House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.


A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting estimates for the financial year ending March 31, 2008 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Main Estimates, 2007-08Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Provencher Manitoba


Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have copies of the estimates for the Table.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Citizenship and ImmigrationCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 11th report of the standing committee entitled, “Question of Privilege”.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, l have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women entitled, “Turning Outrage into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”. This is a very important report. All committee members have shown great interest in it. We hope all parties will cooperate to review and implement the recommendations.

National Cemetery of Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-408, An Act to establish the National Cemetery of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to introduce Bill C-408, An Act to establish the National Cemetery of Canada in the House this morning.

First I want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for seconding this bill, and I know that the hon. member for Ottawa Centre will express his desire, later today, to second it as well.

The purpose of this bill is essentially to make Beechwood Cemetery the National Cemetery of Canada. Statesmen and stateswomen are buried in that cemetery as are a number of generals. In fact, a rather accurate reflection of this country can be found there.

I am pleased that the representatives of the cemetery and its not for profit foundation have demonstrated their respect for the bilingual nature of our country, our linguistic duality and cultural diversity.

The people who have been managing the cemetery for the last few years have demonstrated their sensitivity to the make up of Canada and the cemetery now reflects Canada's cultural diversity. It also reflects the proud military history and of the police. In effect, all the ingredients that are necessary for a national cemetery are found there.

I hope my colleagues will see the non-partisan aspect of this bill by the fact that members of the government and the other opposition parties have supported it, and will see to it that it becomes law.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Bill C-257—Canada Labour CodePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated yesterday, I have more information to add to the arguments that I presented on Bill C-257 and the admissibility of the amendments that affect this bill.

During the meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday, February 15, the chair ruled on the admissibility of two amendments, and despite contrary opinions from the witnesses and the committee clerk, he nonetheless ruled the proposed amendment inadmissible because it was beyond the scope of the bill.

The purpose of the amendments is essentially to include in the anti-scab legislation the concept of essential services for the maintenance of activities in labour disputes in clauses 2.3 and 2.4 of the bill to amend section 94 of the Canada Labour Code.

The committee chair's ruling was overturned since three of the opposition parties, forming the majority in committee, felt that this concept was not beyond the scope of the bill.

Yesterday, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons brought this up again in a point of order and went a step further in his argument than the chair of the committee did. He said that the three amendments proposed in committee were inadmissible.

Our current situation is rather unusual. Precedents concerning the admissibility of amendments proposed in committee are rare in this House. However, we note that, in 1992, Mr. Speaker Fraser faced a similar situation. The context was this: during a committee review of Bill C-54 concerning farm products marketing agencies, the committee chair ruled that three amendments were inadmissible, because two of them sought to amend the incorporating act, and the third amendment went beyond the scope of the bill. As in the current situation, the committee chair's ruling was reversed. Regarding the constraints imposed on the amendment process in committee, Mr. Speaker Fraser said:

It cannot infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown, it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker Fraser gave a clear example:

In some cases, this last cardinal rule is graphically clear. For instance, if a committee is examining a Criminal Code bill dealing with lotteries, a member cannot reach back to the parent act to propose amendments to those sections dealing with firearms. In certain other cases, this principle is more difficult to explain.

Based on this ruling by Mr. Speaker Fraser, it is quite simple to demonstrate to the House that the amendments proposed to Bill C-257 concerning the provision of essential services in the event of a labour dispute do not go beyond the scope of Bill C-257.

Moreover, during this session, you yourself ruled on the admissibility of committee amendments to Bill C-14. These amendments sought to include an appeal process in the Citizenship Act (adoption). At that time, you reversed the decision of the committee chair. Your ruling was completely justified, because including an appeal process in a bill designed to allow for a grant of citizenship to foreign adopted children without first requiring that they be permanent residents was quite logical and, as in the case before us today, did not go beyond the scope of the bill. I want to quote your decision, which was very wise:

Having reviewed the bill as reported to the House, I cannot conclude that an amendment which provides for an appeal of a decision by the minister is contrary to the principle of the bill. As I see it, such an amendment places a condition on how decisions of the minister are exercised, but the principle of the bill remains intact. In the view of the Chair then, the amendment is admissible in that respect.

The purpose of Bill C-257 is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.

The bill also provides for the imposition of a fine for an offence. In this particular case and in the original version of clause 2.3, which set out some exceptions for protection of property, specifically in cases of labour disputes, I do not see how stipulating situations where the new conditions should be relaxed could be considered going beyond the scope of the bill. These are additional clarifications, exactly as you ruled in the case I mentioned previously.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons initially said that we could not amend Bill C-257 by making reference to section 87.4, claiming that this section was not in the original bill. This is not true. In the original bill, we referred to section 87.4 in clause 2.1. I suggest that he reread the original bill. The argument by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons therefore simply does not hold up, because it is based on a falsehood.

In fact, this first amendment clarifies how section 87.4 is affected. Since the initial bill mentions subsection 94(2.1) and section 87.4 of the Code, this amendment merely clarifies how these two provisions relate to one another. It is very easy to understand.

Let us now move on to the clauses that posed problems in committee.

