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39th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 013

CONTENTS

Monday, May 1, 2006

(Part A)





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 141 
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NUMBER 013 
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1st SESSION 
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39th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, May 1, 2006

(Part A)

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



Government Orders

[Government Orders]

  (1100)  

[English]

International Bridges and Tunnels Act

    The House resumed from April 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Western Arctic had the floor and there remained seven minutes in the time allotted for his remarks. Accordingly, the hon. member for Western Arctic.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today, on May Day, to have the opportunity to speak in this House on a day that is so significant to working people around the world. I certainly want to make that point.
    With regard to Bill C-3, I really do not have too much to carry on with. I would like to re-emphasize the point I was making on Friday in regard to rail transport and the need to ensure that the investments we are making in infrastructure are the correct ones for the future. When this government proposes to legislate and control the development and repair of infrastructure and the direction we take with international trade across our borders, and when we look at the qualities for the future that rail transport offers to freight in terms of the environment, security, the movement of goods across the border, and the ability to provide a clean, effective system that is less intrusive on the communities it will travel through, I think we need to look very closely at rail transport and its future in this country.
    When we come to making decisions about upgrading or installing new bridges, which would be designed for improving truck transport and vehicle transport across the border, I would put my order in for the provision of greater opportunities for rail transport in this country. That is the one issue I wanted to highlight here today. I have no further comments. I now will leave this for questions.

  (1105)  

    Are there questions and comments in this question period of 10 minutes? There being no members standing, I recognize the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, resuming debate.
    Mr. Speaker, I pleased to stand today in support of Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act. This is a very important bill. I think the very fact that it has not been brought into effect until this time, especially after 9/11, speaks volumes to the negligence of the previous government.
    It fills a long-standing gap in our legislation and finally gives Canadians the ability to protect critical infrastructure, to protect our international bridges and our tunnels. What could be more important than protecting our citizens, the safety of our citizens, the safety of Canadians, the safety of our economy through trade, to protect our friends and relatives traveling to work, live and play every day?
     This bill will create Canadian jobs. It will grow Canada's economy and strengthen our international relationships, especially and of course those with the United States. Most important, as I said, this bill will safeguard Canadians and Canadian interests.
    Canada's border with the United States is some 6,400 kilometres of land and water. It is the longest undefended and unguarded border in the world. Unfortunately, this border is only as secure as its most unsafe and weakest part. There are 24 vehicle bridges and tunnels, 5 railroad bridges and tunnels and also 130 border crossings. All of these are very difficult to protect.
    Over $1.9 billion worth of goods is transported across the border each and every day. This means that 11 million trucks cross the border every year. That means 30,000 trucks a day or one truck every three seconds. In fact, since I stood up, over 100 trucks and $5 million in products have crossed the border. It is incredible.
    In fact, the four busiest international bridges alone handle over 50% of this volume. This represents 33% of all of Canada's trade with the United States. These are very important crossings, and we need to protect them not only for the safety of citizens but for our trade. Let us face it, before September 11, 2001, we took these bridges and tunnels for granted. They are both publicly and privately owned, and no one really expected security on this border to be such a critical issue, especially in catching people, and also critical to our economy. Now we understand how critical these bridges and tunnels are to our economy. We need to protect those assets. We need to keep traffic flowing, as it is so vital to our economy.
    As government and as members of Parliament, we have an obligation to ensure that our citizens and those assets are protected. This legislation will indeed protect them. It will go toward ensuring that we have an interrupted flow of goods and people across the border. It will ensure that the manner in which these bridges and tunnels are managed and maintained keeps security and safety as job number one for the government. Finally, as I have said, it will protect our national interests on an ongoing basis.
    After 9/11 we recognized the need to conduct threat and risk assessments and to improve the overall security of our perimeter all over the country. After 9/11, Transport Canada launched a process in cooperation with the Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association. Their study proved that we need to conduct security reviews and threat and risk assessments for all of our international crossings. The results and recommendations of this study include everything from specific engineering analysis to general operational security analysis.
    One of the reasons this legislation is so important is that currently each bridge is owned, operated and managed differently. Some are privately owned. Some are federally controlled. Indeed, some are controlled by provinces and states jointly or by each independently. All of these parties currently have different regulations, rules and standards and, quite frankly, different expectations of what they want out of the bridge or international tunnel. This legislation will create one standard for all bridge and tunnel crossings, a standard that is in the best interests of Canadians and guarantees the safety of Canadians on an ongoing basis.

  (1110)  

    Job number one for the government is to keep Canadians safe. Canada does and always has had constitutional authority over international bridges and tunnels, surprising as it may be. We may ask why this particular legislation has taken so long to come in, especially after 9/11. It is shocking that nothing has been done but under the vision of the Prime Minister and the Conservative government, this is one of the first pieces of legislation that we have put forward because of its importance to Canadians. What could be more important to Canada than our safety and our economy?
    The legislation would work toward the security, the safety and the economy of all of our border crossings. Even U.S. agencies have identified these crossings as potential targets for terrorists. They have even identified them as choke points. They have said that the terrorists' objectives could decimate these crossings and our economy and our safety.
    The bill would give the governor in council the authority to make regulations for the safety and the security of international bridges and tunnels. For example, this may include setting the minimum security standards for bridge and tunnel operators. It may include provisions to prepare and submit regular threat assessments and vulnerability assessments for particular bridges or for all of them. It may include the development and implementation of an emergency response. We do not even have an emergency response system set up to know what we will do in cases of dire emergencies in this country for international crossings.
    The very lack of this legislation currently being alive in this country was a glaring and obvious gap. I cannot believe that for five years, since 9/11, the previous Liberal government could not find the initiative and motive to protect Canadians and to push this legislation through. It is a priority and we will work toward getting this through with the other parties. The safety and security of Canadians is a real priority. We know the Prime Minister and the government will work with the United States and Mexico to set up systems to protect our critical transportation infrastructure, which is so important for us as a trading nation.
    The government will be working on a transportation security action plan. The government will get expert analyses from governments, industry and international partners on how to keep Canadians safe. As I said, that is the government's number one priority and we will work toward that.
    The bill is a first step only. It would give the federal government the ability to keep our international bridges and tunnels secure. We believe that nothing could be more important than this bill and we are asking for all party support on getting the bill passed as quickly as possible. I fully support the bill and I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House today to join me in keeping Canadians safe and secure.

  (1115)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the parliamentary secretary and I have a little difficulty with his description of governments, namely the previous government. This has been a long work in process in terms of the difficulties with the tunnel and bridge legislation.
    If the parliamentary secretary would ask for the unanimous consent of the House we could simply pass the bill at second reading and send it to committee. If the parliamentary secretary would do that I am sure we on this side of the House would concur to send the bill to committee immediately and pass it into law as soon as possible.
    Mr. Speaker, I think it would be appropriate at this time to answer the first comment made by my colleague across the floor which is that this was an initiative by the previous government. Initiatives are fine but the reality is that it had five years to implement the bill but nothing was done. The safety and security of Canadians is our number one priority but it was not the previous government's priority.
    My understanding is that this proposal was actually put forward in two bills that the previous government could not pass and did not put it as a priority to pass. We, under the direction of the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, have made it very much an initiative to get it done and that is what we will do.
    We want to ensure we pass it at every stage and that we hear from parties on all sides of the House. We want to work cooperatively with the other parties and we want to hear from all parties. We will send it to committee to ensure this important legislation receives input from, not just our own party but all parts of Canada and all members of Parliament so that we get a good legislation and Canadians are protected.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I would like to ask him a question regarding a particular provision in the bill regarding crossing the St. Lawrence River. The provision is no doubt included because of the existence of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
    In view of the joint jurisdiction over environment, among other things, did my colleague cooperate and negotiate with the Government of Quebec before including this provision in the bill?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, because of the unique nature of all bridges and international crossings there needs to be input by all parties. As the member is aware, there is an international crossing in Quebec that is important and vital to Quebeckers.
    I assure the member that the government will be collaborating with not only all members of this House but with all stakeholders, private, state, federal and, most important, provincial. This is an area that is vitally important to provincial economies and the people who use those crossings.
    Mr. Speaker, my own personal view is that critical pieces of infrastructure, such as the Ambassador Bridge, should not be privately owned. I think this is far too critical to be in private hands, to be bought, sold and traded away to who knows whom down the road.
    I know the political philosophy of the Conservative Party is to privatize everything. It wants to get government out of everything and sell it to the private sector. If the government can make a buck on it that is what is holy.
    Does the parliamentary secretary agree that things, such as the Ambassador Bridge, should not be privately owned? Is there anything in the bill to give some comfort to Canadians that we will retain public control and ownership over those key infrastructure pieces such as the Ambassador Bridge?

  (1120)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is an amusing question. I did not know that was what the Conservative Party stood for. I am happy the member suggested that but it is simply not the case. The Conservative Party's number one priority is safety.
    I am happy the member supports Bill C-3 because it would establish one set of rules and one priority, which is safety. It would also ensure, under clause 6 of the bill, that:
    No person shall construct or alter an international bridge or tunnel without the approval of the Governor in Council.
    We want to establish one set of rules that will ensure the safety of Canadians no matter who owns the bridge, whether it be federal, provincial or private. Our number one priority is to ensure the rules are in place so Canadians are safeguarded.
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly support Bill C-3 going to committee. However I find it quite amusing when the government takes credit for bringing this legislation forward. If the oppositions parties had not called the election that bill would have been in the House. Governance as it relates to our border operations has been of concern for many members on this side.
    We have a classic example in Windsor-Detroit where we have some private sector interests that are basically setting the standards and buying up all the real estate that will be a part of any transaction of any new crossing. The previous government had started to get on to this and had drafted the legislation, and I hope the government deals with this.
    I am not a big fan of nationalizing these sorts of operations but there are some people who would, and perhaps some our colleagues down at the other end and on their side.
    I think we need to have a state of governance that provides the national security and the national interest of the Canadian people in this massive corridor that takes care of so much trade and the passage of people across our borders. We need to be in charge here, not these private sector interests because this represents a key national corridor for the trade of goods and the mobility of people.
    The member also alluded to the concept of perimeter. Is this a new change? Is this a change in the philosophy of the government? Does the government still subscribe to the notion that we need to harmonize all our national security policies with the United States and Mexico?
    Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the member was in government for a period of time and had the opportunity for some 13 years to make changes, 5 years under what I would consider to be a critical mandate, and did nothing. It is absolutely uncalled for to now criticize us for making the safety of Canadians a priority, especially given that Canadians had a choice. They had a choice some months ago and they chose change. They did not like the job the member and his government were doing before. Instead of a party that did nothing or a party that could not do anything, they wanted a party that would make positive changes for Canadians, which is this Conservative government. We will be making positive changes for people and we will actually get some work done.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing forward this Liberal bill and it seems that all members in the House support this Liberal bill.
    I guess the bill is not that much of a priority because he refused the request for unanimous consent to get on with the bill. However, does the member have any problems with the bill as the Liberals wrote it and with the debate in the last Parliament?

  (1125)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a tremendous day because I have been amused three times already. This is not a Liberal bill. I think Bill C-44 was a Liberal bill and it was about four times thicker and did not accomplish anything. It was, quite frankly, not agreed to by all parties.
    The difference is that we are putting forward a bill that all parties will agree to. We as a government will listen to members of all parties and ask for their input. We do not just shove things through. The difference between this government and the previous government which Canadians had for 13 years is that we will listen to people and we will get things done.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise to speak to Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. Since it incorporates part of Bill C-44, which the Bloc Québécois supported, we must support this bill, but with certain reservations, as I will explain later.
    This is the first time the Government of Canada has put legislation in place to allow it to exercise its authority over international bridges and tunnels. The new government tells us it wants to ensure that the security, safety and efficient movement of people and goods are in accordance with national interests.
    The events of September 2001, it must be noted, made clear the importance of protecting these vital infrastructures. The proposed amendments would give the Government of Canada new and broader legislative powers to oversee approvals of international bridges and tunnels. These amendments would give the government power to approve, on the recommendation of the Minister of Transport, the construction or alteration of international bridges and tunnels and to formulate regulations governing the management, maintenance, security, safety and operation of these structures.
     The bill would also authorize the federal government to approve the sale or transfer of ownership of international bridges and tunnels. Note as well that it would strengthen federal government oversight of all new and existing international bridges and tunnels in order to better protect the public interest and ensure the flexible flow of international trade. There are currently 24 international vehicular bridges and tunnels and five international railway tunnels linking Canada and the United States. These bridges and tunnels carry the vast majority of international trade between Canada and the United States and play a vital role in Canada’s transportation system.
     The provisions of this new bill are almost identical to those of the defunct Bill C-44, which was tabled by the former government and died on the order paper when the election was called. That bill,the 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, was tabled in the House of Commons on March 24, 2005 by the former Minister of Transport. Bill C-44 was itself similar in many respects to the previous Bill C-26, which bore the same title and was tabled in the House of Commons on February 23, 2003. Those two bills each died on the order paper upon the prorogation of Parliament. As you can see, the Parliament of Canada needs a lot of time to get its bills passed.
     What affects us in Quebec most closely in this bill is a provision concerning the international bridges and tunnels that cross the St. Lawrence River. This provision corrects a legislative anomaly in the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which requires that a permit be issued for all work that has repercussions on navigable waters but which does not authorize the issuing of permits with regard to the St. Lawrence River. That anomaly had become evident during review of the proposed highway 30 bridges crossing the St. Lawrence Seaway. Those bridges have yet to be built, as you know, and these projects have been making very slow progress for many years.
     In his speech last Friday, the minister said that any new crossing over the St. Lawrence would be subject to federal approval. I would like to know to what extent that sort of approach has the approval of the Quebec government, as it is likely to infringe upon its fields of jurisdiction.
     Although the bill fills a legal void in the area of international bridges and tunnels, is designed to improve the safety of the infrastructures in that area, and has the consent of local stakeholders, we still have certain reservations. In the context of the regulation of international bridges and tunnels, the bill gives us the impression that the government is being conferred some very extensive, quasi-police powers, for example, a power to investigate without a warrant and a very authoritarian power of seizure.

  (1130)  

    The government has the power to legislate, but the financial responsibility rests on other shoulders. The Bloc Québécois believes this situation can lead to conflicts. What disappoints us the most is that a number of important measures that were in Bill C-44 were dropped from the current bill. It is important to point that out because we were told that this bill included the measures already outlined in Bill C-44, but only a small number of them are left.
    Some parts of Bill C-44 were very important for the Bloc Québécois and for now they are being dropped. I am talking about the requirement that airline advertising be more transparent. The former bill would have required airlines to change their advertising methods. They would have been required to list the total price of the flight including related fees. This measure was much demanded by the consumer associations.
    The bill would have improved the conflict resolution process for sharing the rail lines between passenger transportation companies and freight companies.
    Bill C-44 included a section under which a railway company wishing to sell a rail line would first offer it to any interested urban transit authorities before offering it to municipal governments. A number of residents in my riding and in other regions of Quebec are concerned about this issue. Bill C-44 promoted setting up commuter trains across the country.
    Our constituents are increasingly aware of the importance of developing public transit as a solution to traffic congestion problems and greenhouse gas emissions.
    The bill also included a provision on Via Rail. It gave Via Rail more power to make its own decisions with a view to improving the rail service. Rail transit is a good alternative to road transportation, which currently is about the only option.
    Clause 32 of Bill C-44 gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to investigate complaints concerning noise caused by trains. It required railways to implement certain measures to prevent unnecessary noise, particularly at rail yards. The noise issue is causing a lot of controversy in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.
    According to the British North America Act of 1867, the responsibility for international bridges and tunnels falls exclusively within federal jurisdiction. But in most cases, the Canadian portion of these structures is owned by the provinces. We must ensure that the regulatory and financial application of this act is negotiated and occurs in collaboration with the provinces.
    In his speech last Friday, the minister stated that the federal government will be able to ensure that environmental assessments of international bridges and tunnels are conducted in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, when appropriate.
    What did the minister mean by adding the word “appropriate”? I believe the minister was implying that jurisdiction over the environment is shared between federal and provincial governments, and that he does not necessarily have the final say in the matter.
    I again ask the minister if he held negotiations with the Government of Quebec concerning sharing jurisdictions. Given its declaration of good will toward Quebec, it would be desirable for the new government to demonstrate its good intentions with respect to Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.
    In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will support the second reading of the bill, despite the fact that it only partially resolves the many transportation problems that still exist in Quebec and Canada.

  (1135)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in this Parliament to deliver a speech. I made a statement previously, but since my time was limited then, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your very important role in the 39th Parliament.
     I also take this opportunity to thank the constituents of Sarnia—Lambton who made it possible for me to be a member of this august body. Their support and faith in me is gratifying and extremely humbling. I will certainly do my utmost to represent all constituents in my riding.
    I give a special thanks to my family, who has always supported me 100%: my husband, Bill, our son, my mom and my sisters and brothers. None of us get here on our own, and I am pleased to be able to acknowledge all those who helped and supported in so many ways.
    I am pleased today to add my full support to the international bridges and tunnels act, not only because I feel it will be an important piece of legislation, but because one of Canada's most important international crossings, the Blue Water Bridge, is located in my riding. For those who have not had the opportunity to visit the village of Point Edward, which is surrounded on three sides by the city of Sarnia, Ontario, and on the fourth side by the St. Clair River, let me say a bit about the Blue Water Bridge.
    The crossing is a major traffic and economic link between Ontario and Michigan, and serves as a critical component in our trade corridor linking Canada, the United States and Mexico. The bridges connect Highway 402 in Ontario to Interstates 94 and 69 in Michigan, which provides southerly access to Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis and the entire gulf coast, extending down through Florida to New Orleans and Mexico.
    To better handle the volume of traffic, the Blue Water Bridge was twinned in 1997 with the addition of a second span. We now have the distinction of having the only twin international bridge crossing in Canada. My riding is also home to an international rail tunnel and an international ferry crossing.
    The Blue Water Bridge currently ranks as the fourth busiest Canada-U.S. border crossing. In 2005, 5.5 million vehicles crossed the Blue Water Bridge. It is the second busiest crossing for the number of commercial vehicle crossings. Approximately 5,000 commercial vehicles cross the bridge daily. On busy days, this count exceeds 7,500 trucks. In 2005, 3.7 million commercial vehicles crossed the bridge, carrying Canadian exports south and bringing foreign products to Canadians. The bridge handles 12% of Canada's total trade with the United States and is the fastest growing truck crossing on the Canada-U.S. border. It is interesting to note that the Blue Water Bridge is the busiest live animal port of entry on the Canadian border. This critical piece of our transportation infrastructure is essential to maintaining our current economic stature.
    We have heard that special acts of Parliament created most of our international bridges and tunnels quite some time ago. This is the situation with the Blue Water Bridge. An act to incorporate the St. Clair Transit Company was passed by Parliament on June 11, 1928, and authorized the construction, operation and maintenance of an international bridge. There were subsequent acts and amendments related to the bridge passed in 1930, 1934, 1940, 1964, 1970, 1972, 1979, 1981, 1988 and 2001.
    It would seem to me that this practice of continually debating and passing special acts of Parliament is an ineffectual way for the federal government to exercise its jurisdiction over international bridges and tunnels. I therefore support the approach taken by Bill C-3 of having governor in council consider and approve aspects related to these crossings, rather than take valuable House time for the same purpose.

  (1140)  

    I gave the House some statistics relating to commercial crossings at the Blue Water Bridge. This international crossing is also very important for the tourism industry. In 2005 there were 1.8 million passenger vehicles that crossed the Blue Water Bridge. Obviously this link is vitally important to this sector of our economy as well.
    The international bridges and tunnels bill contains provisions to ensure that these facilities are safe and secure. The Blue Water Bridge Authority takes safety and security very seriously. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001 the authority was very proactive and on its own undertook a security threat assessment. It was one of the first international bridges to implement increased security measures. It has also been very cooperative in sharing its lessons learned with its sister members of the Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association. There is no doubt in my mind that the Blue Water Bridge continues to be actively concerned with safety and security measures and will continue to be vigilant in carrying out its responsibilities.
    Many security improvements have been implemented over the past three years. One of the objectives is to further develop and maintain policies and procedures for emergency response, threat assessment and disaster recovery. Three security assessments have been completed and all high priority recommendations have been implemented. The bridge is also a member of the Chemical Valley Emergency Coordinating Organization.
    I am concerned, however, that not all international bridges and crossings might be taking security as seriously as does the Blue Water Bridge Authority. It is for this reason that I support the provisions in Bill C-3 that would permit the federal government to pass regulations concerning safety and security measures. What good would it do Canada if not every bridge or tunnel took security as seriously as the Blue Water Bridge? A terrorist would simply target the weakest facility. That is why we need to establish a minimum level of security that every bridge would need to respect. A bridge or tunnel could exceed this standard, but at least there would be a minimum standard which all bridges would be required to attain.
    The Blue Water Bridge has been able to strike a healthy balance between traffic efficiency and security. Security and medical alerts, customs contract negotiations and a general lack of capacity on the American plaza during peak traffic demand has at times created traffic congestion in Canada. With the introduction of NEXUS and the FAST program, some of this volume pressure has been relieved. The bridge authority has taken a lead role in coordinating a focus group including the Ontario Provincial Police, the Sarnia Police Service, the Ontario Trucking Association and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to implement short and long term solutions to traffic matters. The authority's master plan will reduce the potential for congestion and accidents in the long term while short term solutions such as reducing speed limits, better signage and increased police presence have had positive results.
    In December 2004 the U.S. and Canadian governments consulted border operators on how to improve transit times for cars and trucks by 25% by the end of 2005. This challenge was directed at easing border congestion. The Blue Water Bridge quickly completed and implemented a traffic management system which achieved the 25% improvement for traffic coming into Canada.
    Considering the importance of international bridges and tunnels to Canadian trade and tourism, it is remarkable that no law has ever been adopted that uniformly applies to all international bridges and tunnels and sets out the manner in which the federal government can exercise its jurisdiction with respect to these structures. Bill C-3 would rectify this vacuum in federal legislation.

  (1145)  

    Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member on a very good speech. She raised some very good points. Her party also showed good judgment in bringing forward the Liberal bill in exactly the same way as we presented it.
    Mr. Speaker, we recognize that Bill C-3 is an excellent bill. It will improve things greatly at all international border crossings. Although there are a lot of similarities to Bill C-44, there are a couple of differences in our bill. Certainly crossings over the St. Lawrence River and the sale and transfer affecting international bridges and tunnels are two of them. We look forward to support from across the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my friend in relation to her attendance and interest in this bill, and obviously the significant work that she wants to put into this area. I am wondering if she would comment briefly on what she felt were the most important areas to concentrate our efforts on in order to facilitate border crossings and to get goods transported back and forth between the United States and Canada. What does she think is the most important issue to deal with right now in relation to this?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly the security at our border crossings is one of the very first things we need to deal with. The standardization of security at all international crossings is of utmost importance. If we do not have a standard across the country, then as far as our trade partners go, there will be a great deal of ambiguity and a great deal of concern as to which border crossing they will be dealing with. The standardization of security is one of the first things we need to deal with.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, a provision of the preceding bill gave the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to investigate complaints about noise and require the railways to take measures to reduce the harmful effects of noise as much as possible, during both the construction and operation of rail lines. Of course, this must take into account the operational needs of railway services and the interests of the communities in question.
    I would like to know the hon. member's opinion on the provisions concerning noise.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I had spoken mainly on bridge crossings. Bill C-3 certainly does cover all international crossings whether they be bridges or tunnels. The issue the member has brought forth will be discussed when the bill is before the committee. We look forward to hearing the comments from all the parties and the different areas as consultation continues.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member did not discuss one particular aspect of the question. We know that rail transport is much more environmentally friendly than any other form of transportation that exists in Canada, and particularly in Quebec.
    The previous bill was much more explicit in that sense. Specifically, it gave VIA Rail greater power to improve rail transport.
    I would like the hon. member to explain how she believes this new bill is better than the previous bill. We, in fact, prefer the previous bill.

  (1150)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, Bill C-3 addresses all aspects of the international crossings, whether they be tunnels or bridges. That is an issue we will be discussing further as I have said. There will be further discussion on the different aspects of rail travel. Rail travel is an extremely important part of moving goods in this country. Certainly coming from a riding that has an international tunnel crossing, I fully realize the value of moving goods by train. As a government we look forward to further discussion on this issue at committee.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would also like to hear what my hon. colleague has to say about controlling pollution from railway transportation, particularly noise pollution. Bill C-3 makes brief mention of this, but it was covered in Bill C-44, specifically in connection with marshalling yards.
    Another element that was missing from Bill C-44 and is also missing from Bill C-3 concerns the inconvenience caused by train vibration and movement at the entrance to cities when trains stop and block vehicle entry or access routes for a long time. Every city is limited to two such rail entry points.
    You will tell me that there are regulations for this, but there are regulations for noise as well.
    I would therefore like to know why a distinction is being made regarding inconvenience caused by vibration and entries when noise is covered.
    I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this issue.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, certainly, as I have said before, Bill C-3 deals with all aspects of the international crossings. We will also be dealing with rail traffic and rail crossings and the tunnels. I look forward to further discussions as this bill goes through committee.
    I live in a small rural municipality where, on average, there is one train every 20 minutes. I know what the sound of trains is like. I know what the pollution from trains is like. I know what the vibration from trains is like. I, too, look forward to further discussions.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak today to Bill C-3, a significant bill relating to bridges and tunnels that connect our country with the United States. Bill C-3 is actually a part of a former bill, Bill C-44, which was a package of three other elements that have been left behind at the moment to deal with this significant and important issue. I give the government credit for doing so. It is important that we recognize that this bill has a high priority.
    I would like to note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who is also affected by this issue. Windsor West, Windsor—Tecumseh and Essex County have significant border infrastructure issues that have affected not only our community but the county and even the country.
    In fact, 40% of the trade with the United States happens along two kilometres of the Detroit River on a daily basis. There are four border crossings in the Windsor West corridor that are involved in the transport of goods, services and people on a regular basis. They have significant impacts not only on the health and vibrancy of the constituents in my riding but also on this country's ability to trade with the United States.
    I am pleased that there are many elements in this bill coming forward. It will be important to add some accountability at the border that is not there at this point in time. In fact, there are 24 international bridges and tunnels that connect the United States and Canada. There is really just organized chaos in terms of the way they are actually run and administered right now. A few have some very good best practices. I would point to Niagara Falls and the Fort Erie-Buffalo region that have border commissions and actually have oversight, operation and public ownership, which is critical to the oversight and governance.
    Members of the public who are watching this debate today and others across Canada may not realize how at risk we are in terms of the corridor in my riding and the influence of 40% plus of trade that is done on a daily basis. In the Windsor-Detroit corridor there are currently four different border crossings and there is no oversight whatsoever. There is a complete void in the aspects of safety, security, best practices, and has actually put the community at risk.
    Currently, a fifth border crossing is under examination. The first of the four others is an international tunnel owned by the city of Detroit and the city of Windsor. The city of Detroit has decided on a long term lease on its side of the tunnel. The city of Windsor actually owns and operates the tunnel after it was in the private sector for so many years. It was rundown and the municipality had to fight to get it back.
    Since that time, we have kept fares low, put investment back into public infrastructure and increased the safety aspect of it which we did not have previous knowledge of because it was once again private infrastructure. Without Bill C-3, there are very little safety regulations, inspections, and empowerment from the federal government to look after those jurisdictional items that are so important to infrastructure.
    The Ambassador Bridge is the second crossing. In terms of transport trucks and cars, this is the busiest bridge in North America and processes the most trucks in the world on a regular basis. Almost 40,000 vehicles traverse the corridor. The vast majority, I think 34%, use the Ambassador Bridge.
    In that capacity, a private American citizen actually owns the Ambassador Bridge. The most important infrastructure, which is 75 years plus, is owned by a private American, and has the highest fares in the region by far and the least amount of accountability because there are no laws of governance. Lastly, I would argue, it has caused considerable grief in the community because of a lack of planning and oversight, not only in terms of the operation of the site itself but also the previous government not increasing trade corridor expansion.
    The third is a rail tunnel operated by CP Rail. This is a significantly old infrastructure. I believe it is close to 100 years old. It has two rail tubes. There is a proposal for regeneration, which is beneficial for the rail aspect, but at the same time there is a private proponent that is looking to expand border capacity called the DRTP, which is the city is universally opposed to.
    The fourth and last is a ferry operator that transports hazardous waste materials. I am going to use that as an example of the lack of oversight we have in terms of the border and more importantly some of the things that have been happening that this legislation is going to address.

