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House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

7 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question on behalf of Canada's decorated veterans.

While I have not personally met Major Logan, his service in the Second World War tells us everything that we need to know about this retired major's devotion to Canada and his dedication to our shared values of peace, freedom and democracy.

I am sure that all Canadians feel the same gratitude and pride knowing Mr. Logan's remarkable story of courage and sacrifice. I am sure they are also concerned, as am I, to hear that Mr. Logan is in failing health and that he may not be receiving all the help that he has earned and so much deserves.

I will reassure the House that our government is committed to ensuring that all veterans receive the services and benefits they are entitled to without fail and without exception.

I thank the member opposite for her question regarding the spending on behalf of veterans. It is an issue that seems to receive too little attention in this chamber. I welcome the chance to share the facts.

First and foremost, I believe Canadians will be reassured to know that, over the past five years, our government has invested heavily in veterans and their families. That includes investing in sweeping improvements through the new veterans charter and doubling the number of operational stress injury clinics, facilities where soldiers who return emotionally scarred by the intensity and trauma of the theatre can receive support and assistance in their recovery.

We have also established a veterans bill of rights and created the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman to strengthen the government's ability to respond quickly and fairly to the concerns of Canada's veterans. It includes extending the veterans independence program to more widows and widowers of veterans, and restoring and expanding benefits to our allied veterans.

We have done all of this for one reason and one reason only. It is because it is the right thing to do on behalf of Canada's veterans, because we owe them so much and because we intend to, in the best ways we can, repay the enormous debt of gratitude they have earned on behalf of this country.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Veterans Affairs caseworkers are overworked, calls are not being answered and veterans are imprisoned in their own homes through a lack of services that they have been promised.

Could the government explain why it would rather spend $500,000 on one crime bill rather than on supporting veterans in their time of need? Could the government explain yet another tax cut to the largest and most profitable corporations and yet Veterans Affairs will be seeing budget cuts because of the profligate spending in the past by the government?

We need to think of the inhumanity of the choices that are being made by the government and of the access to services being denied to our veterans through the shortcomings in planning and compassion on the part of the Conservative government.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that Canadians are grateful for retired Major Logan's service to our country. We understand the great debt we owe all of our veterans. That is why we have worked so hard over the last five years to make improvements in the benefits and services for these courageous men and women. That is why we continue to invest in benefits and programs that will make a real difference in the lives of our veterans. That is why new enhancements to the new veterans charter will come into force in the coming weeks. That is why new enhancements to other programs have already been implemented, whether it is the operational stress injury clinics or the improved programs for wounded soldiers who come back from theatre.

We are continuing to make the best investments in ensuring that those who serve us are treated with the utmost care and that every one of their needs, to the best of our ability, is fulfilled. We will continue to work with veterans to ensure that they are honoured and that they receive the care and love they deserve.

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk again about the Canada-U.S. border, in particular, the Windsor-Detroit border.

On June 21, I asked a question of the minister because we have a border crossing, a brand new crossing, blocked by the State of Michigan right now. The corridor along the Windsor-Detroit gateway has 40% of Canada's daily trade and we have aging infrastructure.

I started my municipal career in 1997 with the first public meeting to get a new border crossing. Since that time, we have gone through a lot of ups and downs, pushing on several governments, to get a new border crossing capacity to deal with the challenges of the modern infrastructure necessary to be competitive with the United States. We finally had an agreement through the DRIC process, a binational planning process, to create that new infrastructure. A lot of compromise has taken place to get to that point.

However, the final decision necessary to get the bridge built has been blocked in Lansing, Michigan, for a number of months now. This crossing is very important because a lot of Canadian trade, jobs and social economy moving back and forth is dependent on it. I asked the government to intervene in June and to be more forceful, active and engaged.

There is a private American citizen, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, lobbying with millions of dollars to protect his empire and his monopoly. That is at the expense of the environment and the economy. With more delays we would see the expense of the project going up. Things do not go down. We would see a greater cost borne by citizens and the payback for the project would take longer. I wanted the minister to get more engaged in June.

Right now we still have Michigan debating this law in Lansing and we still see a vacuum of leadership from the Minister of Transport on this file. We have not seen the type of leadership necessary to get the ball over the goal line, so to speak.

It is important that this is not seen as just a local issue. This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Canadian history. It is one of the most important things for our economy and trade with the United States. There are 34 states that have Canada as a number one trading partner. This is a conduit and lifeline for much of that trade and affects everything.

A quick example is the auto industry. An automobile built in Windsor or Detroit, Michigan, like the Volt, will literally have parts going back and forth across the border a number of times. This is why businesses have been in favour of this and environmental groups have been in favour of this to get some of the idling trucks off the city streets.

