House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.


Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #143

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion defeated.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the question of privilege in the name of the Minister of Public Safety.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #144

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from December 6, 2011, consideration of the motion.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise to comment on Motion M-271, moved by the member for Beauport—Limoilou, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize that the Port of Québec is of vital importance as a hub of international trade in opening new markets for Canadian business, creating jobs, generating significant economic benefits, particularly in terms of tourism, and ensuring the vitality of small and medium businesses in Quebec City and the surrounding areas; and (b) support key projects for the upgrading of port assets and the development of equipment, taking into account the climatic and environmental challenges of this particular section of the St. Lawrence River.

I agree with my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, who spoke earlier in support of this motion. As Quebeckers and Canadians, we understand the importance of Quebec City and its port. That is why Liberal governments have always invested in infrastructure and the environment, which are important to the Liberals.

We also believe, just like the member for Beauport—Limoilou does, that it is important to equip the Quebec City region, and the Port of Québec in particular, with the necessary tools. We will therefore support the motion. It is not complicated. We need to invest in and make a commitment to infrastructure because, with regard to basic infrastructure—whether for transportation by air, land or sea— these tools serve as the pillars of the community's economy. The Port of Québec is a very important port. In order to protect Quebec City, an international heritage site, we must provide it with the necessary tools.

As for the Port of Québec, I know that extraordinary work has been done and that there is a team on site that is quite fantastic and is doing great work. However, the Canadian government's role is to ensure, through the Department of Transport, that the necessary investments are made, especially in infrastructure.

Everyone knows that if we want to invest in infrastructure, in terms of sustainable development, it is necessary and vital that we be fully engaged in the decontamination effort, if necessary, and that we have infrastructure that will enable us to have the necessary tools to ensure the sustainability of this infrastructure.

I will close by simply reiterating our support. The Liberal Party of Canada is the party that has supported infrastructure since 1993. By reviewing programs, it also played a role in returning certain infrastructure such as ports, wharves and airports to municipalities and municipal governments. We believe that the Port of Québec, like the Port of Montreal, must have the necessary tools for its economic development. It is important for tourism, it is important for the economy, and it is important for transportation. Therefore, we will proudly support the member's motion.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to continue the discussion in response to the member's Motion No. 271, which proposes that the federal government recognize the importance of the Quebec Port Authority and support its various projects.

The member for Beauport—Limoilou tabled a motion that calls upon the federal government to recognize that the port of Quebec is important for international trade, in creating jobs, in generating economic benefits and in ensuring the vitality of businesses in Quebec City and the surrounding areas. The motion also calls upon the federal government to support key projects at the port, for the upgrading of port assets and for the development of equipment.

I stand here today to state that the current legislative and policy regime established by Canada's national ports already recognizes the strategic role that the port of Quebec plays in the regional, local and national economy.

Our government does not support this motion for a number of reasons. First, the motion is simply not necessary. Second, supporting the motion could create conditions and expectations that go against the spirit and stated intentions of the Canada Marine Act, the legislation that governs the federal national port system.

First and foremost, let me say unequivocally that the government recognizes the importance of the port of Quebec in terms of its key role in supporting international trade. As this country's fifth largest port authority, it plays a critical role in getting our goods to the global marketplace. In terms of its key role in supporting tourism and jobs in Quebec, there is no question the Quebec Port Authority is an important hub in the region and as a national port as well.

The port of Quebec is a key component of the continental gateway. I will o say a few words about this worthy initiative. The goal of this initiative is to maintain and build upon Ontario's and Quebec's world-class transportation system so that it remains a key driver of international trade and economic growth for the future. The continental gateway is focused on developing a sustainable, secure and efficient multi-modal transportation system that keeps Canada's economic heartland competitive and attractive for investment and trade. It includes strategic ports, airports, intermodal facilities and border crossings, as well as essential road, rail, and marine infrastructure that ensure this transportation system's connection to and seamless integration with Canada's other gateways: the Asia-Pacific and the Atlantic.

The Quebec Port Authority is a key part of that because it is of strategic importance to Canada's international trade, with markets all over the world, including the United States, South America, China, Europe and the Middle East.

The Quebec Port Authority is also a top port when it comes to the cruise industry. It is a leading port of call for cruise ships plying the waters of the St. Lawrence. For example, on one day alone, to be specific, on October 14 of last year, there were nearly 8,500 visiting international cruise passengers and 3,241 crew members visiting the port. There were a total of five cruise ships docked at the port that day. In fact, the port of Quebec recorded its best season ever in 2010, welcoming more than 100,000 passengers and nearly 35,000 crew members. I also understand that the famous Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary II have visited the port. Quebec is, indeed, a top destination for passengers discovering the Quebec to New England route, because Quebec City lives up to the expectations of all tourists.