  (1155)  

    One of them is in regard to a newspaper article. I have asked for an investigation from the government. I have yet to receive a response from the minister's office. The office called back asking for a second copy of the letter I sent but it has not actually dealt with it yet. It is a very serious issue. It is about chemicals and hazardous materials that are crossing the Ambassador Bridge and that is not supposed to be happening.
    The Ambassador Bridge goes across the Detroit River which is connected to the Great Lakes ecosystem. From the legislation on the United States side, which is different from the Canadian side, certain chemical materials are not supposed to be traversing over the Ambassador Bridge. They are supposed to go to a ferry operator operated by Gregg Ward, which is down river by about two kilometres. His company has received grants and awards from the Homeland Security Department because of the types of operations it has on site to ensure the goods and materials cross safely.
    There has been a public spat between the Ambassador Bridge and some of its operators. The headline of a Windsor Star article reads: “Bridge OKs risky cargo: Letter of permission given to chemical company”. The article then states:
    The Ambassador Bridge is telling its toll collectors to wave through trucks carrying hazardous cargo in violation of a U.S. ban, according to a document obtained by The Star.
    It goes on to say:
    Bridge spokesman Skip McMahon claimed last week he was unaware of any such shipments.
    But a representative of another firm, Harold Marcus Ltd., a Bothwell-based transportation company, said it uses the crossing almost daily to import alum.
    The representative said the company did so with the bridge's blessing and said other companies are also granted permission to haul hazardous cargo across the bridge. The Windsor West MP is calling on the federal Public Safety Minister to investigate the reports.
    We are yet to hear about that. That is on a daily basis. We know that there is no accountability on this aspect of the file and we have to sit and wait.
    This has significant implications because if there were a spill or accident, there would be very little that could be done. That is why we agree that Bill C-3 must have some regulations and oversight to ensure that federal officials can examine and do best practices. Not only could an accident just happen but we do not have the capacity to respond to it. We know our fire department has very limited operations in terms of going onto the Ambassador Bridge and the hazardous material would then go into the Detroit River and contaminate it.
    It is also not reducing some of the chemical exposures that we have through our corridor. This is why Bill C-3 is very important. It is one of the elements that we believe should go forward.
    I would also like to note some of the failings in Bill C-3. We are concerned right now that the ministerial powers on connecting infrastructure seem to be very dominant in the bill. That is one of the things that we would like to examine, ways that we can actually have some type of involvement from a municipal aspect, so the infrastructure relationship in the corridor can be softened.
    I know that in my municipality of Windsor West there may be an imposed solution in terms of connecting the Ambassador Bridge to the 401 because ironically it was a provincial Conservative government and a Liberal federal government that ended construction of the 401 in a farmer's field because they were fighting. It is about eight miles short of the Ambassador Bridge crossing, so we actually have the 401 in the busiest part of this corridor stop in a farmer's field and then it connects to a city linking road because those two governments could not get along. As a result of that we still have backups. There are a number of different problems related to schools, churches, businesses and institutions that have built up along there. They will need compensation if there is going to be any type of shift in the type of landscape.
    In summary, we support the bill as an important step forward. There are many aspects that I would like to get into but I cannot. I wanted to highlight the need of this to the general public of Canada. There is such a significant degree of infrastructure problems in Windsor West. There are risks associated as well with having a private infrastructure connecting Canada and the United States as a business conduit as opposed to what it should be, and that is a social, economic conduit between our two countries.

  (1200)  

    Instead of raking in profits between these two transportation link elements, we should have a high degree of accountability, security and scrutiny with the lowest cost possible for the free flow of goods, services and people. That can only be done with public infrastructure oversight. The government is tabling a piece of legislation that will have some benefits. We are cautious on a few elements and we are looking forward to working on those in committee.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, with regard to transportation beyond our borders, one element of Bill C-44 has disappeared. I am referring to advertising of airline ticket prices. We felt that this was a perfect opportunity for greater transparency in ticket sales. In other words, the agency should have the authority to regulate advertising so that hidden charges, especially taxes, are included in the ticket price. Various consumer associations called for this.
    There was also the issue of sales of one-way airline tickets that were conditional on the purchase of a return ticket. The former bill required that contract terms and conditions be posted on the Internet. This measure also helped the airlines because they could know exactly what to expect.
    Consumer associations called for these measures. I would like to know what the hon. member thinks about this.

  (1205)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have been working on a number of different consumer bills. We should actually have the appropriate pricing available for consumers on a regular basis.
    As we are speaking to this piece of legislation, one of the interesting things that has been happening in my corridor has been the marketing of a border crossing. The government has still failed to do this. It is following in the same footsteps as the previous administration, saying that it will have the next border crossing publicly owned and operated.
    We have had chaos in our area where the DRTP, a rail tunnel consortium of Borealis and OMERS, has been pushing its agenda on people and we have been fighting that. Regarding Ambassador Bridge, the private American infrastructure has been calling for twinning against the wishes of the city of Windsor.
    An incredible amount of advertising goes on. It is interesting because the Ambassador Bridge receives $13 million a year for customs officials who operate on site. They just have to take in the tolls. Toll takers are part of the expense operation. It is very limited in terms of expenses.
    It is a shame because we have had billboards that say, “Stop the misery” as it relates to border infrastructure clogging our area. We have had full page ads and TV commercials. Private proponents pushed this solution on the community as opposed to finding the right solution, funding it publicly, administering it publicly, and ensuring it is there in perpetuity for the future.
    That would be a great economic investment strategy for those who are looking to invest in Ontario because they would know the government is serious about lowering costs, and having greater scrutiny and security as opposed to allowing these two private firms threatening the Ontario economy with the confusion, legal wrangling, and the threats that they continually pose to our community.
    Mr. Speaker, the member complimented the government on bringing forward, again, the Liberal bill with the same points.
    However, I want to talk to the hon. member about the United States initiative related to passports, which will affect both our border crossings. I appreciate that it will be worked on by the government and that the border caucus will meet with the ambassador and the chair of the Senate committee responsible for that bill. I thank everyone who made that happen.
    I was in Washington last Thursday meeting with a couple of representatives, congressmen and senators, about that bill because it affects my riding. I have three crossings with the United States. It will definitely hurt trade and tourism in my riding, as well as hunters and fishermen et cetera who cross the border constantly.
    I would like to ask the member, what effect will that have on his riding?
    Mr. Speaker, it will have a major impact, not only to my constituency but there will be billions of dollars lost across the country. That is why the New Democratic Party is calling for a national tourism strategy.
    First, we have to continue to fight the implementation of this policy. There are actually progressive persons in the United States doing so in Congress and the Senate. Second, we must have a national tourism strategy to lower the cost of passports, increase the use of them, and get people on the U.S. side to do the same. Those are things we should be doing now. We should also be promoting awareness. There should be an implementation schedule and a demand that the Homeland Security Department peruses the study on how to offset the effects. These are the things we should be demanding. The government is sleepwalking into this, just like the previous administration.
    Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity I have had to give a speech since the 39th Parliament started, although I have been up on my feet on a few other occasions. I want to acknowledge and thank the constituents of Windsor--Tecumseh for their support. It is extremely humbling. I pledge to them, as I have each time, to do my very best to represent them here in Ottawa.
    The bill is one that is way overdue. It is interesting to hear the Liberal side taking credit for this, but the reality is that we did not get the bill from them. We did not get the provisions of the bill that have been badly needed in my community, in the city of Windsor and the county of Essex, for a very long period of time. This became extremely accentuated after 9/11. When 9/11 occurred, we sat for the first 24 to 36 hours with literally kilometres of delays at our borders. Part of this was that we did not have a legislative infrastructure. The federal government could have moved much more effectively had it had that legislative infrastructure to control the problems that we were confronted with on that occasion.
    That has now been repeated over the last four to four and a half years, repeatedly, and it is a problem that our city and our province of Ontario are suffering from, but so is the federal government in terms of tax revenue, efficient administration of our border crossings and our relationship at the international level with the United States.
    The provisions in the bill are fairly general. It will be attempting to provide a legislative framework and then follow that with what I hope and expect, for my riding and my constituents, will be a very detailed regulatory body of rules that will in effect allow for an efficient, proper administration at our border crossings.
    We in our city and county have the distinction of having more trade and more passengers, both vehicular and rail, than any other place in the country. We are the key crossing, as the House heard earlier from the member for Windsor West. Almost 40% of all the trade between Canada and the United States occurs in one of those four crossings in the Windsor area, through rail, ferry, the tunnel for passenger cars and some trucks, and the bridge.
    As most members of the House know, at least the members who were here in the last Parliament, we have been struggling for a good number of years to reach a final consensus on a new crossing, on where it should be located, how it will be funded and how it will be owned and managed. This bill would have helped significantly had it been law, with the regulations along with it, to expedite that process.
    It is actually interesting to watch on the U.S. side how on several occasions their authorities, both at the state level and the federal level, were able to intervene and speed up the process. We did not have the ability to do that. At the federal level well over 10 years ago, if not closer to 20, the U.S. changed its legislative framework to make it possible to effectively and efficiently deal with border crossing issues. This legislation would accomplish that assuming the regulatory framework is put in place.
     It will deal, as the encompassing legislation allows for, with the regulation with regard to the management and operation of crossings and the roads and streets running up to those crossings, which is a fairly important feature in the bill because it is not a provision within our existing law at all. What is also very important is that it will, for the first time, significantly control the ownership and change in ownership of border crossings.

  (1210)  

    We have a major problem in our area in that the Ambassador Bridge, which is by far the single busiest crossing in this country, is owned by an American business person who runs it obviously in his interest and not in the interest of the communities on either side of the border. That is a major problem. The ownership issue is going to be very crucial as we reach the final decisions on how this new crossing is owned and managed.
     I have had a fair amount of involvement on the whole issue of public security, which is one of my critic responsibilities for my party, and I just want to point out a number of incidents we have had happen that, again, a proper regulatory function would assist us with.
    We have a major air quality problem, particularly at the Ambassador Bridge but also at the tunnel, because of the number of vehicles that are crossing in a confined space, oftentimes with significant delays. We know that the health of the people who work at those structures is being imperilled, as is the health of the people who live in the immediate areas.
    There is a major problem at our border crossings with illegal trafficking in weapons, drugs and humans. I know, from having had extensive discussions with police forces on both sides of the border, that we need to significantly augment our coordination and cooperation. They attempt to do it and I want to give them credit for that, but an overall streamlined framework on the Canadian side would significantly improve our ability to deal with those problems.
    Quite frankly, we have problems with protocols. We have had two really quite significant incidents of police forces on the U.S. side crossing over without permission. On one occasion it was a chase through the tunnel that occurred in the downtown core of both Detroit and Windsor. They were coming across with guns in hand and apprehending alleged drug dealers on the Canadian side. It was done in the presence of a large number of regular passengers moving through that tunnel, and staff were present with no protection. This is a clear breach of the protocol. We think we have now cleared up the problem, but we cannot help but think that if we had had the proper regulatory framework it would not have happened in the first place.
    There was another incident with a police officer who realized at the last minute that he was carrying his gun. He attempted to take it out as he was coming across the bridge and, I suppose, hide it somewhere in the vehicle, and he shot himself in the foot. That occurred as he was in the line approaching customs. His gun very easily could have discharged and injured other people. Again, the ability to regulate and to some degree publicize in the United States the need for them to keep their guns on that side of the border could be, I believe, much more efficiently handled with the type of regulatory framework that I envision coming out of this legislation.
    The House has already heard of the problem that we are having with hazardous materials. We know, and I say this with some degree of confidence, that hazardous materials are being taken across the bridge. That is illegal. Hazardous materials are supposed to cross on the barge ferry. It is not happening and we do not have the ability to enforce this. Again, it is because of the lack of coordination and the streamlining that is required, which should come out of this legislation.
    All of this is a major concern for us in the Windsor-Essex County area.
     The NDP is in support of this legislation. We do have some concerns, some of which will be fine-tuning of the legislation. The one major concern we do have is the ministerial discretion that is encompassed in part of the legislation. I can advise the government that our members at committee will be pressing hard to tighten up how that discretion can be exercised, so that the concerns of the local community will continue to be protected. We are hearing quite clearly from the local community members that it is a concern on their part.

  (1215)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his speech. I would like to know what he thinks of the fact that the government will establish guidelines on approving the construction of new bridges and tunnels and the alteration of existing ones.
    Does he think that these guidelines should be established in cooperation with the provinces, taking into account, among other things, the particularities of the provinces and the landscape and especially the environmental impact.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc Québécois colleague for her question.

[English]

    The basic answer is yes. We would be very supportive of having significant input both from the provinces and from the territories, which at some point will become an issue, but also from the municipal level of government. In our community, quite frankly, the input from the City of Windsor and the County of Essex levels of government would be at least as significant as it would be from the Province of Ontario, because of the impact that the border crossings have on our city and county and also because of the level of knowledge and expertise that resides in that level of government.

[Translation]

    The other problem there is with some provinces is that they do not have the infrastructure in place to help us and to allow the federal government to discuss and sign agreements with them. They are not prepared at this point. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario can do so, as can certain other provinces.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member for Windsor--Tecumseh as well as the member for Windsor West that as a government we are listening. I think they know me and they know that the members of this side of the House are very interested in listening to all the stakeholders.
     Indeed, they will also take note of the fact that the government House leader has four international bridges in his riding and speaks about the GDP and the safety and security of bridges. As well, they will note that our member for Essex talks about aging infrastructure and the additional capacity that is necessary.
    The member for Windsor West compared us to the previous Liberal government. I am curious about his expectations. In 80 days we have solved the softwood lumber issue and brought in an act that is going to clean up government. I am wondering if the member believes there are other priorities that we could also accomplish. We did not have 13 years like the previous government did; we had 80 days to accomplish the great things that have already been done through this Prime Minister. He talked about some of the number one issues that he sees. As far as the minister's discretion is concerned, I wonder if he would go into more detail on how he would see that taking place in the future and how he would see some tightening up.
    Finally, I would like to say for both members that I would be more than happy to listen to any input they have on this particular bill or any other bill within my portfolio. I would be happy to recommend that to the minister as well, especially if they are getting that from the people they represent, which is the most important thing we can do in this House.
    Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the overture to continue the dialogue. I do have to say to him that we are concerned that the issue around ministerial discretion has not been more clearly addressed. The previous Liberal government had it in very similar terminology; it may have been exactly the same terminology. The member for Windsor West communicated our concerns quite strongly. I know that the mayor of the city of Windsor has communicated his concerns to the government. I am a bit disturbed that we have not seen any alteration.
    What we are really looking for is that there be a confirmation, a very clear guideline, about how that discretion would be exercised if there is to be any deviation from the regulations, and we would want to see clear regulations as to the process by which the minister would be exercising his or her discretion. From the legislation we have now and, quite frankly, what we had from the prior government and from the department, there has been a lack of any type of positive response to those kinds of concerns. I would ask them to do this. I do not think it is unreasonable to say that there has been enough time and the government could be looking at this.

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank my constituents for showing their faith in re-electing me as their member of Parliament. Your riding is very close to mine. The good people of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry chose to re-elect me to be their Conservative member of Parliament, and I cannot say how proud I am.
    As I was driving to the Hill this morning, I heard the results a poll, which involved about 4,000 people, to assess how well the government of the day and the Prime Minister were doing after 100 days in office. It gave me a great amount of pride when the results showed that 92% of the respondents felt the Prime Minister was doing an incredibly good job and only 8% felt he was not. To get re-elected and to form a government that gets those kinds of results after 100 days, I can only thank the constituents of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry. They made the right choice in choosing a Conservative government and, hopefully, we will earn their respect and their loyalty.
    Addressing Bill C-3, I add my support to the international bridges and tunnels act. It is obvious to me that this bill will fill a void that currently exists with respect to how the federal government can exercise its jurisdiction over international crossings.
    The Seaway International Bridge, which is in my riding, is the most easterly of the 14 international bridge and tunnel crossings between Ontario and the United States. The closest border crossing is the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge, which is located 70 kilometres to the west.
    Spanning the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall to the Mohawk territory of Akwesasne, and on to Roosevelt, New York, the Seaway International Bridge is a series of two high-level structures and a connecting roadway that opened to traffic in 1962. I am very proud to tell the House that as a young student, I worked on the construction of this bridge for summer employment and I did have a little part in the construction of that wonderful structure.
    The bridge has served us very well for 44 years. We have crossed that bridge many times, with Canadians going to the United States and to Akwesasne, the Akwesasne natives coming to Canada or the United States and the Americans visiting Canada. It has allowed us to build relationships. That is what bridges do, do they not? They build relationships between two diverse countries and two diverse cultures.
    I am particularly proud to give a personal example of one of those relationships. I have the honour of being the chair of the Cornwall Canada Day committee. On July 1, when we celebrate Canada's birthday, we have a huge fireworks display. We cooperate with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to have the fireworks displayed on Cornwall Island so all residents of Cornwall can see the them over the water.
    That does two things. It allows the residents of Akwesasne to enjoy the fireworks along with our American neighbours as well as the Canadians. We are celebrating Canada's birthday, and three cultures are involved in the celebration. It gives me great pride to be part of that process. That is a result of the relationship we have been able to build because of the Seaway International Bridge.
    Over 2.5 million vehicles cross the bridge each year. A lot of it is truck traffic, making it one of the most important trade links between Canada and the United States. The Seaway International Bridge carries 49% of the total traffic across the St. Lawrence River between Ontario and New York, but only 18% of the truck traffic. The other two St. Lawrence River crossings, the Thousand Islands Bridge carries 67% while the Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge only carries 14% of the trucks crossing the river.

  (1230)  

    The international bridge is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited, a federal crown corporation, listed in schedule III, part I of the Financial Administration Act. As a crown corporation subsidiary, it reports directly to Parliament via the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited. On an annual basis, we receive a summary of its corporate plan and its annual report. We therefore have the ability to review these documents and ensure ourselves that the bridge is safe, secure and operated in a manner to ensure the efficient flow of traffic and of trade.

[Translation]

    In addition, the Treasury Board receives and approves the corporation's business plan. It is in the context of these approval mechanisms that the federal government can draw on its legal authority regarding the Seaway International Bridge. The situation is the same with the Blue Water Bridge, which is also a crown corporation.

[English]

    The rest of our international bridges and tunnels are owned and operated in a variety of other manners, provincially owned and operated, municipally owned and operated or privately owned and operated like the Ambassador Bridge and the Fort Frances-International Falls bridge. The same level of transparency is not available at these crossings.
    Bill C-3 would provide the federal government with much of the information we already get from the Seaway and Blue Water Bridges and from the non-crown corporation international bridges and tunnels. Bill C-3 would ensure that not only would we be kept current with respect to the safety and security conditions of these facilities, but also we would have the ability to intervene should a bridge or tunnel not adhere to current standards.
    Speaking of safety, the House may be interested to know that the environmental assessment for the replacement of the north channel span of the Seaway International Bridge is nearing completion. This bridge span was constructed in 1959 and connects Cornwall and Cornwall Island. The bridge was constructed as a high-level crossing over the north channel of the St. Lawrence River and the old Cornwall canal to accommodate a plan for an all Canadian seaway that unfortunately was never built. On May 5, 2000, the Government of Canada announced that there was no longer a requirement to maintain an option for an all Canadian seaway.

[Translation]

    The St. Lawrence Seaway Authority spends considerable amounts annually on bridge maintenance, and costs will increase significantly over the coming years. Considerable sums will have to be invested to replace the bridge deck and to repaint the structure.
    Preliminary studies have indicated that the costs of replacing the deck and painting the structure will be higher than the cost of building a new, lower bridge.
    Following the May 5, 2000, announcement, the option of replacing the high bridge, which is quite costly, with a lower bridge at less cost is more viable.

[English]

    Over the years this bridge has experienced extensive and advancing deterioration of the concrete bridge deck and widespread deterioration of the structural steel coating. The bridge deck curb-to-curb distance does not meet the current standards and the current bridge railings are not likely to meet current crash test requirements and are deficient in height. For these reasons, the Seaway International Bridge Corporation has decided to build a new low-level bridge and tear down the existing high-level one. The residents of Cornwall, Akwesasne and New York State are anxiously anticipating the structure of the new low-level bridge.
    The federal environmental assessment for this initiative was undertaken in full cooperation with our neighbours of Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and a harmonized environmental assessment report was produced. Since members of the Akwesasne community are the major users of the crossing and the bridge touches down on Akwesasne, it was imperative to take their concerns into consideration. The new bridge will significantly reduce trip times between Cornwall and Akwesasne and offer new opportunities for vehicular, cyclist and pedestrian movements and will potentially result in increased business on both Cornwall Island and in the city of Cornwall. We are looking forward to that enhanced economic activity.
    Negotiations have been ongoing between the corporation, Transport Canada and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne to arrive at a consensus on the design, the work schedule, contracting arrangements and other details to ensure a smooth atmosphere during and after construction.
    I have spoken about the Seaway International Bridge which is located in my riding, but I would like to add a few comments on the Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge and the Thousand Islands Bridge, both of which are located close by in the riding of Leeds—Grenville.
    The Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge is the only international bridge between Canada and the United States that is completely owned and operated by a U.S. public benefit corporation. All seven members of the board of directors are appointed by the governor of New York State. Ownership of the bridge will revert to the Canadian federal government and the State of New York when the construction debt has been paid off. However, there is no deadline for this payoff and estimates have placed it far into the future.

  (1235)  

[Translation]

    I am told the bridge is well managed. However, without the powers that will be granted it with the passage of Bill C-3, the federal government has very little information on the operation of this bridge.
    Public Works and Government Services Canada receives inspection reports on the safety and security of the bridge, but the federal government has very little authority over it.

[English]

    The Thousand Islands Bridge, which is located in Leeds—Grenville, was opened in 1938 by former Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The bridge is operated under an agreement between the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, a U.S. authority, and the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited, a federal crown corporation. This arrangement has proven to be an effective model of true partnership between Canada and the United States of America.
    All three of the bridges across the St. Lawrence River are currently well managed and well operated. With the passage of Bill C-3, Parliament can rest assured that this situation will continue and that the Canadian people can feel completely safe and secure as they cross these structures, and that the goods and services that cross these bridges every day will continue uninterrupted.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech.
    In my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, there are three international bridges in the region of Madawaska alone. They are located in Clair, Edmunston and Saint-Léonard.
    My honourable colleague mentioned at the end of his speech that there will be uninterrupted access and that is important.
    Can my honourable colleague tell us whether or not these bridges will in future receive funding for infrastructure improvements? Could he clarify the new American border crossing policy: will we need a passport to cross? Will that mean that there will no longer be the free flow that he mentioned?
    Madawaska—Restigouche is an important riding with its three international bridges. There is a considerable amount of activity and trade between Canada and the United States.
    Thus, I would like to ask my honourable colleague if he anticipates a significant investment. I would also like to know if the free flow which he spoke of excludes, on the part of our American friends, border restrictions and the requirement to carry a passport.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I am very proud to sit on this side of the House, with the government. I have a great deal of confidence in my colleagues. They will handle the situation pertaining to bridges and passports in such a way as to keep flow as we know it now.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like my Liberal colleagues to take careful note of the question I am about to ask, which they know is a relevant one.
    My question is for my honourable colleague, with whom I have been privileged to sit on several committees. It is about the former bill and some of its clauses, which do not appear in Bill C-3. I am referring to Bill C-44, which served as the inspiration for Bill C-3. Specifically, I would like to discuss what happens when a company abandons a rail line. The former bill provided that in such cases, the company must offer to sell the line to the urban transit authority first, while giving the municipality priority in such transactions.
    In my riding, Repentigny, and in greater Montreal, the commuter train issue is very important. Our prefect, Chantal Deschamps, is doing exemplary work with Montreal and industry stakeholders to make the commuter train happen as soon as possible. The industry supports her.
    I would like my colleague to tell me why this part of Bill C-44 was removed from the new Bill C-3. This is a very important issue for people in Repentigny and for residents of greater Montreal. I am certain that it is equally important in other parts of Canada where commuter train issues are coming to the fore.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

[English]

    There are some departures from Bill C-44 for obvious reasons. There is a new government in town and we are going to do it right. The Conservatives have been in government for 100 days and it looks as if we are getting a grade above 90%, so I think we are doing quite well.
    I have full confidence in my colleagues at the ministerial level. There is no question in my mind. I understand my colleague's concerns but I can say from the bottom of my heart that I believe the Conservative government will serve every Canadian. That is why certain appointments were made. It was to make sure that everyone in Canada was well represented right across this wonderful country of ours.
    If my colleague has any concerns about service or anything that might happen in the future, he probably knows already that all he has to do is convey them to one of the ministers and his concerns will be addressed effectively. I suggest he make his concerns known to the minister while this bill is being studied and I am sure they will be incorporated if they make sense. The Conservative government is prepared to listen. We want to move the country forward like it should be moved. We do not want the country to stand still like it has been for the last 13 years.
    Mr. Speaker, the chief of police in the city of Toronto said that half the illegal guns in Toronto have been smuggled across the border from the United States and it is causing a serious problem in big urban centres. The lives of a lot of families have been wrecked because of illegal guns being smuggled across the border. The Toronto mayor and the police chief have talked about the need to control the border crossings to stem the flow of illegal guns.
    Clauses 38, 39 and 40 of the bill talk about enforcement, searches, warrants, those kinds of details. How will this bill enable big urban centres by having fewer illegal guns coming across the border?

