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House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my hon. colleague opposite the same questions I have asked others before, with an additional one.

First, I want to acknowledge his comments about the residential schools agreement, which the previous government negotiated and booked. We are delighted the current government has implemented that. Also, I am very pleased that the new government has implemented the water strategy planned and developed by the previous government.

Does the member think it appropriate, and I have asked this question of other members before, that we drain the schools in order to fuel the water policy? We have heard much about education. We have heard about skills shortages. We have heard about lack of facilities in education. We know that moneys are being taken out of education projects and are being put into water facilities. Does he support that kind of activity?

The other question is for the member and his colleagues. I want to get some clarity from members opposite as to whether they agree with the statement made earlier in the day that just under four centuries Canada passed from an unsettled wilderness through agrarian and industrial revolutions. Do they agree with the concept that four centuries ago, this country was an unsettled wilderness? Would he comment on that?

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the hon. member that aboriginal peoples met the boats that came over from Europe and discovered the north American continent.

As far as sacrificing education for other programs our government has put forward, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has started work on looking at education as far as first nations. The minister is also pursuing that initiative. We are looking at post-secondary and the committee is looking at from K-12 needs for first nations aboriginal peoples.

How could one ever put a dollar amount before one had a plan? It is interesting that we are looking at this now to try to better understand what needs to be done, how we can facilitate better opportunities for first nations people in education, whether it be from K-12 or post-secondary. Yet a dollar amount was put to that process in the Kelowna accord by the former government.

Where are the estimates and why do we not see a breakdown of a plan. If we had that we can look at it what was to be done, what the outcomes would be and what the costs would be.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been a member in the House for almost 18 years. I have been in opposition, I have been in government and now I am back in opposition. The question of the aboriginal has always been an incredibly challenging one. None of us, Conservative or Liberal, during all of the years we have governed the country, has done a particularly great job of dealing with the aboriginals.

However, why when we finally have an accord, with 10 premiers and most of the aboriginals, why now after promising to uphold this accord, would the government change its mind on this? It is all well and good to piecemeal fund things, but this is the very first time we finally have an accord, where everyone has put party politics aside, where the means are there to do something, where we can work with the aboriginal communities so they can decide what they need and where they go from here.

I am incredibly heartbroken. When I speak to any of the aboriginal communities, I see their disappointment and their frustration. After finally having that accord, it is not being honoured. Shame on the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, shame on all Canadians. I agree with the hon. member on the other side as far as this being an ongoing issue.

I recall when I was mayor of Dawson City, Yukon territory and the minister of Indian and northern affairs at that time was the hon. Jean Chrétien. There was a mandate at that time to do something about the issues confronting aboriginal people. Here we are some 30 years later. We recognize the progress that has been made through the discussions in Kelowna, but we are not a government of paper policy and paper programs. We are a government where the rubber meets the road. We are going to get things done.

I believe that some tangible results will be seen from the government. We will be proud to say that we have moved forward with some of the priorities set out in the agreement in Kelowna.

Opposition Motion--Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 9 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings at this time. Pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the opposition motion are deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 20 at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are five motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-3.

The Chair has received notice that Motions Nos. 2 and 5 shall not be called.

Motions Nos. 1 and 4 have not been selected by the Chair because they could have been proposed in committee.

The remaining motion has been examined and the Chair is satisfied that it meets the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage. Motion No. 3 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now propose Motion No. 3 to the House.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Conservative Whitby—Oshawa, ON

moved:

That Bill C-3, in Clause 15, be amended by replacing subsection (2) with the following:

“(2) Before recommending that a regulation be made under subsection (1), the Minister shall, if in the opinion of the Minister it is necessary having regard to all the circumstances, consult with the other levels of government that have jurisdiction over any place where an international bridge or tunnel is situated and with any person who, in the opinion of the Minister, has a direct interest in the matter.”

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise this evening on Bill C-3, an act respecting international bridges and tunnels.

As the transport critic of the official opposition, I am very aware of how crucial bridges and tunnels are to the Canadian and international trade transportation networks. The vast majority of Canada’s exports to the United States go by way of these bridges and tunnels and the crossings between Ontario, New York and Michigan have the highest traffic volumes.

It is hard to overstate the magnitude of the trade between Canada and the United States. Under NAFTA, the trade between our two countries grew over the last decade by an average of 6% a year. In 2005, our bilateral trade was valued at more than $580 billion, with goods and services worth nearly $1.6 billion crossing the border every day. Millions of jobs are involved, and our transportation infrastructure is crucial to enabling this trade to proceed efficiently. This is therefore an extremely important bill.