The numbers say it all. Over the years, the port of Quebec has welcomed 500,000 passengers. Quebec's international cruise industry generates direct economic spinoffs of nearly $86 million, including $25 million in the Quebec City area. As the chairman of the parliamentary tourism caucus, I will be the first to say that that kind of impact as a point of entry for Canadian tourists is an incredibly valuable contribution to the health and prosperity of Canada's tourism sector.

In Quebec and across the country, tourism is one of the most unique sectors of our economy. It creates jobs in all areas: urban, rural and remote locations. Approximately 600,000 direct jobs are derived from tourism nationally and it drives key service industries, including accommodations, food and beverage, passenger transportation, recreation, entertainment, and travel services. Together, these industries account for 9.2% of total employment in Canada.

In Quebec alone, a study commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada shows that 38,850 tourism businesses are operating there. They create or support more than 391,000 jobs in the province. In the riding of the member for Beauport—Limoilou, who sponsored the bill, there are 401 tourism businesses that support 6,330 jobs.

We can see the importance of the port of Quebec to tourism in that province and we recognize the spinoff effects the port has for tourism right across the country as a high profile point of entry to Canada for international visitors.

More than 2.84 million international travellers visited Quebec in 2010 according to the Canadian Tourism Commission. In total, some 28 million people from Canada and abroad visited the province that year. These visitors contributed $11 billion in tourism receipts for a $7.8 billion contribution to Quebec's GDP. It is obvious that we do not need to have a motion to recognize the importance of the Quebec port's contribution to tourism. Hordes of tourists already do, and they are the ones that really count.

On the international trade side, again the evidence is there. Quebec handled over 24.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2010, serving markets all over the world.

The Government of Canada not only recognizes the importance of the Quebec Port Authority but it is committed to its success. It is also committed to the entire system of Canada Port Authorities.

The Canada Port Authorities was established in 1998 under the new Canada Marine Act. One of the purposes of this act is to, and I quote directly from the legislation, “promote the success of ports for the purpose of contributing to the competitiveness, growth and prosperity of the Canadian economy”. The key element here is the use of the plural, ports, not just one port. The act requires that we recognize the importance of all ports in the national port system together. Now the question is: are we doing that? Let me point out some of the initiatives and a few facts and figures that illustrate how we promote the success of all of our port authorities.

First, the federal government has provided targeted support for key infrastructure, environmental and security initiatives, through allowing Canada Port Authorities access to national funding programs. These programs include the gateways and border crossings fund, the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiative transportation infrastructure fund, the infrastructure stimulus fund, the freight technology demonstration fund, the marine shore power program and the marine security contribution program.

The ports applied for these programs and met the criteria for them. They applied on equal footing with each other and with other entities that applied. Between 2005 and 2011, ports received close to $380 million from the federal government. Quebec ports received over $140 million of that under these various programs. This funding was for important environmental sustainability projects and for improving security. It was also used for key upgrades to aging infrastructure and strategic investments for expansions in response to market demands.

It is important to note that while the government provided key support for these projects, the ports also had to contribute. Like any other business, they financed these projects through borrowings on the commercial market.

The key point to remember is that while the federal government provided funding, it also ensured that the ports continued to adhere to the basic tenets of the Canada Marine Act. These basic tenets are financial self-sufficiency, commercial discipline and responsiveness to its users in order to remain competitive in a global economy.

We have provided funding through tough economic times to assist our port authorities in positioning themselves strategically for the future.

We had to fight hard against the opposition parties, including the official opposition, who at the time was slightly less official, to help our corporate and industrial partners like the port of Quebec create jobs. If the port authority was so important for the NDP, it should have supported the actions by our Conservative government then. Sadly, the economy and job creation was not its top priority.

We support all of our port authorities. The port of Quebec, like all other port authorities, has demonstrated time and again that it has the experience and capacity to meet the challenges of the global marketplace and continues to offer competitive services to Canadian port users that rely on the port to move their goods.

The current legislative and policy framework for our national ports has proven to be sufficiently flexible to maintain the balance between commercial discipline and targeted initiatives that support the transportation system.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of rising in the House today to speak in support of motion M-271 on the Port of Québec. This motion was moved by the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou, and I would like to commend him on the excellent work he does for his constituents both in the House and in his riding.

Since I am a member of Parliament from the greater Quebec City region, this motion is particularly important to me. We all know the key role that the port plays in my region's economy, and it is very important to officially recognize that role in the House.

The motion asks the government for two main things. First, it asks that the government recognize the Port of Québec as a hub of international trade in opening new markets for Canadian business, creating jobs, generating significant economic benefits, particularly in terms of tourism, and ensuring the vitality of small and medium businesses in Quebec City and the surrounding areas.