There has been great compromise by the citizens who have to bear the result of the construction and subsequent inconvenience. We need this to be successful right now. We need better leadership from the government to ensure that Michigan knows that we need to get this across the goal line. The government also has to engage Washington to ensure it is pushing this issue as well.

7:10 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the member will be pleased to learn that I agree with him. Most of the action that he has implored of this government is already done.

We support the bridge. We have set aside the funds. We have a plan to recover the costs through a system of tolls. We are accelerating, to the best of our ability, the approvals for the entire construction to go ahead.

He correctly points out that the decision now rests with the Michigan legislature and that it is up to legislators in that body to decide whether or not they want to have the jobs, the economic opportunities, and the enormous spinoffs that this project would engender in their communities.

To date, we have worked with businesses and other stakeholders who share our interest. They include local communities, unions, trade associations, Michigan's Fortune 500 companies, the big three automakers, the chambers of commerce, Michigan agri-food industry, and neighbouring states. All the benefits of this project are accrued to them and as such, they are supporting the project and exercising their influence, accordingly.

Most significant, though, since taking office in January 2011, the Michigan governor and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario have become strong champions of the project. This government has made an effort to assist the governor with his efforts in convincing the Michigan legislators to support the building of the crossing. Our consulate general in Detroit has been promoting the project at every opportunity, even delivering speeches to business groups, chambers of commerce, and has met with individually Michigan legislators, in an effort to educate them and the citizens of the benefits of this new crossing.

We have also been working closely with the Canadian embassy in Washington in providing outreach and advocacy, to ensure that accurate information about the project is present.

Officials from Transport Canada have also been making, and will continue to make, significant efforts to advance this project. They have conducted detailed briefings on the project with state senators and other legislators to answer any questions that may remain.

As the hon. member will know, as he participated in the event staged last month by Transport Canada, we have also conducted several tours with Michigan legislators and border stakeholders.

In June, a senior official from Transport Canada, along with our consulate general in Michigan, Detroit, testified at the senate economic committee and reiterated Canada's financial commitment of $550 million to cover the costs of project components in Michigan that would not be funded by the public-private partnership, to ensure that this project moves ahead.

We are 100% behind this project. We will continue to work toward its success.

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's intervention.

What I think needs to happen next is a greater emphasis back on Washington to get Michigan moving again. There needs to be a real analysis of the current Ambassador Bridge by the government, in terms of its safety record, auditing its structure and all those things.

The International Bridges and Tunnels Act came into effect a number of years ago. New Democrats worked with minister Cannon at that time to get some amendments in the bill. So, there was compromise on both sides to ensure that the legislation was passed.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to go back to the minister and encourage him to get to Lansing himself, as well as other senior officials, and to Washington. That is where we need that full-court press to get the job done.

The U.S. is having another round of elections. Matty Moroun, who owns the Ambassador Bridge, provided over $1 million of financing to elected officials in the United States during the last session. There will probably be more of that influence happening again. That is the challenge that we face: just getting it over the last hump.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, I have to agree with the hon. member and I thank him for his intervention on this important subject.

The latest developments in the decision-making of the Michigan government is that the senate economic development committee in that state has now resumed hearings on the crossing.

Our government remains committed to the project. We are pushing hard to convince and to inform hon. members of that chamber of the worthiness of this project. We expect that there will be a vote sometime either in the late fall or early winter. We will continue to press as hard as we can to ensure that jobs, opportunity, and growth are achieved by proceeding with this important project.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me these few moments to discuss an issue that I brought up in the House some time ago. In general, it is an issue of grave importance for Newfoundland and Labrador. It is an issue that certainly deals with the safety factor of Newfoundland and Labrador, and certainly deals with the entire east coast, because we are talking about two entities here.

Let me just recap. Because of the last budget we had a closure of a sub-centre, what we call a maritime rescue sub-centre, in St. John's, Newfoundland, and one also in Quebec. What these two centres provided was an extra amount of assistance to the larger centres, which are described as the JRCC, or the joint rescue coordination centres. These centres handle incoming calls from people in distress, primarily in the offshore area.

Two departments come together, Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of National Defence, to handle these situations. One is primarily the vertical lift, or lift from the air, which is a part of search and rescue through the Department of National Defence. My question answered by the fisheries minister on that day obviously dealt with the Coast Guard. Of course, the Coast Guard, even though it is its own special operating agency, is still part of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

What brings on this closure? What provides the available evidence that the closure of this centre can be absorbed, not just from a financial aspect, but also from a safety aspect?

It is an incredibly busy site. It is busy in the sense that a lot of the local calls come into this one particular centre because the people who work in the centres certainly know the geography and certainly know their jobs extremely well.

