My name is Adam Vaughan. I am a city councillor from the city of Toronto and represent one of the waterfront wards in that city.
We're going to be speaking today about some of the concerns we have about how this policy impacts the city of Toronto from a variety of perspectives. More importantly, we are also going to be speaking—and you might be surprised to hear this from a local politician, in particular one from Toronto—about the worry we have that making Toronto accessible to these funds will not be a good thing for the city.
We would rather you spent this federal money in other cities and other jurisdictions. It is not something you hear often from cities; it's not something you hear often from the city of Toronto. But to finance our port, which is a port in name only, is to do so to the detriment and the harm of other ports across the country that actually need the strategic investment to facilitate international trade and local economic development.
The city of Toronto's port is really internal to the local economy of Toronto. There are three main things that arrive by ship, and three things only. There is sugar, for a sugar refinery on the waterfront that is largely a throwback to an industrial era when we had a significant distillery and beer manufacturing based in the downtown core. That doesn't exist any more, and the sugar, if it weren't for cheap Cuban sugar, probably wouldn't exist in Toronto either; nonetheless, it survives. It is adequately served by the odd ship that comes through and it doesn't require a massive infrastructure and delivery of dollars from Ottawa to sustain its activities.
The other two things that come are salt for our roads, which is cheaper to ship by water—but if the port were to disappear tomorrow, I can assure you that the salt would still arrive some way, by rail or by truck—and aggregate and gravel for the construction industry, again for the healthy downtown building boom we currently have underway. Again, if the port weren't there.... Other cities across this country somehow manage to get gravel and sand and aggregate into their communities for construction mixing.
The really serious components of this lie in the lack of accountability of the Toronto Port Authority. For many years while the Liberals governed, no federal appointments were made to the port authority. It ran without a city of Toronto appointment. We have refused to appoint and we refuse to acknowledge the authority that this agency has over our waterfront. The federal government didn't appoint the five federal members, and it ran with a single provincial member making all the decisions on behalf of the federal infrastructure program. That was it. That was somehow deemed to be accountable and proper management of a port authority.
Since the Tories have taken office, we have had a series of appointments, and my colleagues will speak to that. But Toronto refuses to appoint and acknowledge the authority of this port authority upon a non-existent port in the city of Toronto.
It doesn't move anything. The container ships that you think come and drop off the containers.... Those containers are empty. They don't even arrive by water; they arrive by truck and are there for the port authority to practise loading and unloading the non-existent boats. This is not a port. It really isn't a port.
But there are some other problems here. For example, I've been on council for a year, and twice already I've ended up in court courtesy of the port authority, one time for wanting to build a sidewalk next to a public school on the waterfront. They deemed that the federal agency's need for a parking lot trumped the local responsibility we had to get kids to and from the neighbourhood to their local school. So they've taken us to court, forbidding us from building a sidewalk next to a public school and a community centre. They said if they don't get their way on this issue, they'll tear up the local neighbourhood park, because they have an easement across it to build a bridge, which they are no longer going to be building. It's absurd.
There are other problems as well. These have to do basically with the situation that sees two competing federal investments on the waterfront in contradiction with one another. The federal port authority will move if you give it the ability to raise money, to not spend on the harbour wall.... The harbour wall is collapsing in Toronto, and they refuse to repair it. They refuse to even acknowledge ownership of the harbour wall. They say it's not their business to maintain the harbour wall. This is the port authority speaking.
If you fund these sorts of initiatives and if you give access to federal infrastructure dollars for transportation to the port authority, what do we tell the TTC? What do we tell the trucking companies in Ontario that can't get through the gridlock in Toronto?
I come from a group called Community Air, which is a community group made up mainly of people who live in the downtown core. We have particularly focused on the Toronto Island airport, which has been, frankly, a tremendous difficulty for local people.
I recognize that most members don't come from Toronto, but this airport has been the biggest and most intense political controversy in the city of Toronto certainly for the last five years, and it's a problem that has gone on now for at least two decades.
