Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand and speak to the House on Bill C-3. It is an honour to be able to provide information to the House about issues as vast as the ones on the legislative agenda of this Parliament.
I want to start off by saying that I think my colleague from the Conservative Party was rather truthful when he said that the Prime Minister had provided leadership on the softwood lumber issue. However, the question is: What kind of leadership did he provide?
We have a free trade agreement and various portions of that agreement have dispute mechanisms for a number of different items. However, with regard to the softwood lumber deal, I think it is the first time we have capitulated to an environmental beef by the Government of the United States by telling the Americans that they can set standards for us in Canada. As an environmentalist, that is an interesting turn of events and that is interesting leadership that has been provided by the Prime Minister in his very short time in his position.
When we think of the environment let us take the hog farms of North America. Hog farms pollute the rivers to an incredible degree. They use a provision many times and call themselves farms. They get the same rights as farmers in the United States to put their silage into the environment. That silage from 100,000 hogs is equivalent to the manure from a city of a million people and they are sticking it in rivers and such in the United States. Does that mean that Canada can now put punitive tariffs on bacon from the United States? Does that mean that we have better environmental standards so we are going to go over there and deal with them in that fashion? I would say that would be the kind of leadership that I would be looking for from the Prime Minister.
Leadership is what one makes of it. The leadership that has been provided by the Prime Minister on this issue is a sellout. It is a sellout to many people in this country. It is a sellout to industries that have set up and are running in a certain fashion and trying to remain competitive with their U.S. counterparts. They have been encouraged to follow a certain direction by our governments and now we have cut the rug out from underneath them.
I will now get back to the position of this bill. One of the things the bill talks about is a streamlined approval process for bridges, tunnels and those sorts of things that cross the border. As I said earlier, I am concerned about what local people have to deal with when a federal government has the responsibility and the authority to put new transportation systems, new linkages, in through their particular part of the country. A streamlined approval process suggests to me, coming from a region of the country, the Northwest Territories, where the federal government does most of the approval processes for all development, that somebody will be ignored and somebody's concerns will be relegated to the dustbin and we will not have a proper process.
When the federal government initiates projects, when it owns projects and when it has a streamlined approval process, we have to be very careful with what goes on. We have to be careful for the people who live in the regions where the federal government will be working. When we put all those powers, authorities, interests and ownership in the hands of the federal government and then it says it will streamline the process of approval, we know the people in the communities will suffer. It is extremely important that we give people in communities the opportunity to be consulted clearly and effectively, with proper resources, where they can make the case for the issues they think are important, when something like a new highway or bridge cuts across their lands, or when there is a change in direction of transportation requirement, or when new roads, or bridges or tunnels are built in a community where there had been none before.
Those are issues I am aware of in the north.
We are facing the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. I addressed this earlier today. We have a minister who has said to us that the government is in favour of it. However, the minister is responsible for the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, one of the very acts that decides the details, the direction and the ultimate approval for the pipeline. We are in an environmental assessment process right now. A panel is sitting, supposedly making judgments for all of us, and the minister has already decided the government supports that project. Where does that leave us?
That is an active example of how important it is when the federal government has control over projects, that we have not streamlined approval projects, but a meaningful and consultative process that can drive correct solutions, that can leave people on the ground comfortable with what has happened to them.
We need to promote rail transportation for the future of our country. It is an excellent way of transportation. We need to improve rail corridors. We need to put money into the things that will allow the rail system to move more effectively, that will attract back not only freight but passenger traffic, which will make a system that works for Canadians. Prices of energy keeps up and congestion is a matter of fact for many of the people who live in the areas along the Canada-U.S. border.
We have policy challenges with the border such as the western hemisphere travel initiative which will require all Canadian and American travellers to have passports to travel to and from the United States. Once again, we see leadership of our Prime Minister on this matter. That leadership is taking us in a certain direction and that direction can be difficult for all Canadians as well as Americans.
Canadians standing up to ensure reasonable access at our borders will help Americans as well. This is something we should not give up. We have a vested interest with the great country to the south to maintain a civil approach at the borders and to maintain the opportunities for Canadians and Americans to share a common border and use it effectively in their daily lives.
This is something we share and we need to make the point to the United States that we can work with them on this and make it happen. However, let us not accept a knee-jerk reaction to terrorist incidents to upset the direction that these countries have worked on for so long.
I travel to other places in the world such as Europe where people can leave their passports in their pockets because they do not need them. They can walk across borders and that is okay. People understand how to live together and we need to do that between our two great countries. That is the way we have to go. The authoritarian regime in the United States right now will pass. We will have an opportunity to deal with people who are more logical and reasonable. Let us encourage our leadership to recognize and respect that.
I know I am running out of time on this opportunity to speak to the bill, but I am sure other points will be raised by other people.
The New Democratic Party supports this effort. We would like to see more from the old Bill C-44 brought forward. If that is something the Minister of Transport is planning to do in the future, I think he will see a lot of support in this party to see more effort on this front. At the same time amendments are required for this bill. We look forward to it going to committee.
As always, everyone can be sure that New Democrats are here to make this Parliament and legislation work. We can work together. We can make better legislation for Canadians. We can sometimes throw out rhetoric, but it does not mean we cannot be critical. We can have criticism without being rhetorical. I would like to see us all work toward that because this is a Parliament of ideas and direction for the whole country.
It has been a great opportunity to speak here today.