Bill C-257 amends certain sections of the Canada Labour Code, including section 87.6, subsection 94(2) and section 100. A reference to section 87.4 also appears in clause 2.1, as I was saying earlier.

Bill C-257 amends subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code to include additional prohibitions against employers using replacement workers during labour disputes.

By adding a reference to section 87.4 of the Code—the section that covers the maintenance of activities during a strike or lockout—we are specifying that maintaining certain activities is sometimes essential to public health and safety, even during serious labour conflicts.

Section 87.4 of the Canada Labour Code is known as the essential services section. Integrating this concept illustrates that we recognize the risks a labour conflict may entail.

In fact, as I was saying yesterday, the amendments introduced in committee do not go beyond the scope of the bill. On the contrary, they reduce its impact and have the same effect on the replacement workers bill as the board of referees has on the Immigration Act, a situation you considered acceptable.

This provides further clarification. To say that it is impossible to introduce amendments that limit the application of a bill, that define and clarify it, would be to say that all committee work is totally useless because it cannot change the application of any bill being studied anyway.

The main argument is, I repeat: how can anyone claim that these amendments go beyond the scope of a bill when the purpose of these amendments is, in fact, to limit its scope? These amendments fall within the framework of the bill; they do not allow the boundaries of the bill to be overstepped. All these amendments do is limit the application of this law.

In my opinion, given these additional arguments and the wisdom you showed in the decision I quoted earlier, Bill C-14, if you apply the same principles and the same logic, which is always unshakeable in your case, Mr. Speaker, you will find you must tell the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to redo his homework.

Bill C-257—Canada Labour CodePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that I support the speech by the House Leader of the Bloc Québécois, and particularly his argument regarding the immigration bill.

I will not repeat some of those arguments. It seems to me that really there are two issues that I do want to address and that you should take into account in making your decision on whether the amendments to Bill C-257 are admissible or not.

The first one is the general principle of what is within in the principle and scope of legislation. We debate that a lot in committee and occasionally in the House. The second issue that I believe you need to take into account is really the authority of the committee to control its own process. I would remind you of the number of times that you have indicated in the House how strongly you feel about the right of the committee to control its own process. I think this is an issue that has to be taken into account here.

Let me go back, though, to the primary point about whether these amendments are admissible or are outside the principle and scope of the amendments contained in Bill C-257. Again, in support of the arguments you have heard from the member of the Liberal Party and now from the House leader of the Bloc, I do not see these amendments doing anything in the way of changing the principle and scope. When one looks at them in a holistic way, they simply are clarifying what is the intention of the author of the bill, which is to make it very clear that in the amendments with regard to what we always call anti-scab conduct and anti-scab legislation, the intent is to simply clarify when this legislation is to be used.

In effect, the amendments are saying that when it comes to essential services, whether it is the Canada Labour Relations Board and I suppose even potentially the House with back to work legislation, we would conduct ourselves as if essential services were outside the scope of these amendments contained in Bill C-257. The amendments to Bill C-257 really just address that point. That is what they are about. It is simply a mechanism to clarify. We are certainly not changing the principle.

That is very clear, Mr. Speaker, if you look at the fact that the author of the bill was quite prepared to accept these amendments. They are not contrary to the principle. The real issue is whether they are outside the scope. Again, this is simply carrying out the intent of the author of the bill and nothing more.

With regard to the second issue of the right and responsibility of the committee to control its own process, as you have heard, all of the opposition parties supported these amendments and did so by having to overturn the ruling of the chair. They did that not out of any partisan basis or out of spite. They did it because there was an honest difference of opinion in how these amendments should be interpreted.

The chair of that committee saw them as being beyond the scope and ruled accordingly. The significant majority of the committee said no, this is simply about clarifying, and it is quite within both the principle and the scope of the bill, and all we are doing is clarifying what we intend these sections to do, and nothing more. On that basis, because of that difference of opinion, the majority on the committee, arguing and maintaining the position that it was simply clarifying, overturned the chair's ruling and proceeded to make those amendments and send the bill back to the House.

I have read the submissions made by the House leader for the government. I understood the arguments, which were similar to the arguments made at committee, but they are missing the essential point. We are not making changes to the Canada Labour Relations Act and Labour Code. We are simply clarifying what Bill C-257 is intended to do, nothing more than that.

Although the points were well made by the House leader for the government, the government is in fact missing that essential point of these amendments simply being clarification. On that basis, they are not beyond the principle and they are not beyond the scope of the legislation originally proposed in Bill C-257. They are well within the authority of the committee to make that decision, to make that interpretation and to make that decision to overrule the chair.

I would conclude, Mr. Speaker, by saying that you should honour that decision by the committee and allow these amendments to proceed.

Bill C-257—Canada Labour CodePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the arguments of my friends, the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, and I wish to respond briefly.

The member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean claims that the purpose of the amendments is simply to limit the application of the private member's bill before us and, as such, it does not go beyond the scope. That may well have been the intention, but the fact is that the device, the actual approach, used to achieve that objective is in fact a very different one.

