House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.


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11:10 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières who, incidentally, is doing an excellent job defending the interests of the citizens of Trois-Rivières. Her work speaks for itself.

The problem is that the railway industry is a growing industry. Business is good. Trains are getting longer and longer. This is precisely why we had to add the word “noise” and the word “vibration”, because it takes time for the train to pass. It is good for business, but that is as far as we have come in our society. It is good for business, good for the railway companies, but now they have to concern themselves with the damage they could be causing to citizens, with pollution from the noise and vibration. This is where things stand.

Now, the Conservative government is backing off. And this is only because—according to what I have been told in the backrooms—it intends to go through this all over again by introducing a new bill. Just think, we are in the process of solving the problem, but since the government does not wish to frustrate the Senate, it will introduce a new bill. That makes no sense. Here is what the government is going to do. It is going to wait for the Canadian Transportation Agency to hear the case. It will find that this is not working. That will take a few years. The government will have stalled for time and the railway companies will have saved some money. That is what they are thinking.

Meanwhile, our citizens are not getting anywhere and will not be happy with the work that has been done. One thing is clear, however; they will see that the Bloc Québécois worked hard on their behalf. The problem is the Conservatives and the Liberals. In that regard, once again, I am having a hard time understanding where the Conservative members from Quebec are on this. Not one of them has anything to say.

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11:15 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to the Senate amendment concerning Bill C-11. I do not think I can drum up as much steam as the member for Hamilton Centre did. That was quite the performance. I agree with everything he said. I certainly agree with the concerns my colleague from the Bloc outlined about this amendment.

For me, my riding and the communities that I represent in east Vancouver, this issue goes back to the day that I was elected. In fact, as I am sure the Speaker will remember, even a former member of Parliament for Vancouver East, Margaret Mitchell, a great member of Parliament who represented east Vancouver in the House, she herself dealt with the issue of excessive train noise, vibration and disruption for residents in the Burrardview and Wall Street areas of east Vancouver. This is an issue that goes way back.

Over the 10 years that I have been here I have met with local residents on numerous occasions to respond to their very legitimate concerns. I have attended community meetings. I have met with railway officials in Ottawa and Vancouver to put forward those concerns and demand that there be a response not only from the railway company but also from the government.

I actually rode the tracks. I forget the name of that little vehicle that goes up and down the tracks, but I rode on that to see firsthand what was going on in the marshalling yards that was causing so many problems. We have approached it from a health point of view and have laid complaints with the medical health officer in Vancouver. We have pursued legal options. I have worked with local residents and the saga goes on and on.

As recently as April of 2007 I wrote to the Railway Safety Act Review Advisory Panel pointing out that I regularly receive letters, e-mails, faxes, phone calls and visits from local residents, all of whom vociferously protest against prolonged and excessive train noise. They feel they are under constant siege from the noise by trains and they have not been able to find any recourse. All the complaints are remarkably similar and focus on noise in the early hours of the morning from whistles and horns, idling, shunting, et cetera. That was just in April.

Before that, in July 2006 I wrote to the then minister of transport with the same issues, concerns and complaints. I actually received a reply from the minister at that time. Lo and behold, the minister of transport said, “You may be interested to note that Bill C-11, which will enable the Canadian Transportation Agency to address issues such as noise levels, received first reading in Parliament in May 2006”. We finally have a bill that is going to address these long-standing systemic concerns from local residents.

Prior to that, in June 2005, I wrote to the Canadian Pacific Railway articulating the concerns that I had heard. In 2003 I wrote to the then minister of transport, who basically took no action. In 2002 I wrote to the minister of transport, as I had in 2000. This is just a sampling of letters that I have written.

It is very illuminating to hear the debate on this bill after the various readings it has gone through and hear members, even at this stage of the bill, coming forward with a sense of frustration that this bill still does not adequately respond to the legitimate concerns of local residents. That is coming from across the political spectrum. We have heard members from the Bloc today articulate very well the ongoing nature of these concerns.

In my own community, it has been the outstanding vigilance, neighbourhood spirit and activism at the local level that has kept this issue on the political agenda. It has been the work of local residents such as the member for Vancouver--Hastings in the B.C. legislative assembly, Shane Simpson. When he was a resident activist before he was elected, he was very active with the Burrardview residents association in pressing this issue. There are people like Barbara Fousek, who is now with the Burrardview residents association, who have never given up and have always addressed the concerns of local residents.

To be frank, people have tried to work within the system. They have tried to use processes and avenues they believed were available to them. Whether it has been the City of Vancouver with the whistleblowing, whether it has been the railway company itself, whether it has ben the federal government, people have used all of these avenues to the absolute fullest.

I would like to quote from a few of the e-mails and letters that I have received, for example, from Robert who has focused on a particular engine. People actually identify the number of the engine that is causing the problem while it might be idling in the marshalling yards at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. disrupting people's sleep when they have to go to work the next day.

Bonnie wrote at great length to the transportation committee. She pointed out that this issue in east Vancouver goes back to 1991 with the closure of the rail yard in Vancouver's Coal Harbour. There were operational changes that increased the length and the weight of trains. This has had a significant local impact. She points out that the CPR began the marshalling of trains below Wall Street in the Burrardview neighbourhood. The operational change was made without any public consultation or consideration of the impact that the change would have on local residents. This change has had a drastic effect on neighbourhoods and has increased noise and vibration to industrial levels.

In fact, the residents went so far as to ensure that a study was done of the noise levels. Our party's transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, in his speech quoted briefly from that study dated December 2005, entitled, “East Vancouver Portlands Community Noise Study”. As he pointed out, what was found was excessive noise levels that were far beyond anything that could be considered reasonable or standard for people living in a high density residential area.

I have other letters, for example, one from the Pacific Terraces strata council, which states:

Also, the drone of trains idling have often kept me from falling asleep. On occasion, I have incurred ear damage, with severe symptoms lasting for days. Again, I see no reason why trains need to idle for hours in areas where one can only surmise that many people are being denied their natural right to respect, peace and tranquility.

This should not be seen as just an issue of inconvenience, but one of health and mental well being. It is my opinion that the disrespect railway yards seem to show neighbourhoods crosses the line of abuse. I hope this situation can be resolved soon.

In an email, Finn points out:

The Alberta wheat pool is close to our house and we are subjected to, among other things, shunting of trains which occurs at all hours of the night causing extreme noise levels, Freight trains travelling from West to East working so hard and travelling so fast that the vibrations shake our whole house and wake anyone who may be sleeping.

I do not want to use the word “complaints” when referring to these issues, because that would imply that people are just complaining. These are very severe impacts on people's quality of life. The documentation that I have on these issues is endless.

