House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.


International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Pontiac Québec


Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

moved that Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this bill addresses the long-standing lack of legislative framework within which the federal government can exercise its authority over international bridges and tunnels.

I am very pleased to begin the debate today on Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act. This bill includes a number of measures that reinforce and acknowledge that our economic well-being increasingly depends on strategic gateways and trade corridors.

The capacity to create jobs and strengthen Canada's economy is directly linked to our ability to ensure the efficient flow of trade with our greatest trading partner, the United States, but today's bill also recognizes the importance of secure borders and that securing our borders begins with securing our border crossings.

There are currently 24 bridges and tunnels that carry vehicular traffic across the 6,400 kilometre border between Canada and the United States. There are also five rail bridges and tunnels linking our two countries. More than $1.9 billion worth of goods moves across the border each day. These crossings are a critical part of the infrastructure that facilitates trade between our two nations.

Well-operated border crossings mean more trade, a stronger economy and jobs for all Canadians. The federal government, therefore, has a critical role to play in ensuring that the way in which these bridges and tunnels are operated does not interfere in any way with the uninterrupted flow of goods and people across the border. Equally important is the federal government's responsibility to ensure that our national interests are protected, that our borders are secure and that people can use our bridges and tunnels in safety.

The federal government's jurisdiction over all international crossings is set out in section 92 of the Constitution Act of 1867. However, the federal government's ability to exercise this authority has never been set out in framework legislation.

With events such as September 11th, I think the hon. members would agree that Canada's international bridges and tunnels cannot be left to ad hoc decision-making processes. They must be carefully and strategically operated.

It is time for the Government of Canada to put in place a legislative framework so that it can carry out its jurisdictional responsibilities, efficiently, effectively and coherently.To that end, the bill we are debating today draws on the provisions related to international bridges and tunnels contained in the two previously introduced bills.

The international bridges and tunnels act would provide the Government of Canada with the legislative authority required to effectively oversee these bridges and tunnels and to protect the interests of Canadians. Today's bill also possesses two new provisions in response to critical issues that have recently emerged in relation to international bridges and tunnels.

I would like to begin by introducing some of the more significant provisions in the bill.

First of all, unlike the United States, Canada does not have a formal process to approve the construction of new international crossings. In the past, we have enacted specific legislation on a case by case basis. Fourteen of the 24 crossings were created by special acts of Parliament designed and adapted to fit the conditions specific to each case. Given that there are currently three proposals for new international crossings, at St. Stephen in New Brunswick and at Fort Erie and Windsor in Ontario, addressing this legislative gap is particularly critical at this time.

Today's bill will begin the process of ensuring that we have the necessary powers to grant approval to build these new crossings. It would also give the federal government the authority to impose whatever terms and conditions are needed to protect the public interest.

More specifically, the bill recommends that the governor in council be given the authority to approve the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels as well as the authority to establish conditions for their construction, operation and maintenance. By eliminating the need for individual independent acts of Parliament for each particular bridge, this new legislation would clarify and streamline the approval process.

The development of new crossings is a complex undertaking, requiring negotiations between provincial, state and federal governments on both sides of the border.

A more streamlined process within the Government of Canada—comparable to that which is already in place in the United States—would bring greater efficiency to the overall process.

One of the more significant challenges of the current ad hoc system is that there are widespread inconsistencies on key issues across the international bridge portfolio. The way in which the bridges and tunnels deal with functional safety, maintenance and security vary significantly between the different bridge and tunnel operators. Such widespread inconsistencies on critical issues directly affect the federal government's ability to act quickly, decisively and accurately on key public issues.

Therefore the second provision I would like to highlight in this new legislation would give the Governor in Council the authority to make regulations for all matters related to safety and security of international bridges and tunnels. The Governor in Council would also be able to make regulations respecting the operation of these crossings, such as the efficient and competitive flow of international traffic to ensure it is not jeopardized.

Ensuring that international traffic flows freely across the border not only affects the bottom line of businesses that depend on just-in-time delivery, it also reduces unnecessary carbon dioxide and other emissions that result from traffic congestion and delays at the border.