I would like to congratulate the government for bringing Bill C-3 to the floor quickly. This bill, for nearly all intents and purposes, is identical to provisions that productive and progressive Liberal governments brought to the House on two previous occasions.

If I might, I will take a moment to remind the House of the path that the bill has taken.

Amendments to the Canada Transportation Act along the lines of Bill C-3 were first tabled as part of Bill C-26 during the second session of the 37th Parliament. Unfortunately, the current Prime Minister and the rest of the Canadian Alliance, at the time, opposed these measures, voting against them at second reading.

We brought these amendments back as part of Bill C-44 in the 38th Parliament. Once again, the opposition of the day found absolutely no merit in the legislation being considered by the House at that point and chose, instead, to defeat the government, effectively killing the bill for a second time.

As I said, I am very pleased to see that the government has come around to supporting our work now that it has the responsibility of governing. Bill C-3 seems to respect, at its core, its origins as a low profile bill that strengthens Canada. It is about taking one step at a time.

The hon. member for Outremont, my colleague, when he was minister of transport, outlined several benefits of the legislation that I hear the government echoing today.

First, provisions in Bill C-3 give the federal government the legislative authority that is required for effective oversight of international bridges and tunnels to ensure that the interests of Canadians are protected. This is a very important affirmation, an appropriate one, of the federal government's constitutional powers as outlined in sections 91(29) and 92(10) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Second, the hon. member for Outremont presented a bill to Canadians that provided the Governor in Council:

--with the authority to approve the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels, and to develop regulations pertaining to the governance, maintenance, safety, security and operation of these structures.

A broad power, but an important one.

This is a point worth re-emphasizing. Without fail, Liberal governments have invested appropriately in the safety and the security of Canadians. We can see, for example, the positive outcomes of our security investments, in general terms, with the successful apprehension of alleged terrorists in Toronto just several weeks ago.

Third, the hon. member for Outremont, when he was transport minister, stated very clearly that this new governance system for international border crossings “will help expedite the approval of new facilities and ensure the efficient and competitive flow of goods and people”.

The proposed changes concerning the power to issue letters patent will confer a new ability on the governor in council to establish corporations for the purpose of constructing new structures or operating existing ones.

The volume of trade at some of these crossings is simply mind-blowing. Over 23% of surface trade between Canada and the United States, for example, passes through the Detroit River area. One study suggests that if crossings are not properly maintained and developed, Canada can expect to lose up to 70,000 jobs by 2030, foregoing $21.5 billion in production.

In summary, Bill C-3 is yet another example in a long line of Liberal legislation to promote the Canadian economy and protect the safety and security of Canadians. While we may have differences about some of the details of the legislation, and amendments here and there, we cannot in good conscience thwart or stall what is in essence a very good bill.

With respect to the amendment itself, it does go some distance in ensuring that the federal government will consult, that it will consult with other orders of government, with the provinces and municipalities, for example, which have jurisdiction where a bridge or tunnel is situated or is to be built. It also goes some distance in ensuring that the federal government consults with anyone who has a direct interest in the matter, an appropriate balance, we believe, between government's responsibilities for safety, security and maintenance, while at the same time allowing for meaningful input from provinces and municipalities that might be affected and of course any proponent, any lending institution or any developer that might be in the business of building, maintaining or operating such bridges and tunnels.

In closing, when the government puts forward sensible legislation, we are happy to work in cooperation with it to achieve goals that all parties and indeed all Canadians hold in common. I congratulate the government for tabling the bill in such a speedy fashion.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Ottawa South for his comments. I have the pleasure of sitting with him on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

In his speech, the hon. member mentioned the appropriateness of our government’s action in bringing this bill quickly to the floor of the House, pointing out the speed with which we have acted. It is true that we act quickly compared with the previous government. We have also divided the bill so that bills that are more succinct and concise can be passed. That is what allows us to act more quickly.

In his speech, he also said he wanted to amend the bill so that it is possible to consult the other levels of government that might be involved in the management of bridges and tunnels.

How does he perceive the overlapping of provincial and municipal areas of jurisdiction? How is it possible to improve the bill in that regard?

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

First of all, I think it is important for parliamentarians to demonstrate to the Canadian people from time to time that they are capable of working together. In my view, Bill C-3 is a very good example of this.

Next, with the intensification—or urbanization—and emergence of new city-states in Canada, it is almost mandatory to engage in increasing consultation with those provinces and municipalities where a bridge or tunnel now exists or will exist in future.