Essentially, this airport is within two kilometres of the downtown financial core of the city. What's happening is that Toronto's waterfront is being renewed, regenerated. Billions of dollars of public and private money are going into the regeneration of the waterfront. People are very enthusiastic about that. I can say thank you to the federal government for participating in this, but I can't say thank you for the Toronto Port Authority, which has used its authority to build and expand an airport.
It is the expansion of this airport that is the huge problem. It used to be a rinky-dink little airport. Now, with the current plans, the plan is to have up to 20 aircraft operating out of this airport. It's going to be not only the pollution, the safety, the traffic, all of those attendant issues, but the real problem here—well, one of the problems—is that the Toronto Port Authority has used its power under the Canada Marine Act to avoid, essentially, local control and local planning, which in the province of Ontario is the responsibility of the municipal government. The municipal government gives us local control.
David Miller, the current mayor of Toronto, in 2003, when he ran the first time for mayor, won the election largely on this issue. His slogan—I can see the signs in front of me right today—was “No island airport expansion”. The controversy at that time was around the bridge to the island airport. The bridge was cancelled, but the port authority, using its power, has gone ahead and expanded this airport despite the clear wishes of the people of the city of Toronto.
Incidentally, polling that has been done showed, in 2003, 60% or more of the people were opposed to this.
So the structure of the Canada Marine Act is the problem, as far as we're concerned. We would like to see control returned to the City of Toronto on the whole issue of planning. That's where it should be. That's where citizens can have their input and deal with it as citizens see fit—that's it.
I'm going to stop at that point. I'm certainly open to questions. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, members of the committee.
Ten years ago the Government of Canada made a serious mistake, a mistake that has had devastating consequences to the city of Toronto and its citizens. That mistake was to include the Toronto port in the list of port authorities under the Canada Marine Act.
That act has two significant fundamental criteria for ports: they must be of strategic significance to Canada's trade, and they must be and are likely to remain financially self-sufficient.
Mr. Chair, neither of these criteria has been satisfied by the port authority. They were not satisfied then. As Mr. Vaughan has pointed out, this is not a port of national significance to trade in any way, and this port has never been self-sufficient. It has relied on handouts. It has relied on dissipation of its assets.
One of the features of the Canada Marine Act is an effort to achieve some level of accountability to the citizens of Toronto and the users of the port, by requiring that at least four of the directors of the port authority be representative of users of the port.
I tell you today that under the Liberal government no appointments were made to fill vacancies from port users. In fact, as Mr. Vaughan has pointed out, the board of directors was allowed, under the Liberal government, to dwindle down to one person. There is no accountability when one person, who is a lawyer, a nice person, appointed by the provincial government, is responsible for everything that goes on.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government has made things, if possible, worse. They have appointed people to the port authority who have no relation to the users of the port, none whatsoever, contrary to the requirements of the Canada Marine Act. We're boggled by that.
Where is the accountability? We have five appointees now from the federal government, one from the city, vacant because the city will not participate in this sham, and one from the Province of Ontario. This is not a port of national significance. The port should not be controlled by federal government appointees. The port should be controlled by a majority of appointees from the city of Toronto, local control, where control belongs on a port of local significance only.
It is my submission that the act be amended to require that the board of directors of the port authority be comprised of five appointees from the city of Toronto and one each from the province and the federal government.
If this mistake had not been made ten years ago, we know what would have happened. We would not have seen the necessity for the federal government to pay an ill-advised $35 million of taxpayers' money. The City of Toronto would not have been sued, with the resultant obligation to pay $48 million out of hard-earned city taxpayer money. I and Mr. Freeman would not have been sued by the port authority. Mr. Vaughan would not be currently sued by the port authority.
This port authority is out of control, ungovernable, and unaccountable.
Mr. Chair, your committee can solve this problem, can remedy this mistake so that we can look forward to this termination of governance by the port authority of our port, to the return of the island airport lands to the city, and contemplate a truly spectacular development in replacement of that airport.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The city did not pass a resolution because the details of this legislation did not reach city council in a timely fashion.