It is not the case of one that is limiting the provisions of the bill that were already before the House of Commons and before the committee. Rather, it is to introduce entirely new sections, new provisions and new concepts, and the definition of essential services, one that did not exist. The amendments introduce new concepts that expand the scope of sections that were previously unaddressed by the private member's bill. As such, while the effect in part may be a limitation, the actual other effect and the reality of the approach and device used actually significantly expand the nature of the bill beyond the original scope.

With regard to my friend, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, the argument he has made is essentially that the committee should be master of its own destiny, that it has the right to control its own process. In fact, the rule of order we are dealing with actually states quite the contrary. The basis of that rule is that the House of Commons is the master of its destiny, and when the House of Commons made its decision on second reading of Bill C-257, it did determine at that point the scope of the bill and what its principle was. It determined the essence of the matter in the bill.

Those are the parameters that have been set by the House within which that committee can operate, so in fact no, the committee is not master of its own destiny to do whatever it may like with the bill. It does not have the right to control its own process. It must do so within the parameters of the legislation that has been sent to it by the House. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, I submit to you that the arguments I made to you yesterday remain in place and that what we have in these amendments are amendments that go beyond the scope and purpose of the original bill approved by the House at second reading.

Bill C-257—Canada Labour CodePoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I wish to thank the hon. members for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, Windsor—Tecumseh, and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their comments on this issue. Naturally, I will study the matter and come back to the House with a ruling.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

moved that the 13th Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, introduced on Wednesday, February 13, be concurred in.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to rise today to move concurrence of the House in this report.

The purpose of this report is to protect and develop Canada's railway heritage. I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage who supported this motion.

The railway industry is such an integral part of everyday life—even modern everyday life, as we have seen—that we tend to take the preservation of our railway heritage for granted.

The purpose of this motion is to call on the government to support railway heritage in Canada by providing funds on a sustainable basis to the Canadian Railway Museum, also known as Exporail, located in Delson-St. Constant, Quebec, on the south shore of Montreal.

These funds would be given to the Exporail museum to help it maintain and enhance the national collection of railway artifacts that are spread out across this country in different railway museums, large and small, such as the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, British Columbia, and the Revelstoke Railway Museum in Revelstoke, British Columbia, in the riding of my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

As we shall see, this national collection is potentially vulnerable. Its continued existence should not be taken for granted either by the government or by Canadians themselves. Exporail has the infrastructure, expertise, critical mass and history to be the funnel or the coordinating agent for federal funds aimed at ensuring the long term viability of Canada's railway heritage.

This motion, if adopted by the House and acted upon by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, will help sustain a major component of the Canadian identity.

As I said before, we take our railway heritage for granted, perhaps because every day we witness and, in some cases, even participate in the daily traffic of trains, streetcars and subways. In so doing, we make the dangerously false assumption that our rail heritage is safe and sound. In this case, perhaps familiarity breeds laxity and a false sense of comfort and security.

The railways are the stuff of legends. They were a fundamental part of the industrial revolution and remain, even today, a precondition for economic development in developing countries. Rail transport is the cornerstone of our great country. It was instrumental in Canada's economic development. Without the railway, would we have been absorbed by our neighbours to the south?

Rail transportation was also the engine of Montreal's history and economy. Where would Bombardier—the major transportation and aircraft multinational that Canadians and Quebeckers are so proud of—be today had it not purchased Montreal Locomotive Works?

The railway was at the core of the industrial revolution. The railway is the cornerstone of our nation. The railway is ubiquitous. Just think of streetcars, freight trains, commuter light rail and subways. Aspects of the railway extend even back to Roman times. For example, I recently learned that the width between two railroad tracks is the same distance between the wheels of Roman chariots.

Moreover, rail transport will extend into the millennium as a major solution to the problem of global warming.

As my children, Mia and Caroline, know only too well, The Polar Express, another rail service, can even take us to the North Pole to Santa's workshop.

The inspiration for this motion is obviously my own love of rail travel and my deep concern for our Canadian heritage and identity. But in more immediate terms, the inspiration is a gentleman named Stephen Cheasley.

Stephen Cheasley is a well-known Montreal lawyer who, in addition to practising law as a partner in one of the country's largest and most prestigious law firms, has been a civic builder, both behind the scenes and on the public front lines.

At times when the City of Montreal has required vision to overcome temporary setbacks or challenges, Stephen Cheasley got involved. He has chaired boards of civic institutions, like hospitals, conducted task forces and, most recently, was a founder of Montreal International, an agency devoted to attracting international institutions and head offices to locate in our great city on the St. Lawrence.

Stephen Cheasley is also a rail enthusiast. He is president of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. The association is a non-profit organization, founded in Montreal in 1932 by a group of rail enthusiasts. It is celebrating 75 years of existence this year. The Canadian Railroad Historical Association owns and operates Exporail, as I said, also known as the Canadian Railway Museum.

The association was originally committed to historical railway research and interpretation. In 1951, the association acquired its first historical artifact. Montreal streetrailway tramcar No. 274. This purchase signalled the expansion of the association's role to include preservation and conservation of railway rolling stock on a nationwide basis.

In 1955, the association acquired the CPR car the Saskatchewan, Sir William Van Horne's private railway car, which was present at the driving of the last spike ceremony of the CPR.

