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37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Standing Committee on Transport


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Tuesday, November 4, 2003




¿ 0905
V         The Chair (Mr. Joe Comuzzi (Thunder Bay—Superior North, Lib.))
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway (Sarnia—Lambton, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, Canadian Alliance)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon (Mayor, City of Lévis)

¿ 0910

¿ 0915

¿ 0920
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk

¿ 0925
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Jim Gouk

¿ 0930
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway

¿ 0935
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair

¿ 0940
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

¿ 0945
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         M. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

¿ 0950
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

¿ 0955
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Stan Keyes
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Stan Keyes
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Roger Gallaway
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

À 1000
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

À 1005
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

À 1010
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         The Chair

À 1020
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon (Board Member, Union des municipalités du Québec)

À 1025

À 1030

À 1035
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jean Garon

À 1040
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire (Member Executive Committee, City of Lévis)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         Mr. Joseph Volpe (Eglinton—Lawrence, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. André Hamel (Member Executive Committee, City of Lévis)

À 1045
V         Mr. Jean Garon

À 1050
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.)
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         Mr. André Hamel

À 1055
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx

Á 1100
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Marcel Proulx
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Mr. Jean Garon
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

Á 1105
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Joseph Volpe
V         Mr. Alain Lemaire
V         The Chair
V         Mr. André Hamel
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Transport


NUMBER 042 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¿  +(0905)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Mr. Joe Comuzzi (Thunder Bay—Superior North, Lib.)): I call this meeting to order.

    Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, March 25, on an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, we'll continue the hearings into the evidence.

    We welcome, from the Union des municipalités du Québec, Mr....

    Yes?

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway (Sarnia—Lambton, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, I don't want to interrupt your introduction of witnesses; however, I put a notice of motion on paper last week with respect to pilotage. It now appears, despite our schedule into December, that this is not going to be the case. I'm becoming a doubting Thomas this morning. I wonder if we could deal with that first.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Gallaway, we don't have enough members to vote. We need nine. We have eight.

    Mr. Gouk.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Chair, last week we invited the Minister of Transport back to the committee. He was unable to attend last week. I wonder if we have anything scheduled for this week.

+-

    The Chair: I don't have, but I recall seeing something in the agenda that said he would not be available this week, either.

    Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ): Mr. Chairman, as far as the motion tabled by Mr. Gallaway is concerned, I would ask that you follow the agenda. This motion seeks to abolish pilotage on Canadian ships on the St. Lawrence River. As you know, I have some strong reservations on this matter. Consequently, I have a long explanation to give you and I hope that this will remain, as scheduled, at item 2 of the agenda. If we proceed in this fashion, we will be showing some respect to our witnesses, who should appear first.

    Mr. Chairman, I foresee many hours of discussion on this matter.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway: Well, that's an interesting assertion, but the agenda of a committee can always be changed by a committee, and this is a motion that has been put on notice now for a week. We have always witnesses scheduled here; we do not in fact set aside days for motions. At this point, it's rather academic because there is no quorum to proceed, so we will proceed with the witnesses.

+-

    The Chair: All right. Let's proceed.

    We welcome Mr. Garon, board member, and Ms. Fortin, urbanist and policy adviser. We'll hear the evidence. In the event that a quorum appears, we'll stop for a few minutes and deal with the motion.

    Would you proceed, please. Who will make the presentation?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Jean Garon (Mayor, City of Lévis): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, the Union des municipalités du Québec wishes to thank you for giving it this opportunity to express its comments on Bill C-26, an Act to Amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

    I am pleased to introduce Ms. Diane Fortin, who is accompanying me today. Ms. Fortin is an urbanist and acts as a policy advisor to the Union des municipalités du Québec.

    In addition, I would like to say hello to Mr. Laframboise, who was Chair of the Union des municipalités du Québec for the maximum time allowable under the bylaws.

    With its 230 or so members representing six million people and managing 90 per cent of municipal budgets, the Union des municipalités du Québec represents the municipal world in all its diversity, in this case nearly 75 per cent of the municipal territory in Quebec. Its size and legitimacy entitle it to intervene in public debates on behalf of 80 per cent of the population.

    The Union des municipalités du Québec supports its members by intervening on their behalf, by keeping them apprised of the municipal scene and by giving them an opportunity to have an influence on the decision-making process, in the best interest of the citizens. Finally, and in this it reflects the changes in municipal thinking and activities that have occurred in recent years, the Union is also involved in providing services to its members with a view to promoting sound management of public monies.

    The Union des municipalités wishes to thank the members of the Standing House of Commons Committee on Transport for giving it this opportunity to express the concerns of municipal governments in the hearings on Bill C-26, an Act to Amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

    Like the Standing House of Commons Committee on Transport, the UMQ is concerned about a number of issues relating to the transportation sector that have an impact on our communities. More specifically, the municipal world is directly affected by qualify of life issues arising from the nuisances caused by the operation of railways and wishes to be directly involved in creating conditions that would mitigate such negative impacts.

    This brief will focus primarily on the problem of noise caused by railway operations, a major challenge for municipal communities. We shall also comment on the mediation process provided by the Canada Transportation Agency with respect to obstruction of level crossings and eliminating the use of train whistles in urban areas.

    Operations linked to the activities of railway companies in their marshalling yards cause a large number of problems such as excessive noise, which reduces the quality of life and health of those people who live in nearby areas.

    There is a reason why the government, back in the 19th century had provided for large trips of land on either side of the railway tracks. However, the railway companies sold this land to make money, thereby eliminating their buffer zones. It is the companies who put themselves in such a situation. Even in the 19th century, the government had thought about establishing buffer zones on either side of the railway tracks.

    We cannot remain silent about the fact that there are other nuisances associated with railway company activities such as smells ad excessive obstruction of public level crossings by trains stopping or manoeuvring at these locations, despite the federal legislation.

    These problems pose challenges for most municipalities that have local branch railways (LBR) and provincial railways and even federal railways within their boundaries. Railway companies under federal jurisdiction are not subject to any legislation governing damage caused by their activities. They are like aliens in our regions. This situation was confirmed in a December 2000 decision made by the Federal Court of Canada in Oakville, Ontario, which deprived the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) of its power to make decisions concerning irritants, such as the noise arising from railway activities.

    In this respect, and we shall come back to this later, the Union des municipalités du Québec is pleased to have obtained a hearing and to note that clause 31 of Bill C-26 rectifies this situation by restoring this authority, which had been taken away in 2000, to the CTA.

¿  +-(0910)  

    These problems were particularly apparent in Quebec ever since the railway companies were restructured in the mid-90s. As a result of this restructuring, certain sections of the railway network that were to be abandoned were rehabilitated. Instead of reducing activities, the railway companies have become more active and must meet the operational requirements of the “just-in-time” phenomenon, which has involved a significant increase in train activity in the marshalling yards late in the evening, with a very negative impact on the people living nearby, causing them to lose sleep. We're not talking about steady noise of a waterfall, but sudden bursts of noise occurring at any time: engine and explosion noises, bells, squealing brakes, vibrations, smells and a sound of iron hitting iron each time that one of these train wagons is connected, and constant clanking. Because they are tired of these nuisances, people are mobilizing and complaining to their municipality so that something can be done to apply the nuisance by-laws.

    In a number of cases, when the municipalities have tried to enforce their by-laws, railway companies responded by challenging the matter before the courts and have been successful. A number of other municipalities have brought costly actions under the Civil Code and others have tried to reach joint settlements with the railway companies. In most cases, their endeavours have come to naught. When a federal railway company is involved, some municipalities have opted for mediation through the Canada Transportation Agency. This process, which is based solely on the good faith of the parties, is time consuming and produces few results. It would appear that it is difficult to get the railway companies to behave as good corporate citizens by reducing the noise generated by their activities out of respect for the surrounding urban environment.

    We will now comment on certain aspects of the bill, particularly those aspects that pertain to the effects of railway activity on the surrounding area, and the mediation mechanisms provided for in the act.

    The Union des municipalités du Québec is very much in favour of clause 31 of Bill C-26 which concerns the noise caused by railway operations. This clause introduces four new sections to the Canada Transportation Act, namely clauses 95.1 to 95.4.

    The UMQ welcomes clause 95.3, which will fill a major legal vacuum by restoring to the Canada Transportation Agency its power to regulate disputes between the railway industry and local interests, which was taken away from it in the Federal Court of Appeal decision in the Oakville Ontario case, by clearly giving the agency the authority to make orders to correct noise problems. This amendment, which was requested by the UMQ and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, will allow municipalities and the public to make their voices heard for the purpose of resolving problems of cohabitation with the railway industry.

    However, the Union des municipalités du Québec wish to express a number of reservations concerning the new clause 95.1, which states that a railway company must ensure that the construction or operation of a railway line make as little noise as possible subject to its legislative duties, operational requirements and the place where these activities occur. We are concerned about the obligation this imposes on a railway company. This duty to make as little noise as possible must be credible and not be applied in the way that accommodates the railway companies that are subject to it. As it stands, there is every reason to expect that operational requirements such as the need for just-in-time delivery, described above, will take precedence over the duty to make as little noise as possible. As if making noise were inevitable.

    Consequently, the Union des municipalités du Québec is requesting that this new clause 95.1 in the Canada Transportation Act be clarified to indicate that the duty on a railway company to make as little noise as possible should be fulfilled, despite the company operational requirements.

    Clause 5 of Bill C-26 adds a new provision to the Canada Transportation Act, namely clause 36.1, which pertains to mediation. Experience in recent years with mediation through the Canada Transportation Agency has not been very convincing and the time taken between the request for mediation and the disposition of the complaint is often in excess of one year. This new provision tighten the mediation process by limiting the mediation process to 30 days.