Second, we want the government to formally support key projects for the upgrading of port assets and the development of equipment, taking into account, of course, the climatic and environmental challenges of this particular section of the St. Lawrence River.

The motion thus clearly states the key role that the port plays in Quebec City's economy. The people here are well aware of it. The Quebec City region is an important part of the marine and port infrastructure of both Quebec and Canada as a whole. The Port of Québec's facilities are among the largest in the country and it handles a very large amount of traffic.

The Port of Québec is unique in that the deep waters that surround it and its strategic location between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean allow it to accommodate different types of ships and provide a wide variety of services. Generally speaking, it is very competitive in the market. It is also the only deep-water port along the St. Lawrence with a multi-modal transportation system.

On average, the Port of Québec generates $3.6 million a year in profit and provides the region with $786 million in economic spinoffs. It also pays $163 million in taxes a year. The port generates a lot of revenue, and approximately 100,000 direct and indirect jobs are related to its activities.

Unfortunately, the Port of Québec's infrastructure is currently in disrepair and in urgent need of upgrades. The current facilities are exposed to particularly harsh weather conditions, a factor which helps explain the great need for investments in this port's infrastructure.

According to Mario Girard, president and CEO of the Quebec Port Authority, $150 million in investments would be needed to bring the port facilities up to standard. If the port infrastructure is not modernized soon, we run the risk of losing a number of contracts to U.S. ports, which would not benefit anyone here.

The problem is that the Port of Québec does not generate enough revenue to maintain its infrastructure and develop new infrastructure. The port does not have the means to finance the necessary work to remain competitive.

The marine sector is essential to the economy in many Canadian cities, a number of which are in my riding in fact. Despite this importance to our economy, the means for funding the marine sector are relatively limited. There is no real liquidity, businesses have a low borrowing capacity and there are no real subsidy programs specific to the ports.

In that context, it is excessively difficult, if not impossible for ports to proceed with the upgrades needed to maintain their current facilities and develop new infrastructure and modern equipment. Currently, the Port of Québec is operating at almost full capacity, which is far from a bad thing.

However, as I said, it is impossible for the port to invest in its own infrastructure to renew itself, which is going to greatly hinder its ability to seize all the business opportunities that open up on the domestic and international markets. To a government that is so concerned about the economy and that expects our businesses to be competitive, this situation should seem unacceptable to everyone.

To try to generate new revenues, the Port of Québec would like to make several major investments, including the construction of a deep water wharf in Beauport for liquid bulk, a new grain silo to be located in Pointe-à-Carcy, the modernization of solid bulk storage equipment and finally, updating the Louise Basin, a rather large basin in the Quebec City area.

These projects, which are very important to ensuring the long-term viability of the Port of Québec, would cost a total of around $250 million, much of which would be covered by private investments. That is important to emphasize. Entrepreneurs in the Quebec City region are prepared to invest in modernizing the port infrastructure. However, we cannot move forward on it without a clear commitment from this government, as called for by the motion before us here today.

I would like to share the comments of Marc Dulude, executive vice-president of IMTT Québec, a company specializing in liquid bulk. He said recently that the business community of Quebec City is prepared to contribute financially to the modernization of Quebec City's port facilities, but he also urged the government do its share.

This represents equitable cost sharing. I think everyone should contribute to this port facility, which is very important not only to the Province of Quebec, but to the entire country. Without government investments, our crumbling port infrastructure could continue to hinder commercial development, particularly that of the Atlantic gateway. Tourism, which is very important to Quebec, could also be negatively affected.

In 2011, the Port of Québec expected 20,000 fewer tourists than in 2010. In that context, the lack of federal investment in port infrastructure is very troubling, no matter what anyone says in this House. If the government insists on maintaining the status quo, the infrastructure will only continue to deteriorate.

For several months now, the NDP has been calling for more investment in Canada's infrastructure, since much of our aging infrastructure needs to be updated. We believe that investments in infrastructure must be at the heart of any strategy for Canada's economic recovery. Any projects to repair and update our infrastructure would create many new jobs, which could help maintain and develop Canada's economic vitality.

For that reason, the NDP wants to encourage the development and renewal of Quebec City's port facilities. I hope that the government is willing to work with us to that end. The government's support is vital to the completion of the work required to ensure the sustainability of the Port of Québec's infrastructure. However, I have some concerns. In various negotiations with local stakeholders, the government has not been very flexible. I hope that things will soon change. I mention this fact because, in my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, the municipality of Portneuf has been involved for more than two years in negotiations with Transport Canada on the future of the Portneuf wharf, the country's longest deep water wharf.

This facility is very important to the region because of its recreation and tourism activities and the revenue that the wharf will generate for Portneuf and the neighbouring municipalities. The town is trying to purchase the wharf to further develop the economy. If unable to gain ownership of the infrastructure, the town would be willing to accept government guarantees that the public would continue to have access to the wharf and that it would be renovated. Negotiations were broken off by Transport Canada because of the need for significant repairs to the wharf.

