House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nations.


Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my colleague from the Bloc. She raises additional concerns that our community has about the bill and the way developments are handled.

We face the prospect that potentially port lands will be used for very expensive condominium development. The question of hazardous goods moving through port lands and the impact on the environment and the fish habitat is of concern. I have written some letters to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to find out whether there will be environmental impact assessments on the fishery habitat because it is so crucial to the community as well.

While there is some acknowledgement of these issues, I feel there has been a lack of real oversight by the government to address the impacts of what some of these changes will be. I can only reiterate the member's concerns and say that we have a fair amount of anxiety and frustration about what changes will take place and whether there will be any kind of adequate process to ensure that people's concerns are heard. These concerns include dangerous goods, transportation, the impact on the environment and if we will see a massive sale of so-called surplus lands in port lands that will then be used for things like very high priced condominium development. I think residents can see this will have a major impact on their local communities.

All these issues have drawn our attention to the bill, but I see that as one good thing. At least we are getting a chance to talk about it. I hope, when we get the bill to committee, we can bring forward witnesses, including people from local communities who live next door to a port, who see these issues on a daily basis, to explain the difficulties they experience in getting information and understanding the process to deal with these concerns.

I appreciate the member raising these issues and I certainly share them.

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11:10 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I understand the member being on somewhat of a fishing expedition in relation to some of the issues that are not dealt with in the bill. However, I will answer some of her questions.

First, as a government and as a department, we consulted heavily with stakeholders. Many of the initiatives brought forward in the bill are as a result of those consultations. In relation to land, I will quote from the policy change, dated November 2007, which speaks in respect of this. It states:

—with respect to land held or managed by CPAs for future port expansion, [the purpose is] to enable the CPAs to lease or license such land, on a temporary basis, provided that the following critical criteria are met:

(a) the use is classified as commercial, non-residential;

(b) each individual use is compatible with the land use plan of the port and has taken into account the land use plan of any adjacent local government;

(c) each individual use does not compromise the ability of the authority to operate port facilities and support transportation over the long term, or the land will be returned at the cost of the lessee or licensee to a state compatible with future port operations...

The policy initiative does not alter the status of federal real property with respect to provincial or municipal planning and by-laws. As well, all CPAs are required to develop a land use plan—

This goes to the specific thrust of the member's question.

—for properties under the management of the CPA. Land use plans must account for the relevant social, economic and environmental matters and zoning by-laws that apply to neighbouring lands.

That answers my friend's question from across the way.

We are acting in the best interest of Canadians. Could my friend comment on that because the purpose of the bill is to prepare for the future and not be caught with our pants down, as was the case with the previous Liberal government.

We want to be prepared and keep the economy flowing. At the same time, we want to manage what is best for Canadians, and that includes social and environmental concerns.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of that direction in the bill. The question is, what kind of process will it be?

We know that ports are exempt from municipal zoning because they are under federal jurisdiction. There has been this long-standing struggle in terms of changes in port lands and development and how that takes place.

While it has been recognized over the years that port authorities should consider adjacent municipal zoning, there is nothing that legally requires them to be under municipal zoning, to hold a public hearing. We are all familiar with a municipal public hearing, which is a quasi-judicial process that can then have appeals. Those are some of our concerns.

I understand the direction that the bill lays out, but we want to examine it in great detail. We want to hear from local residents who have some concerns with these very serious issues. We want to look at the bill and see if the changes in the bill deal with the very real questions that they have raised. Let us look at the process. Let us look at how it would unfold. That is what we want to do.

I appreciate the member raising that and we are ready to get into that level of work at the committee.

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11:15 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments of the member for Vancouver East, particularly as they relate to the punitive actions taken against the member's port workers, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The member mentioned the fact that very restrictive measures have been brought in with regard to the working arrangements and approval for working arrangements at the port. At the same time, she has also mentioned the fact that the government has taken virtually no action with regard to inspection for container traffic that comes through ports like Vancouver, the Fraser port on the Fraser River and elsewhere in the country.

Could the member comment on this contradiction? We have very punitive actions being taken against the workers, long-time workers on the docks, information that I imagine through the SPP, the Security Prosperity Partnership, will be shared with the United States.

However, on the actions that would increase port security, which is inspections of container traffic so we have a better sense of what kind of containers are moving through our ports, the government has taken absolutely no action.

Is it the case of the government trying to pretend that it is improving security and doing nothing to improve security at our ports? Is that the issue?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether the government thinks that people who work on the waterfront are easy targets and so it comes out with these incredibly onerous regulations that require a person-by-person for these elaborate measures to come. However, the reaction to it has been significant. Legal challenges are now under way.

What the member points out is entirely correct. Why is it that we, on the one hand, have substantive security clearance measures being put in place levied against individuals but, on the other hand, the federal government is not actually providing the resources, either in terms of ports police or other security measures, to check the containers that are coming in?

We know that ports of entry are one of the places where the most amount of goods are coming into our country, in fact, probably the most significant, and yet there is virtually nothing in place to deal with that.

It seems like a completely contradictory policy that puts this heavy-handed approach on individual rights and placing the onus on individuals to prove that they do not pose any security risk and opens the door for all kinds of profiling while, on the other hand, the government is not providing the resources to do the inspections that I think would deal with a lot of the concerns in terms of security.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand today and say a few words about Bill C-23. Canadians are, quite often, self-effacing and never think of themselves as great and yet they are leaders in the world in many ways. I have a vision for Canada where they could be leaders in many more ways. One, of course, would be a vision of modern, efficient, secure ports. We could do that better than anyone else in the world.

I commend the members of Transport Canada who have worked for years on this, the previous Liberal government that brought the essence of this bill forward and the present government for continuing with it. This goes toward that modern, exciting vision of Canada as some of the best in the world. This is so important for our economy. The world has changed in many ways and therefore our ports need to change.

We need just in time delivery. The villains develop new ways of causing problems so we need modern security to keep up. As ports are essential to many industries in Canada, we need to make sure they are operating under all conditions and do not close down. These workers are essential to other industries, such as the grain industry. Canada is an exporting nation and to be competitive with the world we need to get our goods and products out in a timely fashion in order to continue to lead the world in some of the areas that we do at present.

In a modern global village, even diseases are carried much more rapidly around the world and we need to be immune from those. It could be something as simple as a disease that attacks our trees. The forestry industry is huge to Canada and yet if a bug comes in, say, a wooden shipping pallet, we need to protect ourselves against those types of issues.

It is important to invest in our ports and to promote a vision of modern ports as good as anyone.

I appreciate this bill and some of the technical things it would do toward that and I encourage the government to continue to do many other things to achieve that objective. As the parliamentary secretary said, it is good that the government has picked up and continued our Pacific Gateway program and that will continue to contribute toward the efficiency and building of the ports and access to them.

There is no reason Canada cannot be like Singapore, which has huge revenues from its ports. Compared to certain types of factories and other types of emissions, ports can be quite environmentally clean and a good way to create high paying jobs for Canadians. We can then get the benefit of the goods that we are making and the things that we are bringing in so that they do not go to others.

For example, on both the east and west coasts, many U.S. ports are quite able, ready and willing to take shipments and therefore we cannot have delays, we cannot be inefficient or too bureaucratic and we cannot have backlog in our ports. It is important that we modernize and stay ahead because we can do it as well as anyone else.

When I fly into Vancouver twice a week and see the lineup of boats waiting to be unloaded, I sometimes wish that we did not have the delays and that we could do things quicker so we are competitive and shippers do not decide to go elsewhere. Loading and unloading equipment has been modernized and there is no reason we cannot have the best computerized equipment in the world to do that kind of job.

