House of Commons Hansard #291 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.

Topics

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise tonight at adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked. I am really pleased to bring it up when not too much time has passed since the question was raised. It was toward the end of March this year, when we were seeing Prairie grain shipments almost at a standstill when the shippers, CN and CP, were unable to bring forward enough railcars to move the grain. It was of crisis proportions, but it was not the first time this had happened.

I will briefly review the question I asked, which was to point out that millions of tons of grain were stuck on Prairie farms and in grain elevators. However, it was connected to a problem we were also experiencing on the coast of British Columbia, where freighters and container ships waiting to pick up that grain in the port of Vancouver were backed up and using the waters of the Salish Sea essentially as a free parking lot. The port of Vancouver was backed up, so as the container ships were waiting to go in and out of the port of Vancouver, which could each have three and four different containers within them, they would go back to collect grain and then go back to sit off Plumper Sound in the Salish Sea in my riding waiting to know if the grain had been delivered.

The knock-on effects of poor service by CN and CP are real pain and economic trouble for the Prairie grain farmers, an inefficient port of Vancouver, and a significant cost in quality of life to people living in Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith, where these container ships were sitting off of Gabriola Island.

Members will be surprised to know that these anchorages for container ships off Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith are available legally, but in that sense are largely unregulated, and there are no fees paid for sitting in the waters off Ganges, Plumper Sound, or Pender Island.

These enormous factory ships often have lights on through the night. I have talked to constituents who said that after they turn off all the lights in their house, they can still read a book because of the lights from the ships stuck there waiting.

It is a real cost in quality of life that we do not have an efficient rail service to deliver grain on time. It costs money to the shippers, the farmers, and those buying the grain. There needs to be a whole-of-government approach. A the t least, Transport Canada needs to start figuring out how we make sure we move goods quickly and effectively. Perhaps through a computerized system, the port of Vancouver could tell the grain farmers when to move the grain.

By the way, we used to have a better system when we had the Wheat Board. The Wheat Board did a better job in synchronizing shipments, and this problem did not come up. However, we had a crisis in 2014. On Vancouver Island, we were two days away from livestock operations not being able to get any feed because none of the mills that process the grain into livestock feed had any grain. The farmers had to band together and hire trucks. Again it was a big cost and poor service.

I know that Bill C-49, which we just voted on in the House, would help. There would be penalties for the shippers. From 1918 until 1995, this railway was a crown corporation, and it worked much better. What do we do to get goods moving in this country? Do we need to make it a crown corporation again?

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, our government understands the challenges faced by our farmers every day. We are committed to ensuring that they have access to freight rail systems that effectively move their goods to market. That is why we introduced Bill C- 49, the transportation modernization act, which would put in place the right conditions, over the long term, for a safe, efficient, effective, and transparent freight rail system, which would benefit all rail users right across the country.

We are delighted that this bill, which both the member opposite and I voted for today, would provide robust, long-term solutions for many of the challenges facing our freight rail transportation system and its users. It would provide for enhanced accountability through reciprocal financial penalties between shippers and railways. It would improve transparency through increased reporting from railways, and it would provide captive shippers with a way of accessing an alternate rail carrier through long-haul interswitching. It would encourage investments in hopper cars through changes to the maximum revenue entitlement process, which would be retained for the benefit of the grain sector. In short, it would help avoid the kind of situation we are witnessing now. It would also provide the Canadian Transportation Agency with the powers it needs to investigate systemic issues of its own motion.

We understand that rail service this year has not lived up to expectations, both for grain and other commodities. That is why our government continues to work with railways to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to improve service and to move grain and other commodities to market. Railways have provided us with their plans for relieving the backlog, and we will continue to keep a watchful eye on their performance to ensure that these plans have the desired effect.

What our government has not done is introduce a short-term approach, like minimum grain volume requirements, which could risk negative consequences for farmers, grain shippers, and shippers of other commodities. Minimum grain volumes could result in preferential treatment of some corridors, even within the grain sector. As a result, they are not a silver bullet. Their benefits are not felt evenly, and they can have real implications for shippers in the grain sector and for other commodities.

As to the particular question the member opposite raised about nationalizing the rail system, I am pretty certain that this is not in our government's forecast in terms of potential legislation that may be introduced. However, I will note that in the city I come from, one of the greatest inhibitors of stronger passenger rail movement is the conflict between rail that is carrying cargo and passenger movement, in particular commuters in the GTA.