I have been in that car when I was on a tour of Exporail last summer. It is a heady experience for any Canadian, including for a member of Parliament of the country that was born on that historic day when hammer hit spike. At the time this car was acquired, it was slated to be burned. I would like to emphasize that point. It was slated to be disposed of.

The history of the preservation of our railway heritage is full of near misses, which drives home the point that we tend to take that heritage for granted and are saved from the disastrous results of our complacency by individuals like Stephen Cheasley and his predecessors at the Canadian Railroad Historical Association.

In 1962, the association founded Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, in Delson/Saint-Constant, Quebec, on the south shore of Montreal. Ten acres of land were donated by Domtar to start this project.

At that time, due to the rapid pace of technological change in the railway industry that was causing old rolling stock to be replaced by newer types and models, the association rapidly acquired new items, such as the CN historical collection of locomotives and cars and the CPR historical collection of locomotives and cars, as well as other items from other Canadian transportation systems in the Maritimes, Ontario and the west.

In 1971, descendants of Charles M. Hays, President of the Grand Trunk Railway, who incidentally died on the Titanic and whose death postponed the opening of the Chateau Laurier Hotel which is just a few steps away from here, financed the building of the archives library building at Exporail.

In 1978, in recognition of its excellence, Exporail was designated as Canada's specialized museum for railways.

In 2004, with the help of the federal government, Exporail built and opened a $13 million state-of-the-art, 125,000 square foot building to display 47 pieces of rolling stock. The building includes exhibition rooms, a model railway, a restaurant, archives, a library and offices.

Why should we support the motion? We have dedicated museums for aviation and agriculture. That is the first point I would like to make. Yet, we do not have a dedicated museum for railways, which were so important, as I said before, in creating Canada.

Second, the motion has the support of other railway museums in Canada because they see this as an opportunity. If Exporail could be made a coordinating agent for federal funds aimed at preserving the national railway collection, which as I say, is spread across Canada, then these smaller museums would benefit as well. What every railway museum in Canada, no matter how large or how small, has in common is their deep love of Canadian railway heritage.

The quality of the Exporail collection is extraordinary. In the fall of 2004, the Government of Quebec commissioned an analysis of Exporail in order to determine, among other things, the state of its collection and its significance compared to other railway museums in Canada. This analysis, known as the Lord report, confirmed the exceptional and unrivalled quality of its collection. Consequently, in 2005, Exporail was named the best museum in Quebec by the Quebec museums association.

Exporail's collection of over 160 pieces of Canadian rolling stock is considered by museum experts to be one of the best in the world. When I went for a visit, I thought I was visiting a museum on the scale of the tramway museum in Maine, for example, a smaller museum for tourists who regularly visit that part of the United States. Exporail is a first class international museum that provides a comprehensive and inspiring portrait of the role of the railway in Canada.

To say that it is vital to Canadian identity is an understatement. Exporail is a resource to other rail museums. As I said, many of the pieces in Exporail's collection are lent to other rail museums across Canada.

Exporail has first-rate procedures and practices. For example, it has a rigorous acquisitions policy. Only 25% of potential rolling stock donations are accepted into its collection. In other words, Exporail does not just accept anything that is offered to it, it has a very carefully thought out, systematic and discriminating approach to the kinds of pieces and artifacts that it accepts into its collection.

Moreover, it does not lend its rolling stock to any museum or entity that requests a piece of rolling stock. Anyone requesting rolling stock or an artifact has to meet certain strict criteria.

In addition to rolling stock, Exporail includes a collection of small objects and archival and other two-dimensional objects, such as engineering plans.

In should also be noted that Exporail holds even three non-national pieces of railway rolling stock, one French and two British locomotives, which is extremely unusual for railway museums anywhere in the world.

Another reason why we need to support this motion is that the collection is vulnerable because of the large expenses involved in the proper preservation of railway rolling stock. We think that because trains, locomotives and train cars are made of steel and they roll on steel, that somehow they are not vulnerable to the elements.

When I visited Exporail last summer, I went to the brand new building which is all temperature controlled and keeps artifacts in a perfect state, but behind that new building is a warehouse-like structure that is full of rolling stock that is not really protected from the elements, despite the fact that these pieces of rolling stock are sheltered. Humidity enters the building. There are cracks in that structure. Air and cold enter the building. These extraordinary pieces of rolling stock are in a state of deterioration and it costs a great deal of money to preserve them. That is another reason why Exporail needs these funds for the preservation of its collection.

Another reason why it is important for the government to step in is that the collection is private. It is not public. Again, we assume that the government is taking care of all this, but if these artifacts, these pieces of rolling stock, cannot be kept, they could be sold off or just disposed of. The Sakatchewan was about to be burned when the Canadian Railroad Historical Association purchased it.

I would like to quote from the report by Barry Lord that was commissioned by the Quebec government in 2004. It stated:

However, the fact that the collections are in private hands leaves them vulnerable should the association and its museum function (Exporail) prove unsustainable in future—notwithstanding the fact that the collection is an irreplaceable part of the nation's heritage.

