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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.

Topics

Notice of MotionWays and MeansRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of a ways and means motion to introduce an act to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of this motion.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the fourth report later this day.

Library of ParliamentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament regarding its mandate and its quorum.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be now concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I believe the hon. Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development had something else to table besides his ways and means motion and between us we may have overlooked this.

Does the minister wish to table something else? I will happily go back to tabling of documents if I made a mistake.

Tsawwassen First Nation Final AgreementRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think the confusion is on my part. I tabled the ways and means motion.

I would like now to have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement and related side agreements.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 100 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it agreed that Question No. 100 be made an order for return?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 100Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Have there been any meetings or discussions, including but not limited to those conducted electronically, between the Deputy Minister and senior officials at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and staff members of the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, or between the Deputy Minister and senior officials at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada regarding the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, since February 6, 2006 and, if so: (a) who participated in these meetings or discussions; (b) what was discussed; (c) what was the outcome of the discussions; and (d) what plans, if any, were discussed regarding the future operations of the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre and, if so, (i) what did these plans consist of and (ii) what are the associated timelines?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from December 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Abbotsford had the floor. He has four minutes left in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Abbotsford.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, when debate adjourned last night, I understood I had three minutes. This is wonderful news. It is one more minute for a politician to talk.

When I left off debate, I was talking about the opportunities that Canada has in the area of international trade. As we know, Canada is a trading nation. It is one of the most successful trading nations in the world. In fact, it is perhaps the most resource rich country in the world. The nations of the world are beating a path to our doorstep not only for our resources and commodities but they are also looking to us for the technological expertise and much of the information we can deliver to make the world a better place.

When I left off debate, I was raising a number of reasons why we face challenges in Canada in trying to maximize the benefits we get from international trade. The first of these reasons was the awful truth that previous federal governments had essentially abandoned any significant effort to build our national infrastructure and the result was an aging infrastructure that was ill-suited to compete with the demands of the 21st century.

That is why the Conservative government, of course, introduced a $33 billion building Canada fund, which is a plan that is going to rebuild and renew our national infrastructure. It is the largest investment of its kind certainly in the last 50 years, if perhaps not in Canadian history. The building Canada fund is going to be rolled out over the next seven years.

There is a second reason why we have challenges in the area of making sure that we compete internationally for trade. That was the fact that the level of service in transportation, specifically railway transportation, was in a critical state of affairs. For many years virtually everyone in the shipping industry had complained about the fact that the level and quality of service delivered by our large national railways had declined.

To address this concern, our government introduced Bill C-8, which goes a long way to improving the level of service in our national railways. It ensures that the dispute resolution mechanisms available for shippers are efficient, low cost and timely.

The third reason why Canada is beginning to have challenges in the area of its gateways and trade corridors is the fact that our country does not have the legal flexibility given to its ports to be able to adapt to a rapidly changing economic environment. When I talk about ports, I am talking about marine ports, such as the port of Vancouver, the port of Montreal, the port of Halifax.

There are numerous other inland and marine ports across Canada that have challenges. They have transportation pinch points that restrict the ability of those who carry on trade with Canada and within Canada to get the job done. That is why we have introduced Bill C-23. It provides much more flexibility to the ports to be able to adapt to changing environments.

One of the areas where we are providing more flexibility is, for example, in the area of land management. Ports will now have more powers and authority to manage their lands, to lease them, to sell them, and to use them for the purposes they deem necessary for their businesses. We have also expanded the whole area of legal authority and the ability to borrow money, which again had been severely constrained until now.

We believe this flexibility is going to allow our ports to become even more dynamic because if we do not become more dynamic in the area of trade and ensure the infrastructure in Canada is in place to adapt to increasing trade, we are going to lose out.

There are many other ports across North America now that are competing with us and they are very aggressive. We need to make sure that our ports in Canada have the ability to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

I am thankful for the opportunity to address this very important issue for Canadians.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to have the opportunity to elaborate on certain aspects and provisions of Bill C-23. Specifically, I would like to focus on the impact of the proposed changes to the Canada Marine Act on Canadian port authorities.

We have entered a new era obviously in global trade. The patterns of our trade partnerships and relationships continue to change with the growth of our overseas markets, and that has been illustrated in earlier comments.

Canada must work to position itself strategically with east-west trade routes, routes that by their very nature require the transport of goods by marine mode.

