Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today on Bill C-49, the transportation modernization bill.
First I would point out that this is another omnibus bill. There are things in here about rail and air traffic safety, and all kinds of different things. This was the government that said it was not going to do omnibus bills. I want to point out that this is another broken promise.
I will spend some of my time talking about rail, and then I will move on to air traffic. As members may know, I am the co-chair for the parliamentary rail caucus. In that role, I interface with associations that work in the railway industry, and I had had an opportunity last week to meet. Of course, rail safety is always a topic of conversation.
The conversation went like this. In terms of rail safety, I asked about their biggest concerns right now. Their biggest concern was not any of the things in this bill. They asked how the government could be talking about transportation modernization when it is legalizing marijuana. It recognizes that it is dangerous for people to drive a vehicle when they are impaired by drugs, so the government has allowed a bill that brings forward mandatory and random testing for car driving. However, people are driving trains, and that is an even bigger hazard, but workplace employers are not allowed to do that kind of mandatory and random testing. That was the concern that they brought forward as being a big deal in rail safety. I would encourage the government to address that concern.
I will speak to some of the things in this bill that are concerning. First, we have heard some conversation today about locomotive voice and video recorders. I know that the Teamsters and Unifor are quite concerned. I am concerned myself. I heard the last member who delivered a speech say that these things would not be used for disciplinary action, and then went on to say that if it were an egregious enough thing, then perhaps that would be the right thing to do. Obviously there is potential for it to be used in that way. I know that the Privacy Commissioner has raised a number of concerns. None of those things appears to be addressed in the bill.
We keep hearing that it will be in the regulations. We have not seen the regulations. It seems that there are a lot of vague, unclear, undefined parts to this bill, which we are supposed to trust that the regulation will address. I am not sure that will happen.
In my own riding of Sarnia—Lambton, we have a number of rail safety concerns that I do not see addressed in this bill. The Minister of Transport had decided that people needed to upgrade the rail crossings, for example. That takes a lot of money. I have one rural part of my riding that has eight rail crossings and 2,300 people. To fix those eight rail crossings to the new standard would be upwards of $5 million, and the 2,300 people are not going to be able to come up with that money.
With the Liberals being so far behind on their infrastructure spending, if they really wanted to modernize and cared about rail safety, I would have imagined they would be spending a lot of money updating the rail crossings across the country. We know that is a place where huge money needs to be spent. Another opportunity that was missed would be to do the high performance rail we have been talking about between Quebec and Windsor. There is zero money in the budget for that. While there is a lot of ideology in this bill, there is no follow-up action in terms of the infrastructure spending.
I would like to talk about one other thing. I have CF Industries in my riding. This is a company that makes fertilizer. I am aware that Fertilizer Canada appeared at committee to testify about this bill and to express their concerns. There is a long-standing principle in the rail business called the “common carrier principle”. It is a principle that shipping companies cannot discriminate or refuse service on the basis of the type of good. One of the things that is used to make fertilizer is ammonia. In the history of the rail industry, they have not had any incidents with ammonia. However, because this bill is bringing exclusions that would impact the fertilizer industry, that will drive them to change to a different mode of transportation, such as trucks, which would mean four times as many vehicles travelling, with a higher incident rate of collision. That actually increases the risk to the public rather than reducing the risk to the public. Again, although the bill is supposed to be about bringing more rail safety, in fact it is doing the opposite.
Fertilizer Canada has asked specially for proposed subsection 129(3) and section 136.9 to be altered so that it is not discriminating against the fertilizer industry, which is 12% of the supply that we use here in Canada and also 80% exported to other countries. It is a big contributor to the trade surplus, $4.5 billion. We ship our fertilizer to 70 countries around the world, and this update to the rail rules will negatively impact that business and increase costs to farmers in Canada. That would be a concern for me as well.
In terms of some of the air traffic changes in the bill, the air passenger rights regime, I have spent about 30 or 35 years travelling around the world, so I have certainly experienced all the outrageous things that can happen to passengers, including delays, cancellations, lost or damaged baggage. I had a flight recently on an airline that was not Canadian, I am happy to say, but my bag arrived with the corner torn right off and I had to replace the luggage myself. There was no compensation for me on that one.
I am not sure that this, although well intentioned, will be able to be easily implemented. For every claim for compensation, it has to be determined whether it was the airline's fault, the government agency's fault, the fault of the weather. That is a huge administrative burden, and that usually means increased costs. Those increased costs typically get passed on to the people who are buying the airline ticket. I have a concern that some of the provisions, although well intentioned, will result in higher airplane ticket fares. We already have some of the highest fares in the world. If I think about flying to Ottawa from Sarnia, it is nearly $1,000. I can fly to Florida out of Detroit for about $200 or $300 Canadian. We are already paying huge fees, and I do not see that the bill is going to address that in any way. I am concerned that the prices will go up.
I have a concern about the foreign ownership increase to 49%. I am concerned with all the changes that the government has introduced, the infrastructure bank, for example, where Liberals want to sell the eight major airports to foreign investors. There is something to be said for national security, for owning and controlling our own assets like airports that are so critical to the country, so I am not a fan of that at all.
The consumer groups and passengers who have been looking for a passenger bill of rights are not happy. The feedback is that they do not think the bill addresses their concerns. It fell short on that as well. In addition, I am a little concerned about the joint ventures phraseology in the bill. Basically, it is taking the authority away from the competition bureaus and giving that authority to approve joint ventures to the Minister of Transport. We have seen the government time and again go without parliamentary oversight, so, for that reason, I am not a fan of that section.
The bill falls short in many different ways. The Liberals need to take their time and go back to the drawing board on this one.