When we reviewed this with the mayor's office and the secretary who has control over the waterfront and read the minister's comments that this particular funding would not be new dollars but would come out the existing framework, we realized this put a risk on our ability to tap into the dollars for transportation and infrastructure destined for cities for an array of projects, from transit to highway improvement to bridge reconstruction, and that the city of Toronto would be competing with a federally constituted body for precious infrastructure investment from Ottawa.
I can assure you that if the position was put in front of city council that local authority to drive infrastructure investment was going to be supplanted by a group of people who are appointed by the federal government and have no accountability or relationship to the city or port, there would be unanimous endorsement to oppose the proposed changes to the Canada Marine Act and infrastructure management of this sort. The issue is about local accountability, local agencies, and in particular local governments' ability to control both the planning process and economic development of their agencies.
I can understand there might be a national interest in making sure that ports in Vancouver, Prince Rupert, and Halifax are there to serve the needs of the national economy. There is a case to be made for those ports to fall under federal jurisdiction.
The city of Toronto's port is the 44th smallest port in terms of size. It moves 0.4% of the cargo by sea in this country. Almost all of that is internal to the economy of the city of Toronto. Setting up a federal agency that is not accountable to the port users, the local city, or for that matter the shipping industry, in such a way that competes with cities for scarce transportation dollars is something the city of Toronto would not, cannot, and will not support through a resolution. I apologize that we didn't get it in front of the council sooner.
But make no mistake about it, as other cities learn about the implications contained in this brief and this legislation, I think you'll hear from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other municipal jurisdictions. It is not appropriate to put cities in competition with federal agencies for federal dollars. It's unacceptable.
On the last point, Mr. Volpe talked about the viability of this port authority. This port authority has lost money every single year that it has been in existence. Its only source of income has been to sue people. It's now trying to sue me for building a sidewalk to a local school that it says didn't even exist under its transportation planning. It was there for ten years prior to the port authority.
This port authority does not respect local authority and local government. It doesn't invest its dollars in shipping activities. It's building parking lots. It built a ferry dock to the Rochester ferry a year after the Rochester ferry stopped running. It doesn't participate in shipping activities. To take dollars out of Halifax and Prince Rupert and put them in the Toronto waterfront doing God knows what—certainly not repairing the harbour wall, because we can't get the federal government to even accept responsibility for something they built in 1911.... But to take dollars out of critical and needed infrastructure investments on our coasts, to aid prairie farmers, miners in northern Ontario, and the lumber mills of B.C. and Quebec.... They can't get their goods out through Toronto's port. It's not even hooked up to rail any more. It has disappeared as a port.
All we have to say on that falls on deaf ears when it comes to Ottawa. And you're asking for a council resolution.
I'm asking you to be resolute in supporting strategic ports like Montreal and Prince Rupert, which are fundamental to the national economy. I would ask that you leave Toronto's waterfront to the city of Toronto and let us develop it so it serves our local economy, which quite clearly is not a shipping economy and not one that is focused on international trade.
I can assure committee members.... I just came from a previous committee where the Conservatives and the Liberals added late witnesses and they extended a meeting. Subsequent to that, there are mayors of those municipalities who have already attended those meetings without resolutions from the council and will not have resolutions when they appear before that committee. So there's no reason to apologize for the fact that you're here without a resolution.
Now I want to move forward on some of the issues. It's important to get to some of the particulars here. It is correct that this legislation will allow for this port authority, Toronto in particular, and others, to apply for $2.1 billion in gateway funds. Those funds could be drawn in competition versus other infrastructure projects like the Windsor-Detroit area and other types of east-west and north-south infrastructure.
Second, it is true in this situation with Toronto, from documents that have been submitted to this committee, that it will be able to borrow $27 million and also be able to carry nearly $14 million in long-term debt.