In a related matter, I would like to make the point that many railway cars today are being purchased by wealthy foreigners, namely Americans, to serve as private luxury cars for their travels around North America. These are Canadian artifacts that we cannot keep and maintain, therefore they are being purchased by wealthy individuals south of the border.

I have no problem with wealthy Americans having fun. I just do not want it to be at the expense of mine and my children's rightful heritage and identity.

The government tells us that it is working on a museums' policy but sometimes we need to get ahead of a policy and we need to act when the situation is urgent. We cannot simply wait until a policy is developed, which might not be released for quite a while because of an intervening election or whatever. It seems to me very clear that when the government wants to act, it does not wait for a policy. It makes the announcement and commits the funds.

As a matter of fact, we heard that the government is already taking action to transform the old war museum a few blocks from here into a museum with the participation of the Aga Khan Foundation. It is also apparently moving the Portrait Gallery from Ottawa to Calgary, which I believe would be in the new EnCana Centre that is being planned for downtown Calgary.

When the government has a reason to do something, it has no problem acting in advance of a policy.

The last reason why I think the House should support the motion is that it opens the door to a new and innovative approach to supporting museums and museum artifacts in Canada. We are not asking for direct funding to the Exporail Museum itself. We are asking for government funding to preserve a collection that is spread across the country. Exporail's role in this initiative would be as the coordinating body for the disbursement of these funds because it has the expertise to make such decisions in collaboration with the railway museum community. This funding of the national railway collection could be in the form of a pilot project which could be extended to other museum communities outside the railway museum community.

Before I conclude, I would like to appeal to members of the Conservative Party opposite to vote freely on this motion when it comes up for a vote. I think they owe it to their communities, many of which house railway museums, it to themselves as Canadians and to our country.

Some MPs may say that this funding is for a museum in Montreal, Quebec and they might have a museum that needs money too so they will vote against the motion because it is not for all museums. This is a pilot project. It could be the opening wedge in a bold new kind of museums' initiative that will help museums across the country in various ridings.

When the motion comes up for a vote, I would ask members to put their own specific local interests aside, because this motion will some day perhaps help all museums in all sectors, and do what is right for Canadian heritage and identity and for this country.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say right away that the Bloc Québécois will support this motion, which we believe is very important to the Saint-Constant region. I would also like to say that the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, who is currently attending the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, also supports it and will fully cooperate to get this motion approved. The same is true for our Canadian heritage critic, the member for Saint-Lambert.

I would like to ask the previous speaker a question. At one point in his speech, he spoke of the great historical significance of trains. He said that they had been instrumental to the economic development of Quebec and of Canada, and he also spoke of the environmental aspect of using trains.

I would like him to explain how this environmental aspect has been featured at the museum in Saint-Constant.

He spoke of the Lord report, commissioned by the Quebec government, which gave a very favourable review of this museum and which provided a detailed evaluation of the collection. I would like the member to tell us a little more about this report to give our colleagues here a better idea of the importance and present quality of this museum's collection.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the reason I talked about the role of rail transport in relation to the future of our country and sustainable development in Canada and around the world is of course because this is one of the challenges that we are going to have to face and that we have already faced in the past. The federal, provincial and municipal governments have all invested in new rail infrastructures.

I raised this point because I wanted to stress the fact that, obviously, a museum takes a look at the past, but must also be a vibrant place turned towards the future. When we think about rail transport and the future, it is pretty obvious that the future lies in public transit. This railway museum is not exclusively about intercity or trans-Canada trains: it also takes a look at the development of commuter trains, tramways and subways, such as the metro in Montreal.

I also mentioned that rail transport is critical to the economic development of developing countries. It is a tool that will help society develop in Canada, in North America and around the world.

When I looked at the museum's collection, I did not see everything. In order to be a vibrant place, this museum should—and perhaps it has already done so—take a look at the future, and possibly show us futuristic designs of the trains of the future. As I said, this may already have been done. When I referred to the railway as a solution of the future to the problem of climate change and air pollution, I wanted to stress that, in my opinion, museums should also look to the future.

The Lord report is a rather voluminous document. It seems that Mr. Lord is one of the most renowned experts in the area of museums. I must congratulate the Quebec government for believing in the Delson/Saint-Constant museum, for believing in its value, to the point of commissioning a study to see where this museum fits among all the museums in the world and in Canada.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Lac-Saint-Louis for bringing this matter before the House today. It is an important issue around the preservation of an important Canadian heritage and certainly our railway heritage has been crucial to Canada's economic and social development.

I am glad he mentioned some of the important railway museums in British Columbia. I would also mention the West Coast Railway Museum in Squamish, B.C., which is one with which I am particularly familiar, but there are other excellent museums in Cranbrook, Revelstoke and Prince George, as well as operations of restored steam trains in British Columbia that are important to both heritage preservation and the local economy.

I want to ask the member a couple of questions about the coordinating role of Exporail in terms of coordinating with other museums across the country.

As a British Columbian, I am often envious of other parts of Canada because we do not have a national museum located in British Columbia. They are all in other places. We used to have the national museum of arts and crafts but it is no longer in operation. Sometimes we are a little envious of other parts of Canada having the designation of a national museum.

