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House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.

Topics

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Yes, of course. In fact, prior to the previous speaker there was an occasion for the Liberal member to speak. We will come to that slot again. However, in the first instance, a member did not rise at that time. That was several minutes ago. Nonetheless, we will ensure that the speaking slots are properly divided and will now recognize the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my full support for Motion M-270, moved by my colleague from LaSalle—Émard, who has worked tirelessly on the infrastructure file since she was elected. She has a keen sense of responsibility and she wants to ensure the safety of the public, particularly her constituents.

As was explained, Motion M-270 aims to develop a stable infrastructure funding plan with municipal, provincial, territorial, Inuit and first nations partners. In fact, the infrastructure motion contains six points, which I will go through one by one with my comments.

The first point calls on the government to recognize how important infrastructure is to Canadian communities. In the past, and not too long ago, the government received a number of demands for a new Champlain Bridge. Infrastructure is very important and is a matter of public safety.

Recently, in August 2011, a poll by Leger Marketing said that, soon after the collapse of a section of the Ville-Marie tunnel in August 2011, nearly nine out of ten Montrealers responded that they were worried about using Montreal's roads. In the same poll, the firm found that one out of five drivers avoided certain roads because they did not have confidence in the road infrastructure.

We are talking about the importance of infrastructure because it is a matter of public safety. When I take my car or the bus and go somewhere, I expect the infrastructure to be safe. That is what we are talking about right now. We are calling on the government to take action to protect public safety.

The second point calls for immediate action to address the safety risks posed by aging infrastructure. In Montreal we know there is a lot of work that needs to be done in this regard. The Turcot interchange, which is causing unbelievable traffic problems in Montreal, is undergoing a complete reconstruction. In my riding the Saint-Pierre interchange, a major infrastructure element, is also in need of repair. However, the work cannot be done right now because we are waiting to see how much money we will receive from the government. My riding is in chaos. There is also Lachine, which is 12 km from downtown Montreal. It can sometimes take up to two hours in traffic to get there because the infrastructure is unsafe. There are really a lot of unexpected repairs, which are causing major problems for people.

Infrastructure is an incredible economic problem. We know that infrastructure brings in money and that it generates economic spinoffs for Montreal and all large cities but, right now—since we are looking at this from an economic point of view—we are losing money. Things are going rather badly.

I would like to come back to the fact that people's quality of life is at issue.

The third point calls for a long-term funding plan with partners at all levels of government.

The fourth point says that the government must co-operate with stakeholders to develop sustainable infrastructure standards. That is what we are talking about. We need sustainable infrastructure, we need public transit and we need infrastructure that will stand the test of time. I do not get the impression that the government is working on this right now.

On October 5, our Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities announced a new Champlain Bridge, but we still do not know what it will be like. It is not really clear. We do not know where the government is going with this. We do not know whether there will be light rail or whether there will be public transit. We do not know what will happen. Canada does not have a sustainable, long-term strategy. Contracts are being awarded piecemeal. We have no idea what is happening. My constituents often ask me what the Champlain Bridge will be like. Will there be a train? Will there be buses? What type of infrastructure will it be? The government is not transparent.

The motion also calls on the government to increase the existing gas tax transfer to the municipalities by one cent per litre. We are proposing this increase in the excise tax on gasoline that already goes to the municipalities in order to help them with infrastructure needs. The Conservative government decided to reduce the federal tax from 7% to 5%. This definitely affected municipal revenues for infrastructure.

Furthermore, although the population is increasing every year, the government has done nothing to ensure that municipalities receive more money. If the population is increasing and more and more are people using our roads, of course the roads are going to wear out faster. But the government is not providing the funds needed to fix the problem.

The sixth point calls on the government to replace the Champlain Bridge. This motion was listed on the order paper before the October 5 announcement regarding the Champlain Bridge. However, we still do not know when the project will be completed or what will happen to the existing bridge. Will it be replaced? Will they continue to repair it? It is hard to get at it. There is always traffic in Montreal and no one knows how to fix the situation. We also do not know what is planned for public transit on the bridge. It seems to me that the government is not taking this aspect very seriously at the moment.