A clean environment is important to all Canadians. This is why, under the proposed legislative framework, the federal government will be able to ensure that environmental assessments with respect to international bridges and tunnels are conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, when appropriate.

Environmental considerations must be fully integrated into all projects, so that future generations of Canadians enjoy clean air, water and land.

This is particularly important for projects that directly affect our waterways and influence the levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Finally, I would like to highlight the two new provisions that did not appear in the previously introduced bills. The first new provision concerns crossings over the St. Lawrence River. In the current legislative structure, any new bridge over the St. Lawrence River requires a special act of Parliament.

By specifying that the proposed international bridges and tunnels act is applicable to international bridges and tunnels crossing the St. Lawrence River, any such bridges or tunnels will be subject to the government's approval process as outlined by the act. This provision would support the current initiative to construct a new low level bridge in Cornwall, Ontario by streamlining the approval process and removing the burden of the current requirement for a special act of Parliament.

The second new provision would give the federal government the authority to approve all transactions affecting the ownership or control and operation of international bridges and tunnels. Given the critical importance of these crossings, the federal government has a clear role to play in protecting national interests and public policy objectives when ownership or operation of these structures is transferred.

With the proposed sale of the bridge between Fort Frances, Ontario and International Falls, Minnesota, as well as the possible sale of the tunnel between Windsor and Detroit, it is critical that the federal government have the authority to intervene as needed to protect our national interests.

This bill is important because transportation is one of the core elements that contributes to Canada's economic success. I think the hon. members will agree that in an age when over 70% of our trade flows to the United States, Canada's international crossings are crucial to our economic well-being.

International bridges and tunnels represent critical gateways and key trade corridors through which our trade with the United States flows. As such, they are vital to Canada's success as a trading nation and will continue to be an important element of prosperity for future generations.

The introduction of this bill represents an important opportunity to finally put into place a clear and consistent framework for the exercise of federal government jurisdiction over international crossings. This bill will also help us fulfill our responsibility to protect the safety of Canadians and ensure our national security.

We must continue to be flexible and responsive in legislating our transportation system. Too much is at stake to stand still or rely on old ways of thinking.

I urge all members to support this bill, so that the Government of Canada can effectively protect our national and international interests, build upon the many successes of our transportation system and facilitate Canada's growth as a nation.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult for me to disagree with the bill because it is, so far as I can tell, the same as the Liberal bill that was before Parliament before the election. It sounds extraordinarily familiar.

Could the minister tell us whether there are any substantive differences between his bill and the one we presented previously?

I would also like to say that Canada-U.S. trade is the lifeblood of the country. Millions and millions of jobs are at stake and in terms of the efficient functioning of trade between the two countries, efficiency of transportation infrastructure is critical, which is what the bill is about, but how our goods are received at the border by the customs officials is equally important.

In light of the agreement on forestry and given that this Canada-U.S. trade is the lifeblood of our economy, is it not unfortunate that yesterday's agreement abandoned the principle of free trade, moving to managed trade, because once we get to 34% and above that, zap, it is no longer free trade? I think that is a huge abandonment of the principle. Is it not also unfortunate that the agreement effectively kills the dispute settlement mechanism under NAFTA which was negotiated with huge difficulty and is critical for our future trade relations? This sets a very dangerous precedent in that the traditional dispute settlement mechanism was abandoned in this case and what is to say it will not be abandoned for other industries.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2006 / 10:20 a.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are two new provisions in the legislation that has been tabled before the House. The first provision, of course, is the one dealing with crossing over the St. Lawrence River and the second one clearly deals with the federal government's authority to approve all transactions affecting the ownership or control and operation of international bridges.

In this context, I find it strange to hear my hon. colleague opposite refer to the agreement Canada reached yesterday with the United States. I was expecting him to rise and congratulate us on what we had accomplished on this issue. In 13 years, the previous government did nothing to deliver the goods on this issue.