I want to get back to the bill. Before us today is a Senate amendment and I want to retrace the steps of where this amendment came from.

I want to thank the NDP transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, for his very strong work in bringing local residents to the committee so that they could be heard and for receiving the issues that people have pressed.

The NDP member brought forward amendments to this bill. We supported the bill in principle. We said that maybe there finally could be some resolution. The member brought forward amendments at the committee that would have, for example, prohibited trains from performing certain activities such as shunting in high density residential areas between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Those amendments were shot down in committee, regrettably, because they did not have the support of other members. In fact, we ended up with a compromise proposal from the government side which said that at least there could be as little noise and vibration as possible.

We went along with that. We wanted to get through as much as we could in order to respond to people's concerns. We agreed finally to that amendment. The NDP amendment, which I think was far superior, was lost.

Where are we now? The bill was approved by the House. It went to the Senate. Now there is a Senate amendment that is watering down the government amendment which watered down the NDP amendment. The 10th report of Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications states:

Finally, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communications amended clause 29 of Bill C-11 to require railway companies to cause “as little noise and vibration as possible”....Canadian railway companies believed that the new standard could present a significant threat to their economic viability as there is no jurisprudence on its interpretation. As such, the railway companies recommended that the standard of “reasonableness” be restored to the provision.

That is exactly what the other place did. It went ahead, put forward its own amendment in the unelected Senate, which is what we are now debating in the House.

That is why we in the NDP feel we have to take a stand, that we have to say that this is unacceptable on two grounds. One is the amendment from the Senate is not reasonable and is actually watering down a provision so much that it will have very little effect which to us is really undermining the value and the intent of what the bill was intended to do in the first place. The bill was to provide real relief to local residents who have been suffering for years. On those grounds alone we feel we cannot support the Senate amendment.

In addition, as has been pointed out by the member for Hamilton Centre and other members of the House, it seems to us completely unacceptable that we are now debating an amendment from the Senate that is based on accommodating what the railway companies consider to be reasonable from a place that has no accountability to those local residents. Here we are with this amendment that is not really going to respond in any fashion to the very legitimate concerns that I have documented exist in my own community and we know exist right across the country. I find it very offensive that we are now having to respond to this amendment.

On those two grounds we are saying today that we want to reject that amendment. We believe that this should go back and that the government should be very clear that this is an unacceptable practice. We have seen it on other occasions when the government has taken issue with the Senate and has said that what the Senate has done is not legitimate and so on, but on this issue the government seems to be quite willing to go along with it.

I wanted to speak in the debate today just to lay out what this has meant for the thousands of people in my community who are still suffering from the impacts of excessive train noise. I want to make one thing clear. They are local residents who are well aware that they live adjacent to a working port. The history of east Vancouver is built on port activity and train activity. We understand that. It is part of our history. It is part of the history of our community. There are many people who work at the port and in the rail yards who live in east Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. We understand the importance of the economic activity of our rail operations and the port generally.

However, there is a significant issue about the interface and the conflict that can arise. What I find problematic is that often those issues are presented as somehow being mutually exclusive, that we have to say that everything the port or the railway company wants for their economic viability we have to go for or somehow we are on the side of the residents.

I believe, and I think many members in this House believe, that our job is to ensure that there is a balance between those things, that they are not mutually exclusive, that we can protect the economic viability of the port of Vancouver and the rail operations. Our job is also to ensure that we address the concerns that residents have in a meaningful way.

Some residents have lived in that neighbourhood for three, four, five decades and some have moved in more recently. Some of the letters I get are from recent residents. I always ask them if they were aware that they were moving into an area next to the port, and they always tell me they were. In principle, that is not the issue.

People are very respectful of those who work in the port and those who work on the rail operations. There is a legitimate case here about the excessive noise. People were not consulted when operational changes were made 15 years ago. I find that railway officials listen to us, but they really feel that they have no mandate and do not have to respond to these concerns. I have had that experience myself, which points out why this legislation is so needed.

Overall, we support Bill C-11. We want to see it go through. The bill has gone through the House, but I am very disappointed and frustrated that it has now come back to us with this Senate amendment that will undo the very premise on which it was advanced by the government. I am sure the House is going to hear the same thing from other members today.

I hope that we can convince enough members of this House to send a strong message back to the Senate saying that this is not acceptable. We have to tell the Senate that we have to do a better job and that we are not prepared to water the bill down and weaken the already weak provisions to protect those local quality of life concerns. That is what we in the NDP hope will happen today. We believe that we have one last shot at this.

I thank the members of the transport committee who worked very diligently on this bill. I especially thank our transportation critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who has pressed this issue very well and has worked hard to get the best possible arrangement.

Now we have to respond to the other place that has no accountability to those local residents. Let us do the right thing and stand up for their quality of life. Let us make sure that the bill is not undermined and weakened.

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11:30 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her remarks. It is important for the citizens who are listening to understand that the problem exists outside of Quebec. Vancouver is experiencing the same difficulties.

The fact that the industry is presently experiencing significant economic growth also results in other nuisances. We are no longer dealing with noise alone, but also with vibration and the length of trains. That is the message that members from all parties wanted to deliver in committee. I repeat that, at clause by clause consideration of the bill, everyone was on the same page and wanted to find a balanced solution. The message delivered to the Senate by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, when he appeared, was that Bill C-11 was a good bill. We found a balance between railway operations and the disturbance to those living nearby. The Senate merely wished to favour one group over another. The Senate only heard from industry representatives. It did not hear testimony from citizens or citizen groups. I am certain that citizen groups are just as organized in Vancouver as they are in Quebec. These problems have dragged on for decades in Quebec.

I would ask my colleague what she makes of the conduct of Liberal and Conservative members who, in committee, supported Bill C-11, a balanced bill, and who now are yielding to the Senate and the railway industry lobby? They are attempting to backtrack on this bill, to the detriment of the peace and quiet of citizens.

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11:35 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the comments from my colleague from the Bloc. To respond to his question I can only say that I am very disappointed. There was good progress made on Bill C-11. The concerns of residents were heard. People appeared before the committee.

The bill has gone through its full democratic process in the House of three readings and was passed. The bill was a collection of the best that we had to offer from all parties. It was bundled off to the Senate and then it started to fall apart. I think that is why we are here today and that is why we are hearing some very strong pleas from members in the House who are saying this is not right.

Members say that the Senate in examining this bill has taken, and I was going to use the word “partisan”, but it is not partisan in a political sense. It is partisan in a sense that as the member points out, the Senate has chosen to listen to the concerns of the rail companies and not respond to the concerns of local residents to find the appropriate balance.