There is a missing segment of the rail lines between Sudbury and Ottawa and down towards the east coast, which was given away and abandoned by rail companies. If used properly, it could reroute some of that cargo and free up rail capacity for commuters, which would take cars off the road. Switching away from cargo on the rail and getting passengers is one priority, but the other option is to make sure that other commodities that can move by different methods do not plug up the rail system as well.

Therefore, realigning, reassessing, and recommitting ourselves to a long-term rail strategy in this country is one of our government's priorities. The member can see that in budget 2018, with the significant investment we have made in modernizing VIA to get it back into a position where it can start to grow its customer base and move people more effectively, and in environmentally clever ways, so that we can make our strategic investments in infrastructure and also reduce greenhouse gases.

As for grain, I am glad that the bill has come through the vote today. It is progress. We continue to move forward to make sure that grain shippers get the service they need from this government.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree with the member's comments on passenger rail. It used to be the case that the U.S. had the same conflict. Passenger rail could never arrive anywhere on time, because it had to rent the track from freight, and freight controls the traffic lights. However, I recently took the train from Seattle to San Francisco. It was a 24-hour trip, and it arrived spot on time. They have renegotiated. With government leadership, they got freight to yield to passenger rail. I like the thinking I am hearing from the parliamentary secretary, and I hope we can move on that.

I do want to flag a concern I have. CP right now has put forward an unacceptable offer. Teamsters are voting right now. May 23 is what they are calling judgment day. I am sure that the Minister of Transport is paying close attention.

I will be very blunt. I do not trust these guys, CN and CP. I do trust our workers. We need more workers and more rail cars so that we can get goods delivered on time.

Rail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

May 3rd, 2018 / 6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the concerns we have in the city I represent, in part of the riding that used to be part of the area of Toronto I represented until redistribution, is the Dupont rail corridor that goes through midtown Toronto. It would be an excellent service for commuter rail. The challenge is that it is the main freight rail as it moves through the most dense part of the City of Toronto.

Those who followed the Lac Mégantic situation and saw the resources moved by rail through that Quebec town, to great disaster, will know that only a few hours earlier, it came through midtown Toronto. If the derailment that happened at Lac Mégantic had happened close to downtown Toronto, as the Mississauga derailment did almost a generation ago, the death toll would have been off the charts. This is one of the reasons we need to move volatile substances off rail cargo, out of residential areas, and find a rerouting of that system. Perhaps even a pipeline may be one of the alternatives.

However, the reality is that what we actually need is a rethinking of the rail system to accommodate people and to accommodate the environmental outputs that are possible. In the city of Toronto, that means rethinking how cargo moves through Toronto.

EmploymentRail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, on January 29, 2018, I asked a question about the summer jobs program and the personal values test that, in my view and that of many organizations, is inconsistent with our rights and freedoms. I have asked this question repeatedly but, as usual, remain without answers, so I will ask it again.

After I asked the question, some ministers acknowledged that it probably did go too far, but they did nothing about it. They did not scrap the values test. Now that the Canada summer jobs program is over, it seems that some organizations that did not agree to the values test have had their funding cut.

I was very surprised because this has never happened in Quebec. Everyone knows that people in Quebec are pretty open about a lot of things, but the more time passes, the more people are realizing that the government opposite is becoming opaque and forcing people to think like they do. I think that is wrongheaded. We have the right to believe in whatever we like. In Canada, we have the freedom to choose what we want in life. We have the freedom to be who we are. We have the freedom to practice whatever religion we want. We have those freedoms and we want to keep them.

I think it makes no sense for the government opposite to impose a mandatory values test despite the fact that it conflicts with some people's way of thinking. That violates the rights and freedoms of people in Quebec and Canada. I can speak on behalf of my province because I am a Quebecker, and people who know me know I am a “live and let live” kind of person.

I have no business inside people's heads, trying to make them think like me. That is what the government opposite is doing with its values test. Sooner or later, that has to stop. We have called on the government several times to remove this values test. The government acknowledged that things might have gone too far. Now I would like to know why it is forcing Canadians and Quebeckers to think like it does.