The hon. member referred extensively to a government that used to talk about softwood lumber, trade and trade agreements. I clearly remember that the former head of the Liberal Party of Canada, Mr. Turner, vigorously opposed free trade during one election campaign. But Canadians supported the government of Mr. Mulroney and voted for greater prosperity.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, we support Bill C-3. However, I have two questions for the minister.

First, since the 1990s, a number of responsibilities, particularly relating to infrastructure, have been handed over to the provinces, who proceeded to delegate them to municipalities. Responsibilities have trickled down, but money has not. I want to know who will finance these infrastructure projects.

Second, during the 1990s, when railway companies abandoned certain rail lines, the owners of those lines sold them to create greenways for cyclists and pedestrians.

The bill provides that offers to purchase will be accepted from urban transit authorities first and from municipalities last. Will selling these railways to companies other than those in the tourism and recreation sector help the environment and encourage the creation of greenways?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised two questions more or less related to this bill.

I would like to inform the member that I am quite aware of the responsibilities being thrust upon municipalities. As a city councillor for the lovely and extraordinary city of Gatineau, I was in a position to experience this first hand. Yesterday, Premier Charest's government responded to many of these issues by signing a new fiscal deal with municipalities.

Getting back to the bill, the member's second question is about bridge divestiture and management. At issue are international bridges linking Canada and the United States, our trading partner. The bill will have a positive impact in that regard.

For example, we know the environmental cost of pollution caused by slowing or stopping the flow of traffic between Canada and the United States. As I stated earlier, this bill will give us the tools to improve the flow of goods between our two countries.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my question for the Minister of Transportation concerns environmental issues and the concerns many residents along the border have with the movement of hazardous goods through tunnels and bridges. As the rate of rail movement has increased in Canada we have seen incidences where these environmental concerns have turned into environmental problems.

Does the bill bring clarification to the direction that we will take with the development of new facilities and with the movement of hazardous goods within those facilities?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an extremely important question. I think the member is referring to circumstances where some bridges can be used for the purpose of allowing hazardous wastes to cross over to Canada or to the United States. In some circumstances the regulations that are in place are more or less respected. This legislation would enable us to put forward a comprehensive and coherent set of regulations that would basically cover the issues that the hon. member has raised.

In that regard, this legislation should, in my view, obtain a full and complete buy-in by everybody in this House.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is the hon. parliamentary secretary rising on questions and comments? I am sorry, the hon. member for Palliser.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief question for the Minister of Transport. In the post-9/11 world, the security of these 24 bridges and tunnels and five rail tunnels, I am guessing, is a crucial part of what is driving the bill. Could the minister comment on that, and the importance of the security and the safety of these vital networks to this country?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Before the minister comments, I would remind hon. members that they must address the House in their own seats. This is why I was confused when the hon. member for Palliser stood up and I assumed he was a parliamentary secretary, but he was not in his own seat. Technically, he should not be allowed to address the House and I am trying to correct this problem. We are sitting as a House and not as a committee of the whole and I remind hon. members of that. The hon. Minister of Transport.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, you are right.

In fact, the Speaker is always right.

As a matter of fact, yes, since 9/11 we have been extremely vigilant as a government. This is another step that we must take in securing our borders and ensuring that not only are they secure but, as I mentioned before, that there is a seamless flow between both our countries. We do understand that the context has changed.

As our political party has mentioned over the last campaign, we intend to not only stand up for Canada, but ensure also that our border crossings are safe. We are committed to doing that. In that regard, hopefully, this piece of legislation will get quick approval from all our colleagues.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister defended vigorously the negotiation of the free trade agreement by the Mulroney government and noted that at the time, the Liberals under John Turner were opposed. That is true but that is ancient history. The Liberal Party has been strongly in favour of NAFTA and free trade for over a decade.

It is the Conservative Party that ought to be embarrassed. It is the Conservative Party under Brian Mulroney that negotiated free trade. The agreement reached yesterday is in fact a betrayal of free trade. It is not free trade when we have a maximum quota of 34%. It is managed trade.

One of the key achievements of the Mulroney free trade agreement was the dispute settlement mechanism. The government has abandoned the dispute settlement mechanism creating an extraordinarily dangerous precedent for future sectors as we go forward.

