House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.


International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, that is trying to extrapolate to the extreme in order to get some validity for whatever it is that he wants to accomplish. I do not know what he wants to accomplish other than to draw unto himself all of the credit for having reached this point, because he knows quite well that I was the minister responsible for Ontario when all of those studies were begun and when all of the infrastructure initiatives and solutions were being put in place by our government.

He knows quite well that none of those studies to which he has made reference can take place without environmental assessments. In fact, the environmental assessments were cascading one over the other. What people were looking for was a way to bring everyone together for that specific issue, on both the American side and the Ontario side. No one wanted to take things away from those who had a legitimate right to them in the private sector.

What everybody was looking for at the time, and I believe that to be the case today as well, is the cooperation for one large national goal. We must keep in mind the fact that the Detroit-Windsor corridor is not a local issue alone. It is a very important national issue. It is, at the very least, a very central issue for the southern Ontario economy, and so the Government of Ontario, the municipal council of Windsor, regional councils in the area, Michigan, the governor, the City of Detroit and the Government of Canada were all engaged.

The member knows quite well that there were some mechanisms put in place to move traffic much more quickly. That involved Customs and Excise Canada. He knows that it involved the homeland security department. He knows that it involved CBSA. He knows as well that Environment Canada was part and parcel of all of the assessments and deliberations as we went along. Never at any time was the Government of Canada of the day interested in curbing growth, investment and development in the context of an environmental, political and economic security environment.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on that. It was the interpretation of the motion at the committee by government officials and also by the clerk that such was the case, that there was a circumventing of the Environmental Assessment Act by that motion.

Even if we grant that, why would it be the Liberal Party's position that we would actually have the circumventing of its current programs that it has laid out for accountability? Why would the Liberals allow a twinning? Why would they allow non-consultation? Why would they, by a motion in that manner, allow somebody to run roughshod over an entire process that involves four levels of government?

That is what happened. That is what was proposed. That is what was on the table. I would like to know if that is the position of that party.

It is important because this border crossing element has been complicated, difficult and problematic. Why is it that we still see the emergence of the private sector interest above the public interest? It is not just the private sector component that is affected, that being the Ambassador Bridge. It is the whole auto industry. It is the corridor and all the businesses that depend upon the border crossing, from the Windsor-Detroit region all the way to Montreal. All of them are affected because we have the highest fares by far compared to any other border crossing and that is because of the conditions we have right now.

As for the extra cost, the delays and the lack of accountability, why would the Liberals want to return to that type of agenda? Why was that motion tabled in the committee? Do they want to preserve the environment that is happening right now?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is good that I have been around here a while because otherwise I would be bowled over by the concept that somebody from the NDP might actually think that the private sector has a role in life. I am actually surprised by the member's indication that economic partners in southern Ontario, including the auto workers and including what I think he said is the auto industry private sector, all of them, have an interest in what goes on at that border crossing.

What is really surprising is that somebody from the NDP can speak with such a straight face on an issue like this, an issue that could have been resolved two years ago when we had all of the energies and synergies in place, with all of the levels of government on both sides of the border, the CAW, the auto industry, the trucking industry and the railway industry all determined to make sure that this border crossing was going to be efficient and effective. They had all the mechanisms in place.

What did the NDP members do? They decided they wanted to bring the government down so they could have instead, if we can believe it, a Conservative government, and now they are happy that we actually have something going. Good heavens. I am not sure whether these guys are talking about politics or economics, or what they live in; I guess it must be blue Kool-Aid now.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House for the first time in 2007. I would like to wish Quebeckers and Canadians a happy 2007 full of health and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, I wish you a happy 2007 full of wisdom.

I also want to wish my colleagues wisdom and transparency in their words.

I will be discussing Bill C-3, An act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. From the outset I will say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the amendments to the bill and what the government has introduced, given the fact that in Quebec, only one bridge is subject to this legislation. I am referring to the Sutton bridge linking Quebec and Vermont. Responsibility for this bridge is shared between the State of Vermont, the municipality of Sutton and the Government of Quebec. That is why we have worked conscientiously on this.

In all transparency, I would like to go back over Bill C-3, since the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the Conservative member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, told us he finally decided to divide bills introduced by the Liberals that had died on the order paper. However, he did not exactly say what truly happened.

Let us not forget that the bridges and tunnels issue was part of Bill C-44 prepared by the Liberals, a bill that was delayed because his party—the Conservative Party—did not agree with one of its main provisions, which created Via Rail. The issue is that Via Rail is a crown corporation and that Bill C-44 created the Via Rail Act replacing the articles of incorporation and making the corporation much more independent and capable of taking care of its future, especially the development of its industry, which is often linked to government decisions.

Let us recall the infamous project known as VIA Fast. Once again, I must take to task the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for not telling us that the Conservatives were against drafting the legislation that created VIA Rail and that would have given rise to the VIA Fast project for a high-speed train linking Montreal, Windsor and Quebec City. That was the aim and VIA Rail never hid that fact, nor did the Liberals. This is why the new Liberal Party critic, the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, will represent the Liberals on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Naturally, I would like to acknowledge and say hello to him.

Nevertheless, at that time, the Liberals were themselves divided. The minister at the time, Mr. Collenette, wanted to make a concerted effort and provide VIA Rail with a good opportunity to develop. However, not all Liberals agreed on the subject. It must therefore be understood that Bill C-3, before us here in the House today, constitutes just one small part of an interesting platform. This was backed by the Bloc Québécois, especially with respect to the new legislation that would have made VIA Rail Canada an independent corporation. Thus, VIA could have taken care of its future and development, and secured its own loans in order to ensure its development. VIA Rail was refused this by a group of Liberal members who were against it, who were divided.

I would remind the House that, at that time, there was a considerable division between the Chrétien camp and the Martin camp. Moreover, as we have seen, the Conservatives have presented no new legislation regarding VIA Rail, because they are very afraid of VIA's development.

I listened to the Liberal Party critic talk to us about safety. That is fine. However, problems with safety do exist, as we have seen. It was mentioned that General Baril, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CATSA, is taking early retirement on this count.