The Senate has now sent us back a bill that I and other members believe is flawed. We have an opportunity here to accept or reject the amendment. That is still part of our work and part of our duty.

I am extremely disappointed that it appears that today the Conservative members and the Liberal members are going to vote for this Senate amendment. The NDP members and the Bloc members will vote against the amendment. However, there will not be enough votes and the bill will now be approved with the Senate amendment which does set us back.

I can predict with all certainty that we will continue to receive complaints, not only in my community but in other communities across Canada. In a few years the pressure will build and maybe we will see some other kind of legislative process. I don't know what it will be. We had an opportunity here under Bill C-11 and that is what the government told us. We had an opportunity to actually correct a very longstanding problem that needed attention.

We were so close to getting it done. The bill was passed in the House. Now we are dealing with something different that will undermine the bill and undermine the ability of the federal government within its mandate to deal with these concerns because it wanted to appease the concerns of the rail companies.

Perhaps other members have other opinions on that. I really feel that is a huge letdown. If local residents feel sold out, then I would agree with them.

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June 14th, 2007 / 11:35 a.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I moved to British Columbia from Nova Scotia 25 years ago, the very first thing I heard about was the concern about the rail yards because we have rail yards in Surrey.

James Karpoff, who was the member of Parliament for Surrey North from 1988 to 1993, has a pile of speeches, letters and so on where he deals with this very concern. In my neighbourhood in particular, the rail yards are right below where we live. Did we know that when we moved in? Of course we did, but we were told that the railway was working on changes so that we would not feel the vibrations, not hear the noise in the same way, we would not hear shunting at 3 o'clock in the morning, that all those things were changing and that people were working hard on that.

It is now 2007 and I do not know what to tell my neighbours. That is part of my question. We have people who have spent tens of thousands of dollars literally on their homes, patching cracks in the foundations because of the vibrations of the rail yard. It is perhaps half a mile down the hill from us.

We have people who have not been able to afford to double glaze their windows. I know they should because it is energy efficient, but it is also about the money to do it. They are awake walking babies at night. People say the baby will go back to sleep. If the person who is a mom or dad who has just spent two and a half hours to get a baby to sleep, having that baby wake up again is not a small matter.

We have had people on our street under palliative care at home who have great difficulty getting any kind of peace and quiet at all, even with the medications they are on. Then they are awakened again by the shunting noise in the middle of the night. It is unconscionable.

People have come to me as their elected MLA, councillor and elected MP to ask, what could I do to help them? I ask my colleague, what do I now go back and tell the people in my neighbourhood? Who do they ask? Do they find every senator and ask them? What do I tell them that they need to do next? If the amendment passes, what is it that they can do next? It would never have occurred to them to go to an unelected body to have changes made to their quality of life. Perhaps my colleague could help me with what I can say to my neighbours at a community meeting which is actually next week.

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11:40 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I could think of two responses. The first is for the member to tell her residents that the members of the NDP fought tooth and nail to the very end to make sure that the bill went through intact and that we opposed this really terrible Senate amendment and the process that it went through. She should tell her constituents that we will not give up on the issue because we know that there will still be complaints. We will continue to press, as we do on many issues. We are not going to abandon this because we know it is a very real quality of life issue. It is an issue about the environment, noise pollution, and the issue of the interface between residents, residential neighbourhoods and industrial activities. We will not let go of that. We will continue to press that.

The second response that I would give is that I think we should encourage our constituents to flood the Conservative members. They can write to senators, but they are unaccountable. They are not elected. They do not have to respond to anybody, but the Conservative government is accountable for what it does and it made a decision today to support the Senate amendment.

Our job is to hold the government to account and if constituents have concerns they should certainly let us know as local members, but they should hammer the government as to why it was willing to let the bill go through with the Senate amendment knowing full well that it was going to undermine the very purpose for which the bill was brought in, in the first place.

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11:40 a.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

I will not begin my presentation by saying that I am pleased to rise and speak today because today I do not feel any pleasure, but rather shame, before the amendments that have come to us from the Senate. These amendments defeat the significant amendments that were made to Bill C-11 and passed unanimously in committee.

I am ashamed because the Senate did not do its job properly. It only met with railway companies, which told it all about their dissatisfaction with the bill. The Senate report even quotes their arguments. We read there that the Canadian railway companies claimed that a new standard could have considerable economic consequences in the absence of a standard based on the reasonableness of noise.

So the companies played the economic argument, but we must not lose sight of the purpose of the bill, which was not to try and make railway companies as profitable as possible. That would have been studied by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Rather the bill was designed to deal with numerous complaints from our citizens who live close to railways. These citizens are penalized by the operations of these companies, which as a rule do not listen to the citizens’ complaints. If you are an MP, you represent all your fellow citizens. MPs contribute by developing bills in our fine parliamentary system in order to improve the living conditions of their fellow citizens.

The members of the Senate said themselves they held five meetings to study this bill, which is so important to us. I sit on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We held 15 sessions just to meet with witnesses. Of these 15, some 10 were an opportunity to meet with citizens, groups of citizens and representatives of cities who told us about the problems they have been experiencing for a very long time. Representatives of the department and railway companies also shared their comments with us on the bill, and answered our questions.

In addition to the 15 sessions we had with witnesses, we held six sessions specifically to do a clause-by-clause study. After meeting with all the witnesses, each of the parties studied the problem and proposed amendments with a view to improving the bill. The committee was unanimous in passing the amendments adopted at third reading.

I am relatively new as an MP and I was pleased to see that we could draft a useful bill that would improve life for my constituents. I have talked about this bill in my riding to illustrate my work as an MP. I do not know how I am going to explain to my constituents the situation we are in right now, but depending on the result of the vote on this bill, I will have to say a few words about those who are undoing the democratic work that we undertook.

It is important to point out, as my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel said earlier, that members of the Senate are saying that if their amendments are not accepted by the House, they could nonetheless pass the bill quickly.

The fact that the government party seems to want to give in so easily and destroy everything that was done in committee and in drafting the bill, adds to the frustration and shame I feel about the way the Senate operates. The Conservatives seem to be saying that this will all work out.

This eliminates any possibility of making these improvements. The official opposition party seems to want to do the same thing, since it has the majority in the Senate and was lobbied by the railway companies.

We are in an incredible situation where organized pressure groups, companies that have lobbyists, can interfere with a major bill to improve living conditions, by approaching members of the Senate to influence them during specific meetings and make them change their minds.