In my opinion, the amendment will have a positive effect on planning. It will not affect the powers of the federal government as regards its planning with the provinces and with the parties affected by the development or operation of a tunnel or bridge. In 2006, more consultation with the parties concerned and the different levels of government is mandatory.

I would close by saying that in a time of increasing urbanization, at a time when we are seeing increasing densification of population and of Canada-United States trade and the benefits that have flowed under NAFTA in the last 10 years, it will be extremely critical for us to ensure that provinces and municipalities, as well as interested parties, are consulted during the process.

Whether it involves the operation of bridges and tunnels, the construction of bridges and tunnels or the question of security and emergency powers granted to the federal government in this bill, it will be important for the federal government and the minister named in the amendment to deal with other orders of government going forward.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the commentary and in particular for reminding the House that this is a bill that came from the last government, like many acts, such as the Aeronautics Act and certainly the whistleblower bill that is coming forward. There is quite a large number of them.

Clause 15 of the bill lists a number of purposes for which regulations could be made. One of them is:

(e) requiring any person or class of persons to provide to the Minister any information related to the operation and use of international bridges and tunnels.

I note in the amendment being proposed at report stage, Motion No. 3, that the consultation of the minister with stakeholders that have a direct interest is discretionary. It is at the minister's discretion, so I was wondering whether the member could enlighten the House as to when we have matters that may relate to the privacy issues of individuals. That would not be a matter of ministerial discretion but rather a requirement. Why did the committee not go that far?

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will first enlighten my colleague and let him know that I did not have the privilege of sitting on the committee when that particular amendment was brought forward and others were debated, but let me do my best to answer the balance that I think it is trying to achieve.

In the first instance, I think it is trying to give to the minister authority where it is required, for example, to have those consultations should they be required. There is the ongoing question of the trade secrets type of information and private matters. For example, we have a couple of instances in the country where these bridges are in private hands. It will be very delicate for the minister, for example, when the minister is seeking information, as the member points out.

It will be delicate and I am sure that ultimately flowing from the bill provisions will be made, and also in the regulations that will follow, to make sure that such information that is provided remains confidential. If it does not remain confidential, obviously that will be quite detrimental to the case of private owners and operators. I am quite assured that the bill actually strikes that right balance.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on behalf of my party, the Bloc Québécois, to the motion to amend Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act.

I am going to try and paint you a bit of a picture of this file on international bridges and tunnels. This goes back a long way because these infrastructures were under federal jurisdiction and have always been. How do we get today to a bill that specifies the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada respecting something that is granted under the Constitution? This is very Canadian. For the men and women listening to us, we are going to try and understand.

Over the years, for all sorts of reasons, and especially economic ones, the federal government has relinquished its structures and entrusted responsibility for them to other entities. A brief review and a little background are necessary, however. In Canada, as we speak, there are 24 international road bridges and tunnels between Canada and the U.S.: 14 in Ontario, nine in New Brunswick and one in Quebec. They are connected to the States of Maine, Vermont, New York, Michigan and Minnesota. There are also nine railway bridges and tunnels, all in Ontario, except for one in New Brunswick.

The bridges and tunnels are held in different ways: 22 are public property, seven belong to a federal authority, 13 to a provincial or municipal authority, one to a shared authority and one to an American authority, while the other two and the five railway bridges and tunnels are private property. That is the present situation. Of these 24 infrastructures, international bridges and tunnels, only seven are federal property. In a post-9/11 context, a context of high national security, the federal government has just realized that, for the sake of safety and security, we should legislate on this infrastructure, which in any case is under its jurisdiction. So we have to intervene to ensure citizens’ protection and security. There is the rub. Today we are obliged to make major declarations. This motion before us is all fine and well, but action needs to be taken.

Amended clause 5 of this bill must state: “International bridges and tunnels are declared to be works for the general advantage of Canada”, hence under federal jurisdiction. Section 92.10 of the Constitution Act, 1867, placed these works and undertakings under federal jurisdiction. The problem is that Canada has paid less and less attention to its infrastructure.

This began quite some time ago, as these bridges and infrastructure are not new. We can trace the history of each. Over hundreds of years, the Government of Canada, for monetary reasons, decided to no longer look after or to divest itself of these works. Some were transferred to private entities. The American company that owns one of these bridges told us that it dated back to the Depression and that it was a private property transferred form family to family over dozens of years. The Government of Canada at the time did not have any money and consequently a private enterprise decided to take it over.

This is causing serious problems today because various entities are involved, all with different standards and regulations governing the flow of goods and people. At a time when we are hoping that the federal government will deal with the fiscal imbalance, it is evident that the government did not look after what it owned outright, including international bridges and tunnels.