  (1245)  

    Mr. Speaker, we sure do want to stop the crime that is going on in this country and we have the solution. The Conservative Government of Canada unquestionably has the solution.
    The beginning of the solution is to take the billions and billions of dollars that have been wasted in that sinkhole of a gun registry and put it toward the very thing the member is suggesting. We want to stop the smuggling of guns. We want to stop the illegal guns. We do not want to stop the farmers who use guns as they do shovels and rakes.
    If there is a legacy that will hurt this country forever, it will be that darn gun registry that the former government left us. After 13 years of waste and mismanagement it is a $2 billion sinkhole. Hopefully tomorrow in the budget we will be able to address that terrible mismanagement which went on in the last 13 years.
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how the member relates bridges and tunnels to the gun registry, but he said that he has solutions.
    I am from the Miramichi where we have the processing centre for the gun registry and the people are doing an excellent job with their work.
    Perhaps he has solutions but when we brought in Bill C-68 in terms of the difficulties that we are having in this country with peace and with guns, it was a bill that was sponsored by a great number of Canadian organizations. I say to the hon. member that he should be very cautious in terms of his so-called solution. We are looking for peace and good government in the country. We are looking of course at our law enforcement people to have adequate inventory in terms of the risks they have.
    I suggest that the member has to be very careful in his statements.
    The hon. member will be both careful and short.
    Mr. Speaker, I respect my colleague opposite and I thank him for his advice. We can always learn from people with more experience.
     I still feel very strongly about the money that has been wasted on the gun registry. I know the intent of the gun registry was honourable and it was for the right reasons, but quite frankly, $2 billion was spent on a gun registry that is totally ineffective.
    Police officers in uniform walked up to me during the recent campaign and asked me what my position was on the gun registry. I quoted the Conservative policy that we want to eliminate the wasteful gun registry, and they said, “You just got my vote”.
     I do take my colleague's advice, but quite frankly, I also take my constituents' advice.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the subject of Bill C-3. At first glance, this bill seems to stir up passions in this House. We are on our third bill and already we get the feeling that the pressure is starting to rise seriously.
     This is also an opportunity for me to mention that today, May 1, is International Workers’ Day. I wish all workers a happy May Day.
     This is also an opportunity to point out that this Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, addresses a regulatory vacuum concerning the bridges and tunnels linking Canada to the U.S.
     There are 24 international road bridges and tunnels. Of these 24 bridges, 14 are located in Ontario, nine are located in New Brunswick, and one is located in Quebec. I will come back to this one, since this bridge, the Glen Sutton bridge, is in poor condition. There are also five railway bridges and tunnels in Ontario, and only five of these bridges belong to the federal government. We must recall, on this May 1, that all these infrastructures were made possible thanks to the contributions of our workers. Unfortunately, many of them lost their lives on the job. Last week we had a day to remember all those who have been victims of work accidents. Once again, a happy May Day to everyone!
     Back to Bill C-3. We know (several of my colleagues have already mentioned it) that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill, in principle. As I indicated earlier, there was actually a regulatory vacuum concerning international bridges and tunnels. We also know that, since September 11, there has been concern about the security of these structures, which play a strategic role in trade between Canada, Quebec and the U.S. So we cannot be opposed to a bill that aims to improve the security of these infrastructures.
     By the way, I wish to underscore something. As I mentioned, these infrastructures are obviously extremely important for trade and the circulation of people between Canada, Quebec and the United States. Eighty per cent of our exports go to the U.S., a good part of which, or perhaps even all, transit through these important structures.
     According to the Department of Transport, local stakeholders are mainly in favour of the provisions of this bill. This remains to be verified, however, and I am counting a lot on the assistance of my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel to confirm this opinion from the Department of Transport among those concerned. We have heard that the Government of Quebec has some misgivings. By the time this is discussed in committee, I am sure that my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel will have consulted local stakeholders, if he has not already done so, to make sure that the bill addresses most of their concerns.
     Such are the essential points and the most positive points of Bill C-3. Some points, however, seem, questionable or outright negative.
     The first thing is found in clause 39, for example. I seems to us that the federal government is being given virtual police powers in relation to regulating international bridges and tunnels: for example, the very authoritarian power to investigate without warrant and power of seizure. We will have to be shown what purpose these exceptional powers of investigation and powers of seizure serve.
     I would note that the federal government gives itself powers to legislate, but the financial responsibility is placed on other shoulders. In the case of the Sutton bridge, for example, the municipality is responsible for a large portion of the maintenance of the bridge. It is always easy for the federal government to set the bar very high when it comes to some of the rules relating to the safety and security of these bridges and tunnels.

  (1250)  

     This is somewhat related to the commitment made by the Prime Minister. This power to legislate should therefore be better circumscribed, so that we can be sure that if the federal government makes decisions resulting in costs that go beyond day-to-day infrastructure maintenance operations, it will contribute to those costs.
     This again reminds me of the Canada Health Act. For several years, the government patted itself on the back about the criteria set out in the Canada Health Act and threatened the provinces, which in its opinion were in violation of those five criteria—I believe that was it. However, in 1993-94, the federal government started making unilateral cuts to its transfers, which were significantly reduced. Everyone seems to agree on the fiscal imbalance. The idea is even catching on among the Liberals.
     So on the one hand, we have some lovely requirements in the bill to enable the federal government to make this its trademark, to make it a component of its visibility strategy, and on the other hand we have the provinces, the municipalities or both, absorbing all of the costs of these lovely and very generous speeches. I am very concerned.
     Obviously, you will tell me that at the end of their reign the federal Liberals reinvested in transfers to the provinces. I would note that Quebec is still missing $5.5 billion. Once again, I appeal to the Minister of Finance. I hope that he will begin to provide us with some solutions in his speech tomorrow. It is quite clear that this cannot be fixed in a single day or a single speech. As we know on this side, the problem is profound. However, we have to hope that tomorrow’s speech will contain some elements of a solution to the fiscal imbalance.
     Even if transfers to Quebec were restored to their level before the Liberals’ unilateral cuts, to 1993-94 levels, there would still be $5.5 billion missing, as I said. Thus it would not completely solve the problem of the fiscal imbalance. According to the Conference Board, $3.9 billion would still be needed in order to truly restore the balance between the revenue available to Quebec and the revenue it needs to meet its responsibilities.
     You will therefore understand that seeing provisions of this nature in a bill relating to bridges and tunnels is a matter of great concern to us.
     The member for Repentigny pointed out quite rightly that some items from Bill C-44 are missing from Bill C-3, for example, more transparent advertising of the sale of airline tickets. We know very well in this House what a difference there is between the advertised price of plane tickets and what they actually cost in the end. A number of somewhat random items are added with the result that the price is always substantially higher or even doubled. So it is a question of transparency. All the consumers’ associations have been asking for this for a long time. What explanation can there be that these provisions, which seemed very good to us, have simply been changed, forgotten, or deleted in Bill C-3?
     As I just mentioned, I think that in the work done in committee, my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel will have an opportunity to reintroduce these points.
     Another point in Bill C-44 seemed very good to us. That is the mechanism for resolving disputes over the sharing of rail lines between passenger carriers and freight carriers. As my colleagues and I have mentioned, railway transportation looks very attractive insofar as the objectives of the Kyoto protocol are concerned. It is an environmentally friendly method of transportation. However, the rails need to be available to carry passengers.
     I am not an expert. Still, until shown proof to the contrary, I have the impression that priority is always given to freight trains and this hardly encourages people to take the train when travelling among major centres in Quebec and Canada. My colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel can probably give me an answer after I have spoken. In view of all this, such arbitration will be very important over the next few years.

  (1255)  

     The member for Repentigny picked up on a certain aspect of the issue. I am returning to it as well because we are both from the Lanaudière region. If a train goes through Repentigny and Mascouche, the chances are very good that it will go to Joliette eventually. I will support him therefore, as well as Ms. Deschamps and all the people who are trying to get this commuter train.
     In addition, when a railway company decides not to use certain lines any more, we must ensure that they are not automatically torn up. Rail lines that have been abandoned and torn up in the past could have helped meet our current need for commuter trains.
     Bill C-44 provided that the local administrations would be offered an opportunity to buy the rail lines before they were torn up. We should draw an important lesson from the lack of foresight shown in regard to our entire road infrastructure. For a long time people said that there was no future in rail and we should rely on roads and trucks. Now the Americans have rediscovered rail, and in a few years, Canadians will rediscover it as well. We have already started to understand the importance of rail for transportation around big cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec.
     However, there has been an enormous lack of foresight, of clear-sightedness. So we must avoid committing the mistakes of the past over again. Bill C-44 contained a provision in this regard. It also provided for a new VIA Rail Act which would have given that corporation more autonomy in making its own decisions on improving rail transportation. As I was saying, this is one of the solutions that would allow us to meet our Kyoto protocol targets.
     I want to mention one final negative element. Clause 32 of Bill C-44 granted the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to examine complaints of unreasonable noise caused by trains, so as to oblige railway companies to find the best possible solutions to this pollution. This is not greenhouse gas emissions, but it is extremely annoying pollution all the same.
     I myself have been in contact with VIA Rail regarding a poorly set railway track. Unfortunately, the track was located a few feet from a seniors’ residence. Seniors sleep light. So we filed a complaint. Fortunately, a VIA Rail official, Mr. Daniel Lacoste, was extremely attentive, and I would like to thank him for that. He is a resident of Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, in the lovely riding of Joliette. Things were resolved because all of us acted with good will.
     Unfortunately that is not always the case. Sometimes the problem does not originate only in the marshalling yards. I am very familiar with the problem at the Outremont yard. As I was saying, tracks are sometimes poorly set, and that causes noise. It is a problem which can easily be corrected with proper welding.
     That is the review I wished to offer of Bill C-3. It is a first step toward filling a legal void, something which can only be our common desire. All the same, it is not enough. Clearly there are corrections to it that we will have to make.
     I would like to return to the questions concerning the most important clauses of this bill. Clause 2 defines the terms of the bill. This is its definition of an international bridge or tunnel: “a bridge or tunnel, or any part of it, that connects any place in Canada to any place outside Canada, and includes the approaches and facilities related to the bridge or tunnel”. As I was saying earlier, most of these infrastructures are not the property of the federal government. So far as I know, even though the bridges and tunnels lie within exclusive federal jurisdiction, relatively few of them are owned by the federal government. As I said when I began, I have counted five of these. So it will be extremely important to clarify the powers of the federal government in this regard.
     Clause 6 states that “no person shall construct or alter an international bridge or tunnel” without the government’s approval. That is self-evident.

  (1300)  

    But, as I said, who will pay when the federal government has requirements that go beyond the proposals made by those responsible for maintaining these structures?
    According to clause 4(4), “approval may be given...to the site or plans of an international bridge over the St. Lawrence River”. We have a great deal of concern about this. We do not know whether there are any projects in the works. In my opinion, this will have to be much clearer. There is certainly a need for such a structure, but it is still surprising to see a clause reserved for something that is to come, a project that, to my knowledge, does not even exist yet.
    According to clauses 14, 15 and 16, the government may make regulations respecting the maintenance and repair, operation and use, and security and safety of international bridges and tunnels. This takes us back to the comment I made about clause 6. It is all well and good to talk in broad terms and have high standards, but who is going to pay for these infrastructures? Perhaps the Minister of Finance will announce a new infrastructure program in his budget tomorrow, with a specific component on international bridges and tunnels. In any event, I am convinced that that would reassure a lot of people.
    According to clause 17, “the Minister” of Transport “may make directions” if “the Minister is of the opinion that there is an immediate threat to the security or safety of any international bridge or tunnel”. Logically, everyone should agree with this, but once again, who will pay the costs associated with these directions made by the federal government?
    According to clause 23, “the approval of the Governor in Council” is required for any change of ownership, operator or control of an international bridge or tunnel. This goes without saying, although it reminds me of a debate we had about satellites that take pictures. In the case of the Telesat remote sensing satellite, if I recall correctly, the Bloc Québécois had a great deal of difficulty understanding how the Canadian Space Agency could give up ownership when the taxpayers of Canada and Quebec had paid for all the research. It likely would have been simpler to keep ownership of the satellite.
     In the Telesat bill, whose number I have forgotten, there was no provision for a company that might become a foreign company. So, when the Canadian Space Agency transferred or gave the satellite to this company, for a few months, the company in question belonged to some Americans. It would have been pretty extraordinary if a technology developed with income tax and taxes paid by all Canadians and Quebeckers had been given to a foreign company. We were assured that all sorts of provisions of the act prevented that. Nevertheless I prefer an explicit mention, as in Bill C-3, because of significant strategic elements pertaining to both security and international trade.
     According to clause 29, it is possible to create a crown corporation to administer a bridge or a tunnel. This is credible, to my mind. If we have a new structure on the St. Lawrence River, it seems to me that this should be public property. So clause 29 provides for this possibility.
     I said earlier that clause 39, whereby the government is given very extensive police powers, such as searches without a warrant and a very authoritarian power of seizure. It seems to us that there are some things to be corrected in this area.
     I wanted to end quite simply by pointing out the state of the Glen Sutton bridge, the only one in Quebec linking Quebec, which is still politically part of Canada, to the U.S. It is a metal bridge built about 1929. It will probably go from being a strategic axis of communication to being a museum artifact, where finally people will go to see it. It is relatively long, covering 50 metres. It spans a gorge. It is a magnificent sight. It is also used by trucks. According to our information, it is in a fairly pitiful state. I mentioned, though, that ownership of the bridge is shared between the state of Vermont and the municipality of Sutton. If there are, in connection with Bill C-3, instructions from the federal government with a view to improving safety and security, who will actually pay?

  (1305)  

     Will the municipality of Sutton be asked to pay these costs? It seems to me that this would be irresponsible. I hope that, when Bill C-3 goes to committee, an infrastructure fund will be created that is dedicated specifically to international bridges and tunnels.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I assure the member that as a government we are listening. In fact, some of his comments were questions brought about by the member for Shefford and the member for Laval on the Sutton bridge, the ownership of the bridge and the environmental impact.
    I want to assure the member as well that I am, by way of information, pursuing those particular questions and will have answers for those members in due course.
    I also want to assure the member, in relation to clause 39 of the bill, that it is somewhat intrusive. I would appreciate a comment from the member as to what could be more important than intruding on the values of Canadians by keeping them safe and secure, which of course the bill specifically deals with.
    I also want assure the member that we are very aware of some of the other issues he brought forward, in particular, advertising for plane tickets, the dispute mechanism and some of the issues that were more contentious.
    We brought this bill to the forefront because our number one priority as a government is to ensure the safety and security of Canadians. We will ensure we have consistent objectives and, in this case, we will implement the rules necessary to keep Canadians safe and secure. What does the member feel would be the best avenue to pursue this? If the member can think of some other ways for us to proceed on this, he can approach me outside the House and bring those issues to me. I would be more than happy to look at them and give him responses on each and every issue.

  (1310)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary said, the Bloc thinks that section 39 is very police-oriented, very repressive. He said that nothing was more important than safety. I can agree with him, but for a long time the Bloc Québécois has been calling on the government—both the previous government and the present government—to properly balance safety or security and the rights of individuals and corporations. Here, we are talking about the power to search without a warrant. Obviously, there should at least have to be some legal or judicial authorization to conduct a search.
     As in the case of the debates regarding Bills C-35 and C-36 in the two preceding Parliaments, the question is one of finding a balance between safety or security and individual rights, including the rights of businesses. My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel will have some suggestions to make in committee. I am not an expert, and if I was getting too far ahead of myself, it was relatively unintentional. I will therefore yield to the work that the committee will do, and in particular the work of my colleague in the Bloc Québécois.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents for re-electing me for a third time and for being very fair during the election in acknowledging the work that was done. I appreciate all the support my constituents give me when I return to the riding and while I am here in Parliament.
    As the member said in the opening of his speech, as today is May Day or workers' day, on behalf of my party I commend all workers. I also commend the people who celebrated on Friday, April 28 in Whitehorse. It was a great commemoration of those workers who were injured or died on the job.
    The member mentioned a couple of times what he hoped would be in the budget tomorrow. In that the throne speech had almost nothing in it, is the member looking for things in the budget that are important to the Bloc that were not in the throne speech, such as items related to drug abuse, education, homelessness, getting low income people back to work, the social economy, social housing, programs for women, any social programs and the environment? Does the member hope we will see these items in the budget speech tomorrow since they were not mentioned in the throne speech?

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I would echo what my colleague said about May Day. I am pleased to know that this international day was celebrated in Whitehorse. Last Saturday, in Montreal, there was a demonstration in which over 50,000 people took part to call for improvements in labour laws, working conditions and health and safety issues. I am pleased that this has been echoed today in this House.
     The member referred both to the Speech from the Throne and to tomorrow’s budget. I think he was quite right. Concerning the fiscal imbalance, we are expecting—as I said in my speech—to see a major step forward in increasing transfers from the federal government to the provinces, in particular in relation to post-secondary education. Tomorrow, we expect a response from the government, because our universities and colleges are underfunded, and this creates problems. In terms of productivity, the most important factor is going to be human capital, and thus training and education. We keep repeating it, but we have to invest the necessary money in order to ensure not only that there are adequate educational institutions, but also that the labour force is well educated, both now and for the future.
    As for social housing and affordable housing, the Bloc agrees entirely with the member. The previous government had begun to slowly reinvest in social housing and affordable housing. Although we found the amount of funding inadequate, at least some investment was being made.
    In that respect, one can only hope that the Conservative government will continue on the same path, by increasing investments, which are extremely effective socially and which create a dynamic economy. This involves more than just the construction industry. At present, there are social housing projects in small municipalities, which are facing two types of exodus: young people moving to larger centres in search of employment, and seniors leaving rural areas to be where services are provided. In my riding, for example, many people are leaving the municipalities surrounding Joliette to move to Joliette or Repentigny, where there are more services. This is both a social and economic phenomenon, and a matter of land use.
    As for employment insurance, which the member did not mention, the Bloc hopes that the budget will include major announcements concerning improved access to employment insurance. As we know, only four in ten people who pay premiums are eligible for benefits. This is totally unfair. Employment insurance has become the federal government's cash cow. The bulk of the surplus comes from EI fund surpluses. This misappropriation of funds must be stopped, as well as the abuse of the principle behind employment insurance, which is to guarantee the economic security of workers who are temporarily unemployed.

  (1315)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act. Also, I wish to congratulate my colleague for a very good presentation. It showed me how conversant he is with this issue. His fellow citizens are undoubtedly proud to see that he is very up on all this.
    With this new Conservative government, there was to be another way of governing. With this bill we see that they want to impose requirements on those managing the structures without contributing financially. They continue to maintain this philosophy of the federal government, which divested itself of the ports, regional airports and bridges, without ever investing the money required. And it is transferring these responsibilities to the cities, as we see from the case of the Sutton bridge. The Quebec government is responsible for its inspection and security.
    This bill imposes standards. Standards will be imposed on those who manage and inspect these structures, but there will be no financial contribution.
    Once again, we have this federal government culture of entitlement and no money forthcoming. I would like to know what the member has to say about this.
    Mr. Speaker, the question raised by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel is very pertinent. Although the tone of the Conservative government seems more conciliatory than that of the previous government, things are no different. Standards are being dictated in other jurisdictions—especially provincial, but also municipal in the case of Bill C-3—without the requisite funds being made available.
    That is why, as I indicated in my speech, fiscal imbalance cannot be addressed by means of transfers alone. Tax point transfers to the provinces are needed in order to enable them to assume these responsibilities, without the fear that one day the federal government will unilaterally cut transfers.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to speak in the 39th Parliament, I want to thank all of my constituents who have sent me here for five terms.
    I also want to reiterate the fact that the best part of this job is probably back in the riding when we get to meet all of the volunteers and get back with family and so on. Mr. Speaker, you I am sure well know what I am talking about.
    This past weekend was a good example of what it is like. I got off the plane on Friday and helped a group raise over $96,000 for Kids for Cancer. That evening I attended a Striving for Excellence banquet at which 178 public school system kids received awards for excellence. We heard a speech from a 13 year old girl who has been blind for the last nine years. She told us how she strives for excellence and hopes to get to the Paralympics in horse riding and in a number of other sports. It makes one feel pretty good coming back here knowing what the great volunteers in the area are doing.
    On Saturday night I attended a homebuilders banquet. I would like on the record the fact that my constituency is booming. A fly-by-night operator came into our town and built 11 homes that had faulty foundations and no kitchen doors. All of the builders in our community banded together and announced at the banquet that they would be repairing the homes of those 11 people who were unfortunate enough to have been taken for a ride by a bad contractor.
    That is my constituency and those are the kinds of volunteers we have. I thank my family and my constituents for sending me here.
    I come from central Alberta and we are a long way from any international bridge or tunnel. I could suggest the number of bridges and tunnels, which might help us out, but I do not think we could quite get to the U.S. border. It is important that we talk about how vital bridges and tunnels and the flow of traffic from north to south really is. We have to remember that 80% of our jobs and well over $1.5 billion cross the border and whatever we can do to make that border safe and secure and function better is important to all of us. My riding has seven world scale petrochemical plants and a great deal of their material goes across the border. Many of the jobs and much of the activity that is going on is because of the effective way we handle this.
    I also want to bring to the House's attention the fact that when we talk to truckers and various other groups that have come to Ottawa they tell us that one of the most serious issues is infrastructure, how it is deteriorating and how its management is sometimes in question. We have heard about this in some of the other speeches today. I remember one trucker saying that they were driving over bridges that have the year 1938 or 1955 stamped on the concrete. Little has been done since then to make sure that vital means of transportation is upgraded.
    We have a lot to do. For 13 years we have heard a lot of talk but seen little action. Two bills have come before this bill but none got through and none of them actually cleared up the problem. We now have a bill that I believe will do that. Our plan is to institute this, get it done and get on with the job. We do not need to have 100 priorities. We have these priorities and let us get them through.

  (1320)  

    It is my pleasure to talk about Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act. As many of my colleagues have mentioned in the past, many of these bridges and tunnels came into existence with the creation of special acts of Parliament. These acts served to create the company that would ultimately own the bridge or tunnel and be responsible for its construction, set out the company's share capital and other corporate information, and would establish the company's various powers, including borrowing powers and the right to charge tolls.
    More important, these special acts set terms and conditions for the construction of the bridge or tunnel, such as the location, the approval of plans and specifications, the time period within which the bridge or tunnel was to be constructed, and finally, how the company could deal with the bridge or tunnel once it was constructed. Federal government approval was therefore given via these special acts.
     Government approval for construction of new international bridges or tunnels is therefore not a new concept. The approval process proposed by the new bill will, however, relieve the need to enact a special act of Parliament each time a new bridge or tunnel is constructed.
     I have not been here for as many years as you have, Mr. Speaker, but obviously if we had to bring about a special act every time we wanted to do something you know how that could get bogged down. We know how the lobbyists work in this place and just how difficult it is to get any action sometimes. This act would end that problem.
    Keeping in mind that these are international bridges and tunnels and that our jurisdiction over these bridges and tunnels ends at the Canadian border, it is interesting to note how our American counterparts deal with the approval of the construction of new international bridges or tunnels on their territory. Since 1968, persons in the United States wishing to build a new international bridge that connects with Canada must first seek permission from the president. This permission is given in the form of a presidential permit, which must be applied for to the Department of State.
    In this application, applicants must provide the following information, among other matters: information regarding the proposed bridge, including location, design, proposed construction methods, the safety standards to be applied, copies of the engineering drawings, and the construction schedule; details of any similar facilities in the surrounding area; and traffic information, including projections of international traffic volume and the effect the proposed bridge would have on the traffic volumes of other nearby bridges.
    During the election campaign, I was in the riding of Essex working with our member there. I went into Windsor as well. I know that the hon. members from Windsor have been talking about this in committees and in this House for a very long time. They have talked about the great difficulties. There are four bridges there, four crossings, a railway tunnel, and obviously the talk has been going on as long as I have been here, and maybe a lot longer, about the difficulties in that Windsor-Detroit corridor, about how things get slowed down and how ineffective it is. We have all seen television pictures of the long traffic jams. It is to be hoped, and obviously as this goes to committee I am sure it would be made clear, that this kind of problem will be dealt with, that we will get on with it instead of talking about how we are going to solve that problem.
    How the project is going to be financed also is very important, including what the toll structure will be. Those are the kinds of things that the public has the right to have discussed and openly talked about.
     Also, there is how the proposed construction would impact the environment, including copies of environmental assessments or reports. Members know of my interest in environment. I think it is very easy to make this process go a lot faster. The cooperation among municipalities, provinces and the federal government, where one study in fact accomplishes all of the environmental impact studies, just goes so far.
     In my over 30 years of being involved in environmental areas, so often I have seen the turf wars among the three levels of government certainly take a project to the point where, if it is not scuttled, it becomes uneconomic, and the players leave and go on to somewhere else. That should not be the way it is. There is one environment. It does not matter what levels of government are involved; they should cooperatively do the environmental assessment and in fact get on with the project. This should not be used as a delaying tactic. They should be using what is best for the environment and for the people of that area.

  (1325)  

    In the United States, details of other permits and approvals must be obtained from other U.S. agencies. Again, I would add that sometimes, with their turf wars, those agencies can in fact slow things down a lot too. We really have to start working as a House to get more cooperation in this kind of thing. Hopefully this bill will accomplish that.
    The applicant in the U.S. also of course has to work closely with the Canadian government and vice versa. I think it is very important that the relationship between the U.S. and Canada, which is now finally moving forward, will make those negotiations much easier and will allow us to get on with the building of these bridges and tunnels. In fact, I think that cooperative approach I mentioned between provinces and municipalities can be extended to our U.S. counterparts. In the process, the state department, after all its consultation and, certainly from our perspective, our consultation, then moves on to get consultants and look at the best routes and locations. All of that, of course, should be in the public domain.
    As mentioned, the new bill would allow the government to establish similar Canadian guidelines so that information is provided when the government is seeking approval for the construction of a new international bridge or tunnel. There is no need to keep reinventing the wheel, as we so often do. Obviously a lot can be learned from other projects and proposals in moving this whole thing forward.
    Having said all of this, I note that our guidelines will specifically take into account what is in the best interest of Canadians when it comes to international bridges and tunnels. The approval process, including the information that the applicant will have to provide, will be tailored to respond to Canada's national objectives and this government's priorities to secure our border while at the same time encouraging international trade through the efficient flow of goods and traffic via these borders.
    I fully support the bill. I think it clarifies a lot. I look forward to it going on to committee and to speeding up the process of the three bridges that are being proposed now, one in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, one in Fort Erie, Ontario, and one in Windsor, Ontario, as mentioned earlier. I think it will be good to have the oversight of the federal government and to get on with the project, in cooperation with the others.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, while my riding does not in any way touch upon an international bridge, it is said that the people of Albert county are so fiercely independent they are a separate country and the new bridge that spans the mighty Petitcodiac probably took so long because of the international aspect.
    My friend brought up an aspect of infrastructure. In municipal infrastructure, provincial and federal programming has been working terribly well in our province and in our region. There are programs like CSIF, on strategic infrastructure, and MRIF, for municipal rural infrastructure programs, which we fell might be under attack in the coming days as an effort by the government to redo or redress what it perceives to be the fiscal imbalance.
     I fear, and I ask the hon. member for his comment, that money will be taken out of infrastructure programs that might otherwise help to update bridges and roads in our communities. I fear that the money will be taken out of those programs, with those programs collapsing like the bridges the member referred to from 1918 and 1938, and will be put into provinces for other purposes that are laudable but are not infrastructure purposes.
    Does the hon. member feel that these infrastructure programs are very important to municipalities and communities around our country that face deplorable states of aging infrastructure?
    Mr. Speaker, we have been here for 13 and a half years and we have heard about a lot of projects. We have heard a lot about lobbyists and a lot about infrastructure. As we travel the country we see a lot of that infrastructure and I think there is a major concern. Probably the reason I got into this and that I am still here is that concern. In fact, we have not done anything for 13 years. We have talked a lot and there have been hundreds of bills, but we really have not done anything.
    We have talked about our Trans-Canada highway, about it being improved and about how it is not up to standard compared to south of the border or other parts of the world. We have talked and talked about it and we have not done anything. It is like the environment. We have 140 programs. Let us say most of those have $100 million, but $60 million is spent on establishing the program in Ottawa, so we have the bureaucracy established here and then we just do not have enough money to actually carry out very much.
    With the streamlining that will go on and the priorities we have in dealing with cities and infrastructure, I am very confident that the government will not in fact rob those projects, and that through cooperation, municipalities and provinces will actually accomplish much more, certainly, than has been done in the last number of years.