I find this hard to swallow, especially since, as the Bloc knows, the very existence of the Senate has been criticized. These are people who were not elected and we do not know to whom they are accountable. The way in which we are currently receiving the report shows they are not improving matters or the impression we have of them. In my opinion, they did not conduct a defined study that allows us to achieve the objectives of the bill.

I find this surprising, especially as the purpose of the amendments we proposed to the provision on noise was to respond to all the testimony we had heard. These amendments were not made out of the blue. We conducted a long review, provision by provision, because we had received various proposals from different parties. We reached a consensus, even though we had been asked to show even greater determination on the noise issue. We said, therefore, that the companies have to cause as little noise and vibration as possible. We opted for this formulation rather than prohibiting any unreasonable noise. Who can say what is reasonable or not and on what basis would it be judged? We wanted every possible solution attempted, therefore, in an effort to resolve this problem.

We know that there can be various different ways of resolving the noise problem, especially in marshalling yards. There are the hours of operation, but also the machinery, the engines, and better locomotives that make less noise when they operate.

We also required the railway companies to take into consideration the possible impact on people residing close to the railway. Initially, the bill did not mention these people. It just said that the operational and construction needs of railways had to be met. When we received a number of representations on the impact of the noise on local people, we decided to add something in order to achieve this objective and make the companies ultimately responsible for the impact on the local population and not just for the physical operation of their equipment.

The involvement of the Conservative members from Quebec could be seen most clearly in the riding of Lévis—Bellechasse where there is also a very large marshalling yard. The Conservative member for Lévis—Bellechasse was very pleased to meet with the sector president in his region who came to voice his complaints.

Since the Senate members did not even make the effort to meet with these people, I would like to quote an excerpt from the testimony of Mr. Jean-Pierre Bazinet, president of the Chute-de-la-Chaudière sector in Lévis. If people take the time to re-read the discussions, they will see what the concerns of the City of Lévis were.

As part of its activities, Canadian National operates a switching yard within the boundaries of Charny and Saint-Jean-Chrysostome. Given the elevated noise levels generated by switching operations conducted by Canadian National, numerous complaints have been laid by residents of the three former neighbourhoods that existed prior to the merger in 2000, as well as by residents of the other neighbourhoods that I mentioned earlier.

These residents believe that the noise pollution caused by CN's operations, particularly in the evening and at night, is affecting their health and impedes their peaceful enjoyment of their property. This situation came about in 1998—and that date is important. Previously, the switching yard and the residents lived in harmony. The new situation coincided with the privatization of the company, which streamlined its operations not only in Quebec, but throughout Canada.

In that respect, the problems experienced by the residents of Charny are similar to those encountered in other cities in Canada. The preceding testimonies are compelling.

When CN failed to take action, a large number of affected residents signed a petition that was presented to the council of the former City of Charny in 2000. The municipality also received letters from home owners describing the situation as unacceptable and intolerable.

In 2001, the Public Health Department of the Chaudière-Appalaches Health and Social Services Board conducted an analysis of the situation and produced a report entitled “Assessment of the public health risk associated with environmental noise produced by operations at CN's Joffre switching yard in Charny”. The study concludes, and I quote:

“Based on the available noise measurements, the literature review and the specific context, we find that the environmental noise to which many of the people living in the residential area adjacent to CN's Joffre switching yard are exposed adversely affects their quality of life and potentially their health. Such noise levels are therefore a nuisance to the peace, comfort and well-being of the residents near the Joffre switching yard in Charny.

From a public health standpoint, these noise levels are likely to have an adverse affect on health by disturbing sleep, which in turn has a number of side effects.

These noise levels are in our view incompatible with residential zoning unless special measures are taken to reduce the noise”.

This is part of what Mr. Bazinet, from Lévis, said in his testimony. It was very important and was much appreciated by the Conservative member in that riding. However, he has not been seen at all during the current debate period. I think that he is not happy with his party's position, or he is not proud of what the parliamentary secretary said, about how the proposed amendments were satisfactory and it would still be a good bill.

I call on all the Conservative members, especially those from Quebec, to take a stand for once and vote in favour of this bill, which offers a solution to the noise problem. We heard from at least five or six citizens' groups from Lévis, whom I mentioned, and also from Quebec City. Quebec City and Lévis are major areas and the noise problem is causing many problems for people. There are certainly Liberal members who are also concerned about this problem in their ridings. I think it is important to show that a realistic bill, unanimously agreed upon by the parties in parliamentary committee, can move forward, and to not show the public that despite what we have been discussing for weeks and months in the House, and despite our best efforts, a few senators can decide what is best for the public. Senators do not have to answer to the people afterwards.

I invite everyone who is even remotely aware of the importance of democracy to vote against these amendments. The Senate must recognize that the House of Commons stands firm, that it has examined the bill, and especially, that it has taken into account the public's arguments in order to improve the situation.

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11:55 a.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague for his excellent speech, which accurately covers the chronology and tells us how we got where we are today. I understand that he is sad, and rightly so.

Can my colleague tell me, as an engineer—because my colleague was an engineer by profession before he was elected as a member—whether there is an important reason to add vibrations to this bill?

I am not an engineer myself, but I thought that vibrations were not the same on all types of soil. For instance, the needs are not the same when the train is travelling over rocky soil as on clay or sand. As well, some types of soil can transmit vibrations when there are numerous cars. We have never been told why that was worse. When numerous railway cars are hitched together, one after the other, they develop a vibration.

I would like it if my colleague could talk to us about the importance of putting the word "vibration" in the bill.

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Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Although I am an engineer, we cannot go into this too much today. The word "vibration" was added to the question of noise primarily at the request of citizens' groups who complained about vibration in some cases, and not just about noise.

We had ultimately concluded that most of the time there are two interconnected phenomena: when there was noise, there was also vibration, in some cases. Obviously, the vibration will be felt more, the closer the houses are to the railway. However, the type of soil itself also has to be examined for each location, because some qualities of soil transmit more vibration than others.

When you are very close to rock, obviously you feel less vibration. It depends on the subfoundation. Depending on whether the soil is clay or sandy, and depending on the depth of that layer of soil, it can produce more vibrations, according to the distance of course. There again, in terms of the soil, if any attention is paid to this issue in a bill, I think that those calculations will have to be done so that it can be determined, for each location, how far away the houses must be located from the railway, and vice versa, to avoid the vibrations being felt in the homes.

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Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the member tell me whether the wording change from “as is deemed minimal” to “reasonable” would significantly impact the ability of residents, or diminish their ability, to reduce significantly, or in an appreciable way, to actually improve their quality of life from now till then in terms of the noise and vibrations?