New realities are upon us including the reality that marine based trade is becoming more and more important to our economy in terms of volume and the value of goods.

Our ability to accommodate this trade is integral to tapping the opportunities being generated by the ever-expanding markets. Ensuring that appropriate port infrastructure and the intermodal connections exist are crucial to allow for the increase in the volume of goods to flow unimpeded.

Not only does Canada have the opportunity to directly grow its Asian trade relationships but the prospects of developing Canadian gateways and corridors as the pre-eminent transportation routes into the heart of North America will result in numerous value added initiatives translating into long term high paying jobs.

In short, if Canada does not have the necessary infrastructure in place to accept the North American bound trade, it will go elsewhere and the spin-off opportunities will obviously be lost.

Since their inception, the 19 Canadian port authorities that form the backbone of the national port system have been self-sufficient entities that have effectively used their own revenues and borrowings to finance investments in port infrastructure; in other words, building the port capacity that is necessary for security trade growth with overseas markets.

On the whole our port authorities have been successful in pursuing new investments and have been very creative in the partnerships and financial arrangements that have made a large number of infrastructure projects possible.

Our ports have been able to maintain growth due to good management practices and without access to the federal treasury which aligns with the original objectives of the Canada Marine Act. However, the global economic realities of today are not the same as when the Canada Marine Act came into existence in 1998.

During the period that the Canada Marine Act was being developed national economic priorities reflected deficient deficit reduction. Our principal trade focus was with the United States, global logistics changes were in their infancy, and the federal government had minimal involvement in strategic infrastructure investments.

In the last decade, however, various federal funding programs related to infrastructure have been created. The recently announced building Canada fund includes $2.1 billion for gateways and border crossings as well as $1 billion for the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative. Within all of these strategies and initiatives it is clear that Canadian port authorities have a critical role to play.

Today there is significant pressure, especially on our west coast, to do more to accommodate growing maritime traffic. Canada's bilateral trade with China has increased 500% in the last 10 years. From 2001 to 2006 Canada's exports and imports with China recorded an average annual growth of 12% and 22% respectively.

Some experts are forecasting that container movement at west coast ports will quadruple by 2020. In terms of the time required to ensure that appropriate port related infrastructure is in place to handle this traffic 13 years is an extremely short period of time when we are dealing with port authorities.

Most of this container traffic represents inbound consumer goods, although Canada's booming energy sector and expanding Asian economies are increasing the demand for Canada's energy products and other commodities. Between 1996 and 2006, marine exports to China almost tripled to reach $7 billion.

Canada's west coast ports are planning to invest over $1 billion themselves in the next 10 to 15 years in order to address issues of capacity, including capacity for bulk and liquid bulk exports. However, given the forecast of trade growth within the Asian economies, it is unclear whether these investments by the ports alone will be sufficient to maintain Canada's market share of the anticipated traffic.

While the Canada Marine Act governs several components of our national port system, the proposed changes outlined in Bill C-23 will most profoundly affect Canada Port Authorities. There are several important amendments proposed to the Canada Marine Act; however, the cornerstone of Bill C-23 is a change contemplated in section 25 that would give port authorities the same ability to access federal funding as other transportation infrastructure providers.

The federal government recognizes the need to provide our ports with additional flexibility so that investments in important infrastructure may be made to meet new opportunities. The proposed amendment to section 25 of the Canada Marine Act would remove the existing legislative barrier that prohibits Canada Port Authorities from accessing contribution programs for infrastructure projects.

Access to contribution programs would place Canada Port Authorities on an equal footing with other major infrastructure providers and better reflect the government's current approach to financial investments, an approach which recognizes that from time to time a case may be made for federal investment that is in the public interest and that positions Canada within international trade dynamics, but in such a way that the commercial spirit and independence of the port authorities are not compromised.

The proposed access to contribution programs reflects the priorities of the government and will be focused on capital costs of infrastructure projects, environmental sustainability and security initiatives. Certainly in terms of security funding, these amendments are required to allow a continuation of contributions to ports, which as of the end of this month will no longer be provided under the Marine Transportation Security Act.

Bill C-23 also recognizes the diversity of port operations across the country, including the inherent role of some port authorities within gateway and corridor frameworks and the need to move these ports with significant revenue generating power closer to a self-governing borrowing regime.