Also, what's pertinent what we're hearing today with this is another answer to a question I had in terms of land use policy. And this is a quote from the document that we have here. “The policy initiative is intended to facilitate and expedite the effective use of existing or newly acquired properties through leases or licences to third parties”--which may be effective in some places, but in others, where there's conflict with the current situation, there is not that type of provision in this bill to significantly help those different municipalities deal with the situation.
So my question to the witnesses here today is, if this is allowed, in terms of additional moneys to be borrowed to be able to have long-term debt to compete for federal infrastructure funds, in the type of situation right now, will it worsen or heighten the problems in your municipality in Toronto, in this particular instance? And in general, do you think it might create conflict in other regions?
This returns me to the position of the fact that this port authority is not running a port, so why are you giving it borrowing power? What does it need to finance that's so critical and necessary to the infrastructure, fiscal or transportation or otherwise, of the Government of Canada? Why do you need to allow this facility to borrow money? One of the reasons it does borrow money is to keep itself afloat. This is a port authority that has proved adept at doing one thing very well, and that's lose money.
So they had some land holdings, some residual land holdings from when it used to be the Toronto Harbour Commission, before it was taken away from the City of Toronto.
You speak to the fact that they're not supposed to build condominiums, but the reality is that the port authorities in the past have been very engaged in facilitating that kind of construction, but they're not engaged in waterfront activity.
We've been trying for a year and a half to get them to fix the two shipping channels that enter the harbour of Toronto. They won't do it. Part of the problem is they have no money to do it, but part of the problem is they refuse to take jurisdiction over the issue. Conveniently, when the letters patent were drafted for the port authority, they removed the harbour from the jurisdiction of the port authority. What they left it with was a couple of ferry docks and a couple of shipping channels, but they only have jurisdictional control over the navigation of those channels. They don't actually have control of the maintenance of those channels. Why would you do that? I don't get it.
In creating capacity for this body, which is accountable to nobody but the minister, its public meetings are defined by 15 minutes of questions with someone who basically directs them towards port authority lobbyists. They spend more money on lawyers and lobbyists than they do on shipping. So in giving them the ability to borrow, I would assume for capital and capital only investments, one would have to ask, what's the long-term strategy on the waterfront? They don't have one. What's their interaction with the port? Beyond the three private shippers that move salt, sugar, and sand into the city, there is no relationship. The one thing they've built on the waterfront, for about $10 million, was a ferry dock that had no service to it for transportation, was not built in the inner harbour, where people use the inner harbour, and was built after the ferry it was built to serve essentially went bankrupt.
The only thing that remains, beyond the website with the non-existent ferry, are signs on the highway to a non-existent ferry dock. It's a calamity. It's a disaster. Why the new government would even think of appointing people to this body rather than dissolve it is beyond me. But giving it the ability to borrow money and to give it access to a pool of capital, which, as we know, is scarce and growing scarcer here in Ottawa, and to rob that capital from places like Montreal, which is striving to build a real port and move real cargo, or from Prince Rupert and the deepwater ports on the west coast, which are a fundamental part of the resource and agricultural sectors of the prairies, to take that money away from those industries and to make it accessible to a bunch of yahoos down on the waterfront in Toronto, I don't get it. I just don't get it.
We have bridge problems getting cargo back and forth across the U.S. border. Are we building more bridges? No.
Well, I'd like to hear from Mr. Volpe as well.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Paul Zed: But if I'm the next speaker, I'll speak quickly and share my time with Mr. Volpe.
I'm from a port community called Saint John, New Brunswick. We had the opportunity recently, as the critics for communities, cities, and infrastructure, to travel the country and meet with your mayor and several councillors in the city of Toronto, as well as Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg. And I have never heard a city councillor come to a committee and say they don't want participation, partnership, and strategic relationships with the national government. So I have to tell you, Councillor Vaughan, this is a first.
My concern is that I well remember the City of Toronto coming to Ottawa to talk about the ecology, lands, economy, and community of Toronto, and about harbour and port development. We think of the word “port” as you have historically described it, as the commodore here has referenced, as a place where you're going to sail, but a port has become a gateway.