We also should invest in modern scientific equipment for security. We certainly can do it. I will not give the villains any information as to what we are doing wrong but we can invest to ensure we have the best detection equipment in the world so no one is using our ports for nefarious reasons.

My riding of Yukon has a port in Skagway, Alaska that is about an hour west of the riding and it is very important to us. Even though only about 800 people live there, it is one of the biggest cruise ship ports in the world. Sometimes four of the biggest cruise ships in the world are there at any one time. Yukon is probably the only territory or province in Canada where the number one employer, as far as the number of employees goes, is tourism. The tourists get off those boats and come into my riding. If there is an efficient and effective port system, it shows how it can affect the local economy.

I also want to show how an improper investment can also affect a port. About six years ago, one of the docks where these cruise ships dock collapsed into the water. We know these cruise ships carry thousands of people. The dock went hundreds of metres under the water and disappeared.

Fortunately, the accident occurred during the winter when only workers were on the dock but I believe one worker drowned. The tidal wave, which the accident caused, was right in front of the small boat harbour and, as a result, all the small boats sank to the bottom of the ocean. When the wave came back, it hit the other shore and the harbour filled up again and it damaged the ferry dock. It is very important to have proper investments in our ports so we have the best equipment available.

Another example is the gross territorial product. The biggest part of our economy related to production is in mining. We depend on the port at Skagway for shipping ore around the world. It is days shorter to ship from Skagway than it is from Vancouver. It is a very key port for the north and must be efficient.

I have another example of how a lack of investment can affect an economy. I was at a mine opening a few months ago of Sherwood Copper, a wonderful new mine in Yukon that is quite efficient and environmentally friendly. It produces copper ore and it follows environmental regulations.

The port I was talking about had not been used since the closure of Cypress Anvil and had not been used for ore for some time. It had been somewhat decommissioned and needed new equipment. The port was not quite ready for shipping when the mine was ready to ship. When the mine was ready to ship the ore, I saw dozens and dozens of huge canvas bags about the size of a car that contained the ore. This, obviously, was not an efficient way and not the final way to ship the ore but it had to be done for a few months in the interim while the port was getting ready.

Many parts of Canada are quite dependent on the car industry and what industry could be more competitive than the car industry? The car industry uses just in time delivery, which depends on a few hours in order to be competitive and on tens of thousands of Canadian jobs. It is important that all our transport modes, our border crossings and our ports have the type of investments that enable them to move quickly.

For all those reasons, I am supporting the bill. Canada can be and should have the best ports. All efforts necessary should be made, over and above the bill, to fulfill those objectives.

As I think I mentioned in a previous question, I hope the transport committee calls the pilots association when it discusses the contribution funding. I think the parliamentary secretary has said that the department has consulted with groups. I look forward to seeing the results of those consultations with the pilots association, the longshoremen and the stevedores presented to the committee. Those are the people who work at the ports. The best solutions and ideas for making the ports more efficient, secure and useful usually come from the people who are working right on the ground.

The part of the act that deals with borrowing limits also deals with security. It would allow contribution agreements to ensure that the most modern security is available. I believe that modernizing the borrowing limits is good.

The only caveat, as I mentioned yesterday, is we have to make sure that as the commercial borrowing is allowed and the system is modernized, that it is also protected. There have been some instances recently in Canada where governments or crown corporations have potentially put something at jeopardy or lost millions of dollars because of an investment policy and regulations that were a bit too free.

We would want to make sure that these are secure investments. We do not want the port fees to go up because of bad investments. We want it to be efficient but also to be secure.

Of course the legislation to facilitate amalgamation is important as long as it is agreed upon and worked on by the people involved. Certainly that would help. As well, there are the parts of the act that would improve governance related to the needs of Canadian port authorities so that they can have a long term and stable management framework.

Once again, to ease enforcement, to make sure that the message can get out quickly, efficiently and easily is a good objective of the act. It is human nature that if a penalty comes too late or it is too onerous to administer, people will not bother implementing the penalty. If the penalty comes too late, it really does not get the message across. It needs to be quick, fast and efficient so that people follow the rules.

The last item I want to comment on relates to land management. The preceding speaker from the NDP commented on a number of items. I made the point yesterday about land management that this is a good part of the bill which would allow investment in their lands. It is good that they will achieve revenues so that there is less onus on the users or ultimately on the government, the taxpayers, for funding.

My only caveat is that the conditions, and the parliamentary secretary outlined them, make sure that this is not a permanent other use. They cannot be incompatible. I would not want a lot of money invested in things that ultimately have nothing to do with the port unless they are in a holding pattern. It is very good to be forward thinking and plan for the future and to set aside land that will be needed in the future.

It is a very forward thinking government that would set aside land to invest in it and use the land to get revenues from it. People get concerned if such authorities are using their money from the fees in ways other than the primary purpose, such as empire building or some other type of exercise. I have certainly heard complaints from constituents related to certain airport authorities that may have done that in the past, although I think that has been dealt with.

In conclusion, as in any other area of endeavour, there is no reason that Canada cannot be among the best in the world. We are a water nation. We probably have the longest shoreline of any country in the world. We are an exporting country. It is very important that we get the revenues from our exports and imports, that we do it safely in relation to security and disease, and that we do it efficiently so that people come to us to be the locus of those transport movements. In that way, a lot of Canadians can achieve good paying jobs in dealing with our own goods and services.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard a number of members raise some of the concerns, challenges and opportunities on how to organize and manage this country's ports.

Sault Ste. Marie is located right smack dab in the middle of three of the most important Great Lakes, on a major seaway, in the centre of our country.

As Canada's economy and distribution systems evolve, just on time delivery and the railway, road and water become ever more important in terms of how we get our goods to market. In how we manage goods that go through our territory and into markets, we need to consider the real challenges that are being faced.

Earlier, the NDP member from Vancouver mentioned that we need to make sure that all of the players are involved in decisions that are made where these properties are concerned.

In Sault Ste. Marie we are looking very aggressively these days at a multimodal possibility. With CN passing by not that far from the Sault and our access to the extension of the St. Lawrence Seaway through the Great Lakes and into the U.S. midwest, we see tremendous potential for multimodal and the development of our port area. We want to do it right. We want to learn from the experiences and, perhaps, mistakes of others.

Even though we are a big country, in many important ways we are connected. Has the member considered the potential of and some of the challenges facing a community such as Sault Ste. Marie?

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11:35 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question partly because it gives me a chance to say something that I had wanted to say but forgot to put in my notes.

The member is correct. Ports have a major effect on communities, because they happen to be downtown. It is very important to have consultations with the local communities. I had meant to say in my speech that consultation with governments and certainly the downtown business associations and definitely municipal governments would have a big impact.

Also, as governments have learned somewhat painfully when they abrogate their responsibilities, there are also responsibilities to consult with first nations. It is mandatory in a number of areas that they be consulted regarding development. There certainly will be ports in Canada where that is not only a legally required role, but obviously a way to ensure that there is buy-in by all four orders of government in Canada, first nation, municipal, provincial-territorial, and federal, in a proposal, in a development, in a modernization.

The member asked me to consider this. I am not on the transport committee, but I would encourage the transport committee to hear from, for instance, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities because of the dramatic effect this would have on a place like the member's community of Sault Ste. Marie or other communities that have ports in their downtown cores. It would help to include them as an integral part of land use planning, at least in a cooperative way, even though, as was said, it is not legally binding in some areas, so that everyone's interests would be taken into account.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Federation of Canadian Municipalities said that there is a huge backlog of $123 billion in infrastructure deficits. A lot of municipalities are desperately looking to access some funds, to fix the highways, the potholes, the water treatment plants, et cetera.