EmploymentRail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address a very important issue, which is the new eligibility criteria for the Canada summer jobs program.

Our government knows that a strong middle class and a growing economy depend on young Canadians getting the skills and work experience they need to succeed. That is why this government doubled the Canada summer jobs program compared to the previous Conservative government, which was actually in the process of trying to eliminate it when it had to be rescued.

The program creates meaningful, paid work for almost 70,000 students, and those students will still get the work they need this year as a result of strong investments in our previous budgets.

However, I find it very disappointing that members of the opposition are spending so much time spreading misinformation about what has happened. I will be very happy to set the record straight.

First, the attestation, as outlined in the application guidelines, concerns both the job and the core mandate of the organization. What do we mean by core mandate? We mean the primary activities undertaken by the organization that reflect the organization's ongoing services provided to the community. It is not the beliefs of the organization and it is not the values of the organization that are being tested.

I would like to point out that applicants have always been required to outline their organization's mandate, roles, and responsibility of the job to be funded. This is not a new requirement. What is new this year is that applicants have to attest that both the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada.

What do we mean by respect for those rights? We mean the respect of individual people, including the rights of women and LGBTQ2 Canadians. That is to say that these rights are respected when an organization's primary activities, and the job responsibilities, do not seek to remove or actively undermine these existing rights.

By including this requirement, we want to prevent federal funding from flowing to organizations whose mandates or projects do not respect individual human rights, and do not respect the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is as simple as that.

Our government has a responsibility to ensure that its policies, programs, and budgets respect and protect human rights. I want to make it clear, as per previous years, that churches and religious organizations as well as faith-based organizations were encouraged, welcomed and eligible to apply for CSJ funding. I want to confirm that in my riding many did.

The Liberal members have helped hundreds and hundreds of faith-based organizations receive the funding they need to support students this year and do the good work they do in our communities.

The attestation introduced to the Canada summer jobs program does not represent any infringement on the freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy. It does not require any individual employee in any organization to change his or her beliefs in order to qualify.

The attestation is designed to ensure that federal funding is not used to create jobs that discriminate and undermine people's human rights. We do not want groups, like the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, using federal funding to put kids to work distributing disturbing and awful graphic flyers of aborted fetuses. This was done in my riding. It was horrible and we had to explain to people that their tax dollars were used to scare children. It is unacceptable let alone the impact it may have on some of the students working in these programs. That is what we sought to end. That is what we did effectively end.

We are proud to stand against all forms of discrimination in our country because Canadians deserve a life of equality, dignity and respect.

Human rights are an important part of the social fabric of Canadian society. This government does not abandon that.

EmploymentRail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, what hypocrisy. That is the only word that comes to mind. It is pure, unadulterated hypocrisy. Even the ministers said that things had gone too far. We did not make that up. It was in all the papers. The Liberals failed to tell it like it is.

The government claims to respect rights and freedoms when granting funds, but that is completely false. This was evidenced as recently as last week. The Liberals gave money to people who are working against the Trans Mountain pipeline, a project that their government supposedly supports. That is complete and utter hypocrisy.

Rights and freedoms apply to everyone. I have the right to disagree with the Liberals, and that is a good thing. People have the right to disagree with the Conservatives, and that is a good thing too. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but the Liberals do not have the right to make threats and prevent young people from working.

EmploymentRail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Adam Vaughan Liberal Spadina—Fort York, ON

Madam Speaker, the member opposite is free to hold her rights and speak about her rights, but what she is not entitled to do is demand government money to campaign to change other people's rights. That is what the attestation is focused on.

If an organization would put its personal beliefs in the way of a kid getting a summer job and its primary goal is to push those beliefs onto other people's lives rather than simply to employ people, the organization is missing the purpose of the program. This program is designed to employ young people and help them pay for school. That is what it is all about. It is not a program that entitles organizations to get tax dollars to fight people's rights and campaign against them.

On the issue of Kinder Morgan, there is an organization that for years, under the previous member of Parliament, was getting money to fight pipelines and fight the environment, with Conservative consent. They had no problem funding Leadnow, which is running a campaign right now against Kinder Morgan. That was a Conservative policy. I was subjected to it. I tried to stop it, but unfortunately—

EmploymentRail TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The time allotted for this is done.

The motion that the House do now adjourn is 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 6:34 p.m.)