There are many important projects waiting for funding in my riding. I spoke about the Saint-Pierre interchange. It will be next after the Turcot interchange and it will take time, but we do not know what will happen. There is the Champlain Bridge. There is also the Honoré-Mercier Bridge in my riding, a structure that is 50% federally owned. What is happening with that? One lane on the bridge is always closed, which creates problems. The Dorval traffic circle, which has been and will be under reconstruction for a very long time, is also in my riding. There are problems and it is chaos.

The list is very long. I could mention many more projects that are affecting my constituents. There are no plans at present. There is something planned for 2014, but we do not know what it is. The government is not transparent. That is the problem. Building Canada is not being transparent about the Champlain Bridge and the infrastructure to replace it. We need this infrastructure now, immediately. I do not want to have to tell my constituents that there is nothing I can do right now because the government is not telling me what tools I will have.

The motion by my colleague from LaSalle—Émard focuses particularly on green, sustainable development of future infrastructure. It serves no purpose to build all kinds of infrastructure projects and subsequently lose them. I will provide a glaring example of a project undertaken without any thought to the future: Mirabel Airport. At this airport, wonderful infrastructure was built so that it could be reached by train from downtown. It was very poorly thought out. This airport is no longer used for international travel, nor is the train station, which cost millions of dollars.

This motion calls for a long-term, tangible plan to help us choose high quality projects. At present, I do not believe that I have much to say about what the government is offering

I will quote some very interesting facts. Canada's infrastructure is more than 50% owned by municipalities. We must help the municipalities get out of this mess. They must have enough money to spend on infrastructure renewal, which is important to their taxpayers.

In 2007, the federal government launched its seven-year program for supporting infrastructure in Canada. Under the 2007-2014 building Canada plan, which is ending in two years, the federal government earmarked $20 billion for basic funding, and $13.2 billion for various funds for program expenditures by various federal agencies, including the PPP Canada crown corporation.

All that money was invested and I am told that some infrastructure in my riding and elsewhere is still outdated. This just proves the need to inject more money and to establish a plan that brings together the federal, provincial and municipal levels so that they can work together on resolving all these infrastructure problems once and for all.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my support for the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who has done excellent work on this file.

I encourage all my colleagues to vote in favour of Motion M-270 so that we can finally work with every level of government on resolving this infrastructure problem.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the member for LaSalle—Émard.

Part (f) of the motion states that “the government should”:

acknowledge its exclusive financial responsibility for, and immediately announce its intention to replace, the Champlain Bridge.

I am happy to report that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has already announced that our Conservative government is proceeding with the construction of a new bridge across the St. Lawrence River in Montreal to replace the existing Champlain Bridge.

The Champlain Bridge is the busiest bridge in Canada. Each year, approximately 11 million transit commuters and 60 million vehicles cross the bridge. It is a part of a trade corridor that is vital for both the regional and Canadian economy and especially for Canada-U.S. trade.

The economy continues to be the number one priority for our Conservative government, as it is for Canadians. Each year about $20 billion in international goods cross the Champlain Bridge. The bridge is an important trade corridor that meets the objectives of Canada's gateway strategies.

However, any infrastructure deteriorates over time. This is why our government has decided to construct a new bridge. This new bridge will ensure the continued effectiveness of this important trade corridor. It is a key component of our new continental gateway strategy.

We did not make this decision lightly. We took time to fully examine the analysis of the current condition of the bridge and its potential for renovation, as well as to review the results of the feasibility study on options for replacing the current bridge. The analysis revealed that, because of its design, the current Champlain Bridge cannot be renovated.

The feasibility study also looked at different scenarios for the construction of a new bridge or tunnel. As a result of this study, we were able to rule out building a tunnel because the construction and operation of this kind of infrastructure would be much more costly and impose operating restrictions with respect to the transport of hazardous materials and to any changes required in the future.

Obviously the process for a new bridge will take a number of years. The Minister of Transport has already begun important discussions with stakeholders in Montreal. One of the key stakeholders in this project is obviously the Government of Quebec. Given the strategic importance of the corridor that will be served by the new bridge, we need to know how Quebec plans to integrate the bridge into its roads and infrastructure strategy. Likewise, we need to discuss the inclusion of transit into the new bridge design.