    The UMQ agrees with the time period, which will make it possible to speed up the mediation process and encourage the parties to become more involved in finding a solution. We believe that this is an effective requirement that could well persuade the railway companies to behave like good corporate citizens and to take action to reduce the noise caused by their activities in order to ensure harmonious cohabitation with the surrounding community.

¿  +-(0915)  

    The UMQ would like to draw the committee's attention the fact that a number of municipalities have ailed to reach agreement with the railway companies and Transport Canada on the requirements for a no-whistle by-law. In this respect, the UMQ recommends that the CTA be given authority to examine any request to prohibit the use of train whistles within the limits of a municipality in the event that the municipality, railway company and Transport Canada fail to reach agreement concerning the requirements and conditions of a no-whistle by-law.

    Section 103(c) of the Canada Railway Operation regulations prescribes a maximum stoppage time of five minutes at public level crossings. Operations carried out at level crossings or stops at these locations which block highway traffic for a long period of time can have a negative impact on public safety since it prevents the movement of emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, etc also, as we briefly noted in chapter 1, the excessive length of trains in recent years has let to increasing instances of lengthy obstruction at public level crossings.

    In this respect, the UMQ is requesting that the bill include concrete measures to ensure the strict enforcement of section 103(c) of the Canada Railway Operation Regulations, which stipulates that no rolling stock should block highway traffic or remain idling for more than five minutes at a time. The UMQ is requesting that this section of the Canada railway operations regulations specify that this five-minute time period should also apply to moving convoys of rail cars

    In conclusion, the crucial problem of nuisances caused by the activities of railway companies is very disturbing, because it goes hand in hand with the increase in these activities and the loss of quality of life for the people living nearby.

    For the members of our union, it is clear the presence of railways and marshalling yards in urban communities and in the centres of villages has enabled these municipalities to grow and it is still today an important essential asset for the economic development of our towns and regions. Nevertheless, since the railway companies benefit from being located in the heart of towns and villages, they should be more mindful about the nuisances caused by their activities and they should be more respectful of the people living nearby.

    This is why the UMQ supports the initiative of the federal government, which, with some of the provisions of Bill C-26, has clearly expressed its desire to regulate the issue of noise caused by railway activities by requiring the railway companies to reduce to a minimum the noise caused by the construction and operation of railway lines and by giving the Canada Transportation Agency a renewed power to issue orders to rectify noise problems.

    In order to respond to some of the concerns raised in this brief, the UMQ requests that Bill C-26 be amended in accordance with the recommendations that we have just presented to you.

    Finally, the UMQ invites the Standing House of Commons Committee on Transport to read the memorandum of understanding that has just been signed between Canadian Federation of Municipalities and Canadian Railway Association to facilitate the cohabitation of rail and urban communities. This memorandum calls for the establishment of common criteria aimed at resolving conflicts that occur when people live or work near railway facilities. The memorandum could further the work of this committee and clarify clause 31, so that the railway companies' obligation to keep noise to a minimum would be respected despite operational requirements.

    That is essentially what we wanted to say to you today. Not withstanding the brief that we have just presented, I would like to tell you that we are not enemies of the train, because all members of the delegation, both from the Union des municipalités du Québec and the City of Lévis, have travelled here by train. We are therefore not enemies of the train, but we would like greater consideration to be given to the situation occurring in the municipalities, so that people can live peacefully. If the railway companies make the required effort, I am convinced that everyone will be able to live together harmoniously.

    We are now prepared to answer your questions. Thank you for you attention.

¿  +-(0920)  

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Garon.

    Mr. Gouk.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Good morning. We heard some witnesses last week, and one was one of the big bus firms from Quebec. Both the witnesses before us that morning were bus companies from Quebec and Ontario, and the national organization they work with.

    They focused primarily on the VIA Rail section of the bill. One of the things they pointed out is that the subsidization of VIA Rail is causing severe harm to the bus industry. The fellow from the Quebec industry, in particular, explained at length the problems they have, where they use their most profitable routes, like the express run between Quebec and Montreal, to subsidize runs that are not profitable--in some cases, even lose money--in order to provide services to smaller communities that otherwise wouldn't have those services. They expressed their concern that if VIA Rail is further entrenched in government and further blessed with additional subsidies, such as the $692 million recently announced by the minister, it will cause irreparable harm to the bus companies that, in turn, will cause great difficulty for small communities--in his example, in Quebec, and obviously in other parts of the country as well.

    Do you have any comments with regard to the subsidization of a single mode of transportation to the possible detriment of others?

¿  +-(0925)  

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Garon, before you answer that, I see Ms. Desjarlais. Are you...? Okay.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Jean Garon: I don't have a mandate to answer such a question, however I did work for a long time in the field of transport as a member of the National Assembly. I was the transport critic for seven years. Personally, I'm only speaking for myself, I've always been in favour of fair competition without subsidies. Whether it be bus, train or air travel, there are all in competition.

    Unfair competition is being set up but if there is one place where the government should be investing, it is certainly in public transport. Who are the users? People with low incomes, the elderly and students. We should support public transit because it does offer an alternative to the car and it has no harmful effect on anyone.

    Subsidizing one particular mode of transport in preference to another is to set up unfair competition. I am not mandated by the Union of Quebec Municipalities to answer this question, so it is merely a personal opinion.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you.

    I certainly agree with that. I don't philosophically have a problem with some subsidization where it's appropriate, in the manner that you said, where it is simply not practical, as in remote communities, for example, that otherwise wouldn't have service, or in small communities--whether they be in rural Quebec or rural British Columbia--that wouldn't have the service either without some assistance or at least without them having someone who's actually acting against them....

    VIA Rail, since 1993, has been handed $3 billion of taxpayers' money. By the end of the funding period that's enclosed in this $692 million recently announced, that would rise to over $4.5 billion. That amounts to $15 million per riding. With 75 ridings in Quebec, on average the VIA Rail subsidy has taken $15 million out of each and every one of them. Those are things that could have been spent on the infrastructure within those ridings, on health care, on any number of priorities for each of the ridings in each of the provinces.

    Do you support this kind of excessive subsidization of a single mode of transport, or would you rather see each of them being treated equally and not have VIA Rail further entrenched, as this bill does?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Jean Garon: Mr. Chairman, as I've already said, I do not have a particular mandate. The Union of Quebec Municipalities has not expressed an opinion on this issue. Nonetheless I would like to say that the railway is very useful for the transportation of hazardous goods and very heavy loads that damage highways.

    I don't know exactly what the situation is with respect to the railway but I do know that a single truck loaded to capacity is the equivalent of 40 000 cars on the road. In other words, when very heavy shipments are made by road rather than by rail, the highways undergo damage that the trucking sector does not take responsibility for.

    It is certainly in our interest to ensure that more heavy and dangerous goods are transported by rail in so far such transportation is safer. However my position remains that public transportation is something that should be supported by the government. We should not be subsidizing companies but rather encouraging fair competition between air, train, truck and bus transport. Things could be fairer on a competitive basis.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: I certainly agree with that. One of the problems we've heard also...we've heard from not only the airlines but the airport agencies, and those airport agencies and the airlines themselves have expressed concern about the incredible increase in costs. That would certainly include the airports within your region as well.

¿  +-(0930)  

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Gouk, would you permit me the indulgence? We have a quorum, and we can put the motion and send it before the House.

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway: I'll move the motion now, as provided.

+-

    The Chair: All right. Mr. Gallaway, I beg your indulgence for a moment, please. Can I have the other motion, please, the first one, the one on the dinner?

    Before we deal with the motion that's before the committee, I think we have all-party support. Perhaps I could have all-party support to present this motion. Let me read it:

That the Clerk of the Committee be authorized to make the necessary arrangements for a working dinner to discuss the Committee's future business and that the expenses be covered by the operational budget of the Committee.

    An hon. member: Or by David Collenette.

+-

    The Chair: Or by David Collenette in his personal capacity.

    Yes, Mrs. Desjarlais.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): In light of the situation that we may not be around for any great length of time, I'm curious as to when this would take place and exactly what the cost of the dinner would be. Is it going to maybe take place in London, England or...? I would like more specifics on it. In view of the fact that we're not going to be here, I would hate for a dinner to be arranged that wouldn't necessarily give all members the opportunity to attend. And if it's done at such short notice, it's fine for people in Ontario but it's not fine for everybody else. I certainly do not intend to support any motion that doesn't give the same opportunities for all members to attend.

+-

    The Chair: Ms. Desjarlais, to answer some of your questions, I would anticipate that it would be in Ottawa. We would not travel. We're operating in a hiatus, and the committee should conclude that should events unfold as everyone thinks they will, and to finalize the affairs of the committee if events should be so, this is a motion that would allow the committee to have one last meeting. Hopefully, it would be Thursday, or it could be Thursday of the following week, but there would be a consensus among all the members of the committee on the proper date to hold a meeting while we are all still in Ottawa.

    Yes, Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: In the case of this motion, I presume that interpretation will be provided.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Are they not translated? I'm sorry. We'll have translation services.

    Are there any other questions?

    (Motion agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Then on the other motion, Mr. Gallaway, do you want to--

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway: This motion has in one sense been before this committee previously and it emanates from the subcommittee, but it's not a subcommittee motion because there's been no report from the subcommittee.

    This is with respect to pilotage fees and the essentially four regimes that exist in Canada around pilotage fees. What this motion asks is that the authority to control pilotage be vested in the minister so that we have some uniformity in the country, a standardization of the pilotage regime.