In this regard, ports that achieve $25 million in operating revenues for three consecutive years will have the choice of moving to a new tiered structure under which there will be no aggregate borrowing limit. Rather, these ports would be subject to a code of borrowing established in their letters patent and a board-approved borrowing policy to reflect the requirements of the code.

This structure will result in more comprehensive reporting requirements to ensure borrowings are compatible with the policy and the code, but will also allow much greater flexibility to borrow according to the market conditions in order to address time-sensitive opportunities.

For those ports that are not subject to the new borrowing regime, it is important to note that, as a parallel policy initiative, guidelines have been developed that are designed to significantly shorten and clarify the borrowing limit increase approval process. That is important.

Other elements of Bill C-23 relate to strengthening the governance provisions of the Canada Marine Act. In addition to a number of general housekeeping amendments, the introductory provisions of the Canada Marine Act will be changed to recognize the historical, contemporary and future significance of marine transportation and its contribution to the Canadian economy.

The proposed amendments to the Canada Marine Act are integral to the long term objectives of our national gateway and trade corridor strategies. Simply put, the marine system is a major component of our national transportation structure and the Canada Port Authorities truly are the marine gateways for domestic and international markets. Without these important legislative amendments, it would be extremely difficult for our gateways and trade corridors to meet their full potential.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to rise here today 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. The purpose of the strategic framework for Canadian federal ports, established in 1995, was to eliminate excess capacity and create a new governance structure in order to support a more trade-focused system. International trade changed the context in which the federal ports were operating.

A review committee consulted various stakeholders and prepared a report, which was tabled in the House of Commons in June 2003. The report listed a number of recommendations that were fully endorsed by Canadian port authorities.

The principal concern identified during the review focused on the marine sector's financial flexibility, especially for port authorities, in order to maintain economic viability and respond effectively to changing market demand, as well as access to federal funding for infrastructure investment.

In terms of funding, Canadian port authorities cannot rely only on their operating revenues and private lenders. They do not have access to most federal funding. Industry observers have pointed out that Canadian port authorities, because of their structure, are hindering their own ability to procure the necessary funding for investments, which would allow them to maintain or improve their competitiveness. They can ask to have their borrowing limit raised, but a lack of real property to offer as collateral makes lenders nervous.

The bill before us today aims to strengthen the operating framework for port authorities by modifying the current borrowing regime, providing for access to contribution funding, and clarifying some aspects of governance.

The Bloc Québécois believes that this bill will increase the competitiveness of the St. Lawrence by maintaining and improving the port infrastructure required to develop the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes trade corridor. At the same time, this will also promote intermodal transportation and benefit the environment.

The Bloc's key concern with this bill is the competitiveness of the St. Lawrence River, which has always been a major asset to Quebec's development. It is closely linked to the economic development of all its regions. Eighty percent of Quebec's population lives on the shores of the St. Lawrence and over 75% of its industry is found there. The strategic location of industries in relation to the St. Lawrence River means it can be used for nearly all international trade outside the United States.

When considering the St. Lawrence Seaway in the North American context, the importance of its economic impact becomes even more obvious. Indeed, the St. Lawrence River provides privileged access to the heart of North America. It not only allows access to 90 million inhabitants and the industrial heartland of the United States, Canada and Quebec, but it also provides a shorter route for major European carriers. For example, the distance between Montreal and Rotterdam is 5,813 km while the distance between New York and Rotterdam is 6,154 km.

This strategic asset is the reason the Canadian and American governments have done much work since the start of the industrial age to provide easier access to the Great Lakes for international carriers. In 1959, the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway provided greater access to Lake Ontario and the rest of the Great Lakes.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is underutilized, however. The total amount of goods transported via the St. Lawrence dropped from 130 million tonnes in the early 1980s to approximately 100 million tonnes 10 years later, only to hover around 105 million tonnes since.

However, in the past 30 years, shipping has increased by 600% worldwide. Closer to home, the Mississippi system, which competes directly with the St. Lawrence, has seen its annual traffic go from 450 million to 700 million tonnes. Seaports on the east coast of the U.S. have also seen a steady rise in traffic.

