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House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was authorities.

Topics

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise in the House for the third reading debate on a bill that is critical to the realization of some of Canada's key economic, transportation and trade priorities: amendments to the Canada Marine Act. This act is the economic framework for, among other entities, Canada's port authorities.

It has been well recognized that while the implementation of the Canada Marine Act has greatly contributed to the success of the marine industry, in order to better respond to the future market demands, changes now reflected in Bill C-23 are required, and they are required as soon as possible.

Bill C-23 is extremely important to our Canadian ports and, indeed, it is very important to Canada's economic prosperity.

I would like to remind members that the bill is the result of extensive and very broad based consultations that date back to 2002 with the Canada Marine Act review.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Communities and Infrastructure, of which I am a member, heard widespread industry support for Bill C-23, not only unanimous support from the membership of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, but also from the Shipping Federation of Canada and the Chamber of Marine Commerce. They have all endorsed these positive changes that our government has brought in under the bill.

The Association of Canadian Port Authorities has been very clear in its submissions. While the Canada Marine Act has worked fairly well overall since its inception in 1998 and has been beneficial for the users of the ports, now the time is right to make changes that will allow port authorities to respond to shifting global supply chains and trade markets and to play an even larger role in Canada's economic prosperity. This is very important to us.

The Shipping Federation of Canada, representing virtually all of the trade moving between eastern Canada and ports overseas, has urged the government to move swiftly in ensuring its passage. It has stated:

--the amendments...will go a long way towards addressing the financial constraints under which Canada's ports have operated since the Canada Marine Act was passed in 1996, thus ensuring that Canada has a strong and competitive ports system that can fully meet present and future trade objectives.

The Chamber of Marine Commerce has stated:

--Bill C-23 appears to be the badly needed next step in the evolution of the competitiveness of Canadian ports and the future prosperity of Canada's system of marine commerce.

Those are the chamber's words, not ours. It has also encouraged all parties to act toward the swift passage of the bill in the House of Commons and the Senate.

We have heard from witnesses appearing before the standing committee that the various port labour interests also support these changes. We have been informed that the unions view these proposed changes positively as facilitating port growth and in turn creating jobs for their members from coast to coast to coast.

The message to the standing committee from industry stakeholders was very clear: we need to move quickly on Bill C-23.

When asked during committee how urgently the bill is needed, Mr. Sean Hanrahan of the Association of Canadian Port Authorities responded:

If all of this could be done with final proclamation by spring [of this year], that would be the best.

Mr. Hanrahan elaborated further:

Trade is projected to double by 2020, and that is 11 years away. We simply have to dovetail everything that encourages commercialization and development at the same time as we hit this impending growth.

Those are not my words. They are not the words of members of the government and they are not the words of members of the opposition. They are the words of the people who operate in our ports and they are saying that we should pass this bill quickly, that Canada needs it.

Indeed, I am pleased to inform the House that the standing committee concluded its clause by clause review very swiftly, somewhere in the range of 30 minutes, resulting in only one minor change to the bill to correct a typographical drafting error. This change in fact was a government sponsored amendment to bring the French and the English into consistency.

I should note that a minor consequential amendment to correct a drafting oversight is also in the works. This consequential amendment will simply fix a reference to the new numbering of paragraphs that is necessary to the acceptance of the government sponsored amendment.

I would now like to briefly address some of the key provisions of the bill.

Bill C-23 will recognize our ports as the significant economic contributors that they are to this economy. It acknowledges the role of marine transportation, signifying the government's recognition of this sector's vital contribution to Canada's economy, especially by ports that are critical to international trade. We are a trading nation and our success, the success of our economy and the success of our future generations, depends on the efficiency and effectiveness of our ports.

Many stakeholders have requested these amendments, suggesting that in order to respond to the challenges ahead, an explicit recognition of the marine industry's vital contribution to Canada's economy is essential to fostering further growth and the future success of our marine transportation industry.

Trade, capacity pressures, aging transport infrastructure and increasing pressures on transportation lands in urban settings are now part of the marine environment. Canada port authorities are critical components of trade gateways and require new tools in a new era of trade to respond to market forces in a timely manner in order to support Canada's international and domestic trade.

“Advantage Canada”, introduced by this government, made “modern transportation infrastructure” a core element of the government's agenda and recognized that Canada's ability to compete on the world stage is highly dependent on the efficiency of larger ports such as Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax. This bill takes great steps toward their efficiency.

We must ensure that Canadian port authorities have the tools they need in the years ahead, not just today but in 10 and 20 years from today. Bill C-23 introduces much needed flexibilities, enabling Canada port authorities to compete and prosper in this global market.

Bill C-23 will facilitate trade and complement our gateway and corridor initiatives such as the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative, the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway and trade corridor, and the Atlantic gateway, all three very important to jobs in this country. The flexibilities it will provide are absolutely imperative for Canada to take advantage of trade opportunities, both today and in the future.