    I think many of us here know that the pilotage regime is regarded by the industry, particularly the Canadian industry, as punitive. This motion would propose something parallel or akin to the American system, where there's one uniform set of standards, there's one authority in terms of pilotage, and it's good for the industry on both coasts, particularly in Vancouver, and in the Great Lakes for the St. Lawrence.

    It's been discussed here previously, so I don't want to go over ground we've already covered.

¿  +-(0935)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, a point of order, please.

    You are changing the agenda established by the clerk. You did not ask for any vote on this. You asked us to discuss the motions and I find that unfortunate because this morning we do have with us top quality witnesses. Among others there is the mayor of Lévis, one of the largest cities in Quebec. Because of the way in which you are proceeding... You are quite aware of the situation, Mr. Chairman, and you know that I could spend several hours providing you with information about the importance of the decision you are making, namely the abolition of pilotage on Canadian ships in the St. Lawrence.

    Mr. Chairman, I think that it is very unreasonable to see the way in which this committee is engaged in tractations to obtain quorum rather than listing to what the witnesses have to say. That is all.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: I've heard you, Mr. Laframboise.

    Ms. Desjarlais.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Certainly, I'm in agreement with Mr. Laframboise on the issue of introducing other issues when we have witnesses before us. We're often criticized for appearing somewhat rude in the way we operate at the best of times, but there's no question that when we introduce other work at a time when witnesses have come to appear before us, it's just that much worse.

    To the witnesses, our apologies for this--at least, my apologies that this should happen.

    My concern is with Mr. Gallaway's presentation, because he put the motion forward but then indicated that there's no report from the subcommittee. Quite frankly, I have a real issue with the fact that we have a subcommittee but we don't have a report from the subcommittee. The normal practice is that the subcommittee would report back to the main committee, and we'd have a chance to review and ask questions related to issues within the report. But in his own words, in his statement, he said there's no report from the subcommittee.

    So if there's no report from the subcommittee, why are we dealing with the resolution from the subcommittee, and how can we...?

    I don't know, it seems to imply that this is an issue coming from the subcommittee. The subcommittee recognizes the necessity to proceed immediately, but we don't have a report from the subcommittee.

    In that regard I'm a bit concerned, Mr. Chair.

+-

    The Chair: I'll have an answer.

    Can you address that, Mr. Gallaway?

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    Mr. Roger Gallaway: I've just responded, sorry.

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    The Chair: Will you respond?

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway: I don't see any need to.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Gouk.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    I too would like to apologize to the witnesses, but not for the reasons that Ms. Desjarlais suggested. Bill C-26, which we're here on--and I appreciate your coming and providing your comments--is not going to see the light of day, so frankly, we're wasting your time in any case.

    With regard to this motion being brought forward, it has been brought forward with due notice of motion. It is a motion that we've attempted to deal with at other times when we didn't have witnesses here, when Mr. Keyes brought it forward.

    Now, I do not support any kind of going around the system. I would not support this motion, for example, if Mr. Laframboise left to go the washroom to sneak it through. I don't agree with that type of process. But that's not what we're doing. It is provided with proper notice. It is something that we have interrupted proceedings for on numerous occasions, to dispose of business. It's business that we tried to dispose of in the past, but we were blocked. It is business that was brought forward to this committee with due notice, and I think we should deal with it now.

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, earlier on I—

[English]

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    The Chair: We're going to deal with the motion. I've heard all the arguments. We will deal with the motion.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: If we deal with this motion, will my right to speak be respected, Mr. Chairman?

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, I gave notice at the outset that we had the motion before us today, that we have been given notice on the motion, and that as soon as there was a quorum available, we would vote on it. So everyone had proper notice.

    Go ahead. You have the floor.

¿  +-(0940)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I am exercising my right to speak to express my view on the motion, Mr. Chairman.

    I will read this motion, paragraph by paragraph, make my comments and give a brief historical overview of pilotage on the St. Lawrence River. It is important for us to understand the meaning of this motion, particularly since the mayor of Lévis, a fine city on the St. Lawrence, surely does consider this to be an important matter as well. The motion presented by Mr. Gallaway reads as follows:

In its review and study to date of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system, the subcommittee has heard from stakeholders who outlined their concerns regarding the negative operational and economic impact of the legislated compulsory pilotage requirements for Canadian-owned and operated ships in Canadian waters.

This compulsory pilotage requirement, as stipulated in the Pilotage Act, is outdated and unnecessary given the skill and experience of the Canadian Masters and crews and the sophistication of the navigation technology used on the ships.

The pilotage charges applied to Canadian vessels are substantial and are detrimental to the competitive position of Canadian carriers, shippers and industries dependant on marine transportation.

A new regime for Canadian ships can only be achieved by amending the Pilotage Act. The amendments would not generate any financial cost to the Government of Canada.

Amending the Pilotage Act would be a significant step in modernizing the pilotage regime in Canada and would allow the pilotage authorities to contribute to a more effective, efficient and commercial Canadian transportation system as envisaged in the Canada Transportation Act and the Canada Marine Act and as exemplified in the renewed focus of the Canadian port system and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation.

Amending the Pilotage Act would also be consistent with the principles for a safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation system in Canada as outlined in "Straight ahead  -- A vision for transportation" in Canada. The amendments would enhance the efficiency of the transportation market place, ensure the safety and security of the marine transportation system in cooperation with other responsible agencies, and encourage innovation and skills development.

The committee recognizes the necessity to proceed immediately on this matter.

Therefore, the committee recommends:

-That the Standing Committee on Transport recommend to the Minister of Transport that the Pilotage Act (R.S., c.P-14) be amended to transfer the regulatory power for Canadian vessels in Canadian waters to the Minister of Transport. These powers are currently granted to Pilotage Authorities.

-That, in section 18 of the Pilotage Act, the objects of a Pilotage Authority also include the concept that it is fundamental to the public interest that Canadian ships be afforded maximum operational flexibility, in order to encourage and promote a competitive maritime commerce in Canada.

-That the Minister of Transport proceed with these amendments immediately.

    Mr. Chairman, this motion was tabled by Mr. Gallaway, president of the Subcommittee on Marine Transportation. The problem is that the subcommittee never made this recommendation. That is the problem. Let me read you the list of witnesses who appeared before the subcommittee. I will also draw to your attention the correspondence on the subject and, among other, the position that was taken by the Minister of Transport himself. The purpose of all of this is to show that what we are witnessing right now is an operation aimed at forcing a motion. For over six months now, we have been seeing an effort to simply do away with pilotage for all Canadian ships on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes.

    We know that compulsory pilotage was decreed some hundred years ago. It is a very well organized system aimed at avoiding any catastrophe on the St. Lawrence River that could endanger the entire ecosystem and the quality of life of the people living along it. We would normally have expected a proper debate in Parliament, within this committee, so that everyone had an opportunity to express their views on the future of pilotage on the St. Lawrence and the Seaway. This was not the case. I refer you to the minutes of the subcommittee which, I might mention in passing, met only once since our return in September. I am therefore referring to proceedings that go back to March, May and June.

    I would like to read the list of witnesses who expressed their views before the subcommittee on a motion as important as the abolition of pilotage on the St. Lawrence. Let me take advantage of this opportunity to welcome Mr. Jobin, who is the member for Lévis and who is very familiar with...

¿  +-(0945)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, if I could just interrupt for a moment--

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, you cannot. If you allow me to continue to speak, I will accept—

[English]

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    The Chair: I understand. Mr. Laframboise, let me just interrupt for a moment, if I may, as the chair, to address the witnesses.

    I apologize for delaying the furtherance of your evidence. What we are trying to do in this motion is to recommend to the Minister of Transport certain remedies that the subcommittee has found to be necessary to maintain the viability of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system, which is so important to the shipping industry and the economies of all communities right from the entry of the seaway all the way up to the top of Lake Superior.

    As you are aware, the costs of using the seaway into Canada to either ship in or export goods is reaching proportions that no shippers can afford. Between the paying of tolls, the coast guard fees, icebreaking, and pilotage--pilotage being an important component, and it's mandatory--we have a dwindling revenue on an annual basis on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway. I think for the first time in 15 years we have fewer than 30 million tonnes going through the seaway this year. It affects all the communities.

    What we're trying to do is recommend to the minister not to change the pilotage at this state, but to review the four pilotage systems in Canada to bring some order to this extravagance that has developed over the years--the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, the Atlantic Pilotage Authority, and the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the four pilotage authorities in Canada, which all operate separately.

    We're trying to bring some order into this area in order to enhance our ability to compete on the world stage. We've always been thwarted by Mr. Laframboise not wanting to pass this motion or even pass a recommendation.

    That's where we're at this morning. I apologize very much that you have to go through this, but that's where we are.

    Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

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    M. Mario Laframboise: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for recognizing me again. I know that the mayor of Lévis—

[English]

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    The Chair: And we will be filibustered here. If we get filibustered for any more time, I'll ask you if you want to adjourn.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: But I know that the mayor of Lévis, who was a member of the National Assembly, is very familiar with procedure.

    To add to your comments, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that in any case, we must realize that at the present time Canadian ship owners are able to have their pilots take the exam. And that is what causes the problem. Pilots who are employed by ship owners are able to take their exam to obtain the right to pilot on the St. Lawrence river and are not required to go through the specialized pilotage associations.

    The problem at the present time is that in actual fact it is the ship owners who decide. When the master obtains his pilotage qualifications, as you know, there are negotiations with the owner and an increase in salary. What is being attempted is quite simply the abolition of the pilotage system.

