Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-23 this afternoon. It is a bill to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other acts in consequence.
The legislation before us will do a number of things, including modify a port authority's access to federal funding, add provisions regarding the power of a port authority to borrow money, provide additional regulatory powers to the governor in council, add provisions regarding port amalgamations, modify provisions regarding the appointment of directors of port authorities, and add a penalty scheme and streamline certain other enforcement provisions.
This legislation has appeared before this House in the past. It is similar to legislation introduced by the previous government. We debated it on a number of occasions here in the House. It comes out of widespread consultations about changes that were necessary to this kind of legislation. Unfortunately, we believe that it does not cover all of the areas that were noted in that broad consultation process that happened a number of years ago. There are still some flaws with this legislation.
That is why we will continue to do our job as opposition members to raise important questions that we think need to be answered. We raise issues to put on the record things that we think could have been included in this legislation or changes that should have been made to the legislation before it is passed by this House. We see that very much as our responsibility as members of Parliament in this corner of the House. With that being said, there are some concerns.
As the member of Parliament for Burnaby—Douglas, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is very important to my community. Although there is not a lot of port activity associated with Burnaby, the north shore of my riding does border on Burrard Inlet. There are a number of sections of port authority property along that coastline. Notably, Berry Point is one of the pieces of port authority property that has been considered for development in the past. That particular piece is very important to the people in North Burnaby, to the people who live in Burnaby Heights and on Capitol Hill, two neighbourhoods that adjoin Berry Point.
We have seen in the past when the port authority floated ideas about the port development of Berry Point that people in the neighbourhood mobilized because they were very concerned about how that development was going to proceed. At the time, that development was put off. People in North Burnaby are very concerned about the operation of the port authority.
There are also a number of petroleum loading facilities along the north shore of my riding and the south shore of Burrard Inlet in Burnaby related to the Chevron refinery and to the operation of the pipelines that deliver product from the oil fields in Alberta to the coast and to British Columbia. Those are also of concern to people.
The possibility of, for instance, an accident that would result in the discharge of petroleum products into Burrard Inlet is always of great concern in my area. We certainly saw the disastrous consequences of a pipeline accident where a contractor broke a major oil pipeline in Burnaby and caused hundreds of thousands of litres of crude oil product to go into Burrard Inlet. We are very well aware in Burnaby of the consequences, and the importance of having a port authority that is responsive to the kinds of activities, actions and uses of the port lands and of the operations of the port itself.
There is also Barnet Marine Park which is part of the shoreline of Burrard Inlet in my area which is also connected to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is a recent amalgamation. One of the things that is contemplated by this legislation is that port authorities can amalgamate. What we saw in the Vancouver area was the port of Vancouver that specifically deals with the port on Burrard Inlet amalgamating with the North Fraser port, the port that exists on the Fraser River, and the Delta port which is the port mainly used right now for export of coal. These three ports amalgamated recently into one port authority, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. There were some questions raised about that.
There are concerns from the smaller communities that were part of the smaller ports about how this new amalgamated port authority will carry out its responsibilities.We will remain interested in how this new arrangement shakes down and how it serves the communities and the people of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
This particular legislation has raised a number of concerns. The NDP spokesperson on transport issues, the member for Windsor West, was very active in committee in raising concerns that we have in this corner of the House. We know from the people whom we work with on this legislation that he took a very active role in trying to ensure that those issues were discussed at committee.
I do not believe, as has been suggested today certainly by the parliamentary secretary, that it is a delaying tactic, that it is the NDP trying to put off consideration of this legislation. This is important legislation and we recognize that. We also recognize that port authorities are very important to our communities and to our economy. Many people in my constituency work in the port authority. The city of Burnaby obtains property tax revenue from the port authority. All of these things are very important.
It is certainly not our intention to delay unnecessarily legislation that we know is very important. However, it is also our job to make sure that we raise the concerns that we have and ensure that they are fully debated in the House.