It is imperative, as you know, Mr. Speaker, that our ports have access to a suite of modern financial instruments. How can they be successful without that flexibility?

In a speech delivered in British Columbia on May 4, 2007 at the International Conference on Gateways and Corridors, the Prime Minister indicated that the government would “make it easier for them to obtain financing for expansion and improvements”, referring to the ports.

New measures are required if ports are to expand their capacity to meet new demands.

Refining a framework, as proposed in Bill C-23, to provide more borrowing flexibility and access to relevant contribution program funding would also encourage the private sector and would encourage it to invest. This would enable governments to make targeted infrastructure investments that are in the public interest where important funding gaps in the system cannot be met by other levels of government or private investors.

Currently, Canada's port authorities are prohibited from accessing contribution funding, while other transportation modes do not have these legislative restrictions. We are bringing in an even playing field. Does it make sense to treat our ports differently from other modes knowing that it will limit their opportunities at a time when ensuring sufficient port infrastructure is absolutely critical to our success and to the success of our gateway and corridor initiatives?

Bill C-23 would permit CPAs to access federal contribution funding specifically for three things. The first is capital infrastructure projects. The second is security, which is so important since 9/11. The third is environmental initiatives, which are important to all Canadians.

More and more, we see the significant impact that transportation has on our environment. This is certainly true when we speak of our major marine ports, where a convergence of rail, road and marine transportation is part of everyday business and operations.

Many ports are already exploring new, greener ways of doing business, covering both land and waterside operations, from a greater use of diesel electric gantry cranes to more efficient and effective lighting and incentives for cleaner marine fuels and the exploration of alternative shore power.

Given the future economic benefits of more energy efficient transportation systems and improved quality of life for our local communities in particular, which all in this House are trying to do, this is an area where it makes eminent sense for the government to allow for strategic, focused funding at ports that is related to environmental sustainability. We want to encourage the environment in every aspect of Canada's economy, and we are doing that.

I would like to remind members that as of the end of November 2007 contribution funding for security enhancements through the Marine Transportation Security Act was in fact discontinued, yet security enhancements continue to be required for Canada's port authorities.

Canada's port authorities, shipping lines and shippers have all made it very clear that the federal government should continue to contribute toward the cost of national security, particularly in light of the funding being provided to ports for increased security in the United States. We should have and give to them a competitive environment so they can succeed against their competitors in the United States.

It is essential that the government maintain a sound security posture to reassure the travelling public and its partners, to ensure the continued flow of international trade, and to make our country more secure.

Without question, the Canadian port authorities must be able to operate their assets in a commercial manner. They need to be able to set fees and negotiate commercial leases and contracts that are market driven and competitive. They also need a more dynamic and responsive borrowing regime that is adaptable to changing circumstances. This is paramount if our ports are to take advantage of the anticipated increase in trade.

This amendment is important not only for the ports, but for Canada's entire economy. That is correct: the economy of Canada. We all know that major financial investments require the collaboration of a number of parties, be it the port authorities themselves, the municipalities, the provinces, other modes of transport or private sector investments.

Currently, port authorities can only seek an increase in their borrowing limit by making a request to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to amend their letters patent. It is quite the process. It takes a long time.

With this new amendment, those ports that meet certain conditions, and have the capacity to do so, could assume a larger debt obligation consistent with a borrowing code, to make sure they can pay it. Such a regime would maintain the accountability this government stands for, yet would allow ports to respond to opportunities more efficiently and recognize their changing financial circumstances as our trade doubles in 11 short years.

Recognizing that many of our ports are already operating at capacity today and feeling the pressure of increased trade, it is not difficult to imagine the capital infrastructure funding that will be required for our ports to respond to the anticipated growth in trade in the coming years.

Patrice Pelletier, CEO of the Montreal Port Authority, told the committee that the authority would need to invest a minimum of $220 million to maintain existing infrastructure and an additional $500 million to make necessary expansions to the port over the next five years, and that is only for the port of Montreal.

Captain Gordon Houston, CEO for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, told the committee that this port has $350 million worth of commitments on its $500 million borrowing capacity in addition to a $1.3 billion terminal that is to be built, bringing the total up to somewhere around a $1.7 billion requirement, potentially. Those are the port authority's words, not ours.

These amendments to the Canada Marine Act will also strengthen governance. It is hard to argue against strengthening long term stability and continuity in the governance of our Canada port authorities.

Although the Canada Marine Act already allows for amalgamation of ports, as was evidenced in the recently amalgamated Vancouver Fraser Port Authority which we see as being very successful in meeting the demands of international trade, it is recognized that certain amendments would make future amalgamations easier and these amendments are welcomed. When a strong business case exists for the amalgamation of ports in the future, Bill C-23 would ensure that the process is clear and the transition transparent and streamlined.

