Mr. Speaker, I rise today to lend my support for an excellent private member's bill, to create a legislative framework for the provision of national passenger rail services.
Canada is a laggard, an outlier, in the provision of passenger rail services in the world, on the planet. We have a system that is owned by the federal government somehow, without legislative oversight. It has recently cut service so drastically that it is now almost laughable in some parts of Canada. All other modern economies, whether that is the U.S., Europe, Asia, or Australia, all have robust and thorough passenger rail systems.
That is not so with Canada. Canada has decided, starting with the Mulroney government, and now with this government, to cut our passenger rail systems and to cut them in such a way that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The argument is that there are not enough passengers so they cut service, which then causes there to be even fewer passengers. That then causes the government to say it should not be subsidizing the fewer passengers.
Rail service is one of the ways that we, as Canadians, can reduce our use of fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases that we would normally be putting into the atmosphere through the other transportation systems we use in the country, through cars, airplanes, trucks, and other vehicles. The rail system in Canada is ideally suited to take over that role of transporting individuals. However, we do not have a government that believes in transporting individuals by rail. We do not have a government that believes in very much, but the system of transporting individuals by rail is one of the things that we are certain it does not believe in.
In terms of us being a laggard, there are statistics around the world about what countries do in terms of billions of passenger kilometres in a year. India is by far the leader, with over a trillion passenger kilometres. On that list are countries like Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. Canada is not on the list at all, and that is because we have almost no passenger rail service in the country because it has been cut by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.
That is the crying shame that we are here to try to start correcting. It is going to take time, but at least with a legislative framework for VIA Rail, we can start rebuilding it.
The parliamentary secretary talked about one aspect of the bill that would harm our freight rail system by giving passengers priority. Well, the last time I checked, there were not too many people on a freight train who might be late for a meeting if they had to wait for a passenger train to go through. The rail companies have systematically eliminated their sidings. We used to have a system in Canada where freight trains would move on to a siding while a passenger train went through. Now they run trains that are too long for their sidings. In my riding of York South—Weston, they are actually removing the siding because they cannot get the trains on it anymore. Therefore, these two-mile long trains full of oil or grain are preventing passenger trains from travelling at a reasonable speed.
In addition, we have a government that has subsidized the freight rail system in our country to a large degree. The most recent example was the money it spent, reportedly on VIA Rail. It spent half a billion dollars on VIA Rail upgrades by giving money to CN. CN put in a beautiful new third line between Toronto and Montreal. Who uses it? It is used for freight. Who has to stop and wait for the freight trains to go by? VIA has to wait, even after the government put that rail in.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, even though we the taxpayers paid for the line, which is you, me, and everyone else in this room, and everyone else in Canada, VIA Rail still has to pay rent on that line. Does that make any sense to you, Mr. Speaker? Does that make any sense to anyone in the room?