As members may know, the Champlain Bridge is an essential part of the transit system in Montreal. Approximately 30,000 transit riders use the dedicated lane of the Champlain Bridge every weekday, the same amount as those using the metro line between the Island of Montreal and Longueuil. Therefore, options must be discussed for including a modern transit system on the new bridge to link downtown Montreal with the south shore. Our discussions on the subject with the Government of Quebec, which is responsible for transit, are consequentially crucial for the future of transit in the region.

We also have a lot of work to do in order to determine governance and funding models for the new bridge. We are committed to completing this project while minimizing the financial impact. This means that we are seriously considering developing this project as a public-private partnership and financing it through tolls.

Our government will continue its work and preliminary studies over the coming years. Obviously, it will fully consider the views of stakeholders and ensure that all decisions are made in a fiscally responsible manner.

With respect to tolls, I would like to draw members' attention to a survey conducted by Leger Marketing that was released on October 17. This survey indicates that 60% of Quebeckers, including those living in the Montreal area, support tolls on the new bridge. Sixty per cent also support the project's development through a public-private partnership. This is excellent news and proof that Quebeckers support our position on the renewal of this important corridor's infrastructure.

Until construction of the new bridge is completed,our government will continue to ensure that the Champlain Bridge remains safe, as it has always done.

Since 2009, our government has announced significant investments totalling $380 million to keep this important bridge safe for all who use it. This includes a major reinforcement program extending over 10 years. We will continue to perform the work needed to preserve the structural integrity of the bridge.

On October 5, with the new bridge announcement, we started a project that is quite exciting for all of us and that will change the transportation network in the Montreal area for the next century. We already have the support of a number of stakeholders and we will continue our discussions with them.

I can assure members that we take the responsibilities that come with this project very seriously and that we will continue to make the right decisions for the people in the Montreal area and for all Canadians.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to share some thoughts in terms of infrastructure projects and the way in which projects come into being.

However, I must say at the very onset of the discussion that as much as it is encouraging to see the resolution, after I listened to the Conservative member, I have a bias, because I recall the commercials in, I believe, 1993. Those commercials implied that the Liberal Party of Canada should not be investing in infrastructure because it was a waste of money. I remember the wheelbarrow image that the Conservatives used to try to imply that we were just throwing money into the ditch. When the Liberal Party came up with an aggressive approach to addressing infrastructure, it was very successful in that election.

Then I recall that just a few years ago, in a minority situation, the government was going full steam ahead and again not recognizing the value of infrastructure in the state of the economy. The Liberal Party, in co-operation with other parties, forced the government to address infrastructure, which has many different benefits, and ultimately we were able to see an extensive plan brought forward because of the pressure from the opposition parties, led at the time by the Liberal Party.

I believe we have been very successful, whether in government or in opposition, in presenting infrastructure. In opposition we have done so in such a way as to obligate the Conservative government to take action, and while we were in government, we put extensive infrastructure projects into place.

The member for Elmwood—Transcona made reference to the Champlain Bridge. That is a good example of the latter, in that shortly after the byelection last year, one of the top questions being asked of the government, time and time again, was with regard to the Champlain Bridge. This issue was raised by the Liberal Party on numerous occasions. The Bloc, at the time, also raised it. I suspect that the New Democrats would have raised it, too, back then.

However, the government seemed cold to the idea and virtually had to be brought into it kicking and screaming. That happened because many of my colleagues had raised the issue and demanded that the government address it. We saw how important it was to the community of Montreal and beyond as an economic mechanism that needed to be addressed. It was important, not only to the province of Quebec but indirectly to all Canadians, to address the Champlain Bridge issue and do what was necessary to get a new bridge into place.

We are glad to see that the government has come around to a Liberal way of thinking in approaching this project. We want to provide more words of encouragement. The government needs to recognize the true value of infrastructure.

Municipalities from coast to coast need infrastructure dollars. Unlike Ottawa or provincial governments, municipalities have very limited ways to generate the moneys necessary for the type of infrastructure development that is often required. Winnipeg is no exception. We would find, I suspect, that the vast majority of municipalities, big and small, are in the same situation as Winnipeg, where many streets need repair and where it has been estimated that billions of dollars would be needed to bring infrastructure up to par.