In conclusion, Bill C-23 is extremely important. The ports have been waiting for these changes and are encouraging all parties, from the Liberals to the Bloc to the NDP, to pass this bill as soon as possible. I would, therefore, encourage all members in the House to pass this bill as quickly as possible, so that our colleagues in the Senate can start the process of reviewing this bill without any delay and we can get one step closer to this bill, a very important bill and the future of our economic prosperity, becoming law.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the parliamentary secretary's comments and I suspect his exhortation to the House for support will be favourably received in most quarters. I have two questions.

Throughout the member's remarks and in previous debate I have heard words like “efficiency, flexibility and facilitation”, all of which probably add up to potential increased productivity for our port authorities and ports, period, whether there is a port authority present or not. Forgive me if I am wrong on this, but I did not hear the word “productivity” mentioned very much. That may or may not have been the case.

Has the ministry done any kind of a workup on productivity and does it plan to do one? This is always an issue for us in Canada as the productivity of our country is compared to other economic competitors.

Second, the member talked about flexibility for our port authorities but, as most of us know around here, from time to time our port authorities, which are federal instruments, can go rogue. They can cease to be good partners with their municipal and provincial counterparts or they can fail to be accountable. I recall the Hamilton Harbour Commission at one point having to do some somewhat serious accounting at one of our committees.

These port authorities can go rogue, can cease to be good partners, and can be empire building little entities in their federal instruments. Can the parliamentary secretary assure the House that within this legislation there are adequate measures to assure accountability by the port authorities and to make sure that they are good partners with our provinces and municipalities?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member, first, that I like the word “productivity” as well. Indeed, if one looks deep into the speech that I just finished delivering, one would see that it allows flexibility in borrowing for more infrastructure to keep up with the times.

If they do not have the infrastructure necessary to meet the capacity, then they do not have the ability to hire more employees and meet the capacity. I would suggest, without doubt, that productivity would be increased as a result of this, which can only help Canada and Canada's economy.

I would also like to say that we never had one city, town, municipality or province speak out against this bill. In fact, there were ongoing consultations with many of the cities across Canada and I would be pleased, when I have an opportunity, to talk about some of those in particular.

However, I can assure the House that not only would there be productivity but some changes in the ability to use land in the consultation process necessary for municipalities and, indeed, there is wide-based support for these changes.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities knows very well that one part of the bill will enable port authorities to apply to different infrastructure programs. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the port authorities that they should have more powers, but the problem is that we do not trust the Conservative government.

In this year's budget and in the fall economic statement, the government mentioned that there was $33 billion available in the infrastructure programs. Of this money, $1 billion was for the Pacific gateway, the Asia-Pacific corridor. It is already earmarked in the budgets. For the other port authorities in Quebec, such as Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Port Saguenay and Sept-Îles, that means if no money is allocated to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor, they will now be able, with this bill, to apply to other infrastructure programs. But municipalities and other organizations also apply to the other infrastructure programs.

This means that if money is not set aside, which is what the Conservatives have done, there will be tension between the municipalities and port authorities applying to the same programs. The committee saw the tension between the Toronto Port Authority and the city of Toronto. It is an open war. I hope that the Conservatives do not want to create open wars between municipalities and port authorities. Now, apart from the Asia-Pacific corridor, the $1 billion set aside for Vancouver, there is nothing for the others in the budgets, nothing in the statement. This means nothing for this year. It also means that port authorities will be allowed to apply to the same programs as municipalities. That worries me.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that a competitive environment first of all ensures accountability. This is the government that came forward with $33 billion, the largest investment in six years, for infrastructure across this country.

Now we are changing many pieces of legislation to encourage productivity across the country, to make it possible for ports to compete with their American counterparts by being able to borrow money.

I know the member is interested in Quebec specifically and I can assure him that this government is not going to look at any one region more than another. We are going to make sure that we are fair to all Canadians.

That is why we allocated $350 million to Quebec for climate change, so it can make its own investments to have a cleaner and better environment for Canadians. We also have an Ontario-Quebec gateway initiative that is moving forward and we are moving aggressively with that initiative.

We are taking steps to make a fair, transparent and more accountable system that is going to be for the benefit of all Canadians and be fair to all Canadians.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question of the parliamentary secretary which is not unlike the concerns of my Bloc colleague who raised the issue of the changes in the financing arrangements for port authorities that the bill would allow and would also allow them to compete with municipalities for infrastructure funding.

We know that the Canadian Federation of Municipalities has said that there is a $123 billion deficit in infrastructure funding in Canada, far short of what the federal government has provided in infrastructure funding. Now it is opening that pot of money to competition from port authorities who have significant funding needs, it has to be said, all across the country. This is a serious problem with this legislation.