  (1335)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I had a chance to speak about the importance of international bridges for regions like mine, but we should look at this issue from the standpoint of the environmental impact as well. My hon. colleague’s party does not necessarily like to talk about the environment. That party, it seems to me, prefers to put all environmental issues aside.
     There is an incinerator very close to the riding of Madawaska—Restigouche. Does my hon. colleague think that it is good and appropriate to take contaminants or any toxic materials from our American neighbours to burn and process them here in Canada? Is that a priority for them? Is the environment more important? We need to work very hard on this problem.
     In conclusion, I was at a Ducks Unlimited event last weekend. In studying the situation, it becomes clear that we need to work very hard in order to stabilize the environment in our regions and our wetlands. My hon. colleague will have a chance to tell us whether it really is a good thing to bring these materials to Canada.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is as if I had given the hon. member the question to ask me. I gave my first speech on garbage in 1972. It is a 48 page document that I would be glad to provide for the member. I have been working on not allowing landfills to be built anywhere in this country.
     I have visited garbage facilities around the world. I spent some of the summer last year in Denmark looking at facilities there. I plan to go to Barcelona this summer to look at its newest plant, which gasifies garbage. There is no stack. It is an internal process at 8,000° Celsius. It turns everything into basic carbon molecules and recomposes it into safe by-products of electricity, heat and a glass-like material. That is the future.
    Toronto is hauling 416 truckloads of garbage a day to Michigan. This is a huge problem that should not be going on. The fact that we are bringing contaminated waste from the U.S. into Canada in exchange should not be going on, not unless we build the technology, the gasification plant. I would be glad to give the hon. member however many hundreds of pages he wants of information on that subject.
    My colleagues are probably sick and tired of hearing me talk about the environment and about gasification, but members can get the picture. Environment will be an important part of our portfolio. We know that it is not one of the first five, but I ask members to just wait for the fall and they will see.

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, it makes me smile to see my Conservative colleague blaming the Liberals and the Liberals blaming the Conservatives. Since the beginning of Confederation, Liberal governments and Conservative governments have succeeded one another and have all abandoned their responsibilities. That is why, in 2006, a bill must be introduced to say that international bridges and tunnels are a federal jurisdiction. Why? Because in the past they decided to abandon our responsibilities. These responsibilities were transferred to the provinces and municipalities. Now, since September 11, 2001, they realize that there are security problems. They want to be able to assert themselves and get involved.
     Does my colleague not find it a bit strange, and even embarrassing, that there is no dedicated funding in this bill? If they want to improve security and tell the provinces and municipalities that have been managing these bridges and these facilities for generations that they want to take over safety and security, why did they not establish a fund dedicated to these facilities in the bill, so that municipalities or provinces do not have to pay for improving safety and security at these facilities?

  (1340)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the point the member has missed is the fact that we need to cooperate. When we have that many bridges and tunnels, they are not all being equally managed as well as they might be.
    The one the member is speaking of might be managed perfectly, but there is no guarantee for Canadians that this is happening with all 24 of them. Therefore, the bill would allow the federal government to work with the provinces, the municipalities and the U.S. to ensure that they are managed properly and to a safety and security standard, which is the best thing for all Canadians, not just for one municipality or one area.
    Therefore, this is not a big stick. This is a willingness to cooperate and ensure that there are equal standards for everyone.
    Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. member for Red Deer is uniquely qualified to talk about gas.
    Returning to my riding, it became poignantly clear that Canadians were hearing much of the disparaging and demeaning attacks on the previous government. Canadians know of the tremendous record of achievement in the G-7 and all of the other things, but I am going to use my time to talk about the actual act before us.
    By way of background, my riding is composed of 27 communities, 16 municipalities and 11 first nations. It is a seven and a half hour drive covering two time zones. In the issue at hand, we are talking about a bridge between International Falls, Minnesota and Fort Frances, Ontario. We want to make this act work, not only for Fort Frances, from which this bridge connects to an area larger than many countries in the world in addition to the other two border crossings at Pigeon River and Rainy River. If we use this time wisely, I believe we can come up with some legislation that is effective and productive for all those concerned.
    Right now many of us are deeply concerned about the passport issue and security itself and how it relates to these border crossings and tunnels. For my area in particular, commercial traffic and the vitality of the forest industry are of prime concern.
    As we know, the tourist trade in Canada has been diminishing. We have to do everything possible to make it easier for tourists to be attracted to Ontario in particular, Canada in general and northwestern Ontario specifically, which depends very highly on the Midwest of the United States.
    The concerns of the communities in the Rainy River district are very much justified as to who controls and owns this bridge. Recently private holdings have put this bridge up for proposal and offered it for sale, after many decades of being in private hands. This bill gives one of the first opportunities to investigate public ownership in this case specifically. We have the support of the municipalities on both sides of the border and the councils of which have passed resolutions encouraging the governments of Minnesota, Ontario, Canada and the United States to adopt some form of public ownership. This is the first opportunity, and the bill is timely in allowing us to come forward with this.
    When we think about what we can do on a national basis, this is a step by step process in which we can reclaim jurisdictional, operational and physical control of these facilities. Many may ask why the government would want to incur another expense or more ownership and maintenance issues, but this should be viewed as an opportunity. I will get into that in a few moments.
    MPs and interest groups representing the council and business interests of Fort Frances have attempted to have meetings with the minister. As of yet, they have not taken place. I hope that a plea in the House for some personal attention to this matter will fall upon the right ears.
    The bill should accommodate such situations about which we have talked. Funding for borders in terms of purchasing and restoring Canadian control would be a wise move. Tomorrow's budget should accommodate this and any future opportunities. I believe this is a chance for us to regain some of the composure in our national security issues.

  (1345)  

    Having done a considerable amount of research of the bridge crossings of Canada, it is interesting to see the many variations of theme, how many different combinations of ownership exist from public, private, provincial, independent or national. When we look at one bridge in isolation, it will take some meshing over a long period of time. I am well aware of that and I trust that the public service is also aware of it. When we ask for one-time funding or to make a special case, I understand the difficulty of this because of the precedents that it will set.
    However, we should all take some consolation in knowing that this is a way to make things better. A national strategy or a national policy on access to our best neighbours, trading partners and friends should clear up uncertainty and turn it into an opportunity. As a case in point, the tolls at Fort Frances are among the highest in the country. Although there are packet rates for people who work or have frequent business across both sides of the border, it still can be viewed as a deterrent. Any chance to lower those would be an encouragement of trade and tourism. Those are the types of issues we would look at if the government would take this step.
    As I alluded to earlier, Northwestern Ontario is extremely concerned about the rollover on the passport issue. Unanimously, people are very upset about the acquiescence to President Bush on this. Many individuals and organizations such as the Northwestern Ontario Tourist Association, led by Jerry Fisher, the Northwestern Ontario Association of Chambers of Commerce and the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association were making significant progress in gaining allies in the United States, particularly American legislators who also understood the detrimental impact of destroying two-way traffic.
    The town of Fort Francis came up with a great idea to have a conference of border communities. Leadership from coast to coast could get together and impress upon their respective governments the need to deal with this issue. The potential for extra parliamentary support could have turned this issue around. Rolling over to President Bush was a much too rapid and vapid turnaround.
    The concerns of infrastructure in general and the draining off of infrastructure support through other funding has also been discussed in this debate. I hope that will not be the case, and I wanted to go on record on that. I believe this would be something the bill could accommodate, separate from existing community infrastructure and planned border infrastructure funding. We want to ensure that the funding is focused, not defused, and that it gets the attention it deserves. The community movement in the Rainy River district has said that it has witnessed this over years. It sees this as an opportunity in terms of economic development.
    I believe the bill can accommodate such proposals, which I believe the minister will soon acknowledge. I am not saying he has not yet, but these are probably on his desk and he is looking at them. I would think we should view these as opportunities, as chances for regions of the country to benefit. This area extends from the Manitoba border to Lake Superior. We are talking about the entire northern section of Minnesota. Not many people can say their riding covers one whole state. I am pleased to say I do.
    When we look at these access points, in particular the opportunity for the town of Fort Frances and the entire region, which goes up to James Bay and Hudson's Bay, we can look at something that will do a tremendous amount of good. I am asking the government to consider this in the bill and I will be making presentations to committee as it comes forward.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member obviously understands a great deal about municipal infrastructure. Through the years various roads and highways have been downloaded to municipalities. As a result, there is a lot of disrepair. I understand that perhaps there will be some infrastructure funding in the upcoming budget. There needs to be at least $1.1 billion for the strategic infrastructure plan and the rural infrastructure plan in order for municipalities to catch up and deal with their roads and highways. There also needs to be a gas tax of 5¢ so there could be funding for roads, tunnels, bridges or highways.
    The member also talked about cooperation with municipalities that are connected with these highways and bridges. Without significant funding for operations, it is going to be very difficult.
    Clause 23 of the bill allows for the private operation of tunnels and bridges. How do we deal with national security issues if there are private operators involved? How do we stem the illegal smuggling of guns into big urban centres, or human trafficking, or illegal migrants falling prey to unscrupulous consultants? How do we deal with that when the tunnel or bridge at the border is privately operated or maybe even built by a private operator?
    Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure of working with the member for Trinity--Spadina on these issues over many years. I believe she has asked me a nine part question. I will endeavour to do my best to provide an answer in the time allotted to me.
    The province of Ontario suffered greatly through the Conservative era and it has only been in the past few years that the new provincial government is trying to undo that. As well, the federal commitment to infrastructure for communities was the first attempt by any national government to take a very active and pecuniary support role in addressing municipal revenue shortcomings in a direct way.
    In the past year, I believe for the first time in history, the province of Ontario actually came to an agreement with the federal government on a national highway program. That was also very significant because the previous government would not do that.
    With that in mind, we know that organizations such as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario are very concerned about the ending of these infrastructure funds. In my presentation today, I tried very clearly to show that infrastructure funding must continue to communities in general, but that any supportive funding for border security, accessibility, tunnels, bridges, and all these kinds of things must be an independent and freshly directed source of funding so that it does not dilute the other funding that is available to communities.
    When we talk about this commitment, currently the municipal leaders all across the country are in great fear of tomorrow's budget. They do not want to start all over again in trying to convince a national government of the need to support municipal or community infrastructure. The member's question was very well put in that way and I know she understands the issue very well. Throughout my riding and throughout many people's ridings, indeed throughout all parties, people are quite concerned about tomorrow's budget, that it may undo many years of good work by intelligent municipal leadership across the country.

  (1355)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for my Liberal colleague. Has he reached the same conclusion I have, which is that today, the federal government is obliged to table a bill to clarify that international bridges and tunnels fall under federal jurisdiction? Why is it doing this now? It is because these structures are managed either by the provinces, municipalities or private companies. In Ontario, many of these structures are managed by the province.
    As a result, the government is forced to make this declaration today because, since 1967, the federal government, whether Liberal or Conservative, has systematically abdicated its responsibility for international bridges and tunnels, just as it did for airports and ports. These governments wanted to divest themselves of facilities that, since September 11, 2001, should be under intense scrutiny. They no longer know what to do. Today, they have to declare that these structures fall under federal jurisdiction, but the bill contains no provision for dedicated funds. However, it mentions, among other things, that the government will oversee monitoring and maintenance of the structures. The government will oversee inspections, but there will be no money to help the provinces or the municipalities or to replace the private companies that can manage such structures.
    Does my colleague agree that a section is missing from this bill, specifically the one on the funding that may be required to maintain international bridges and tunnels?

[English]

    Order. We have reached the time of day for Statements by Members, but there are 3 minutes and 22 seconds remaining for questions and comments when we return to Bill C-3.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[Translation]

Arctic Islands

    Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the resourcefulness of the builders of Lévis, Bellechasse and Les Etchemins in the long Quebec maritime tradition.
    Almost 100 years ago on July 1, 1809, Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier staked a claim in the name of Canada to most of the Arctic Islands, an area of more than 500,000 square miles.
    Climate change has increased the strategic significance of this exploit, considering navigation through the North and the development of the wealth it contains.
    On this May 1, 2006, International Worker's Day, labourers are working with perseverance and dedication to pursue this great naval tradition in Lévis and Quebec City. I want to pay tribute to them today.

Birthday wishes

    Mr. Speaker, I want to take time today to wish my little girl a happy birthday. Émilie was born at this very minute, exactly one year ago.
    Despite the fact that I am here in Ottawa today she is with me in my thoughts. This past year has been a wonderful time in my life. To watch my little girl grow and explore the world brings me great joy.
    We have to take time to be with our children and teach them the values of our society because they are the future. Every moment I spend with my daughter is a memorable one. I am very proud of my daughter Émilie and I wish her much success in the future.
    As we all know, parliamentary life requires me to be away from home to serve the people of Madawaska—Restigouche. I want to thank my wife for taking such good care of our child.
    Happy birthday, Émilie.

  (1400)  

Nycole Turmel

    Mr. Speaker, on May 5 the President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Nycole Turmel, will leave her position after six years of dedicated service at the helm of this major union.
    A union activist for nearly 25 years, Ms. Turmel has been behind a number of PSAC's major achievements. She worked on the union's pay equity lawsuit against the federal government, which culminated in the payment of $4 billion to some 200,000 PSAC members in 1999.
    She also created PSAC's social justice fund, which aids development projects to support and train workers, provide emergency relief and fight poverty in Canada and abroad.
    The Bloc Québécois applauds Nycole Turmel for her hard work and the tremendous contribution she has made, both in Canada and abroad, to improving working conditions for all workers.

[English]

Jane Jacobs

    Mr. Speaker, last week the world lost Jane Jacobs, one of our greatest citizens. In the riding of Trinity--Spadina we all lost a great neighbour. I lost a great friend, constituent and mentor.
    Her first campaign in Canada was to stop the Spadina expressway which would have ripped the heart out of Trinity--Spadina and destroyed our amazing neighbourhood. Her last great battle was also close to home, for the Trinity--Spadina waterfront. She fought to stop the bridge to Toronto Island, to stop the island airport, to shut down the corrupt port authority. In fact, she said that the Toronto Port Authority was the greatest single impediment to revitalizing the waterfront.
    I hope Parliament and the government will help us honour her memory by closing the island airport and creating a park in her name, Jane Jacobs Park in Trinity--Spadina in the heart of Toronto, a park that would represent our shared vision for a clean, green and vibrant waterfront.
    I wish she were still here to help lead this campaign. We will miss her and so will the world.

Agriculture

    Mr. Speaker, the situation in agriculture has been deteriorating for a decade, especially for grains and oilseeds producers. Drought one year, untimely frosts the next and flooding have made it impossible for them to cope.
    Evidence of the crisis is obvious: land values are going down and unpaid bills from last year make it impossible to get credit to put in this year's crop. On top of all this, rising fuel costs and low commodity prices are having a devastating impact on our farmers' ability to manage.
    Nowhere is this crisis more evident than in the northern part of my riding around Porcupine Plain. At least 100 farmers will be unable to seed a crop on a major portion of their land because of 40 inches of rain last year. Water still covers much of their fields. Deep ruts make planting almost impossible in those fields that were harvested.
    The CAIS program is not working effectively. Urgent assistance is needed and I call on the government to address this crisis now.

[Translation]

West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra

    Mr. Speaker, I recently had the great pleasure of attending the 20th anniversary concert of the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra.
    Audience members enjoyed an evening of inspiring music as the orchestra offered a program of classical and modern works, including a piece composed for the occasion by conductor and artistic director Stewart Grant.

[English]

    I would like to congratulate the musicians of the youth orchestra for a successful evening. They are a talented, bilingual and multicultural group of young Canadian achievers. As such, the orchestra is a reflection of Montreal's West Island and of the country itself.
    I would also like to congratulate the orchestra's dedicated volunteers, past and present, who have worked to inspire others in the pursuit of the joys of playing and listening to great music.

  (1405)  

[Translation]

    The West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra adds enormously to the quality of life in the west island. I am proud of the accomplishments of this orchestra and grateful to have it in my community.

[English]

The Budget

    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow afternoon Canadians will see what electing a Conservative government will do for their families, themselves and their financial lives.
    There will be a reduction in the GST from 7% to 6% putting thousands of dollars in the pockets of new home buyers; a payment of $1,200 to every family with small children; help for students, farmers and apprentices, and our brave servicemen and women; real tax relief that touches the lives of every Canadian, more than the Liberals ever promised and certainly more than they ever delivered; a big tax break for seniors; tax relief for small business; and a better deal for investors.
    In total, honest, substantive, effective and enduring tax relief for middle class Canadian families who for more than a decade have suffered the neglect and uncaring arrogance of the last government. Tomorrow night millions of Canadian taxpayers will go to bed saying “thank God for the Conservatives and the Minister of Finance”.

[Translation]

Haiti

    Mr. Speaker, on April 21, 2006, a second round of elections was held in Haiti. As part of a parliamentary mission there, I was able to observe first-hand the successful conduct of those elections.
    I would like to congratulate the people of Haiti on this important step in the return to a democratically elected government. I welcome Mr. René Préval, the newly elected president, here to Parliament Hill today.
    The Canadian government must not delay in making a commitment to work with the new president and the new Haitian government to rebuild the country by providing strong, ongoing assistance as long as necessary.
    The 75,000 Quebeckers of Haitian origin share our concern over the fact that the Conservative Party made no specific commitment to Haiti during the last election campaign.
    Haiti, however, deserves our full support.

[English]

Palliative Care

    Mr. Speaker, today marks the launch of the 10th National Hospice Palliative Care Week. This week is annually coordinated by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, a national association which provides leadership in palliative care.
    This year's theme “My Living, My Dying. Informed, Involved and In-Charge…Right to the End” was chosen to create awareness about the importance of advance care planning, which is a process to prepare for the possibility that one may no longer be able to communicate and make medical decisions for oneself.
    This event is aimed at increasing Canadian awareness and understanding of end of life care by highlighting its issues and its champions. This occasion gives Canadian hospice palliative care programs and services the opportunity to showcase their accomplishments and promote discussion of palliative care issues.
    Please join me in recognizing and celebrating the significant achievements of the palliative care community.

National Defence

    Mr. Speaker, this weekend I met with several members of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 23, in North Bay, who were appalled by the Conservative government's decision to not lower the flag above the Peace Tower in honour of the four Canadian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan.
    There are 39 branches of the Royal Canadian Legion throughout northern Ontario, consisting of nearly 4,000 members. They are all calling on the Prime Minister to reverse this decision and lower the flag as a proper tribute to those who lost their lives.
    There is a very real cost to the important mission our men and women are undertaking in Afghanistan. We have an obligation to recognize the courageous sacrifices they make as they carry out their duties.
    At a time when remembrance is waning across this country, especially among young people, the lowering of the flag atop the Peace Tower is the very least we can do to mourn the loss of four brave and dedicated men who died trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Finance

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party cannot keep its story straight when it comes to the fiscal imbalance.
    Behind door number one we have the member for Wascana and the member for Scarborough--Guildwood who have both stated that there is no such thing as the fiscal imbalance.
    Meanwhile, behind door number two is the member for Etobicoke--Lakeshore who, for the benefit of his leadership campaign, now claims that the fiscal imbalance does exist and something needs to be done to correct it.
    Finally, there is door number three where we find the member for Kings--Hants, who over the weekend amazingly enough said that the fiscal imbalance had already been corrected.
    While the Liberal Party keeps on dithering with three completely different positions, Canadians can rest soundly knowing that our country now has strong leadership under a new Conservative government which acknowledges that a fiscal imbalance exists and is looking at solutions to ensure that Canada remains strong, united and free.

  (1410)  

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, we are on the eve of the federal budget and across the country working families are desperately hoping the Conservative government does not abandon them and turn the clock back on child care.
    For 12 years, with majority after majority, the Liberals broke their promise of a national child care program. Only when cornered in a minority and with NDP pressure, did they finally take the first meagre steps toward establishing a national program. Now a government that does not seem to grasp the vital importance of child care to working parents is threatening to send us back to the beginning.
    The need for safe, regulated, and non-profit child care spaces has never been greater. In Manitoba, the number of children in child care has doubled over the past decade and that demand is increasing. In Winnipeg alone, there are nearly 15,000 names on waiting lists. The story is the same across the country.
    Federal government investment in child care spaces on a multi-year basis is an absolute requirement. It has taken decades to climb the long child care ladder and the NDP urges the government not to make tomorrow's budget the snake that sends the children of working families back to the bottom of the priority list.

[Translation]

Franco-Ontarian Association of Student Improv Leagues

    Mr. Speaker, the Association franco-ontarienne des ligues d'improvisation étudiantes, better known by its acronym L'AFOLIE, will be holding its 19th annual tournament this week.
    Some 400 students from French high schools across Ontario will be meeting in the mid-north of the province, at Franco-Cité High School in Sturgeon Falls.
    L'AFOLIE develops pride in Franco-Ontarian heritage, contributes to academic collegiality and encourages the personal development of each participant.
    These youth will improvise on the theme of “Green and White”, the colours of Franco-Ontario, exploring the boundaries between theatre and comedy, and leaving us laughing all the way.
    Bravo, my young friends from L'AFOLIE. You know we are crazy about you.

Workers

    Mr. Speaker, today is International Workers Day and the Bloc Québécois would like to pay tribute to the 4 million Quebec workers and 17 million Canadian workers.
    These individuals contribute daily to the well-being of their fellow citizens and to the social and economic development of our society.
    Every hour of the day, the work of these individuals contributes to the advancement of our society.
    The Bloc Québécois recognizes the exceptional contribution of these men and women and will introduce several bills to improve their quality of life.
    Parliamentarians are responsible for ensuring that the rights of workers are respected and that they have the fairest and the best possible working conditions.
    Today, let us pay tribute to the solidarity of workers around the world, to all these individuals who, day after day, help make our communities a better place. But let us not forget that we should acknowledge their contributions every day.

John Kenneth Galbraith

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the memory of John Kenneth Galbraith, a great liberal economist who passed away two days ago.
    He was a great man, a world renowned economist. He advised five presidents and was an Officer of the Order of Canada.

[English]

    I had the privilege of having him as a professor. I have vivid memories of sitting at the feet of the great man in a packed Cambridge Union as he debated against William F. Buckley.
    The fact that not all economists admired his work reflects the sad evolution of the discipline in the direction of ever more technical, mathematical minutiae. He swam against this tide and throughout his life remained dedicated to the study of the fundamentals of the human condition. He will be sorely missed.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

Liberal Party of Canada

    Mr. Speaker, how can the Liberals and the leadership candidate from Etobicoke—Lakeshore still have the nerve to claim to be the only representatives of Quebeckers' values? It is deplorable that the Liberals have learned absolutely nothing since the last election. They still have the same arrogant and shameless attitude they had before the election that was so harshly condemned in the Gomery report. Justice Gomery deplored that the Liberal Party put the interests of the party before the interests of national unity and, according to him, this attitude is “difficult to reconcile with basic democratic values”.
    He also talked about “the failure of some members of the Government at that time to consider that any political party other than the Liberal Party of Canada could have a role in promoting federalism in Quebec”.
    Quebeckers understood and supported the Conservative party, the party of change.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Access to Information

    Mr. Speaker, we heard a lot from the Prime Minister when he was in opposition about the importance of access to information. The Conservative election platform sung the praises of the information commissioner and promised to implement his proposals. That was then. Now the information commissioner tells us that the government's proposals will not strengthen the accountability of government but weaken it.
    Will the Prime Minister now admit that his proposals are designed to accomplish the opposite of what he has promised and commit today to implementing meaningful access to information by the government?
    Mr. Speaker, for the first time in Canadian history, crown corporations, independent officers of Parliament and foundations will be under access to information when the House passes the federal accountability act.
    The information commissioner has expressed some reservations. He can take those to committee. One of his reservations is that when we open CBC to access to information the government has protected journalistic sources. We believe those sources should be anonymous. If the Liberal Party does not think so, the Leader of the Opposition can say so.
    Reservations, Mr. Speaker. No previous government has put forward a more retrograde and dangerous set of proposals is what the commissioner said, proposals that actually reduce the amount of information available to the public. We could not get a more damning condemnation from a more credible source.
    Why will the Prime Minister not listen to the leading expert in the country who he boasted about before and fully implement his recommendations as promised in the last election?
    Mr. Speaker, I believe the President of the Treasury Board has had meetings with the information commissioner's office. We believe there is a fair degree of agreement on what we can accommodate and what we cannot accommodate. However there are some things that we believe do need some degree of privacy, including a specific debate we have with the information commissioner about his view that journalistic sources should be turned over to him to decide whether they become public or not.
    These should not be turned over to any officer of Parliament. Once again, I challenge the leader of the Liberal Party to endorse that idea if he really believes it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is boasting again. He was bragging yesterday about championing reform to access to information and respecting the work of the Information Commissioner. Today, however, the commissioner is saying that the text of proposed legislation is nothing but a bureaucratic dream. It is a bureaucratic dream, but a nightmare for anyone wanting access to information in this country.
    Will the Prime Minister promise today to implement the commissioner's recommendations, like he promised us during the last election campaign?
    Mr. Speaker, again, the federal accountability act gives access for the first time to information on crown corporations, officers of Parliament and the secret funds created by the former Liberal government.
    We disagree with the Information Commissioner on certain things like his desire to subject journalistic sources to access to information. In our opinion, these sources should remain anonymous. However, that is not the position of the commissioner or of the Liberal party. Well, they are wrong.