The fact remains that there are some difficult situations. Some reports have indicated that there are security breaches at Trudeau airport in Quebec. Journalists have to play the role of politicians, to investigate and find flaws. However, in the meantime, the damage has been done insofar as the public is concerned.

In a way, VIA Rail was right to develop a market. However, it is wrong to believe that people who are afraid to fly because of television reports on airport security are going to eagerly buy airline tickets. They will use other means of transportation. The Bloc Québécois truly believed that the legislation to create VIA Rail should have been enacted and that this company would have had the opportunity to develop and to compete with airlines by providing Quebeckers and Canadians with another quick and efficient form of transportation.

We were not talking about high-speed trains, but of the VIAFast concept. For those who remember, this was a rapid rail service that could easily have served the Quebec City-Montreal-Windsor corridor, and perhaps even the Quebec City-Montreal-New York line. We could have opted for development of this service and provided Quebeckers and Canadians with a safe and rapid rail service which would not have taken anything away from the air system.

We must make efforts to continue to ensure the safety of air transportation and strengthen this market. However, we must also provide other means of transportation considered to be just as safe or safer to those who wish to travel . That was the objective.

Today, I find that what has been said does not line up with what took place. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, did not mention that, in the end, Bill C-3 was tabled because Bill C-44 was not enacted. Yes, he did mention that fact, but he did not say why.

The Conservatives were dead set against new legislation that would have created VIA Rail. The Liberals were as well. The Liberal critic did not mention that Bill C-44, which his party had introduced, was never passed because many Liberal members were against legislation that would have created VIA Rail Canada.

As I have already said, there was a huge debate, a huge competition between the Martin and Chrétien camps. But Quebeckers and Canadians are the losers today, because no investment was made. VIA Rail was not given a chance to develop fully and provide faster, safer rail transportation in order to compete with air and road transportation. It would be a good way to encourage travel, to help the economy run properly and to allow people to do business more expeditiously.

Once again, there were internal debates among the Liberals and the Conservatives, who likely were keen to protect WestJet in western Canada. They were afraid that the airline would suffer serious financial difficulties, when it is actually in very good shape, and they knew it at the time. Quite simply, the Liberals and the Conservatives are digging in their heels, because their personal interests run counter to the public interest. That is what the Conservative government is doing, just as the Liberals did before it and are still doing today. Personal interests are taking priority over the public interest.

Members can be sure that this is not true of the Bloc Québécois members. They are always prepared to defend the public interest. That is what we are doing in the case of Bill C-3. We will therefore vote in favour of Bill C-3, which is but a small portion of Bill C-44, even though, as I said earlier, we have only one bridge that will be subject to this legislation, the Sutton bridge. In the event there should be other bridges in future, we have volunteered to monitor the situation.

I will review part of Bill C-3, which required some rather difficult and tough debates, because when the legislation was first introduced by the Liberals—and then reintroduced by the Conservatives—it included three major parts. Of course, the first part deals with the construction and alteration of bridges.

It must be realized that these international bridges come under the responsibility of a number of bodies, both in the United States and in Canada, and may include provincial or municipal governments. Sometimes, private owners are also involved. In each case, individual agreements are reached for every one of these bridges. I can understand why some members who have such bridges in their ridings were really affected by the debates on this legislation. Indeed, we wanted, among other things, to ensure that those who have an interest in these bridges would be able to express their views.

So, whether we were dealing with the construction, alteration, maintenance, security or safety of these bridges, provincial and municipal governments were included in the discussions. That was the purpose of the amendments that were made and that were supported by the Bloc Québécois. We want to allow the administrations, and all the stakeholders, which have to make decisions regarding these most important structures and which have to deal with these situations, to have a say. I believe that, ultimately, with the amendments proposed by the Senate, this objective will be achieved.

It is a case of being able to bring about change when making a decision. Indeed, the first sections that I referred to earlier, clauses 6 to 12, deal with construction and alteration of infrastructure. When alterations are to be made or construction is proposed, the Government of Canada must be informed. That was not the case previously.

We need to understand that many of these bridges are very old and date back to the 1900s. Agreements were signed by private companies who were the owners. They signed contracts with different levels of government. These were separate agreements. I believe that at some point we have to be able to do things and to say to all those bridge administrators that there is now a law that transcends all those arrangements. In other words, regardless of the agreements signed in the past, the law now applies in the same way to everyone. I believe that idea was also well received by the witnesses who appeared before the committee and by the industry, with some minor changes or observations.

Plans for construction and alterations are therefore to be submitted. That is a request that will have to be enforced. Any time someone wants to make alterations to these structures or to build new ones, they have to contact the federal government and also discuss the matter with the provincial and municipal authorities concerned.

Next, in clause 13, Maintenance and Repair, through clause 16, Operation and Use, there is clearly a whole procedure dealing with operation. When work has been done and so forth, there is always a question about cost because many of these facilities collect a toll. Obviously, a whole structure of provisions has been incorporated into Bill C-3 to ensure that the federal government has something to say about the setting of prices. Moreover, a role was added for the provincial governments and municipalities because the places where these infrastructures are located should also have a voice in setting the charges and fees that are often related to the maintenance work that is carried out on these bridges.

The third important issue is the matter of security. Obviously, the government must be able to establish certain standards of security. Since September 2001, we have recognized that safety and security are of the greatest importance. It was time therefore to include in the law an obligation for the administrators of these bridges to meet standards of safety and security.

The only thing that may have hit a snag in committee was the question of hazardous materials. In fact the government did not want to go any further in this bill with respect to hazardous materials because there is already legislation for the transportation of hazardous materials. Still, I wish to make the same observation I made to the committee, namely that we are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. It is true that there is legislation respecting hazardous materials, but it might have been important to include this aspect in this bill. We will see.

The Bloc Québécois is going to be keeping a very close eye on this bill and I am going to do the same thing. I am going to urge my colleagues in the House of Commons to bear this bill in mind when problems arise concerning the transportation of hazardous materials crossing these international bridges and going through these international tunnels. We could have gone further with this bill, pushed things and even clarified the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. We are told that there will be a future amendment to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and that we should not confuse things. In my opinion, though, always trying to go further and to see things more clearly does not confuse anything.