The government can certainly count on the support of the Bloc Québécois. One bridge is located in Quebec, under the responsibility of the Province of Quebec, which looks after it very well.

There are no justified complaints about that bridge.

We support this bill. We even support the government motion, which I will read, to amend clause 15. Clause 15 of Bill C-3 provides guidelines on operation and use. It is fairly easy to understand. I will try to explain it in lay terms so that the people who are watching can understand. It reads as follows:

The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting the operation and use of international bridges and tunnels, including regulations (a) respecting the use that may be made of international bridges or tunnels by different types of vehicles;

So even though this was the responsibility of the owner or operator—private companies in some cases, provinces or municipalities in other cases, and the federal government in the case of seven of these structures—the federal government says that, because this is its responsibility, the minister can step in from now on to regulate the type of vehicle that can use the structures.

(b) respecting the tolls, fees and other charges that may be imposed by owners or operators of international bridges or tunnels for their use, to ensure the efficient flow of traffic;

It will be apparent that the Government of Canada, which did not own the structures, did not set the tolls, fees or other charges. The government just realized that in the interest of national security and safety, it should perhaps intervene.

This is where the amendments come in. The provincial and municipal governments and the private companies that manage these structures told us that this could put them at risk, because they pass borrowing by-laws when they make repairs or renovations to the structures. This can therefore affect their credit.

This is what gave rise to this motion for amendment put forward earlier by the government to regulate tolls by adding a subsection 2 that reads as follows:

Before recommending that a regulation be made under subsection (1), the Minister shall, if in the opinion of the Minister it is necessary having regard to all the circumstances, consult with the other levels of government that have jurisdiction over any place where an international bridge or tunnel is situated and with any person who, in the opinion of the Minister, has a direct interest in the matter.

This means that, if the federal government wanted to intervene in establishing tolls, this subsection 2 would make it mandatory to consult the other levels of government, including the provincial and municipal governments in question, before recommending any regulations or tolls to be paid by users.

I think that is fair since, in any event, the federal government never took care of it because it was not the owner. Even if this were its responsibility in accordance with section 92.10 of the Constitution Act, 1867, it did not take care of it. It got rid of it to the benefit of other entities, municipal or provincial, or quite simply private industry.

It is rather logical that we here in the House today give our support, since public servants told us that it would facilitate fluidity, if the government ever decided to meddle in regulating tariffs, for all kinds of reasons. Public servants must at least be assured that the owner of a bridge can enter into discussions with the government before it tables a regulation for amendment. This is what we are supporting here today.

Since the Bloc Québécois always respects all jurisdictions, it hopes that the federal government will at least take care of this area of jurisdiction, because it was in the Canadian constitution. The federal government meddles far too frequently in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The government would not be criticized here today for trying to take care of its own areas of jurisdiction. We will therefore vote in favour of this motion and, naturally, for the bill as a whole, because the Bloc Québécois respects the federal government's areas of jurisdiction.

All we ask of the federal government is that it also respect the areas of provincial jurisdiction, which it has failed to do all too often in the past.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member, my colleague from the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, for his comments on Bill C-3.

The NDP tried several times to improve this act. Indeed, consultation is not mandatory, although this is an extremely important element when it comes to bridges and tunnels. There are several bridges in Ontario, several in New Brunswick and one in Quebec.

In committee, we tried to amend this act to make consultation a mandatory process. Communities are deeply affected by what happens with bridges. The communities in question are not only Windsor and Sault-Sainte-Marie; other communities in Ontario, as well as communities in New Brunswick and Quebec are also affected.

My question is very simple. In the member's opinion, why did the Conservative government reject, in every respect, the mandatory consultation process that we tried to add to this act?

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is because of stubbornness, pure and simple. Most likely, when the bill was introduced, they felt there was no real need to consult the stakeholders.

Personally, I hope they are still open to negotiation even though, as I explained earlier, this matter falls exclusively within federal jurisdiction. We have the utmost respect for this exclusive jurisdiction. However, the federal government has withdrawn from this responsibility, at least in the vast majority of cases. Except for 7 of the 24 structures, the government has handed the facilities or their management over to independent entities, such as provincial or municipal governments, or to private owners.

We are giving them the opportunity to consult other partners—the provincial and federal governments—before making decisions about fee structures, improvements, changes, permits and so on.

I think my colleague is right. I hope that we will manage to see eye to eye between now and when this bill passes. I know that my colleague and his team are working very hard to convince the government as the debate winds down.

