Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have my chance to speak at second reading of Bill C-68, an act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway. In other words—since much has been said on this without any real explanation—it would be a sort of multimodal network of transportation infrastructures focussed on trade with Asia. I therefore feel able to take part in this debate because I am the Bloc Québécois critic for Asia and the Pacific. Those two regions are of the greatest interest to me, since we all know how buoyant the markets in Asia are.
I thank the hon. members from all parties who have spoken so far in this debate, especially my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in particular, our transport critic. I mention this because this whole matter is interrelated. Among other colleagues who have spoken was our critic for international trade, the hon. member for Joliette. Hon. members can see how interrelated this all is, and I will go into that a little later on. My colleagues from Berthier—Maskinongé and Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel have also made contributions.
I am not likely to make a habit of this, and it may not happen again, but I will certainly be supporting my colleagues' position on this bill introduced by the Minister of Transport. At least I shall support it in principle. I will tell you my reasons why. First, as has been said, this involves the concept of a gateway to Asia that opens from western Canada, a concept we support. As I said, this is not our usual habit and will not happen again. In this instance, however, we find this an interesting way of dealing with the problem of integrating everything in the way of modes of transport connected to trade with Asia.
We have some reservations, of course. They relate to a number of factors. We have reservations about the role reserved for the provinces, which is not well delineated in the bill. Once the bill is passed, creating the council itself will be very costly. We wonder how all of this will be put in place. We have a number of reservations about that.
There will be federal government support for businesses and employees in Canada's traditional manufacturing sectors and in Quebec, specifically, in sectors of employment such as textiles. A lot of products are imported from Asia. We would like a few more guarantees in this regard. We are aware that the rapid growth of trade between Asia and Canada, through this Pacific gateway in particular, is creating growing congestion in ports and the western transportation network.
I would like to elaborate on some of these reservations, but for the moment I will say why we support this concept. First of all, the gateway as it is called is very interesting. It requires a comprehensive view and a spirit of integration. It will be welcomed by those who work in the port facilities or manage them, both in Vancouver and Prince Rupert, because the integration involves a number of facets of public policy formulation. Physical infrastructures are of course involved. I mentioned the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert. However, roads too are involved, as are airports and customs facilities. The list is long, because intermodal facilities are involved.
The bill also provides for policy and regulatory integration, which will have a major impact on labour and the labour market. It will also have an impact on operating methods in the supply system and even in security matters. We recall the immigration issue involving the periodic discovery of Chinese people in containers. This whole policy will have ramifications for the security of the ports in the west.
Trade promotion and standardization will be affected. Accordingly, municipal policy on land use will also be affected. This has already been addressed by other colleagues on both sides of the House. There is also the whole matter of sectoral cooperation.
As the critic on Asia and the Pacific, what I particularly like about this bill is the aspect of integration and, we must admit, a certain strategic consistency. This bill addresses principles that the Bloc Québécois defends, including sustainable development. We believe in it a great deal and the Bloc has been advocating this type of approach for many years.
In a more general sense, we can say that the network improves as it becomes faster and more energy efficient. Everyone applauds this initiative that encourages sustainable development. The sea and rail combination outlined in this bill could be another interesting niche. We would be wise to develop this niche and take it a step further.
Nonetheless, in order to put all this in place, a cohesive policy is needed and not one imposed by a dictatorship, but one developed through dialogue. A little later I will explain the reservations we have about working together with the provinces on this.
The intermodal transportation and gateway concept is quite interesting to the Bloc, especially because we think it could be applied generally. There are some aspects that could apply to the St. Lawrence River for example. There are some potentially interesting applications for the development of the St. Lawrence River.
Last spring, the Bloc Québécois held a series of consultations in various regions of Quebec on the future of the St. Lawrence. I am not getting off topic, since this still relates to shipping. Several shipping industry stakeholders told us during these consultations on the St. Lawrence in Quebec, that they would like to see improvements to everything involving “intermodal marine and rail connections”.
Some of this is addressed in the transport minister's bill. We would be interested in seeing how this type of integration could promote the development of the St. Lawrence River in the future.
However, in our opinion, the federal government lacks enough vision when it comes to the development of that river. We hear the government talk about it during elections. We get the feeling that the federal manna is going to fall, like a nice snowfall on Christmas Eve, and is going to favour the development of the river. However, the government does not have a more strategic vision.
This is not new. For example, the Quebec bridge in my riding of Louis-Hébert is falling into disrepair. We would like to see the federal Liberal government make the same commitment with regard to infrastructure in eastern Canada, such as the Quebec bridge and the airport. Yet this same Minister of Transport is also responsible for Quebec.
We applaud this willingness to foster the development of infrastructure in western Canada. It is impossible to oppose a great principle such as the Pacific gateway, since it is such an excellent principle. However, we do observe more willingness to act in western Canada than in eastern Canada, particularly when it comes to infrastructure in Quebec.
I would like to remind the hon. members that having a vision for Asia in the bill is a huge advantage. The spinoffs for Canada and all the provinces are attractive. At the same time, we need to point out that this same generosity should apply to Quebec.
In my opinion, it is important to adopt an integrated management policy and put an end to what I call silo or individual management.
I support the principle of the bill for the reasons I gave a little earlier. However, I hope that we will see this principle applied again—and I think my colleagues will agree—in connection with the St. Lawrence, which is so dear to our hearts.
I said earlier that the Bloc Québécois had concerns about this bill. Although we support it, we still have some serious reservations. Our first concern relates to the structure and appointment of members of the council. We have the following questions: why would all the members of the Pacific Gateway Council be appointed by the federal government, as set out in the bill? This concerns us, because we know that, in the past, some appointees have not always been the best candidate for the job. We also have questions about the council's structure and mandate. We have a number of questions in this regard.
Finally, we have a number of other concerns, but I want to stress above all else—and I will conclude here—the more positive aspects. We are opening ourselves up to the Asian market.
However, in order to do this, the federal government must understand the consequences of this and give the textile and other industries the time to adjust.
Once all that has been done, of course, we will support Bill C-68. The Bloc Québécois will work to improve this bill during consideration in committee.