 13 hours of rush hour traffic over the Portmann Bridge is not something that people are thinking about in Lumsden, Saskatchewan.

The fact that the Prime Minister is setting up this council to have input from the Prairies is a novel one, but I do not see the Prairies having the direct impact or the direct insight or understanding of the urgent needs in the Lower Mainland. It would be like people in British Columbia telling people how to redirect a road in the greater Toronto area. That is what we are talking about here. We are talking about redirecting roads. We are talking about widening bridges. That is what is necessarily needed, and it is needed right now.

I am very disappointed that the government is trying to be all things to all people and is pretending that it has now solved the world's problems with this new council, but--