Also, there is the expanded borrowing powers generally of the port authorities. We know that they will now be able to collectively borrow billions of dollars. The NDP members are concerned about that because we were trying ensure that the Auditor General would have oversight over the port authorities given these expanded financial powers that are proposed in this legislation.

I would like to ask the member: What will the Conservative government be doing to ensure that there is appropriate funding in infrastructure to accommodate all of these extra and competing needs for infrastructure funding, and for the appropriate oversight of the Auditor General into the port authorities?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, the difference in this case between the Bloc and the NDP is that the Bloc heard the broad-based support from the provinces, from the cities, and from all Canadians, especially the port authorities. Indeed, the member's own city of Burnaby was a municipal group that was consulted. The cities of Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni, Port Moody and Richmond were some of the cities that were consulted and I have a bigger list here.

The difference is that the Bloc heard the broad-based support and is supporting the bill. The NDP of course is delaying, is not helping this matter go forward, and is working in every way it possibly can to stop the bill.

That is not what we heard. We heard that all parties want the bill to move forward efficiently and effectively. I would ask the NDP to stop delaying this and to move forward to support this great initiative by the government.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today from a Liberal Party perspective on Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence. This bill is mainly comprised of technical changes and amendments.

Normally, when the House receives bills of this technical nature, members of Parliament will often rely on the bureaucrats to highlight deficiencies in the present act or acts. In this case it is my understanding that the transport committee has made changes based on consultation with all stakeholders and this bill has everyone's support.

It is common knowledge that transportation in Canada is essential. And when I talk about transportation, I am talking about all types of transportation, including water, road, air transportation and so on.

Transportation has always been an essential part of building this country from the beginning, when our forefathers came here by boat and continued to use seaways as a primary mode of transportation until the invention of airplanes.

Furthermore, let us not forget that water was one of the few efficient ways of travel in Canada's formative years. And then, how can we forget, the building of Canada's railway from east to west which was the cornerstone of unifying and keeping this country together.

Things have evolved and our way of doing things has changed, but the transportation sector is still essential to this country's economy. The Liberal Party has always been a part of the transportation sector's evolution.

There is no denying that the Liberal Party, whether in government or in opposition, has always been a part of laying the groundwork to ensure that we have a network of infrastructure and transportation to allow this wonderful country to reach its fullest economic potential.

Our Canadian ports are fundamental to the development of trade. They enhance the opportunities for every Canadian to access our abundant natural resources across the country, so that they can be sold to foreign markets that can utilize the product for value added or for direct consumption.

Trade is a key factor in the Canadian economy and without the necessary infrastructure and means of transportation, Canada would be unable to reach its maximum potential to benefit all Canadians.

With that being said, as parliamentarians we cannot afford to miss opportunities to promote our Canadian ports. These kinds of initiatives would compel us to utilize portions of our infrastructure funds, in addition stimulate our rail network and a pan-Canadian road network to encourage growth, and to develop an economy that goes beyond a micro-economy and expand it to a regional and national one.

In 1998, under 13 years of successful Liberal government, the Canada Marine Act received royal assent. The Canada Marine Act was the first comprehensive piece of legislation to govern several aspects of Canada's transport legislation.

The Canada Marine Act was a component in the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the framework for a strategic gateway and trade corridors, and included provisions for the further commercialization of federal ferry services.

In 2003, a review of the legislation was compiled to ensure that the government continued to make all the ports in Canada economically competitive, specifically ports in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

May I remind the Conservative government that the bill before us comes from a Liberal bill, formerly C-61. I am pleased that the Conservatives have the ability to recognize good fundamental pieces of legislation that are beneficial to the Canadian economy and place partisanship aside.

If it were not for the NDP and the Bloc forcing an election, good pieces of legislation such as Bill C-23, Bill C-7, Bill C-3, Bill C-11 and Bill C-8, all based on Liberal transport bills which died on the order paper, could have been passed much sooner.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities heard from port authorities, other stakeholders and read written submissions to the committee on Bill C-23. An overwhelming consensus between stakeholders seems to exist, indicating that the committee should move forward and adopt Bill C-23 which is why we are debating this in the House today.

Some of the benefits of Bill C-23 include access to contribution funding. The fact that access to contribution funding will now be permitted, the Canada Port Authority can apply for contribution funding for infrastructure and security for environmentally sustainable projects.

The bill also addresses governance. With the changes in the governance policy in the Canada Marine Act, the port authorities would now be more in control of their destiny as they would have the ability to promote a more stable, long term management framework.

Bill C-23 would also allow for borrowing limits. With this act, the port authorities would now have the ability to borrow and, thus, would directly allow the Vancouver Port Authority, the Montreal Port Authority and the Halifax Port Authority to move to a commercially based borrowing system.