When I meet the mayor of Toronto and he tells me that your community is a gateway for all of Canada, as is Fort McMurray and Vancouver or Saint John, and he translates his website into 94 languages, it sounds like a port to me.
Now, I accept that there are community issues you have concerns about, but frankly, without being disrespectful, I think you're barking up the wrong tree today as individuals. We're reviewing the Marine Act. If you have some local governance issues, it's clear to me—from a quick search I've done—that the last time we heard from Mr. Freeman, Mr. Vaughan, and Mr. Iler was when you were all apologizing on the front page of the National Post and on the CBC—
Colleagues, I'm pleased to continue the discussion on , which basically proposes amendments to the Canada Marine Act. As you may know, the CMA required the Minister of Transport to complete a review of the provisions and application of the act.
In 2002 the government appointed a panel to undertake coast-to-coast consultations on the Canada Marine Act and to report back to the Minister of Transport with recommendations. Very broad-based consultations were held and generated extensive and substantive input from stakeholders, including all levels of government, Canada port authorities, marine transport companies, marine industry associations, as well as associations representing other modes of transportation, shippers, logistics companies, and labour organizations. The result was the CMA review report tabled by the Minister of Transport in Parliament in June 2003, which subsequently provided the direction of .
The proposed amendments in Bill C-61 aimed to build upon the commercial operating environment envisioned by the National Marine Policy of 1995 and the subsequent Canada Marine Act of 1998. It reflected an approach that responded to industry concerns, recognizing the importance of promoting strategic investment and productivity improvements.
Bill addresses many of the same recommendations flowing from the CMA Review. I believe that Bill goes even further in terms of optimizing our port regime in order to compete in today's global economy and putting Canada's major ports on a more competitive footing with their international counterparts.
The ports have been waiting a long time for these changes. Canada Port Authorities have told us that these proposed amendments are fundamental to the success of Canada's . marine ports in today's global environment. A number of provinces have also echoed a similar message.
If we wait any longer, opportunities could be lost. Opportunities that have the potential to have a significant and long-term positive impact on regional economies and ultimately on the Canadian economy.
Marine transportation accounts for almost a fifth of the volume of Canada's exports to the United States and over 95% of the approximately 162 million tonnes of commodities and processed goods Canada exports to other countries. All parts of the country benefit from the production and employment generated by the marine sector.
While the largest absolute impacts are in British Columbia, followed by Ontario and Quebec, the positive economic effects of marine transport activities extend to all regions of the country. Clearly, the marine sector makes a significant contribution to the output of the economy, is a creator of high-paying jobs, and also a significant generator of federal, provincial, and municipal revenues. The proposed amendments in would have a positive impact on the marine industry and would position Canada port authorities, which are so important to Canada's economy, to respond to the emerging trends in globalization and to support Canada's national trade objectives.
At this point, I think it's important to distinguish between the legislative proposals of and any related and complementary policy initiatives that may be put in place. As part of our commitment to openness and transparency, and also to ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the modernized strategy envisaged for our port authorities, we have shared with you the various policy initiatives that are being pursued.
I understand that a number of questions and comments have been raised concerning land management policy initiatives, and I have provided additional information and I trust have responded to these questions. These policy initiatives are very important and of course necessary. They reflect the result of significant analysis and examination, including third-party studies in some cases. They are initiatives that will have an immediate impact on industry within the existing legislative framework. However, they do not make up the substance of but are complementary to the bill's provisions.
While is national in scope, I understand that it has generated significant discussion regarding the role of municipalities.
Our cities are economic generators by themselves, but they also serve as essential transportation hubs and gateways, providing access to ports, airports and border points. This means that what happens in cities is essential to the rest of the country. Through the $33 billion Building Canada Infrastructure Plan, we will fund investments in transit, local roads and highway projects to help mitigate our growing congestion problem.
We are convinced that these investments will have a major impact on Canada's competitiveness; on the environment, and on the quality of life of Canadians. The Building Canada Plan underpins a national emphasis on trade gateways.