We have a number of concerns about this legislation, particularly in relation to port authorities. One of the concerns is around the boards of directors of port authorities. We are concerned that the number of directors of port authorities has been changed and that the boards are not particularly representative of the concerns of municipalities.
The number of municipal representatives, either elected municipal officials or appointees of municipal governments, are very limited by this legislation. We are very concerned about that. Ports have a very direct effect on the communities of which they are a part. The cities and citizens of those communities have a great interest in how the port is developed, and the kinds of uses that happen on port land. That certainly is a concern, as I have noted in my constituency where people want to make sure that our municipality, the city of Burnaby, has the ability to influence the decisions made by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
We are concerned that municipalities are not well represented on the boards according to the legislation. We think that port authorities would benefit from the experience of municipal governments, of municipal councillors and the people whom they might appoint to port authorities, because they have local experience. They have the kind of experience and knowledge of the local communities that will only facilitate the operation of the port, that will only facilitate relations with those communities and with the people who live near the port lands and the operations of that port. That is very important for the functioning of the ports.
It is not all about facilitating the expansion of ports or the development of the port. It is about ports being good neighbours and working in the context of the communities of which they are a part. We need to ensure that those communities have the ability to directly raise their concerns.
Related to that is our concern that when it comes to the development of plans for the use of the lands that are owned by port authorities, municipalities also need to have some direct input into that process. Port authorities have significant real estate holdings. They certainly do in the case of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. They can have a very direct effect on the development of communities by how they choose to use the lands that they have at their disposal.
Given the fact that the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority exists in very built up urban areas, it is very important that the port authority cooperate with municipalities in any development and land use planning. Right now there is no requirement that that happen. We heard earlier the Liberal member say that he was hopeful that kind of exchange would happen. Hopeful is great and I am hopeful too that that will happen, but I think it is incumbent on legislation to also point to the need to do that and to make certain requirements of port authorities to seek out that kind of exchange with municipalities.
Very difficult situations can arise. I mentioned earlier that when there were plans floated for the development of Berry Point in North Burnaby, there were very serious concerns from the people who live adjacent to Berry Point about how their lives would be directly affected by the uses the port authority was suggesting a number of years ago.
In east Vancouver, and I know the member for Vancouver East will likely speak to this issue, as she has in the past, we have seen that the development of a cement plant on port authority lands was extremely disconcerting to the people who lived in the neighbourhood adjoining that development site. There was a long and difficult discussion in the community of Vancouver around that particular decision by the port authority to suggest that it was an appropriate place for this kind of development.
We know there is a real concern in our communities about the land use development of port authorities, how they go about it and how it combines with the plans of municipalities around the appropriate growth and development of the cities they are responsible for. We need to make sure that this is part of any legislation governing the jurisdiction and the way that port authorities work for Canadians. That is a very important piece as well.
A number of times today I have raised a concern given the changes in this legislation to the financial arrangements available to port authorities. That includes extending the borrowing ability of port authorities and also the ability for port authorities to now compete directly for infrastructure funding, something they did not do in the past. They were funded with allocations from the federal government. This legislation now will allow them to compete directly with municipalities for federal government infrastructure program funding.
We want to ensure, given these new financial arrangements, that there is appropriate oversight and that ultimately there is accountability for this, since some of the direct responsibility for it is moved away from the government. In the past, the government had to approve borrowing arrangements and make direct allocations. There was in that system some kind of accountability on the part of the government.
We are now concerned that there may be gaps in accountability with regard to how the borrowing and financial arrangements of port authorities are carried out. That is why we have suggested that the port authorities should come under the jurisdiction of the Auditor General of Canada and that the Auditor General should be able to exercise her oversight and her ability to make suggestions about how those financial arrangements have worked out. This is something that we think is very significant in all of this.
We are also very concerned about the ability of port authorities to now compete directly with municipalities and communities for infrastructure funding. We know that infrastructure funding is incredibly limited. Despite what moneys have been put in by the government, the funding is still not nearly enough. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has made that very clear. The FCM has said that there is an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion in Canada. The money the Conservatives have directed towards infrastructure in no way comes close to meeting that need.