I ask this question as this issue has been an ongoing one in my community over a long period of time. I and the local councillors have been working very hard with residents who have been very frustrated in trying to work with the proper authorities. They have seen some periods of improvement but there have been many steps backward. They have long awaited what appears to be a real significant opportunity or mechanism that will actually help them to improve the situation that affects them at so many levels.

Therefore, I would ask the member's opinion on whether this wording change, which appears to me to be the case, would diminish their capacity to reduce the severity of this problem.

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Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the official opposition for her question. Obviously, the aim of the amendment proposed in committee was to acknowledge the position of people living near railways. Indeed, the intent was to require companies to cause as little noise and vibration as possible, taking into account the potential impact on people who live next to railways.

That was lacking in the legislation. People living nearby were not mentioned. It was somewhat abstract. This is precisely why these residents could never win their cases against the railway companies. Indeed, it was a simple question of the operational requirements of the railways. However, this also has an effect on people's health. For instance, the testimony I read earlier clearly outlined all the repercussions on the health of the people who live near the marshalling yards causing problems.

It is therefore important to retain this amendment. We do not have to accept on bended knee the amendments from the Senate that would have us remove this, taking into account only the arguments offered by the railway companies, who, of course, made their views known. After all, the fewer legal obligations they have, the easier it is for them and the more profits they can generate, without having to think about their social responsibilities. We, as parliamentarians, need to consider these responsibilities. That is our role.

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12:05 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member who sits with me on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, on his excellent work and excellent presentation.

The last question from the Liberal member is typical of the Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to this bill. In the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we heard from witnesses, both from railway companies and community groups who were experiencing problems. We arrived at a balanced position. The wording proposed by the citizens groups was much more draconian than what we came up with, which is “as little noise as possible”. That was the wording in a bill previously tabled by the Liberals.

Today, a Liberal member is wondering about this change in wording. Yes, it is important. And it is also important to add “neighbouring communities” among the things that should be taken into account by the Canadian Transportation Agency. By eliminating this, we are taking power away from the neighbouring communities. And for that I am upset with the Conservatives: they are caving in to the Liberal majority in the Senate, especially the members from Quebec.

This brings me to my question. What does my colleague think of the behaviour of the members from the Quebec City area? Both Quebec City and Lévis were represented in committee. All the Conservative members represent Quebec City and the Chaudière-Appalaches area, the two sectors where are located the cities who had witnesses before the committee. These witnesses came to tell us that we were not going far enough. Lévis proposed the same definition as the one in Bill C-11. As far as Quebec City is concerned, its definition was much stricter than what we came up with: the balance achieved in Bill C-11.

I take issue with the Liberals today. The hon. member just said that she did not think the wording was so bad, but the entire issue of the problems in the neighbouring communities was dropped.

What does my colleague think of the behaviour of these Conservative and Liberal members?

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12:05 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel. That definitely shows that the Conservative members, who boast about doing good work because they are in government, are at the mercy of a primarily western based Canadian majority. I know that, during our committee discussions, the Quebec Conservative representative seemed to agree with all the arguments put forward by the groups. In particular, those from his own riding of Lévis—Bellechasse came to present their grievances, of which I read a portion earlier on.

That really shows that in important matters, the Quebec contingent, who find themselves in a large Canadian group, readily fall silent to let the so-called big blue machine move on. The Bloc Québécois, however, continues to examine each bill on its merits in order to obtain the best outcome for our citizens. We have retained our freedom of speech, and express ourselves in accordance with our conscience and the will of the people.

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12:05 p.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, at present we have before us an amended bill that flies in the face of current trends and that truly does not make sense. Throughout the world, there are now more and more trains, travelling faster and faster and governed by more and more regulations imposed by governments with regard to noise, safety and quality of railway traffic.

In this House, we are moving in the opposite direction. We are trying to pass a bill—a modest one at that—and we are being blocked by a lobby of large railway companies. I emphasize that point because, in my riding, a small railway line known as Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, seemed prepared to make changes and to cooperate when I met with it about two weeks ago to discuss this matter. The large companies, not the small ones, wanted these changes.

It is unacceptable for the big companies to demand that they be subject to absolutely no instructions or constraints, although they are subject to those things when they arrive in the United States, and they accept them and deal with it. As you know, in the United States, noise and pollution regulations are much stricter than in Canada. In fact, the Canadian companies have to have locomotives that are completely adapted to meet the requirements of the American standards in order to cross the border. On the other hand, we have old, noisy and polluting locomotives travelling Canada's east-west corridor. It is hard to understand why this lobby is looking at history in its rearview mirror.

Myself, I was very proud to see this bill moving forward. In the riding where I live, the Farnham switching yard, located in the town of Farnham, is getting bigger and bigger. The fact is that this yard has been causing problems, not for two or three years, but for decades. It is an old switching yard, and the people who live right nearby are the ones enduring the growing noise. At one time, rail transportation was very seldom used, and people found it acceptable. Now, however, with business booming and plans for passenger trains to pass through Farnham—and we are working on this—people have to expect that the noise and vibration will be reduced.

And so when I saw that the bill was moving ahead and was going to pass, following the normal procedure, I could not have imagined that an unelected body like the Senate would tell us that we had to do what the train lobby said and backtrack. Frankly, this could not have been expected.

I therefore went out to meet with the public, and there were only two topics raised, one of which was trains. The residents of Farnham and the mayor and city councillors were invited, and I explained the bill to them. I read them sections 95.1 and 95.2, and they were overjoyed. At first, people in the room were saying that the government would never pass a law to limit noise, because there had never been one. As well, in the last Parliament, the Liberal member who was elected in my riding had told them that his government was not really in favour of proposing measures to reduce noise, and he ignored them and did not want to help them.

I, on the contrary, thought that it was entirely reasonable for rules to be made by the government about how the companies must behave, like good citizens, toward the public which they serve. This is not simply a matter of them saying we will make our profits and then leave.

I met with the public and I read them the sections and they were very happy. They were persuaded that at last there would be changes. Imagine, now, how it will be when they learn that the bill has been amended by the Senate, under pressure from lobbyists.

Who is going to explain to them that the bill was not passed as it was proposed by the committee and as it was passed in this House? Will it be the Conservative members, who would in fact love to take my place? Will they be the ones who will come and explain it to the residents of the town of Farnham? I would suggest that they come in a well armoured car, because they might get a bad reception. Will it be the senators? No, because we know that senators never leave home. They are not accountable, in any riding. So they will not be coming to explain it.