I would ask the member to talk a bit about how this coordinating role for Exporail will function so that other museums across the country benefit from this designation and the preservation of rolling stock and our railway heritage from coast to coast.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would go back to what I said at the end of my intervention, which is that I do not believe we should look at this motion as pitting one community against another or one part of Canada against another.

This motion represents a new direction in museums policy whereby we would no longer only have national museums in Ottawa. There would be a national railway museum on the south shore of Montreal but we would not be funding that museum per se. We would be funding its collection, which is spread across the country.

The idea would be that the museum would work with other museums, such as those in B.C., two of which, by the way, appeared before the heritage committee when it studied this issue. I was not aware of the Squamish museum and I appreciate the hon. member mentioning it, but there are museums across Canada that currently hold artifacts from the Exporail Museum for display. This community is quite well integrated. The players know each other and work together.

The importance of Exporail in all of this process is that it has the body of knowledge, so to speak. As I mentioned, the founding of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association, out of which Exporail was born, goes back 75 years, so it has the critical mass and expertise. I would encourage the member to visit it some day as it is a really remarkable experience. It has rooms of engineering designs, et cetera, so it has the expertise to evaluate.

The Lord report underscores that, of all the railway museums in Canada, Exporail is the one best suited to the task of evaluating what should be funded, what should not be funded and so on.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.


Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I deeply respect the member who has brought this motion before the House. However, it was discussed in committee as he will know, and I made a couple of points in committee which I may as well put on the record here in the House of Commons. I will read that motion again:

--the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommends that the government officially designate Exporail as Canada's National Railway Museum with dedicated long-term funding outside of the Museum's Assistance Program, and report this recommendation to the House of Commons.

The member will recall that my concern and the concern of the minister and the government is that this is piecemeal. The member did acknowledge in his speech that the government is in the process of drafting a new Canadian museums policy.

My own personal point to the minister, to the government and in public has been that we must come up with a way of determining national significance not only for rail, but for other artifacts. Without a definition of national significance or being able to describe how to arrive at whatever the artifact is in terms of national significance, it then comes down to the fact that the only reason an enterprise, a museum or an organization would be applying to the national government is that the national treasury has the deepest pockets, which is not a good enough reason. There has to be some national significance.

As part of the development of the museum's policy, the Canadian government has to take a look at what we have in the national capital, take a look at the 2,200 or 2,300 museums across Canada and make some determination so that we can move forward. It is regrettable that the previous government over a 13 year period was unable or unwilling to come forward with a museums policy. We are working very hard on that. The government will not be supporting this motion for that reason.

The second reason, which I am very familiar with because the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel is in my constituency, is that to designate Exporail as Canada's national railway museum with dedicated long term funding outside the museums assistance program is to say that the federal government is only going to fund Exporail, period, full stop, end of statement. That is completely unfair not only on a morality basis of why should Exporail get it and others should not, but it is unfair to the people who have taken the time to come up with some tremendous artifact collections that are complete train sets and represent a national heritage.

There is nothing in this motion as explained in the member's comments in answers to questions that says that Exporail would become a repository or be able to roll out some of its displays. There is nothing in this motion to stipulate that at all. The member is an honourable gentleman and we can take his representations in good faith, but there is nothing in this motion to stipulate that.

As a consequence, this motion is singularly inadequate. It ends up virtually pitting Exporail against the properties in Squamish which the NDP member drew to our attention. I am aware that one of the artifacts that is on display in Revelstoke in my constituency is actually on loan from Exporail. I realize that is ongoing.

Again, this motion is singularly deficient. For two reasons, number one, it is premature, and number two, it is imprecise and therefore deficient, our government will be voting against this motion.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I certainly want to acknowledge the member for Lac-Saint-Louis. He is held in very high regard in this place for his experience and expertise on environment issues and for his advocacy for the promotion, preservation and sustainability of Canadian heritage. The example he has raised here today is very exemplary of the kinds of work that a member of Parliament can do to raise important issues.

The parliamentary secretary who just spoke tends to dismiss the matter, a report from the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, simply because it is somewhat linear in the report. Yet in the speech that the member made, it was quite clear that there are risk elements which this particular museum demonstrates in terms of its sustainability over the long term. In fact the presentation was primarily that this should be looked at as a pilot approach that the government should consider in terms of a strategy with regard to the preservation and sustainability of Canadian heritage and particularly museums.

I raise with the member whether or not he agrees with the member who raised the motion with regard to the need to have a comprehensive look at the issues that have been raised with regard to Exporail. When can the government be expected to come forward with recommendations to the House for consideration on this important matter?

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.


Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke would know that in this place we vote on the words that are in front of us. We are voting on the motion, not on the speech of the member.

I have already given full credit to the member as being an honourable gentleman who, without a doubt, is doing this in good faith, but the fact of the matter is that the motion nonetheless is deficient. It represents a piecemeal approach to the very important issue of national museums.

The new government is very concerned that we come forward with a comprehensive national museums policy. We are working very diligently to arrive at that policy.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's point, but sometimes it takes a first step. Sometimes it takes a step in the right direction. The motion is asking the government to take that first step.

