Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, meeting 52. Orders of the day are pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, December 8, 2010, Bill .
Joining us by video conference from Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, representing the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, are Karen Leibovici, second vice-president, and Merrill Henderson, board member.
We will open the floor for you to make a presentation to the committee. Then we will move to questions from the committee. Whenever you're ready, please begin.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be able to present the municipal perspective on Bill .
Our president, Hans Cunningham, asked me to share with you his greetings and also his regret that he could not be here with you today to speak to you.
Councillor Henderson is the co-chair of the FCM-RAC proximity steering committee and joins me today in this presentation.
FCM has been the voice of municipal government since 1901. We stand for more than 90% of the Canadian population, representing over 2,000 municipal governments across the country--large, small, rural, urban, northern, remote. We represent the interests of communities and cities on policy and program matters that fall within the federal jurisdiction.
Recently the FCM-RAC proximity steering committee heard from the Railway Association of Canada with respect to a number of recommendations pertaining to the Safer Railways Act. The Railway Association recommended that municipalities be required, under the Railway Safety Act, to notify railway companies with respect to proposed land use or bylaw amendments.
On behalf of Canada's municipal governments, I'm here today to reinforce our sector's opposition to the recommendations and to provide some information on why this opposition exists.
First, we have been made aware that the Railway Association of Canada has, subsequent to their appearance before this committee, submitted a letter clarifying their previous assertion that FCM had been notified or consulted prior to their appearance and that we were in agreement with the recommendation as presented. While we appreciate this gesture, we felt it was critical to appear today to deliver the message personally and to take the time to discuss this matter with you directly.
From the perspective of cities and communities across Canada, the proposed amendment would require such notification to railways if changes to land-use designations or bylaw amendments occurred within a 300-metre zone of the railway right-of-way. Municipalities agree that increased communication between us and railways can better inform land-use planning alongside these rights-of-way. However, as I indicated earlier, we cannot support the amendment as presented. FCM has long aimed to improve rail safety in populated areas. Railway operations impact daily on Canadian cities and communities. In recent years we have made submissions to the federal government on municipal railway issues. Our goal has included ensuring railway operators work with municipalities to provide safe rail crossings and develop appropriate separation buffers in populated areas.
Municipal land-use and zoning regulations are guided by and subject to provincial and territorial legislation. As you will recognize, this means that regulations differ from province to province and territory. The recommendation as presented by RAC will create a one-size-fits-all solution to a very diverse regulatory environment. As a result, red tape and delays will impact local land-use planning decisions.
Municipalities are the front-line public safety managers and continually consider the impact of land-use decisions on the safety of property owners. In many cases municipalities notify railways of land-use changes that may pose significant threats to railway safety. In the case of Ontario, these notifications are enshrined in provincial legislation. This process allows the adjacent property owner to use existing local public consultation and review processes to inform and influence municipal land-use decision-making. Thus, the proposed amendment requiring notification on land changes within 300 metres of the railway right-of-way would significantly increase municipal governments' administrative burden in the form of cost and time.
The same also applies to residents and businesses applying for land-use changes. For example, a 300-metre notification zone could easily encompass three to five city blocks in a medium- and large-size city, or, from a rural point of view, an entire municipality.
I mentioned Ontario's regulations. The 300-metre area cited in the RAC recommendation attempts to impose the Ontario case across Canada, because it's seen as ideal by the rail industry. The important point here is that the regulations in place in Ontario were the product of significant consultation and negotiation between the province and its municipal governments. Instead of calling for a national approach, which clearly impedes on provincial jurisdiction, a more productive way to promote this type of notification would be to seek a recommendation and encourage dialogue at the provincial level.
To improve communication on an understanding of municipal-railway interactions, FCM actively supported a memorandum of understanding with RAC in 2003. A joint working group on proximity issues was established to develop protocols, best practices, and guidelines to avoid and resolve precisely the types of issues we're talking about today. The tools were then communicated to our members. This approach allows a national dialogue to take place without impinging upon provincial jurisdiction.
As I indicated earlier, my colleague, Councillor Henderson, co-chair of this working group, has long been involved in seeking better communication between municipalities and private property owners. The working group has discussed designing a more streamlined way to notify property owners and others of land-use changes adjacent to railway rights-of-way. However, I would like to repeat that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. Our group's preferred approach is to develop and disseminate to municipalities and railway operators best practices around this issue to improve and continue to improve how these two groups work together on the ground.
In conclusion, for the reasons I have talked about, and in continuation of the work we have undertaken through our joint working group with RAC, FCM is urging this committee, on behalf of all municipalities across the country, not to adopt the proximity recommendation put forward by the Railway Association of Canada.
I would like to thank you and my colleague, Merrill Henderson, and I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you very much to the witnesses for being with us today.
I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but I'll be with you in Corner Brook tomorrow to talk to your members about infrastructure, affordable housing, and other issues.
On this particular issue--this is unusual--I really don't have any significant questions, because I totally agree with what you have said. I think it's logical, and I agree. So I think I'll just leave it at that.
Thank you, and I want to welcome the witnesses to the committee.
I was also a mayor at one point and served on the FCM board of directors--I sat on your green fund for five years--so I'm very familiar with the organization. I appreciate your being here.
I've got a number of questions. The railway companies have stated interest in this because they say large developments in municipalities will impact them in terms of...I think in a number of ways. Of course, there's the level crossing issue, but I'm very concerned now with the high rate of deaths through trespass. Many people will cross rail lines because they perhaps are going to a new housing development. Within the community there are reasons to cross the rail or to use the rail line when they shouldn't be.
We're dealing here with railway safety. Of the deaths that have occurred in our rail system in the last number of years, all of them have been through either level crossings or trespass. So when we come to deal with safety, we want to understand completely how to reduce those numbers. I'm sure you agree with me that this is the requirement we're working on here.