We cannot talk about trade gateways without talking about ports. In addition to the Asia Pacific Gateway and Corridor initiative, l signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in July 2007 to develop the Ontario-Quebec Continental Gateway and Trade Corridor.
There are many marine-related opportunities along the St. Lawrence River and throughout the Great Lakes. Opportunities for increased short sea shipping that have the means to alleviate congestion, facilitate trade, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the efficiency of the transportation system through better utilization of waterway capacity.
In October 2007 the federal government also signed an MOU with all four Atlantic provinces to advance the important work of development and developing a forward-looking Atlantic gateway strategy. There are many opportunities to explore that, and that will include our ports.
I understand some concern has been raised with respect to community involvement in port activities, particularly related to land use. On this issue I would like to note Captain Houston's remarks of last Tuesday. He confirmed that there is a significant history of ensuring that the municipalities have a lot of say in how the port is developed, over and above what is required by the port authority.
For the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Captain Houston explained that a municipal liaison forum has been established that brings together the board of directors with municipal councillors on a regular basis to ensure that the views of the community are understood and considered. In addition, each and every project that is implemented in the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is submitted to the development process of the municipalities of jurisdiction for their comments, and wherever possible their comments are accommodated.
I'd like to add that I have seen this process in action recently. Working with the communities of Delta, Surrey, and Langley, as well as others, including Transport Canada, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has been part of a team effort that has created the Roberts Bank rail corridor, a series of nine overpasses that will facilitate traffic flow and reduce congestion in the lower mainland near Roberts Bank.
The needs of municipalities are clearly being considered in activities related to the ports, but equally important, regular dialogue is now occurring to ensure that all parties can learn from each other. The proposed amendments in are absolute imperatives for the success of our gateways and corridors strategy.
While all of these separate and complementary initiatives are important, the reason I'm here today is to discuss , amendments to the Canada Marine Act.
This bill has five key components. The first amendment is designed to level the playing field for Canadian ports with other ports around the world. removes the prohibition against federal funding in respect of contribution program funding for infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and security.
Currently, with very few exceptions, our Canadian ports are prohibited from accessing federal appropriations, while ports around the world are receiving increasing government funding for capital, environmental initiatives, and security enhancements. In addition, transportation sectors other than maritime are able to access these funds. It does not make any sense to discriminate against Canadian port authorities when we know that ports are an integral part of our long-term objectives, particularly regarding our national gateways and corridors strategy.
As you know, one of the objectives of our national policy framework for strategic gateways and trade corridors is to optimize the efficiency of the existing multi-modal transportation system. Greater use of the marine mode, especially with initiatives such as short sea shipping that are eligible for funding under the Building Canada Fund, will be a key solution to get goods off congested highways and railways and help protect our environment at the same time.
Short-sea shipping is also a priority for the United States, and we are working closely with our U.S. colleagues to further develop these opportunities. So let's put our CPAs on a more level playing field with the other transportation modes and the ports of other countries.
We are proposing amendments to the Act that would provide the option of a commercial borrowing regime for ports earning revenues of over $25 million a year for a period of three consecutive years. These amendments will allow the largest, most diverse CPAs to make financing decisions that are affordable, prudent and sustainable. For those eligible ports that choose to implement a commercial borrowing regime, they would be subject to a code governing borrowings in combination with commensurate accountabilities on the part of the Board.
Amendments are being proposed that are geared to providing long-term stability and continuity in the governance of CPAs. Bill provides for an additional term of re-appointment of board directors, thereby increasing the maximum tenure for a director from six to nine years, three terms of three years. Incumbent directors would remain in office until a renewed or new appointment is made. I would add that this is a term of a maximum of nine years.
On the subject of governance, I would like to clarify a very important point, one that is often forgotten or not well understood. You may recall that Captain Houston also noted this point in his remarks before this Committee. Specifically that Board members are appointees. Their fiduciary duty is to represent the best interests of the port authority board members. The act moreover stipulates that board members are not there as representatives of the people that nominate them – this is a matter of law, as such, and it does not matter whether it is one appointee or three appointees, board members must represent the best interests of the port.