A similar trend is affecting traffic going through the St. Lawrence Seaway. After reaching a high of 70 million tonnes, the quantity of goods being transported via the seaway stabilized around 50 million tonnes per year. This is due to different factors, mainly the fact that the St. Lawrence Seaway is not competitive, because of Ottawa's failure to pay attention to marine infrastructure in Quebec, particularly along the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes trade corridor.

Moreover, at a time when marine transportation is increasingly important to international trade, the federal government has been slow to take steps to make the St. Lawrence more competitive. I should mention that this sector of Quebec's economy faces extremely stiff competition from American ports.

Marine transportation plays a key role in the global economy, with nearly 90% of trade taking place by ship.

The importance of marine transportation is also growing with globalization. Internationally, marine transportation represents nearly 400 million tonnes of goods annually, with a total value of more than $80 billion. It is estimated that marine traffic will triple in volume in the next 20 years because of globalization. There is enormous potential there, and the ports along the St. Lawrence must be equipped to benefit from this growth.

Despite favourable economic conditions, Quebec is faced with strong competition from American ports. For example, container traffic has grown far more in the ports south of Washington than in Montreal. An important reason for this is the way American ports are funded. American ports have access to a number of sources of public and private funding. In addition to their operating revenues, major U.S. ports can issue bonds—some tax-exempt—take out loans, apply for subsidies and receive money from all levels of government. Many can collect property taxes, and few have to pay any money to the government.

By enabling the port authorities in Quebec to amalgamate, receive federal funding and take out commercial loans for infrastructure improvements, Bill C-23 will help ports compete more effectively against the ports on the American east coast.

In the past few years Ottawa has given Canada's west coast a number of financial benefits for developing the Pacific gateway and opening it for trade with Asia. There is also increasing talk about setting up an Atlantic gateway, to be located in Halifax, to ensure trade with the eastern United States.

What about the plan for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence trade corridor, which is a matter of priority to the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, or SODES? This concept of the trade corridor is based on an obvious fact. The ports along the St. Lawrence must establish a common strategy for facilitating the most efficient transport of goods possible amongst themselves and towards the destination markets. The competition is no longer among Montreal, Quebec City, Sept-Îles or the other St. Lawrence ports, for their share of global marine traffic. They are competing against the American ports, and that is the competition they must face.

It is therefore important for users and stakeholders of the St. Lawrence to join forces to make the most of their assets and improve what is called the “logistics chain” in order to make the river and its estuary a quintessential trade corridor.

Such development must focus on the complementarity and advantages of each port and on the complementarity between the different modes of transportation. The obstacles and bottlenecks that slow down the movement of goods must be identified in order to prioritize the investment needed to correct those slowdowns.

The primary challenge is to get not just the port authorities and the regional ports, but also the carriers, namely the railway companies, to buy in to this concept.

The railway companies and the trucking companies do not have a history of cooperating. However, cooperation is essential to the development of the trade corridor, as we can see from Vancouver's example.

The St. Lawrence Economic Development Council, SODES, through the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes Gateway Council, is giving these matters a great deal of thought, as is the Comité interrégional pour le transport des marchandises for the Montreal area.

The Government of Quebec supports this initiative since it has injected $2.6 million into the marine transportation support program and has released $21 million for the assistance program for modal integration in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of strategic marine and rail infrastructure.

The federal government has to do its part too. Once Bill C-23 is passed, it will make a modest contribution to the development of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence trade corridor. As such, the government should provide the same level of political and financial support to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence trade corridor as it does to the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative.

The signing of a memorandum of understanding between Ottawa, Quebec and Ontario in July 2007 was a first step toward implementing an action plan. Over the next two years, partners in the public and private sectors will collect and share data to guide future multi-modal strategies, projects and investments. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still far from the billion dollars invested in the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.

We are not opposed to federal initiatives to support the Pacific gateway, but the federal government should also be supporting similar efforts to develop the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence trade corridor.

I would now like to turn to an aspect of maritime transportation that is of special interest to me because it has a major impact on environmental protection. I am talking about intermodal transportation that promotes cabotage on the St. Lawrence. By supporting investment in infrastructure belonging to Quebec's port authorities, Bill C-23 supports intermodal transportation.

How can we make the best use of the unique characteristics of maritime transportation while respecting the private sector's need for fast, low-cost transportation?

Europe came up with an answer because traffic on its road system exceeded capacity. This is also happening in the rest of the world, particularly in the United States.