    They're also involved in important negotiations on the installation of very sophisticated equipment in order to obtain as quickly as possible... You know, in the Department of Transport, they're considering equipment that would allow employees and masters of Canadian ships interested in obtaining their certification to try the tests more quickly and once again, there is not enough funding. So the aim is a laudable one but the problem is that the government refuses to invest the money required for this necessary equipment so that once again pilots of Canadian ships who are employed by ship owners are able to obtain passage rights or a recognition for the exam.

    There are other ways to deal with this problem, but the government has simply gone along with the easiest solution, namely the systematic abolition of the compulsory pilotage system on the St. Lawrence by providing systematic certification to all ship masters. When we realize the complexity of the network, Mr. Chairman, the complexity of the St. Lawrence river and when we look at all the documentation to analyze the risks involved, then in my view it is wrong to say that this new equipment, both radar and other, is able to avoid natural catastrophes occurring. Because of the very powerful currents, and displacements occurring during water storms, the displacement of sand build-ups, pilots must have actual experience on the river to be able to really avoid these natural catastrophes.

    The debate is far from over. The Quebec Marine Institute in Rimouski has warned the government about abolishing pilotage until there is a proper procedure for the training of pilots. That is the problem, there is no training because of the lack of money—

    Of course, the federal government has the solution. It isn't because the Quebec Marine Institute in Rimouski was unwilling to set up the technological equipment to provide within a shorter time frame the training for pilots able to navigate the St. Lawrence. So there are other solutions that are not as extreme but the government prefers to choose the simplistic one, that is to amend the act and abolish pilotage. As you can understand, we are against this.

    The problem today, and this is a question that comes to my mind during this discussion, is that the government has taken a very interesting approach to presenting this motion. In fact, you are included on the list of witnesses that I tabled with the committee and the situation is being used as a pretext to take away my right to speak in the knowledge that I will certainly want to have my witnesses appear. While I am discussing the motion, I'm also giving some thought to the idea about whether I will return to the agenda and if I can support it, because this way of proceeding on the part of the government is I think quite vile, the way this making use of the situation.

    Because I do have a great deal of respect for you, Mr. Garon—as you know—as well as a great deal of respect for the Union of Quebec Municipalities, whose chair I was... I think it is important to hear from this institution particularly with respect to rail transport. Today, through the use of a particularly objectionable procedure, an attempt is being made to take away the right of the Union of Quebec Municipalities to express its views as well as the right of the mayor of Lévis and I find that particularly offensive.

    Mr. Chairman, I would like to call for quorum again, since our discussions are dealing with the motion. I want to be sure that we have quorum. If not, we will return to our agenda.

¿  +-(0950)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

    Mr. Gallaway.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: No, Mr. Chairman, I asked you to call quorum, I did not stop speaking.

    Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway: Mr. Laframboise has the right to ask for quorum. Maybe at this point we should inquire of Mr. Laframboise, through you, Mr. Chair, as to whether he wishes to talk this matter out.

    I know the witnesses have come a long way to be here in this morning. I can assure Mr. Laframboise that within about three minutes we will have quorum. If that is indeed the case, if he intends to frustrate the reason for their appearance here and to continue with this filibuster as opposed to allowing this committee to make a decision, maybe we should, at 10 o'clock, ask that the witnesses be excused. We have, according to the clock, three or four minutes if he wishes to proceed with the questions.

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    The Chair: We have quorum again.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, you note that there is quorum, so I can continue. I was simply asking you to check whether there is a quorum.

¿  +-(0955)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Did you ask for a quorum for the vote? I'm sorry, I wasn't getting the proper translation.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, when we discuss a motion...

[English]

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    The Chair: Do we have a quorum?

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    Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.): Yes.

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    The Chair: Do you want to put it to a vote?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: No, it is not for the vote, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

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    The Chair: I thought that's what you asked for.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, I have the right to call quorum because while I...

[English]

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    The Chair: Just a minute, Mr. Laframboise. When you took a break, you asked the chair a question. You said, if we had a quorum we'd put it to a vote, did you not?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: No, I did not say that.

[English]

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    The Chair: I'm sorry. I misunderstood that. What did you say?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: That is not what I said, Mr. Chairman. I expect that throughout our discussion of the motion, there will be a sufficient number of members of the committee to listen to what I have to say. It is important because there may perhaps be a vote, Mr. Chairman. So it is important for us to have a sufficient number of members and for them to be able to hear me because, as you have understood, once I have stopped discussing the matter, there will be a vote on the motion.

    I hope that my colleagues will vote against the motion tabled in such a cavalier fashion by Mr. Gallaway. That is what I hope to achieve, Mr. Chairman. I am willing to provide you with background information and to set out the entire problem, the entire situation, but I also want my colleagues to hear what I have to say so that they can make the right decision when the vote comes on this motion. So as I can see, everyone is now paying attention to what I have to say.

    Once again, let me say that it is a pleasure for me to defend the interests of the St. Lawrence River and to do it with all my heart, Mr. Chairman...

[English]

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    Mr. Stan Keyes: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it's a simple question. Does Mr. Laframboise intend to continue this discussion until committee is done at 11 o'clock?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I intend to continue the discussion. Will it be until 11 o'clock? I do not have to answer that, I am entitled to speak until I have said what I have to say. That is my right as a parliamentarian, a right that I have in the House of Commons and I am happy to make use of it. So, at the present time...

[English]

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    Mr. Stan Keyes: Given the answer of Mr. Laframboise, Mr. Chairman, a discussion is usually something that takes place between two people. This is a monologue. As a result, if the monologue is to continue, as Mr. Laframboise indicates, until this committee is finished its work at 11 o'clock, the chair might consider excusing the witnesses, because quite frankly, to put them through the drudgery of another hour of speech-making and monologue by Mr. Laframboise is rather cruel to the witnesses. If they were excused, we could continue to listen.

+-

    Mr. Roger Gallaway: Mr. Chairman, in addition to that, I note, because Mr. Laframboise is very concerned about the orders of the day and the order paper this morning, that the witnesses are to be here between 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock. That's according to the agenda of this committee. I know that Mr. Laframboise would want to stick with the agenda. He made that point earlier. Perhaps since it's 10 o'clock, we could excuse the witnesses. We will sit here and attentively listen to Mr. Laframboise until 11 o'clock.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, if I may...

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, let me try to summarize where we're at. I'm not denying your parliamentary rights or your privileges. I want you to understand that. I think there was a fair question that was posed to you, as a request from one of your colleagues on the committee, which is entirely right. The request was that if you intend to carry on, then let's get our house in order, excuse the witnesses, and we'll be more than happy to sit until it's time to put the motion. This is requested just as courtesy to your colleagues. We've worked pretty closely together, and it's a courtesy to the members. The witnesses have travelled a fair distance.

    I think I have explained the reason for the motion. When you have a motion, you have to put it. There's been advanced notice. Everything was proper. It has something to do with the fundamental transportation issue in this country. I'm going to leave that up to you, if you would be kind enough to tell us your intentions, please, and then I can make a decision on the witnesses.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, as far as the witnesses are concerned, you know that you are touching on a sensitive point for me. I certainly do not want to take away their right to speak. However, I would like to ask you one thing: if I were to decide to stop speaking, I would like you to allow the mayor of Lévis to make his comments on the abolition of pilotage on the St. Lawrence. If you do so, I will yield to him my right to speak and we can return to our agenda.

[English]

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    Mr. Roger Gallaway: This is a motion for members--

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    The Chair: Please make your point, Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: In other words, I am willing to stop speaking on this motion if you allow me to conclude by inviting the mayor of Lévis to make his comments on pilotage on the St. Lawrence. We are fortunate to have with us the mayor of an important municipality located on the St. Lawrence River.

    Once the mayor has made his comments, we will be able to continue with the agenda as presented. I think that this would be a proper solution that would allow us all to hear the comments of someone who, although not a party to the debate, is directly concerned by this issue.

À  +-(1000)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise, but your request is out of order. Would you address the question the chair gave you, please, which is if you would indicate your intentions, and then we can make our own decision.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, with respect to Bill C-7, the committee chair allowed witnesses who are in the room to make comments on the bill. What I am asking you, and this is to facilitate the authorization...

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, you're out of order. I've ruled on that. We're not going to ask the witnesses to comment on something they didn't come here to comment on. I've asked you, with the proper courtesy, I think, to indicate your intentions. I wish you would. Then we can treat the witnesses the way I think witnesses should be respected and treated when they come before this committee.

    Would you be kind enough to tell us what you intend to do. If you intend to carry on, which is entirely within your right, we will sit here and listen to you on this motion. Or if you intend to let the motion be voted upon by the quorum that's present, we will do that. Failing that, then, the witnesses will be excused, because it's already five minutes after the time and the bells are ringing for a vote. It's up to you, Mr. Laframboise.

    An hon. member: It's not a vote, I hope.

+-

    The Chair: Is that a vote? No? But there is a vote this morning.

    An hon. member: Yes.

+-

    The Chair: Okay.

    Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: According to my information, the vote will not take place before 11 o'clock. Mr. Chairman, I will allow a vote on the motion, out of respect for the witnesses. I owe one to you, gentlemen. Thank you.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    The motion has been presented to each of the members that the Standing Committee on Transport recommend to the Minister of Transport that the Pilotage Act be amended--

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, I call for a recorded vote.

[English]

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    The Chair: --to transfer the regulatory power for Canadian vessels in Canadian waters to the Minister of Transport, etc.

    (Motion agreed to: yeas 6; nays 2 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

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    The Chair: If the chairman voted, I'd vote yes; but I don't need to vote.

    Thank you.

    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

+-

    The Chair: The motion is passed.

    Thank you for that, Mr. Laframboise.

    Now we'll continue with the questioning of the witnesses, please. I apologize for the delay.