  (1420)  

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, this government wants to cancel the national daycare and early childhood centre system and replace it with cheques for about $1.60 a day.
    How can the minister claim that this measure constitutes a plan to support a working mother in Vancouver who pays about $1,100 a month to put one child in daycare?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, or at least after a number of days in the House should know, we are not talking about the kinds of numbers she is. What we are talking about is real support for Canada's parents: $1,200 a year as a universal benefit to the parents for each child under the age of six.
    We are going to do something that the previous government promised for 13 years and never delivered on. We will create 125,000 new child spaces right across the country.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this government and the minister are living in a dream world. Cancelling daycare agreements and replacing them with corporate tax credits is doomed to fail. It did not work in Ontario, or in New Brunswick, or even in Quebec.
    Will the minister finally admit the truth, which is that her government has no real plan to help children of working mothers?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we do have a plan . We are working on the details in consultation with the opposition parties, the provinces and the territories to develop the details to make sure it works.
    I am surprised, quite frankly, at the member's comments because several premiers, including the Premier of New Brunswick, who she just cited, have endorsed our plan. They see that it is good for parents and as good for the provinces.

[Translation]

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, in December 2004, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities tabled a report recommending the creation of an independent employment insurance fund. This recommendation had the unanimous approval of the committee. In April 2005, the Conservative Party and the NDP voted in favour of a Bloc Québécois bill which sought the creation of an independent employment insurance fund.
    Will the Prime Minister therefore establish an independent employment insurance fund, an initiative he supported on many occasions in the past?
    Mr. Speaker, this policy was not in the throne speech. However, as the leader of the Bloc knows, our party supported the idea in the past. I am on the verge of proposing to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development that she formulate alternate measures for this government.
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister no doubt knows that without an independent fund the government can dip into the fund and use the money for purposes other than those intended.
    I know it was not in the throne speech and is not a priority, but will the Prime Minister commit to establishing such a fund by the end of this year?
    Mr. Speaker, we have not yet set all our priorities for this year. However, as I have just said, we share the Bloc leader's philosophy on this. We will continue to look for solutions to achieve this objective.

Older Workers

    Mr. Speaker, on this workers' day, the government should finally look after older workers who are victims of group layoffs and set up a real program to help them make a smooth transition to retirement.
    Does the government plan to set up a program for older workers, in view of the relatively low cost of such a program?

  (1425)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as my good friend, the finance minister, said last week, we do recognize the importance of older workers and the challenges that they are facing right now in Quebec, in Newfoundland and in other parts of the country. Anything that will be done on this issue will be done in a national context.
    I ask that the hon. member wait until the budget tomorrow.

[Translation]

Seasonal Workers

    Mr. Speaker, next June 4 the pilot project set up by the previous government to deal with the spring gap is slated to end, and many seasonal workers—in my riding and elsewhere in Quebec—will again suffer the concrete effects of the major cuts made to employment insurance over the previous years.
     Does the government intend to extend the pilot project or make it permanent by including it in the protection provided under the employment insurance program and to do so before June 4 or by the time that the employment insurance system is improved?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the purpose of pilot projects is to try things out. Once they have been tried out we need to evaluate them. We need to take a look and see what really happened, if we are getting value for our money and to see if we are achieving the goals we have set.
    As the program does not expire until June 4, we need time to examine the results to determine if this is truly the best way to serve Canadians or if we should be looking at some thing else.
    I have invited my colleagues from the opposition to help in that evaluation.

[Translation]

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, under this family allowance plan, the families of working women will not receive the announced amount because the government is going to give with one hand and take with the other. Families will see their allowance reduced by their federal taxes, their lost GST credit, and their lost child benefits.
     Will the government agree not to reduce the promised allowance through these unfair clawbacks?
     Mr. Speaker, I note that the NDP leader and some other House members have spoken to me about this. I can only say that they will have wait for yesterday’s budget in order to learn the wise decisions of the Minister of Finance.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the child tax credits and the payments to families, we will find out the true meaning of that ad, “hands in my pockets”. It will be the Prime Minister's hands in their pockets on that one.
    The government's plan to create child care spaces through tax credits to corporations will not work. Mike Harris tried it and guess how many child care spaces were created? Zero. About as many as were created by 12 years of a majority government by the Liberals.
    Could the Prime Minister tell us why he thinks this will work any better under his watch than it did under Mike Harris? Why does he not just commit to multi-year funding for child care spaces for working families?

[Translation]

     Mr. Speaker, I should correct myself. Obviously, the budget will be brought down tomorrow.

[English]

    The leader of the New Democratic Party expresses reservations about whether we will achieve our objective of creating 125,000 child care spaces. Let me just be clear that this is the intention of this government and we will make whatever modifications are necessary to ensure that we reach that goal.

Canada Border Services Agency

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Safety.
    Agents of the Canada Border Services Agency caused a major disturbance at two Toronto schools last week. They apprehended four children while they were attending school. In one case, agents held two girls, aged 7 and 14, for ransom and used them as bait to trap their hard-working parents who are undocumented workers. Such acts are reprehensible in the extreme.
    Will the minister assure the House that he will instruct his officials that schools are for learning and are off limits for the purpose of immigration enforcement?
    Mr. Speaker, along with most Canadians and along with my colleagues, I share the concern when I read the reports about what happened. I have asked for a full review of the matter, and that is coming, but I can say that this is not a normal process or procedure, nor do we want to see it become that.

  (1430)  

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
    Many Canadian industries have a critical shortage of skilled and other workers. Instead of meeting its mandate of providing desperately needed skilled workers for industry, the department is making matters worse by deporting them. This is hurting the Canadian economy.
    Would the minister correct this urgent problem by issuing temporary work permits for undocumented workers who are gainfully employed and are contributing to the Canadian economy?
    Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous sympathy for people who have come to this country wanting to find a better life. We just want them to come by regular means.
    It is a little bit rich hearing that come from a member on the other side who over the course of a number of years deported over 100,000 people out of this country, people of the same type that he just described.
    I am looking for some suggestions specifically, if the member has them to offer, but I can assure the House we will not talk about keeping people, such as the ones we are talking about here, in this country while on the other hand intending to deport them like the member's party did when they were in power.
    Mr. Speaker, my Canada is not one in which law enforcement officers intimidate school teachers, nab children from class as bait and then put them in a detention centre. Canadians expected that tough on crime meant going after guns, gangs and drug dealers.
    Will the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration use his ministerial discretion and issue a work permit for Mr. Lizano and allow the process of landing his family to begin. Mr. Lizano is a hard-working construction foreman whose youngest child is Canadian and his other children, Kimberley and Gerald, are A students. They are exactly the kinds of immigrants Canada wants.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that I am forbidden by the Privacy Act from commenting on individual cases.
     I want to point out that the member across the way is part of a party that was in government for 13 years. Not once in that time did I see members across the way stand up for undocumented workers, not once in that entire period of time. Where was the indignation when they were in power?
    Mr. Speaker, obviously someone was not listening carefully. Enough excuses and obstinacy from the Conservatives. The rules allow for ministerial discretion.
    The member for Medicine Hat is the minister. The buck stops with him. Instead of guarding our borders against terrorist cells, our officers are now terrorizing hard-working would-be Canadian citizens by nabbing their children in schools and jailing them in detention centres. Two of the children, Kimberly and Gerald, are in Ottawa today.
    On humanitarian grounds, why will the minister not show compassion, good judgment and do the right thing by immediately issuing a work permit?
    Mr. Speaker, Canada has the most generous immigration system in the world. Every year we allow 250,000 people to permanently land. Hundreds of thousands of other people come here as students or on work permits.
    My point is that we have shown extraordinary generosity to hundreds of people who are here as undocumented workers. However, there are 800,000 people who are trying to get into Canada today legally. What message does it send if we allow people who are here without documents to get ahead of those who are playing by the rules?

[Translation]

Anti-Scab Bill

    Mr. Speaker, for the tenth time since 1993, the Bloc Québécois will introduce an anti-scab bill this week in the House, to introduce rules that the workers protected by the Quebec Labour Code already enjoy.
     On this International Workers’ Day, could the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec announce that he intends to support the anti-scab bill that the Bloc Québécois plans to introduce in this House?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I would inform this House that the existing provisions of the Canada Labour Code permit the use of replacement workers during a strike. That right should not be used in any way if the purpose is to undermine the union’s representational capacity. The objective of the act is to preserve the balance between what the unions want and the employer’s right to continue its operations.

  (1435)  

    Mr. Speaker, employees who are on strike or lock-out are under enormous pressure. They no longer have a weekly income. On the other hand, a business that can hire other employees as it sees fit can drag out the dispute, because it is under much less pressure. As a result, disputes last longer.
    Will the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, whose riding is one of the most heavily unionized in Canada, support the Bloc’s anti-scab bill as he did in this House in 1990 and thus contribute to reducing the length of labour disputes, as was the case in Quebec after this kind of legislation was enacted?
    Mr. Speaker, Quebec has had this anti-scab legislation since 1977. It is a characteristic of our distinct society, in the province of Quebec. However, as Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, I have to look at things from a Canadian angle.
     The objective currently authorized under the Canada Labour Code, as I said, permits employers to use replacement workers, but that must not be done for the purpose of undermining the union’s representational capacity.

Labour

    Mr. Speaker, in Canada and Quebec, more and more industrial sectors, sectors where there are manufacturing jobs, are threatened by unfair competition, due to the failure in many countries to respect fundamental labour rights, with the resulting use of child labour, forced labour, and clandestine labour.
     Will the Canadian government agree that its criticisms would be more credible if it signed the international conventions concerning respect for freedom of association, prohibition of discrimination and prohibition of child labour and forced labour?
    Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has committed itself to protecting children and abolishing harmful forms of child labour. All Canadian administrations have laws to protect children from economic exploitation and hazardous work.
     It is indeed our intention to continue to cooperate with the provinces and territories so as to guarantee compliance with Canada’s international obligations. Of course we also intend to cooperate with our international partners toward that end.
    Mr. Speaker, the unionist Napoleon Gomez has been removed from his position of secretary general by the Mexican government because he accuses the government of negligence and certain companies of industrial homicide following the deaths of 65 workers.
     Given such serious allegations of political interference, does the Minister of Labour intend to ask the Commission for Labour Cooperation to seek clarifications on the actions of the Mexican authorities in this matter?
    Mr. Speaker, the communication did indeed allege that the Government of Mexico had failed in its obligation to ensure the effective enforcement of its labour legislation with respect to freedom of association as well as other labour rights. The Canadian National Administrative Office also concluded that the communication did not comply with the necessary criteria and has decided not to accept the communication for review.

Softwood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, in addition to having $1.5 billion of its money left in Washington by this government, the lumber industry is now being told that it could take up to a year before it gets its money. In the meantime mills will close and jobs will be lost.
    Can the Minister of International Trade assure us that the money will be available immediately or is the government prepared to help producers by establishing industry assistance, as the minister announced himself last fall and as the Prime Minister also called for?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud to say that the softwood lumber framework agreement is going to be good for Canada. It is going to be good for the softwood lumber industry. It is going to be good for Atlantic Canada. It is going to be good for the sawmills in Quebec, in northern Quebec, in Ontario, on the Prairies and in British Columbia.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, the record will note that the minister did not answer the question. Perhaps in the supplementary he could do so.
    Canada's independent lumber remanufacturers provide thousands of jobs in every region of Canada, yet over the last five years they have seen a reduction of 70% in their exports to the United States. The softwood deal now threatens this industry.
    Could the Minister of International Trade confirm that their exemption or quota concerns will be accommodated in discussions within the Canadian industry and the Government of Canada, or has he cut loose these small and medium size businesses?
    Mr. Speaker, I hate to have to say this, but the concerns of the remanners were cut loose eight years ago by those members in that party.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, order. Obviously many are trying to assist the minister with his answer but we have to be able to hear what the minister himself has to say. He has the floor and we will have a little order, please, for a short response.
    Mr. Speaker, I know they would like to give me credit for what happened over there eight years ago, but it is not going to wash.
    The reality is that under current market conditions, there are no quotas and the remanners, along with other members of the industry in different provinces, will be able to choose in weak markets whether they want to opt for a quota-type arrangement or an export tax arrangement.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Quebec environment minister says that the Kyoto protocol sets out the strict minimum. Ontario says it agrees. Nevertheless, the Conservative government wants to drop it and replace it with the AP6, a program that does not provide for penalties or emission credits.
    Why drop the Kyoto protocol in favour of a lesser plan if the provinces support Kyoto?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to reducing pollution and greenhouse gases.
    The difference between the Liberal Kyoto plan and our made in Canada solution is the Liberals were willing to send billions of dollars in taxpayers' money overseas. Our made in Canada solutions refuse to do that. We will invest in Canadian solutions and Canadian communities and Canadian technology. In our plan Canadians come first, including Quebec.

Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, last month the Conservatives killed the energy retrofit program that was helping seniors and low income Canadians conserve energy and save money. Did the Conservatives kill the energy retrofit program because of their indifference to the environment, or did they kill the program because of their indifference to low income Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the hon. member's memory is so short. In fact, the program he is referring to specifically under Bill C-66 was a program for a one time payment for seniors and low income Canadians.
    I can tell the member that for all those people who are eligible for it, the cheques have been sent and are in the mail. That program has been completed.

Softwood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, as you know, for years and years the Liberals failed to make one ounce of progress on the softwood lumber file. It was so frustrating that the provinces ended up sending representatives to Washington themselves. It was embarrassing. The provinces had negotiators in Washington but the federal Liberals were hiding out in Ottawa.
    Now that there is a deal, will the government confirm that the Atlantic exemption that recognizes the unique forestry practices of Atlantic Canada has been totally preserved in this new agreement?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the very best question of this question period. I want to thank him for a couple of years of good hard work, in fact a number of years of hard work on this very file. Yes, I can confirm that exemption has been fully preserved on paper and confirmed.

  (1445)  

NORAD

    Mr. Speaker, last week the Conservative government indicated that the House would have the opportunity to debate and vote on Canada's future in Norad. Now we know that the Minister of National Defence already signed the agreement in secret on Friday.
    How can we have a debate on Canada's future in Norad if the government has already crossed the t's and dotted the i's? Why would the minister sign this deal negotiated by the Liberals before Parliament even had a chance to look at it?
    Mr. Speaker, the reality is that this agreement makes provision for a signature prior to its ratification and entry into force. It allows for the type of debate that will take place. We look forward to the participation of the hon. member and all members in this very important debate that furthers Canada's commitment to North American security.
    Mr. Speaker, no matter what weasel words the minister wants to use, it is a deal. It is a done deal.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    This is the second time that phrase has come up in the last few days. I would urge hon. members to be judicious and proper in their choice of language.
    The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.
    Mr. Speaker, it is shocking that Canadians learned about this from the U.S. state department, not from their own government.
    The minister expects us to waste our time debating an issue that he has already decided. Without the ability to amend the Norad motion, the minister will have neutered the House.
    Will the minister allow a real debate? Will he allow the House to do its job?
    Mr. Speaker, there will be a very important debate, as I have mentioned. We invite the hon. member to take part. International treaties, as we promised during the campaign and as we said in the throne speech, will come to Parliament for debate, and for a vote, I might add. This will take place this week in the House of Commons. The hon. member will have ample opportunity to ferret out all the questions she wants.

Post-Secondary Education

    Mr. Speaker, the rising cost of post-secondary education puts a heavy load on students, yet the government plans to spend 85% less than the Liberal government committed to help students in need.
     What is worse, the government believes everything can be cured by a tax credit, but not one penny will get to students by the time tuition is due. Why is the government abandoning lower and middle income students in this country?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that there will be more about post-secondary education in the conversation that will follow tomorrow. I encourage him to be patient. Tomorrow I hope to be able to satisfy some of his concerns, if he will wait--
    Hon. Monte Solberg: Just one more sleep.
    Hon. Jim Flaherty: Yes, one more sleep for the hon. member.
    Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague is still asleep. The Conservatives have stitched together a pathetic package of credits and exemptions and are calling it a plan for education. Credits and exemptions are for tax time. They are too late for tuition time. They are not a plan for student assistance.
    The government's scheme will mean that the only students who get higher education are those from higher income families who can cut the cheques in September. When will the government provide real support for Canadian students?
    Tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.

Research and Development

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians wake up each and every morning and juggle dozens of priorities, yet we know that this government has trouble counting past five.
    Let us take research, for instance, the key to our economic future. The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada is calling on the government to immediately address the indirect costs of research, as the previous Liberal governments have done.
    Why does the government fail to understand that research is a priority? Will the government match previous funding commitments made by the former government?

  (1450)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague, an hon. member of this House, knows very well that research and development is a priority. It is what drives this country's economic growth. He will see, very soon, that research is something we support on this side of the House.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's answer, but the facts are entirely different. In fact, I think that party is starting to like the smell of its own manure, because what they say during the campaign and what they commit to Canadians is not beyond the truth. Will the minister now stop fluffing this stuff off and make a commitment for research, universities and students in this country?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is too bad that my hon. colleague was not in Quebec City on Friday, where it was my pleasure to announce an investment of $85.7 million in basic research in Canada.

Correctional Officers

    Mr. Speaker, the previous government left correctional officers without a labour contract or collective agreement for four long years. It is to be hoped that the new President of the Treasury Board will not emulate his predecessor and let the situation deteriorate further.
    What concrete measures has the President of the Treasury Board taken to address this issue since he was appointed?
    Mr. Speaker, I can tell my hon. colleague from Quebec that since being appointed President of the Treasury Board, I have met twice with the union leaders. I have also spoken with them twice on the phone.
    The other Treasury Board officials are working very hard. Under the Liberals, we waited more than four years for an agreement with this union. We know that these employees do very important and very dangerous work. We will continue to work toward a real solution that is good for both the taxpayers and the employees.

Pay Equity

    Mr. Speaker, female workers in Quebec have been protected since 1996 from sexual discrimination in jobs held mainly by women. However, that is not so for women in Quebec working under the Canada Labour Code.
    Since the federal government is already ten years behind Quebec's pay equity legislation, will it take advantage of May Day to announce in this House that it will correct this aberration very shortly?
    Mr. Speaker, I have two things to say about this. First, every five years the Employment Equity Act has to be reviewed. We will be reaching the fifth stage shortly and there will be a full review.
    Next—and the hon. members of this House might be interested in this—an inter-departmental committee is currently working on establishing a legislative framework that would help settle pay equity disputes. This would avoid having to go to court for every dispute.

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, although a peace accord may be signed in Darfur in the next little while, history has shown that the Sudanese government's unwillingness to rein in its state-sponsored Janjaweed from murdering and raping innocent civilians has been utterly appalling.
    My question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs is very simple. Would he be willing to direct our ambassador at the United Nations to present to the Security Council a resolution calling for a chapter 7 peacemaking mission to Darfur as soon as possible if the killings continue?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the sincere question from the member opposite, who has had a long and abiding interest in this file. I can tell him and the House that I spoke with the ambassador to the United Nations for Canada as recently as coming to question period today. He is in Abuja, where, as the member will know, there are ongoing talks. They now have been extended by 48 hours.
    The entire international community is of course looking for ways to make a meaningful intervention on this issue. We are going to have a debate in this House tonight in which the hon. member and all members are invited to take part. We are looking for the best possible way to find a solution for the horrible killings and the horrible situation that currently exists in Darfur.

Transport

    Mr. Speaker, last year there were 270 railway crossing accidents in this country in which 97 Canadians were killed or seriously injured. The fact is that many of these accidents could have been prevented with the installation of side reflectors on train cars. Sadly, the previous government did nothing despite repeated calls from the Transportation Safety Board, from safety advocates from coast to coast, and from victims' families.
    Will the transport minister today take the long overdue initiative of requiring Canadian railway companies to install reflectors on train cars?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his tireless dedication to rail safety as of 2004, shortly after one of his constituents was killed when the car he was driving struck a train at an uncontrolled crossing. It is largely due to the work of my hon. colleague that, beginning today, all Canadian owned domestic and freight cars will begin to be equipped with reflective material. This will help improve safety across the country.

[Translation]

Softwood Lumber

    Mr. Speaker, Carl Grenier, vice-president of the Free Trade Lumber Council, described very clearly what happened last Thursday. He said, “Every victory obtained over the past three years under NAFTA has just been erased with the single stroke of a pen”.
    This government has just undone everything we gained under NAFTA. It has just paid George Bush a 22% commission for his trade crimes and it just strong-armed our companies and required them, forced them, to accept the unacceptable.
    Honestly, why be so irresponsible?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I guess that is NDP economics. The NDP prefers a prolonged period of litigation, of uncertainty, of leaving $4 billion U.S. down in the United States where it is not being put into new technology and it is not creating jobs here in Canada.
    This lumber deal is a deal for the Canadian lumber industry across this country and it is going to give us a period of seven to nine years of growth and stability. That is good economics. That is not NDP economics.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister says this is a good deal for B.C. How would he know? He has not been seen in his riding in three months.
    We know what the Conservative strategy on softwood lumber is. It is to wave the white flag of surrender. The Conservatives surrendered $1 billion in illegally taken tariffs that the Americans keep as the proceeds of trade crime, surrendered Canada's dispute settlement rights, and surrendered the interests of every softwood community in Canada.
     Now we learn that the Americans filed their appeal anyway and that premiers like B.C.'s Gordon Campbell were not even told about concessions such as the anti-circumvention clause.
     How could they sign such a bad deal?
    Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the hon. member would know an anti-circumvention clause if it fell on his head, but nevertheless, the reality is that those hon. members should go out to the mills. They should look at the families who have been disrupted, who have lost their jobs and who have been under terrific pressure for eight years under the softwood lumber agreement.
    Those hon. members should explain their economics, which would be saying to those workers, “Let us have another eight years of instability and uncertainty”.

Transport

    Mr. Speaker, in 1999 the port of Digby was turned over to the Maritime Harbours Society, a not for profit organization. Serious questions and allegations were raised by members of the Conservative Party as to the use of those funds. Five years of legal wrangling and studies ensued. The arbitrator has released his report to the Minister of Transport. He finds no blame on either part.
    It is now time to stop pointing fingers, stop blaming past participants and come to a resolution to the benefit of the people of Digby. When will the minister take over that facility and put it into the hands of the people of the community of Digby?

  (1500)  

    As we say in French, Mr. Speaker, la vérité a ses droits. There are some facts here that have been left undisclosed. The fact of the matter is that the hon. member had an opportunity to do something for the people in his area, and for 13 years he did nothing. We will handle the file. We are looking at the file and we will make a decision on this.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

    Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency plays a very important role in the economic development of Atlantic Canada. As an example, there are many success stories throughout my own riding of Avalon.
    During the recent election campaign, the then Liberal government, through its campaign of fear, tried to convince voters in Atlantic Canada that by electing a Conservative government they would see the end of ACOA. During the past weekend, the Prime Minister announced additional funding for business initiatives in Atlantic Canada.
    I would like to ask the Minister of ACOA to tell the House about the positive impact these initiatives and others will have on Atlantic Canada and what we hope to see from ACOA in the days and months ahead.
    Mr. Speaker, the excellent question of the hon. member for Avalon shows that he is working very hard on behalf of his constituents. I can assure the House that ACOA will be around in our Conservative government for a long time.
    The hon. member referenced the announcement by the Prime Minister, which is in fact a five year, $10 million federal-provincial agreement signed by this government and delivered by this government, and which again ensures that Canadians and Atlantic Canadians will come to know that cash in hand and cheques in the bank from a Conservative government are a lot better than years of promises from a Liberal government.

[Translation]

Presence in Gallery

    Order, please. I wish to draw the attention of members to the presence in our gallery of His Excellency, Mr. René Préval, President-elect of Haiti.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Certificates of Nomination

    Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to table today two certificates of nomination, one for a position to the Laurentian Pilotage Authority Canada and the other for the position of Canada Council for the Arts.

Norad

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today, pursuant to section 32(2) of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, to lay upon the table, in both official languages, the agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America on the North American Aerospace Defence Command, known as Norad.

Air-India

    Mr. Speaker, the House will know that on June 23, 1985, Air-India Flight 182 on its way from Montreal to London, England, exploded in mid-air near the coast of Ireland.

[Translation]

    A total of 329 passengers and crew, including over 80 children, perished in this tragic accident.
    In January the following year, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board concluded that the plane's destruction was the result of a bomb.

  (1505)  

[English]

    Clearly this was an act of terrorism, one that claimed hundreds of innocent lives. Canadians and indeed citizens of all countries around the world demanded that those who perpetrated this act be brought to justice. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this has not yet been possible and we must sadly admit may never come to pass.

[Translation]

    Over 20 years have passed since this tragedy occurred. While Canadians have not forgotten it, they tend unfortunately to think the circumstances were connected to the political situation in India.

[English]

    But we must never forget that the vast majority of those who perished on Flight 182 were citizens of our country. They were Canadians. They and their families came here, just as our ancestors did, to seek a better life for themselves in a country with unlimited opportunity. The stories and the dreams of those 329 men, women and children, along with those of their families, were shattered by that terrible tragedy on that day in 1985.
    It is our duty as Canadians to do everything in our power to prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.

[Translation]

    The bombing of Air India flight 182 has been the focus of many investigations, but for reasons known only to them, previous governments have not launched an official public inquiry, the only action that would have helped the families of the victims turn the page, provided answers to the main questions left unanswered and perhaps prevented other acts of terrorism against Canadian citizens.

[English]

    A full public inquiry is required. That is what we promised the families. This is what we are announcing today.
    The inquiry will be launched immediately and will be led by an outstanding Canadian, retired Supreme Court Justice John Major. Justice Major has met with the families in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto and has developed detailed terms of reference with their full support and cooperation. I have every confidence that Justice Major will conduct a thorough and compassionate investigation into the events surrounding this incident.

[Translation]

    I want to make it clear that this agreement has nothing to do with reprisals. Neither is it to be a reprise of the criminal trials in this matter held in Vancouver between 2003 and 2005. That would serve no purpose.

[English]

    What this inquiry is about, however, is finding answers to several key questions that have emerged over the past 20 years about the worst mass murder in Canadian history. It is a reflection of our compassion as a nation to those who lost mothers, fathers, siblings, relatives and friends to this terrible act of terrorism. It is our sincere hope that this action may bring a measure of closure to those who still grieve for their loved ones.
     This inquiry is about analyzing the evidence that has come to light since 1985 and applying it to the world we live in today. Now more than ever the Government of Canada must be prepared to take action to protect our citizens from the threats of terrorism. Under Justice Major's guidance, we hope a focused and efficient inquiry will provide information that will help ensure that Canada's police agencies and procedures, its airport security systems and its anti-terrorism laws are among the most effective in the world.
    In closing, I wish to acknowledge and to honour the efforts of the families of the victims of Air-India flight 182 and their perseverance in pursuing the launch of a full public inquiry. Some of the spouses or parents of those who lost their lives in this tragedy have themselves died over the past two decades. Their cause has, in many cases, been taken up by their children or by other relatives. Despite a long and agonizing wait, their faith and their commitment to seek the truth, no matter how painful it may be, has never wavered. They serve as an example to all of us.
    We cannot undo the past, but we can provide some measure of closure to the families who lost loved ones on that Flight 182. By seeking answers and confronting shortcomings in our current system, we can ensure that we save lives in the future.