I have not heard any reaction from Mr. Mulroney, but I would imagine he would be distressed that the critical principles of his negotiations, that is to say the free trade principle and the dispute settlement mechanism, both have been abandoned by the government in the accord which was reached yesterday.

It is not surprising that the Liberal Party supports this bill since, given its main points, it is essentially the Liberal bill.

Therefore, I am very pleased, and I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, that the Conservative government is indeed proceeding with this project which we initiated.

We do think, as the minister said, that it is extremely important to have a framework that oversees everything to do with bridges and tunnels, including their building, maintenance and security. As I said earlier, Canada-U.S. trade is the economic lifeblood of our country and to a lesser extent their country with millions and millions of jobs at stake. In order for that trade to be efficient and go barrier free, one of the essential ingredients is free trade, which was kind of abandoned yesterday, but another one is an efficient transportation infrastructure.

Two-way trade between Canada and the U.S. is more than $532 billion annually. Canada is the largest export market for 37 out of the 50 states.

Another statistic that I found very surprising is the fact that Canadian exports to Home Depot are greater than Canadian exports to France. It would be hard to overstate the importance of trade between Canada and the United States.

That is why it is extremely important that our transportation infrastructure be reliable and well maintained. The government must have the tools to ensure that the system is not only functioning on a day-to-day basis, but is able to respond effectively and efficiently to new initiatives that become required.

We need a framework in place so the building and maintenance of our bridges and tunnels is secure and regulated. We have 24 bridges and five international rail tunnels that link our two countries. Given the importance of all of this, it is perhaps surprising that even though the responsibility of the federal government in this area has been there since 1867, there has never before been any comprehensive clear-cut authority laid out that gives the government the authority to deal with requests about bridge and tunnel infrastructure whether for a new bridge or for a change in a bridge. Given that this is so fundamental to Canadian jobs and Canadian prosperity, it is high time that we have such a mechanism.

In the past any bridges or tunnels that were built were done through special acts of Parliament with the U.S. neighbours enacting similar ad hoc legislation. Therefore, this legislation provides an overall framework which will obviate the need for such ad hoc case-by-case agreements.

We urge the Minister of Transport in the interest of transparency to ensure that any reports from bridge and tunnel operators regarding maintenance and repair, and safety and security are tabled in Parliament for all to see.

The bill that was on the table before the election would have expedited the approval of new facilities and ensured the efficient and competitive flow of goods and people. We hope and believe that the government's plan will effectively do the same thing. The government will not have opposition from the official opposition on this bill. How can we oppose our own bill?

I would like to end with a few comments on the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund which is also, I believe, the responsibility of the minister. He has many responsibilities and we believe that this is absolutely crucial for the future of our cities and communities. The Liberal government put approximately $4 billion into the fund to support large scale infrastructure projects.

This fund has helped very much to improve the quality of life in many communities by partnering on major infrastructure projects. I will name a few: York Region Transit network improvements, Banff National Park Trans-Canada Highway improvements, New Brunswick Urban Bypass projects, and the Kicking Horse Canyon project.

In my region of York, Ontario, I sometimes say that traffic gridlock is second only to health care in the concerns of my constituents, The Liberal government put funding into Viva Transit, GO Transit. These are really essential to the livelihood and the quality of life of the residents of York region and my own constituents. Public transit is essential for the efficiency of the transport system and also for environmental reasons to which the government does not seem to attach great priority.

There is concern that the government has made no commitment to replenish this vital program. We are concerned that important projects that help vitalize our Canadian cities may go by the wayside, leaving communities underfunded and struggling to make their own way on inadequate budgets.

The health of our cities and communities is in jeopardy. This is a fundamental, core contribution of the previous government to essential infrastructure in all regions of the country. Naturally, we are very concerned about the future of this program. We urge the minister to apply all the influence he has to other members of the government to ensure that this program is continued and funded in a manner that is adequate to respond to the needs of Canadians across the country.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is refreshing to hear the member across the floor say he will support this legislation. He says he will support it because it was legislation presented by the Liberal government last time. That is true to a point, but it has been improved with a couple of key changes. I hope he will acknowledge that.