I will personally have to explain the situation to them. Imagine the situation I will be in when I go to tell people: “The Liberals did not want it and the Liberal senators proposed some amendments”. To cap it all, I will have to tell them that Bill C-11 was a government bill but the government members voted to destroy it. Frankly, it is the height of ridiculousness. They say that in politics, six months is a long time but they can count on me to remind them of these events in the next election and they will remember it. The people of Farnham will be very happy to vote for a candidate who wants to reduce vibrations.

Earlier, I raised a point about vibrations and, as it happens, in Farnham, that is a very important factor because of the clay soil. If there are vibrations, the sound of the vibration can be heard very far away, as is the case at Farnham.

So, the matter of vibrations was vital. It was not just a matter of noise but also of vibrations. This means that a company must ensure that the trains reduce speed when they are in the marshalling yard, that shock dampers are installed on the rails and that there is a layer under the rails to absorb vibration. This is the case all over the world, except here. We do not understand why.

We know about the technology, but we do not apply it. Thus, at some point, faced with a modest bill, someone came forward and said, “No, that is going to upset my routine and cost me money. Let us leave things as they are”. That is a complete anachronism.

As I have said, the railway industry is now moving towards faster and safer trains, and much longer trains. Moreover, the Americans who send trainloads of merchandise to Canada, and who receive trainloads as well, are becoming more demanding about how those shipments are handled in Canada because they do not want any accidents and they do not want any complaints either.

It is only the lobby here in Canada that is holding us back. If we had American-style lobbying with American standards, everything would be satisfactory for our fellow citizens. We are here to act for our constituents.

I do not understand how we are supposed to say to the municipalities that it was in the bill but it was taken out. I read as follows: “The Agency must consult with interested parties, including municipal governments, before issuing any guidelines.”

That is what I did in my riding. I consulted the various municipalities and they totally agreed and were happy finally to have some rules imposed. The rules were not very hard to comply with, but at least there would be some. Now there will not be any at all and we will be back to square one. What is reasonable and what is unreasonable is not very specific. When this bill arrived, I suggested that there should be a standard for decibels, which represent the loudness of the sound at a certain distance. If we had done that, things would be very clear. But we did not. All we said was that the noise would be reduced, as appeared in the wording. We said as well that the noise adjacent to the railway could be harmful to people.

Now they are going further and withdrawing this proposal. It defies understanding. Why? To please a few railway companies, but not even all of them. It is important to know that not even all the companies wanted this, just a couple. They must have managed to lobby the current government very quickly to get it to change its mind. It used to be in agreement. It changed its mind at the last minute and is dropping the amendments, which would have been really destructive for the future of trains.

I want to tell the House about Farnham in my riding. Other hon. members have spoken about various marshalling yards, but in my riding there will be trains to other places as well: to Bromont, to Magog and maybe to Sherbrooke. We will be able to have trains to these places because the tracks are there, but they are hardly ever used. Some companies are interested in using them for passenger trains, and they will be, if people accept them. People will only accept them, though, if they make less noise. If is perfectly obvious that if there is noise pollution, if there are vibrations and other kinds of incessant pollution, people will not be interested. They are willing to travel by train, but they do not want the trains to upset their lives. There are already people living close to the tracks.

When people go to Japan, France, Italy or the Scandinavian countries, they see how quiet trains can be, even freight trains. They are made up in marshalling yards at low speeds, with much more flexible, less noisy couplings.

We are not asking for something that does not exist. We are just asking for something that exists everywhere but in Canada. Why take a step backward? This is not 1890, when people had to put up with steam trains. Now, we have technology, so why not use it? This was a long-term solution, not something that would last two or three months. It was a tailor-made solution that would have produced an acceptable sound level. Once it became part of rail culture, it would have lasted a very long time. But no, we are going back to the way things were before and changing absolutely nothing about the archaic, accepted technique that dates from a time when train use was dropping dramatically. Today, rail transportation is enjoying a resurgence.

We should have responded to this recovery of the rail sector by embracing new techniques. The government will have Bill C-11 on its conscience for a very long time, especially since Bill C-26 was never adopted.

This time, it could have been adopted, but they will have it on their conscience and bear the responsibility for it.

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12:20 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi on his speech. I am the Bloc Québécois transport critic, and the fact that the member has often questioned me about this issue shows that he is concerned about problems that affect his citizens.

Therein lies my question. In committee, Quebec City and Lévis officials tabled various recommendations accompanied by legal texts that were even stricter than what we managed to agree on unanimously. How can a Conservative member from Quebec not rise in this House to protect the interests of his constituents, and, worse yet, how can he vote for a motion introduced by a majority Liberal Senate?

Can my colleague comment on what Conservative Senator Hugh Segal said, as recorded in the Hansard, No. 101, from May 30, 2007? He said:

I point out with great respect that Senator Munson and Senator Dawson [two Liberal senators], who played such a constructive role, have undertaken that when this chamber, in due consideration, ships this bill, should it decide to do so, back to the other place [that's us, here; the Liberal senators consulted Liberal members of Parliament], they will consult broadly with their colleagues in that other place so that the bill comes back quickly.

Apparently they agreed because the Conservatives sat back and watched the train go by. They said the Senate would only hear from industry. My colleague is right: they did not hear from citizens groups. Furthermore, if the Senate were to send amendments to the House, the Conservatives asked the Senate whether these amendments would be adopted in the House. The Liberal senators said that they spoke to their Liberal colleagues in the House of the Commons and that the amendments would likely be adopted.

However, Conservative Senator Segal was smooth, because he added:

They have further undertaken on the record that should the other place dither and not approve it, [if we in the House of Commons do not approve it, which we should not, in other words, we should vote against this bill, as the Conservatives should], they will move quickly [there is already an agreement in the Senate between the Conservatives and the Liberals] to act with this engaged, non-partisan administration to pass the bill quickly through this chamber.

There is already an agreement. If we vote against the Senate amendments, the Senate will approve this vote by saying they tried to defend the indefensible and did not succeed.

I would like my colleague to say a few words about the behaviour of the Senate and of the Conservative members from the Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches areas that include the two cities, Quebec City and Lévis, who sent officials before the committee to propose written amendments that were much more significant and much harsher than ours. What the representative from Quebec City suggested and hoped for was to include the term “decibels” in the bill, since municipalities have the right to regulate decibels.

Obviously the Conservative members from Quebec did not rise in this House, but later on they will rise to vote against the interests of their constituents. What does my colleague think about that?

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12:25 p.m.


Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his very relevant speech and question. Indeed, this bill has already required some compromises. It is more lenient than our citizens had hoped. I am referring not only to Quebeckers, but also to Canadians who have marshalling yards in their municipalities. We are using Quebec as an example, because that is where we are from and because we know our constituents and their needs. The same needs are felt everywhere, however.