  (1510)  

[Translation]

    I invite all members to support the efforts of our government in this regard.

[English]

    Maybe a bit later, Mr. Speaker, we could revert to tabling of documents and I will table the terms of reference for this inquiry in the House.
    To save time, is it agreed the Prime Minister can table the document at this moment?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party shares the sentiments of the Prime Minister. The bombing of Air India flight 182 was the worst terrorist incident in our history and a Canadian tragedy. For the friends and families of those who perished, the loss of their loved ones was catastrophic.

[English]

    The 329 passengers and crew members, including the 80 children, who perished are not just a tragic statistic. Each person had a name, each had an identity, each had a family, each person was a universe, and so, 329 universes perished that day, the enormity of which, as I mentioned, is difficult to comprehend, let alone feel.
    Accordingly, besides creating permanent memorials to honour the Air-India victims, the Liberal government also designated June 23 as a national day of remembrance for victims of terrorism. We did this not only to recognize the victims of the Air-India bombing, but also to ensure that June 23, 1985, would be forever etched in our Canadian history as a day that thrust Canada into the terrible reality of international terrorism.
    It is for this reason also that the Liberal government appointed Mr. Bob Rae to provide independent advice and whose report “Lessons to be Learned”, and recommendation for an inquiry was welcomed by the families and commentators at the time.

[Translation]

    We are pleased to see the government is honouring the decision the Liberal government made last November to set up a public inquiry.

[English]

    The government has, however, preferred to establish it as a judicial commission of inquiry, under former Supreme Court Justice John Major, and the families have also welcomed this initiative.
    Clearly the families, given their ongoing pain, are seeking answers and deserve closure. Canadians want to ensure, as the Prime Minister has stated, that such a tragedy never happens again, that the lessons that need to be learned are in fact learned and that the appropriate action is taken to protect Canadians from acts of terror.
    While the Prime Minister has underlined, rightly so, the raison d'être for such an inquiry, he has not identified the subject matter of the inquiry, nor the questions that need to be addressed and the lessons to be learned.
    Accordingly, I would hope that Mr. Justice Major's inquiry, and I have the highest respect and regard for Mr. Justice Major, will in fact examine the four key areas that concern the families.

[Translation]

    These were identified by the former government.

[English]

    Mr. Rae's report, “Lessons to be Learned”, addressed the concerns. These included: first, whether the government's assessment of the threats of terrorism in the mid-1980s was adequate; second, how communications breakdowns and schisms between the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service might have caused mistakes and omissions; third, how does one approach the requisite use of intelligence evidence at a criminal trial and what one might learn from this about what we might do in terms of the prevention and prosecution of acts of terrorism; and finally, what shortcomings existed in airline security at the time, have those been rectified and what can we learn from those unresolved questions?
    In conclusion, may I express our understanding for the ongoing ordeal that the families continue to endure, our commitment to ensure that such a terrorist tragedy will never again happen and our hope that under Justice Major's inquiry the appropriate lessons will be learned so the necessary action can be taken.

  (1515)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, out of respect for the 329 families affected, light, indeed full light, must be shed on this tragedy. At the end of one of the longest, most costly and most complex criminal cases ever heard in Canada, the Supreme Court of British Columbia found that the evidence was not sufficient to sentence the two accused of the attack against the Air India plane in June 1985. At the end of all the legal procedures, many of those involved blamed CSIS and the RCMP for having fumbled the management of this investigation, notably by destroying the tapes of transcriptions of conversations that would have had a considerable impact on the whole case.
     In a report dated April 5, 2005, or barely a little more than a year ago, the Auditor General maintained that Canada was still vulnerable to terrorist acts. This means therefore that the Canadian security agencies are still not able to prevent the occurrence of terrorist acts on Canadian territory.
     It therefore seems obvious to us that it is time to establish an inquiry so that we know how the security agencies are conducting investigations, and how they are protecting Quebeckers and Canadians. We have to keep all our compassion for the families and loved ones of the victims of the Air India attack. We all agree that an inquiry will not bring the Air India victims back to life, and that it will never succeed in consoling these families and their loved ones. Nevertheless, a verdict of not guilty and acquittal of the accused based on a lack of evidence and a series of fumbles by CSIS and the RCMP is quite unacceptable.
     An independent inquiry would make it possible to prevent such an injustice from occurring again. Such an inquiry would soothe the pain and suffering of the families of the victims of the Air India tragedy, who feel cheated by the Canadian legal system. Full light must absolutely be shed on what the court described as “unacceptable negligence” in talking about the destruction of evidence by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It is absolutely vital that we have an open and transparent process to discover what took place in the Air India plane crash.
     The families and communities have a right to know. Quebeckers and Canadians should be able to feel secure and sheltered from terrorist acts. They should be able to count on the agencies mandated to ensure their security. They should know whether CSIS and the RCMP are able to fulfill their respective missions, which amount to ensuring security.
     So the Bloc Québécois supports the Prime Minister’s initiative to set up a commission of inquiry into the Air India tragedy.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, New Democrats welcome this public inquiry into the Air-India disaster announced today by the government. We hope that this inquiry will, at long last, provide answers to the questions that have haunted the victims' families and indeed all Canadians for over two decades.
    On June 23, 1985, when Air-India flight 182 exploded off the coast of Ireland, all 389 people aboard, most of whom were Canadian citizens, were killed. There were 82 children among them. Twenty entire families were lost and many more families have been left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
    This was the largest single act of terrorism and mass murder ever executed against our country. Yet, for two decades, government after government, both Conservative and Liberal, refused to acknowledge the need for a public inquiry.

[Translation]

    On March 16, 2005, when the BC Supreme Court acquitted two men on eight charges related to the bombing, it was brought home once again to the families and friends of the victims and to all Canadians that two decades on, there is no justice for those who lost their lives on Air India flight 182.
    During the trial, a great deal of gravely concerning evidence came to light about the role of Canada's RCMP and CSIS in the period preceding the bombing and in the years that have followed. This evidence demands greater examination.

  (1520)  

[English]

    Following the trial, New Democrats joined with the families to call upon the Liberal government to pursue a public inquiry. The refusal to do so was an unconscionable denial of justice. It is our sincere hope that this inquiry, announced today, will finally shed light on this dark corner of our collective past.
    I join with all New Democrats, and I believe all members in this House, in commending the efforts of the victims' families. For 20 years now they have fought an often solitary battle against a wall of indifference and wilful neglect by the Canadian government. Where there ought to have been comfort, and swift and sure justice, there has been only painful silence.

[Translation]

    Today at long last there is hope, hope that the questions which have haunted the victims' families, questions all Canadians are asking, will finally be answered.

[English]

    As former Supreme Court Justice John Major undertakes this important and long overdue inquiry, we hope that he will endeavour to do so with the highest consideration to the pain and suffering endured by the families and always with their best interests in mind. We are confident that he will do so.
    New Democrats trust that, through this inquiry, we will finally comprehend the events which led to the Air-India tragedy, that we may be able to heal the wounds of two decades of neglect, and most importantly, and this is what is so impressive about the families' struggle and effort in this regard, work to find answers that can prevent further such tragedies ever occurring again. With that, we may move forward together with greater understanding.

Canada Labour Code

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I could not be more proud than to be joined by my colleagues in the NDP today on May Day, the international day of worker solidarity, to introduce this private member's bill which we see as the natural progression of the right to free collective bargaining.
    The NDP, since its inception, has struggled for the rights of working people. In fact, many would say that was the very reason that the party was founded. Canadians enjoy the right to free collective bargaining, but that right is undermined when employers use scabs in the event of a work stoppage.
    This bill will finally bring Canada and its labour relations regime fully into the 21st century by banning the use of replacement workers, banning scabs. We believe it is an idea whose time has come and I am proud to introduce this bill on May Day.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Remembrance Day National Flag Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to introduce this bill. Yesterday in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a group of Dutch Canadians presented a monument on behalf of the 5,700 veterans who are buried on Dutch soil. Many veterans who are here today were quite proud of that fact.
    This bill says very briefly that the lowering of the flag on Remembrance Day is done voluntarily. It is not legislated. We would like to put it into law, so that no future government could fool around with this very important day, and ensure the flag and all other flags around the country are lowered at half staff.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1525)  

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this again comes from a bill by a previous member of Parliament who served 12 years in the House of Commons, Mr. Werner Schmidt of the Reform Party, Alliance Party and Conservative Party. Imagine a guy in three parties who never had to cross the floor once.
    Presently, if a veteran's spouse dies when a veteran is 50 years of age and that veteran remarries at age 59, the second spouse is entitled to all the pension benefits. However, if the veteran remarries at the age of 60, the second spouse is entitled to nothing upon the veteran's death. That has to change. We believe the age discrimination of 60 has to end. For example, it is time the gold digger clause is gone. We believe we should treat our veterans and all people fairly in this country.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia alone, volunteerism creates $2 billion of economic activity. People who join groups like the Lions Club, the Kinsmen Club, et cetera do not received tax deductions for their services. We believe that people should be able to claim a blanket tax deduction for a certain number of hours that they serve. The membership fees that are paid to these organizations should be tax deductible as well.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, back in 1998 I introduced a bill called compassionate care leave which basically gave the same exact benefits for those who are looking after people under palliative or severe rehabilitative care as others have when they are on maternity leave.
    For example, we have maternity benefits for up to a year, but we have no eternity benefits, which is what I would like to call it. I believe that people who look after people under palliative or severe rehabilitative care should be able to leave their place of employment and collect employment insurance for a period of time, so that they indeed could care for their dying loved ones or those who are under severe rehabilitative care. In a country such as Canada, it is the least we can do.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a copy of a bill my great colleague from Winnipeg Centre has also introduced. It is also great that this bill is introduced on May Day.
    If people working for Canadian Tire had to bring their own tools to work, those tools would not tax deductible. If Canadian Tire supplied those tools for the individuals, they would be tax deductible. That is wrong.
    We believe the tax deductibility should work both ways. If a person is a mechanic or travels across the country and brings his or her tools along, it should be no different than a businessman who brings his laptop. It is a tax deductibility that should be encouraged, so our workers in this country can be treated fairly by the income tax system.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1530)  

Canadian Bill of Rights

     He said: Mr. Speaker, we do not have to look further than our hon. colleague from Timmins—James Bay when he talked about the housing concerns on Kashechewan. One of the fundamental aspects of human dignity is to have proper shelter that is affordable.
    The NDP believes that the Canadian Bill of Rights should be changed to include a right to proper shelter with unreasonable barriers and ensure that it is affordable, so that all Canadians can raise their families in proper, safe and decent housing.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Development Assistance Accountability Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill designed to ensure that development assistance through CIDA and other federal bodies makes poverty reduction its principal priority. It should be delivered in accordance with Canadian values, Canadian foreign policy, international human rights standards and sustainable development principles. It should include criteria that are set out for allocating funds for enhancing transparency and for monitoring Canada's international development efforts.
    If, in the spirit of this minority government, the government is prepared to make this legislation its own, it will have our full cooperation to see that it is quickly dealt with and put into effect.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Business of the House

    That, notwithstanding the Standing Orders or the usual practices of the House, the take note debate scheduled for Monday, May 1, shall be extended by 1 hour; during debate on the motion the Chair will not receive any dilatory motions, quorum calls or requests for unanimous consent; and any member rising to speak during debate may indicate to the Speaker that he or she will be dividing his or her time with another member.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Petitions

Child Care 

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of the early childhood centres of New Brunswick. They are concerned, I would say even angry, about the government's child care plan. They believe it represents a step backwards in relation to the child care agreement and that cancelling the agreement will have negative consequences for Canadian families.

[English]

    These petitions are submitted by the Cunard Street Children's Centre and I thank them for their assistance in this important cause.

Citizenship and Immigration  

    Mr. Speaker, today I stand in solidarity with undocumented workers being deported from Canada.
    Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse. Today we are joined by Kimberly and Gerald Lizano-Sossa, the children detained by Canada Border Services Agency officials inside their school. I met with them and their parents and this story is truly sad and inspiring.
    There is a problem when the government storms a school, a place of sanctuary, and uses children as bait. The petitioners and I call upon the government to find a humane solution to this, and I pray that the minister will never again use children as bait.

Child Care  

    Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on behalf of my constituents of Sydney--Victoria. I have received an overwhelming response from over 1,000 constituents calling upon the current government to honour the child care agreement made by the provinces and our previous government.
    The Conservative plan of $3 a day to every Canadian who has a child under six is not a realistic solution to child care. Canadians need a federally funded program that creates the day care spaces needed.
    I ask the current government to listen to the people of Sydney--Victoria and the people of Canada and keep the previous agreement made by the federal government and the provinces.

  (1535)  

Human Rights 

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36 signed by a number of Canadians, including from my own riding of Mississauga South. This is probably one of the most disturbing petitions that I have ever had but I believe it should be drawn to the House's attention.
    The petitioners want to advise the House that an investigative journalist revealed the existence of a concentration camp in Shenyang City expressly for Falun Gong practitioners. The evidence from independent sources is that no one has yet come out of this concentration camp alive and that Falun Gong practitioners have been killed for their organs, which have been sent off to various medical facilities, and that organ sales are now a highly profitable business in China.
    Apparently some 2,840 of these people have died and there are reports from witnesses of family members who verify that some of the bodies were missing body parts and were tortured to death.
    The petitioners therefore call upon the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada to strongly condemn the Chinese Communist regime's crimes against Falun Gong practitioners, particularly in the Sujiatun concentration camp, and to speak out to the UN to mobilize an investigation and rescue.

Questions on the Order Paper

    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement government orders will be extended by 18 minutes.

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Government Orders]

[English]

International Bridges and Tunnels Act

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
    The hon. member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River has three and a half minutes left for questions and comments.
    Mr. Speaker, in response to the question posed by the hon. member from Quebec, the $600 million border infrastructure fund, which is already in the bank, should go a long way toward helping communities, such as the ones we are talking about, with regard to their infrastructure.
    He also asked about jurisdictions. Ontario has the International Bridge and Terminal Company and Baudette and Rainy River Municipal Bridge Company. St. Mary’s River Bridge Company owns the bridge at Sault Ste. Marie. The Blue Water Bridge Authority owns the bridge in Sarnia. The City of Windsor has the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The bridge between Buffalo and Fort Erie is owned by the Buffalo and Erie Public Bridge Authority. Three bridges are owned by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. We have the Federal Bridge Corporation and the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. There are several more.
    Mr. Speaker, in presenting the bill the minister outlined the importance of safety and security issues and highlighted the reasons why in a post-9/11 world it is very important that these considerations be taken into account.
    I note in clause 16 of the bill that it states:
    The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting the security and safety....
     It seems to be contradictory that the minister would say that the issues related to safety and security are extremely important and yet the bill itself only provides that the minister may, at his discretion, recommend regulations on these matters to governor in council.
    I wonder if the member would care to comment on the importance of not just including legislation in regulations, but if it is so important to have safety and security provisos related to this legislation, that maybe they should be right in the bill themselves.

  (1540)  

    Mr. Speaker, I agree wholeheartedly with the questioner because it does make sense that we have those protections right in the bill. I must confess that my interest in this particular bill was to use that section in the hope that there would be some latitude for the town of Fort Frances that would actually allow the federal government to assist it. I can only agree to the nth agree with the hon. member's question.
    Without elaborating on this part of the bill, it is so general that it may cause problems later on. In my case I am hoping that it will actually open the door so that the town of Fort Frances will get some assistance from the federal government and that we would find a way of financially going to the table to honour the request from northwestern Ontario for assistance.

[Translation]

[English]

    The bill was first tabled on April 24 and it would establish an approval mechanism for the construction, alteration and acquisition of international bridges and tunnels and would provide for the regulation of their operation, maintenance and security. I want to commend the minister for the speed in which he introduced the bill following the federal accountability act.
    Previously, these important clauses were part of a more general omnibus bill, referring back to the 38th Parliament, where they were part of an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act. In that form, both Bill C-26 and Bill C-44 died on the Order Paper when the election writ was dropped, which concluded the 38th Parliament. These bills that the previous government had brought forward had the disadvantage of being complicated omnibus bills. They covered a whole range of issues.
    I would say that the bill before us today, Bill C-3, is a concise bill. It has some 60 clauses and addresses the issue rather concisely. These 60 clauses address issues such as the construction and alteration of international bridges, maintenance and repair, security and safety, change of ownership, operator control, incorporation by letters patent and shares of a corporation. It is a housekeeping bill but it puts in order a very important aspect concerning transportation across borders, our economy and our trade with our largest neighbour.
    Therefore I applaud the minister for bringing this important bill forward. It is clearly a priority for the minister and our government and I am pleased to be able to speak today in support of the bill.
    The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who spoke earlier, raised concerns about tolls on international bridges as being disincentives for visitors, transportation and commerce, and that is a concern, but I suggest to him that our infrastructure needs have to be supported somehow. The residents of Vancouver Island where I live have a huge disincentive for all commerce and visitors visiting Vancouver Island. We do not have a bridge. We have ferries that cost the average family per crossing about $50 per trip each time they come and go from the island. A transport truck coming on the island has a disincentive we might say of $150 to come to the island and we know that drives the cost of our fuel and our food supplies up on Vancouver Island.
    We understand that tariffs are a problem and are certainly a problem across the country but somehow we need to come up with the funds to support infrastructure. It is a problem that many communities have to deal with.
    Nothing man builds lasts forever. I suppose this is particularly true of bridges and tunnels. Our harsh climate, the pounding of trucks and cars have an exacting toll on our transportation infrastructure. The condition of Canada's aging infrastructure has increasingly become a major issue for governments and for the motoring public.
    A 2006 study conducted by Statistics Canada points out that although the condition and calculated age of roads and highways has improved, bridge infrastructure has been falling behind. This study indicated that in 2003 Canadian bridges had reached only 49% of their useful life with a calculated average age of 22.6 years over a service life of 46 years. Federal bridges, which accounted for about 3% of the total stock, had an average age of 26.4 years compared with 24.6 for provincial bridges and 19 years for municipal bridges.
    As a result of a previous government's priorities between new construction and maintaining existing facilities, between 1992 and 1997 I note that the federal government spent 77% of its bridge funds on new construction and only 23% on renovations.
    I just want to remind members that in 2005 the United States remained by far Canada's most important trading partner and represented more than 70% of all of our international trade in value. The majority of this trade is carried by truck and a high percentage of these trucks cross international bridges.

  (1545)  

    If we look at the age of some of these bridges, it is apparent that many of these structures have been in existence a very long time. The four busiest international border crossing points for trucks include the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit; the Blue Water Bridge between Point Edward/Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan; the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie and Buffalo; and the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge also in Ontario.
    The Ambassador Bridge, which carries over 25% of our trade to the United States, was constructed in 1929. The Blue Water Bridge, which carries about 13.4% of our trade, was built in 1938, and the second span in 1997. The Peace Bridge in Fort Erie was built in 1927. The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge was built in 1962.
    Other key border structures include the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which was constructed in 1930; the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie, which was built in 1962; the bridge between Edmundston, New Brunswick and Madawaska, Maine, which was built in 1921; and the Clair, New Brunswick to Fort Kent, Maine bridge, which was built in 1930.
    We appreciate that there has been ongoing maintenance and repair to these bridges during their existence. However, as bridge infrastructure ages, the bridges will require more and more attention. Since they fall within federal jurisdiction, the federal government must ensure that they are safe for the motoring public. Bill C-3 addresses this concern.
     Clause 14 of the bill provides that the governor in council may, on the recommendation of the minister, make regulations respecting the maintenance and repair of international bridges and tunnels. This clause requires the owner or operator to provide reports to the minister on the condition of the bridge or the tunnel. It specifies what information is to be included in the reports and makes provision for the inspection of the facility by the minister or a person so designated.
    With a few exceptions, these bridges are owned and operated by others than the federal government. Provincial or municipal governments own many of these bridges and tunnels, while binational authorities and private industry own a few.
    Since it is in everyone's interest to ensure these bridges are well maintained and safe, the federal government is acting to ensure that infrastructure is maintained to a minimum common standard. It is not the intention of the federal government to pay for the inspections, nor for any necessary improvements. Safety will remain the responsibility of the individual owner and operator.
    The intention is also not to impose unreasonable standards on the various owners and operators. Although the details would be developed during the regulatory process, the intention would be to rely upon existing provincial inspection standards. Since the bridges were built originally to provincial standards, it would only be logical that their inspections be to the same standards. This would ensure consistency within the provincial transportation network.
    I realize that a logical first question might be, if we are inspecting the Canadian half of the bridge, who is inspecting the other half? I am sure everyone fully recognizes that federal jurisdiction only extends halfway across an international bridge, and the Americans are owners and operators of the U.S. half. We can therefore only regulate our own half of the bridge and trust that the American owners and operators do the same on their half of the bridge. In most cases, American and Canadian owners and operators cooperate very closely not only in the construction, but in the operation and the maintenance of these bridges.
    In the case of bridges between New Brunswick and Maine, the provincial and state governments take turns being responsible for the construction of new bridges. The Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association has expressed the view that it would probably use the most stringent standard where the U.S. code and the Canadian code differed.
    Since 9/11 things have changed. We also must change. Safety has become a concern for Canadians. It certainly has become a concern for Americans. We just had discussions here a short time ago as the Prime Minister announced the Air-India inquiry, certainly the worst terrorist incident in Canadian history.
    We must ensure that we upgrade our laws so that we can provide for the safety and consistency of transportation across our border, to make sure that our commerce with our largest trading partner is secure, not impeded, and that we minimize the risk of any kind of incident that would disrupt that trade and the flow of people and commerce across our borders. It is a sad reality, but it is something we do need to address.

  (1550)  

    I fully support the passage of Bill C-3, the international bridges and tunnels act. I am confident that the safety clauses contained in the bill will ensure that these critical pieces of our national infrastructure remain safe for future generations.
    I hope that all members of the House will support the bill. It is a housekeeping bill, in essence. It puts in order the necessary structures so that bridge construction in the future can be undertaken, bridge maintenance can take place, and cooperation with our neighbour in terms of maintaining an unimpeded traffic flow across the border continues.
    I understand there are a number of proposals for new bridges. There are some 24 existing crossings which have a wide range of arrangements for their management. At least three new proposals are currently before the government. It is time that we put in order the necessary legislation that will allow these projects to proceed in an orderly fashion and in a manner that protects the security of our transportation, our cross-border traffic for visitors, commerce and trucks.
    I hope that all members will support the bill and see that it goes through the House, moves on to committee where it can be discussed more thoroughly and be enacted as quickly as possible. In this new 39th Parliament it can become an early act to ensure that we put in place the necessary protection for part of our economy.

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you will find there is consent by all parties to move the following motion:
    That the time taken up by Ministerial Statements not be added on to the time allotted as per the Standing Orders for today only.
    Does the parliamentary secretary have unanimous consent to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Acting Speaker (Mr. Andrew Scheer): The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is there unanimous consent to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Respecting International Bridges and Tunnels Act

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion that BillC-3, An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act, be now read the second time and referred to a committee.
    Resuming questions and comments. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Conservative colleague discuss the bill concerning international bridges and tunnels. This is a perfect example of how Canadian federalism works. In this bill, the government has decided to declare that bridges fall under federal jurisdiction, as they have always done. They want to clarify it because bridges have always been administered by provinces, municipalities or the private sector.
    As my colleague is well aware, no funds are provided for in this bill. All the federal government is doing is asserting its jurisdiction, but it will not pay for maintenance. It will conduct inspections, but it will not pay to fix bridges.
    There are many examples of this. I just noticed my colleague for Lévis—Bellechasse back there nod in agreement. The Quebec City bridge, which is owned by CN, is one such example. It is completely rusted. It needs to be fixed, but the federal government, the province and Canadian National have all drained their budgets. In the end, the work will not be done.
    This is what is being proposed today. This bill provides no money to repair bridges or to upgrade them if security standards are tightened. No budget is included—we will discuss it later. Nevertheless, the federal government states that this falls within its jurisdiction. It will inspect bridges and tell the provinces and municipalities what to do, but it will not pay.
    Is this what the member is proposing?