Is the member concerned that this bill would allow the port authorities in a big city such as Toronto to access the infrastructure funds? For example, as he may know, the Toronto Port Authority operates an airport in downtown Toronto. An airport would need all types of infrastructure funds. It is now operated by one company, which is in direct competition with Air Canada. If this bill passed in its present form, the Toronto Port Authority could access infrastructure funds. This would make the pot which is already far too small in the Conservative budget even smaller.

In a lot of remote communities in Yukon, up north, in Ontario, or out west would have some access to this fund, but the fund could be drawn down by big ports. Even though the port is small, it runs an airport and has lots of demands.

Is the hon. member worried about allowing port authorities access to infrastructure funds? Would it not make the pot that much smaller and create unfair competition for a lot of municipalities that desperately need the funds to fix their highways, roads and sewage treatment plants?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question and it is related to a point I have made a number of times in the House. I definitely think the ports need access to infrastructure. It affects not only the ports but all the inland Canadian businesses, such as grain, that need the ports. They certainly need investments, but the member has made a very good point about infrastructure.

It was humorous yesterday when the Conservative parliamentary secretary was saying that they just started some infrastructure programs, that no one had done anything about it before. As members know, the Liberals started at least four infrastructure programs that were very popular with municipalities. There was the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the original cities infrastructure fund, the strategic infrastructure fund for big projects, and the border infrastructure fund. These are all very important. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was delighted when these came in. As the member said, they want even more money.

The concern I have raised is exactly the one that the member raised. The municipalities have not heard from the Conservatives, who have amalgamated all those into one big pot, what the conditions are going to be and who is going to get them. I have said twice in the House at least, and I will say it for a third time that it is absolutely essential that municipalities get at least as much of the pot as they did before.

If the Conservatives want to fund other items such as the port authorities that need money, if they want to give money to provincial governments, if they want to give money to other programs out of this pot, that is fine, top the pot up, but the municipalities have to have at least as much as they have had in the past. They have all those needs for it, as the member said, such as recreation, potholes, sewers and clean water. They cannot get less money out of the new infrastructure funds. New initiatives like this should be added to the pot in order not to jeopardize the basic services that Canadians need, including clean water, properly treated sewage, recreation and other types of facilities that are in such a deficit, as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has so carefully analyzed and presented to parliamentarians.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak about the Canada Marine Act. It had an unfortunate amendment a few years ago, debated at length during 1997. At that time the minister of transport, Mr. Collenette, said that it was important to have a new Canada Marine Act than have an act that would include some of the ports. He said it would then download some of these ports to their own board of directors.

The minister added that he needed to be satisfied that the port was likely to remain financially self-sufficient and that it was of strategic significance to Canada's trade and diversified traffic.

The city of Toronto has a port that does not meet any of the criteria set out in clause 8 of the Canada Marine Act. It is not self-sufficient. It is not significant to Canada's trade and it does not have highly diversified traffic. One would think that the Toronto port would not be taken away from the hands of the city of Toronto.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. At that time there was a great deal of political interference. It appeared that a former Liberal member of Parliament, in April 1997, decided to take the matters into his own hands and wanted to develop the airport, in this case, without the interference of the city of Toronto. The Canada Marine Act was amended at that time to include the city of Toronto's port authority even though it did not meet any of the criteria.

It seems from all the media reports and all of the discussion at that time, that the inclusion of the Toronto Port Authority was done purely for political reasons. At that time there was a serious number of lobbyists. When we look at the lobbyist registry, there was a large group of lobbyists at that time lobbying the federal government to make sure that happened.

The federal government said that it was not a good plan. The government had an adviser from Nesbitt Burns. It did not recommend that the Toronto port be included, based on the financial reasons alone. At that time there was also a royal commission on the future of the Toronto waterfront. It recommended a restrictive role for the Toronto Port Authority so that the city of Toronto could get on with developing its waterfront.

Against both of these two recommendations, the Toronto Port Authority still got included in the Canada Marine Act at that time. To make matters worse, the federal government then appointed people who certainly did not meet the criteria. It seems to me there was controversy over the appointments of members to the board of directors. This was June 8, 1998 and the transport minister at that time, Mr. Collenette, was accused of manipulating the appointment process.

Indeed, the Toronto case was not isolated. Vancouver and Halifax were also quick to cry foul, so it does not surprise me today that members of Parliament from both Vancouver and Halifax will want to speak later on about this issue. The National Post headline of August 18, 1999, said: “Collenette skirts rules to appoint Liberal allies: New port authorities: Shipping groups outraged by political 'manipulation'”.

In fact, there was a series of subsequent headlines. One said that the bill, when it was going through third reading, would give communities more control over the ports and that it would establish “a fair, collaborative framework for the management of commercial ports”. It sounds good. More community control and a fair collaborative framework were supposed to be brought forward.

What happened? At that time the minister appointed directors that were not nominated by the user groups and used their power. Clause 14.1 of the Canada Marine Act gives the minister the flexibility and discretion to nominate as user directors persons other than those persons recommended by the classes of users to ensure an appropriate mix of board members, et cetera.

What happened was that the Liberals at that time decided to put in some of their own appointees and did not follow the guidelines. It seems to me that the Conservatives are also following that tradition.

We now have a port authority that has very little local control. Under this bill it would have access to the infrastructure fund. That is a problem. Why? Because when the infrastructure fund was first created, the idea came from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. All the projects were supposed to come from the municipalities, a third being matched by the provincial government and a third being matched by the federal government. The plan, as originally envisioned, would allow the local municipalities to have control over this infrastructure fund.

Through the years the former Liberal government then made it its own fund and many of the municipalities then had very little control over it. It got worse and worse, and it is not clear with the Conservative government how the criteria is going to be established for the infrastructure fund.

If the port authority, like the Toronto Port Authority, has access to this infrastructure fund and because it has very little control by the local communities and government, it could have access to a lot of funds that were supposed to be destined for municipalities to fix highways, potholes, build community centres and all of those things. This part of the bill is very worrisome.

What happened in Toronto was that soon after the Toronto Port Authority was included in the Canada Marine Act, it decided to initiate lawsuits against the city of Toronto. It threatened lawsuits with the federal government and sued the local community group Community Air.

Not only do local communities have no influence over the appointments into the local port authority but the first thing the port authority did after the Canada Marine Act was passed with amendments and political interference was to sue every level of government other than the province of Ontario in order to gain funds for itself because it was never financially self-sufficient.

There were land use changes and planning. There was very little public input. In the last few years the city of Toronto was not even notified of major changes at this port authority when it decided to make changes in the local area.

The port authority has also recently threatened to take one third of Little Norway Park, a popular park in the local neighbourhood, because it is running a substantial airport there so it is needs to find room for parking spaces, queueing lanes, and all kinds of space for taxis to park, et cetera. That is certainly not an appropriate use of land for that little area. On top of that, this port authority, because of its various lawsuits, has obtained somewhere between $35 million from different parties.

The entire operation was run by one board member because the rest of the board either resigned or were not reappointed. During the period the port authority was trying to go after the federal government, it had only one member sitting on its board.

The port authority also used $300,000 of taxpayers' money to run advertising campaigns to justify its existence. If this bill were to pass, I cannot see for the life of me why we would contribute infrastructure funds to an organization that is in fact into suing everyone. It has no local control and has used at least $300,000 for advertising campaigns to justify its existence.