He went on to say that this Conservative government should be ashamed of the softwood lumber deal. Let us look at a bit of the history of the softwood lumber issue.

First, it is an issue that could not be settled in the original free trade agreement. It could not be settled by his government when it completed the NAFTA agreements. As a result, it has been a serious trade irritant for some time.

His government negotiated quotas. In this agreement, there are no quotas under current market conditions. It is a good deal, a deal that the Prime Minister pledged to achieve and did achieve.

Canada stuck to its position. Canada's key conditions were accepted. It is a long term agreement of seven years. The agreement gives Canadian producers stable, predictable access without quotas and without tariffs. That is very important. This agreement returns at least $4 billion U.S. to the Canadian industry.

The agreement recognizes provincial differences. We saw the Liberal Premier of Ontario vigorously support this agreement yesterday. That was very refreshing. He put aside partisan politics and supported the best deal that could be achieved.

Is it a perfect deal ? No. The Prime Minister said that. But this has been a longstanding trade irritant .

That leads to the second point. This agreement is important beyond the softwood issue itself. It demonstrates what can be achieved when we put aside harmful rhetoric, such as that presented by his government over many years, and replace it with hard work.

Because of the better working relationship that has developed between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States, between Canada and the United States, when it comes to difficult issues like this, we can negotiate in a very tough fashion. We have at least a working relationship. His government could not reach an agreement because of the harmful rhetoric and the negative working relationship with the United States.

This is an important point that maybe has not been talked about enough. It is a new relationship. When it comes to tough issues, we can negotiate in a very tough and firm fashion, and achieve results, results that his government could not achieve.

Again, I appreciate that the member opposite did acknowledge that this legislation should be supported. It is an improved version of legislation that was presented by his government. I look forward to this passing in very short order.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, there were four little weasel words that came out just now, though not spoken very loudly, “under current market conditions”. Does anyone think that market conditions always stay the same? No. Markets go up and markets go down. To say that something is free under current market conditions is to say it is not free under different market conditions.

The member's point is incorrect when one looks beyond the current month or year because market conditions will change. When that market goes south, the U.S. interests will prevail. Why do we think the U.S. signed on? It was in large measure for that reason.

The other little problem was when he said $4 billion. I thought the amount was $5 billion. As the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, what happened to the missing $1 billion that is going to be in the hands of U.S. lumber producers? I seem to remember it was the election promise of the current Prime Minister to get back every penny of that $5 billion. Now it is $4 billion. Is the Prime Minister going to write a personal cheque for $1 billion? How is he going to make up the difference? This is another example of broken promises by the Prime Minister.

When the member says this is important beyond the softwood issue, I agree because that speaks to the point I made earlier. It is important beyond the softwood issue because it sets a dangerous precedent for other industries going forward. The precedent is that it is no longer free trade but managed trade.

The precedent is that we no longer rely on the dispute settlement mechanism under NAFTA but we rely on ad hoc case by case negotiations. This kills the dispute settlement mechanism negotiated with such difficulty by a past Conservative government, which must be somewhat disappointed to see that its central achievement has now been destroyed by the current Conservative government.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that for as long as I have been an MP the NDP members from Windsor had been appealing to the former Liberal government to do something about the Ambassador Bridge and the billions of dollars of lost trade and opportunity that stems from the inadequacy of that vital crossing. I was shocked to learn as an MP that the Ambassador Bridge is actually privately owned. Neither the provincial government nor the federal government owns the Ambassador Bridge. Some individual owns it.

The Liberal government had this problem. It was supposed to be seized of this problem for all those years and yet to this day, there is a backup of semi-trailers waiting to take our exports to the United States. Those semi-trailers sit there with their engines idling, poisoning the good citizens of Windsor West. The lost opportunity is staggering and it is on the member's former government for failing to do anything for 13 years with that border crossing.