However, we were good losers. We rallied the majority who did not want to see this point in this bill or to discuss the whole section on the safety of transporting hazardous materials. I still think there will always be a safety and security problem and obviously giving carriers clear standards and guidelines suits us. This also goes for the operators these bridges so that there are some very significant security standards when the time comes to transport hazardous materials. This has to be clarified in all the bills having anything to do with transportation.

This bill respecting international bridges and tunnels obviously affects the transportation of all products, people, goods and services, but also the transportation of hazardous materials.

We may understand why the government did so, but I would say the stronger the better. We could have added to the bill all the standards to be met by operators regarding hazardous materials and taken the opportunity, every time transportation and safety came up, to subject all these people to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and made things clear.

The title of the bill reads as follows: An act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. This other act created various administrations to manage the bridges.

So it is amended. When we passed an entire clause on the transportation of dangerous goods, we could very easily have amended the 1992 Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

However, the officials at Transport Canada obviously did not see it this way. They managed to convince the other parties that the best approach was to deal with the transportation of dangerous goods in another act separate from the one on international bridges and tunnels. Apart from these small suggestions for our colleagues that we should closely follow the recommendations made by the operators of the international bridges and tunnels on the transportation of dangerous goods, the Bloc Québécois fully supports this bill. We are in favour of the amendments that were made.

I would like to return now to what I said in my introduction. I want it to be very clear to the Quebeckers and Canadians listening to us that when it comes to Bill C-44, they should not pay any attention to the parliamentary secretary when he says that the bill tabled by the Liberal Party, that is Bill C-44, died on the order paper. A bill often dies on the order paper because the parties do not all cooperate.

If Bill C-44 at the time, which was the original of today’s Bill C-3, died on the order paper, it was because the parties did not all cooperate in the House. I said it before and will say it again: the Conservative Party was against Bill C-44 for one single reason. Obviously, it was not because of all the clauses on bridges and tunnels because they agree now and tabled a bill.

At the time, they introduced another bill on railway noise. They agreed with all of Bill C-44 except for the part enacting the Via Rail Canada act that was the heart of the bill.

The most important part of Bill C-44 was the act to create VIA Rail and give the company the support it needs to develop its service. It was as simple as that. VIA Rail would have been transformed from a Crown corporation to a private company. It would have been called VIA Rail Canada and would have been an independent company subject to the Canada Business Corporations Act. It would have managed its own development and created VIA Fast, a project supported by the Bloc Québécois. VIA Fast would have been a fast train linking Montreal to Windsor or Quebec City to Montreal, thus offering an alternative to air travel and developing a safe rail transport network.

Bill C-44 did not go through. It died on the order paper. The Conservatives were against it and they did everything they could to make sure it did not go through. As for the Liberals, they were divided. Chrétien's camp was in favour, but those backing the member for LaSalle—Émard were not.

Earlier, I congratulated the critic on his new portfolio in the Liberal shadow cabinet, but he did not mention Bill C-44. I hope that he will be among those who support VIA Rail's development, not among those who oppose it. We will have opportunities to discuss this in future debates, debates that we hope will be marked by wisdom and transparency. Bill C-3 is fine, but the Bloc Québécois is very disappointed that Bill C-44 died on the order paper because it would have brought into force legislation creating VIA Rail Canada, thus enabling VIA Rail to develop and introduce fast train service between Montreal and Windsor. Eventually, it would also have introduced a fast train between Quebec City and Montreal and Montreal and New York.

On that note, happy debating in 2007.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I had a remarkable experience. I would like to thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc Québécois for making this possible.

Let me explain. A Bloc member just congratulated the Liberal Party and complimented it on initiatives taken in this area during the previous Parliament.

This is remarkable. He also wanted to underscore the fact that the Conservatives did not want a progressive, forward-looking piece of legislation, such as Bill C-44. I am almost speechless.

I have a question for my colleague, whom I have known for several years and who worked hard on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. By supporting Bill C-3, does he want the federal government to control transportation costs or does he simply accept the role that the government can play in cases of national interest?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the introduction given by the Liberal Party's critic, I would like to make certain clarifications.

In my speech on Bill C-44, which was introduced by the Liberal Party, I applauded the merits of the section of Bill C-44 that had to do with VIA Rail.

I also said that Bill C-44 did not go through but died on the order paper because some Liberal members were against making VIA Rail an independent company or independent Canadian corporation. That is the reality. That is why Bill C-44 did not go through. The Liberals are also to blame in this situation because the Chrétien team wanted VIA Rail to come into being, while the team supporting the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard was against it. Where did my colleague stand on the matter? I think that everyone who knows him knows the answer to that.

This bill would have been good for the community, for society and for Quebeckers. VIA Rail could have developed VIA Fast, first with links between Quebec City and Montreal, and Montreal and Windsor, and one day, between Quebec City, Montreal and New York. That would have been advantageous, but that will not happen. The Liberals are partially responsible.

To answer his question, the Bloc Québécois worked to make sure that the federal government would not determine the fees, but would take part in negotiations. We want to make sure that the provinces and municipalities can hold discussions with the federal authority so that everyone together can help the operators choose fees that are in line with the neighbouring population's ability to pay.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Bloc is absolutely correct to note Bill C-44 and the difficulty experienced on the VIA Rail project, in particular.

I had the opportunity to sit with the minister prior to the announcement of an $800 million commitment to fast rail service throughout the Ontario to Quebec region. It was very important for passenger rail transportation. It was also important that the rail itself be upgraded for commerce and that other types of transportation be available to the public for travel, commerce and tourism.

He was quite right to note that as soon as the member for LaSalle—Émard became prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party he cancelled that project because it was seen as a legacy project from the Chrétien era.

Does my colleague believe that it is still worthwhile investing in this project, a project that could help with greenhouse emissions as well as transportation and trade development throughout the Ontario to Quebec region?

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Windsor West for his question.

He is quite right. Investing in rail means in investing in the transportation of the future. We must also make sure that air transportation is secure. As I mentioned earlier, we went through that with Montreal-Trudeau. The airport had its share of security flaws. Reporters were able to go wherever they wanted, proving that evil doers could endanger travellers' lives.

This has created some anxiety about air travel. Some Quebeckers and Canadians do not feel comfortable travelling by air.