As a result of this port authority not having any local input or control, the revitalization of Toronto's waterfront has slowed down. Lots of speeches have been made. Lots of promises have been made. Money has been promised. Many discussions have been held about why the Toronto waterfront needs to be revitalized.

It seems to be one step forward and another step back because this local port authority controls some of the land rights by the water, but it has not been participating with the various stakeholders about revitalizing the waterfront.

The Toronto Port Authority is breaking the tripartite agreement it signed with the federal, provincial and municipal governments. Planes at the airport are twice the weight and double the passenger count of what was envisioned at the time the tripartite agreement was formulated in the mid-eighties. It is very noisy. Planes are flying in above the level that is supposed to be controlled by the tripartite agreement.

The airport is in close proximity to a large number of condominiums that were built in the eighties down by the waterfront. At the time the port was established there were very few residents living near the waterfront, but now there are at least 50,000 in the neighbourhood. I cannot see why this port authority should really stay.

The Canada Marine Act is supposed to deal with traffic going to different ports. There is absolutely no reason why there should be an airport at the Toronto Port Authority. Of all the ports across Canada, this is the only port that runs an airport and has nothing to do with waterways or shipping.

The Toronto port has very modest port functions, such as rulemaking for boats, buoys and dredging as required, and facilitating the odd, very rare, commercial ship arrival. Cargo handling is a major money loser and eventually needs to be merged with Hamilton or be shut down. The outer harbour marina probably could be operated by the city or Harbourfront Centre because it needs to demonstrate that the public interest would be better served by this port.

In the past, the City of Toronto has said to the federal government that if it is reviewing the Marine Act and making amendments to the Marine Act, it is critically important that the Toronto Port Authority be taken out of the Marine Act, because it really does not belong there. Its traffic is very small. It is still not financially self-sufficient. It is of no strategic significance to Canada's trade. It has no diversified traffic.

How could that be done? It could be done, effectively, by the governor in council pursuant to section 55. It could “liquidate its assets in accordance with the certificate or the regulations made under paragraph 27(1)(a) and...dissolve the port authority, and the letters patent are deemed to be revoked”. The proceeds would then be liquidated and probably should be transferred to the City of Toronto. The governor in council may also “by issuing a certificate of dissolution, dissolve a port authority without requiring the liquidation of its assets”.

So one way or the other, if we are to discuss this Marine Act in a way that is true to what it is supposed to be, the Toronto Port Authority should be returned to the City of Toronto.

Through the years, different mayors, no matter what their political stripe, whether it was Mel Lastman, who, last I saw, was a Conservative, or the present mayor, David Miller, with the entire City of Toronto council, has said over and over again that the Toronto Port Authority really should come back to the hands of Torontonians, because right now the users, the municipalities and any stakeholders in the neighbourhood basically have absolutely no influence over this port authority.

It would give me great concern that if the bill is passed what we would see is that Bill C-23 would allow this port authority to access infrastructure funds from the government. Let me tell members that in Toronto the infrastructure funds should be used to fix the crumbling highways such as the Gardiner Expressway. We have had three or four chunks of concrete falling from the Gardiner Expressway. The subways in the city of Toronto need repair and need to be expanded. There are hundreds of projects that are desperately in need of infrastructure funds. The last thing the City of Toronto needs is for this port authority to have access to the funds so that it could upgrade whatever it is upgrading in competition with Air Canada. The House would be making a terrible mistake.

I cannot see how we can possibly support the bill if the Toronto Port Authority is still part of the Marine Act and running its own business without any input from local municipalities.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders



Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Trinity--Spadina both for her speech and for her ongoing work to have waterfront justice in Toronto. This has been an issue that has been simmering for many years. The former Liberal government basically set up this boondoggle, the Toronto Port Authority, and as the member has mentioned, it is completely unresponsive to the public and not responsible to the government. It is not responsible to anyone but itself. It has been set up as an independent empire on the Toronto harbourfront.

I know that the member for Trinity--Spadina has been one of the foremost advocates for waterfront justice in Toronto, so that the people of Toronto can actually determine through democratically elected governments what the waterfront should be, how the waterfront should be structured and what is the best economic and social interest for the people of Toronto.

I would like to ask the member a simple question. Why did the Liberals do this? Is this part of the corruption we saw when the Liberal government was in power and simply refused to provide for democratic or accountable management? We saw a lot of brown envelopes being exchanged. It was a deplorable situation.

Unfortunately, things are no better under the current Conservative government. It is the same old same old.

Why would the Liberals set this up? Liberals essentially dominated Toronto for many years. That is changing now with a lot of new members from Toronto, including the member for Toronto--Danforth, the member for Parkdale--High Park and the member for Trinity--Spadina. Why would the Liberals do something that was clearly not in the interests of the people of Toronto?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders



Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. At that time, the former Liberal government was eager to find ways to reward friends. If we look at who was appointed as the first chair, it is very interesting. It was a Liberal Party fundraiser. The Marine Act, section 15(1), says that the qualifications of the directors are that they:

--shall have generally acknowledged and accepted stature within the transportation industry or the business community and relevant knowledge and extensive experience related to the management of a business, to the operation of a port or to maritime trade.

Therefore, it is very clear that the minister's nominee or those who are on the board of directors of the port authority are supposed to have experience in operating a port or in maritime trade. If we look at who was appointed, we will notice that the first chair, other than the fact that he was a Liberal Party fundraiser, had nothing in his background to indicate that he had any experience in ports or in marine business knowledge.

Then we have another lawyer, at that time from Tory Tory DesLauriers & Binnington, and there seems to be no mention in his background that indicates port or marine business knowledge. Quite a few media reports at that time tied him to the Liberal Party. As for the third one, the vice-president of strategic services, she was and is a senior policy adviser to the premier of Ontario, again a Liberal.

That is what we have seen. The chair at that time, another one, did not have any port or marine business knowledge. He was, however, a Liberal Party fundraiser and a former law partner of our former prime minister, Jean Chrétien. If we look at the four appointees who came in, what we notice is that they have extensive Liberal Party connections.

Things have not changed that much. Rather than Liberals, it is now Conservatives. They are still appointees and still are not accountable to the citizens of Toronto, which is why the mayor, Toronto's city council and in fact Torontonians have said generally to please make this port authority accountable to the citizens of Toronto and return it to the hands of the City of Toronto. If not, it is going to be a place where party fundraisers, whether Liberal or Conservative, will end up taking their places at the Toronto Port Authority.

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12:05 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.


James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I have a real question for the defender of the waterfront. Was that the title my colleague from Burnaby gave her? Or was it the warrior for the waterfront?

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12:10 p.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

I like warrior.

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12:10 p.m.


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

There we go, Mr. Speaker.

I want to make a statement and invite a comment from my colleague from Trinity—Spadina with regard to the issue of our government's initiatives to amalgamate specifically the ports in the city of Vancouver. Her colleague from Vancouver East made a speech earlier. I did not get an opportunity to ask questions or make comments with regard to her speech, but I want to make a declarative statement.

I understand and appreciate the concerns that are raised by any member of the House, New Democrat or not, with regard to our efforts on port mergers, particularly in the city of Vancouver. We are conscious of the fact that people are concerned when the federal government eliminates the borrowing cap, for example, in the port of Vancouver and allows that port to expand. We are conscious of the fact that there are some concerns from local residents about the kind of growth that may appear.