Whether they are city councillors or local reeves, they are very challenged to come up with the money that is necessary to get rid of the potholes that we see on streets and deal with the condition of our sidewalks. Those are projects that I would argue are absolutely essential in terms of a city being able to function properly. Every year there is a huge debate that occurs, not only in Winnipeg but in the municipalities throughout our country. We need to recognize that sort of infrastructure and how important it is that the federal government recognize that it does have a role to play in that.

There are other infrastructure projects. Some of the infrastructure in Winnipeg would not have been there if it were not for infrastructure programs, such as the one that comes to my mind with respect to Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, the former member for Winnipeg North, a wonderful individual who put a lot of emphasis on getting infrastructure dollars into projects such as the Wellness Institute at the Seven Oaks Hospital in Winnipeg's north end. By using a pot of money that has been designated for infrastructure development, we were able to see some great initiatives come out of it.

I could focus attention strictly on Winnipeg North and some of the initiatives that we were able to get done through infrastructure dollars where the federal government has played a role. It goes beyond just streets and wellness institutes, which, in essence, is a super large indoor track facility that has other types of activities that complement healthy living and participation and is there to support our Seven Oaks Hospital.

An individual, for whom I have an immense amount of respect and who I believe is one of the more prominent citizens of the province of Manitoba, is Lloyd Axworthy, the former minister of foreign affairs. He was able to accomplish so much when he was in government and in opposition. Now he happens to be the president of the University of Winnipeg. He has done so well in terms of talking about infrastructure and its importance. He led by example. As an individual, he recognized that in order to be able to accomplish many infrastructure projects that the communities have, big or small, one needs to get all the stakeholders working together. If people are successful at doing that, they will be able to accomplish so much more.

During Mr. Axworthy's term, we could talk about some of our local streets or we could go to some of the bigger pictures, such as the Forks development, what it used to be to what it is today, and how the infrastructure there has improved so dramatically. Even as a province of 1.2 million, we have millions of people who go through our Forks.

There is a burning need for us to address infrastructure throughout our country. When I see resolutions of this nature, it is important that we look at the ledger and ensure there are some financial responsibilities. However, I really want to put in bold and highlight just how critically important infrastructure is to each community we represent and I want to emphasize how important it is that the federal government demonstrates leadership on this critical issue. It is important that we work with, not only the different levels of government but also our first nation communities and other stakeholders out there. If we invested in infrastructure in the way in which we could or should we could be doing so much better.

If we invested in infrastructure in the way we could or should, we could be doing so much better. I appreciate the opportunity, as usual, to add a few words.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the member for Scarborough Southwest, I will note that we will be close to the ten minutes, about nine or so, that we need to leave for the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for her right of reply.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I start my speech, I want to touch on the earlier comments by the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona in regard to the polling done on whether Quebeckers would support a toll on the new bridge. Frankly, that kind of poll is premature, because we still do not yet know the details of whether that toll would be there just to pay off the infrastructure costs or whether it would end up padding the coffers of private enterprise for years to come, as with the reprehensible sale of the 407 highway in Ontario.

For anyone who thinks I am being an alarmist in noting that possibility, I would remind the House that the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Treasury Board were all ministers and members of the government that did that in Ontario.

I rise today to voice my support for the motion put forward by my colleague from LaSalle—Émard. This motion outlines important clauses with regard to the federal funding for infrastructure. The implementation of these clauses in this motion are integral to moving Canada forward by building a sustainable economy and integral to the future safety of Canadians.

Public infrastructure supports productivity and innovation, facilitates trade activities and promotes both local and regional development. As an example, between Windsor and Detroit, where 40% of our trade with the United States goes through, we need a new bridge crossing to protect jobs here and to ensure our continued prosperity.

Critical infrastructure systems consist not only of physical facilities such as buildings, streets and bridges, but also services such as water supply, sewage disposal, energy, transportation and communication systems.

Infrastructure also encompasses food transfer, agriculture, chemical and defence industries, and banking and finance, as well as postal and shipping services. In a digital world, infrastructure also includes high-capacity fibre optic backbones, satellites, wireless towers and all the other tools Canadians and Canadian businesses will need to succeed in the 21st century.