How is it that compromises have already been made regarding the original text of the bill and that the few things that were added are now being removed, the few things that people agreed to add? Everything is now going to be wiped out, until the bill is of no use to anyone and will do nothing to achieve the intended goal, after years of hard work on Bill C-26, which then became Bill C-11. We worked on that bill for months, nearly a year, only to take the easier route in the end, the route that was imposed on us by the lobbyists and the large companies.

How can any member who truly cares about their constituents vote against this? Can one vote against this bill at the outset and then accept the amendments? I find that unbelievable and I cannot help but wonder, how are the members across the floor going to explain this to our citizens?

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12:30 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak about an important bill, Bill C-11, and the amendments that have been put forth to it.

Two amendments from the Senate are causing considerable problems, and I hope to contribute to derailing those amendments because they go against consumer interest groups.

One Senate amendment relates to airline industry accountability and information that would be provided on an airline ticket purchased by a consumer.

The other Senate amendment waters down the rights of residents who live adjacent to railroad properties and the ability of them to interact with some fairness with the rail operators and have them provide some accountability when it comes to their operations, particularly with respect to noise and vibrations. These problems are persistent across the country.

I want to speak about the railroad operations first. I will provide a couple of examples as to why it is so important that the amendments be defeated and how they are counter to the needs and wishes of people.

I cannot understand the Senate doing this, unless it does feel it is accountable to ordinary Canadians and their ability to enjoy of their residences next to railroads. There has to be a balance in this type of an equation. The balance is often against them by governments and the railway operations. Bill C-11 would have at least rectify some of those injustices they have faced over the years. We have heard in the debate today that there are many examples of this across the country.

I first became involved in one of the original railroad disputes in my political career back in 1997 when I was on city council. The federal government had a program at the time to eliminate rail operations that blocked roads. The government was to build bridges and overpasses.

That program was killed by the previous minister of finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard. It was a good infrastructure project, which has not been brought back. There would have been contributions by the federal government to create this separation of rail and traffic. It was very expensive, but very beneficial for the economy, productivity and also the environment. The program would eliminate idling and would have expedited rail and trucking operations.

Wellington Street in Windsor went down into what some people would call a ditch and a rail operation went over the top of the road. The road underpass was not tall enough to allow transport trucks to pass. Oftentimes many U.S. truckers drove down this roadway and would end up having the top of their truck ripped off. It became known as the Wellington can opener.

When the project finally received some funding of about $22 million, construction was to be undertaken to build around the site. First a bridge would be built to get the rails over top of a new span and then create the actual infrastructure underneath for the future. Adjacent to this area was a derelict rail yard. There had been a station there at one point. It had become a dumping ground of which the railway company never took care. It allowed the weeds and grass grow out of control. It had also become a dumping ground for tires and so forth. The area was never cleaned up and the city was constantly fighting over it. It is important to note that the railway was complicit with the city at that time.

While I was on council, I lost a vote ten to one to allow concrete recycling for the construction to take place on that site. The site was the size of a football field and filled with material and concrete that was ripped up and dumped in the field. The waste was about four stories tall.

Adjacent to that was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Windsor West. It had modest homes and working class families. The neighbourhood had pools and parks. A number of houses were adjacent to this site. Originally the city had agreed to set up a temporary four storey tall concrete recycling operation across the street and down wind. As a community group, we had to fight to reverse council's decision and get the railroad to agree to stop the dumping at this site. It was a big battle.

It was unfair to the constituents of that area because for years they had fought about that. This is another issue not only in terms of pollution, with diesel engines sitting on the tracks for hours and not moving, but also in terms of the vibrations that affect their homes.

I want to point out another example, a more recent one that happened while I was in the House of Commons. It proves the arrogance and unbelievable neglect in terms of community consultation.

In 2003 the VACIS, a gamma X-ray technology, was introduced in the city of Windsor along the rail corridors. At that time, the Liberal government was in power. It did not even consult with the municipality. In consultation with CP Rail and the Department of Homeland Security, it was unilaterally decided to put this X-ray technology system right next to the football field of a local high school.

Further compounding that, as the trains went through the gamma X-ray technology, they had to slow down from 25 to 7 kilometres an hour. Also, about 200 yards before that was a rail crossing with no separation of grade. Trucks, cars, buses and people going to and from the school and the shopping malls were having to wait longer and longer. It was amazing. The city of Windsor had to file a lawsuit against CP Rail to stop it.

At that time, I asked the Liberal minister, Minister McLellan, about this and it was denied altogether. I had my constituency assistant take photographs of the actual equipment on site as it poured cement and graded the original infrastructure for this project. We had to fight the system. It was amazing that there was no consultation whatsoever, and the consequences are significant.

That is why these amendments fly in the face of the type of things that need to happen to make rail operations more accountable to people. We only have to talk to different people in different ridings to understand that conflicts routinely happen. It is the citizens who generally feel, even though the circumstances are different, powerless and helpless. Finally, when Bill C-11 came forward, we had an opportunity to inject a bit of justice.

It is important to note that the recent history of some of the rail operations has been rather disturbing and troubling. This accountability is very much a significant step forward. It could have had a net benefit across the country.

It is fine that we had a debate in the House of Commons about back to work legislation. We have had a debate in the House about safety regulations. Now that we finally get an improvement, it is being taken away from us by the unelected senate. I find that unacceptable.

In my riding, and in many ridings, people probably do not even realize the amount of hazardous materials involved in rail operations and the different types of substance involved. They can affect the residents nearby.

Other countries have different practices for bringing greater accountability, and a good example is the United States. Railways were shipping chlorine gas through Dade county, Florida, which goes through our corridors as well. The country fought this and successfully had the chlorine gas rerouted to a non-urban area. Then later on, because of that whole debate, it eliminated the chlorine from the destination, which was a pollution control plant that did water treatment, for a more environmentally friendly product.

There are cases where some laws have been changed. Some of the cities across the United States have succeeded in having certain chemicals rerouted because of their concerns with the ecosystem and also the environment.

In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has declared some of these rail containers of chlorine to be weapons of mass destruction because they can literally, within a 15 mile radius, poison everybody in that area if there were an accident or a terrorist attack. That is why there has been this progression in the United States to move it away from urban areas or to look for other types of materials that would not have the type of danger associated with them.

My constituency has had to fight to get access to rail yards for first responders training and so forth. When we talk about very significant issues like that, which are still causing concern for people, and compare it to the minor step forward for which we are looking, a reasonable one, to establish a process so there will be greater accountability for noise and vibration and empowerment for citizens through mediation, why would we take that away? It is unbelievable and unacceptable.