The solution is intermodal transportation, which is growing at a phenomenal pace thanks to the increased use of standardized containers. Intermodal transportation combines energy efficiency with the rapid transportation of goods.

For the past few years, intermodal transportation has been getting some attention from both private and public sectors. Since 2001, the Government of Quebec has made developing intermodal transportation a priority in its maritime transportation policy. It has invested $1.5 million in an intermodal transportation project at the port of Sept-Îles.

Right now, concrete initiatives designed to develop a real intermodal transportation network are being implemented in several regions of Canada and Quebec.

As you can see, Quebec is well ahead of the Conservative government in this matter. Other intermodal transportation projects are moving forward. For example, there is the Kruger project which transports 300,000 tonnes of wood chips per year by barge from Ragueneau and Forestville to Trois-Rivières. This use of the St. Lawrence will replace 18,000 truck trips per year.

At present, only one quarter of the vessels using the river engage in cabotage or short sea shipping. All stakeholders in this area confirm that this type of transportation has considerable development potential. Therefore, developing intermodal transportation is a very important option for Quebec for the economic development of the St. Lawrence River.

Bill C-23 will allow the use of certain port facilities in the regions and will also maximize the use of the rail network, which has some underutilized lines. This will be the primary means of developing the St. Lawrence Seaway corridor and ensuring that it becomes the true gateway for goods from the Atlantic.

As we can see, this mode of transportation is more environmentally friendly than current modes used. Transportation is responsible for one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions resulting from marine transport of goods represents only 1.25% of this total; road and rail transport combined produce 9% of these emissions.

Studies have shown that marine transportation is safer, uses less fuel and produces fewer emissions per tonne-kilometre than rail or truck transportation.

Marine transportation uses only 10% to 20% of the fuel consumed by road transportation. One tonne of freight can travel 240 kilometres by ship on a single litre of fuel. By train, it will travel less than 100 km and by truck, the distance is even smaller, only 30 km. The future of marine transportation depends on recognizing its environmental advantages.

The Bloc Québécois obviously supports this bill because it will foster the economic development of the St. Lawrence River and will help to protect our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Alfred-Pellan talked about one of the goals of this bill, which is to improve the navigability of the St. Lawrence and everything related to it.

I would like to ask him what this means for what I would call the St. Lawrence-eastern Quebec corridor. I am sure he will understand why: my riding and my region are in that area.

I would like to know if Bill C-23 will have a direct or indirect impact on port infrastructure belonging to the federal government, be it Fisheries and Oceans Canada or Transport Canada. I am talking about the entire east coast, both the north and south shores of the St. Lawrence. Given that the government still owns much of this infrastructure, it is responsible for it. Fishing is not the only kind of business that goes on there. The federal government is carelessly neglecting its duty.

I would like to know how Bill C-23 addresses this issue: superficially or in depth?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

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

In any event, the ports she mentioned as still belonging to municipalities are part of a federal port divestiture program, which has been under way for several years but has not yet been completed. These ports are therefore not necessarily covered by the current bill, because this program is already under way.

The Bloc Québécois is pressuring the government to step up the divestiture program and give grants to municipalities or local agencies that take over ports.

On the other hand, the bill provides that several ports with a smaller capacity than Montreal, Quebec City or Sept-Îles can amalgamate to obtain the funding they need to expand and to pool their resources. This is the main advantage of the bill. At the same time, the bill would enable ports to access existing federal infrastructure programs to which the port authorities do not currently have access.

That is why we have heard favourable testimony from a number of representatives of small ports. I recently heard the testimony of representatives of the port of Saguenay, who are very much in favour of the bill, as it would give them greater flexibility in their financial administration.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, we also have a terrific waterway that is not being maximized in terms of some of the transportation possibilities that exist.

When we look at the map, Sault Ste. Marie is hard to miss because it is right in the middle of three of the biggest Great Lakes: Lake Superior to the north, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. A lot of goods come in from the west through Thunder Bay and then down through Sault Ste. Marie. We also see ourselves as a gateway into the midwest United States. We are also connected to the St. Lawrence Seaway via all the connecting waterways: Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and other paths that come up and go into Lake Huron and then down into Michigan.

We also are asking to be included in the government's plans to ensure all our ports are up to standard and up to scale and we are able to meet the demand and actually take advantage of the potential that is there. My community is talking very aggressively these days, including the government, the private sector and others, about multi-modal.