I hope that this situation will not have an impact on the current activities of the Port of Québec. We must invest more in our infrastructure and improve the economy of the region of Quebec City and all the neighbouring municipalities. I hope the government will support this motion.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to continue discussion on private member's Motion No. 271.

This motion, in brief, proposes that the federal government recognize the importance of the Quebec Port Authority and provide support for the various projects that are being proposed.

The member for Beauport—Limoilou tabled a motion that, in summary, calls on the federal government to recognize that the port of Quebec is important for international trade, creating jobs and generating economic benefits, particularly in the area of tourism. The motion also calls upon the federal government to support key projects at the port for the upgrading of port assets and the development of equipment.

Before I proceed into the heart of this important debate, let me first provide a brief history of the port of Quebec and say a few words on its importance.

The Quebec Port Authority, as it is officially referred to, is one of Canada's oldest ports, dating back several centuries. Even before the arrival of the French, the aboriginal peoples used this site for trading. When the city of Quebec was founded in 1608, the commercial role of the port was predominant as a result of the furs that accounted for 60% of the value of exports to France.

Since then, the port has gone through many changes over the years, but one thing never changed. The reason for the port's existence has always been to serve Canada's foreign trade. Today the port is part of a national network of Canada port authorities.

The Quebec Port Authority was established in 1999 under the new Canada Marine Act, which set up a new framework for Canada's national ports to operate under. Essentially this new framework provided the ports with more local authority for decision-making, and established a sound commercial footing for their operations, all with the objective of ensuring that port authorities remained efficient and responsive to their users. One of the aspects of this principle was that the costs were shifted from the taxpayer to the users, who would in turn decide on the services they were willing to pay for. This ensures that investment decisions are targeted and based on business principles.

Canada port authorities have prospered under this regime, and I have concrete evidence of this. Canada port authorities' operating revenues increased from $264 million in the year 2000 to $390 million in 2009. As another example, the aggregate net income of Canada port authorities increased from $30 million in 2000 to $64 million in 2009, an annual increase of 8.7%. Indeed, the Quebec Port Authority was part of that success: it grew from handling just over 17 million metric tonnes of cargo in 1990 to handling almost 25 million in 2010, with revenues of $25 million. In addition to cargo, the Port of Quebec is one of the top cruise ports. In fact, 2010 was its best year ever. The port welcomed more than 100,000 passengers and nearly 35,000 crew members.

What makes this port so attractive and successful? For one, the Port of Quebec has a natural deep water harbour. This competitive advantage allows the various areas of the port to welcome Panamax-sized vessels. A single cargo of up to 150,000 tonnes can thus be loaded or unloaded from the vessel. This means that shippers wishing to move goods through the port can enjoy the economies of scale available when goods are transported in large volumes. Indeed, the average size of cargo vessels throughout the world is constantly increasing. For this reason, deep water is one of the greatest advantages that a port like Quebec can offer its clients.

As a transshipment port, Quebec complements the diverse activities of other ports or industries located around the Great Lakes. Thus the Quebec Port Authority receives bulk cargo on lakers, which is then transshipped to deep draft ocean-going vessels and vice versa.

Another reason for the Port of Quebec's success is that it is fully intermodal. It provides direct access to the major rail systems and to a highway network leading directly to the major urban centres in the eastern United States and the Midwest.

Quebec Port Authority also enjoys a strategic advantage just by its location. Quebec is a gateway to the Great Lakes, being located approximately 1,400 kilometres from the Atlantic and only 250 kilometres from the Great Lakes. The port therefore provides a link between the industrial and agricultural centre of North America and the rest of the world. In fact, it provides the shortest route by sea between Europe and the Great Lakes market. This strategic location allows the port and the region to benefit in economic and commercial terms from the presence of these industries. Through its infrastructure and port services, the marine community enables the region to connect with some 60 or more countries that import or export goods originating in or destined for the Great Lakes basin.

The reason I am going on at length about the port is that it is relevant to the discussion. I am making the point that we do not need to have a motion to recognize the importance of the Quebec Port Authority, because all of tourists who visit there on a cruise, all of the people who benefit through economic spin-offs or through a job there, and all the importers and exporters who use the port to get their goods to market already know this.

In addition, the Government of Canada recognized the importance of the Quebec Port Authority in legislation when the port became a Canada port authority under the new Canada Marine Act in 1999. Under this legislation there are specific criteria spelled out that a port has to meet to be eligible to become a Canada port authority. One of those criteria is that the port must be of strategic significance to Canada's trade.