In three years, 40% of the federal infrastructure funding from a $20 billion plan for 2007-2014 will come to an end. We cannot afford not to put a concrete and long-lasting sustainable plan in its place. According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, it will cost $123 billion just to maintain Canada's infrastructure and stop its deterioration, and an additional $115 billion to build new infrastructure for the future.

We need to act now to prepare for this, and we need to expand on past investments in order to adapt to the changing needs and demands of the 21st century.

The government needs to look at infrastructure funding as a long-term investment, rather than view it only as spending that perhaps needs to be cut. It is like biting one's nose to spite one's face.

What we invest now will be paid back through increased economic output, through taxes paid by workers who build the infrastructure, through businesses that will take advantage of that infrastructure and through increased productivity and efficiency.

It will also save us billions down the road when bridges do not fall down, sewage plants do not fail and disaster response is not needed because we failed to respond and failed our infrastructure and our citizens.

Some will balk at the cost, but the reality is that doing nothing carries a much greater cost and burden.

Investing in our future does cost money. In my riding, a large retrofit project was undertaken a few years ago on a municipal water tower. Just the scaffolding alone for the project cost over $1 million; these are not small-scale things. However, now the project is complete, and tens of thousands of residents have a secure water supply for many years to come. I wish the same could be said for our first nations communities.

Investing in our future will create jobs for out-of-work Canadians. It will help to offset the jobs currently being shed by our economy, as well as mitigate many of the losses that we would face should we do nothing. Improved infrastructure will make the transfer of goods and services flow more efficiently, both within our borders and without.

We, on this side of the House, know that infrastructure investment is one of the best ways to stimulate the economy and create wealth during shaky economic times. Why? Because it will help our economy run even better when the pace picks up, and it mitigates the impact on many Canadians who have lost jobs. As an example, better health infrastructure helps to keep people healthy, and keeps workers producing, thereby lowering company costs.

Infrastructure improvements provide an excellent opportunity to expand public transit. This improves our environment and tackles business-killing gridlock, which costs our economy billions of dollars a year in lost productivity. We can do all of this as part of a sustainable development strategy. On top of all this, infrastructure improvements create good, well-paying jobs for Canadian families. Investing in infrastructure is absolutely a no-brainer.

Our rail corridors could stand some improvement. Currently, all the level rail crossings and lack of separations in the municipalities slow freight and passenger trains down. If we were to invest in improving just the existing rail corridors we could massively improve the time it takes to get from point a to point b. That would have a great impact on the delivery of goods and services, as well as the transportation of people back and forth for work or for pleasure.

Our cities are growing and expanding rapidly. Our municipal governments rely on funding from the federal level. They need a plan from us that extends beyond 2014. We cannot let our cities shoulder the demands for infrastructure, roads, repairs and maintenance on their own.

It is estimated that our population is growing by approximately 1% per year. Funding needs to grow in proportion to population growth in order to accommodate future infrastructure needs. The government's recent announcements do not go far enough to ensure that municipalities will be able to pay for infrastructure to handle that growing population. Toronto alone, as of the 2006 census, is supporting almost 4,000 people per square kilometre. This comes with great needs, including funding.

I will leave it there as I got the cue, Mr. Speaker.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank my colleagues in the House of Commons, from all parties, who have spoken to this motion. I see that there is a sort of consensus on how important infrastructure is to vibrant, prosperous communities. I would also like to thank the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for expressing its full support for my infrastructure motion.

The government's recent announcements are nowhere near enough to address the problems facing our municipalities. In particular, they do not give us any assurance that our municipalities will have the means to build and repair infrastructure to serve an ever-growing population.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities said that not only do we have an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion, but municipalities will also need $115 billion to build bridges, roads, community centres and aqueducts to help the communities we leave our children survive and prosper.

Faced with this gaping deficit of financing for our crumbling infrastructure, the $2 billion gas tax fund is like a compensation prize for municipalities. That is why my motion asks the government to increase the gas tax transfer to municipalities by one penny a litre. This would generate over $400 million in extra revenue for our cities at no extra cost to the taxpayers. However, this is only a first step on the long road to compensate for decades of under-investment in our infrastructure. It is a road that will challenge us every step along the way.