  (1555)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the bill puts in place the necessary regulations so that security and consistency can be addressed in the future.
     When we are talking about investments in infrastructure like this, there will always be discussion with the provinces, the municipalities or with the appropriate authorities. With the alignment of bridges, which affects traffic in the municipality and in the province, all of those things will require close cooperation between federal, provincial and municipal authorities where that is appropriate.
    Certainly, when it comes to funding, whether it is for repair or infrastructure investments, those are ongoing discussions that will take place on an individual basis. They are not addressed in the bill, but they have been discussed individually when these projects have come up in the past. I am sure that will be the pattern in the future.
    I look forward to moving ahead to see these projects advance in our country.
    Mr. Speaker, I do not share the member's assessment of the bill. I really do not think it is a housekeeping bill. I think it is a bill that does not exist in the first place and we cannot keep house on something that is not there.
    Notwithstanding, in clause 16 under the main heading “Security and Safety”, it says, “The governor in council may, on the recommendation of the minister, make regulations respecting the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels, including regulations”, and paragraph 16(c) says “requiring any person or class of persons to provide to the minister any information related to the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels”.
    We have to think about that for a little while. The minister may make regulations and it has to do with requiring people to divulge information, not people involved in the project, but every person in Canada apparently. I wonder if the member has any knowledge whatsoever about this regulation. If these safety and security issues are so important, why is it that they are being buried in the regulations? Why are these requirements not laid out in the bill as we would make these requirements of Canadians subject to the detail as laid out in regulations?
    Mr. Speaker, the member is a seasoned member of the House. We have enjoyed discussing a whole range of issues in which we share a common interest. We know how regulation works in this place.
    When we are referring here to requiring any person or class of persons to provide the minister information related to security and safety, it is clearly implied that we are going to be directing that request to people who would be custodians of that information or would be in charge of the bridge or in some way would be expected to have some competence in providing information.
    I think that the language, of necessity, does not spell out exactly who those individuals might be because there are some 24 such structures that exist today. There is a wide range of responsibilities. The first structures we mention I think go back to the 1930s so we are talking over 60 or 70 years. The range of arrangements has changed and evolved considerably over these years and therefore the governance structure would be a little bit different in each instance. That is probably why the language is a little more vague than my hon. colleague would prefer.
    However, it is the nature of the beast that we are trying to address. I am sure it will be discussed at committee and any concerns can be straightened out at that time.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member please provide his views in terms of hazardous waste materials that are actually crossing over our international crossings, bridges and tunnels?
    Currently, there are very few regulations and actually there is zero inspection going on with regard to some of the crossings. One in particular in Windsor, Ontario where I have my constituency is the Ambassador Bridge where they have been in public dispute with some of their operators about hazardous materials that are crossing but are not supposed to be crossing at that location. They are supposed to go to Sarnia or to a hazmat ferry.
    Would the member agree that there needs to be greater prudence? Perhaps there should be an investigation team or a resource so that we can actually maintain public safety for individuals in the community and also make sure that hazardous waste materials are not going onto the infrastructure. Hazardous materials could be used for terrorism or there could be an accident that would cause a failing of the infrastructure.
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised a very important issue. Transportation of hazardous materials is a big concern certainly within the country. Cross-border transportation is something that should require some very close scrutiny.
    On this side of the House, we are very concerned with the lack of attention to border security in a whole range of matters. It does need to be addressed. I am sure that these concerns will be very welcome at committee. They need to be looked at. I am sure we need to tighten up the way we manage hazardous materials within the country and certainly at our border crossings. The member has raised a very valid concern. I am sure committee members, as this bill goes forward, will be anxious to look into this matter and make sure that we take the appropriate precautions.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-3, which is an important bill. In fact, it was a bill that was first brought forward by the previous government, primarily because every time a bridge or a tunnel was to be built, specific legislation was required to cover that particular project. As one can imagine, there are differences in the requirements of each and every international bridge or tunnel.
    The short title of this act is the “International Bridges and Tunnels Act”. Its enactment will establish an approval mechanism for the construction, alteration and acquisition of international bridges and tunnels and it will provide for regulation of their operation, maintenance and security. This is by no means a housekeeping bill. It is a very important bill. It touches a lot of things. The previous speaker referred to it as a housekeeping bill.
     As I looked through last Friday's debate, I saw some of the questions. It struck me that there were some very important issues that had to be addressed.
    Just by way of background, there are currently 24 bridges and tunnels that carry vehicular traffic across the 6,400 kilometre border between Canada and the United States. There are also five rail bridges. More than $1.9 billion worth of goods moves across the border each day, so we can certainly understand the importance of this. We know there has been for many years discussion about the need to alleviate the congestion at border crossings, particularly in places such as Windsor, Sarnia, Fort Erie, et cetera.
    The federal government has jurisdiction over all international crossings, but it is clear that bilateral negotiations have to take place at the federal level as well as provincial and state levels where either responsibilities or authorities exist. This is kind of a comprehensive approach to this. We have the authority with regard to the Government of Canada, under section 92 of the Constitution Act, but the federal government's ability to exercise this authority has never been set out in a legislative framework, and that is the purpose of the bill.
    Everyone knows that since September 11, the issue of safety and security has been extremely important to everyone around the world. With regard to Canada's bridges and tunnels, we cannot leave this issue to less formal procedures than would be prescribed in a piece of legislation. That is why it is important that we have legislation in which we have a foundation that will allow us to strategically address the concerns related to either the repair, the maintenance, the change of ownership, or the construction or replacement of new bridges or tunnels.
    The bill begins a process that provides us with the ability to deal with the necessary crossings. However, the minister, when he tabled the bill in the House and spoke at second reading, stated:
    The development of new crossings is a complex undertaking, requiring negotiations between provincial, state and federal governments on both sides of the border.
    Although the bill itself is written in a unilateral form, it has very little detail with regard to the understandings or obligations. One of the areas I thought was important, and a previous speaker spoke about it, was the environmental impacts. I thought immediately about my days on the environment committee where we had regular visits from representatives of the IJC, the International Joint Commission, which is a group of people who are responsible for all of the waterways that we have shared jurisdiction between the United States and Canada. It deals with things like ships coming in and dumping their ballasts. We have alien invasive species and all these other problems. However, there are other things such as watersheds and the impact of important or major construction, as we talk about in the bill.

  (1605)  

    Under the bill, the legislation would give the governor in council, or cabinet, the authority to make regulations for all matters related to safety and security. It would also be able to make regulations respecting the operation of these crossings, such as ensuring the efficient and competitive flow of international traffic is not jeopardized. These are important aspects of it, but as I indicated, the environment is also very important to Canadians. That is why the proposed legislation and framework has to address some of the environmental aspects.
    I cannot find much that I would disagree with in the bill. It is an important bill to have. Although there are a couple of new provisions, one dealing with crossings related to the St. Lawrence and also matters related to change of ownership or control, the only other area where I had some concerns about were the regulations. It is the issue of legislation being buried in the regulations, which I have talked about in this place a number of times.
    The previous speaker will be very familiar with the reproductive technology bill, in which I think there were some 24 clauses of the bill that had the phrases “subject to” or “as per the regulations”. The problem with that is parliamentarians are asked to debate, from a knowledgeable point of view, a bill on a very important subject without knowing what the regulations are. Buried in those regulations could be some of the most essential details that could change one's total outlook on the efficacy of the bill.
    This idea of making laws through the executive branch, going around Parliament, is something with which we have to deal. It is a wrong premise, and parliamentarians have a responsibility to be accountable. We talked for a whole week about accountability. How can I, as a member of Parliament, be accountable to my constituents, to Parliament and to Canadians as a whole, if I cannot even see legislation with the full impact? How can I vote at second reading and give approval in principle to the main provisions of the bill, if I have no idea what will in the regulations?
    We have to be vigilant about what is buried in the regulations. It comes down to that little line, which I have heard so often, the devil is in the details.
    Talking about the devil in the details, members will know that there was debate here about the softwood deal. There was a legitimate concern that the little detail of under-prevailing market conditions could mean a big difference. We do not know. I have not seen that deal yet, and I would like to see it. However, I can say that a 30% maximum quota is not free trade; it is managed trade.
    I can also say that $4 billion is not $5 billion. All I know is if we are not getting back the duties, if we are not getting back that additional $1 billion, I know where it is going. It is going to the U.S. producers who are going to use it to either continue to fight these battles or take the resources. The devil is in the details.
    Let us have a look at another example of the devil in the details. We talked today in question period about a little detail: tax credits for corporations to create 125,000 day care spaces. That is wonderful except the federal government has no jurisdiction for child care. It has no standards or standard-setting process. How can say that if we give them some money, they are going to do this? We have no responsibility or authority to specify the conditions for that child care. Remember the OECD said that what we had in Canada, other than Quebec, was basically glorified babysitting. Are we giving some money to set up more glorified babysitting? How is this helping children? There is the detail.

  (1610)  

    Let us look at reducing the GST and paying for it by reducing or rolling back an income tax cut. The income tax cut that Canadians received in the last Parliament saved the average Canadian family about $400. Canadians would have to spend $40,000 on taxable goods and services to receive the same amount.
    We know the providers of goods and services are not going to pass that all on to the consumers. They are only going to increase their prices and say that this is the way it works.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate that we have quite a bit of latitude in our discussions, but we are talking about bridges and tunnels.
    The member has been through the softwood lumber issue, and he made some statements that would be appropriate to correct. He is now into child care and GST. Is he planning to bring his speech back on track to the bridges and tunnels bill that is before us and--
    I thank the member for Nanaimo—Alberni for his point of order. I am sure the member for Mississauga South will want to address the main tenets of the bill in the rest of his speech.
    Mr. Speaker, the main point in the bill is that the devil is in the detail and these were examples. The members obviously have some examples and if they wanted more they could look at the tax credits or transit passes of Kyoto.
    However, let us move on to the regulations. Clause 16 states:
    The governor in council may,--
    It says “may”:
--on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels, including--
    It then goes on for three paragraphs.
    As I discussed with the members earlier, the regulations can be extremely important and vital to the operations of a piece of legislation. I understand that projects for bridges or tunnels, whether to build a new one, repair one or change its ownership will have some fundamental differences. Look at the Minister of Transport's speech. It was all about the vital nature of safety and security issues that we needed to take care of very specifically.
    In particular, clause 16 on safety and security says that it may issue regulations requiring persons, who own or operate bridges or tunnels, to develop and implement security plans and establish security management systems. What does it mean by it “may” develop a security and safety plan? What does it mean “may”? Why is that not in the legislation subject to the regulations where the detail would be? That is what it is supposed to be. This is absolutely unacceptable.
    Safety and security plans must be tabled with every project and the details of what has to be included must be put in regulations which can be amended from time to time by order in council. I do not want a bill that says we may do this and, for our friends, maybe we will not. This is a recipe for abuse and lack of accountability. Can we not put this in the legislation? There is another requirement which states:
--must be included in the security plans and requiring persons who own or operate international bridges or tunnels to make the additions, changes or deletions to their security plans that the Minister considers appropriate--
    This seems to be a general catch-all, but it was the last one that got me. Subclause 16(c) under “Regulations” states:
ç --requiring any person or class of persons to provide to the Minister any information related to the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels.
    Think about it. This is a regulation that the minister “may” come forward with, requiring any person or class of persons to provide the minister any information related to the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels.
    I must say that the first things I thought of were constitutional rights, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the rule of law. What is this? This is utter nonsense. What kind of catch-all is this? Does anybody in the House really understand what it is? What does it say? Can anybody stand in this place and give me an example? If no one can, then why is it that we are being asked to debate this at second reading and vote to give approval in principle which, once we do that, based on ignorance, we will not be able to reverse?
    This is nonsense. This is making law by regulations. I hope members get interested in this because there is more. Let us look at paragraph 39(5)(b) where there are more regulations. It states:
    The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting--
(b) the return of the evidence to the person from whom it was seized or to any other person entitled to its possession.
    This is pursuant to paragraph 39(1)(c), which I guess we have to read in order to understand what that means.

  (1615)  

    Clause 43 is another one. It states:
    The Minister may, by regulation,
     I will move down to paragraph (b):
prescribe the maximum amount payable for each violation,--
    If a law prescribes violations and penalties, then I hate to tell the House that there will be penalties and they will be prescribed in the regulations. It may be better to be put in the legislation that there will be penalties and the penalties are as laid out in the regulations.
    This idea of the government saying it “may” do this really bothers me. We are going to see this often. We as parliamentarians must be more vigilant. If we are expected to vote on legislation and want to be accountable in this place, then we must know what is being asked of us. It is not here.
    Usually a department would provide briefing notes with an explanation on each clause. Members get those notes the first time a bill goes to committee and after all the witnesses. Members do not even have that information when they are talking to witnesses. I hope potential witnesses will look at this bill and say we are missing something, or we are on a track that basically says Parliament is going to give us approval in principle and then we are going to slap on what we really want to do in the regulations because it says we can do it. That is law made by the executive. It is law made by regulation and it is wrong.
    This bill is a perfect example of this. It is a straightforward bill on a very important matter. It provides a legislative foundation and framework by which we can deal with issues to do with the international bridges and tunnels. It has some environmental implications et cetera.
    What is the legislative framework in the United States? The United States have had it for a number of years. We are now bringing ours into line. I wonder what the United States has to say about this. I wonder whether or not we have patterned this on the American framework. It is clear to me that everything that is happening around here seems to be looked at through the lens of the American people. This is what I call the sniff test and the sniff test is telling me that we are very slowly embarking on the Americanization of Canada.
    It seems to me that everything we do is based on what the United States does. It seems to me that we have taken on the attitude that if the United States does something then maybe we should do it too. The attitude seems to be that if the United States wants to steal our billion dollars on softwood lumber, then let it steal it. If it wants to have a maximum quote and have managed trade instead of free trade, that is okay. It seems to me that is the way we are doing business. We have to have big Bush and little Bush. What the heck.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Paul Szabo: I am sorry, but I am really concerned about the quality of the legislative material.
    This legislation is at second reading. I hope that members who are going to be on the transport committee and will be looking at this bill will take an opportunity to look at what is being asked in terms of the detail in the regulations. I hope the committee will seek the approval of the minister of the department to have these important considerations incorporated directly into the legislation.

  (1620)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question for my Liberal colleague will be simple. He said in his speech that the devil is in the details. I will call to his attention a small detail that is not in the bill and that is the federal funding to help maintain the bridges in question.
    It is not just Bill C-3. When his Liberal government was in power, there was nothing in Bill C-44, the basis for Bill C-3, on funding for the 24 international bridges and tunnels.
    They could have taken the opportunity to establish funding and tell those managing them, namely the provinces and municipalities, that the money was available. As I was saying earlier, this federation has a funny way of doing things. It says in this bill that the international bridges and tunnels are a federal jurisdiction, but it does not invest any money in them. It is the provinces and municipalities that are currently paying. That is the reality.
    I gave the example of the Quebec City Bridge because it is an obvious one. It is not an international bridge, but a bridge for which there is an agreement, for which the federal government pays its share. The province should have to pay its share just like a private company. We are just a few years shy of Quebec City's 400th anniversary and we would like to have a bridge that is not all rusty. Our hands are tied because everyone is saying there is no budget available for this.
    Why was there no money allocated for these 24 international bridges and tunnels? Why, at the time, did the Liberals not allocate any money either?
    That is my question for my colleague.
    An hon. member: That is a very good point.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member raises a good point. I am not sure whether it has to be in this legislation. It really is an issue of the fiscal responsibility of the government of the day.
    There is no question that the most significant portion of our exports goes to the United States. I have forgotten the number. It is something like 75%. It relies heavily on the infrastructure of the tunnels and the bridges as well as the road system connecting the producers to the export points.
    We all have a vested interest in it and therefore, as a general statement, I would say all stakeholders have a responsibility to make contributions that are commensurate with the benefits that they derive from that project going forward. I think it is something that should be argued strenuously especially when the alternative to having no federal funding is to have no infrastructure project. That is simply unacceptable.

  (1625)  

    Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to listen to my colleague's speech. It was a typical Liberal speech. In the first part of his presentation he tried to take credit for the actual legislation which was formerly Bill C-44. It is actually significantly the same. There are only a couple of modifications that are different in this legislation.
    What is critical though is that the government of the day has carved it out of another bill, Bill C-44. It had other components that made it going forward very complicated. Therefore, at least we can concentrate on this major infrastructure challenge that we have.
    There are some negative aspects to the bill, but there are some positive things as well that are very important. However, by the end of the member's speech he was distancing himself from the bill, calling it utter nonsense, despite the fact his own member is going to be sitting on the industry committee that crafted the bill or at least a good part of it to begin with. He had convinced himself that it was actually bad, calling it Americanization and a whole series of things. It is just amazing that one can go within a 20 minute period of time and make a completely contradictory statement about a presentation.
    I would like to move on though. The former Prime Minister said this to the Windsor Star in January 2004. He said that there was no doubt that the crossing here was the single most important crossing in Canada and it was the priority. We know we then got a list. Sadly enough, the Windsor-Detroit region corridor was probably one of the initial priorities that then got quintuplets, then dozens, then after that a population explosion of priorities and got put into a mix of things.
    I have a question for the hon. member. Why did it take so long to get this actual legislation to this point in time? I have many concerns about the legislation and there are some issues that need to be dealt with. However, the fact is there are over 24 crossings that are bridges and tunnels between Canada and the United States. Two are privately held right now: one in Windsor West and one in Fort Frances. There are no regulations whatsoever protecting citizens and the commerce of this country. Why did it take so long?
    Mr. Speaker, it is too bad the member did not listen to my speech. I said very clearly in my speech that it was effectively the same bill that was proposed by the last government within those two areas. The member could check the blues or tomorrow's Hansard. The two areas I noted were the St. Lawrence River crossing and the authority to improve all transactions affecting ownership control.
    The problem that I have with the bill is with regard to the regulations. That was my speech. It was with regard to putting matters, which were late to the legislation, in the regulations under the auspices of the minister “may”. In fact, on safety and security issues, I am of the view, and perhaps the member does not agree, that if there were provisos of the bill such as penalties and safety and security plans that must be made and so on, those should be requirements in the legislation itself. The details of what matters should be dealt with in this plan, who should it be reviewed by, and all these other things. That is what regulations are for.
    My concern was clearly with regard to essential legislative information being buried in the regulations and not available for the members of Parliament to consider before they vote at second reading which would then restrict our ability to make changes at a later date. That is the point.
    We are at second reading which gives us the opportunity to make a recommendation to the transport committee. I support the bill, but I want the committee to look very carefully at the requirements of the regulations. I want the committee to ask the government and the department to state some of those requirements in the bill itself with a clause relating to regulations where the amplified detail would be present but the principles would still be in the legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, was the hon. member for Mississauga South concerned about the same degree of Americanization when his Liberal government approved 11,000 takeovers of Canadian firms through the course of its 12 years in power?

  (1630)  

    Mr. Speaker, if the member would like to name them, I will comment on them. His is a throwaway question, so in that case let me go on to the last two devils in the details.
    Can we imagine giving a tax credit for transit users for transit passes? Ninety-five per cent of that money is going to existing transit users. They want to increase the ridership from 5% to 7%, which they cannot do because there is no capacity. There has to be an investment. What it is going to mean, mark my words, is that there is going to be an increase in the price of transit because of this tax credit and they are going to have to invest more and come to the federal government to invest more in transit.
    This is not going to do anything. It will cost $2,000 a tonne to reduce greenhouse gases, 10 times more than the programs this government has scrapped.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to start the discussion on Bill C-3 by coming back to the comments of the member for Mississauga South. He gave quite an impassioned comment and, for those of us who have actually been in the House over the last few years, a rather strange comment, in that he said he was concerned about the Americanization of Canada.
    This is coming from a member who represents a party that, as I mentioned earlier, has accepted, without one single rejection, 11,000 takeovers of Canadian firms over the past 12 years. Eleven thousand firms were taken over and the Liberal government just gave them a green light, with the subsequent loss of jobs, loss of revenue and loss of profits that go elsewhere, outside of the country.
    It was also strange to me when we talked about the softwood deal. Indeed, I will come back to this because this touches on the issue of international trade. The Liberal government was bringing forward an agreement on softwood lumber that was basically the same as what the Conservatives are trying to push this week. The difference is about 3¢ on the dollar, but in both cases, Liberal and Conservative, what we have is essentially allowing the Bush administration to profit, to keep the ill-gotten gains of trade crime.
    Both the Liberals and the Conservatives agree with this stand. Certainly for the hon. member for Mississauga South to step forward and say he is concerned about the Americanization of this country when the Liberal government showed that, if anything, the Liberals wanted to accelerate that Americanization, it is quite strange indeed. I did not want to leave those comments without a response.
     I will come back to the issue of Bill C-3, which is to a large extent taken out of Bill C-44, brought forward at the transport committee in the 38th Parliament. Although there have been calls for years to have a legislative framework around our international bridges and tunnels, under the Liberal government there was not the movement that we needed to see, so largely we welcome what we are seeing in Bill C-3.
    But I should give credit where credit is due. Essentially, and I think overwhelmingly, this bill coming forward is due to the work of the member for Windsor West, who has been tireless in pushing the cause of having a federal legislative framework around international bridges and tunnels. The member for Windsor West and his colleague from Windsor--Tecumseh have been pushing forward this issue in Parliament since they were both elected a few years ago.
     I think it is nice to see that their efforts have borne fruit, that their work has led to the reintroduction of this bill. It is certainly our commitment that we will be working very hard to ensure that we get this type of legislative framework around international bridges and tunnels. I should also mention the work of the member for Sault Ste. Marie, who is also impacted directly. He has been a strong defender of making sure that access passes through international bridges and tunnels, and he has been a good advocate as well. However, all of us in this House, from all four corners of the House, should thank the member for Windsor West for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the Windsor area.
    What does this bill contain? The bill essentially takes components from Bill C-44 and allows, in a sense, a legislative framework to be established around international bridges and tunnels. It may be surprising to most of the people who are listening in tonight to this debate to know that there is no legislative framework existing now. Indeed, many of the international bridges and tunnels that we have across this country are privately owned and there is no legislative framework for the federal government to play its role in ensuring that bridges and tunnels are safe and secure, that they are properly maintained and that we can make the kinds of investments we need to in order to ensure that jobs are created and maintained in Canada.

[Translation]

    I should also add that when we refer to bridges, we are talking about 24 bridges across the country. Nine are located in New Brunswick, essentially in Acadia. That area has the most international bridges in the country. Of course, there is also one in Quebec, in the Glen Sutton area.

  (1635)  

    It is a very beautiful part of Quebec. There are also seven bridges connecting Ontario and New York State. We are talking about the whole of the St. Lawrence. This sector is also very important to the Canadian economy. Four other bridges link Ontario to Michigan, including the Ambassador Bridge. I will come back to this, but let me say that this bridge is extremely important to the city of Windsor, which is represented by the members for Windsor West and Windsor—Tecumseh. In addition, there are three bridges in northwestern Ontario, connecting the province to Minnesota. The best known of these is in Fort Francis.
    There are also five rail bridges: two between Ontario and New York, two between Ontario and Michigan and one in the northwest, again in Fort Francis, between Ontario and Minnesota.
    Of course, we are talking about all the bridges and tunnels that have an enormous impact on the economies of the provinces, particularly Ontario, but also Quebec and New Brunswick. This is an extremely important facet of Canada's economy.

[English]

    Speaking more specifically about some of the elements, when we talk about truck trade between Canada and the United States, the total value in 2004 was $346 billion. Trade by rail was valued at $98 billion. Essentially trucks and railways carry 80% of the total value of Canada's trade with the United States in the year 2004.
    The Windsor-Detroit tunnel connects the U.S. interstate system with Ontario's Highway 401. It is one of the fastest and busiest links between Canada and the United States. Approximately 27,000 to 29,000 vehicles use the tunnel on a daily basis, amounting to nine million vehicles per year, 95% of that traffic being cars and 5% being trucks.
    As I mentioned earlier, the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor and the Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward rank as the top two commercial crossings on the Canada-U.S. border. More than 4.7 million commercial trucks and 19.4 million passengers use these annually. With that important volume, one can understand why the member for Windsor West has been such a tireless advocate on behalf of his constituents as well as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.
    Also, the Thousand Islands crossing on an average day in 2003 served 1,600 commercial vehicles, carrying about $27.5 million worth of goods, and served 3,500 passenger vehicles. That would be carrying nearly 8,000 people between the United States and Canada at that border crossing.
    The three Niagara Falls international bridge crossings support an estimated $26 billion in trade per year, and reportedly more than 500,000 U.S. and Canadian jobs depend on that export traffic travelling across the Niagara Falls bridge connectors.
    Finally, in 1996 almost $1.7 billion American dollars in Canadian exports were shipped through the Sault Ste. Marie crossing, which is the largest international trade crossing in northwestern Ontario, to the United States, over one-third of which was transported by rail. In 2001, 2.5 million vehicles, including nearly 2.4 million passenger vehicles, crossed that bridge.
    Therefore, we are talking about crossings that have a fundamental importance for the economy in Ontario. That is why it is extremely important that the efforts of the member for Windsor West and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh have arrived at the point now where we as a Parliament can now consider this important legislation.
    We are largely in favour of the principle of the legislation. We feel it is long overdue. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that NDP members have been pushing to make this legislation a reality.
     There is one area where we are concerned. When we look through Bill C-3, as other members have mentioned, we see an excessive level of centralization of power of governor in council. In other words, the government is taking over the essential ability to promote regulation when it comes to Bill C-3. That is a problem.
     We have seen in other areas of international trade serious concerns with the direction of that young government. Admittedly we are perhaps talking about a government that is still trying to find its feet, but the recent softwood sellout does not allow us to increase our confidence level in the kinds of decisions that the government would make on trade issues. As I very clearly laid out, this is a matter of fundamental importance for international trade.
    We have been saying that we need this legislative framework, but the member for Windsor West particularly has been saying that we need the local input to ensure, when decisions are made on safety, security, maintenance and ownership, that those decisions are made both in the local and national interests. The member for Windsor West has been a tireless advocate to ensure that the people of Windsor are involved in decisions that have a profound impact in that area.