Does the member think that places, like Sault Ste. Marie, which are obviously so very strategically placed to take advantage of new transportation and distribution systems that are evolving, should also be included in any plan that the government undertakes to expand and make our port system better?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member from the NDP for his question.

This allows me to specify that when I talk about the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence trade corridor, it includes the Great Lakes in their entirety. We are talking about a navigation system and the government has recognized the importance of this seaway.

The bill will allow greater flexibility and more borrowing and governance opportunities for the port authorities.

That said, despite the fact that we are in favour of this improvement, the federal government must get involved, as it did for the Pacific gateway. The federal government must recognize the importance of this corridor, which leads to the very heart of North America. The St. Lawrence is more than just the stretch located in Quebec, which serves as an entrance way; it connects with all the Great Lakes.

Through a federal government investment program, the port authorities could become involved and respond to a development program promoted by the federal government. The port authorities could respond effectively if they were given the power to borrow money and to amalgamate ports, thereby eliminating competition among them.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House to speak today on second reading of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence.

I have to say that when the bill came up in our caucus we had a lot of discussion among our members. It became evident very quickly that there was a lot of interest in the bill because it will have impacts on ports across the country and certainly on ports in our ridings. It became very clear that a number of us, for a long period of time, have been dealing with issues surrounding ports, port development and the interface between port lands and residential lands.

So on the one hand I am very glad that the bill is coming forward, because it does allow us the opportunity to raise I think some very longstanding systemic issues concerning the operation of our ports and the relationship that ports have to local government and local communities.

In my riding of Vancouver East, the whole northern boundary of my riding from Cambie Street all the way to Boundary Road, where we have the boundary with the municipality of Burnaby, borders the waterfront and is structured through the port of Vancouver. The port has a huge impact on the people who live in east Vancouver in terms of employment, economic development and the relationship between what happens in the port and the impact on the surrounding community.

I want to begin my remarks today by saying that overall we recognize the importance of port lands, port activity and the number of jobs that are contained in the port of Vancouver. It is a significant employment generator. There is huge spinoff activity. Certainly the port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada, with significant container port activities.

These are all things that drive the economy of British Columbia. They drive the economy of Vancouver, being on the Asia Pacific gateway. We recognize that there are significant jobs related to the port. They are generally good jobs. There are issues that arise, but we understand the importance and the value of the port in our local community and the local economy.

However, I also have to point out that over the years we have dealt with many issues relating to port development. The thing that I find most difficult is the relationship with the local community and the fact that there has been a lack of an adequate, proper and sustained planning process. In the bill before us, a number of issues that are dealt with warrant our serious attention. I know that we in the NDP will be very active when the bill goes to committee, because we will be seeking changes and amendments to reflect the concerns that we have had expressed to us by local residents.

There are issues in the bill concerning the amalgamation of ports. There are issues concerning the restructuring of the governance model. In fact, there is a reduction in the number of directors who can be appointed. In the case of the port of Vancouver, it is between 7 and 11 directors, and there is a concern about what kind of representation that will be. There is also a concern about security issues. I am going to go into each of these issues to spell out some of our concerns.

First, in terms of the governance and security, I recently wrote to the Minister of Transport to point out that under the proposed changes there was no recognition that there needed to be labour representation on the port of Vancouver and presumably on other ports across the country.

When I wrote to the minister, I made this very clear. I will quote from my letter, which was sent in October:

Labour's longstanding commitment and positive contributions to the success of our waterfront industry must not be undervalued. Labour performs a wide range of important functions in a modern day working waterfront and is a key element to its success. Moreover, not only do they contribute a labour perspective, but also economic, social and environmental perspectives.

The reply I got from the Minister of Transport was that this was all well and good, but not to worry, labour representation will continue in the form of membership on the Vancouver Port Authority user committee. I feel that is a very inadequate response.

I have no problem with labour or other stakeholders being on a user committee, but we are talking about the governance structure and the board of directors itself. It seems to me there has to be a recognition by the government that there should be a labour perspective on the board of directors. There are business perspectives. There are maritime perspectives.

There needs to be a perspective and an analysis brought to that board of directors that come directly from the people who have incredible experience working on the waterfront and who are very familiar with the issue. I was very dissatisfied with the reply from the minister. This will be one of the issues that we will take up in regard to the bill.