    If you're the mayor of a community in Quebec or Ontario, you understand what this is all about, do you not, Mr. Mayor?

    Do you have questions Mr. Laframboise?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Please be assured, Your Worship, that if you wish to make any comments on pilotage in the Seaway, I am quite willing to hear what you have to say, insofar as it is part of your intervention.

    The reason for your appearance before this committee relates to the problem of noise. In my opinion, the views expressed by the Union of Quebec Municipalities are very important for the simple reason that Canadian Pacific, in its brief, is calling for amendments to the proposed section 95.1. I note that the amendment proposed by CP—and I would like to specify this for those who are transcribing the proceedings—on page 21 of the brief presented by them to the committee, they suggest that in proposed section 95.1 the expression “in a manner that produces the least possible noise” be replaced by the expression “must do so in a manner that does not cause unreasonable noise”.

    I am sure you understand what their aim is, it is very well described in the text accompanying this amendment. On page 12 of the brief, we find the following recommendation:

It is moved that the Agency be given jurisdiction for the resolution of complaints relating to noise caused by the railways. CPR is of the view that the bill imposes a noise standard that it is impossible to meet from an economic and practical point of view. CPR therefore moves an amendment that would make this standard more realistic in view of railway operation constraints.

    I'd like you to tell us about your past and present experience with respect to the behaviour of rail companies. Tell us about the fact that the Union of municipalities is asking for an even more restrictive version of section 95.1 as opposed to the more flexible one proposed by CP.

    I can assure you that it is important for you to make this committee realize the kind of experiences you are having with these companies.

À  +-(1005)  

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    Mr. Jean Garon: The railway companies are not the least bit concerned about the noise that they make.

    They have absolutely no concern for people's health. Later on the City of Lévis can send you a report where it is claimed that people's health is being affected by the loud levels of noise. It is not continuous noise. It is a kind of noise for example, made by two cars hitting each other, a very loud noise. We also hear whistles when the cars are backing up. It is the kind of significant noise that will wake people up and jolt them out of sleep several times a night. In some of these yards, there may be up to 40 railway lines one next to another for the marshalling of trains. That makes a lot of noise. We are not asking them to avoid making any noise at all. Between you and me, if they were not allowed to make noise, they would put rubber on the cars rather than allowing metal to strike against metal. If there were rubber, it wouldn't make any noise at all.

    I have had occasions to discuss the matter with the rail companies. We have resorted to mediation on a number of occasions. It goes on and on and doesn't produce any results. The rail companies have exorbitant powers with respect to the normal democratic rights of a civilized society and they do not take these factors into account which means that people are disturbed by untimely noise. It is not reasonable noise. Noise is reasonable when it doesn't affect people. They must make the least noise possible. We cannot accept the fact that when people are sleeping at night, there is so much noise and disturbance that they are jolted out of sleep every five or ten minutes. They cannot have a normal life.

    In the past, rail companies benefited from significant buffer zones that were given to them free of charge by the federal government and that they sold to make money. Today, there are no longer any buffer zones and they expect people to suffer because of the companies' own negligence. I think that the federal government, which created these railways, must now tame the creatures that it gave birth to. The federal government must tame these creatures and make them understand that they live in a civilized society and they can no longer act the way they did at the beginning in the far west where there was nothing but bisons and railway companies.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: You are right, Your Worship. When we talk to the companies, they tell us that there is a mediation process underway and that things are going well. As members of Parliament, we receive complaints in our ridings. The process is not working because there is a lack of good will and there is no law to enforce. For example, municipalities do not have the power to establish standards for noise pollution on federal lands. Yet that would be a logical thing to do. It would be logical for the government to allow each municipality to pass regulations that would be enforced within its boundaries—including on federal lands—if the government was unwilling to do it. Of course, the companies were up in arms about that proposal. It would be much too complicated. Every municipality would have its own standards.

    I have the impression that this could be negotiated very easily with the municipal unions, among others. The decibel level allowable under the regulations could be negotiated and applied across Quebec. I think that it would be quite easy.

    Could regulations administered by the municipalities be viable? Could this be negotiated at the national level? Do you think it would be possible?

À  +-(1010)  

+-

    Mr. Jean Garon: I am confident that it could be. In fact, there have been agreements on rail safety between the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, the Quebec Union of Municipalities and the government. I am sure that it would be easy to reach an agreement that would satisfy everyone. Of course, that would meant that the rail companies would have to change their ways. They are obviously going to have to make changes, since the present situation makes no sense. Will the government protect the interests of rail companies and enable them to make as much money as possible without any concern for the well-being of the public? Will the government act to protect people's health and well-being by adopting provisions that will require these operations not to make noise?

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Very good.

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, do you have another question? We have another group of witnesses to hear.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I would like to ask another question. Would you like to comment on pilotage on the St. Lawrence, given your experience as a transport critic? Have you followed that issue?

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    Mr. Jean Garon: The Canadian government should do what the United States has done in this area. The Americans are the most competitive. Look at how tonnage has gone down on the St. Lawrence over the past few years. This decline is due to icebreaking policies, which put an unfair burden on Quebec. If the federal government had policies similar to what the American government has for Mississippi, Canada would once again become competitive. I think that Canadian regulations are detrimental to Canadians and make pilotage here less competitive.

    You have seen the shipping accidents on the St. Lawrence. There are many more shipping accidents than the number shown in the official reports. Sometimes ships run aground on sandy shores rather than hit rocks. Everyone who knows the St. Lawrence and pilotage knows that it is necessary to have a pilot.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

    I thank the witnesses. I understand that you're going to be here again. Is that correct?

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    Mr. Jean Garon: Yes, the City of Lévis.

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    The Chair: The City of Lévis.

    We're going to adjourn for 10 minutes and reconvene at 25 minutes after the hour.

À  +-  


À  +-  

À  +-(1020)  

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    The Chair: We welcome the mayor of Lévis, who was the previous witness.

    We also welcome, Mr. Hamel, Mr. Brochu, and Mr. Lemaire, who are all members of the executive committee, and Mr. Hallé, the legal representative.

    Gentlemen, the normal procedure is to give some brief remarks and then be subject to any questioning from the panel.

    Who would be the spokesman? Mr. Garon.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Jean Garon (Board Member, Union des municipalités du Québec): I will read the brief, and then you may ask questions.

    Mr. Lemaire, Mr. Hamel and Mr. Brochu are each faced with some of the situations described in this brief. So they will be able to answer your questions. The switching yard is in Mr. Lemaire's jurisdiction; the high-speed train, which makes a deafening sound every time it comes to a level crossing, is in Mr. Hamel's jurisdiction. Then there are the repairs that were done to stop the ferry from making its deafening noise. For 20 years that noise disappeared, but it started up again, and everyone jumped when they heard it. Yet after the problem was eliminated, there were no more accidents than before.

    The City of Lévis would like to thank the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport for giving us this opportunity to present our comments on Bill C-26, an Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, which was introduced in first reading on February 25, 2003.

    We are very pleased to see that Mr. Jobin, the member of Parliament for our riding, Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, is here today, as well as Mr. Laframboise, the former President of the Quebec Union of Municipalities. Mr. Laframboise is well informed about the problems faced by Quebec's municipalities since he took over as president during the difficult period when radical changes were made to municipal legislation in Quebec.

    Our comments will focus on two aspects of rail operations, which reflect the difficult coexistence of rail activities and daily life in urban areas. So we will look at the issue of noise stemming from operations in the Joffre marshalling yard, in the Charny sector, as well as whistle use in urban areas, in particular at the Alphonse-Desjardins Boulevard level crossing, in the Lévis sector.

    CN operates a marshalling yard within the boundaries of the former town of Charny. Because of the high noise levels associated with the CN switching operations, there have been many complaints from residents living nearby or even in the Saint-Jean-Chrysostome and Sainte-Hélène-de-Breakeyville sectors.

    Residents feel that the noise pollution resulting from CN's operations is a health hazard and prevents them from peacefully enjoying their property. This situation developed in 1998. Before then, residents had no problems because of their close proximity to the rail yard. The problems began occurring when the company was privatized, at which time it streamlined its operations not only in Quebec but throughout Canada. The problems faced by people in Charny are similar to those in Oakville, Ontario.

    Since CN did not act, residents came up with a petition, which gathered a large number of signatures and was presented to the council of the former town Charny in 2000. The municipality also received letters from residential owners confirming that the noise was excessive and intolerable.

    The former town of Charny decided to support the citizens' committee against noise from the Joffre marshalling yards in Charny. It therefore hired the Dessau-Soprin firm to carry out a noise study in order to assess the affects of CN's activities. That study, which was submitted in February 2000, indicates that the major noise peaks are due to rail-cars bumping together, locomotives moving about, rail-cars being couplet , trains braking, trains sounding their whistles, trains moving, other vehicles being used such as front-end loaders and tractor trailers, and the use of reverse warning signals.

    The study concluded that:

The noise sources associated with the marshalling yard activities are mobile and generally consist of impact noise and discontinuous noise. The equivalent continuous noise level does not really reflect the discomfort caused to residents. It is really the noise peaks that are the problem, and these happen at any time of the day or night.

    In 2001, the Public Health Unit of the Chaudière-Appalaches regional health and social services authority completed its analysis of the problem and produced a report assessing the public health risks of the noise produced by operations in CN's Joffre marshalling yard in Charny. This May 2001 report was written by Pierre Lainesse, an environment health consultant. He took into account the noise analysis previously done by Dessau-Soprin.

    The study concludes this way:

On the basis of available noise measurements, a review of the literature and the particular context, we feel that the environmental noise that many people living in the residential area near CN's Joffre marshalling yard is detrimental to their quality of life and potentially to their health. We are of the opinion that the noise levels experienced interfere with the rest, comfort and well-being of those near the Joffre marshalling yard in Charny.