Ongoing investment in air transportation is needed for security reasons, but at the same time, we have to enable a secure, competitive means of mass transportation to develop. That is what the Conservatives and a segment of the Liberals did not want to do. They did not want to enable VIA Rail to develop transportation in the Quebec City-Montreal, Montreal-Windsor corridor more quickly. Once again, this clearly would have facilitated economic and tourism development, and with a more environmentally friendly means of transportation.

It was a bad decision by the Liberals at the time, the Liberals under the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, and the Conservatives are continuing to make the same bad decision. There has not been a bill to reopen discussion on the future of VIA Rail. Rest assured, knowing them, there will not be any bill on the matter. They do not want VIA Rail to be able to develop or compete with air transport or anything else. Let us be clear, it is not their personal interest or what they have invested in WestJet that is at stake. They have to rise above personal interest and ensure that the public, Quebeckers and Canadians, are able to choose a mode of transportation in a reasonable and safe manner.

Rail transport is a very interesting solution that the Bloc Québécois supports. I want to thank my colleague for his question.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am being regaled with expertise on the functioning of the Liberal Party by those who are not associated with it, thank heavens. However, the issue of VIA and a fast train along the Quebec-Windsor corridor is one that goes well beyond the last administration and, indeed, the previous one before that. It is one that was raised in 1989 by the then Conservative government of the day and it was abandoned almost immediately. It was not even willing to do the environmental assessment and feasibility studies associated with enhancing that train travel or any kind of upgrade of the terrain and of the rail itself.

My colleague knows very well that about four years ago, during the Chrétien administration, there was a request by VIA Rail for additional funds to do the appropriate feasibility and environmental studies. Those were the ones being put forward and there was total agreement among Liberals to ensure that it took place. I especially thank him for having recognized that the Conservatives were so narrow-minded in their approach to transport issues and to political objectives in the House that they caused the collapse of Bill C-44, which would have gone well beyond where we are going today.

Will he move away from his desire to reflect on past Liberal Parties and think in terms of going forward with a Dion environmental technological approach to the new transportation modes tomorrow? Would he be so kind as to reflect on that continuity and say that he would like to join that process? There is room over here, by the way, if he says yes.

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1:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I remind the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence not to refer to other members by their names, but by their ridings or titles.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

International Bridges and Tunnels ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to know that I will talk to him about the future, but the past being an indication of the future, I want to remind him of what my colleague from Windsor West was saying earlier. I trust him since he is from Windsor and he is aware of the decisions being made on the matter.

Indeed, there was a Liberal government led by Mr. Chrétien that wanted to invest in VIA Rail and in VIA Fast. Then there was a Liberal government led by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard who said no to this investment. This all happened under the Liberal regime. My colleague is trying to tell us that there is a new Liberal Party. As the critic, perhaps he should try to convince everyone, all his colleagues, that when his party is back in power one day, it will decide to invest in VIA Rail. It is far from certain. The debate was very important. It began very well, but ended poorly under a Liberal regime.

Indeed, rail is transportation for the future. We have to consider investing in this sector and putting the common interest above personal interest.

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1:15 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-3. Accountability has been a long time coming on some of our border processes.

Quite frankly, to continue the discussion on Bill C-44 and Bill C-3, there were some excellent things in Bill C-44, but I am glad at the very least that we are moving on Bill C-3. It is very important that we get some type of accountability.

That is what has been lacking on our 24 international bridges and tunnels that connect us to the United States. There has not been a standardized process to ensure safety, security, pricing, and a whole bunch of operational issues. That is why we want to see this bill pass in the House of Commons.

It is not the perfect bill. It is something that I tried to improve with a number of different motions. Some actually got through and some did not, but at the end of the day this is an opportunity to do something good for our commerce and our prosperity for the future. It is more than just the operations that we have to be concerned about. It is the investment.

I first want to outline the summary of the bill. It is important that people understand this context. It did not really come into the national perspective of the sensitivities and difficulties at border crossings until 9/11 in 2001 with the terrorist attacks and the shutting down of the border with the United States. We in Windsor, Ontario and many other jurisdictions across the country understood the infrastructure, operational and accountability deficiencies, but were unable to successfully penetrate it to a national level that would get it to the point where there would be action taken by any particular level of government. That was very important.

When that episode happened, new challenges began to emerge that became very important, not only to the people who lived around the immediate facilities of the border crossings but to those who live in an area that has four border crossings in total; who live along the 400 series highways, the Golden Horseshoe area; Montreal; British Columbia; and those who live in areas of border crossings right across the Prairies.

A number of different challenges began to emerge, but when it came to international bridges and tunnels, there was no actual mandate for the federal government to have some type of accountability standards or procedures and to ensure there was oversight. That is very important because there are border crossings that are privately held.

Two of the 24 are very unusual in the context of the overall infrastructure portfolio this country has, but they are very significant ones. Second to that, there was also no standardization for the other ones owned by the federal government, provinces and municipalities that had some type of vested stake in the actual border crossing. This brings a greater perspective for all of us in relation to this bill.

The summary states:

This enactment establishes an approval mechanism for the construction, alteration and acquisition of international bridges and tunnels and provides for the regulation of their operation, maintenance and security.

That is important to note. Looking at the titles of the different chapters, it is about interpretation and application for actual border crossings, construction and alteration, maintenance and repair, operation and use, security and safety, changes of ownership, and operational control. These are all things that are very important to how the border functions and operates.

As I was discussing earlier, it is not just about the operator of the border crossing, whether it be a public or private entity. It is about the repercussions that are faced by the goods and services trade, people and vehicular flow across these border crossings into other regions. The less efficient they are, the less accountability that happens with regard to public safety and investment in infrastructure to ensure it is preserved in perpetuity, the less investment there is to actually expand and meet the challenges and, on top of that, the less there is to do with accountability about pricing, which is an actual trade barrier to our country being successful with the United States. Whether it be the tourism aspect, where people pay a higher price by going along a certain border corridor or transport trucks being charged far greater than what they should be, all of these affect our economy.

What is important to note about that is that in the auto industry and other types of industries these are significant costs. At the border, for example, in Windsor, Ontario an automobile can quite literally cross the border six times before it is completely finished. Between all the parts and different operations that are exchanged, the vehicle will cross the border to Michigan and return to Ontario multiple times. If there is a lack of investment, all of these additional costs will have a significant impact not only on our current infrastructure and economy but also on decision-making.