  (1640)  

    I come from British Columbia. We are profoundly affected by softwood lumber. Yet we have seen the most catastrophic sellout of British Columbia interests on softwood lumber imaginable. It is absolutely mind-boggling that we would see the government, after hundreds of millions of dollars paid by British Columbia communities to ensure that Canada would maintain its rights under NAFTA, with a stroke of the pen give away those rights of the dispute settlement mechanism we won last August, which allowed for binding closure. The government is saying that it does not matter if Canada wins, that it will give it all away. It gave away over a billion dollars of proceeds of trade product illegally collected in softwood tariffs.
    It is astounding that on an issue that impacts communities in British Columbia to such a great extent, the government would wave the white flag and surrender our rights under NAFTA, surrender over a billion dollars. In other words, it has provided the ammunition to the American industry to attack even more strongly the B.C. industry. It astounds me beyond belief that this could happen.
     Our concern is if we are giving this much power into the hands of the government over international bridges and tunnels, which have as much of an economic impact, it will make the same foolish disregarded decision and sell out our interests. That is the problem.
    On international trade, we have seen that the government does not understand the implications of the decisions it makes.
     When it comes to international bridges and tunnels, we have shown that it has a profound impact on trade. It is of immense concern to us now that we are centralizing that control within the government. This is not how the NDP has been promoting this issue. We have been saying that local areas, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and other areas, need to have substantial input into those governmental decisions.
    When it comes to softwood lumber, British Columbians have had no input into a softwood lumber sellout that gives away $600 million in hard-earned money paid by B.C. softwood communities to Washington in illegal tariffs, the proceeds of trade crime that the Bush administration can keep and use against the B.C. softwood industry. Even the B.C. premier, who obviously too hastily said he thought the deal might be okay, now that he has seen portions of it, though none of us have seen the complete deal, is having second thoughts. That is why he wrote to the Prime Minister and said that it was not the deal he signed off on, that there were new clauses that allowed American control of our forestry practices.
    If the chaos of this bad deal on softwood is any indication, with no B.C. input for softwood communities, which are hard-pressed and which have fought to have Canada's rights maintained under NAFTA, this may be a very poor precedence that we will see for Bill C-3. That is our concern.
    Though we agree with the principle of the deal and though we agree that after many years of work by NDP MPs, such as the member of Parliament for Windsor West we are finally getting to the point where we have that federal oversight, we do not see anywhere in the legislation the opportunity for the kind of local input, which is important.
    I cannot stress this enough. If we go back to the softwood lumber deal, forestry companies were saying that this was a bad deal. However, the Conservative government said that it was a take or leave it situation, that it would cut them adrift, that it would not provide loan guarantees or litigation support, that it would not provide them with anything. The companies have to take the deal as it is. Because the government has to rehabilitate the trade minister, the member for Vancouver Kingsway, it will sign anything no matter how outrageous, no matter how bad a giveaway, no matter the precedent it sets, not only for softwood lumber but for any other industrial sector.
     Next week, next month, next year the Bush administration can target other industrial sectors and we no longer have a dispute settlement mechanism. We no longer have a binding process that allows us to see trade justice. We now have a state of permanent trade crime that has been created because the government did not understand what it was signing. It is a nightmare

  (1645)  

    Coming back to Bill C-3, the one component that we do not like and that we will endeavour to change and improve in committee is the government's ability to make these changes and perhaps do further sellouts without having the substantive local input from regions like Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie. It is fundamentally important to ensure that our trade works on an even playing field and in the interests of those areas. I believe that is the fundamental issue.
    Because of the work of the NDP MPs, the NDP believes we are finally seeing legislation, which should have been passed before, that provides the legislative framework for international bridges and tunnels. However, we are concerned about centralizing the power with a government that has shown, so far at least, that it does not know how to handle it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments on Bill C-3 on international bridges and tunnels.
     However, I would nonetheless like to call him to order. In his speech, my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster erred on another subject, that being the settlement of the softwood lumber dispute. As you know, this is an issue which has received the support of the Government of British Columbia—where my colleague is from—and of the Government of Quebec—where I am from—as well as the support of the sawmills of Chaudière-Appalaches. For them, this settlement resolves a problem which was latent for many years and which had been left by the Liberal government.
     Now we can make plans for the future, because we know we will be able to work. People in the industry will be able to invest, to recover and invest the money that had been held back. They will have a framework for operations and will be able to export their wood. I wanted to correct the facts with my colleague.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question, which did not relate to Bill C-3 but to the softwood lumber industry. It will be my pleasure to respond to this question.
     First of all, the Premier of British Columbia has said that this was not the agreement he had approved and it was not what he wanted. This agreement is worse than what he accepted. So the Premier of British Columbia—who may not have read what he signed, or did not understand what he signed—now has second thoughts about the deal. Now the deal is coming apart. Furthermore, as my colleague very well knows, Carl Grenier, a Quebecker and executive vice-president of the Free Trade Lumber Council, has said that, with one stroke of the pen, three years of effort and three years of victories in the NAFTA case have just been erased. It is obvious that this auctioning off of our Canadian rights is generating a good deal of negative comment.
     Now the question is rather how the Conservative members can vote in favour of such a measure. It places not only the Quebec industry, but also the industries of British Columbia, Ontario and the entire country in a bad position, and it particularly affects the communities concerned by this bad deal, which should never even have been considered.
    Mr. Speaker, I will return to Bill C-3. My colleague earlier expressed his concerns about communities not being consulted. I would simply read for him clause 13, even though I know he has read it:
    The Minister may order the owner or operator of an international bridge or tunnel to take any action that the Minister considers appropriate to ensure that it is kept in good condition.
    In addition, the government is giving itself the right to apply sanctions. The owners are provinces, cities and, in some locations, private companies, but for the most part they are levels of government. This is what the government is proposing today—I repeat—without including any provision for the creation of a dedicated fund, by which the federal government would guarantee its financial involvement. It waves a stick. If there are problems, it will use it.
    I would like my colleague to tell me whether he thinks it reasonable, once again, for the federal government to rap the knuckles of the communities, provinces, cities and private firms with its big stick.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It concerns, specifically clause 13 of the bill, which provides that “The Minister may order the owner...to take any action that the Minister considers appropriate to ensure that it is kept in good condition”.
    My colleague from Windsor West has illustrated this fact very eloquently. When the Windsor-Detroit tunnel changed from private to public ownership, it was in very poor shape. It was noted at the time that the private administrator had not done the maintenance necessary to ensure safe transportation between Windsor and Detroit. The tunnel is now owned by a public firm, which ensures it is maintained.
    We consider it very important these bridges and tunnels be maintained. They play a vital role in the economy not only of the cities I have mentioned, such as Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie, but of the country as a whole, especially Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario.

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-3, an act respecting international bridges, today. This bill is part of our government's comprehensive plan to provide a clear transportation policy for the whole country in a sustainable development context.
    Today, it has become clear that the whole House supports this very concise bill. We can therefore proceed quickly.
    I would like to tell my colleagues a little more about this bill and the context within which it was drafted.
    As you have already heard several times today, Canada and the United States are linked by 24 road bridges and tunnels, as well as five rail tunnels. Most of the trade goods exchanged between our two countries travel across these bridges and through these tunnels, as well as via the rail and marine transportation networks. They play an essential role in our transportation system.
    This is the first time the Government of Canada has established a legislative framework—not a funding framework, but a legislative one—to fill a gap. This is why the House supports the bill.
    Furthermore, the bill fits into the government's plan for border security, infrastructure improvements and, as a result, job creation through international trade.

[English]

    The proposed bill would serve to confirm the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction with respect to international bridges and tunnels; require governmental approval for the construction or alteration of new and existing bridges and tunnels; require governmental approval for all changes in ownership, operation and control of those facilities; and authorize the government to make regulations regarding bridge maintenance and repair, safety and security, and operation and use.

[Translation]

     Because people move across those bridges, we are entitled to expect that the government will ensure that those structures are well maintained and safe.
     I support the bill presented by my hon. colleague, the member for Pontiac and Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. It is a reflection of our government’s desire to restore the backbone of our country, transport—highway transport, rail transport, air transport and marine transport—to its proper place.
     As members of Parliament, we are elected to legislate. I am sure that with the consent of my colleagues in the House, we will be able to move this bill forward.
     Under the previous government, there had been hard times in recent years in terms of the development of transport in Canada. We witnessed the closing of a number of marine facilities in municipalities along the St. Lawrence River. We also witnessed the abandonment of marine transport, one of the four pillars of the transportation system. I know something about this, because I live in Lévis, where the largest Canadian shipyard is located, with nearly 180 years of history. Today, the workers in that shipyard are fighting hard to keep this jewel in the crown of our industry going strong.
     For the manufacturing companies of Bellechasse and Chaudière-Appalaches, which are Quebec's “tigers”, as for others in other regions of Quebec, transportation costs are all-important if they are to preserve their competitive edge, whether in the agri-food sector, the plastics industry or the furniture industry. In Sainte-Claire, we have the largest manufacturer of intercity buses in North America. Links with the American economy are crucial, as we know.
     Given the soaring price of gasoline and the climate change that is upsetting our ecosystems, we have to develop a bold and innovative transport policy. That is what our government intends to do, and marine transport—and the bill we are considering today—is one element of that policy.
     Today, we use various modes of transportation when we travel. At one time, the waterways were the only routes that existed. They contributed to the building of our country. Canada would not be what it is today if this transport network had not existed. What economic development would there have been in the St. Lawrence Valley and the Great Lakes region without the St. Lawrence Seaway? How many tons of essential materials, goods and supplies have been transported on the St. Lawrence? These waterways have helped to build Canada and they will continue to do that. This is an important mode of transport and it is part of a strategy of sustainable development.
     There are several advantages to doing a better job of using our navigable waterways. We reduce the congestion on our roads and at our border crossings—on the roads and bridges that we are talking about today—and in our airports. We improve the efficiency of our supply systems. We facilitate trade and effectively reduce air pollution, including greenhouse gases.
     Congestion is very expensive, amounting to about $3 billion a year in lost time and wasted fuel that goes into the atmosphere, in addition to the negative effect on our productivity. We know that trade will only increase in the future and the congestion on our roads will grow worse as the number of cars and trucks increases.
     International trade is expected to reach 2 billion tonnes a year over the next 20 years, or twice as much as current levels.
     To avoid overloading our infrastructure, we are going to have to innovate and find different methods of transporting goods. This will affect not only the environment but also our health and the expenses that governments incur to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure. We should therefore examine all the available options that could make our transportation systems as efficient, effective and sustainable as possible.
     So it is logical to send more of our goods by ship. This reduces congestion while actively helping to fight climate change, in addition to being very beneficial economically. All that shippers want is for their goods to reach market in a cost-effective way.
     We are not inventing anything here. In Europe, 63% of the total volume of goods is carried by short-distance ships. This amounts to a total of 1.6 billion tonnes. European countries promote marine transportation as a complement to road, air and rail. They have studied this option and decided in favour of it. If it works elsewhere, it could work here. The job has already begun.

  (1700)  

    In 2003, Canada, the United States and Mexico signed a memorandum of cooperation to share information on waterways. On April 19, at a conference in Vancouver, our minister took part in signing the protocol for promoting the use of our waterways, thus reducing pressure on our bridges and tunnels. That is why we must conduct research on shipping and collect more data in order to apply it effectively.
    In Quebec, in Rimouski, UQAR is setting up a research chair on shipping, which will be a major advance for research in this field in Quebec. It will help support this industry on specific scientific and technological research. It will also open the door to discoveries that will further our knowledge of the shipping sector and help us develop it to its full potential.
    We need to have efficient means of transportation to improve our competitiveness—especially with a strong dollar—and to help us stay on course with our ambitions for our shipping companies and the St. Lawrence River.
    We need an integrated approach to transportation to enhance our economic productivity. Our Prime Minister recently met with the President of the United States and the President of Mexico in Cancun. The three leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing security, prosperity and the quality of life for North Americans. It is in this context that this current initiative is being taken.
    Bill C-3 on international bridges will allow us to legislate on this matter and provide leadership. As we have seen, this House will probably be called to support other bills for improving our transportation policies in a context of sustainable development. Shipping is part of that.
    Located at the confluence of the river, near the large seaway, the major transportation routes and rail lines, the riding I have the privilege of representing could seize this opportunity to improve its productivity and contribute to the prosperity of the country.
    Mr. Speaker, I would just like to mention one thing to my colleague. At the start of his speech, he stated that he had the consent of the House. I would like my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse to understand that he will have the consent of the House when we vote on the bill. First, the bill must be referred to a committee that will make amendments. I would like my colleague to understand that the Conservative Party does not have a majority on the committee. Thus, the bill will be amended and we hope that the other opposition parties will agree. We will see how the Conservative Party votes after we have amended the bill.
    Naturally, this leads me to ask the following question. Does he not find it strange that today we have a bill which, early on, in clause 5, states that “International bridges and tunnels are declared to be works for the general advantage of Canada”, in other words, under federal jurisdiction? This is already spelled out in the Constitution.
    Why are we bringing this up today? I would like to suggest a small exercise to my colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse. It is because the federal government has divested itself of its responsibilities over the years. It gave us a nice statement about marine transportation but the federal government has divested itself of its responsibilities. It is no longer responsible for ports—except for some designated ports— having turned them over to local authorities. In addition, the federal government divested itself of regional airports, wharfs and bridges, handing them over to independent managers.
    As a result of 9/11, the federal government wishes to reappropriate these installations for security reasons. Could my colleague tell us today that the government would support an amendment to the bill that would force it to allocate funds specifically for international bridges and tunnels if more restrictive security measures were applied and that these measures would be paid for by the federal government?

  (1705)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for updating me on parliamentary procedure. I was simply illustrating the nature of the comments I heard today from the four parties.
    I am confident that the bill presented will receive parliamentary approval after work is completed on the amendments.
    That said, my hon. colleague's question concerns the issue of regulations. I would say to him, as I indicated in my speech, that it is true that there has been a federal disengagement, particularly with respect to responsibilities for port facilities in small municipalities in Quebec. The Liberal Party was responsible for this and, unfortunately, the Bloc Québécois could not do anything about it.
    I would point out to him that this bill aims to legislate in the area of international bridges. This bill does not target the funding of infrastructures. The distinction must be made.
    Mr. Speaker, since he is giving me the opportunity, I would add that the federal government had the Conservative Party's support when it offloaded its responsibilities concerning ports and airports.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments.
    Canadian infrastructure faces many needs. I know this is true in the municipalities within my colleague's riding. This is certainly true in the municipalities of Bellechasse, Etchemins and Lévis. This is a collective challenge we must overcome together.
    As for the famous fiscal imbalance, it involves more than just the provincial and federal governments. It also affects municipalities and ordinary citizens.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that, as transport critic for the Bloc Québécois, I talk about Bill C-3,.
     In theory, everyone may be in favour of the federal government accepting its true responsibilities as regards international bridges and tunnels. In any case, they fall within its jurisdiction. We have to grasp how the situation is, though.
     The federal government downloaded its responsibilities in the past and transferred them to the provinces, the municipalities in some cases and to private companies in others. Of 24 bridges, only five are within the jurisdiction of the federal government. The others were entrusted to other administrations.
     This is what the Bloc Québécois is wondering about. The federal government, for the sake of national security, is now deciding to interfere directly in the administration of equipment managed by other levels of government.
     Earlier, I quoted to the New Democratic member a text which I will take the liberty of reading to the House. Under “Maintenance and Repair” in the bill, clause 13 reads: “The Minister may order the owner or operator of an international bridge or tunnel to take any action that the Minister considers appropriate to ensure that it is kept in good condition.” Thus, for national security, the federal government can decide to impose standards or force an administration to redo maintenance of its infrastructures. That is hard to accept, when we know that the act does not contain any measures creating funds dedicated to the repair of these infrastructures while ensuring federal participation.
     Earlier, when I put some questions to my colleagues from several parties, I mentioned the Quebec City Bridge. It is not an international bridge or tunnel. It is, however, an example of a very important infrastructure in Quebec City, which is currently in the news headlines. Actually the 400th anniversary of Quebec City is coming up. This steel bridge is completely rusty, and they want to repaint it. That is the objective.
     Canadian National has to maintain the railway system—let us never forget that this railway system is within federal jurisdiction—in accordance with the agreement concluded. This company, though, has always repeated to all levels of government that it does not have the means to maintain this superstructure. In the past, an agreement was signed between the Province of Quebec, the federal government and the said company. As in many projects, however, the costs were exceeded and the objectives could not be met. Money is lacking to renovate the Quebec City Bridge in time for the 400th anniversary. In fact, it should be renovated so as to avoid all sorts of catastrophes that might arise.
     The money is lacking and everyone is passing the buck. It is not anyone’s fault, especially not the federal government’s. The Conservative members went for a walk, the federal government, through the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, said that the bridge was not its responsibility. In fact, in this case, maintenance of the bridge is the company’s responsibility. It is Canadian National that is responsible for the maintenance of railways and structures. This bridge is therefore its responsibility. But we know in advance that the private company is not able to do the maintenance.
    We have the same problem with international bridges and tunnels. Some are managed by the private sector. Earlier, a colleague mentioned the Windsor-Detroit tunnel, which had to become public property. A public authority had to take over responsibility for managing the tunnel when it turned out the private company that was managing it was unable to maintain it. This example speaks volumes, but other bridges and tunnels are facing the same problem. The bill does not solve the problem.
    In the bill before the House today, the federal government is not saying that it will pay. It is only saying that it will oversee bridge inspections and order the owners or operators to take any action to ensure that they are kept in good condition. If any work is to be done, the government will force the owner to do it. However, if the owner has no money to do the work, as was the case with Canadian National and the Quebec City bridge, what will the government do? This bill does not say.
    The bill does not provide for a fund for the 24 existing bridges and tunnels or any new international bridges. We should at least allocate sufficient funds to renovate these 24 or 25 infrastructures. That way, we could fix the problem right away by using the fund to pay for the repairs.
    Since the beginning of this debate, our Conservative colleagues have said that we should discuss funding mechanisms. Some say that if we increase prices at some locations, it would end up costing so much it would weaken the economy. If that happens, people will not use the bridges or the tunnels.

  (1710)  

    There is no trade because it costs too much to cross the bridge or travel the tunnel. Clearly, this means that the government does not want to pay. A Conservative colleague even said earlier that the government would force owners to pay by refusing to pay.
    In short, no one is willing to pay. Money is the crux of every political issue. Once again we see that the federal government divested itself of all responsibility in the past because it did not want to pay.
    Of course, the communities or provinces involved told the federal government to transfer responsibility to them and that they would look after the structures if the federal government was unable and unwilling to. Today, these huge and often old structures are expensive to maintain, and money is running out.
    You will see that the Bloc Québécois will defend the public interest. In Quebec, we have one bridge, the Sutton bridge, which the city manages. Imagine, the City of Sutton manages the bridge. Of course, administration has been delegated. I am told that the bridge is very well managed and that everything works quite well. But judging by the community's reaction, Sutton was in favour of the bill because it assumed that money would likely be invested. The community thought that money would be forthcoming if it had to do major work, because the federal government recognized that this came under federal jurisdiction.
    This bill does not hold any surprises for the residents of Sutton, but it does not answer their questions either. In any case, there was no money when these bridges came under federal jurisdiction, and this bill does not provide for any money.
    The Bloc Québécois will therefore try to put that point across to all its colleagues, to the Liberal Party and, of course, the Conservative Party, which introduced the bill. In fact, I have to hand it to the Conservatives. This entire part of the bill is identical to Bill C-44, which the Liberals prepared.
    Today, the residents of Sutton cannot count on any help from the Liberals or the Conservatives, nor can any other communities that find these infrastructures too costly. It was already decided that we might talk about money at a later time, but that we would not resolve this issue today. The Bloc Québécois and the communities in question who face this situation would not mind if the federal government were to declare its authority and impose standards--as long as the government pays for it. It is as simple as that.
    I myself feel that more and more of these infrastructures should be transferred in order to find the funds needed for major projects and to avoid situations such as the one in Windsor, where the services of a private company were used but a public agency had to be created to pay the bill.
    Again, I cite the Quebec City Bridge as an example. The hon. member for Québec is defending this file in the House. Quebec City wants to spruce itself up for its 400th anniversary, which is only normal. The oldest city in Canada will soon celebrate its 400th anniversary. We are very happy to have it. However, we cannot get the bridge painted because no one wants to foot the bill.
     I cannot get over it: it’s crazy. The city wants to beautify itself, huge amounts are being invested for the community, but we cannot manage to reach an agreement because the bridge belongs to Canadian National, it is under federal authority, and the Quebec government does not have the money.
     That is how the Canadian federation works. We have a fine structure, and on the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, you will be able to go and see the rusted Quebec City bridge. It will become a historic monument, because that is what is going to happen.
     That is how the world will be invited to visit Quebec City. We cannot manage to agree, we cannot repaint the bridge because the agreement between the federal government, the provincial government and the private company has expired. There is no money and we fell short. We did part of it, but we are unable to finish the job.
     We hope that the 24 international bridges and tunnels will not meet the same fate. The citizens of Quebec and Canada will be able to rely on the members of the Bloc Québécois to defend their interests. There can be no question of the rest of Canada going through what we are now experiencing in Quebec City, which wants to make itself attractive for its 400th anniversary.

  (1715)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I agree with what my colleague said about the infrastructure deficit. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which represents thousands of municipalities across Canada and Quebec, has very clearly said that the infrastructure deficit is in the billions of dollars.
    Municipalities cannot maintain their bridges, highways and roads. They cannot maintain their water structures so cities and towns can have clean water. They have difficulty dealing with their infrastructure. The decades of downloading have been hurting municipalities. Even painting a bridge has become a problem.
    However I need some clarification on some of the other problems. I recently read that the toll collectors at the Ambassador Bridge were told to wave through trucks carrying risky cargo. According to a document obtained by a local paper, this is in violation of a U.S. ban. This is a real problem.
    Does the member believe that the operation of these bridges should be maintained by the government, whether it be federal, provincial or municipal, or should the bridges be privatized and given to private operators?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the New Democratic Party for her question. I am pleased to respond to the first part of her question.
     As a former president of the Quebec union of municipalities, I can say that it is true that the cities of Quebec are running a $15 billion deficit just to restore existing infrastructures. Development does not even come into it. These are the needs of the cities of Quebec, not including cities in the rest of Canada. My colleague is entirely correct. Is private enterprise the solution? The example of the Windsor tunnel, which was given earlier, shows that private enterprise is there to make money. In the long term, that is not what we want. These infrastructures have to be preserved by the provincial or municipal public administrations, provided that the federal government, which regards them as coming under federal jurisdiction, decides to pay. They lie within its jurisdiction.
     I see no problem with deciding to have them administered by a city or a province, if that is easier. However, if they are under federal jurisdiction, let there be an immediate announcement in this bill that a dedicated fund will be created. That will assist the administrators or governments, which will be able to manage these infrastructures under federal jurisdiction without putting other programs into debt.

  (1720)  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to ask my colleague for further information about the amount of responsibility that the federal government should assume when it transfers the management of certain infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is an enormous mess in the fisheries in regard to the Fisheries and Oceans facilities for small craft harbours. My colleague came to the Gaspésie and Îles-de-la-Madeleine region just recently to look into the railway infrastructure issues. This shows that when someone is responsible for a particular file or sector, there has to be money, too, or else we end up with a bill like the one that the Liberals introduced last year on heritage lighthouses. It was all very good in principle, but when it came time to put the principles into action and get concrete results, it turned out that there was many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.
     Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The handover of harbours and wharfs is a very good example. The communities were not opposed. Everybody was thinking about it. The Province of Quebec even made a proposal to take over some of the harbours. The problem was that there was no more money in the federal program. There was not enough money to transfer it. It is all very well just to decide on a policy. But if someone does not want to be in charge of a facility any more, the money has to be made available so that when the facility is transferred, it is at least in good condition. The problem with the federal government is that when something does not suit it any longer, it transfers it to a lower order of government— the provinces or municipalities—but forgets to provide the money. The federal government wants to save the money and invest it in an array of jurisdictions that are not its own. That is the cruel reality that we face.
     I thank my colleague, who is doing an excellent job in the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to put a few comments on the record. I have listened to a lot of the debate and although there have been varying aspects of the debate we are starting to get into the discussion of what we are actually trying to do.
    I want to put on the record that I support the bill. The international bridges and tunnels act has been long overdue and is necessary. Having listened to the debate, I know that most of the focus so far has been on the 24 international bridges and tunnels that carry vehicle traffic. I certainly recognize their importance for all the reasons that have been presented today but I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the international rail bridges and tunnels. Although they are fewer in number, they are an important part of our national transportation system, particularly with respect to the movement of freight. Bill C-3 applies equally to those international bridges and tunnels.
     Railways have been described as the backbone of Canada's transportation system and we all know that rail is certainly one of the oldest modes of transport. Some railway companies date back to before Confederation. I have almost finished reading “The Last Spike”, which tells the history of the railway that was built into western Canada. To read about the trials and tribulations that people went through to construct that national tie has enlightened me a lot in some of the difficulties that they went through but also the objective and goal that they were trying to obtain.
    It is interesting that this past February the Canadian Pacific Railway celebrated its 125th birthday. An even older birthday was celebrated this year, the 170th birthday of the Champlain and Saint Lawrence Railroad, Canada's first railway. It was established in 1836 and ran from La Prairie to Saint Jean in Quebec. The rail lines have been an important part of the Canadian economy but also our Canadian heritage.
    The importance of rail to the movement of goods and people today cannot be underestimated. There are a few things that I did not know. In 2003, 59 million passengers travelled by train using the country's commuter and tourist excursion lines and cross country service provided by VIA Rail. That is a huge number of people and is something that we should always be cognizant of when we talk about safety in infrastructure that transports that number of people.
    In terms of moving goods, over 270 million tonnes of freight is shipped annually using the Canadian railways. It is still the cheapest method of shipping containers and bulk commodities over long distances. Many would argue that we have moved away reluctantly from the use of the railways, which used to be the lifeline of many of our communities, particularly in rural and western Canada, to a highway system. As the member so rightly commented, it has created a huge expense and burden on governments. How do we afford to move from one to the other and pay for both? Are there better ways to utilize the dollars we have?
    There are two main national carriers, as we all know, the Canadian National and the Canadian Pacific Railways. The CN Railway's network extends from Halifax to Vancouver and Prince Rupert, through the United States to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. CPR's network runs from Montreal to Vancouver and to Chicago and New York. These important links to the United States are assured by the ownership of and affiliations with several U.S. railways.
    CNR and CPR account for about 90% of the industry's activity in revenues. It highlights how much volume there is and how important these two lines are to us. The other 10% is made up by several provincial carriers and short line railways that complete the network. Manitoba is very proud to have one of those short line networks that is establishing the rail lines that are currently being taken out of service by the majors. I am very proud to say that one of them is in my community of Brandon—Souris. I know it is doing an excellent job of providing the service.

  (1725)  

    A significant portion of CN and CPRs' business is trans-border traffic and traffic within the United States. This, along with increased trade with Asia, has led to a healthy bottom line. Both CN and CPR are able to compete with the U.S. railways and offer some of the lowest rail freight rates in the world.
    The contribution of rail and rail bridges and tunnels to Canada's national transportation system by ensuring the movement of many millions of people and millions of tonnes of freight per year means that international rail bridges and tunnels are deserving of the same protection and the same federal government oversight as the international bridges and tunnels that carry vehicle traffic. We need to acknowledge and confirm that these are important aspects of this bill. We must include them and encompass what they are doing for Canadians and for the rest of North America when we are talking about this particular issue.
    Over the past four decades the trend has been toward deregulating the rail industry. We know that this industry is still regulated, particularly in terms of rail safety, and that is one of the emphasis the bill tries to address.
    Any regulation made under Bill C-3 in the area of bridge or tunnel safety and security would only complement those that already exist. What we are trying to do is to take what we currently have and move it into the modern era, take it to today's position where we understand the concerns and the issues that people bring forward. The bill moves directly to address this.
    Just as in the case of international bridges and tunnels that carry vehicles, there currently exists no formal process for approving the construction of new international rail bridges or tunnels. Bill C-3 addresses this and would fill this gap. The construction of new international rail bridges and tunnels would also have to be approved by the government.
    The fact that the bill includes international rail bridges and tunnels just goes to show how valuable they are to the Canadian transportation system. They clearly fall within the scope of this bill, the intent of which is to ensure the efficient movement of goods and people over these critical structures, and the safety of the same. Just like the international vehicle bridges and tunnels, they are important to international trade and tourism and they are a source of jobs for Canadians in the transportation industry.
    I will be supporting the bill. I congratulate the government for moving ahead with this legislation in a timely fashion.

  (1730)  

    Mr. Speaker, I gave a speech earlier in the House on the bill and raised some concerns about the regulations in clauses 16, 39, and 43. Maybe the member could help out here.
    Clause 16 reads:
    The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make regulations respecting the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels, including regulations...
(c) requiring any person or class of persons to provide to the Minister any information related to the security and safety of international bridges and tunnels.
    I am a little concerned with the word “may” because it seems to indicate that it will not necessarily happen. In regard to clause 16(c), I have some concerns from the standpoint of a charter issue as well as basic rights and the rule of law.
    I wonder if the member has any information whatsoever with regard to the regulation requiring persons or any class of persons to divulge information. I have no idea what the purpose is. If we cannot determine that, I wonder if maybe we should support having a clarification put into the legislation so people will understand what they are voting for.
    Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the member's comments. I listened to him earlier when he talked about the word “may”. I may be mistaken, but I think that if the hon. member were to look back at most legislation, he would see that the word “may” is used when empowering a minister. I think the intent is that it gives the minister some discretion.
    The member obviously has some issues and concerns. I know that he has raised them throughout this debate and in his comments. I think that is why we go to committee: to discuss these things. That is why we have committees. We have committees to follow this up because there are things that may or may not have been overlooked. We have the ability to move it on to committee, to move it into the structure where we will challenge some things and hopefully come to an agreement.
    Nobody I have heard speak or to whom I have spoken is saying that it is a bad bill. I think what they are saying is that if there are some concerns and issues, we will have an opportunity to discuss them. I think that is what good government does.