The member spent a lot of time in his speech talking about the Canada infrastructure fund. The Liberal administration of the Canada infrastructure fund was like some shady ring toss on a carnival midway. That is how it was treated. It was a setup. It was politicized and used as an instrument for throwing partisan freebies and goodies around the country. I do not lament the end of the administration of that particular infrastructure program one bit.

I would ask my colleague to comment on the Ambassador Bridge issue, as well as his government's stance on solving the softwood lumber crisis. Its stance was on its knees. We have a saying in the labour movement that the great only appear great to us because we are on our knees. That was the Liberal approach. When the Liberals sent negotiators to Washington for all those years it was as sycophants or something. They did not deliver the bacon. It is hard to hear the member pontificate about the job the Liberals did on the softwood lumber file when nothing was delivered.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

My goodness, Mr. Speaker, on the first point, the answer is very simple. It is this bill which will give the government the tools to handle the Ambassador Bridge and other crossings.

Had the NDP not colluded with the Conservative Party to bring down the Liberal government when it did, the bill would have been legislation by now and we would have been able to act by now. Therefore, it is the NDP in colluding with the Conservatives that caused this delay.

In terms of negotiating by going on our knees to Washington, I think the hon. member has got the wrong party, the wrong Prime Minister. He may recall, for example, that when Jean Chrétien was prime minister, he said no to the war in Iraq. Was that on our knees? No. That was an independent principled statement by the Government of Canada going totally against the Bush administration. It is the present Conservative government which is on its knees caving in to the Bush administration demands. Therefore, we have no apologies whatsoever to make on that score.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois readily supports the principle of Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act, but we still have some reservations, which I will explain in the next few minutes.

I would first like to make the point, for the benefit of the Quebec audience, that there is only one international bridge in Quebec, the one in Sutton. It is on the Vallée-Missisquoi road and crosses the Missisquoi River in Sutton. An old, metal bridge, it is approximately 50 metres long and was built around 1929. It spans a beautiful gorge. It is used by many trucks and appears in need of repair. It is owned by both Vermont, primarily, and the municipality of Sutton. It is inspected by Quebec's Department of Transport and in conjunction with Vermont as well. The municipality is responsible for repair costs, under a Quebec infrastructure fund. Vermont pays approximately 70% of repair costs.

Now that I have clearly described our international bridge in Quebec, I will address the positive aspects of Bill C-3.

There has been a legal void in the area of international bridges and tunnels. Bill C-3 aims to improve the security of these structures. According to the Department of Transport, local stakeholders are in favour of the provisions of this bill.

Let us now move on to the negative aspects. In the international brides and tunnels legislative framework, a very broad policing power is being given to the government such as the power to investigate without a warrant and a very authoritarian power of seizure. The government has the power to legislate, but the financial responsibility rests on other shoulders. In time, this situation can lead to conflicts.

The current bill left out a number of important and highly useful measures that were in Bill C-44. I will come back to that.

For example, there was a requirement that airline advertising be more transparent. The airlines would have had to change their advertising methods. They would have been required to list the total price of the flight including related fees. This measure was much demanded by the consumer associations.

The provisions of Bill C-44 that are missing from Bill C-3 would have improved the conflict resolution process for sharing the rail lines between passenger transportation companies and freight companies. Bill C-44 included a section under which a railway company wishing to sell a railway line would first offer it to any interested urban transit authorities, giving municipal governments priority in order to avoid tearing up the tracks.

The new VIA Rail Canada Act, proposed by Bill C-44, would have given it greater decision-making power, in the hope of improving rail transportation, reducing environmental impact and achieving energy savings.

Section 32 of Bill C-44 would have provided the Canadian Transportation Agency with authority to address complaints relating to railway noise in order to require railway companies to take measures to prevent unreasonable noise, particularly around marshalling yards.

I will speak later about these measures which are not found in Bill C-3. First, I would like to give the background of this last bill, which was introduced at first reading on April 24, 2006. It seeks to bring forward part of former Bills C-44 and C-26.

There are 24 international vehicular bridges and tunnels connecting Canada and the United States: 14 in Ontario, nine in New Brunswick and only one in Quebec, as I mentioned earlier. In addition there are five railway bridges and tunnels in Ontario. Only five of these crossings are owned by the federal government. According to the Department of Transport, the events of 9/11 brought to light the importance of protecting these vital infrastructures.