What is happening is that these positions are being absorbed at the JRCC, which is in Halifax. I wish no ill will toward this particular centre in Halifax, which does a wonderful job as well, but there are aspects of the MRSC that was in St. John's in Newfoundland and Labrador that will be closed, yet are desperately needed in this area.

I will provide one quick example: ice survey. Ice surveys are done across the country. They are headquartered here in Ottawa. It is a national ice service. It does some work in the MRSC, and the reason for doing some of it there is because of the local aspect. It is a local investigation that they must undertake; therefore, they leave Ottawa, go to St. John's, Newfoundland, and monitor the ice situation. The vast majority of ice observations take place across the eastern part of the island.

This is a good example of why this centre exists in the first place.

Therefore, I humbly ask the parliamentary secretary what constitutes the decision to say that we can close this centre down and safety will not be compromised. The evidence proves otherwise.

7:20 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, for the opportunity to comment on the consolidation of the St. John's maritime rescue sub-centre with the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton. I know he works hard for his constituents and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, so I understand and appreciate his interest in this matter.

Let me start with the bottom line. Maritime safety continues to be the top priority of the Canadian Coast Guard whose men and women work day in and day out to provide important and essential services, including icebreaking, aids to navigation, waterways management, marine communication and traffic services, environmental response, and search and rescue coordination and response services, which is the issue we are discussing this evening.

Currently, to provide search and rescue coordination service, the Canadian Coast Guard jointly operates with the Canadian Forces, as my colleague has said, three joint search and rescue coordination centres across Canada. In addition, the Canadian Coast Guard manages two marine rescue sub-centres in St. John's and Quebec City. These were started in 1976, but many factors have changed the way search and rescue is coordinated since then.

Current navigation technologies, alerting technologies and communication technologies allow us to safely and efficiently coordinate search and rescue efforts from one centre within each of the search and rescue regions that cover Canada.

By consolidating the sub-centres of St. John's and Quebec, this initiative would see the integration of all search and rescue coordination functions, both marine and air, at the three existing centres. Marine search and rescue mission coordinators will work side-by-side with their Canadian Forces colleagues facilitating a stronger co-operation in search and rescue mission coordination.

The consolidation of rescue sub-centres will improve the efficiency of Coast Guard operations.

I would like to emphasize that consolidation will not impact the excellent search and rescue coordination service that we currently provide to the maritime community in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec.

As we move forward we will ensure implementation will be seamless and there will be no negative impacts to the aeronautical or maritime search and rescue services in Canada or to the safety of life at sea.

I would also like to point out that by joining Coast Guard marine search and rescue coordination service currently provided in St. John's and Quebec with the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton, we expect to improve coordination by locating all Coast Guard and Canadian Forces search and rescue services within the same centres.

I would like to reiterate that no changes are being made to the Canadian Coast Guard's capacity on the water. Canadian Coast Guard response resources will continue to work with other search and rescue service delivery partners such as Canadian Forces assets, volunteers and other local resources to respond to every distress call.

All officers, helicopters and vessels, including the two heavy icebreakers that were recently moved to the St. John's area, will remain in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We will continue to ensure that local knowledge and expertise is embedded in the tools and training of the crews, mariners and Coast Guard employees.

Finally, I would like to reaffirm the department's commitment to ensuring the safety of the maritime community in Newfoundland and Labrador and in the rest of Canada through the Coast Guard's search and rescue service.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has been parliamentary secretary for quite some time and he certainly knows the issues.

I have a few questions. He mentioned that with one centre closing, the resources and staff which were there are being moved into one centre and how that creates an advantage. I need to grasp exactly how that is supposed to work, if the groupings of these people are to improve the services, but the aspect that was local is eliminated and these people are no longer on the ground. A good illustration of that would be the situation in Quebec City where language becomes that barrier.

Could the member specifically address the language issue? Could he also give more detail as to why the grouping of these individuals into one centre in Halifax and closing down the sub-centre is going to improve that service? The final point is dollar value. How much money will this move save?

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is our view that the consolidation of these sub-centres is a timely and sound decision given the evolution of technology in search and rescue over the past 30 years.

By consolidating our search and rescue coordination services, we will continue to provide the high level of service that we always have but we will do it in a way that brings value to Canadians.

Again, safety will continue to remain the highest priority for the Coast Guard.

Any reports that this decision will impact search and rescue response on the water are simply not true.

Careful thought was given to this decision by the minister and the Coast Guard. There will be the same level of capacity on the water. Local knowledge will continue to be used in search and rescue coordination. Service will continue to be available in both official languages.

This is a responsible decision on behalf of Canadians.

7:25 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 7:26 p.m.)