This is something residents across the country really need to get their heads around. I cannot understand why we would allow an unelected body, which does not have to respond to the concerns of individuals, to decide to usurp a change that would have effectively provided residents a voice. I cannot understand why the government is going on along with that.

This is very much an issue that relates to people's personal property and their values. That is supposed to be the party that claims it has the high ground, understands personal wealth and that people should have protection. At the same time, it is taking away a very modest tool for people to fight back to ensure they can protect themselves, their property value and their communities.

On the issue of rail, it is really important that the amendment is put in the proper context. It is coming from an unelected body that will take away the rights we have fought for over a number of years. More important, I believe it will take away greater accountability on the rail system that would lead to less conflict between neighbourhoods and rail operations. There would be a mandate to try to solve those problems before they became larger issues. That would seem a more progressive approach, in my opinion, in dealing with this.

Rail operations have been in communities for many years without changing. They do not go away. The shunting, the noise and their operations continue. Residents and businesses also continue.

I want to touch briefly on the issue of the commercial airline tickets amendment. When we look at the Competition Bureau, the record of the previous administration and now this one with regard to updating the Competition Act, is based upon a 1969 philosophy.

The minister's briefing book, which I was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act, identified specifically that 40 years ago things were quite different and it needed to be updated. That was at the time of the Woodstock festival. The Competition Bureau and the Competition Act need a mandate that is more modernized.

Consumers should have more opportunity to see the real information about the price of a ticket. What they will receive should not be hidden by other charges, fees and expectations of service that are never delivered when they purchase their tickets.

I do not understand why there cannot be a set of rules around that which allow consumers to know this, especially given what has happened now with the Internet and other types of technology specific to the tourism industry. People are shopping more and more on the Internet for airline and vacation destinations. They do that with the openness and hope that there will be comparable factors. Why the Senate would buckle under the lobbying efforts and allow the industry to continue to hide charges, fees and so forth is beyond me.

What we want to do is create some openness so people can shop around for the best air carrier, knowing what they will get and selecting the price based upon that. If they want greater or reduced service, or if they want to know if there are any extra fees or charges, they should be available so they can make their selections based upon that.

Why would we want to take that away from consumers, especially in an industry where there have been a lot of complaints in the past about competition? We want the consumer to have the opportunity to make some decisions and have some authority and power.

These two amendments are very interesting in the sense that I believe they come about through lobby efforts. They come at the expense of civil liberties, which allow individuals to have more consumer protection, information and awareness. This is at a time when personal information is being harvested by many companies and organizations to be used against people in marketing and so forth. However, we cannot allow consumers to have the same openness that companies, which allows them to target individuals in their marketing. We are not going to allow that provision.

The second part is with regard to the railway system and that is extremely offensive. Bill C-11 is very important in that we do want to have some improvements but, at the same time, when we take away those two elements from the bill, it becomes much weaker. For that reason I believe we need to defeat the Senate amendments because it is important that consumers and neighbourhoods and communities are protected and, unfortunately, that is being reversed by the Senate amendments.

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12:45 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether my colleague from Windsor West thinks like me, but at present we can see that the Conservatives and the Liberals are in cahoots with one another to try and please the rail industry and the large railway companies. We can feel it and see it.

The Liberal Senate is proposing suitable amendments. We need only read about the appearances by the big railway companies before the Senate committee to understand that the committee was against the definition judiciously negotiated by all parties. It was also especially opposed to anything to do with neighbouring communities being taken into consideration so as to avoid causing them any harm. There is some kind of connivance going on.

I wonder whether they are not trying to correct an error. At least that is what the Liberals and Conservatives must be saying to each other. Indeed a major error was made under former Parliaments with respect to VIA Fast. If VIA Fast had come into being, this would have created a high-speed Quebec-Montreal—Montreal-Windsor rail system, and that would have made it possible to have a dedicated passenger train track and thus relieve traffic in the freight train corridor.

It was the Liberals themselves, who could not agree among themselves, who killed VIA Fast. Nor did the Conservatives want VIA Fast to see the light of day. It looks as though today they realize that they cost the industry an opportunity. No longer having passenger trains on its tracks would have been a major advantage for the freight train industry. It looks as though today the Liberals and the Conservatives want to make up for this by trying to put as little pressure as possible on the industry regarding the harm it will be causing citizens.

In the end everyone is a loser. The whole population loses in relation to the Conservative and Liberal MPs and to the Liberal and Conservative Senate. Citizens and users of rail transportation who do not have a dedicated line in the Quebec-Montreal—Montreal-Windsor corridor are also losers.

And then the citizens who live along these railway lines will have to battle it out with the railway companies and they will not have the means they would have had under Bill C-11. Once again everyone loses out and once again Liberal-Conservative connivance is trying to make up for a mistake. To my mind, the fact that the VIA Fast project never materialized was a mistake. Today they are trying to compensate for that mistake by putting less pressure on the railway companies regarding noise pollution.

I ask my colleague what he thinks of what I have just said.

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12:45 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec City to Windsor corridor is important and it is something that I and many people across southern Ontario and Quebec have supported for years. It is important for our national economy and for our environment. It is a great element in terms of job creation, building infrastructure with our own natural resources and then we could turn around a new element that would provide opportunity, growth and development in a much more sustainable way.

When we go back and look at this file it is interesting to see that the first thing the member for LaSalle—Émard, the former prime minister, did was cancel this. It is ironic because the Liberals in Windsor, where the member for LaSalle—Émard was born, were bragging about the home town prime minister, although the prime minister at that time claimed that he came from several towns, and the first thing he did was to cancelled one of the most important projects for our area. I could not believe it.

I sat on the plane with David Collennette the day after he made the announcement and he talked about the fact that there would be high speed rail, rail separation grades and good infrastructure, not only for the trains but also vehicles, be it trucks or cars and the conflicts there, and an improved rail bed that would be supportive of the passenger rail that would be moving much quicker.

If people were to take the train down to the Windsor and Chatham area right now the train would need to slow down because the bloody thing is about ready to fall off the tracks. It rocks back and forth like an amusement ride. The Quebec City corridor would have been a benefit to building an opportunity to actually doing greater sustainability.

The reason this is could be going on is because of this debacle that I think people recognize was a missed opportunity. When we look at these amendments, we see that they would take away people's civil liberties in terms of their empowerment as consumers having information so they can make the best judgment on how they want to spend their own money. They also would take away the opportunity for individuals to protect their personal property. Why Liberals and Conservatives are against those ideals I do not understand.

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12:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members



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The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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12:50 p.m.

Some hon. members