The population of Canada could increase by between 2.5 million and 5 million people over the next 10 years. The use of our infrastructure will only increase proportionately. Municipalities will have to pick up most of the tab. The Government of Canada needs to be an active and effective partner, and it needs to see infrastructure as an investment when others see it only as a public charge. That is leadership.

That is why my motion also calls on the government to index the gas tax fund to economic and population growth. If the population of Canada experiences average growth over the next 10 years, the additional transfers from the gas tax fund will reach $224 million a year.

Allow me to paraphrase the 2007 study by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, stressing the importance of infrastructure as an investment and not a public charge. This means that each dollar invested in infrastructure delivers nearly 20% of benefits for the economy and the benefits are even greater, at 40%, for every dollar invested in transportation infrastructure. These are sound investments that benefit all Canadians.

I would also like to mention that I am calling on the government to ensure that there is a strategic plan for infrastructure in order to recognize these investments and work with partners in every community in Canada. Infrastructure projects are not just important in large Canadian cities, but in every community in Canada.

The Conservatives have indicated that they will vote against my motion. Today, I challenge them to vote with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in favour of sustainable investments in infrastructure and to vote in favour of jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 7:13 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

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

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

InfrastructurePrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, February 1, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, concerning the property at 65 Carl Hall Road. This building was designated a federal heritage building in 1992. It is the former home of de Havilland, where many aircraft were built for service during World War II. It is a heritage building because of the long and storied connection to our aerospace industry, including our first satellite, Alouette, and the Canadarm. Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office report states that it represents the early development of the aircraft industry in Canada, this country's contribution to the allied war effort and the impact of war on the Canadian economy. The building is especially rare in that it spans such a long period in Canada's aviation history, from pioneering days in the late 1920s, through World War II to the 1950s and 1960s as de Havilland's guided missile division and into the 1990s when it was still constructing fuselages for aircraft ordered by the U.S. army.

Besides the historical value of the building, it houses an impressive collection of artifacts from Canada's long history of air and space industrial developments. The collection is called the Canadian Air and Space Museum. It houses the only full-scale replica of the Avro Arrow, which was killed by the Diefenbaker Conservative government in 1959. It houses a full-scale replica of the Alouette satellite. It houses the Lancaster bomber, which, in addition to a storied history in World War II, spent many years on a pedestal at the Canadian National Exhibition. It was being lovingly restored by volunteers, one of whom actually piloted Lancasters in the war. The museum houses many hundreds of donated artifacts from veterans from all over Canada.

Not only has the federal government declared this property a heritage site, but it is also listed by the city of Toronto as a heritage property. The museum has been a significant part of Downsview Park and forms part of the public attraction to the park. Many thousands of visitors, including tens of thousands of schoolchildren from all over Ontario, come to learn about our aviation and space history in the building where much of that history began.

On September 20, the museum, along with other tenants of 65 Carl Hall Road, were suddenly, without warning, given eviction notices. Downsview's public comments about the closure of the museum, parroted by the government, were full of inaccuracies. There were no subsidies. The museum was not 17 months in arrears. The park never consulted with the museum before serving the eviction notice. The museum did not opt to switch from profit-sharing to market rent, it was forced to do so by the park. The museum is not a private collection, but a volunteer charitable organization. The building is not in an irreparable state and no study has been undertaken to determine if the cost of any repairs needed will keep the building as a heritage site.

We are told that Parc Downsview Park, the federal crown corporation which maintains the property, agreed to terms with the developer over a year ago. Nothing was said to give any warning to the museum any time before the locks were changed. The park has never offered an alternative to house the collection. The museum was never given the opportunity to raise the funds to make the necessary repairs to 65 Carl Hall Road.

The response to my question of October 24 were that the museum was private, and falsely accused the museum of not having paid its taxes. There was no response to the question of the destruction of a heritage building, nor to what process was used to remove the heritage designation of the building. The building was declared a heritage property many years ago. Nothing of its nature or status has changed in the interim.