I think that those who take over management of these facilities from the federal government deserve some consideration if the government has to make major decisions about something over which it has relinquished jurisdiction. The government is not taking ownership today. The owners are still the provinces, municipalities or private entities. The government has not said that it owns and will pay for all facilities. It has merely said that this matter is within its jurisdiction and that it wants to be involved in all decisions made concerning these bridges.

It would be wise for the government to agree to listen to the partners who own the facilities, including municipalities and the provinces.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a major problem at the border crossing in my area with regard to toxic substances that are permitted to cross the international border, particularly over the bridge, but to some degree in the tunnel as well.

I am wondering if the member could indicate whether this section and the amendment will require the government to consult either the province or the local municipal level of government. If toxic substances of some significant danger were to be transported across that bridge or through the tunnel, would that require consultation with the municipal or provincial levels of government?

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will quite simply answer no to my colleague. This point was discussed by the committee but the government and the law clerks told us that, with regard to this bill, other acts applied including the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. Thus, this bill could not amend another act. It was not designed to do so.

We were prepared to support this motion or this amendment tabled by the New Democratic Party. Since the communities could not force the bridge owner to have an operation plan for the transportation of dangerous goods, we felt that in the matter of safety and security of citizens, the term “dangerous goods” would have to be included in the criteria to be observed by owners of the works.

The government did not accept this. We were promised that it would be debated in committee and that all stakeholders would appear as witnesses—even government officials—in relation to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. We all agreed that that was fine. Except for one major problem: the law clerks told us that the amendment was contrary to the bill. As you know, that would have led to legal battles and debates. No one wished to delay C-3.

Thus, the answer to the member's question is no. Nevertheless, I hope that will be resolved one day.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:30 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act.

This bill should not be too far back in the memories of members in the House as it was before the House only several months ago, but allow me to review a few general tenets of the bill. Members may remember from the second reading debate that the bill actually borrows from Bill C-26 and Bill C-44, which both died on the order paper as recently as last year. This is a very important bill. These previous bills proposed a significant number of amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, including adding provisions dealing with international bridges and tunnels.

In this case, Bill C-3, which is very important to this government and very important to members of this House, focuses only on international bridges and tunnels and the matters concerning these structures. Bill C-3 is the new and improved version from this Conservative government of what the former bills were proposing, plus two new provisions. The first actually is technical in nature and deals with the construction of bridges over the St. Lawrence River. The second is a requirement for government approval of all transactions that affect the ownership and operation of these structures.

The bill, when enacted, will be the very first law to apply to all of Canada's international bridges and tunnels. It is a great job by this Conservative government.

There are currently 24 international vehicle bridges and tunnels and five international railway tunnels with various forms of ownership and governance structures. The degree of oversight exercised by the federal government varies tremendously from bridge to tunnel to different crossings. By declaring these structures to be works for the general advantage of Canada, the bill confirms the federal government's jurisdictional authority to deal with international bridges and tunnels as attributed to the federal government under section 92 of the Constitution. This is part of our mandate as the federal government.

Currently, to everyone's surprise, the federal government does not have legislative authority to ensure effective oversight of these bridges and tunnels. That is why this government is pushing it forward so quickly. For example, the federal government is not able to obtain detailed information on security issues, which are so prevalent, from all of the bridge authorities. All existing international vehicle and rail bridges and tunnels will be subject to the proposed act, as will all future structures. That is very important.

It was mentioned in the House during second reading that many of the bridges and tunnels that exist today were created by special acts of Parliament, which was a tremendous amount of work. These special acts established not only the company that would be responsible for constructing the bridge or tunnel, but also set out the various terms and conditions that had to be met before the governor in council would approve the construction of any crossing.

For the most part, these special acts were enacted decades ago, in some cases almost 100 years ago, and did not address the modern day realities, such as security. Every time a new issue arose, such as amending the borrowing limit for these crossings, these acts actually had to be amended. Such procedures were very cumbersome and warranted a lot of time from Parliament and the organizations involved, much time for little result.

Reference was actually made by me during second reading to the Blue Water Bridge which connects Point Edward, Ontario with Port Huron, Michigan. The original legislation, believe it or not, was enacted in 1928 and since that time has been amended no less than 10 times, the most recent time being in 2001. In fact, until such time as the proposed act is in force, a special act of Parliament would still be required to approve the construction of any new international bridge or tunnel.