The Quebec Port Authority certainly meets those criteria. Members can see that just by its qualifying to be a Canada port authority and becoming one, the port is formally recognized as being of strategic importance to Canada's trade. As the member for Beauport—Limoilou said, it is of vital importance as a hub of international trade in opening new markets for Canadian business, creating jobs and generating significant economic benefits.

By supporting this motion the government could be seen as favouring one Canada port authority over all the other 16 port authorities located across the country. This was not and is not the intent of the Canada Marine Act, which established a system of national ports based on commercial principles of financial self-sufficiency, transparency and responsiveness to customers, those being the shippers, exporters, importers, terminal operators and the ocean carriers.

In addition, the ports can access national federal government programs in three key areas, including environmental sustainability, security and the capital cost infrastructure.

The ports have participated in these programs. Between 2005 and 2011, they secured approximately $300 million from the federal government through various funds: the Asia-Pacific gateway and the border crossings fund, the infrastructure stimulus fund, the Asia-Pacific gateway and corridor initiatives transportation infrastructure fund, the freight technology demonstration fund, the marine shore power program and the marine security contribution program. All ports were eligible to secure funding under these national programs as long as they met the same criteria that all others who applied had to meet. Quebec ports received over $70 million under these various programs. The Port of Quebec received $5.6 million.

In summary, the Port of Quebec is already recognized by its customers and by the federal government as being of strategic importance to trade and the economy. The Port of Quebec has received support for its projects through established national programs.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I just want to add a few words. In listening to the discussion on this particular motion, I felt it would be a good opportunity for me to talk about how important the Quebec port is.

I listened to the member talk about the need for the motion. I am very sympathetic to the need for the motion because there is a very important port in the province of Manitoba, the port of Churchill. When I think in terms of the government's commitment in trying to solicit and reinforce what is important to our economy, motions of this nature deserve to be debated and, ultimately, to be voted on. We try to find out where the government is on our important economic infrastructures. The member made reference to the historical perspective of the Quebec Port Authority. We understand and appreciate the phenomenal economic impact the port has on the entire province of Quebec and, in fact, all Canadians. I would not want to do anything to underemphasize just how important that port is.

I want to take this opportunity to plug the port of Churchill. It is of great concern for a lot of people in the province of Manitoba, especially now with the government's bill to kill the Canadian Wheat Board. The long-term impact that is going to have on the port of Churchill is going to be fairly profound. Ultimately, it could close down that port or, at the very least, prevent many shipments of our prairie merchandise or commodities in the future.

I would like to think that the government would look at our ports across the country. When there are motions of this nature, I would like the government to recognize the value of allowing members to express themselves. Here, it was in recognition of that particular port. The primary reason I stood was not only to recognize the value of the Quebec port. Given what has happened over the last number of months, many Manitobans and people outside the province of Manitoba have concerns regarding the future of the port of Churchill, which is critically important to Manitoba's economy.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Quebec City, I am pleased to speak to this debate on the motion this evening.

The founding of Quebec City, the oldest inhabited city in North America, owes it roots to its port. Before the arrival of the French in 1535, various first nations tribes used this site for bartering. Quebec City's port was a link between two continents and under the French it became the fulcrum for trade.

In 1666, thanks to Jean Talon, the first shipyards appeared in the region. Davie Shipbuilding is the inheritor of a long tradition of shipyards in the Quebec City area.

Port activities intensified considerably in the 19th century with the increased demand for wood to be shipped to England and with the massive influx of immigrants at the port. Between 1800 and 1850, some 30,000 immigrants made landfall at Quebec City each year, often in the harshest of conditions.

When the construction of wooden ships was at its height in Quebec City, between 1850 and 1869, some 2,000 ships were built there annually and almost 100 shipbuilders were located there, employing some 5,000 workers. At the end of the 19th century, competition from the railway and access for large trans-Atlantic ships to the Port of Montreal created new challenges for the Port of Québec. The 20th century saw the opening of the Anse-au-Foulon sector of the port, enabling the port to export manufactured goods, and the construction of the Beauport sector of the port, enabling the port to become a transshipment point for bulk cargoes destined for ports on the Great Lakes.

In 2002, the Quebec Port Authority opened its cruise ship terminal in the Pointe-à-Carcy sector. This new facility allows the area to benefit fully from significant changes and many economic spinoffs.

In 2008, for the fifth consecutive year, the Port of Québec broke a record for volumes handled, handling close to 27 million tonnes of cargo and receiving over 100,000 passengers. That is wonderful, but could it do even more?

In the House on December 6, the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans said:

The Canada Marine Act provides port authorities with a high level of autonomy and allows them to manage their infrastructure and services in a businesslike way that considers and reacts to their users' input and needs.

If I were to support the opposition motion, it could eventually compromise the system, and we would risk finding ourselves with the same problems we had before the Canada Marine Act was passed, namely, ineffective ports that are over capacity and dependent on government subsidies.