We are conscious of that. For example, I have been to the great city of Baltimore, which is a fantastic city, but we do not want downtown Vancouver to end up looking like Baltimore, with massive cranes on the waterfront spoiling the beauty that we have in British Columbia. There is a reason why we put “Beautiful British Columbia” on our licence plates.

I would ask my colleague from Toronto to recognize and make sure that she knows, along with people from the city of Vancouver, that our government understands. We want to have balanced growth. We want to have effective growth. We want to recognize that we value our waterfront and its beauty, but we also want to seize the opportunity that exists, particularly in the Asia Pacific gateway. We have the opportunity to take advantage of our cultural history and a lineage that spreads not only to Europe but also to all the Asia Pacific countries. We can take real advantage of these opportunities, but also, we can do so while keeping in mind that we want to have growth on our waterfront that not only is economically viable but recognizes the importance of cities.

That is why we have put forward a process. We have put forward a dynamic on the new board of directors that will exist in Vancouver, one that we think takes into account all the stakeholder groups and concerns that exist, whether it is the folks working the Fraser River or in the port of Vancouver, community groups, the provincial government and business associations as well.

The member for Vancouver East raised the idea of having labour on the board, which is certainly something that should be considered and taken into account. We want to have the port of Vancouver become a leader in the world, not just in Canada, and take advantage of the real opportunities that exist, because we believe in creating Canadian jobs through world sales and doing so in a way that also recognizes the importance of keeping our waterfronts as beautiful as they are.

I invite my colleague to comment.

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12:10 p.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, subsection 14(1) of the Canada Marine Act and section 4.6 of the letters patent reflect the promise of more community control and a fair collaborative framework, but what happens when a port authority is created is that the port authority has its own letters patent. What it says in its letters patent in regard to the board of directors in the case of Toronto, although I am not sure about Vancouver, is that it gives the minister the flexibility to nominate whatever people the minister wants.

Therefore, we have a law that says, yes, let us be collaborative and have more community control, but in actual practice that has not been the case whatsoever. There have been no consultations, no reporting to the community, no public meetings, no discussions and no newsletters. So what is happening is that there is a huge divide between the local community and council, especially in Toronto, and the Toronto Port Authority. It seems to me to have been designed in such a way that while it talks about the principles on the one hand, the actual implementation of it is completely contrary to local control.

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12:10 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-23. I will be speaking to a number of points. In particular, I would like to speak about the funding, the regulatory process and the process of appointment to the board.

Before I get into that, I would like to talk about the port of Nanaimo. There has been much discussion in the House about the impact of ports on our local communities, how important the ports are to many communities from coast to coast to coast and also the need to ensure that there is some local decision making.

I have a document here called “The Economic Impact of the Port of Nanaimo”. It is dated May 2003. In order to give some sense of how important our local port is to the city of Nanaimo, I would like to quote from the document:

Port of Nanaimo businesses generate 3,700 direct jobs; $115 million in direct wages.

There are in excess of 10,000 total jobs nation-wide related to the Port of Nanaimo, after including multiplier (indirect and induced) impacts. These jobs generate $335 million in total wages.

In British Columbia, Port of Nanaimo businesses generate over $160 million in direct Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and over $410 million in direct economic output.

The total national economic impact of Port of Nanaimo (including indirect and induced impacts) is estimated at $500 million in GDP and over $1.1 billion in economic output.

DIRECT EMPLOYMENT is employment that can be attributed to the operation, management, and tenancy at the Port of Nanaimo including firms on-site at the Port and Port-dependent businesses off-site.

INDIRECT EMPLOYMENT is employment in goods and service supplier industries that results from the presence of the Port of Nanaimo's direct employers. An example of a Port of Nanaimo's indirect employment would be the supplier of machinery to value-added (manufacturing) tenants at the Port of Nanaimo.

As such, indirect employment is generated in industries that supply or provide services to Port of Nanaimo businesses.

Port of Nanaimo produces jobs!

That is a heading in the brochure. I have covered some of the numbers. It says:

An estimated 3,700 direct jobs are attributed to the Port of Nanaimo activities, or 2,800 direct person years of employment. These employment figures represent employment in two sectors related to the Port -- Port Operations and Port Land Users. Port Operations employers are those that provide facilities or services involved in maritime trade and shipping through the Port of Nanaimo. Port Land Users are firms that have strategically located at the Port because they require access to the Port to operate.

Some of those jobs include terminal, forestry, government, retail, food and beverage, aviation and ships services. Those are the on-site jobs. The off-site jobs include government, forestry, trucking, shipping, aviation, retail, food and beverage, ships services, tow rail, contracting and fisheries.

We can see the importance of ports in my community. Unless we think that ports are a recent innovation in the city of Nanaimo, I have some numbers here from the Assembly Wharf which falls under the port of Nanaimo. I will not go through the pages and pages of history of the port, but the Assembly Wharf, which is an important part of the Nanaimo downtown, was originally conceived in 1931.

In 1937 there was the completion of the first wharf with creosote pilings and wooden decking. It was mainly used for loading scows during the first couple of years. An overhead ramp was used for access around the coal wharf marshalling yard. In the early stages the wharf was 60 feet wide. It is known as A Berth. Anyone from Nanaimo will know about A Berth.

Over the years the Assembly Wharf continued to grow. In 1951 there was considerable federal money put into a wharf addition. In 1965 the third berth at the Assembly Wharf was completed. In 1974 there were 18 materials handling vehicles listed and a second steel warehouse of similar size was completed to accommodate newsprint. Later on, there were other mills, including the Harmac mill, which unfortunately is now in bankruptcy protection. Downtown Nanaimo was a thriving hub of shipping activity. Sadly, over the last number of years as various mills have closed down and of course as coal mining disappeared a number of years ago from the Nanaimo area, there have been some changes in what is happening at the wharf.

This bill partly attempts to address the funds that go into port authorities and the kinds of infrastructure that need to be considered.

Certainly when we talk about infrastructure in the port of Nanaimo, it is important that local municipal councils are included in any kind of decision making.

As a former municipal councillor, I was involved in land use decisions and rezoning. Often any kind of collaborative relationship between port authorities and municipal councils tends to be voluntary. Although certainly, as the member for Trinity—Spadina pointed out, there is language around collaborative frameworks and those kinds of things, the reality is it often does not happen.

In July 2005 the port of Nanaimo put out a press release regarding the Nanaimo Assembly Wharf lands because of some other development that was happening in downtown Nanaimo. Some concerns were raised around the Assembly Wharf lands. In the press release of July 22, 2005, it said:

With CIPA Lumber having left the Assembly Wharf site in 2003, the Port realizes that the Assembly Wharf is underutilized. The Port is currently in the process of working with a forestry consultant to determine what opportunities are available for additional cargo movement through the terminal as a result of the ongoing restructuring of the major companies in the forestry sector. In the same study, the Port will also review options regarding non-traditional cargo within the shipping and industry sectors served by the Port.

The Port is also engaged in a long-term strategic planning process to assess the Port's need for industrial land over the next 10 or 20 years. The future uses of the Assembly Wharf will be determined by consultation over the next few years with the City and other community stakeholders.

In the press release from the Port of Nanaimo there is an acknowledgement of the importance of working with the local council around land use planning, but it is not consistent. I would argue that across this nation of ours the local municipal authorities have to have substantial input into the use of those lands, or as has been pointed out by other members, perhaps they should be under the control of municipalities and cities. The importance around this cannot be understated. Many of our port authorities are in the downtown cores and are very visible.