Bill C-23 would also allow for amalgamation. In the act, the Fraser River port, the North Fraser Port, would be allowed to amalgamate with the Vancouver Port, which would allow for a centralized body and would, in turn, be beneficial to all British Columbian ports in terms of efficiency, whether it be financial resources, human resources or other benefits that would arise from centralization.

The bill also addresses enforcement. Bill C-23 would also give the port authorities the ability to enforce minor violations by having the ability to impose monetary penalties, making it easier to enforce and manage minor violations.

Again, it is my understanding from members of the transport committee, and I cannot stress this enough, that all the stakeholders appearing before the committee spoke positively toward the bill. Members in the House should not confuse the positive aspects which came out of the committee that considered, deliberated and debated Bill C-23.

I urge all members to support the legislation for the good of the Canadian economy.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure we all are impressed with the objectives of the legislation, in terms of rationalizing part of the most competitive infrastructure needed for a healthy economy, be it marine, air, managing, for example in the Montreal and in the Toronto areas, the various forces. For example, in Toronto there is a bit of a competition between the development of the waterfront and the future of the island airport and rationalizing those against transportation investments. I am sure it is similar in Montreal.

Would the bill facilitate the coordination and the cooperation among the various entities at the municipal level to achieve the objectives of the legislation, which is to have a rational and integrated response to transportation realities, in particular, along the St. Lawrence Seaway as it relates to the new gateways to the Pacific and to the Atlantic? Would the bill satisfy that kind of objective?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my understanding is the bill does not specifically say that the municipal bodies will have a say. However, like any crown corporation, whether it be at the municipal, provincial or federal level, if it wants to move ahead with a certain project, I think it would want to get the cooperation of the municipal and provincial authorities to ensure everything was in sync and running properly.

The direction the Toronto Port Authority would be to sit down with the municipal levels of government to ensure that whatever expansion or projects it would undertake would be in full agreement with the municipal authorities. Montreal does not seem to have that problem, and it is way ahead.

Looking at some of the numbers, Vancouver and Halifax are way ahead and Toronto is barely in the top 10 in terms of port business. I recommend the member of Parliament from the Toronto area get his municipal counterparts to ensure they qualify for some of the infrastructure money that will be allocated to the port authorities.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel that, as he said, this bill comes from a former Liberal bill. Once again, that worries me. The Liberal Party created the Asia-Pacific gateway, while the Conservatives invested the $1 billion. But, the Liberals did not consider another very important maritime development corridor—the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

Once again, I see that the Liberals will support this bill, but I hope that they will listen to reason: we must subsequently provide the necessary funding to develop the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor. I hope that they will not be supporting the Conservatives, who created a $1 billion envelope for the Asia-Pacific gateway.

It now seems that if all port authorities are allowed to set up infrastructure programs, other ports such as Montreal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sept-Îles and Saguenay would have to apply to programs, to other infrastructure programs that the cities themselves are applying to, because there is no funding set aside for the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

I hope that the Liberals will not buy into the philosophy of developing the port of Vancouver but leaving nothing for the others.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. This certainly shows once again the difference between the Bloc Québécois and the other parties of this House. The Bloc can do nothing but criticize. We saw last year what happened under the Liberal government and we are now seeing what is happening under the Conservative government.

By simply looking at the revenues of Quebec ports, namely, in Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières, the Liberals saw that they were the fastest growing ports in Canada from 2003 to 2006. That was thanks to investments made by the Liberal Party in the past. I hope to see this continue.

If there is a change in government, everyone can rest assured that the Liberal Party will take the needs of the province of Quebec into consideration, as it has always done.

As for the investments and this bill, it is important that the Port of Montreal be able to continue to grow in terms of increasing revenues.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to come back to the whole question of the ability of port authorities to work with the local municipalities wherein they are located.

It is a very serious issue, certainly in the metro Vancouver area, where the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has a significant number of municipalities and significant holdings. The development of the port is a serious development issue for those communities and the people who live in them. It is also a serious development issue for the neighbourhoods that abut the port authority's property, yet this legislation probably weakens the ability of municipalities to affect the decisions of the port authorities.

The legislation does not ensure significant representation from municipal elected officials or appointees of municipalities on the boards of the port authorities, for one example. It also does not ensure that land use plans developed by port authorities are approved by municipalities. We know it is a very serious problem for municipalities that have particularly large ports. At the same time, all municipalities recognize the economic importance of the port authority and the port to their communities, but they do not have the ability to work and direct influence over the land use plans of ports.

Should that be fixed in the legislation?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand why it takes 10 minutes to ask a question that should take 30 seconds.

As I stated, I was not present at the hearings, but I did pull out the witness list. If we look at the list, the cities of Burnaby, Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Alberni, Port Moodie, West Vancouver and Vancouver regional district, and I can keep going on, are all unanimously in favour of the legislation.