That statement by the member for Ottawa—Orléans reveals his and his government's complete failure to understand the Port of Québec's current situation. The Port of Québec has reached the limits of its operating capacity, generating profits that are small compared to its need for cash to finance improvements to facilities to make the most of new opportunities. Unfortunately, there are no programs to support the improvements the port authority would like to make. The port authority is merely managing day-to-day operations; it cannot think of the future.

Despite the fact that port activities are less central than in the 19th century, they still play an important role in the economy of the greater Quebec City region. What exactly does that mean?

We have heard these numbers before: 5,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region related to port activities; nearly $800 million in economic benefits; 20% of port facilities dedicated to recreational and tourist activities; over 100,000 cruise ship passengers; over 27 million tonnes of merchandise; and $160 million in taxes paid.

These numbers seem impressive, but it is important to note that there is no room for improvement given the current state of affairs unless the Port of Québec can modernize and upgrade its infrastructure. In a constantly changing world, those who do not move forward fall behind.

In other economic sectors, we have seen the disastrous effects of neglecting long-term infrastructure needs. Maintenance and upgrades done when needed always cost less than neglect followed by massive eleventh-hour investment. We have seen examples of this recently.

Given the circumstances, we must not bury our heads in the sand. We must immediately address the challenge posed by the changing nature of our ports, specifically the Port of Québec, the subject of this motion. This motion was moved because Quebec City was born as a seaport. Its geography and history are associated with the river, the water and all related activities.

Modern and forward-looking infrastructure is the cornerstone that will allow our domestic companies to make the most of the opportunities available. That is why, in my opinion, it is unthinkable to neglect the renewal of this type of infrastructure. The Port of Québec must be able to seize all opportunities. The future begins today.

We must also preserve the intermodal aspect of transporting people and goods by considering various factors such as costs, environmental protection, infrastructure preservation and the flexibility of transportation solutions. The Port of Québec contributes to this intermodal capacity.

Given that we live on a planet that is over 70% covered by water, in a country that is bordered by three oceans, and in a region where the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway allows access to a market of over 135 million consumers, we cannot neglect any of our assets, and the Port of Québec is one of them.

Economic players in the Quebec City region want the federal government to be proactive about existing projects, whether it be the construction of a deep-water wharf or a new grain elevator, the modernization of storage equipment or the redevelopment of the Louise Basin. That is why it is essential that the House recognize the importance of the contribution that the Port of Québec makes to the region's economic activity and that it support the port infrastructure renewal projects.

We are obviously talking about the Port of Québec here but when the NDP speaks on behalf of one person, activity or port, we speak on behalf of all. I therefore ask the House to support this motion.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his excellent speech.

Quebec City is Quebec City. Quebec City is different. We are located in Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Beauport—Limoilou is between these two ridings and is represented by my colleague, the member who moved this motion. The Port of Québec is different. The Port of Québec is different from the Port of New York. The Port of Québec is different from the Port of Marseille. The Port of Québec is different from the Port of Montreal. It is also different from the Port of Vancouver.

In fact, the Port of Québec is a model for other ports. To begin with, every year it awards the gold-headed cane to the first vessel that arrives there in the new year. Foreign vessels race to get there first. They are always proud to receive the famous gold-headed cane. This prestigious award for freighters already makes the port unique.

Also, the Port of Québec is different because it is a integrated model that is unmatched anywhere else. Let me explain. Of course, members will say that I love my city. Yes, I do love my city. I really love Quebec City. It is in my bones. I travel around the city and I enjoy it. However, the port is different because it is an integrated and sustainable model of development. In fact, it is different because of its economic focus: the port is a transport hub for grain, freight and goods. It is intermodal. Another economic focus is tourism, big cruise ships, for example. There are also a host of cultural activities that take place around the port, such as Robert Lepage's show of images projected on the silos and all the performances that take place in the square at the port, which is unlike anything else in the world. Sports-wise, there is biking, skating and sailing. All of this is integrated into infrastructure that looks entirely different to most ports. We do not just have boats, freight and grime. Our port is clean. Our port is developing, and doing so in a way that integrates with urban life.

It is an honour for me to rise in the House today in order to support the motion moved by my colleague, the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

As the proud elected representative of the riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, I can say that my colleague's motion concerns the quality of life of a large number of constituents I represent, and I intend to make their voice heard today through my remarks.

As stipulated in the wording of the motion, I am of the opinion that the government should recognize that the Port of Québec is of vital importance as a hub of international trade in opening new markets for Canadian business, creating jobs, generating significant economic benefits, particularly in terms of tourism, and ensuring the vitality of small and medium businesses in Quebec City and the surrounding areas.