That is why I am hoping for all party consent to push this matter through quickly. I would suggest that was an ineffective use of time, when the approval of new construction could be dealt with much more effectively by an administrative process that could be set down so everyone understands where and how they are going to move forward. This is what Bill C-3 proposes, a Conservative reality check in setting out that the construction of all new bridges and tunnels requires government approval, as do alterations to existing structures. It is a great move by this government.

Our neighbours in the United States have adopted a much more streamlined approval process for the construction of international bridges and tunnels. Before issuing a presidential permit approving the construction of an international bridge or tunnel, the U.S. Department of State consults with other federal and state departments and the Canadian government to ensure that all required permits are obtained and all conditions are met.

Bill C-3 allows for the adoption of a similar process in Canada to streamline it and make it much more efficient. Bill C-3 also sets requirements for bridge and tunnel maintenance and repair and safety and security keeping Canadians safe as they travel. This will give the government the power to make regulations in this area and to provide for sanctions when these regulations are not followed. The bill does not differentiate between structures that are publicly or privately owned. It does not propose one set of rules for private and one set of rules for public. It provides one set of rules for international crossings because they are important to this government. They are important to our international trade, our tourism and of course, our economy which is so important to us.

It is proposed that the bill apply equally to all international bridges and tunnels, regardless of whether they are owned by the province, the state, or privately. Of course the government is interested in who owns and operates these structures. That is why the bill proposes that government approval must be sought each and every time there is a change of ownership. That way the government at all times will know who ultimately owns, operates and controls these critical structures that belong to Canada. That way the government will be satisfied that these persons are not only qualified, but have the structure's long term viability in mind in the best interests of Canadians.

Safety of the travelling Canadian public is job number one of this government. This legislation will ensure that our bridges and crossings are safe and that the federal government has the ability to ensure national security and protect the vital trade links on which our economy depends. Safety does not start and end when these structures are designed and built. As a result we must maintain the safety and security throughout the life of the structure.

This bill will permit public safety to be assured in the following ways: first, at the construction phase, to make sure that the bridge or tunnel is built in accordance with proper and appropriate safety measures; second, at the time of any major alteration, by making these alterations subject to approval by the government; and third, to make sure that these crossings are properly and regularly maintained. If this is not the case, the bill grants the government the power to order the owners to make repairs that are deemed necessary to keep the structure in good working condition.

We often talk in the House about Canada's aging infrastructure. We were reminded during second reading debate just how old some of these structures are. Many, believe it or not, were built in the 1920s. Some were built in the 1960s. While many have been renovated and some have received proper maintenance and repair, there are some structures that still have significant concerns. The bill will enable the minister to make regulations in the area of maintenance and repair to ensure that standards of best practices in these areas are being followed. The minister has taken a step to ensure that Canadians are safe on our international borders.

The bill also addresses security. Unfortunately, we all know that terrorism in North America is a reality. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many security measures were put into place to protect Canada's critical infrastructure against terrorist threats. Many of the security standards or best practices that exist today are as a result of September 11. Our international bridges and tunnels did not escape scrutiny. That is why this Conservative government is putting this legislation forward as one of our main priorities.

In relation to international bridges and tunnels, many voluntarily took up the challenge and worked together to evaluate current levels of security and determine how this security could be improved upon. When it comes to security, the job is never done. We have to continue to make sure that new types of threats mean new types of security measures. There is no room for complacency. We must continue to be proactive in this area.

I would therefore encourage all members of the House to work cooperatively with this government to secure Canada's future, to secure Canadians as they travel across our international borders. I thank the member for Windsor West, the member for Ottawa South and the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for all their hard work on this file during committee and all the cooperation they have shown.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his kind remarks at the close of his speech.

I would like to ask him a question that deals specifically with the amendment we are dealing with this evening, which is an attempt to achieve a balance in the bill. There are some fairly overwhelming powers here vested in the minister and the governor in council with respect to, for example, the construction, the alteration and the operation of a bridge or tunnel. This bill goes as far as saying that the governor in council controls completely the construction, the alteration and the operation of an international bridge or tunnel, that an elaborate system of approvals must be sought. It goes as far as creating letters patent and spells out in very detailed fashion what letters patent would look like in such a case. It goes as far as speaking about officers' and directors' liabilities, for example.

I want to come to the balance between these new powers being vested in the minister and the governor in council and the right of other orders of government to participate in the decision making. Our colleagues in the NDP on a couple of occasions have raised some concerns around this. I have found that the amendment as drafted achieves a relatively appropriate balance between new powers vested in the minister and access to input for other orders of government.

Could the parliamentary secretary comment on that, please?

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, we only have one amendment before us today and that amendment was proposed by the government. I would suggest that amendment is very good. It deals with the regulations and it deals with the minister consulting with other levels of government.