Responsibility for international bridges and tunnels lies with the federal government, which has sole legislative jurisdiction in this matter . However, the federal government does not have the clearly defined legislative and regulatory authority to administer these crossings. According to the Department of Transport, there is currently no process to approve the construction of new bridges or tunnels or alterations to existing structures.

In the past, the construction of a bridge or tunnel was authorized by a special act of Parliament and by the adoption of identical legislation in the United States. Again according to the department, consultation of key players was carried out and the provisions of Bill C-44 received considerable support. The majority of players were eager to participate in the regulatory process.

The provisions in this new bill are practically identical to those in Bill C-44. The enactment contains two new provisions: approval for all changes in ownership, operation and control, and clarification of the process for obtaining permits to build bridges over the St. Lawrence River.

Besides confirming the federal government’s jurisdiction with respect to international bridges and tunnels, the proposed legislation would enable the federal government to issue guidelines concerning approval for the construction or alteration of new and existing bridges or tunnels; specify conditions regarding bridge maintenance and operation; approve changes in ownership, control or operation of international bridges or tunnels; and finally, ensure that the crossings are safe and secure.

The expression “international bridge or tunnel” means “a bridge or tunnel, or any part of it, that connects any place in Canada to any place outside Canada, and includes the approaches and facilities related to the bridge or tunnel”. As hon. members know, international bridges or tunnels cannot be build without government approval. Such approval may be given to the site or plans of an international bridge over the St. Lawrence River.

Other provisions state that the government may make regulations respecting the maintenance, repair, operation, use, security and safety of international bridges and tunnels. The bill also provides that the Minister may make any appropriate directions, if he is of the opinion that there is an immediate threat to the security or safety of any international bridge or tunnel or to the safety of persons. Government approval would also be necessary to change the ownership, control or operation of international bridges or tunnels. Under this bill, it would also be possible to establish a crown corporation to administer a bridge or tunnel.

Unfortunately, very broad police powers are being granted to the government, such as the power to investigate without a warrant and a most authoritarian power of seizure. I am referring to clause 39.

A great deal of what Bill C-44 provided for is not covered by Bill C-3, particularly with respect to rail transportation. For instance, Bill C-44 proposed improvements to the shipper protection regime for rail service users and the elimination of the requirement for the Canada Transportation Agency to determine whether the commercial harm to the shipper would be substantial.

It would appear that the time allotted me has expired.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but as she knows, it is time for statements by members. After question period, she will have 12 minutes to finish her remarks.

Devils LakeStatements by Members

11 a.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Prime Minister for improving relations with our closest neighbour, and successfully concluding a deal on softwood lumber. It is good to see that our Prime Minister and this government can deal with our southern neighbours after the Liberals spent 13 years destroying our relations with the Americans.

This bodes well for all the other issues on which we have to work with the Americans.

This spring Manitobans are once again faced with uncertainty about the protection of Lake Winnipeg due to the Devils Lake diversion. We are forced, once again, to deal with this issue despite claims made last year by the former Liberal government that it had signed a fictitious agreement to provide a permanent filter to protect Manitoba's waters.

This week I hosted a meeting with three of our ministers, municipalities surrounding Lake Winnipeg and the commercial fishing industry. We have to start focusing on the science and develop an ongoing respectful dialogue between all the jurisdictions affected.

Everyone is well aware that this issue is one of many that is of great importance to both our nations. I am confident that this Conservative government and our Prime Minister will be able to keep working constructively with the U.S., as demonstrated yesterday.

DarfurStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we speak, thousands of people are being systematically slaughtered, raped and pillaged by Sudanese government sponsored militias in Darfur.

Sixty five years ago the world remained silent to the death of millions and vowed never again. This week our country marked the Holocaust Remembrance Day and yet today genocidal horrors are once again going unchallenged.