Second, in regard to governance and security, the other issue that has been of huge concern for the Vancouver waterfront and what is happening is the question of new rules that are coming in, the maritime security clearance program, which has caused an enormous amount of disruption, anxiety and concern for the many thousands of people who work on the waterfront in terms of what they are now subject to for new security clearance regulations.

I would refer to a press release that was issued by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union of Canada in July of this year, in which the union points out that the security clearance program requires port employees to submit an extensive questionnaire to government, covering matters ranging from the names and addresses of past spouses, to schools attended, to past travel destinations. Further, the program requires employees to consent to the release of this information to foreign governments.

There is an enormous concern about the infringement of privacy rights. In fact, the ILWU submitted a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner in August of this year regarding these new provisions in the security clearance program.

In the complaint the union put forward to the Privacy Commissioner, it points out that the security clearance form collects personal information, which presumably may lead to profiling of employees based on simplistic assumptions about differing regions of the world and to different treatment of employees based on their national origins or countries they may have visited. This raises the concern that Transport Canada may profile applicants, deny clearances and thus deny employment. This is noted in the letter from the ILWU, which is fighting this tooth and nail.

I am proud to say that in our B.C. caucus of the NDP members of Parliament, we have been supporting the union. I know that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been very active on this file as well, because we believe that these security measures are completely over the top. They are infringing upon people's rights. There has been very little public information about them. We believe they should be challenged. We support that challenge.

I would say that these new security measures are quite ironic, because we have to remember that it was the previous Liberal government that actually eliminated the Ports Canada Police in 1998. When I first got elected in 1997, this was a very major issue.

In east Vancouver we could not believe that the ports police, who had been a key part of the waterfront in patrolling and dealing with security issues, were going to be eliminated. Indeed, they were eliminated across the country.

It is ironic that a specialized force with experience, knowledge and a background in dealing with security issues in ports across the country was eliminated, while now we are facing these incredibly restrictive and onerous provisions that are impacting individual lives and the lives of family members, even former spouses. This is sort of putting people on a watch list. We have very grave concerns about these provisions. Again, we will be raising these issues as we have more debate on this bill.

My third concern about this bill relates to the large question of, as I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, the interface between legitimate port activity and residential communities. I do want to reiterate that this issue is not a challenge to the value and the importance of the port. It is a concern that comes up over and over again in regard to the role and the relationship of the port with a local community and a local municipality.

There are numerous issues that involve my riding of East Vancouver that not only I have been addressing as the member of Parliament on behalf of my constituents, but that the former member of Parliament, and the member of Parliament for Vancouver East before that, Margaret Mitchell, whom I am sure members remember, also addressed frequently in the House.

There is a whole series of development questions that have arisen about our port and cause residents to have serious concerns about what kinds of developments take place under the guise of port development, as well as concerns about the negative impact those developments can have on a local community. For example, in the Burrardview community, residents have been fighting the Lafarge concrete batch plant on the basis that it is an inappropriate use to have that plant so physically close to a residential neighbourhood.

We were very disappointed with the Supreme Court decision that allowed this concrete batch plant to go ahead, although we do not know at this point whether it will actually proceed. In July I wrote to the Minister of Transport about it. In fact, I have written many times to the minister, but one of my more recent letters was written in July. I pointed out:

Although the court has ruled, the decision does not abrogate the responsibility of Transport Canada to respect the needs of residents in the adjacent Burrardview neighbourhood. Given that this is the only location in Vancouver where residents live next to an industrial port--which happens to be Canada's largest and busiest--I believe that a constructive and compatible co-existence must be achieved between the industrial uses of the Port lands and the quality of life of neighbouring residents.

The minister finally wrote back in September, several months later, and said:

The decision clarifies the authority in the Canada Marine Act under which the Vancouver Port Authority...may lease its Schedule C property (non-federal real property) to Lafarge Canada Inc. Transport Canada and the VPA will conduct their activities with full regard to the decision in this complex case, as well as the needs of the community and the legislative and regulatory framework governing the VPA.

There is an acknowledgement that obviously there will have to be a review if an application comes forward, but this does not leave one with a sense of confidence that Transport Canada or the port authority will, in an open and above board way, recognize and work with local residents to mitigate their concerns and deal with something like a concrete batch plant development, which would have a big impact on local residents. That has been one issue around development.

