Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to participate in the debate on this important issue. In order to truly come to grips with the issue before us, an important question relating to the taxation of the Canadian Pacific Railway, I think it is important to take a moment to reflect on the evolving relationship between Canada and the Canadian Pacific.
Canadian Pacific, or CP for short, and this great country share much history, but in addition to our past, we also share a present and a future, for CP is and will continue to be, as we have heard, an important part of the Canadian economy as we continue to grow our economy for the benefit of all Canadians.
Let me say, I have my own personal history with Canadian Pacific. My grandfather, an immigrant from Scotland, worked by day in the CP Rail Weston shops in Winnipeg for over 40 years and by night was the icemaker and manager of the CP Rail Curling Club on William Avenue, where I grew up, and which subsequently became the Victoria Curling Club,.
The Canadian Pacific Railway originated in the years following Confederation when Canada's leaders saw the need to connect the vast territories that make up what we now know as Canada, as it became Canada's first transcontinental railway. I am certainly aware of the painful colonial history associated with those times, but that is for another speech.
Of course, since those early days, CP's network has continued to expand, along with its role and support of the Canadian economy. Through the years, though it was primarily a freight railway, CP was for decades the only practical means of long-distance passenger transport in most regions of Canada. Its passenger services were eliminated shortly after being assumed by Via Rail Canada in 1978.
Today, CP operates one of Canada's two national rail networks, owns over 13,000 kilometres of track in Canada in seven provinces of Canada, stretching from Montreal to Vancouver, and in 2019 had over $5.8 billion in revenues in Canada. CP plays a crucial role in the Canadian freight rail network that moved over 324 million tonnes of goods in 2020. It is through this rail network that CP has been able to situate itself as a key pillar of Canada's economy and facilitator of Canada's trade agenda. Whether it is moving bulk commodities like Canadian grain, potash or coal; inputs like lumber, steel or chemicals; or intermodal containers packed with the consumer goods we all take for granted, there is no doubting CP's significance both historically and in the present day.
However, it is not just a railway. The employees are hard-working members of communities across this country and CP, itself, makes important contributions to those same communities. Whether it is through its charitable contributions or its annual holiday train, we know that CP's contributions to Canada go beyond simply moving rail traffic.
Just recently, following the devastating flooding in British Columbia, we saw the commitment and co-operation of both CP and CN in working to find solutions to support local communities while also working 24-7 to restore rail service and get supply chains moving again in incredibly difficult circumstances.
Any relationship is bound to have its ups and downs, let alone one that has lasted over 140 years. Certainly the relationship between the Government of Canada and CP has had its share of difficulties, and we do not always see eye to eye, as a number of speakers have mentioned. That is healthy and indeed necessary. The federal government today has a crucial role to play in regulating Canada's railways to ensure they operate safely and effectively in a manner that respects our communities and our environment while also effectively supporting our economy.
This is a significant responsibility and one that our government takes very seriously. As we contemplate the proposed constitutional amendment put forward unanimously by Saskatchewan's legislature, we must not dwell on the past but instead consider what is in the best interests of Canadians moving forward.
We are not being asked to debate whether the significant government investments and tax concessions to support the establishment of Canada's first transcontinental railway were necessary and appropriate at the time. Instead, the question before us is whether these considerations are in the public interest now, in the year 2022.
Should a railway company with billions of dollars in annual revenues be exempt from certain taxes, even while its competitors and countless other businesses of much more modest means pay such taxes every year? Is it fair to deprive Saskatchewan of essential tax revenue necessary for the provision of services, thereby shifting additional tax burden onto the people of Saskatchewan? Is this what the legislators at the time imagined when they granted those exemptions 140 years ago? Could they ever have imagined that the CP Railway would one day be earning billions of dollars a year in Canada alone, let alone its earnings from its network in the United States? Those are the questions we must all ponder as we determine how to move forward on this important issue.
While it is true that the agreement reached in 1880 between Canada and CP included a provision, generally known as clause 16, that exempted CP from certain federal, provincial and municipal taxes along its western main line, the fact is that in 1966 the federal government reached an agreement with CP in which the company would begin paying taxes and agreed to forgo its clause 16 exemption as part of the modernization of transportation legislation. However, the Constitution was not amended to reflect this, in part because it had not been patriated at that time. As such, the tax exemption was never formally terminated and is, in effect, an outdated relic of a past arrangement.
Ultimately, as parliamentarians we will collectively decide whether this exemption remains in the public interest, but whatever we decide does not diminish the importance of CP Rail to Canada's past, present and future. It remains an important part of our history, plays a crucial role in Canada's economy and is a valued member of and contributor to communities across this great country.