Other amendments related to facilitating future amalgamations were warranted. You may be aware of the three ports in the lower mainland that amalgamated, effective January 1, 2008. The proposed amendments in would put in place additional provisions for a consistent and streamlined approach to responding to potential future amalgamations, should the need arise.
The administrative monetary penalty amendments that are part of this package would provide ports with a modernized enforcement regime consistent with similar legislative impacting entities such as the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. Moving away from the lengthy court system for regulatory offences and introducing an independent review-and-appeal process has been demonstrated to result in a more efficient and cost-effective process, benefiting both the enforcement officers and the users of the marine system.
Mr. Chairman and honourable colleagues, I believe that these proposed amendments are the right thing to do for the marine transportation system. They are long overdue, and they are a critical part of this government's overall policy and frameworks supporting transportation and trade in Canada. They are also integral to the long-term objectives of the three national gateway and corridor strategies: the Asia-Pacific one, the continental one, and the Atlantic gateway.
is required to ensure that Canadian ports have the tools they need to compete in a global trade environment and in support of their role with the national policy framework for strategic gateways and trade corridors. And it's the right time to make these changes for the Canadian economy.
Thank you very much, Chair and colleagues, for your attention.
Mr. Minister, thank you for coming today.
I obviously can't speak for everyone at this table, but I think in general terms you're going to find people are very much in favour of the modernization occurring with this legislation.
One of the concerns I have relates specifically to underfunding. I was wondering whether or not you could speak to that as a policy matter.
We heard from the port of Montreal. You know that I come from the port of Saint John. Rather than having three strategies, would there be any benefit to having a strategy called the continental Atlantic strategy, under which, as a national policy, you as a government would encourage Montreal east, where all of those groups would work together?
I'm asking that question because of the St. Lawrence issues, because of the marine transportation issues. Historically, in the maritime provinces, we're more north-south traders, but we have some challenges, certainly, in post-9/11. I was wondering whether we could ask you for your philosophy behind that.
Also, I was wondering whether you would comment on Churchill. As you may know, I, as the critic for cities and communities, have been travelling the country, and I have found that in Manitoba there's a great interest in Churchill. With global warming and climate change happening, Churchill is becoming a bigger issue.
Also as part of my list of questions, Mr. Chair, perhaps I could ask the minister to comment on the challenges that the communities—the smaller ports especially—are facing with security and policing. In bigger cities and city centres, it's not as much of an issue, but certainly in cities like Halifax, St. John's, Newfoundland, and Saint John, New Brunswick, policing, which was taken away from that jurisdiction in the 1990s and downloaded to the municipalities.... I'm wondering whether you might have some comments to offer, in terms of whether special funds might be available.
I've asked you a lot of questions. I'm sorry.
I do certainly want to thank you for your encouragement, in terms of the direction this piece of legislation is bringing to our colleagues around the table.
In terms of the strategy that's developed for our gateway strategy, the framework agreement basically follows the geographical patterns of the country and of course the trade flows that have been recognized there. I'll let Emile and his team go into probably a little more detail.
Just to give you an overarching view, that is the way we set up the continental Ontario-Quebec gateway, which goes into the heartland of the United States, as well as the Asia-Pacific one, which was initiated previously but which we funded considerably over the last number of years, and which offers, I believe quite honestly, a best-practice environment. It showcases a lot of things, I think, we can do, in terms of developing our competitiveness abroad.
In the case of the Atlantic gateway, we have come to realize that we need to be able to develop a comprehensive approach, and that's why the four provinces came together and agreed with us on the MOU. We are in the midst of putting together, over the course of the next several months, the data required to be able to help us promote.
Rightly so, you pointed out that the changing climate offers, I think, new opportunities for Canada up in the Fort Churchill area. The Prime Minister, as a matter of fact, was up there not long ago, and he announced investments into the rail system.