There have been many others. One example is grain dust. Numerous rail lines go through the port of Vancouver, which is a major terminus for the grain cars coming in from the Prairies. Again, I emphasize that we understand the value and importance of this.

However, the grain terminals are of great concern to people, especially the environmental and physical impacts of dealing with that amount of grain. I usually write several times a year to the port, as well as to the minister. My latest letter was sent in April of this year. I pointed out that a lot of people lived on Wall Street, which is near the port. They have experienced large amounts of dust in the air around the neighbourhood.

I also pointed out that the Port of Seattle had a very comprehensive approach for dealing with grain dust. It utilizes a comprehensive vacuum system as part of its dust management plan. I wanted to know why the Port of Vancouver had not investigated and utilized similar kinds of programs. The grain dust from the terminals is another issue that has been of grave concern in the local community.

Another issue that has impacted the quality of life is the West Coast Reduction plant, a rendering plant that takes waste from many restaurants and businesses. Products are rendered and then sold. When I was on Vancouver city council in the 1980s, the odour and pollution from this plant caused enormous concerns in the local community.

On this issue, the Greater Vancouver Regional District has been quite responsive to resident concerns. It has tried to bring in regulations and ensure that they are met by the West Coast Reduction plant in an attempt to deal with the very serious problems with the odour. Again, I have written letters with regard to this.

The port's reaction has always been that it really does not affect anyone and that the people should live with it. It has not satisfied the concerns of local residents who have to deal with these issues on a day by day basis. It is something that seriously affects the quality of their lives.

Another issue is train noise. When changes took place in the rail yards, the shunting yards were moved further east. This had an enormous impact, particularly in the early hours of the morning when engines were being linked and de-linked. Train noise could go on for hours. We learned that from the rail yard's point of view, it was easier to allow engines idle than to turn them off and restart them.

The impact of the noise on local residents was quite severe. People lost sleep and they could not get to work. We have dealt with this issue on numerous occasions, with many letters back and forth between me, the minister, the port and the rail companies, to try to address this issue.

Finally, the most current question is whether port lands will now be used for a major new soccer stadium development very close to downtown, between what is called CRAB Park and Canada Harbour Place. A significant concern is the proposed development and its impact from the point of view of noise, traffic, congestion and the environment. One proposal had the stadium going over the rail yards, where hazardous materials are transported in containers. There was a lot of concern about what kinds of environmental hazards they could pose.

Right now there are very active groups in the community, such as the Burrardview Community Association, the CRAB-Water for Life Society, the Central Waterfront Coalition, the Gastown Residents Association, the Gastown Neighbourhood Coalition, all of which have a very significant interest in what happens with the proposal for a development for a private soccer stadium on these crucial lands in the central waterfront area in the city of Vancouver.

In November I wrote the minister about this issue. I raised issues about the proposed development, which has not yet been approved, and the impact it will have.

The bill is an opportunity to flag these issues. Our ports are very important, but the way they work and relate to adjacent communities and municipalities is also important. I do not believe the bill really addresses that question and if we do not address it, then we will continue to have these issues come forward. We will continue to have a high level of frustration. We will continue to have an impact on the quality of life.

I feel we can be much more proactive in how we set up planning processes, how we set up accountability and how the governance is structured on a port to reflect these concerns.

There are some good aspects to the bill, but there are also concerns with it. From the point of view of the NDP caucus, we will pursue this at committee to ensure the concerns of local residents are met.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Vancouver East. I am always interested in what she has to say.

The hon. member talked about security from the perspective of protecting individuals and their personal information and also the impact on neighbourhoods. I would like her to say a few words on this.

She may not run into exactly this problem in her riding, on the shores of Vancouver. Nonetheless, I am very interested in matters of the environment, the erosion of the shores and coastlines, and the safety of the mode of transportation and what is being transported—we are talking about substances that are often very harmful, even extremely toxic.

I was rereading a comment made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Yesterday, when he introduced this bill by saying it had two parts, he added:

It [the strategy of the bill] recognizes the importance of promoting strategic investment and productivity improvements, yet protects port lands for future transportation needs.

In my opinion, the port lands, the surrounding areas and the shoreline are not there for future transportation needs, but for current protection, to protect our environmental heritage.

I was wondering if the hon. member could comment on that.