As a result of investigations concerning the leasing of the land, the order-in-council from the government clearly states that 65 Carl Hall Road was being leased to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors. It is reported to us that the chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the vice-president for Parc Downsview Park are in fact brothers. We would therefore ask what steps were taken to ensure that their business dealings were not a conflict of interest, nor had the appearance of a conflict of interest.

We therefore ask the government to respond to the request from the city of Toronto to keep this building as a heritage building and to answer our questions as to whether the government will preserve this building as a heritage building and maintain the property for the museum.

7:15 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, heritage is important to Canadians and it is important to the government. That is why in this current fiscal year we will invest over $370 million on behalf of Canadians in support of museums in this country.

We understand that the current situation of the Canadian Air and Space Museum is of concern to Canadians. However, it is important to remember the facts in this case.

The Canadian Air and Space Museum is a non-federal non-profit organization. This organization is a private entity and should not be confused with our national museum, the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum based right here in Ottawa.

Over the years, the organization that owns and operates the Canadian Air and Space Museum has received federal funding for projects and has benefited from federal tax incentives to acquire nationally significant cultural property. However, the Government of Canada does not provide ongoing operating support for non-federal privately owned museums.

This privately owned and operated museum is a tenant in a building in Downsview Park. The park is owned by a crown corporation that depends on its revenues to operate. The crown corporation took a business decision to terminate this privately owned and operated museums's lease. This decision is the sole responsibility of that corporation.

I have been informed that the corporation is willing to provide storage space for the organization's collection elsewhere in the park and at no cost for a reasonable period of time. This will give the organization time to try to resolve its financial situation and find other premises or a new home for the artifacts in its collection.

The Department of Canadian Heritage works with Canada's national museums under the same portfolio. Discussions have been initiated by some of our national museums and the privately owned and operated Canadian Air and Space Museum to see if assistance can be provided. The government is committed to preserving Canada's important aviation history.

The government has recently invested in expanding facilities for the national Canadian Aviation and Space Museum. The national museum's collection comprises over 130 aircraft. It is recognized as the most extensive aviation collection in Canada and one which ranks among the finest in the world.

Finally, I would like to clarify that the Avro Arrow in Toronto is a replica of the actual aircraft. Our national Canadian Aviation and Space Museum has on display the nose section of an actual Avro CF-105 Arrow aircraft.

I invite all to visit the museum to see the spectacular artifacts that it has and the spectacular work that we have been doing in our national museums across the national capital region.

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, we still have no answer to our question about the heritage property itself and how this building was undeclared as a federal heritage property and will now be destroyed by Downsview Park.

I will read a letter from one of the volunteers to the right hon. Stephen Harper:

Dear Sir,

This is a plea for help, a plea made on behalf of many thousands of young Canadians who are no longer in a position to plea for themselves. They died over Nazi Germany flying for Bomber Command during World War II, determined to deny the members of the so-called master race from achieving their stated ambition -- to rule the world. Flying for that same Command I watched many of these young Canadian men -- they were little more than boys -- die right alongside me.

Many of the artifacts remembering their bravery and premature deaths are housed in the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Downsview Park. Their home must be one of, if not the, most famous historical structure[s] in Canada. And yet, unbelievably, this noble building has no heritage protection. As a result the present commercial body overseeing its fate has plans to bulldoze this real estate out of existence and replace it with ice rinks; plans that, unannounced to the volunteers at the museum, have been in place for two years. By carrying out this underhanded planning the powers that be in the park are making a mockery of the sacrifices of these young Canadians. By carrying these plans through they are not just humiliating the volunteers at the museum in Toronto, they are making a fool of Canada itself.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. member's time has expired.

Just a general reminder that when referring to other hon. members in the House, members should use either their title or riding name. The same falls true when the name appears in a quote or in other documents.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, to reiterate, Downsview Park is an independent arm's-length crown corporation. It has made a decision that is in the best interest of that corporation.

We recognize there are a number of significant artifacts that are in the collection of this private museum. We hope that its fundraising efforts will be profitable and that it will work with us to find homes for some of the most important pieces in its collection as we move forward.

December 14th, 2011 / 7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:25 p.m.)