If there is a problem at the municipal level, I think the provincial and federal authorities can all come together. If we can use the example at present in Montreal, where all three levels of government are working in harmony and together, the legislation addresses some of those issues.

We should adopt the legislation and move forward so we can address the next challenges the economy faces, which is one of productivity.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank my friend for his support of Bill C-23.

As a member of the transportation committee, I too had an opportunity to participate in the discussion and hear witnesses. Not one witness spoke against the legislation.

I come from the west coast. The Vancouver Fraser Port is very important to me. It is very important to the economy of British Columbia and to the economy of the country. Any delays at all in moving the legislation forward will hurt our economy.

Mr. Gordon Houston and Mr. Duncan Wilson, representatives from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, visited me yesterday.They expressed serious concern, and it was not about the legislation. Their concern was about the delays that were occurring in the House. There was consensus at committee that this was excellent legislation and that it was important for the productivity of our country, yet the NDP is delaying and obstructing it.

Does the member know why that is occurring and will these delay have an impact on the ability of the Montreal Port Authority to move ahead with improvements to its facility?

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I said it in my speech. Had we not had the election, this bill would have been passed and gone forward. The Conservatives have to stop blaming the opposition for not passing bills. This is a slam dunk. The government has the consent of our side of the House and with Conservative members, the bill can be passed rather quickly.

The government has to get on with its vision and move on to bigger and better things. The bill should have been adopted ages ago. The Conservatives should be tabling new bills addressing the challenges that we will be facing in 2008 and not 2004.

Let us get going and pass the bill.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence.

For the benefit of our listeners and my colleagues in this House, it is important to briefly go over the content of the bill. This bill has a very specific objective concerning Canada's port authorities.

I will use Quebec as an example. Not all the ports in Quebec that our citizens are familiar with will benefit from this legislation. Five ports have port authorities. Those port authorities are autonomous management companies. They are in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Port Saguenay and Sept-Îles. They are responsible for the administration of the ports, as well as domestic and international trade, and they form what is known as the national port system.

This bill targets these ports that have port authorities, autonomous management companies. They have constantly changing needs. There is a reason I previously gave the example of the port of Vancouver. The Liberals created the Asia-Pacific corridor, and the Conservatives have put money into the Pacific gateway. But both the Conservatives and the Liberals forgot that Canada had other maritime gateways. The St. Lawrence-Great Lakes corridor is another extremely important gateway.

This bill enables port authorities to take advantage of infrastructure programs. We have to be careful, though, because the $33 billion in funding announced includes only one infrastructure program. I am not making that up. It is in the Conservative government's budget. It was in the economic statement last fall. Of the $33 billion, $1 billion is set aside for the Asia-Pacific corridor and the Pacific gateway, which means for the port of Vancouver and, I believe, Fraser port.

What this will mean for other ports once this bill is adopted is that they will have to apply for funding to other infrastructure programs, many of which are intended for cities.

This is important to us. I want to tell my Conservative and Liberal colleagues that the Bloc Québécois is the conscience of Quebeckers. That is why Quebeckers elected us: to point out the gaps in all the bills that apply to Quebec. We are happy to do this, and that is why we work collaboratively.

We will support this bill, but we have to be able to raise red flags. We are the only party that raises red flags for Quebeckers. Once again, the funding announced includes money only for the Pacific gateway. The Liberals created the gateway, and the Conservatives have continued funding it. We shall see what happens.

As I said earlier, this bill will enable port authorities to apply to various infrastructure programs, something they were prohibited from doing by the legislation that created them.

When the port authorities were created, just like when the airport authorities were created, they were supposed to pay for themselves. That is why users and shipowners pay fees to use port facilities. Airports have their airport improvement fees—the AIFs that people pay every time they buy a plane ticket. These authorities were supposed to pay for themselves.

In the marine transportation sector, economic development is tied to development. The industry is changing, and marine transportation is growing. Major new facilities will be needed in various ports for all kinds of reasons.

Earlier, someone talked about how the Montreal port needs $500 million. An application will probably be submitted for that money. The port of Montreal wants to be able to accommodate cruise ships. Montreal is one of our most beautiful cities, along with Quebec City and other cities. I mean those with ports, like Sept-Îles. The member for Manicouagan, who is doing such a good job of representing the region, knows that the city of Sept-Îles is a very beautiful city. We also have Port Saguenay, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Montreal. Among other things, Montreal would like to invest a lot of money in facilities to accommodate passengers there. That could mean an investment of about $500 million.

The Bloc Québécois would like to see that happen. However, we would not want Montreal to apply for funding from infrastructure programs and be competing with applications from the City of Montreal. We do not want what is happening in Toronto to happen in Montreal.