In the city of Nanaimo, the downtown core surrounds land owned by the port authority. Any decisions made on the port authority directly impact on every other aspect in the downtown. Whether it is traffic flows, environmental considerations, other decisions around rezoning and land use, water, these all impact. Any decision made on the port authority impact on every other aspect of the local council. If those decisions are made in isolation, we often end up with unintended consequences.

West Coast Environmental Law in “The Green Infrastructure Guide” talks about issues, implementation strategies and success stories, but it points to the need for integrated planning and a green infrastructure approach. I want to talk about a couple of these things because they directly relate to the development that happens on port authority land. It states:

Taking a greener approach to infrastructure development not only mitigates the potential environmental impacts of development (e.g. improving stream health and reducing energy use) but makes economic sense as well, when all of the impacts of conventional development on “natural capital” and the services rendered by natural capital are taken into account. By softening the environmental footprint, avoiding waste and finding efficiencies, local governments can increase their long term sustainability.

It goes on to talk about the need for public debate on risks and choices:

Clear public policy choices need to be made vis-à-vis how limited financial resources should be allocated...and what sort of environmental impact will result from the community's infrastructure design.

In the past, ports were not always the most environmentally friendly places to operate. For example, some of the construction of the Assembly Wharf was creosote. Nowadays it is highly unlikely that creosote would be used in a marine environment because we know of its impacts.

If a community wants to tout itself as being environmentally sustainable and as having green infrastructure, it is very important that local municipal councils are integrated into the decision making process around what happens on port lands. Ports are far more conscious now than they have been in the past.

In my riding there has been a tremendous amount of discussion around cruise ship terminals. One of the areas of concern is that cruise ships need to be environmentally responsible for all of their outputs, whether it is the fuel they burn or the waste they dispose of. If a cruise ship terminal were to be considered for the city of Nanaimo, it would be important for the city to have some impact on any decisions around building it. There are pros and cons, but it is a good example of the importance of including municipal councils in the decision making process with regard to what happens on port lands.

The issue of security has also been raised. Many people feel that the security measures outlined in this piece of legislation are insufficient.

The Canadian Marine Act review which was done a couple of years ago made a number of recommendations. Unfortunately, not all of them are included in the current piece of legislation. Regarding security, observation 9 indicated that it is appropriate for the Government of Canada, rather than the marine transportation industry, to bear the expense of implementing national security measures.

In the current climate there is more and more concern around security measures at ports and ferry terminals. It would be incumbent upon the government to ensure that there is appropriate funding and oversight of security forces.

One of the pressure points is that some of our trading partners are anxious about the level of security at our ports and in other places in Canada. Given some of the events that have happened over the last several months, any security measures put in place should have some accountability. I want to highlight one instance that happened in August. I will quote from a letter from one of my constituents:

I respectfully request that you press for a full and public inquiry into the violation of our constitutional right to freedom of assembly by the actions of the Surete du Quebec officers, acting as agents provocateurs, during a peaceful protest at Montebello, Quebec on August 20, 2007.

On August 20th, 2007, I was in Montebello, Quebec working on a documentary entitled 'Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule' about the secretive Security Prosperity Partnership and North American Union. I was following a group of intelligent, peaceful and reasonable people including prominent Canadian patriot Maude Barlow when three masked undercover Surete de Quebec police officers carrying rocks approached the police line clearly intent on stirring up violence within an otherwise peaceful protest.

Since releasing this footage on Youtube I have subsequently discovered evidence within this footage that clearly shows one of these masked undercover officers striking a member of the riot squad in the face mask and then banging the large rock in his hand into the shield of another officer. This illegal assault was a clear act of incitement, violating section 63 of the Criminal Code of Canada and was a direct attack on the constitutionally guaranteed rights to peaceful assembly and security of the person for the people who were in attendance at this protest....

The Surete du Quebec claim that these undercover officers were given rocks by radicals. If this is the case then the security cameras which covered every inch of the protest site should reveal this. I shot three hours of footage at this protest and the only people I taped with rocks were these undercover officers.

He went on to say that the Canadian public has a right to know what evidence the security camera footage contains, who the other undercover officers were at this protest, and so on. He concluded by saying:

This incident at Montebello undermines the confidence of Canadian citizens in their police forces. I would like to know why a public inquiry has not been called to investigate these illegal covert activities on the part of the police? Does the government respect the Canadian constitution and if so when will it call for a full public inquiry into this outrageous attack against our constitutional rights?

The reason I raise this is in the past there have been some problems with marine port authorities regarding security. I think many of us support investment in security at port authorities, but it needs to be a system that is open, transparent and accountable.

While I am talking about openness, transparency and accountability, one of the things the port authorities currently are not subject to is any oversight by the Auditor General. We often hear discussion in the House about how federal government funds are spent, what kind of accountability and reporting process is in place and the transparency around all of this. I argue that this would be a good case to ask the Auditor General to have some oversight on, because federal money flows into these port authorities. It would help alleviate some of the criticisms about how money is allocated and spent.

I also want to talk briefly about the regulatory powers. There is a mechanism within the legislation to look at some regulatory powers. In the past there has been some discussion about establishing compulsory pilotage areas. One of the concerns that has been raised is the process currently does not mandate that pilots are included in establishing these compulsory pilotage areas. I think it would be a problem if port authorities had some say and pilots were excluded from the process. It is another failing in the bill.

As well, many people have talked about the process around board appointments. A couple of years back, the port authority in Nanaimo was down some board members. The process of appointing board members was long, slow and painful. If these boards have spending authority to oversee the healthy operation of a port, yet there is foot dragging in appointing board members, how boards can continue to function when they do not have the required number of board members?

In addition, in the current act before us there is no mechanism to ensure a local presence on these boards. More than anything, if we are talking about local accountability and integrating those port authorities into the communities, ensuring that land use decisions are made respecting the processes in communities, it would seem important to have either elected representatives from municipal councils present on these port authorities, or some other mechanism to ensure the local voice is at the table.

Again I come back to the whole piece around land use decisions. Because these ports have such a critical role in our neighbourhoods, it is very important that those local representatives have some sort of say in what happens in that land use for the local area.

In our community of Nanaimo, the port authority has done a really great job of ensuring that walkways have been developed in our communities. However, sometimes the other decisions have not always been done in conjunction with the local council.

Although there are some positive aspects of the bill, there are many gaps in what we feel a revision of this kind should have included, certainly in terms of the context of the fact that this marine review happened a number of years ago. The fact that the marine review, which had extensive consultation, did not come forward with a number of recommendations that would have made this act a much better act is a little disappointing.

Therefore, at this point in time we would look toward some amendments to make this a better bill.

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12:30 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan and her terrific presentation on the bill.

She raised the issue of civil rights. She has raised concerns, which have also been raised by the members for Vancouver East and Burnaby—Douglas, about how the government has acted with ports workers in a heavy-handed way. These people have lived all their lives working on the docks, contributing to our economy, yet they are being pushed aside, essentially, unless they can fill out onerous documentation, with every minute detail of their lives, which is then subject to some sort of approval process.

The International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union is pushing back on this and is taking the government to court because these rules are so patently unfair.

She also raised the issue about Montebello and the use of undercover officers who carried rocks in what was clearly a peaceful demonstration.

Could she contrast the alacrity of the government with which it attacks civil rights, while at the same time, it has not dealt with the substantive issue, which is the fact that thousands of containers that come into Canada's ports from coast to coast to coast? We have the resources currently to only investigate 2% or 3% of them. Therefore, 97%, 98% of the container traffic coming in through Canada's ports is not inspected, which means we do not know what they contain. They may contain human beings for human trafficking. They may contain drugs. They may contain explosives. Who knows?