I have been involved in this since 1997 when I was a city councillor. We have been arguing for this investment as a way of showing Ontario and Quebec in particular that we could solve the border problem to ensure it was fast, safe and secure. This would enable goods to get to markets very quickly and it would be done in an accountable way. This would provide for possible plant expansions. I have heard from different corporations that they have withheld funding for plant expansions because of their concern about the border question.

We still have this problem in the Windsor-Detroit corridor despite all the rhetoric and all the bluster in many announcements. There is yet to be the political will to invest the capital to fix our current problems. We have not seen anything. It is important that we at least get the operational aspect under control. It is not sinister. It is not something one would think there would be problems with.

The fact of the matter is that we have to deal with the most important border crossing between Windsor and Detroit which is owned and operated by a private American citizen. We have to ensure that Canada's interests are represented. We have to ensure the infrastructure is safe and sound. We have to ensure the infrastructure is going to have the proper operational supports so in times of emergency there can be an appropriate response. We have to ensure that the planning process will be done in conjunction with the community and the province and country at large.

As a result of the previous administration's lack of political will, the Windsor, Ontario area has become a literal battleground with respect to who wants to own and operate the next border crossing. People are receiving letters. TV commercials, airwave commercials, propaganda of all sorts is being received by people in the area from private proponents about why one proposal should be supported over the other.

The previous prime minister promised that this would impact positively on the quality of life of citizens in the area. We wanted the trucks off our city streets. We wanted to ensure a free flow of economic goods and services without the hazardous materials and the pollution flowing through our streets. We are still being confronted with congestion and safety issues on a regular basis.

This bill would provide some remedies to these problems. There is actual incorporation. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh and myself have been pushing hard for amendments to make the local municipality engaged on this issue. This is one of my concerns about the bill. It would give the minister greater influence. However, we could not allow no accountability whatsoever.

As things stand right now we do not have any rights on private property where these privately owned and operated border crossings are located. Public crossings need consent. This is a problem. How can we assure the general public that proper procedures are being followed? How can we assure the general public that the necessary investment is being received?

The Ambassador Bridge in my riding has made millions of dollars over the years with respect to tolls. I do not have the official number but some of the estimates are $50 million to $60 million a year. This is significant. However, at the same time we have to ensure that investment will be made to the infrastructure at the end of the day for perpetuity.

This is a definite problem because the toll rates at this particular operation are much more expensive than at other operations such as those at Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia, the Blue Water area, and Niagara Falls. All of these areas have lower toll rates for passengers as well as for transport trucks. This has caused extra costs to be added to businesses, especially local and regional commerce, in order to compete.

Industries in Ontario, for example, have been suffering significantly from manufacturing competition from the United States because it has invested in these types of facilities in order to maintain them and to keep and grow the jobs. Canada has not been as aggressive. Beyond this is the issue of other developing countries which have really had a profound impact on the actual manufacturing base of our economy.

What is really important is that we are demonstrating, and Bill C-3 does this to a certain degree, that we are actually going to rein in some of the issues about the border. The second step to this which is very important and something I could not get through the bill but I believe is so important, especially for the Windsor economic region as well as the rest of Ontario and the Montreal area, is that in the Windsor corridor we need to get a border authority developed.

The border authority is something that New Democrats have been pushing for that area for a long time. Sarnia has one, Sault Ste. Marie has one, Fort Erie has one and Niagara Falls has one. Everywhere around the region are these border authorities. They are binational organizations that have representatives from different government agencies as well as the communities that provide solutions and ongoing contact about how to manage the border.

If we look at our most important corridor, being Windsor-Detroit where we have 42% of the nation's trade, we have an issue. We have a rail tunnel that is privately held. We have a city tunnel for vehicle traffic and transport trucks that is owned by the City of Windsor on the Canadian side which we just got back after many years. It is paying a profit back to the people and has lower fares and will do so in the future. The Detroit side of it is owned by the City of Detroit and outleased to Macquarie North American, a private infrastructure leasing agreement that was decided upon. The Ambassador Bridge is privately owned by an American citizen. We have the ferry system which is also owned by a private American citizen.

We have four different border crossings and there is absolutely no coordination whatsoever from an overall perspective. When we have issues develop, such as the unilateral action by the United States with the new bio-terrorism act that requires more standards and more procedures to be followed by commerce and particularly in goods and services from agriculture. That is particularly important for the County of Essex and Chatham and Kent as we have a big greenhouse industry that actually produces a lot of different vegetables that go to the United States market. If they are delayed there are additional costs which causes problems.

There is not only the effect of that legislation with the extra cost being introduced but second to that are new procedures for the physical infrastructure at the border and the processing that needs to be done. Therefore, we need a border authority to help coordinate and advocate for that.

I remember in the Niagara Region when the NEXUS program was introduced and the American customs officials on the other side of the border were opening every single trunk. For those who do not know what NEXUS is, one goes through a pre-clearance inspection. Persons are validated on who they are and agree to certain terms and conditions so they can traverse across the border more quickly than if they go through the regular channels. There are limitations on what they can bring and what they can bring back but it is a bonded agreement between the person and the department of homeland security.

The whole point of that is to move vehicles quicker. In the Niagara Falls area they were opening every single trunk which was basically defeating the whole point of NEXUS, after people had gone through all the screening. It has a commission that can advocate for the changing of that practice. That is what happened in that region which was very successful.

In the Windsor and Essex County area we need the same type of body to deal with legislation coming forth in the United States in terms of lobbying. The bio-terrorism act is a classic example. The then Minister of International Trade found out about it, did not bother to tell anyone, and later on the Canadian Trucking Association found out about it two weeks later with the general public and it caused quite a bit of havoc.

We need to ensure that we are going to present a common front together especially when legislation like that is not even warranted. I do not want to get into the details of that legislation, but it is one classic example of the challenges that we face.