Today we must speak up against the evils occurring in Darfur. On Sunday, at Toronto city hall, thousands of people will gather to shout for Darfur. I stand with them in calling for Canada to be a leader in ending the horrendous violence in Darfur.

I call upon all members of the House, and all people of good conscience, to take action on this issue.

Softwood LumberStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the executive vice-president and general manager of the Free Trade Lumber Council, Carl Grenier, has said that yesterday was a very sad day for the softwood lumber industry in Quebec and Canada.

The federal government's stubborn refusal to provide solid support for the softwood lumber industry led to the situation we are in today.

Softwood lumber companies are not to blame for caving in to pressure from the Americans. The current and previous federal governments are to blame for refusing to put in place a serious aid program for the industry, including loan guarantees, as the Bloc Québécois, companies and workers demanded. Such measures would have put us in a stronger negotiating position and resulted in a better agreement.

In addition, by accepting an agreement that goes against the principle of full free trade, the Prime Minister weakened NAFTA and its dispute settlement mechanisms.

National Day of MourningStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 1991 NDP MP Rod Murphy sponsored an act respecting a day of mourning for persons killed or injured in the workplace. It proclaimed April 28 as National Day of Mourning.

According to the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, Canada's rate of workplace fatalities is now among the worst in the industrialized world. Employers and governments are failing on this front and working people are paying for this failure with their health and their lives.

In 1984, when the National Day of Mourning was initiated, 744 workers were listed as having died from workplace injuries. Twenty years later, in 2004, that number stood at 928. In 2003 the Westray bill finally gave courts the right to hold corporations criminally responsible for unsafe working conditions.

Today, the NDP recommits our efforts to create safe workplaces where employers take full responsibility for the health and safety of their workers and where the government enforces the rules that are in place.

Keystone CentreStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recently attended the grand opening of the Agricultural Centre of Excellence, the newest addition to our Keystone Centre complex in Brandon and western Manitoba. The Keystone now boasts a world class facility, including 540,000 square feet under one roof. The latest addition to the Agricultural Centre of Excellence and related upgrades makes the Keystone Centre a prominent economic generator for the western Manitoba region.

Home to the Brandon Wheat Kings, several other hockey and curling leagues, groups and organizations, the upgraded facility can accommodate up to 800 animals as well as being host to many special regional and national agricultural events. The Keystone Centre will host several significant events over the next year.

This June marks the 125th anniversary of the Annual Manitoba Summer Fair. As well, the 30th Annual Manitoba Ag Days and the 100th Annual Royal Manitoba Winter Fair are in the planning stages for 2007.

I invite all Canadians to put Brandon and western Manitoba on their holiday schedule this year.

Steve StavroStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Monday my friend Steve Stavro passed away in Toronto. Steve was born in Macedonia, as was I, and we knew each other for a number of years.

Steve's accomplishments in his adopted home of Canada were many. He began the Knobb Hill Farms grocery chain, but his love for sports was enduring. He owned the Toronto Maple Leafs and was active in Toronto's soccer scene. Steve was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1992 and in 2005 was inducted in the builder category into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.

His love for sports was only unmatched by his love for his wife Sally, four daughters, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Like Alexander the Great, Steve was great in his community charity work, to his family, friends and business associates. I know I speak on behalf of many Canadians when I say that Steve will be greatly missed. He was truly a great Canadian.

Canadian Cattlemen's AssociationStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate a respected rancher and constituent of my riding of Macleod, Mr. Hugh Lynch-Staunton of Lundbreck, Alberta on his recent election to President of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

Mr. Lynch-Staunton comes from a family of distinguished individuals. His father was lieutenant governor of Alberta and his cousin John recently retired from the Senate of Canada.

He is undertaking a great role in ensuring Canadian cattle producers have the best environment possible to make a profit from the market. Under Mr. Lynch-Staunton's leadership, the Canadian cattle industry continues to work with this government to ensure that trade with the United States and other countries will soon be returned to normal volumes, traditional before the first case of BSE in May 2003.

I, as the member of Parliament for Macleod, look forward to working with Mr. Lynch-Staunton and the 90,000 beef producers across Canada to return to a normal market situation.