The government should also support key projects for the upgrading of port assets and the development of equipment, taking into account the climatic and environmental challenges of this particular section of the Saint Lawrence River.

In order to understand how important this motion is to the constituents of the greater Quebec City region, it is important to describe the setting. The Port of Québec is the second-biggest port in Quebec after Montreal, and it receives over a quarter of the province's goods. This infrastructure makes Canada more competitive in terms of international trade and also greatly contributes to the region's prosperity.

The port infrastructure is increasingly outdated, however, and the revenue generated by the port's commercial activities falls well short of what is required to cover the substantial renovation and maintenance costs.

According to estimates by the CEO of the Port of Québec, approximately $400 million is required to carry out upgrades to the site that will maximize its effectiveness and meet current social and environmental standards.

If the situation is not rapidly addressed, this major problem may end up having a negative impact on Canada's trade.

Another worrisome fact worth mentioning is that, because of its letters patent, the port’s borrowing capacity is capped at $45 million.

In spite of its annual profits, the port is unable to raise the required money to carry out the upgrades because of the borrowing limit, and also because the federal government is offering no assistance.

The port, however, is not only about trade. Approximately 20% of the port’s facilities are geared towards tourism.

The tourist port of Quebec City welcomes thousands of tourists every year. Competition in the cruise liner vacation sector is very strong, and the infrastructure must be up to the best international standards. Quebec City also risks losing tourist traffic if money is not invested in its port. Already, only 80,000 cruise ship passengers visited the city this year, which amounts to a slight drop of 20,000 tourists compared to last year.

In addition to economic, tourism and social considerations, the environment must be taken into account. Indeed, our country's port facilities contain contaminated sites that absolutely must be dealt with to minimize the impact on our environment, while simultaneously developing the port. The Port of Québec is no exception, and it is our duty to provide safe and uncontaminated facilities for our workers and fellow Canadians.

For all these reasons, I believe that my colleague's motion is right on the mark. On the one hand, it recognizes the crucial role the Port of Québec plays as an economic springboard and the uniqueness of its facilities by virtue of its location and natural characteristics, such as its deep water. On the other hand, the motion calls on the government to back the development of the port by supporting upgrades that will guarantee sustained economic development in the region.

On another note, I would like to draw the House's attention to the economic benefits of an effective and modern port that meets the maritime sector’s international standards. Overall, approximately 5,000 direct and indirect jobs are tied to the activities of the Port of Québec. That amounted to approximately $800 million in economic spinoffs for the region and $163 million in taxes in 2010. Also of note is that the port pays annual fees of approximately $900,000 to the federal government.

Imagine, therefore, how many jobs could be created, taxes collected and fees paid if the port were renovated and if it increased its level of activity. Also worth considering is the number of jobs that would be created in the construction and renovation sector to carry out the work.

This government cannot claim that the current economic situation in Canada is optimal. Nor can it claim, when an economy is fragile, that the state should refrain from stepping in and that the laws of the market should rule the economy, because that is exactly what this government is doing with its economic recovery plan. It invested in infrastructure in order to create jobs. It certainly was not enough, but it did so nevertheless. Why not do the same thing for the Port of Québec? Why not support the motion that aims to make Canada's maritime sector even more competitive?

The NDP strongly believes that the development of Canada's key economic sectors is achieved through innovation and quality infrastructure. This enables companies to prosper and, in turn, gives Canadians access to the goods and services they want.

This can be achieved effectively without compromising our economy, our environment, and our quality of life in general. These investments are crucial in order to generate even greater economic spinoffs. It is simply a matter of looking at the options.

I therefore strongly encourage all of my colleagues to support the motion moved by the member for Beauport—Limoilou. The motion makes good sense and will help Quebec become a springboard for global economic development.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join with my colleagues from the province of Quebec and support the bill introduced by the member for Beauport—Limoilou. What is less pleasant is the fact that, once again, this debate is emblematic of this government's fundamental problem. The NDP is reacting to a situation that could become urgent in the very near future, and immediately, the Conservative government attacks us and hurls insults at us.

The Port of Québec needs financial assistance to modernize its infrastructure. It is the second largest port, after Montreal. I need not remind the hon. members that, historically, it is Canada's very first port. All of the ancestors of the people of Quebec arrived in New France through the Port of Québec. However, the past has nothing to do with what concerns us here today.

Indeed, it is more important that we look towards the future. Although the Port of Québec was once the only active port in the country, that is obviously no longer the case and, yes, the government does need to consider the needs of nearly 20 ports across the country. We understand that. However, the fact that the second largest port in the province cannot pay for its own renewal and that the federal government refuses to allow it any options is really unacceptable.

Now that we are seeking free trade with Europe, it is absolutely crucial that Quebec City have a modern, efficient port so it can enjoy all the benefits that will come from increased shipping trade.