The second thing that we tried to get into the bill which was very important for the areas that are affected by the border is a community investment fund. We have seen significant problems with backups and environmental degradation. In the Windsor Star today, our home town paper, a study is reported that came out of California which shows that if persons live along an area with traffic congestion within a 500 metre radius, they are more likely to have different types of diseases and can contract problems related to health, be it heart and stroke or a series of different problems.

We had wanted an investment fund on the environment so that the local communities would be able to actually extract remedies for their areas on the environment.

That is one of the big battles that is going on right now through the new process that we have on the border in Windsor and Essex County, the DRIC process. It is binational. The American federal and state governments and the provincial and federal governments on our side are trying to come up with a plan.

The environmental degradation of a new border crossing and where it would go is a big issue. The New Democrats want some type of investment fund so that local leaders, advocates and municipalities could cope with the problems on the border. That would give people who live with those types of problems hope and an opportunity to participate in the betterment of their communities. On top of that, it would improve our image on the borders between Windsor and Detroit and all across Canada because everyone would be entitled to this type of support structure.

We also wanted to enshrine an open process for the border competition regarding what was going to happen in the future in terms of ownership and new crossings. That was very important to us but we were not be able to pass that.

I hope no other community goes through this, but as I mentioned earlier, a ground war is going on in my community. The Ambassador Bridge is pushing ahead its particular proposal and the Detroit River Tunnel Partnership wants to ram a rail tunnel through an area. It has been a divide and conquer situation, basically spending a lot of money and requesting basically a public subsidy at the end of the day for their operations to move ahead with their particular proposal despite there being a planned process in place. We wanted to see that move to a more transparent level.

I have been calling on the government for public ownership of the next border crossing, similar to the one that is being built on the east coast, but there has not been a commitment. There have been many studies and evidence that public border crossings actually have lower fares. The most recent study was by Citigroup in the United States. It looked at the public benefit of corporation owned versus privately owned border crossings. It looked at interest rates, equity, corporate income and sales tax and compared the advantages of each different sector. It found that privately owned infrastructure facilities usually require toll rates that are 35% to 40% higher.

It gives me great concern that if we do not have the same commitment for the next Windsor-Detroit region border crossing to be publicly owned and operated, we would then add another cost factor into that infrastructure that would affect the viability of commerce going between our two nations. Once again, there is approximately $1 billion a day in trade through this corridor. If we were to add on another layer of cost it would certainly be a net detractor from further investment in Ontario and other areas.

We want to make sure that the toll rates are low and relatively stable. More important, like many other publicly owned and operated crossings, we want to make sure that the money actually goes back into the management and operation of the facility and also toward future expansion and community issues. The Peace Bridge in Fort Erie has done a series of work for the community around it to help offset the impact on having the border there.

We also wanted more protocols regarding hazardous materials and procedures to be implemented for bridges and tunnels. Unfortunately that motion was defeated. There is enough evidence to warrant that we are not doing the best job we could on this. The government's logic was that this could be moved to the hazardous materials act. I am hoping it has a great interest in doing that. The government said that was going to move that forward quickly in this session and I would expect it to do so. I wanted it in this bill because we have a series of regulations that will involve those types of operations. People need to understand the significance of this.

In the United States a number of municipalities have worked to ban the transportation of certain gas materials and hazardous materials through their regions. Cleveland has done that. It could be anything, such as chlorine gas that could cause quite a bit of a difficulty. It is a safety issue for thousands of people.

I will wrap up by saying that Bill C-3 is just the start of the real accountability that is needed at our border crossings. It will improve things. It is not a perfect bill but it is necessary at least for the public safety and security of all bridges and tunnels in our great land.

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1:35 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be witness to a Confiteor of sorts. The member for Windsor West who is an otherwise intelligent man continued to talk about the kinds of things he would like to have seen in the bill. They did not get in because he helped to defeat the previous Liberal government, which was going in that direction. Now he objects to the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Transport for not having read his dream sufficiently well to accord him the things he would have liked in the bill.

It is important for everybody who is watching the debate to understand that everybody should want political security, security against terrorism, economic security as well and to understand its complexity, and environmental security.

From what I gather, his concept of environmental security is to accelerate the time it takes for a truck to go through a particular border crossing without due consideration for the quantum of emissions that would spew from such a vehicle so that it is spread someplace else and not in any one specific place. He has not taken into consideration what we had already planned to do and which he agreed was a good thing but not good enough to support the government of the day so that now he bemoans the fact that now there is actually a government that is inimical to those issues.

I am sure he will find some way to turn himself into a pretzel and say, “We are going to support the government forever and a day because at the very least we were able to get something piecemeal, even though it is not anything coincident with our party's environmental policy, does not coincide with our party's economic policy, and really does not involve the local political process because we really did not want it. We wanted to involve the people directly. Finally, it would allow us to compete, maybe, because we really do not think competition is a good thing unless it is driven by the government itself. It will allow us to compete with some of the other border crossings at Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Blue Water”. I am not sure what he wants. Maybe he could take a couple of minutes and explain it to us and it will be typical NDP--

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1:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Windsor West.

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1:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the hon. member has embarrassed himself in the chamber again. Quite frankly, even if we had wanted to prop up his government, we did not have the votes. The member cannot count. He was not here for part of the process. We could not have propped the Liberals up even we had wanted to. Maybe he should count.

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1:35 p.m.

An hon. member

He should take his shoes off.

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1:35 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

He should take his shoes off, exactly. Count next time. We did not have the votes.

What is really important is that if we are to have good commerce and lower emissions, trucks should not be stopping all along the way. Part of his government's neglect was the constant lack of infrastructure improvement. The stoplights all along the corridors that have truck traffic are part of the problem.

Pre-clearance, like the auto industry does, has been very successful. Materials are inspected beforehand. They are pre-screened. The drivers are pre-screened. They are able to go through the proper process because they have the right paperwork. They move through the community much faster and that is a benefit that the member would not realize. It is a benefit because the trucks are not stopped, stalled and backed up all the way through the community that I represent.

Businesses cannot function and schools, churches and homes are affected because his government could not act. Despite all the promises from the member for LaSalle—Émard, and I got them a mile long, about how he was going to invest, that it was a number one priority, the Liberals did not do a single thing. The member was a cabinet minister in that government.