However, instead of dealing with that security issue, which is a substantive one and requires some investment of resources, the government chose to give billions of dollars away in corporate tax cuts. Now it is now attacking civil rights in a most egregious way, particularly for ports workers who have worked all their lives ensuring that Canada's cargo is unloaded and that Canada's trade is facilitated.

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12:30 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the great work he has done on the protection of rights for ports workers and on the Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement.

There is a challenge with this legislation. On the one hand, we have insufficient attention to the security measures that are required to keep our ports and the workers there safe. We know many of the port authorities simply do not have the kind of money that would be required to put in the oversight essential to ensure our ports operate safely. This has been one of the concerns that some of our international trading partners have raised.

One the other hand, we are subjecting port workers to a kind of scrutiny that most of us simply would not tolerate. We are attacking workers and putting all kinds of security measures in place, but we are disregarding the very necessary security measures to keep those very workers safe.

The bill needs a tremendous amount of work on appropriate security measures to ensure we can speak in confidence about the safety and security of our ports.

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12:35 p.m.


Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, again I am pleased to ask some questions on this important bill. I expressed earlier that in Sault Ste. Marie, dead in the middle of three of the most important Great Lakes, Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, we see ourselves as part of the great Canadian waterway, the St. Lawrence Seaway. We connect in a very important way. Goods from the west go east. We see ourselves as an entry point for goods that would go into the Midwest U.S., then go to literally millions of people and communities along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

We are preparing ourselves to take advantage of what we know will be greater and greater focus on the distribution of goods, the transportation of goods and systems that make that happen. CN comes from western Canada north of the Sault. We have the Great Lakes, as I have said. We have highways, I-75 into the U.S. and the Trans-Canada highway. Therefore, we are strategically located in a very good position to take advantage of some of this, but we need to ensure that the public institutions we put in place to manage this, like our ports, are well managed and that we deal with all the issue.

However, one issue we are trying to deal with in the Sault, because we have responsibility for such a vast amount of water and land and trees, is the question of invasive species. Is there anything in the bill that speaks, from an environmental perspective, to the protection of our natural resources from species that might be brought in through the St. Lawrence Seaway and up into the Great Lakes. These might invade our natural habitat and create some of the problems we have seen already or make them worse?

We would like an invasive species centre placed in Sault Ste. Marie, which would research and come up with responses to some of that. However, is there anything in the bill that speaks to a this concern and then some action that could be taken to minimize or stop altogether the possibility that we might get invasive species into our waterways in Canada?

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12:35 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was a lot in that question. I want to thank the member for Sault Ste. Marie for his concern.

One of the issues was around the transportation hub, which he so aptly described. In many of our communities there simply is insufficient investment in public transportation infrastructure, whether it is rail, or the ports or public transit. I have had the pleasure of visiting the member's community, which is a central transportation hub. The kind of investment required to ensure it stays vibrant and viable is simply not there.

With regard to invasive species, the member raises a broader question around whether legislation that comes before the House has an environmental lens. Many of us in the New Democrats feel that legislation coming before us needs a couple of lenses. They all need gender lenses, but they also need an environmental lens, which talks about the impact of the legislation. Has there been appropriate oversight in things like invasive species? We need that longer view. When a question is posed about environmental impact, we should not be thinking only to the next quarter, or the end of next year, or the next election cycle. We truly should be thinking out generations.

When we talk about this overhaul of the Canada Marine Act, it would be an appropriate time to take a look at some of the environmental measures that need to be in place. I talked about the environmental impacts that ports can have on our local communities. Therefore, that environmental lens is a critical part of developing any legislation.

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12:40 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, because I have the privilege of representing the federal riding of Halifax.

While I do not want to lay claim, in any way, shape or form, to the port of Halifax being the exclusive concern of the federal riding of Halifax because three additional federal ridings abut one way or another on some part of the Halifax Harbour, I think it is fair to say that the riding of Halifax is the most historic riding to make up part of the port of Halifax.

The Halifax port is an incredibly important part of the economic development infrastructure and, to state the obvious, the transportation infrastructure of the Halifax metropolitan region and, indeed, the province of Nova Scotia and the whole of Atlantic Canada.

Before I begin speaking to the amendments to the four bills that are affected by Bill C-23, I want to take the opportunity to talk about the vision, the creativity and the innovation of the former mayor of Halifax, Allan O'Brien, who, in the late 1960s, had the vision to see that we needed to do a great deal to enhance our port capacity. He knew that container shipping would become a huge factor in the shipment of goods in the modern era. Container capacity in the city of Halifax was an important innovation undertaken at that time and it remains an extremely important part of the economic capacity of the port of Halifax, which continues to play a major part in the economy of the region and of our country.

People talk about the concept of the Atlantic Gateway. I hope it does not seem presumptuous to say this, but I think it is fair to say that Halifax has been one of the major economic gateways to Canada and to all of North America for over 400 years. In a sense, it does not need to compete for the notion of being the major Atlantic Gateway but, at the same time, a major collaborative effort is under way to strengthen the port of Halifax so it can be an even more effective economic driver for goods coming to the North American continent.

When I had the opportunity to talk with my provincial New Democrat candidates in Nova Scotia recently, the official opposition in the province of Nova Scotia, it was pointed out to me that it was not well-known that the port of Halifax, in many instances, offers the fastest and the most effective route into North America.

The bill that is now before us addresses a number of valid concerns that have been brought forward over a period of several years. However, I hope we can further enhance the capability of the port of Halifax and other Canadian ports as well to play an even bigger role as a gateway into North America.

I think members of the House are aware of the history of the bill that is now before us. It resulted from a consultative process across the country in 2003, when a legislative review of the Canada Marine Act was conducted, and in a 1995 policy review for federal ports on the elimination of overcapacity and the new governance structures needed to support more successful commercial operations and a more comprehensive system of transportation, of which the Halifax port is only one component.

There was a great deal of interest in that review process at the time. I think some 75 hearings were held with 140 submissions by a variety of stakeholders from across the country. Therefore, in part, the changes contained in Bill C-23 came out of that review process.

It is my view and the view of my colleagues, several of whom have already very ably spoken to the bill, that the bill should be supported at this stage of second reading to go to committee. It is also our view that some amendments are needed to some areas of the bill. It would be our contention that at committee these amendments ought to be fully considered and, hopefully, supported, adopted and brought back to the House. If the necessary amendments are made, I and my colleagues would see this as an important step forward in strengthening our capacity to play an even greater role in this country of effective ports into the North American continent.

A number of positive things can be said about the bill. A number of provisions in the bill would improve access to funding by port authorities for infrastructure improvements. There are some areas in which there are infrastructure improvements needed to the port of Halifax and other ports. The original marine act did not actually allow for port authorities to get access to federal funding. This is being addressed in the bill and it is long overdue.

The bill also would provide the port authorities with the ability to borrow money for port purposes on the port authorities' credit. This is an important provision that needs to be supported. It is an important start but it is our view that the borrowing power that would be made available to port authorities needs to be increased beyond where this present bill establishes that limit.

Another important amendment, which, I guess, would be mostly true of the port of Halifax, explicitly states the historical importance of our ports to the Canadian economy and to the North American economy. This positive statement is particularly timely at this juncture. We know how important our ports are but we also know there are particular challenges that need to be met in the context of the current events happening and the current security threats that need to be taken seriously.