I am from Quebec, and I stand up for the interests of Quebeckers. With all due respect to the members from Ontario—I have no idea what they are doing about it—the City of Toronto and the Toronto Port Authority are at war. I do not want to see these conflicts get any worse and spread to the other ports I mentioned earlier—Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Sept-Îles and Saguenay. Port authorities can now apply for funding from infrastructure programs, and they do not necessarily have the same vision as the cities. It is important to emphasize that.

We have to tell the Conservative government that it must not give all of the money to the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor. It will have to invest money. We know that is not in this year's budget, but we hope that the Conservative government will listen to us and that next year, there will be significant funding for development of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor.

This bill will also allow the borrowing limit to be increased. The port authorities, the port of Vancouver among others, have maximized their borrowing capacity, likely as a result of their rapid growth, and would like to do business like any other private organization. That is more or less the case. They will be allowed to make borrowing rules and access the markets with their income. Their borrowing limit is being increased to allow them to further their own development.

The port of Montreal is not asking for this because it does not have any debt. That is why the Bloc Québécois has to be the conscience of Quebeckers. If the port of Montreal could apply to infrastructure programs, it would not borrow money and go into debt just because other ports, like the port of Vancouver, are in debt. There needs to be some logic in all this and every port should be allowed to develop within their own limits.

In addition to the increased borrowing limit and the ability to apply to different infrastructure programs, governance is being improved and the ports will be allowed in their letters patent to manage real property. This is something the port authorities asked for in order to have more latitude in managing the federal government's assets and to be able to purchase property and other facilities.

All this is because the ports are undergoing intensive development. They want to be able to make forecasts and acquire property before an expansion. They wanted to have the financial ability to plan and not have to wait until the last-minute. Sometimes while they are waiting to acquire the land around a port, the price goes up. If port authorities could plan their investments over ten or more years, they could immediately start acquiring land and rent it out in the meantime, for other purposes, until they can use it to achieve their development objectives.

We have to be careful. We cannot allow them to become speculators for the government. Once again, the Bloc Québécois will be the conscience of Quebeckers. We will make sure the bill is used appropriately by the port authorities. We are prepared to give them this chance to develop and plan their development. However, we do not want this to interfere with the major development the cities are planning in their own jurisdictions. That is where we draw the line because when we allow port authorities to apply to the same infrastructure programs as the cities, there is a problem.

No one can tell us otherwise. There is only one envelope for marine transportation and that is the billion dollars for the Asia-Pacific gateway announced by the federal government. No other monies have been set aside in the infrastructure program for the St. Lawrence—Great lakes corridor in particular, which is an underutilized corridor. Earlier I heard a Liberal member say that they had contributed to its development.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is underutilized. I will give you some statistics. The total amount of goods shipped on the St. Lawrence fell from 130 million tonnes in the early 1980s to 100 million and 105 million tonnes in recent years. Once again, even with a 5 million tonne increase in the past three years, we have nevertheless lost 25 million tonnes in marine shipping on the St. Lawrence since 1980.

However, over the past 30 years, shipping has increased 600% internationally. On the Mississippi system, which is the St. Lawrence's direct competitor, shipping has increased from 450 million to 700 million tonnes. There is not one Liberal who can boast about that in this House.

Since the early 1980s, the St. Lawrence has lost out with shipping falling from 130 million to 105 million tonnes, whereas on the Mississippi shipping has increased from 450 million to 700 million tonnes and international shipping has increased by 600%. Once again, the governments, both Liberal and Conservative, underestimated the capacity of the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor, which is the main access route to the central United States. Again, the governments overlooked Quebec and Ontario.

It must be said—we are very honest—when we defend Quebec and the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor, we are defending the Great Lakes and Ontario, whether the Liberal members like it or not. They have a majority in Ontario, and have seen marine transportation in the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor decline, but it did not seem to bother them, and it does not seem to bother them now.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is alone in defending this very important St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor. Why? Because we have five very important ports in Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec City, Port Saguenay et Sept-Îles. We want these ports to be able to develop without having to compete with municipalities. That is why we will call for an independent program.

Yes, this bill is important so that port authorities are able to increase their borrowing capacity, acquire land to plan their development over the next 10 years, and apply to infrastructure programs. But these ports in Quebec and in other regions, such as Ontario, should not have to compete with municipalities in the other infrastructure programs, because there was no money allocated for the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes corridor, as there was for the Pacific gateway.

Once again, the Bloc Québécois is proud to be the conscience of Quebeckers. It is the only party in this House to do so.

World War I VeteranStatements By Members

April 11th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize an extraordinary woman. Her name is Gladys Powers and she is celebrating a birthday.

I know that a gentleman never discusses a lady's age, but in this case I know the House will agree that an exception should be made. On May 10, Gladys will turn 109 years old.

That is only part of the story. Gladys was a world traveller. Born in England, she lived in Turkey and Australia. Her life has straddled three different centuries. Today she calls Abbotsford, B.C. her home.