I always want a better bill. That is what I do when I come here every single day. I got some major amendments to the bill. It is a benefit because there is finally going to be some accountability at the border. The Liberal government never delivered on that. At least it is a start and I will fight like hell to make sure we get the rest of the job done.

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1:35 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by complimenting my colleague from Windsor West on a fantastic speech in terms of the clarity he brings to the issue. He has a deep profound knowledge on this subject and is one of the authorities on this issue in the House of Commons.

Not coming from a border crossing community myself, one thing that he raised particularly caught my ear. He pointed out that the Ambassador Bridge, being the key link between the two greatest trading partners the world has ever known for volume and scope of the amount of trade that goes over it, is privately owned by a single individual, an American citizen at that. I am wondering from a public policy point of view if he thinks it is wise to have this critical piece of infrastructure held in private hands by someone who is not even a Canadian national. Could he expand on that for us?

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1:40 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. There are issues that we have to deal with. Our primary responsibility as members of Parliament is to make sure the public interest is protected not just in terms of commerce that flows, but also in terms of the safety of individuals especially at borders.

We have seen a number of different security measures being introduced. In Windsor as well as other areas in Canada, we have seen the introduction of Black Hawk helicopters, drone planes and river gunboats at border crossings.

When a border crossing facility is owned by a private American citizen we have to be accountable to our own citizens to make sure that the border crossing is inspected properly, invested in properly and is run for the benefit of not only individual Canadians crossing there but also the businesses that we represent. That should be the primary interest of any infrastructure that we have connecting ourselves and the commerce that is so important for the vitality of Ontario and other regions.

That is why this bill at least is a start. I am concerned about certain aspects of it just like other things in the legislature here, but it at least provides a level of accountability. We will be waiting to see what type of regulations the government comes up with and how quickly it does that. We certainly want to make sure that problems are avoided.

The most recent one I noted was the concern of the municipality as well as an aboriginal population that there was disruption of work on that piece of property which was on traditional lands. They are asking for some accountability. We are asking for specific things to provide Canadians with the necessary safety and security which they deserve.

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1:40 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raised an interesting point about regulations. He knows there is the scrutiny of regulations committee to ensure that the appropriate enabling provisions are in the legislation which has been supported by all parties.

The real issue is that the bill had a lot of consultation with all of the stakeholders. No bill is perfect. I think the member will agree that the bill is an excellent start to move on in this very important area.

With regard to the Senate amendment which is what we are debating today, is the member aware whether that amendment is appropriate? On the other concerns raised by the Senate, is he satisfied that the proper review was discharged by the Senate prior to the bill being returned to the House?

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1:40 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's excellent question brings forward the point that the amendments we are dealing with are more technical in nature. They are ones to which I do not have any objection. At the same time, I know that in the Senate process there were extra questions and concerns raised. In fact there were misunderstandings about what the bill was about, whether it was ownership and a few other things.

What is important is that we are going to move further past this process. Bill C-3 is just the start of cleaning up our borders in Canada. We must understand that right now we have no regulations, control or ability to have an influence on those things. This is starting from there. We need to do the same thing with border authorities, community investment funds and also infrastructure funds for the areas around them.

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1:40 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the bill, particularly following my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor West, who has in many respects spearheaded a number of the issues that are addressed in the bill and a number that are not addressed in it, as we just heard from him. I will repeat a couple of those points.

For us in the Windsor-Essex county area, the legislation is crucial in terms of the need to have this for a lot of the time that has gone by. Issues that we have confronted at the local community level badly needed to be confronted at the national level but were not because we did not have the legislative infrastructure, which the bill will go partially toward addressing.

It is important to set in context the impact that the trade agreements have had not only on communities like Windsor and Essex country, but on the country as a whole in terms of the huge increase in truck traffic in particular and visitors, with passenger vehicles going back and forth across our borders not only in the Windsor area, although it is clearly by far the busiest one in the country, but in other places as well, such as the Montreal area and the Seattle, Washington to Vancouver area on the Pacific coast.

To use some examples of how significant it is, if we go back 20, 25 years before the trade agreements, on average 2,000 to 3,000 trucks would cross our borders in the Windsor area on a daily basis. That figure now, and there is some dispute between the people who follow it, is at least 11,000 a day. There are certainly days, particularly in the summer months, that figure will go up over 13,000 a day. Those are just trucks. Passenger cars are in addition to that.

This has caused horrendous problems from an environmental standpoint in the corridor that runs from the Trans-Canada Highway, the 401 in Ontario, through to the Detroit, Michigan side. It has caused a great deal of safety concerns.

Again, referring to our local newspaper, an article this week talked about a lawsuit settlement to a women who was killed by truck traffic as she was trying to cross. She left a young family. We have had a large number of accidents, so it is both an environmental and a personal safety issue for us in our community.

Although they have been identified, those conditions have continued for at least a decade, if not more like 15 years. With the trade agreement, we knew the impact in terms of that increased traffic. We heard my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor West, say that just within the auto sector, because of the trade that goes on and the parts that move back and forth across the border, one part may cross the border five or six times before it is actually put into a motor vehicle. That traffic is a constant problem for our communities. It has spilled over into the streets of Windsor. It is not just the main thoroughfares, but our side streets, our residential streets, as well. It is a huge problem, one that has existed for quite some time. It has not been addressed anywhere near satisfactorily to the city council of Windsor, to the county council and to the residents of our communities.

When we think about it, both our major tunnel and our major bridge were built just before the depression. They were finished in the late 1920s, early 1930s. We have had them all that time. We could say the same thing about a number of other crossings across the country. There are 24 international crossings between Canada and the United States: 14 in Ontario, 9 in New Brunswick and 1 in Quebec. Of those 24, only five of them are owned directly by the federal government through Crown corporations. For the other ones we would pass, on an ad hoc basis, legislation that would authorize the construction of that crossing, not a satisfactory mechanism to provide controlled regulation of those crossings.

That became quite clear to the United States, and we followed a somewhat similar pattern in its history. A good number of years ago it went to national legislation, so it had that infrastructure. Even to this day we do no have that, but hopefully this legislation will go through in the next few days, on to the Senate for final confirmation and then go into force. It is a totally unsatisfactory situation, so it is quite important that the legislation go through.