Now with this legislation we are increasing the demands on that infrastructure funding by opening those programs to port authorities. We know that port authorities have significant infrastructure needs, so we need to make sure that in the competition for this funding there is some fairness and that appropriate funding is available to ensure those needs are addressed, both the needs of the port authorities and the needs of the municipalities and communities that are facing very serious deficits when it comes to infrastructure.
That is absolutely true of our community of Burnaby. We need to make sure that the funding is available and accessible by municipalities and that there is no further restriction on the municipalities' ability to do that important work. We know that in so many of our communities the public physical infrastructure is collapsing and needs significant injections of support from the government.
This is one of those things that Canadians have always done collectively. As citizens, we believe it is appropriate to cooperate to make sure that those kinds of infrastructure arrangements are available and that kind of funding is available to make sure that our cities function appropriately in so many ways. We need to make sure that we have not added an extra demand on infrastructure funding without offsetting it by additional funding. That is also a serious concern with this legislation.
The whole question of security needs at our ports is one that we know has been controversial too. We know there is not a consistent plan across Canada for port security. In many of the measures that have been floated recently with respect to security and which are in the process of being put in place, the emphasis in some ways has been on the workers in those port facilities and how they might pose a security risk. The emphasis is being put on measures that individual workers need to meet to ensure they are appropriate for working at our ports.
However, there are many other concerns around port security, including such things as the surveillance of cargo that comes through a port. We know that only a small fraction of cargo that moves through our ports is actually screened for security purposes. This is another important concern that we have around the security of our ports system.
I have been very supportive of the workers, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and others, who are very concerned about the kinds of requirements that are being made of individual workers who have long histories of dedicated service in our ports. They have been raising concerns about what is now is being demanded of them around security issues in order for them to continue to hold their jobs at our ports. That concern continues.
There is also an issue around foreign investment in our ports and how that relates to security. That needs to be considered and it is not part of this legislation. We need to make sure that foreign investors are also screened around issues of security. We need to make sure that we have this important interest covered when it comes to the operation of our ports. We believe that is necessary when we are looking at the whole situation of ports in Canada.
At committee we raised a number of issues that we thought should be part of amendments to this legislation. I want to go through some of them just to be clear about where we are coming from on this important bill.
As I say, we know the importance of the appropriate operation of our ports. We know that they are important to the economy of Canada, to the future economy of Canada, and to the communities of which they are a part. We know how many workers are directly associated with the operations of our ports. All of that is extremely important, so we have to guarantee that these important institutions and these important industrial developments are doing the appropriate job for our country, our communities, our economy and Canadian workers.
We had some concerns that we put in the form of amendments. Sadly, none of them were successful at committee. That is of concern to us. We brought specific issues forward in the form of our amendments.
We are concerned about land use policies at the ports and said that they should be restricted so that all non-marine land use functions would have to be approved by the municipality. That seemed very reasonable. If it is a non-marine use of port property, we think the municipality has a particular interest in that kind of land use.
We said that we should restrict the functions of a port authority so that all non-marine functions would essentially be severed from the port authority's purview. So if there were a non-marine use, that would be directly under the purview of the municipality, not the port authority.
We said that all port authorities should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Auditor General for examination. I have already spoken to this point. It is one that we think is very important.
We said that a majority of the board of a port authority should be made up of municipal councillors or municipal appointees because those people have the experience necessary.
We said that the entire land use plan of a port authority should be approved by a municipality. We know this is very controversial, but we also know that it relates to the impact of ports on local communities.
We also said that a national security test should be established for foreign investment at a Canadian port and an annual security audit should be performed at all ports to ensure security needs are being met and are being done consistently at ports across Canada.
Those are some of the concerns that we in the NDP have raised with respect to this legislation. Again, we appreciate its importance. We look forward to continuing our participation in this important debate.