À  +-(1025)  

From the standpoint of public health, these noise levels are likely to have negative effects on health such as sleep disturbance, which can in turn lead to a series of other delayed effects which are associated with it.

These noise levels seem to us to be incompatible with residential zoning unless specific measures are taken to reduce the noise.

    At the same time as these measures were being taken, residents of the city of Oakville, Ontario, filed a complaint with the Canada Transportation Agency under the Canada Transportation Act. In 1999, the Agency rendered a decision in favour of the residents of Oakville (decision No. 87-R-1999 with order No. 1999-R-123). In this decision, the Agency stated the following:

In the circumstances, the Agency determines that, as far as the Eastlake neighbourhood is concerned, CN does not limit the damages as much as possible in the way it operates the southwestern part of the Oakville marshalling yard. The Agency feels that the level of noise from CN operations in the southwestern yard can be reduced and that CN must immediately and in the long term consider and put in place other options.

    In its decision, the Agency found that CN had not kept the damage to a minimum in the exercise of its powers. Consequently, the Agency ordered CN to take certain measures, including submitting a long-term noise reduction plan that would require Agency approval.

    This decision gave the people of Oakville a great deal of hope, as it did to those of Charny.

    In response to this decision, CN decided to challenge the jurisdiction of the Canada Transportation Agency in the federal Court of Appeal. The court issued its decision on December 7, 2000 (docket No. A-537-99) and found that the Canada Transportation Agency did not have jurisdiction under the Canada Transportation Act to adjudicate complaints concerning noise, smoke and vibrations caused by properly authorized railway operations.

    Following these decisions concerning the Oakville casse, the Canada Transportation Agency decided to provide a mediation service in order to resolve disputes similar to those arising in Oakville and Charny. Thus, in March 2001, the former town of Charny and the citizens committee filed a request for mediation with the Canada Transportation Agency. CN agreed to this.

    Unfortunately, following several meetings between the parties, the mediation was unsuccessful. Since we agreed to keep the content of the discussions confidential, we cannot give any further details. However, we can assert that the city of Lévis, which incorporated the former town of Charny on January 1, 2002, made every possible effort to find a solution acceptable to the residents and even seconded three municipal counsellors, including two members of its executive committee, to attend the mediation meetings.

    Now let us look at the example of train whistle noise on our Alphonse-Desjardins Boulevard.

    If you want to ask questions about the Charny station, Mr. Lemaire can answer that.

    In order to alleviate an increasingly severe problem of congestion on route du Président-Kennedy, the former city of Lévis extended boulevard Alphonse-Desjardins in 1995. At the time, a level crossing was created where the railway branch line from the Ultramar refinery crosses the highway. This level crossing has a warning device and barrier. Construction of the level crossing was carried out by Canadian National. Given the spacial limitations and the presence of a stream crossing the road, it was not technically possible to construct a bridge without spending substantial sums of money, because the water table was high.

    From the outset, complaints were filed with the former city of Lévis by residents of the surrounding areas. These complaints related to noise levels caused by train whistles as the trains approached the crossing on Boulevard Alphonse-Desjardins. These residents noted that their sleep was being disturbed.

    Discussions were held between the municipal authorities and the former city of Lévis and representatives of CN and Transport Canada to ensure that train whistles would no longer be used. These discussions did not produce any results. Mr. Hamel can easily answer your questions because he lives in that part of town.

    Clause 31 of Bill C-26 introduces four new provisions dealing specifically with noise caused by railway operations. We are particularly pleased that Parliament has decided to remedy a major shortcoming in the process for resolving disputes between the public and a railway company by giving the Canada Transportation Agency clear authority to make orders to correct problems relating to noise. The new section 95.3 has restored the agency's power of control, which it lost following the judgment of the Federal Court of Appeal in the Oakville case.

    Without making presumptions concerning the future work of the Agency, we hope that the attitude it displayed in the Oakville case will govern its orders.

À  +-(1030)  

    In this regard, as experience has shown, we are concerned about the fact that the obligation imposed on a railway company to make the least amount of noise possible should be subject to its operational needs. Operational needs should not override obligation to make as little noise as possible. Thus, it should be specified that only the essential operational needs should be taken into account, and not just any need. For instance, the argument of operational efficiency or higher profit must not become an element that relieves the railway company of its obligation to make as little noise as possible.

    Clause 5 of Bill C-26 regulates the mediation process that was experimented with for some years by the Canada Transportation Agency. Based on our experience with this, we strongly support the measure that sets a 30-day time limit on mediation. This time limit seems sufficient to us to try to resolve differences in a voluntary way, presuming that the parties involved do all that needs to be done. We do not want to repeat what happened at Charny, where more than 18 months went by between the request for mediation and the conclusion, a conclusion that basically led nowhere.

    We are taking this opportunity to suggest that Bill C-26 be amended so that the Canada Transportation Agency may have jurisdiction over the issue of the use of train whistles. More specifically, we feel that it would be appropriate that any request to ban the use of train whistles on municipal territory could be examined by the Agency, in case the municipality, the railway company and Transport Canada cannot reach an agreement on anti-whistle regulations.

    To conclude, the city of Lévis has a serious railway noise problem. Great efforts were made in the past to give back to the citizens the tranquility they deserve. Unfortunately, our efforts were in vain, this is why we support the federal government's initiative to give the citizens a forum where they can defend their rights.

    I thank the committee members for their attention.

À  +-(1035)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    I have a few points for clarification. You keep referring to the town as the former town of Charny, and then you refer to the former town of Lévis. I see here you are the representation from Lévis. Has it been consolidated, or what?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Jean Garon: Ten municipalities were merged on January 1, 2002. Charny is one of these 10 towns as well as the former city of Lévis. They were merged in order to constitute the new city of Lévis. Charny is on the west side, and the former town of Lévis is on the east.

[English]

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    The Chair: Okay, they were amalgamated.

    In your submission, you refer to CN and you also refer to VIA Rail. Or is it just exclusively CN?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Jean Garon: It has more to do with CN, because there are no passenger coaches in the marshalling yard. The other train sets out from Ultramar and crosses the city with hazardous goods. These are freight cars and not passenger coaches.

[English]

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    The Chair: Also, it seemed that everything was okay until 1998, then something happened. Am I correct?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Jean Garon: With regard to the Charny marshalling yards, the former mayor of Charny, Mr. Lemaire, who now sits on the executive committee of the new city of Lévis, could tell you more about this.

À  +-(1040)  

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire (Member Executive Committee, City of Lévis):

    Mr. Chairman, here is what happened: in 1998 changes were made, Canadian National was privatized and operations changed. In addition, work was reorganized, and marshalling yards other than the Charny yards were closed down, which brought an increase to the activities in the Charny marshalling yards. This is why the citizens, who, we believe, are very reasonable and who have always managed to live together, beginning with 1998, when the operational methods changed, were no longer able to tolerate the enormous din made by these marshalling yards.

    Let me remind you, Mr. Chairman, that normal noise is about 45 decibels at the end of the day, whereas, according to our studies, the CN operations produce peaks going up to 80 decibels. Now, we know that the World Health Organization has indicated that at 67 decibels, the noise is 16 times louder. If you take an average of 67 decibels, it is 16 times louder in our town. We want our citizens to be able to sleep. I think that this is important for people and their families.

    Let us note that the work in the marshalling yards goes on all day, but that the most intense activity begins around 4 p.m. and ends around 7 or 8 o'clock the following morning. Thus, all night, we hear noises made by bumpers, acceleration and deceleration. Note that this work is done with instruments and remote control systems for engines. And bells also make noise when trains change direction; each time, the bell must ring about ten times. Even if there are only three or four persons in the marshalling yards, they still manage to set off this bell, which is heard by 600 to 700 persons each time. This shows that CN is acting in bad faith. It would be very easy, with modern technology and telemetrics or things like that, to find ways to protect these people.

    Yes, Mr. Chairman?

[English]

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    The Chair: I don't know how they get this done around here, but I've been advised that there's another meeting here at 11 o'clock.

    Mr. Proulx, could you have that meeting set back a little bit for us? We want to hear these witnesses.

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.): What powers do you think I have?

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    The Chair: Well, you have a lot more power than we have.

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: Certainly not, Mr. Chair.

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    Mr. Joseph Volpe (Eglinton—Lawrence, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, there'll be a vote any time between now and 11:15, so I suspect that things will not--

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    The Chair: Okay, good.

    In order that all the witnesses be allowed to speak and the questioners be allowed to ask their questions, I will ask that we put our questions in more succinct terms and try to get an succinct answer.

    Mr. Gouk.

    We'll have five minutes each to make sure that we're succinct.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    I will forgo all my preamble and get to two areas of questions that I have.

    One, we have heard from the major rail carriers. They've addressed this concern to some extent. One of the things I heard one of them suggest is that it's not uncommon for airports to have this situation happen. Could you expand on this with regard to rail?

    They suggested that in many of these cases the railway yard was there long before many of the houses were that are now subject to the noise. I have great compassion for the people who have that problem, but those houses were built with the railway yard already there. The railway companies are saying that they're a little exasperated because they know they're making a disturbance and they know it's hard on these people, but it's something they have to do to operate their system. They were there first.

    People, knowing they were there, built in that area anyway. In some cases, they were even warned not to build there, but they went ahead and built anyway. Is that the situation in your area? How do we come to terms with something like that, if it does exist?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Jean Garon: Should a buffer zone be provided by the citizens who own the land or by the company who needs it? If Canadian National needs a buffer zone... Besides, the federal government gave it a buffer zone in the 19th century. If you go back to the time when it distributed lines, you will see that it provided a wide space on each side of the railway tracks. Is it up to the citizens who own the land to say that they will give them a right of view or a buffer zone to allow for noise? If the railway company needs a buffer zone, it is up to it to purchase it.