Again I refer some of the points that my friend, the hon. member for Windsor West, made. This is not the be all and the end all. It will address some of the issues we have confronted in the Windsor area, as we have dealt with the proposals to construct a new crossing between Canada and the state of Michigan. It will go some distance I think, and I am hopeful, to addressing the major concerns that not only the automobile industry in particular has but also commercial interests generally have with regard to the problems we are experiencing at our border crossings in moving product in a speedy, efficient manner. That has been a major problem for us since 9/11 and it continues to be a major problem for us.

Those of us who are in leadership positions in our communities know that there is almost a freeze on investment, particularly in the auto sector, in our communities right now, waiting to see if there is the political will to address the problems and correct them. The major way we will do that is to construct a new crossing and do so in a brief period of time given all the issues that surround the problems of building a crossing that is internationally run, in dealing with four different levels of government on both sides of the border.

The bill will indicate that the federal Government of Canada is serious about addressing some of the issues. Hopefully we will see additional legislation or policies at the very least come forward to address some of the other issues.

One of the roles of the federal government is to provide its country and citizenry, including commercial interests, with a secure working environment. We do not have that in our area at the present time. As I have already said, there are issues from environmental, personal safety and commercial standpoints that are not being adequately addressed.

There is a great fear in the Windsor-Essex County area of the political will on the Canadian side of the border to build an additional crossing. The process is underway. It is ongoing. It seems to be very slow. To some degree, this type of legislation answers the question of whether we are serious about addressing these problems.

I want to take a few minutes to talk about what is not addressed, in particular the role that the local community needs to play in the management regulation of border crossings. From some of the incidents that have taken place since we began discussing a new crossing some seven or eight years ago, we know about the perspective of the provincial government and the federal government and how significant it is to have local input and decision making to some degree on how a new crossing will be determined, constructed and then operated.

The attitude has been overwhelmingly one of arrogance on the part of upper levels of government toward local municipal councillors and mayor, one of “we know best”, in spite of all, let us say, the negligent decision making that has gone on. For instance, in the 1950s we decided we would stop the cross-Canada highway on the outskirts of the city of Windsor and would run some 10 or 12 kilometres to the international crossing through city streets. That decision was made by upper levels of government.

I can repeat many times that kind of ignorance and that kind of lack of vision in decisions that were made.

With regard to our community, it has always been a band-aid approach, a piecemeal approach, as opposed to looking at it as being the most significant crossing in our country by far. Thirty per cent to thirty-five per cent of all trade between Canada and the United States goes through the Windsor-Detroit border crossing. It is still being treated as if it is a backwater. This attitude still exists to a significant degree both here in Ottawa and in Queen's Park in Toronto.

The legislation to some degree says this attitude is no longer satisfactory. It goes a long way in recognizing how significant these crossings are, not just in the Windsor area but in areas right across the country, and doing something about them. A significant change in attitude has to occur.

To recognize the significance on the local community of these crossings, we need to have a local border authority. We heard from my colleague that we have them elsewhere such as in Sarnia, which is some 50 miles away, and in Niagara, Sault Ste. Marie and further.

From my perspective, this is not just a question of the nuts and bolts of how vehicles are moved over the crossing, although that is certainly very significant. This is also about national security. I know from talking to our local police, fire service personnel, our emergency personnel and some of our intelligence services at the border crossings, that the lack of coordination is appalling. It is a level of negligence that is simply not acceptable in light of 9/11 and in light of our responsibility to provide protection and security to our populace. The border authority would go some distance toward providing coordination.

We have a hard time communicating between ourselves and the security services on the U.S. side of the border. This is not only our fault; it is also their fault to some degree. However, we are moving ahead. If in fact we are serious, then we go with the border authority. We have to provide our local law enforcement community with some real authority to deal with these issues. The border authority would deal with a number of crossing issues such as getting vehicles across in an efficient way as well as dealing with security issues.

We would liked to have seen how much it costs to cross the border at the present time and how much it will cost in the future. We may still see this to some degree in the regulations. There is a dramatic difference in fees between some of our crossings just between the major motor vehicle tunnel and the bridge. When we compare these fees elsewhere in the province, there does not seem to be any logical pattern as to why some tolls are higher than others. This issue needs to be addressed.

We would like to see either policy or outright legislation requiring the upper levels of government to provide local communities with specified funds to, in effect, mitigate the impact on new border crossings in particular and existing ones as well.

Our community suffers major environmental consequences as a result of the number of trucks going through it because the trucks are left idling and are not efficient as they move across the border. An idling truck will increase the amount of pollutants in the air by as much as 80%. This condition is being imposed on my community, on the city and the county. It is causing health problems across the populace. It could be corrected by the proper infrastructure, both physical and from a policy standpoint.

My colleague from Windsor West made the point about what we see occurring on the U.S. side of the border. I am not at all suggesting that we mimic that but we need to be in a position, from an administrative standpoint, where we have the infrastructure in place to say that this is proper and that this is the way we should proceed.

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1:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh will have five minutes left at the end of question period to finish his speech.

International Day of CommemorationStatements By Members

January 29th, 2007 / 2 p.m.


Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, January 27 was International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was the worst of human nature. It was the systematic murder of the European Jewish people by the Nazi regime. The casualty count for this horror is estimated at six million people. Many other ethnic, religious and cultural groups also suffered oppression and death. This must never, ever happen again.

As was stated at an international forum on the Holocaust, “We believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation's collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice.”

We all share a commitment to honour the victims of the Holocaust and those who stood against it.

It is said that those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Therefore, I call upon all members of the House to join our government in declaring “never again”.

Summer Career Placements ProgramStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, young Canadians will soon be knocking on the doors of not for profit organizations looking for summer jobs. Given that the Conservative government has cut more than $1 billion from programs that help individuals and communities—including cutting funding of the summer career placement program by 50% this year—it will be more difficult for students to find a job.

Most students who take advantage of the summer career placements program work for local not for profit organizations that provide vital community services. Last year, in my riding alone, the program funded 51 projects and 158 jobs.

The government has created uncertainty for not for profit organizations and has left young people wondering if, this summer, they will be able to earn money for their tuition fees by doing work that is meaningful to their community. The government should review this hasty and illogical decision.