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.