It is not at all excluded from the Building Canada plan. As a matter of fact, we have set aside money to be able to analyze and do the research on the new trends that are coming up. We do want to look at an Arctic gateway, and it will be an overarching strategy that should eventually come up.
Regarding the security and policing issue, over the course of the last several months we have put forward programs to ensure our restricted areas are secured, or at least the restricted areas in the ports. There are programs there. We have signed agreements with the Montreal Port Authority, the Halifax Port Authority. Emile can respond to that.
In Vancouver, because there was a request on behalf of the union and the labour group to be able to put that aside until such time as they complete their elections, that also should be moving forward.
Maybe, Emile, you have a point to add to those issues.
Thank you, Minister, for coming again.
In response to Mr. Fast's question, in the 2002-03 period, I know that a number of municipalities in greater Vancouver made presentations, and in my former role as mayor of the district of North Vancouver, I made a presentation to the panel, supporting changes and basically supporting the need for improvements to the port regulations. Therefore, as you've mentioned, Minister, this bill builds largely on Bill C-61, which was begun by Minister Lapierre under the previous Liberal government. Generally speaking, I support it and our party supports it.
One of the issues you made reference to is the relationship with municipalities. Again, the port of Vancouver, where I have the greatest knowledge, has done a pretty good job on that. North Vancouver, for example, was the second municipality, again during my term as mayor, to sign an official protocol and accord with the port of Vancouver, a municipal protocol to exchange information about planning so that there was less chance of breakdown. So it's important that this kind of philosophy flows through the act and flows out of this act.
Particularly with respect to the Pacific gateway, for which I'm the Liberal Party critic, the importance of China can't be underestimated. We know the estimates are that by 2015, certainly by 2020, China will be either the number one economy or tied for number one economy in the world. The gateway is poised to try to take advantage of that for all of Canada and the opportunities that present through both Prince Rupert and the Vancouver ports and the amalgamated ports. Sixty percent of the containers coming into the port of Vancouver come from China, and 40% of the containers leaving presently go to China, so it's a huge player, as far as we're concerned.
Port growth and modernization in China is going on at a phenomenal rate. That's why it's important that we do our best to catch up. We know that in the United States and in fact countries down to Central and South America, they're improving their port facilities in anticipation of this growth out of China.
One of the concerns I have in talking to stakeholders and port authority people in Vancouver is they feel that we're not moving fast enough. I know this bill will help, but part of the concern was that back in December of 2005, Mr. Harper indicated during that election time that a Conservative government would equal the commitment of the Liberal government in terms of the gateway, which at that time was $591 million over five years under Minister Emerson when he was a Liberal minister. The concern I have is that what we've actually seen—and I did this through a parliamentary question to get the answers as to what the actual spending was in terms of gateway funding—is that in the five-year total, the comparable five-year period, we're some $39 million shy with your government's commitment; and in the first two years, the 2006-07 and the 2007-08 period, we're something like $79 million shy. So the money has been rear-ended.
I know your government has extended it to $1 billion, which is another $450 million, in the years 2011 to 2014. But I guess the concern I've heard relates to maybe some of the things in this act but also in terms of the flow of money actually happening and front-ending it rather than pushing it back; and by the deficiencies I've mentioned there, it's putting the Pacific gateway at a technical disadvantage where we see the U.S. ports pouring money into their facilities and we see what's happening in China, and we don't want to lose out on those opportunities.
I'm just curious. The Province of B.C. has made China a priority. They're doing it in a whole variety of ways. We've recently seen the United States move ahead of us on approved destination status for tourists, which affects the ports by virtue of the cruise ship industry, which is big out of Vancouver, because a lot of those tourists in fact cruise Alaska, cruise the Pacific coast. We have the potential for three to four times the current rate of tourism out of China, which is big money for all of Canada.
Can you comment on how we can get this money for the gateway—the Pacific gateway in particular is my interest now—flowing more quickly than in the current plan?