It would not really be a first step because the media has been full of reports about how the government is active on transforming the old war museum into a new kind of museum. The newspapers are full of stories about how it is active on the portrait museum file.

I would like to ask the hon. member, is piecemeal all right when the government is doing it, but not good when it is a suggestion from the opposition?

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.


Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had a very interesting representation from the curator of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook is unique in that it is not really a railway museum. It has railway cars. There are no locomotives as part of the collection. It has over a mile of railway cars, as a matter of fact, many of them in complete sets.

The point the curator was making and I have also heard it from my other constituents in Revelstoke was that whatever is going to be happening should be done on a national basis, and should not just focus on Exporail.

If the motion were more precise, which is what we discussed in committee, and we knew precisely where we were going as a result of the acceptance of the motion, the government might possibly have a different attitude. However, the motion as written is piecemeal. It is premature. It is inadequate and it is imprecise. For all of those reasons, we will not be voting in favour of the motion.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this proposal and enthusiastically supports it.

I would also like to say that the hon. member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, who is on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and is currently discussing an important issue, sends his support too and asks the House to vote in favour of the committee report and the creation of this museum in Saint-Constant. The same is true of our Canadian heritage critic, the hon. member for Saint-Lambert, who supports this motion and asks the House to do so as well.

The motion is quite simple. It did not come from just anywhere but was discussed in committee. It was a committee report. Although I congratulate the hon. member for bringing this motion before the House, it was not just one member’s idea. The report clearly reflected what the committee recommended. The motion states clearly that the committee recommends that the government officially designate Exporail as Canada's national railway museum, with dedicated long term funding outside the museum's assistance program, and report this recommendation to the House of Commons. So it was a committee report. A study has been done and people have thought about it. There were prior consultations as well.

Why then are the Conservative members opposing the motion on the pretext that it needs to be examined and analyzed and an exhaustive study needs to be done of all the museums in Canada? Every time a committee, an individual or a political party makes a specific proposal, the Conservative Party feels a need for further studies. The Conservatives think they have to study and examine it.

It is very strange because when it comes to making $17 billion worth of military purchases, there are no consultations with the Standing Committee on National Defence or the House. The money is there and action is taken. That was $17 billion, plus another $5 billion set aside for military purchases. They have plans as well to spend a further $7 billion. When it comes to extravagant military purchases, they find the money and there are no consultations or studies on the spin-offs for Quebec and Canada.

A committee studied this proposal and made its report—there is no need for another 20 studies. It was unanimous. A study paid for by the Government of Quebec, the Lord report, confirmed the quality of the exhibit.

In order to convince the Conservative members of the merits of this motion, I would like to say a little more about this museum. Exporail is a railway museum whose goal is to highlight the history and the role of Canada's railways in a vivid, interactive way. It strives daily to meet that goal.

Since its creation in 1961—a good while ago—several hundred thousands of people, young and old alike, have experienced the railway culture at the museum, through a wide range of programming: permanent and special exhibits, guided tours, lectures, train and streetcar rides, activities such as sending telegraph messages and watching a steam locomotive in operation, and numerous special events.

Exporail, the museum in question, today is home to the largest collection of railway equipment in Canada and is one of the most remarkable institutions of its kind in North America. The historical value of its collection is such that, in 1978, the National Museums of Canada recognized it as being the top specialized museum in Canadian railway history. The importance of the museum’s collection and activities were also recognized in 1979 by the Quebec government’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which established the museum’s status and awarded it a yearly operating subsidy. A competent staff of 12 permanent and 12 seasonal employees and a team of over 120 volunteers carry out the museum’s research, acquisition, conservation, interpretation and marketing programs.

The volunteers are very active within the museum Their projects are oriented towards research, equipment operation, mechanical maintenance, track work and equipment restoration.

Thanks to the experience gained from its many years of operation, the museum has developed a highly successful educational program for young visitors. Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, is now open year-round.

Concerned with preserving and spotlighting this industrial heritage, the Canadian Railroad Historical Association manages the Canadian Railway Museum with the indispensable support of its volunteers, its government partners and its generous donors. The museum has been firmly established since 1961. It has an excellent management team and the Government of Quebec funds its administration. The team includes more than 120 volunteers working around the museum, which already has programs that are very well organized and geared towards educating young people since many schoolchildren go to visit the museum on professional development days. So there is an impact in educational terms, as well as in terms of the history of our economic development.

The museum's regular activities are funded in part by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications of Quebec and benefit from the support of the cities of Delson and Saint-Constant. The Ministère des Affaires municipales et des Régions has also provided financial support to this project. Financial support is also provided by Emploi-Québec, particularly for seasonal employment.

The Government of Canada, through Canada Economic Development and the Department of Canadian Heritage with a contribution from the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program, participates in the development of Exporail and its special projects. For example, when there is an exhibit about locomotives or the first railway tracks, which were made of wood. The museum is an initiative of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association.

There you have a broad outline of what the museum in Saint-Constant is all about. This is what the members of the Canadian heritage committee, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis and the Bloc Québécois members found out. In addition to what I have described, people did more research, both into the content of the collection and into attendance at the museum and the historical research that it generates.

