Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Red Deer—Mountain View.
Bill C-49 has a number of legislative gaps.
This bill is simply an omnibus bill. It is a whole bunch of random ideas tossed together to make one large omnibus bill.
Obviously, the transport minister looked around his department and asked if anyone had anything he or she wanted passed in legislation. He took a list of requests, put them in this bill, and that is what we have. Besides having some loose connections to transportation, there is little common among the items in this bill.
One component of the bill outlines a passenger bill of rights, but there is nothing concrete, no details outlined in the bill, that truly protects passengers. The reception of this bill by passenger rights advocates has been the political equivalent of standing for three hours on the tarmac on a hot summer's day. It is really terrible. That is because the Liberal government is proposing a passenger bill of rights that fails to actually do much for passengers. However, the one thing it would do is allow the Minister of Transport and the Canadian Transportation Agency to set monetary compensation for passengers on their own, with no oversight, yet again another constant theme of the Liberal government.
We all know that the last thing Canadians want is the Liberals having an easier time spending tax dollars. Along those lines, there is more.
The Liberals have also suggested possible increases to the cost of airport security charges.
The Liberals also opened the door to possible increases in security service fees at airports. To top it all off, the minister also gave himself the power to approve or reject risk ventures between airlines, which could diminish the role of the Competition Bureau, which is independent and non partisan.
This is yet another scenario under which the Liberal government has placed more power in the hands of the minister and less power and control in the hands of Canadians, where it rightfully belongs.
Not to be outdone by other omnibus bills, the government has also decided to tackle the issue of grain shipping by rail. I am certain prairie producers, just like those in the riding of the member for Brandon—Souris and other members who represent grain farmers, were delighted when they heard the Liberals would tackle this grain shipping issue. As part of the previous Conservative government that supported the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, greater opportunities were provided for grain farmers. The Liberals are not focused on that.
What have the Liberals done? They have proposed major changes to shipping policies that were introduced by a former great minister of agriculture and member of the House, the Hon. Gerry Ritz, and the very capable minister of transport at that time, the member for Milton. By changing the interswitch rate, the Liberal government will make it more difficult for shippers and farmers. We will also see an increased use by American railroads without reciprocal rights for Canadians. Again, I am not sure what the logic of that is. Last I checked, the Canadian government should be putting Canadians first.
One hopes this is not the Liberal negotiating strategy for NAFTA, literally giving the farm away. The Liberals could and should keep the Conservative policies in place, policies that were designed by people who actually have experience in this area and who are working, or have worked, with grain farmers. Instead, they have chosen to side with the industry, making life far more difficult for shippers and farmers.
Another part of this omnibus bill, and, as I said, this is just a laundry list of things, is a proposal for the railways to have locomotive voice and video recorders. This has already been mentioned in the House today. I believe this initiative is designed to help prevent further rail accidents, but, again, this is another item that has been added to the list and the legislation has not been thoroughly thought out.
There is not a person in the chamber who does not want to improve rail safety. We want our railways to be as safe as possible. As a former minister of labour, I understand the call for locomotive voice and video recorders, the LVVR, to be installed, but I do not think this legislation has been thoroughly thought through.
First, Transport Canada just launched a review of the Railway Safety Act in May. Why would we not wait until that review comes back before moving forward?
Further, the public has not seen the analysis of the privacy aspect of this initiative. Regulations mandate that airline cockpit voice recorders keep only a record of the last two hours of a flight. Thus far, all we have heard is that an entire transport trip would be recorded with respect to rail. The minister needs to clarify this, and fairness is important. As I have mentioned before, details are important, and the details of this legislation simply do not exist.
There have also been concerns raised about the use of this data. The legislation states that it would only be used for Transportation Safety Board accident investigations and for rail corporations to inform their safety management systems. However, there are concerns that there would be no limit on LVVR usage in the legislation and that the rail industry would use it for employee discipline beyond the intended purpose. This initiative clearly needs to be better thought out, and quite frankly, clarified. Workers need to know what is happening, and the rail industry needs to understand as well.
If all these loose ends do not demonstrate the weakness of, and the concerns about, this omnibus bill, I have decided to save the best for last. In one of the two marine-related clauses, the minister is proposing to amend the Canada Marine Act to allow port authorities and their wholly owned subsidiaries to receive loans and loan guarantees from the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
As members know, I have some strong views on this bank. First of all, it seems like just another classic example of an ill-thought-out component of the Liberal omnibus bill. Despite calls from every party and every sector in Canada to separate the Canada Infrastructure Bank from omnibus Bill C-44, the Liberals ignored everyone and rushed ahead with this flawed initiative. Even the bible of the Liberal elites, the Toronto Star, demanded further parliamentary review. This $35-billion slush fund, as the Star says, “should not be railroaded through Parliament as a mere footnote in a 300-page omnibus budget implementation bill”.
The only people in Canada who seemed to have been in a rush for this infrastructure bank to be created and the legislation passed were those who use their connections with the Liberal Party to make a few more dollars. The infrastructure bank has been a boondoggle from day one. The budget in 2017 revealed that $1 billion of lapsed infrastructure funding from 2016 will not be reallocated until fiscal year 2022-23. If that is not bad enough, we learned that $15 billion will be taken away from community infrastructure projects to finance the infrastructure bank.
Municipal leaders in my riding and others across the country, particularly in small communities like my own, are wondering why they never seem to benefit from the Liberal government. I wonder if part of it is that the Minister of Transport comes from a large urban area, and the Minister of Infrastructure comes from a large urban area, and they just do not seem to understand that small communities like Collingwood or Alliston, or others across the country, actually need help as well. Small municipalities may never benefit from the infrastructure bank, because even if they scraped together all the money for a large proposal, they would be competing for the minister's approval. While folks like the Minister of Infrastructure and the transport minister live in large cities, small-town Canada actually has no place in the Liberal infrastructure plan.
If the clear favouritism toward big cities over the rest by the Liberals is not clear enough, the governance of the infrastructure bank is so vague and open-ended that we can see a governance scandal on the horizon. I will start with the mandate of the bank. What mandate? There does not seem to be a clear one. The mandate of the Canada Infrastructure Bank is so vague that we are not sure what it is actually supposed to target, and there is no policy directing the bank's investments thus far.
There are also no criteria to determine whether the bank has made investments that benefit Canadians, or whether it has been a huge waste of money and resources.
It will certainly be the latter, as the bank duplicates the work of the P3 Canada fund, which is a completely independent crown corporation.
Alarm bells have also been rung about the bank and its potential for political interference, and there is good reason for this. Final sign-off on the project will be in the hands of the minister, and we know that this is a flawed initiative.
We have learned that foreign companies are able to apply for it. Let us say that a Chinese donor to the Liberal Party applies to the bank and receives $100 million as a loan, and the project goes bust. Who is on the tab for that? It is Canadian taxpayers, people in my riding and yours, Madam Speaker.
Like Bill C-44, Bill C-49 is an example of a poorly thought-out omnibus bill. It would do little to improve transportation.
I will be opposing this legislation, as will my colleagues on this side of the House.