Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my support for Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act, and applaud the government for moving ahead on this important piece of legislation.
All Canadians have a vested interest in the bill. Whether it be ensuring security at our borders, protecting trade and our economic interests or simply crossing the border for shopping or for a holiday, the bill will affect all Canadians.
The new provisions in the act will give the federal government the ability to intervene as needed. We know the federal government has a role to play in ensuring that the ownership of these structures does not interfere in any way with national interests or public policy objectives.
From coast to coast, Canadians stand to gain a lot from enhancing the flow of goods across the border. While the riding of Simcoe—Grey, my riding, is not immediately on the border, we are only a few hours away and our economic prosperity depends heavily on the Windsor corridor.
Many members may remember the provisions in Bill C-3 when they were part of former Bill C-44, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, which died on the Order Paper on November 28, 2005, the day the Liberal government fell.
Like many other issues, the Liberals say that they would have had that bill passed and this bill passed if it had not been for the Conservatives bringing them down. Of course, we have to stop and ask the Liberals why they waited. They had 13 years and over a decade of that was majority rule, so I do not really understand what they were waiting for. They had all kinds of time to pass this legislation and many others legislation and they simply did not.
The people of Simcoe—Grey, like many other Canadians, rejected the Liberals last January. They voted for change and in my riding they voted for it overwhelmingly.
I am happy to see that my colleague, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, has chosen to make this bill one of his department's legislative priorities.
The provisions dealing with international bridges and tunnels were somewhat neglected in debate the last time the bill was before the House. I will take this opportunity to discuss a few of the issues that these provisions will address.
We are fortunate to have in Canada a national transportation system that links every corner of this country because the vast system opens our doors to the rest of the world and to the commercial markets beyond our borders. We are a trading nation in an age of globalization.
We rely on the safe and efficient movement of people and goods in order to maintain our prosperity and quality of life. No one knows this better than the citizens of my riding of Simcoe—Grey.
I am sure that all members will agree that our international bridges and tunnels are an integral part of our nation's transportation system and provide a necessary link to our country's trade with the U.S.
I do not think we can emphasize enough how these crossings are important to international trade. For instance, I have Honda in my riding of Simcoe—Grey. It is a commonly known fact that 85% of the cars manufactured in Canada are exported to the United States.
Some of my potato farmers are shipping their potatoes to New York and Pennsylvania. We also have Alcoa Wheel Products in Simcoe—Grey, a large producer of rims in Collingwood and it is shipping daily to the big three in Michigan.
Simply put, the U.S. is our largest trading partner and the people of Simcoe—Grey depend heavily on this trading relationship.
I believe something like three-quarters of Canadians live within a two to three hour drive of the border, so not surprisingly, 85% of Canada's total exports to the world go to the United States and 59% of our imports come from the United States.
In terms of value, more than $531 billion was traded between Canada and the U.S. in 2003. In terms of jobs, 200 million jobs in both countries exist because of the trade between our two countries.
In 2003 over 834,000 Canadians were employed in the transportation industry. Of the $531 billion traded in 2003, 63% was transported over the Canada-U.S. border by truck, an estimated 13 million trucks. That is about 36,000 trucks crossing the Canada-U.S. border every day, or an average of one truck every 2.5 seconds.
If truth be told, almost 75% of this truck traffic was concentrated at six border crossings: four bridges in Ontario, including Windsor, one land crossing in Quebec, and one land crossing in British Columbia.
In fact, our exports, particularly in the automotive industry, are an important and essential step in the manufacturing of U.S. products. While many companies in the automotive manufacturing and parts sectors are diversifying with new plants around the world, there is one advantage that Canada will always have and the people of Simcoe--Grey understand this well. Geography will always be our ally and allow us to meet the just in time delivery demands that the automotive industry is increasingly moving toward. The industry relies on our products being delivered on time and not being unduly held up at our borders.
The highly concentrated nature of freight movement in Canada is largely responsible for specific local bottlenecks or choke points. Anyone who passes through the Windsor corridor will tell us that. With the high volume of trade and tourism with the U.S., our bridges and tunnels often become choke points.
Any regular bottleneck has the ability to put pressure on the entire transportation system. Bottlenecks that originate at freight transfer points and at the border can affect overall freight movements within trade corridors. As I mentioned before, the manufacturers in Simcoe--Grey using the Windsor corridor know this all too well.
Considering the staggering statistics and the importance of these crossings to our international trade and tourism, it is surprising that there has never been any one piece of legislation that deals with international bridges and tunnels. The new provisions of this bill would enhance the oversight of the federal government. They would ensure that international crossings are being managed and operated in a manner that prioritizes the public interest for safety, security, and efficient cross-border movement.
The bill would confirm that international bridges and tunnels are the responsibility of the federal government. It would give the government the authority to govern and regulate in all aspects of international bridges and tunnels, such as their construction, maintenance and operation. There are today several projects to construct new bridges that are either under way or being contemplated and there are renovations planned for others. These would be subject to the new bill.
The bill would also provide a means for the government to ensure the safety and security of these crossings. By putting systems in place and imposing standards, the bill would make these crossings less vulnerable to terrorist threats and help keep our borders more secure, while at the same time promoting the efficient flow of goods and people at these crossings--all priorities of this government.
I am pleased to lend my support to this bill, which has been a long time in coming. The people of Simcoe--Grey, like most Canadians, demanded change. I am proud to be a part of a government that is taking action. Canada desperately needs this infrastructure. The new Conservative government will continue to do what is best for Canada.