During the first reading of this motion, the member for Nepean—Carleton accused the NDP, not unlike in the McCarthy era, of being a socialist party that wants to give millions of dollars to everyone. Promoting trade and regional development in a competitive, progressive spirit was not, as far as I know, very common behind the iron curtain. What was common, however, in countries forced to suffer communist tyranny was reckless, destructive industrial exploitation, prison sentences for every little thing and making a farce of democracy through the use of fraud. Does that sound vaguely familiar?

We were then told—in the same tone the government used when it blamed the Attawapiskat community for costing too much and not knowing how to manage itself—that the federal government had invested $1.8 million from the infrastructure stimulus fund.

The government is signing a free trade agreement with the European Union, knowing full well that Canada does not have much to gain. Furthermore, it is refusing to develop Quebec's port facilities. What a farce. But the government is obsessed with civility and European civilization. Civility is a rare commodity in the Reform Party, where good manners make an impression and trump common sense.

How many ports does the European Union have? The list includes Rotterdam, Hamburg, Riga, Gdansk, Piraeus, Barcelona, perhaps even Kiev and Istanbul. Do you believe that Brussels provides only $1.8 million dollars for its ports without worrying about the future? I doubt it. As I have said before, Europe is more competitive than Canada.

If a concerted and effective plan were put forward, we can imagine the golden opportunities that could result from this free trade agreement. Europe is a huge market, and the Quebec City region, with its modern and adapted infrastructure, would immediately benefit from such an opportunity. The people in Quebec City and on the shore opposite need no business lessons. But where are Quebec's Conservative members to defend the business acumen of the people of Lévis and Beauce? If nothing is done for the Port of Québec, it will quickly fall into disrepair and shipping trade will move to Montreal. The port in Quebec's capital city is not important enough in the eyes of the government. What does this mean?

In closing, modernizing the Port of Québec would have incredible benefits, from a number of perspectives, for the region's economic development. The NDP does not understand why the Conservative government is so disinterested in Quebec's prosperity. For that reason, we invite all our colleagues to support the motion of the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government gives us “words, words and more words”. I am beginning my response with lyrics from a French song sung by the late Dalida because, frankly, how can the Conservative government claim to recognize the strategic importance of the Port of Québec without taking any tangible action at all?

Oh yes. I forgot. It did agree to grant $1.8 million from the infrastructure stimulus fund for sufficient pump capacity in case of fire. But we are talking here about regular maintenance. The government has nothing to brag about. Installing this infrastructure was the very least the government could do to support the Port of Québec. To come back to Dalida, all the government offers is “words, words, words”.

It is all well and good to have legislation that recognizes the importance of a basic piece of infrastructure for our country, but if the infrastructure is merely mentioned in the legislation and no resources are allocated to it, we cannot achieve results. Given the trust the people in the Quebec City region have placed in me as an elected member of Parliament, I refuse to work for nothing and insist that tangible improvements be made to the Port of Québec, which has enormous needs. Although part of the port may be protected against fire, the wharves are crumbling. If the port were a house, the windows would be leaking and the doors would no longer close. As with the Prime Minister's residence, the Conservatives prefer to neglect the issue and spend all their time talking. On our side, we are proposing tangible support for this important piece of infrastructure.

I am against the approach the government proposed, saying that the players have to get involved. While in Canada we are seriously neglecting support, maintenance and development of our fundamental infrastructure, other countries in the world like Brazil, China or even the United States, which are dealing with much bigger economic problems than we are, are investing massively in infrastructure. They do not look at the costs of developing and maintaining basic infrastructure, such as ports, as a burden. They look at them as an investment in the future, a legacy to be left to the people around us, to our children and our grandchildren.

The Port of Québec has been a typical port in the Ontario-Quebec continental gateway for decades. It has been neglected and abandoned. How can we continue to tolerate this?

Given the current government's high-handed attitude toward those who come looking for handouts, it is embarrassing to think that the Port of Québec will likely not be able to handle the new influx of goods under the projected Canada-Europe free trade agreement. As an elected representative of the Quebec City region, that is something I refuse to accept.

It is truly a shame to see Canada in general miss the boat when it comes to the infrastructure upgrades needed to position our country in the community of nations after years of negligence. It is not just this government during its six-year mandate, but also previous governments that thought it was good management to cut budgets and leave the problems to future generations.

On May 2, 2011, the Quebec City region did not accept words without action. The Quebec City region will continue to reject empty words.

I hope I have managed to get the members opposite to listen to reason. I hope they were listening. I presume so, because I have a lot of respect for them, just as I do for all the people in my riding.

I invite all hon. members of this House to do something practical and exemplary for the country and all of its ports.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 7:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired. Accordingly, the question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Port of QuébecPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 7, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

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