    The former Mayor of Charny told us earlier that people did not complain about noise in the marshalling yards, so long as it did not go above a certain level, as it was in the past. But Canadian National decided to close marshalling yards in many places and to centralize its activities in this place. From then on, the noise became excessive, compared to what it was.

    You can complete the answer, Mr. Lemaire.

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: What Mr. Garon said is accurate. In my province, there are many dairy farms and each farmer must keep his cows on his own land. They are all responsible for building the appropriate fences. When you have a dog, it is up to you to decide on the length of the rope, and it is not up to the neighbours to build a fence.

    It was up to CN to provide for the noise it was going to make. I think that CN has not kept abreast of technology either. Ask CN what efforts they have made to reduce noise in marshalling yards. I mentioned a few moments ago, that it hasn't even given any thought to changing its bell. Nor does it bother to consider working with engines that are less noisy. Acceleration and deceleration is used, which causes an enormous racket. These people are not concerned with these matters and when they are approached about them, they reply in terms of profitability. Of course, it is more profitable. It is also more profitable to pollute. This noise pollution is unacceptable to civilized people. Even if CN was there first, they should have kept their buffer zones, as Mr. Lemaire just said.

[English]

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: I had hoped the answer would be as simple as the question.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: Was that the one question that I get?

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    The Chair: It looks that way. The answer was fairly long.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I would like to carry on in this same vein. Mr. Hamel, the use of whistles is fairly recent, I believe. Would you explain the problem.

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    Mr. André Hamel (Member Executive Committee, City of Lévis): Mr. Chairman, in 1995 the City of Lévis extended what was known at the time as the Côte du Passage, which is now the boulevard Alphonse-Desjardins, in order to ensure normal traffic circulation on the Kennedy artery. Unfortunately, at that same period, Ultramar also contributed to the development and export of its product outside the Lévis area. Ultramar had a large refinery there for the production and processing of petroleum products. Thus they started using an ultra train with 90 cars loaded with dangerous materials which ran two or three times a day. It has to cross the intersection at Côte du Passage, which carries a lot of traffic in Lévis.

    At the request of CN and in accordance with their assessment criteria, they installed gates and flashing lights, the works. Unfortunately, the trains continue to overuse their whistles, which is very disturbing for citizens who live nearby. I have lived in Lévis every since I was born and I can say to you quite honestly that I have never been woken up by any noise in my area. On the other hand, since 1995, I can tell you the times at which the ultra train goes by. It causes very great problems. There is even a residential sector very nearby, the arrondissement Desjardins; it is a recent development.

    I listened to the gentleman who was speaking earlier. He said that in 1995 they knew that the train went by there. I would mentioned to you that when the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement was holding hearings, we were told the train would follow a normal schedule, in other words once a day. Now, however, the train goes by three or four times a day and Ultramar is still growing. Soon the train will not be going by just three or four times a day, but seven or eight times a day. I can tell you quite honestly that this is destroying the qualify of life for residents of Lévis.

    We have tried to negotiate with Ultramar and CN. We even asked your colleague Mr. Jobin to intervene with the authorities at CN. Unfortunately, we have not yet received an answer. We have been trying to get some cooperation from these people since 1995. We understand that development is important, but they have to understand that they can't do anything they like just because they are Canadian National. Citizens also have rights, and that is why we are asking you today to represent us. You are our representatives. We are asking you to intervene with Canadian National so that we can have some quality of life. It is true that you can get away with a lot of Quebec, but there are still some limits which should be respected. In my opinion, if you consider the train whistles and problems related to the marshalling yards, Canadian National has gone as far as it should.

    I was disappointed to hear the remark of the gentleman to my right, who said earlier it was interesting to meet us, but he doubted that Bill C-26 would be adopted. You are our final hope. I would like to believe that I misunderstood. I would like to believe that people will fight strongly for the adoption of Bill C-26. We are counting on you. You are the last hope for citizens of the City of Lévis.

    Thank you.

À  +-(1045)  

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    Mr. Jean Garon: I would like to add a few words.

    Previously, Ultramar's oil was brought to Montreal by boat. Then, Ultramar was planning to build a pipeline, which would bring its oil to Montreal. All the consultations had been carried out—as a member, I too was consulted—and the project was about to begin when CN came in with a competing proposal which would make it less costly for Ultramar to use the train.

    There is nothing wrong with being competitive. But this does not mean to say that the company had received an automatic right to make noise. It cannot act as though only the railway exists. In actual fact, the railway has to coexist in a civilized urban environment where some 125,000 people live, whether they like or not.

À  +-(1050)  

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Jobin.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.): I am pleased to see that people from the City of Lévis are here today. We are discussing problems with which you and I are very familiar. We have discussed them at length on the city council or in other contexts.

    I can personally say that at the present time, Canadian National causes enormous problems for the City of Lévis. There are two reasons for this: the noise from the marshalling yard and the train whistles all along Côte du Passage. I have intervened on my own and with my friend Marcel, we have lobbied the Department of Transport and also CN. We have not yet received an answer, but I think we can expect some results.

    With respect to the marshalling yard, we should remember that before 1998, CN was a corporation of the Canadian government. Now that it is a private company, it is obliged to make profits, but that does not mean that it should ignore the citizens living nearby. At the present time however, that is the way CN is behaving.

    In the marshalling yard, they use modern techniques to couple the engines to the cars. To do this they use a type of joy stick. About five employees working at night in the control tower amuse themselves by backing the engines up against the cars, which causes a horrendous noise. These people have no concerns about the health of residents living in the neighbourhood. This is the situation which must be corrected.

    Ultramar, in Lévis, is an example of a business which respects citizens: it has just given the Davida wooded area to the City of Lévis for an urban park. These are people who are concerned about the health of the neighbouring population. This is absolutely not the case with CN. The City of Lévis does not want to shut down CN's operations. We know very well that their activities are profitable for the city and for Canada. On the other hand, we would like the noise levels reduced in the marshalling yard—not reduced to zero, but reduced—through the use of measures which do exist but which CN does not use.

    With respect to train whistles, when Côte du Passage was built, we asked that safe level crossings be built. The city did this. It even passed a resolution calling upon CN to refrain from using whistles all along these urban streets, for the very reason that there would be safe level crossings from then on. In spite of this resolution, however, CN continues to have its trains whistle as they run beside the municipality of Lévis. This is unacceptable, given that the people of Lévis have made all these efforts to get CN to change.

    I have a question for Mr. Lemaire on the subject of the marshalling yard.

    You have taken part in a mediation process and in discussions with CN. If we were to propose an amendment to Bill C-26, without including, as you are suggesting, a 30-day period, do you feel it would be possible to reach an agreement with these people which could be accepted by the residents of Charny?

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: Thank you, Mr. Jobin.

    We were involved in a mediation process with CN. At that time, the Canada Transportation Agency acted as mediator. I can therefore tell you that if we do not set limits, we will not achieve anything. As far as we are concerned, we have invested the necessary time, but there have been no results. The technique used by CN is to sidestep the issue.

    They have the time, the money and the good lawyers. They will meet with us as often as we like. They are not worried about the amount of time involved. For them, it is a question of an investment. On the other hand, once the process ends, the issue has been sidestepped and nothing works. They will have won out by wearing us down. It is not a complicated technique.

    It is therefore necessary that the Canadian government implements the necessary rules and standards so that they take the situation seriously. We tell them to go to the marshalling yard to see the technology which has been used for virtually centuries. It just does not make sense. Because they are making profits and because they want to continue to make profits, they are not making any effort. This company is not acting as a good citizen.

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: If I understand you correctly, the essential element in your report is the 30-day mediation process. You agree that the Canada Transportation Act should be amended, but you want to add that mediation should last 30 days. This is important and I think it should be mentioned here.

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    Mr. Jean Garon: If there is no agreement, the Canada Transportation Agency will be the arbitrator.

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: Quite. You are only asking for 30 days. That is important.

    Let us turn to the question of train whistle. Mr. Hamel, could you describe all the efforts you have made to have the train whistles stop. I know about them, but I would like you to describe them to the other members of the committee.

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    Mr. André Hamel: As I said to you a little earlier, Mr. Jobin, we have met with the people at Canadian National a number of times. There have been resolutions passed asking for CN's cooperation with eliminating the use of the whistle at our level crossing for safety reasons. Unfortunately, CN responded that the rail line would be have to be fenced between the intersections at Côte du Passage and Alphonse-Desjardins, going east, which is a distance of 500 or 600 metres.

    It is not the municipality's responsibility to fence the rail line to make it safer against snowmobilers or ATV users who might come onto the rail line. The municipality has no responsibility for that. Nonetheless, our pubic security department tried to do something about the problem, but the whistle continued to be used. I would go further and say that steps have to be taken as soon as possible, Mr. Chairman.

    I am certain that one of the train engineers must be thinking about suicide: he is going to hang himself on his whistle cord. It is ridiculous. The whistle is being used excessively and yet, in my opinion and the opinion of people like Mr. Jobin who know the area, that crossing is safe. There are gates, flashing lights, and signals indicating that the train will pass in one and a half minutes, so that drivers can turn around or take a different street and thereby avoid having to wait at the intersection until the train goes by. We have done everything. The city of Lévis has done everything it needed to do. All we are asking for is some help so that people can enjoy living where they have chosen to live and maintain their quality of life.