What really sets Gladys apart is that at the tender age of 15, she fibbed about her age and enlisted in the British Women's Auxiliary in World War I. Today, she is not only Canada's oldest war veteran, but also the world's last surviving female veteran of World War I.

What a remarkable life. I call on my colleagues to support me in wishing Gladys Powers a happy 109th birthday.

CancerStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, April is the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Month, in recognition of the millions of Canadians touched by cancer.

Unfortunately, most Canadians know, or will know, someone who has suffered from cancer in their lifetime.

According to statistics this year approximately 166,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and about 74,000 will die from this terrible disease. The new numbers also suggest that one out of four Canadians will succumb to cancer. This is shocking.

It is important that we do not give up on the fight against this terrible affliction. We must take the opportunity to better understand this disease and to appeal to all governments and to all the people of Canada to step up and show their support. Together we can and will make cancer history.

Doctors Munger and LamontagneStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to echo the Sherbrooke AQDR which, on April 4, thanked two doctors from the region for taking a stand on behalf of seniors who are not receiving the guaranteed income supplement.

Doctors Munger and Lamontagne put out an appeal to all citizens with an interest in social justice to spread the word about the guaranteed income supplement and offer to help a senior take the necessary steps to receive the money they are owed.

The two doctors said that this would be productive because there are approximately 1,500 people in the Eastern Townships who are eligible for the supplement yet do not receive it. Their pension income totals about $6,000 per year, but they are eligible for an additional amount that could be as high as $7,000 for a single person. They added, “If only this money could lead to better food and housing—”.

Along with my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, I would like to congratulate Doctors Munger and Lamontagne for their initiative, and I hope that it will produce results.

HomelessnessStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week the metro Vancouver 2008 homeless count was released. It is no surprise that the numbers are up yet again. The number of those living on the street was up 37% over 2005, and up 131% overall since 2002. It is likely even higher given the difficulty of actually taking the count.

Continued homelessness is just plain wrong. Homelessness in a wealthy country like ours with huge government surpluses is an outrage. The fact that this national crisis does not dominate our politics is the real scandal of the day.

Existing housing programs must be renewed for the long term. The Conservatives must immediately finance a multi-year national housing program with set targets that actually builds homes. Use the surplus. Cancel tax cuts for profitable corporations. Take action now.

Every Saturday groups of citizens in the Vancouver area stand on street corners in silent witness to the need for urgent action. Every Saturday more people join these stands. Citizens know what is needed. When will the government join them and build housing?

Community BoostersStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past week marked the passing of two tremendous citizens and community boosters in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex who lived their lives in service to others.

Murray Newkirk lived 95 years as a businessman and one of the driving forces behind Wallaceburg's Kiltie Band. He loved music and he used his voice as a member of the church choir where he also served on the board for numerous years. Murray is fondly remembered first and foremost as a gentleman.

Reverend Bob Whalls passed away suddenly at the all too young age of 52. Reverend Whalls pastored a United Church three point charge, and he was the longest current serving member of the Wallaceburg Ministerial Association and was the Padre of the Wallaceburg Legion. Uniquely, Reverend Whalls was also an active member of the Soul Patrol, a group of Christian motorcycle enthusiasts who collected can goods for local food banks and provided motorcycle rides to seniors.

I ask the House to please join me in honouring two very well-lived lives.

AfghanistanStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada needs a balanced three-prong approach in Afghanistan: security, development and democratic peace building.

Our troops have been doing brave and honourable work. It is now time that Canada's NATO allies shouldered their fair share of the mission's weight.

Canada has lost 82 of its bravest citizens and seen more than 300 wounded from this conflict. With the military price tag skyrocketing under the Conservative government, Canada must shift its focus.

NATO countries must deploy substantial numbers of troops to Kandahar to allow Canadian troops to focus their efforts on training the Afghan army and police authorities. In parallel, Canada must help facilitate a democratic peacebuilding and reconciliation process between warlords and different religious and ethnic factions, recognizing that there is no military based solution to the conflict. We must also shift our focus to reconstruction and development assistance.

Only with a balanced approach can we be successful in bringing peace to the Afghans.

TibetStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, recently I met with members of the Tibetan community in Toronto to discuss the ongoing unrest in Tibet. It was an open exchange of views.

I was also encouraged to see Chinese Canadians demonstrating and calling for dialogue.

China needs to move forward. A golden opportunity has been presented to the Chinese through the hand of friendship and cooperation offered by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We encourage the Chinese to seize it.

Canada will continue to encourage China to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, to fully respect human rights, respect peaceful protest, show restraint in dealing with the situation in Tibet, and allow unrestricted access to the entire affected region.

An early peaceful and sustainable resolution is in the interest of all.