The other amendments were ruled out of order because they should have been brought forward at committee. At committee we could have dealt with them. We could have talked about them, but instead they were brought forward after committee and as a result were ruled out of order by the House. There is nothing more I can do.

I can say that the Liberal government, and the member was in that government, had the ability to regulate entirely any border crossing at its initiative with certain powers. In this particular case, we are going a step further. We are going to make sure that we have consistency in our border crossings, make sure that we consider the best interests of Canadians and keep them safe and secure. That is something the Liberal government did not do.

Quite frankly, we believe that this matter should be pushed through post-haste, as quickly as possible, to ensure that we can regulate border crossings internationally and keep Canadians safe. I would welcome the member opposite to support this initiative by this government to keep Canadians safe.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with some surprise I heard the parliamentary secretary talk about consultation within the bill. Very clearly the amendment continues that process of centralizing power within the minister and the ministry, rather than providing for the broad base consultation the NDP has been calling for, consultation with the municipalities that are impacted and also with the provinces that are impacted.

That was our concern with this bill from the very beginning. We raised it in the House at the introduction of this bill. We said that there was a flaw. Even though we supported in principle the aspects and the direction of the bill, there was a key flaw, and that was in the area of consultation with the communities that are impacted. The NDP strove at the committee level to bring in those kinds of amendments so that there was an obligatory process of consultation, not decided on by the government or the minister deciding when to consult and when not to consult, but a process of consultation with the communities that are impacted.

We know how strongly our cities are impacted by international bridges and tunnels and changes that could be brought by the federal government, so we moved to bring forward a process of consultation that would be obligatory. We wanted to make sure there would be consultation with the communities that would be impacted by this bill, whether it was Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie or any other community in Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick. We brought that forward and the government has refused that consultation.

My question is simple. Why refuse consultation with the communities that are impacted? Why could they not have some say in what happens?

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, it sounded good, but that is not the way it goes. The amendments put forward by the NDP member, and he has worked very hard on this file, should have been done earlier on so we could have debated them properly at committee and that was not done.

However, the power is already there. The power has been there for hundreds of years. Now we are trying to restrict the power and ensure we have consistency. What party could be against consistency and the protection of Canadians as they travel across the border? I have no idea why any party here today would object to pushing this bill forward.

Let us look at the amendments for a moment. They are asking for us to consult with all levels of government. They are asking for whatever government to consult with all levels of government. What does that mean? There is no restriction. Does it mean province? Does it mean a business community? What does that mean?

The problem is we never had the amendments in time because the NDP never brought them forward in time so we could debate them properly. As a result, we cannot just, at the last minute, push this matter forward post haste and put something forward that Canadians are not going to appreciate long term, and that would restrict Canadians. It just does not work.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on this matter in the House of Commons and the amendments that have been proposed here tonight. I thank the parliamentary secretary for his work as well as members opposite. I enjoyed working on the transport committee and I thank those members too.

I am going to spend a few minutes correcting some misinformation. First of all, the notion of consulting municipalities and local governments was brought forth originally in a discussion in this chamber. We strongly objected to the fact that this was not part of the bill. Anyone can look up our objections in Hansard. This was raised continually in committee.

The parliamentary secretary is suggesting that this is a government amendment, but I would remind him that this amendment is standing in a government member's name only. An original amendment was put forth by the NDP which was debated extensively and there was agreement in principle. What we were looking for tonight were some additional amendments that would actually have provided consistency.

We have the situation where the operational elements of border crossings at an international bridge or tunnel have some vested partner input in the area, but the same situation does not apply for the sale, alteration or construction of the areas that affect border crossings, and these can be quite significant.

For the parliamentary secretary to give the impression here tonight that we are actually throwing something at the government is irresponsible, and I say that with all due respect. These amendments were tabled in this House of Commons on June 13. Despite the original discussion that we had over a month ago, despite the information that we traded at committee, and despite the fact that these amendments have been on the order paper since that time, the government is obviously not really interested in moving forward on due consultation with vested partners.

I think it is important to paint the reasons why as New Democrats we believe that this should move forward. There was an agreement between all parties here. I thank the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois for supporting a motion to move these amendments tonight. We have the power and the ability to do so, but the government has chosen not to at this moment. That is the reality.

The government has chosen to shut the door. It is shutting the door to other levels of government. It is shutting the door to the provinces. It is shutting the door on the people affected by these border crossings. People's lives are being affected.