    We have done everything, and I would invite you to check that with Mr. Jobin. I sent him the file indicating all the steps we have taken. That file must be four or five inches thick, if not more. As I told you a little earlier, you are our last hope in this struggle to enable the residents of Lévis to have the peaceful environment they deserve.

    If I may, Mr. Chairman, I would ask for just two seconds more. Then I will be done, I promise.

    I would like to thank Mr. Laframboise for enabling us to be heard. At one point, I thought that we had come here for nothing, but I am pleased to see that you have enabled us to be heard, and I thank you.

À  +-(1055)  

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: I would like to add in conclusion, Mr. Chairman, that there are 125,000 residents in Lévis. This is not a small town of 20,000; there are 125,000 people there. We are talking about a major urban area. It is the ninth largest city in Quebec. It is important that CN respect these people.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    I should advise the members of the committee that when we look at the witness list, it's not only the input of Mr. Laframboise, but it's also the input of Mr. Gouk, Mr. Jobin, and Mr. Proulx, to make sure you all get the opportunity to be heard. So the fact that you're here today is a decision of the entire committee when we look at the witness list. I'd like to clarify that.

    But, Mr. Proulx, if--

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: It'll be 30 seconds, Mr. Chair.

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    The Chair: No, but if you would ask the question about.... I'm having some difficulty in this whistle issue, and what kinds of barricades go down before the train crosses the intersection?

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: Mr. Chair, if you don't mind, I know the file very well. Mr. Jobin has been explaining it to me. I will explain it to you afterwards. But I'm afraid that we're going to run out of time, and I have one question.

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    The Chair: No, it's for 30 minutes.

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: Exactly, and I have one question to ask.

[Translation]

    Gentlemen, thank you for coming here to appear before us. As you are aware, noise is a problem not only in train yards. Sometimes there is noise in committees.

    I do not want to deal with your particular file because—this will surprise you—I know it very well. My friend Christian "pitbull" Jobin has been talking about it to me, as parliamentary secretary, since he arrived in Ottawa. We have approached CN and we are waiting for answers. I do not know what those answers will be, but I am aware of the file and we have worked on it.

    I want to come back to what Mr. Gouk was saying earlier about rail companies claiming that they were there before the municipalities and before the residents. I understand your response, which I accept and am not judging, but do you not feel that municipalities—I am not talking just about your municipality, but about municipalities in general, should act as prudent administrators and decide at some point not to allow residential development or zone changes that allow for residential construction, so that people do not end up cheek by jowl with the rail line or the CN, CP or LBRs? Would the municipalities not have a role to play there?

Á  +-(1100)  

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    Mr. Jean Garon: We do play that role, except that people have to want to play it has well. Take the example of Ultramar, which Mr. Jobin started to talk about earlier. Ultramar was worried that houses, in Oakville, for instance, were getting too close to the refinery. I met with the Quebec and American presidents of Ultramar. It was agreed that a park would be created on the eastern side. On the western side, there is a golf course. So we told them to ensure that the golf course stayed there and to establish an easement so that it would remain a golf course. They offered to buy the mountain, with an area of 7 million square feet, where they wanted to have a residential development to make a park. Ultramar bought that land and is going to transfer it to make a park. So there will be over 15 million square feet on the eastern side where no residential development can take place. It takes cooperation from the company. So Ultramar has guaranteed the future of this refinery on both sides.

    In the case of CN, however, the situation is different. CN has sold all its land. It is not up to the people who buy the land to provide buffer zones for those that need them. There is a recent development around parc de la Terrasse in Lévis. People ask why the building was not demolished. But people do not buy land to provide it to those who need. It is up to those who need it to acquire the space that can be used as a buffer zone.

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: Do the municipalities not determine the zoning...?

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    Mr. Jean Garon: Who is going to own the land?

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: Mr. Proulx, I just want to say to you that the former municipality of Charny did refuse developments that were too close. The zoning in question was changed.

    I also want to say that a policy with CN was presented to us. In the policy, all the distances, which are around 300 metres, are respected. All that is already in place, but the noise is still excessive. Things can no longer work the way they did in 1940.

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: I am familiar with your file—I do not want to call it your personal file. Moreover, the transcriptions from the testimony of witnesses are public, and I will send a copy of today's testimony to CN. We will continue to discuss these issues with CN to see if we can come up with something.

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    Mr. Jean Garon: We are not enemies of CN.

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: I understood that clearly.

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    Mr. Jean Garon: We like the railway. The railway is a key economic activity in our area.

[English]

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    Mr. Marcel Proulx: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Proulx.

    Are you through, Mr. Jobin?

    I cut Mr. Gouk a little short because I was afraid we wouldn't get the evidence in, so I'm going to go for one more question from Mr. Gouk, and then I'll hand it over to Mr. Laframboise.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have just a short question, following this still.

    As I say, I have sympathy not only in your area but also with airports and rail yards all across this country.

    In response to Mr. Proulx, you said that CN sold property. At the time that property was sold, what was the zoning? Was it industrial zoning? I would assume that an industry operating in that area wouldn't be complaining about the noise from the rail yard at night. Did the City of Lévis, or one of the other municipalities prior to amalgamation, rezone it from an industrial type of use to residential use, which subsequently led to the building of houses?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Jean Garon: That is not the problem. When CN was privatized, it closed a number of marshalling yards and concentrated them in Charny, with the result that the operation was huge compared to what it had been. In 1998, when the company went private, it closed marshalling yards and decided to concentrate its activities in Charny. We were not against that idea, but it created a great deal of inconvenience for people living near the yard.

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: I would just like to add something: the work methods have changed as well. Volume is one problem, but the work methods are another. There is no longer an engineer in the locomotive. When there was a human being driving, it was one thing, but now the engine is driven remotely and we are dealing with a little black box. When they want the engine to go forward, they press a button, which makes it accelerate rapidly, and then, bang! The methods have changed, and the new methods do not enable people to live quietly. The noise pollution is terrible.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gouk.

    Mr. Laframboise.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, since I have had the chance to hear from people elsewhere who had problems with rail yards, I can tell you that 1998 is a year that no one will forget who lives near a rail yard. Changes took place in how CN operates. It went after economies of scale, it paired down personnel costs, it introduced electrical and electronic equipment. The result is too much noise, and that is the problem. I would just like you to summarize that for us, Mr. Lemaire.

Á  -(1105)  

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: It is not complicated. As you said, the whole method has changed. Things used to be done in a certain way. Then there was a huge increase in volume and instruments were introduced to control distances.

    There are 40 tracks, so that means a number of engines are moving up and down at the same time. People control everything remotely with levers, and cannot always tell whether they are five feet or zero feet from a rail car, and so the impact creates a huge noise. Since the cars are often empty, the sound reverberates.

    As I said at the beginning—and I will conclude on this point—I am merely asking you to enable people living near rail yards, anywhere in Canada, to be able to sleep at night. People are able to accept noise during the day, but not at night or on Sunday after four o'clock in the afternoon when they are sitting on their porch. There are limits. I live about 750 or 800 metres from there and the noise of rail cars banging together frequently wakes me up at four o'clock in the morning. At some point, there are limits to the extent to which people can act as if they are alone in the world.

    I will close on that note. Thank you very much.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

    I have time for two very, very short questions. If they're short questions, we would like short answers, because we have to run.

    Mr. Jobin.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Christian Jobin: Mr. Lemaire, you live very near the problem area, which is the Joffre rail yard. Is it true that people have to keep their windows closed from May until September because there is too much noise?

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: It is true that people keep their windows closed. It is true that people cannot eat outside on their porch on warm Sunday evenings. What you have said is true, Mr. Jobin.

    So I think that CN is abusing the situation. We are talking about huge noise pollution, and I would ask you to do something about it.

[English]

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    The Chair: The answer is yes.

    Mr. Volpe, one short question, and that is it.

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    Mr. Joseph Volpe: Mr. Chairman, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify something.

    Mr. Gouk asked if the land that was sold off was initially zoned industrial and then sold as residential. Was there a zoning change? How did CN sell the property?

[Translation]

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    Mr. Alain Lemaire: That happened before I became Mayor of Charny, but to my knowledge, there was no problem when the land was sold because things were done on a small scale. The engines were smaller, there was less cargo handling, and there were human beings involved directly. These employees often lived in the village or nearby. Today these people come from everywhere to do their jobs and they often do not enjoy working in the rail yard. Sometimes it is the newest employees who are sent to the rail yards, and so it is not the same thing anymore.

    We have complied with CN's request to maintain a 300-metre buffer. We have not allowed residential construction closer than 300 metres. But CN has changed the work it works and that is why we have problems.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mayor.

    Last word, Mr. Hamel.

[Translation]

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    Mr. André Hamel: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    To answer the question asked by you and your colleague about the use of the whistle, I am concerned about CN rail crossings and by the use of the train whistle at level crossings. I can tell you that no land has been transferred. The land given to CN to build its railway is still there. Along the rail line, buffer zones have been developed, consisting of parcels of land that keep residents from being disturbed. The people of Lévis, in the area I represent and throughout the municipality, will continue to tolerate the shaking of dishes and the trains going through, but we have to stop sound pollution from destroying the quality of life of residents who have chosen to live in Lévis.

    So no land has been transferred. In the former municipality of Lévis, no land has been transferred. It is only the level crossings that are a problem for people.

    Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hamel.

    I want to thank Mr. Brochu, Mr. Hamel, Mr. Garon, Mr. Lemaire, and Mr. Hallé for appearing here this morning. Your concerns will be addressed either by our review of Bill C-26 or in the next Parliament. We're not sure what's happening, but your concerns will be addressed, and I'm sure there will be more discussion.

    The meeting is adjourned.