One of the areas in which we are very adamant that there needs to be improvements in Bill C-23 relates to the security challenges that our ports are facing. I think it is fair to say that a missed opportunity in the current drafting of the bill is to tackle the importance of streamlining, standardizing and strengthening both the funding for national security measures in our ports and also for the way in which the security provisions are actually handled.

The disbandment of the port police was very controversial when it took place a number of years ago. I know the New Democratic Party expressed some major concerns about it at the time. At the very least, I think one has to say that the disbandment was done in a very ad hoc way and was premature.

What Bill C-23 would enable us to do with some appropriate amendments is to actually recognize that there needs to be a more coherent, comprehensive, streamlined process dealing with security.

This is almost unbelievable but at the moment the 19 different major port authorities literally have 19 different systems addressing their security needs. Some ports have a combination of federal, municipal and provincial police. Some have various partnerships and relationships with private security firms. In Halifax, for example, we have a contract with the municipal police augmented by private security firms for commercial port users.

I had a professor who would talk about the lack of a really thorough, systematic approach of whatever regulatory nature that looked like a dog's breakfast. In this day and age, in particular, we need to be concerned about a more comprehensive and coherent approach to port security.

It pains me to say this but we in the city of Halifax have a very real concern these days about the increase in violence in some pockets of our communities. This is not unusual nor is it exceptional to Halifax. I am pleased to take the opportunity to say that we in the city of Halifax are blessed with one of the finest police forces in our country. We have an outstanding chief of police and deputy chief of police who absolutely understand what it means to say that we need to take this challenge seriously and that what it requires is being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. They do not only express that as some kind of a convenient slogan. They act on it and they engage the whole community in the process of identifying where the kind of preventive and rehabilitative measures are needed that would actually get that job done, while, at the same time, recognizing that there are instances in which the public is not being adequately protected from some of the offenders who threaten their very security and in fact their lives in many cases.

It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that at committee there are some amendments brought in to take a more coherent or comprehensive approach to the security challenges we face.

It may not be so obvious to people who live in landlocked places but ports are a wonderful asset and a wonderful resource. However, particularly with the increase in commercial activity and the potential for massive containers to be brought in on container ships, there can be real challenges to identifying illicit drugs or illegal arms that are stowed in those containers by hostile individuals who have anything but our best interests at heart when they do that.

I am not saying that it is frequent, but, and I believe this figure would apply today or recently, the figures would indicate that only 3% of the containers coming into our ports now are actually inspected. I am not an authority but I do know there are some challenges. I do not know what percentage it should be but it seems that 3% is a very low percentage of container inspection to determine whether there are threats to our security.

I do not want in any way to create the impression, because I do not believe it is true, that the port of Halifax has bigger challenges in that regard than other ports, but I think what it does underscore is that we need to have a more streamlined, comprehensive approach to security, and this is the time to do it.

I recall in part with amusement, but I also remember how furious I was at the time, that on the eve of the 2004 election there was virtually a Liberal rally conducted in Halifax where there was a great deal of fanfare about funding coming into the port of Halifax to improve our security protection in the aftermath of 9/11.

Honestly, we could not tell that it was not a Liberal rally. There were three cabinet ministers that flew in at, of course, public expense to make this big announcement with great fanfare, but actually it was totally lacking in specifics. A whole two years later, when I was making inquiries to find out about the delivery of those promises, not a single penny had flown at the time to fulfill those promises.

If the new provisions of Bill C-23 are appropriately adopted, we will be supporting it if the necessary amendments can hang within it. Let us not turn it into a kind of pre-election fanfare thing, which I think would do a disservice to the fact that the consultation process that has taken place has involved all of the stakeholders, all of the levels of government, and recognized that this is something of interest to the security and well-being of our individual citizens, and obviously to the well-being and success of our local, regional and national economies.

Mr. Speaker, with those words, I am pleased to indicate my support for the legislation to be passed at second reading. I look forward to a lively committee process where other concerns will be addressed, including some real problems about shrinking down the numbers of members on the port authorities. This does not allow for a diverse representation as is really needed to ensure that all interests are fully considered at the decision-making level of our port authorities.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the member for Halifax for her speech, knowledge and understanding of some of the opportunities and challenges that exist in our ports, particularly our own. There is not a port city or facility in Canada that is more renowned and thought of whenever we think of marine activity than Halifax, in our own backyard.

The member spoke very knowledgeably about what needs to be done. She recognizes that the bill is not perfect, but it does get us into the conversation in a way that hopefully will get us to a place where we do something that will be meaningful. She spoke very eloquently about how often governments use announcements and bills such as this to gain political favour while at the same time really not having any substance or providing any substance to deal with some of the real difficulties that exist.

I was saying earlier that we need to not only recognize the most obvious ports of entry into our country, where marine is concerned, when we talk about these kinds of bills, but also need to look at the other places along the route into Canada where ships arrive and there is interaction which contributes to a local economy.

That is no more so obvious than in my own community of Sault Ste. Marie which is smack dead in the centre of three of the most important and largest of the Great Lakes. There is Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

We in the Sault are looking to take advantage of that strategic location which gets us into big chunks of the mid-west U.S. where trade is concerned. We know that the transportation and distribution of goods is now, and will become even more, an important facet of industry and the economy in Canada.

Certainly, passing our back door or front door is the CN Rail, the Trans-Canada Highway and route I-75 that runs right down to the tip of Florida, and of course this wonderful resource of water of which we have stewardship.

The member spoke very thoughtfully about the issue of security at our ports and how the Liberals in fact used that as a way to curry some favour going into an election, but there is a very real concern regarding security that the member for Halifax just spoke about. There is also an environmental concern that we in Sault Ste. Marie have identified.

As boats are brought in off the oceans through the St. Lawrence Seaway and up into the Great Lakes, we often end up with species in our systems that get into the water and from the water into some of our other natural resources that become then very difficult to deal with and become a menace to our own natural resources. We need to be doing something to protect ourselves from that.

In Sault Ste. Marie we have been working for a few years now to develop an invasive species centre which would do research and put forward proposals, be a partnership between all of those wonderful institutions in our community: the Great Lakes Forestry Centre, our university, Science Enterprise Algoma, along with other agencies and the private sector to actually come up with responses that will be effective in stopping the onslaught of these species when they happen in the first place.

Is there anything in the bill that the member has looked at that speaks in any way at all to this other concern regarding security where our environment is affected and the possibility that some of these ships coming in might bring with them species that we do not want?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I must say honestly that I do not have the in-depth knowledge I should have about what kinds of strengthened provisions there might be to address the very real problem that the member talks about, which represents an environmental threat. I wish I had the expertise to say for sure.

What I do know is that there are amazing innovations and improvements in technology that can both address some of these kinds of environmental challenges and security issues about which I and the member for Sault Ste. Marie spoke of earlier. There is improved technology, for example, that could do more effective tracking and screening of containers.

The same is probably true in addressing the question that was raised by the member for Sault Ste. Marie. There likely is increased technology for the effective tracking of species because of increased mobility and the fact that we end up transporting through fish farming, for example, fish that have a hostile and very destructive impact in different milieux.

It allows me to make a point, which is an important one, speaking to the need for another major amendment. There is not now nearly sufficient responsibility being taken by the Government of Canada to address these kinds of security measures.

In terms of what has actually been committed in the way of dollars and cents up to this point has been very piecemeal and, by and large, operating on the basis that it is the problem, responsibility and onus of the individual ports to provide for these kinds of protections, whether it is environmental or security.

It needs to be understood that there are national implications and federal government responsibility needs to be taken when dealing with such overarching issues as environmental and security matters. I hope the outcome will be an amended bill that comes back to the House for final approval.