Why is this important? It is important because border communities like Windsor, Fort Erie or places in Quebec have bottleneck problems with transportation. Often heavy-handed solutions are imposed on us. However, nobody wants the cars and trucks to move more freely through our municipalities than the people who live in these municipalities. They are choking on smog and pollution. They also have to face the heavy traffic congestion.

That is why these amendments are important and that is why they were put forward in this House. They were put forward to put consistency in the bill.

We are debating government Motion No. 3. It calls for the minister to consult with other levels of government that have jurisdiction over any place where an international bridge or tunnel is situated and with any person who has a direct interest in the matter. Why is this important? It is important because 24 international bridges and tunnels connect Canada with the United States. Of those 24, two are privately owned. There are no regulations or authority over them.

This is why we are looking at changing this bill in terms of having some accountability, which is so important as previous speakers have articulated. The daily transportation value between our two countries amounts to $1.5 billion a day. About 42% of the nation's trade travels on a regular basis through my community alone.

I have seen what has happened in the past and this is why I believe in these amendments. The government should change its position and listen for a change because it is in a minority position. The government needs to be reminded of that fact quite often. This is a minority Parliament. Canadians need to understand that we need to keep the government on a short leash. If we do not do that, it will use its heavy-handed nature. It is important that the Conservative government be kept on a short leash.

We have had a situation over a number of decades in Windsor. Thousands of trucks per day rumble through the city streets and there is no solution. A proposal was finally made to remedy this situation.

There were two phases. The first phase was signed with every single level of government participating. There were projects to create a pedestrian crosswalk. We actually have a high school where mothers have been killed.

The member for Essex is now saying that people do not use it. That is not true. The member for Essex should remember what is most important, that students should have a right to have a safe crossing to get to their high school. That should be a right. The member for Essex should remember that. That project had full consent. We actually have a pedestrian crosswalk now that crosses at Huron Church Road.

There are other projects that are very beneficial. The Walker Road rail separation has been held up, but there is consent and it is moving slowly forward. This is a rail separation grade that will be very important for the nation's trade, next to the most successful manufacturing plant since World War II, which is the minivan Chrysler plant. We will have a separation grade in the future.

Other highway updates for safety such as LED signage and a whole series of things were all signed, together with consultation. The projects are moving very slowly, but they are moving together.

Phase two is a different situation. Phase two was an imposed solution on the municipality by the provincial and federal governments of the day. Phase two has met resistance. It has met bureaucracy. It has met a whole series of problems because people are offside. All this amendment is calling for and all we are asking for is consultation. Consultation is so important.

For example, if the Ambassador Bridge were to be sold in the future, it is important to have that consultation, not only with the municipality, the local government, and the province, but other businesses because they would be affected as the Ambassador Bridge is owned by a private American citizen. There is a series of connections of businesses that literally monopolize the crossing. That is a very important fact to remember.

Who will own that crossing in the future? We do not know if it is going to be the government. We still do not have any commitment from the government that the new crossing to be built between Windsor and Detroit is to be publicly owned and operated. We still cannot get that far as it has not been put to paper. If it is sold in the future, there will be an onus to discuss the situation with the local people and the local partners.

I know there is a concern being expressed. I do not diminish the potential of lawsuits with this type of consultation process. That is why, if we use due diligence, we will see a consultation process that will carry its weight at the end of the day and we will discourage any attempt to stonewall things and prevent them from moving forward.

However, we must have the best possible legislation. At the end of the day, is this the best possible legislation? No, not without these clauses and amendments.

It is important to recognize one of the amendments that deals with construction on both sides of a border crossing. It is very important to ensure that we have coordination. As things currently stand, on the Ambassador Bridge side, there will be construction on the American side for a plaza. Right now there are scheduling conflicts on the Canadian side at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel because there will actually be construction there.

We can have projects overlapping and construction to fix facilities to move traffic which will slow traffic. We end up having a clogging of the arteries without the due process.

I do not think the minister would have any ill will and would not want to consult with people in local jurisdictions. I do not assume that as a premise, but as a witness, as a member in the House, there has not been, with due respect, a consultation process.

Coming from my municipal roots and seeing what the traffic, the pollution, and the congestion has done, and the lack of investment, we need to ensure that border crossings across this country are done efficiently, in terms of the process of consultation. They must be done effectively, so that they are managed on a regular basis. Finally, they must be supported by good, grounded legislation. The bill is failing in that department at this time.

Motions in amendmentInternational Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question.

In recent weeks, we have had an opportunity to talk about the bill we are debating this evening, and there has never been any question of adding a new amendment.

I would simply like to know what fas happened in the last hour.