In my opinion, it would be entirely natural for this museum to receive the designation being sought today, that is, official designation as Canada's national railway museum.

As we know, the railway was the engine for the industrial revolution. It was central to the development of Quebec and Canada. This is most important in the Montreal region, and Saint-Constant is located right within the Greater Montreal region. We are in fact talking about economic development in Montreal, but we are also talking about economic development in terms of the commuter trains that are being added regularly. There is also that aspect.

And there is also the entire aspect that can be developed even further at this museum: the entire environmental story of transportation, the effects on the environment of using rail transportation as opposed to trucking, for example, or as opposed to the other much more polluting means of transportation.

This means that there is a whole comparison to be made and a whole educational effort to be made with the public, with young people who are growing up and schoolchildren who visit the museum. This environmental aspect has not been developed.

I would reiterate that the Lord report has confirmed the importance of this museum, and so it seems to me that we need to think about this.

Eighty-five per cent of our national museums are concentrated in the national capital region, the vast majority in Ontario. Would it not be logical for the other regions of Canada to have some of these museums, in order to promote tourism development, help educate the people in those regions and give them the opportunity to visit museums closer to home?

In my opinion, it is not right that all the museums should be concentrated here. We need to diversify and decentralize. According to my analysis, only 7% of all the museums in the Province of Quebec come under the federal government. Eighty-five per cent of the museums are in Ontario. Diversification is needed, and it would be a mark of respect for the regions and the provinces to recognize that, since 1961, one region in particular, the region of Saint-Constant, has made an effort to preserve our rail heritage. These people have volunteered their time and worked very hard for a long time. Now, they have managed to find funding and create a corporate structure.

This museum is known throughout Quebec and Ontario. We even attract visitors from across Canada and many visitors from the United States, because this is one of the major museums in North America. Why would the House of Commons not approve this committee report, which, I repeat, is not just one person's vague idea?

The member for Lac-Saint-Louis tabled this report in the House and asked that we discuss it, because a number of people were consulted and the committee members took the time to consider the matter and concluded—and this is very clear in the committee report—that the government should officially designate Exporail as Canada's national railway museum, with dedicated long term funding outside the museum's assistance program and report this recommendation to the House. That is what the committee said.

I therefore urge all the members of the House of Commons to approve and vote in favour of the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and to ensure that Saint-Constant can finally have a great national museum recognized by all members of this House.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciated the hon. member's statements and would like him to comment on two points.

First of all, he said that the government is very happy to take a piecemeal approach, when it feels like it, without consultation, without issuing a white paper or what have you, as was the case, for example, with the purchase of military aircraft.

Does the member know that the current Conservative government is working piecemeal to restore the old War Museum just down the road from here? I would like to hear his views on this. I would also like to hear what he has to say on the back-room dealings to have the Portrait Gallery of Canada moved to Calgary, and on the fact that these things are going on, it is happening, even if there is no official policy, especially in light of the coming election. What does he think about the government's piecemeal measures?

Finally, I would like him to talk about the fact that a motion is not a bill. We are not approving budgetary allocations here. The parliamentary secretary said that he was not entirely happy with the wording or details of the motion, and that this is why he is dragging his feet.

The spirit of the motion is what counts, and the newspapers will not dwell on minor details like the wording. They will simply say that the Conservative government does not want to support Canada's railway heritage. What does the member think about this?

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. His questions almost included the answers.

I share his point of view in the sense that, indeed, as regards the Canadian War Museum, some decisions were made without a comprehensive study, without waiting for the major studies on museums in Canada. I am not saying that these decisions were good or bad, but that they were made. It is the same thing with the portrait gallery. They are about to create this museum and they are considering its transfer to another region of Canada. But what about the consultations? What about the major studies that the Conservative government claims to always do before making a decision?

As I said earlier, in the agricultural sector, for example, when the government decided to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board by resorting to all sorts of strategies, there was not much consulting. There were no consultations at all when the government decided to spend $17 billion on military equipment. When it comes to major decisions, there is no consultation process.

Then, all of a sudden, we have a motion from a committee report which, as you say, states an intention. We will not become tangled up in the wording. This is merely a motion from a report which says that the House of Commons wishes the government will follow up on the recommendation. Should changes or amendments be made? Maybe. Of course, we are willing to discuss them. But why is the government now opposed to a simple request to reflect on the issue of diversification for museums, because this is a very important in terms of principle? We are asking to do away with this harmful concentration. Today, 85% of museums are concentrated in Ontario. They should be located in places that have a history. For example, Saint-Constant has been working hard since 1961 to inform the public about the history of trains.

The facts speak for themselves. It has been demonstrated for a long time, with the Lord report and with the very existence of the museum, that this is the most important museum of its kind in Canada, and that it should receive the funding that it needs.

So, yes, I do agree with you. Today, the government seems to be hiding behind some studies to avoid making decisions. However, when it comes to other issues, it acts without any consultation.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Before continuing with questions and comments, I would like to say something. The hon. member has been in this House for a long time and he knows that when referring to other members in this House we do so in the third person, not the second person.

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members