The railways have come to us and said they need to be able to understand the nature of municipal development so they can better offer planning advice in terms of access and crossings. Wouldn't you see that the work here would be important for your municipalities across the country to come to grips with this particular issue? I know that perhaps we don't want to have a federal law that lays out the requirements of municipalities, but how would you propose that we increase the safety of people within the municipality, reduce the number of deaths at level crossings, and do all that work here without some measure of understanding between railways and municipalities?
Thank you for the question. In fact we do talk very often about crossings.
I just want to share with you that I live in the city of Moncton, and the rail line runs right through the centre of our city. We have a number of level signalized crossings, and in the years I've been there, I don't recall anybody being killed at them. I can recall that, probably in the last 10 years, there have been maybe two or three deaths caused directly by trespassing in areas where people shouldn't be trespassing. I don't know how you can control that.
As for level crossings and signalized crossings, quite frankly, I've never heard about those being a big issue that we need to be discussing. You say it's coming from the rail. On the committee I'm on, there is representation from CN, CP, VIA Rail, and all the short-line operators, and I have never heard discussion that such fatalities are a real issue.
That might say something about the railways' understanding of what it's going to cost them, in some cases, to fix the problems and to reduce the number of level crossings. Everyone's going to be involved in that. We could propose regulations that would make level crossings more safe, through higher safety standards than what apply now. Those are things we could do here.
What the railway said to us was that they need some understanding and control over the creation of new level crossings, because the numbers are getting very large with level crossings. They're increasing in Canada, whereas in North America, generally in the United States, those numbers are going down, because they're getting rid of level crossings; they're consolidating them; they're creating overpasses or underpasses, whatever may be the case.
That work is going on. You guys are really a major partner in this, and I would really respect anything you could add to this discussion in order to come up with some ideas that we could put forward on this particular topic.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
This is the Railway Safety Act, so we're talking about safety and we're trying to ensure the railways can provide a safe corridor.
To give you an example, I'm from British Columbia. I was one of the directors of the Union of BC Municipalities. We are on the main line of CP Rail. The Trans-Canada Highway goes right through our community. There was a provision that any land-use applications within 1,200 feet of the Trans-Canada Highway had to go to the province for their review.
So I can't see how this is any different. This is a rail right-of-way. The railroad has taken on the responsibility and liability for the safety of their right-of-way. It's just natural that they would want to be notified if, for instance, the municipality wanted to put a school close to a railroad right-of-way all of a sudden. That wouldn't make a lot of sense. I know that municipalities operate and plan their communities better than that.
I could understand if you felt that the 300-metre distance was too much or too cumbersome, or else you would insist that the railroad had to have a response time in the application. I always found that the problem with the province was that it took literally months to get back to us to give us their okay on these applications. I also found the railroad is quite slow in responding to municipalities.
I can understand if you approach it in that way, but I don't think that's necessarily a good practice not to let the railroad understand the land use along the corridor and what your decisions are.
How do you feel about that?
And the strength, as you know, of our association in terms of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is that we do incorporate--have sitting at the table--the provincial and territorial associations as well, which gives us access to the provincial and territorial orders of government, who are the overarching bodies in terms of our planning authorities as municipalities. Again, the one size across the country with respect to this really doesn't fit.
As Councillor Henderson indicated, in Ontario there were significant discussions that occurred with the provincial government, the Railway Association, as well as with the municipalities, and they came to the 300-metre notification zone. Would that work in a place, for instance, like the Yukon?
I think those are the kinds of things that you can only do on a territory-by-territory, province-by-province basis, looking at what the needs are within each of those jurisdictions.
Oh, wow. That was quick, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Thank you to our witnesses who are appearing by teleconference today. We appreciate your testimony. It's a little different, because we're not actually talking about the bill itself here but about proposed amendments to the bill.
I want to pick up a little bit from where Mr. Mayes, I think, left off. Obviously municipal development affects safety of rail rights-of-way. I think Mr. Bevington touched on the increased traffic from development that can affect at-grade crossing and the encroachment on rail rights-of-way. I think maybe some members of the committee are trying to figure out how we can best address some of the concerns of the rail companies, who have to be concerned about, and are primarily responsible for, safety; the federal government, who oversees that or regulates that; and the municipalities, who need the ability to make, in a streamlined fashion, appropriate land-use planning decisions.
I can see that one of the problems is that the federal government, of course, has no jurisdiction with respect to land-use planning. Adopting this kind of an amendment may.... I'm not sure how we could do that.
Let me see if I understand your position clearly with respect to the Railway Association of Canada's proposed amendment. Is it that you have an “in principle” opposition that there be some duty of municipalities to consult with the railways on these types of issues? Or is it, as Mr. Mayes was sort of getting at, that this is a distance issue in terms of what the setback should be? Is your opposition more around just how long it takes, which could be resolved by some sort of time limit on this duty to consult? Or do you just have an opposition in principle to this kind of formal duty to consult?
It's good to be back at your committee. It's been a while, and I'm looking forward to participating in this debate.
I thank our witnesses and share with them the distinction of having served on a city council. In my case, it was for nine years in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
In my community we have rail lines criss-crossing our territory. We have had issues with noise, as I'm sure many of your members have. We have some very significant issues with rail safety. To top it off, in our community, which is one of the fastest growing in Canada, we have had increasing problems of trying to address traffic flows because of industrial and residential development. Those are all serious challenges for growing communities. So any time we can improve communication between railways and communities, and between railways and residents, I think you would agree, that's a good thing.
With respect to the issue at hand, which is notice, you had referred to the 2003 consultation, which resulted in the memorandum of understanding that you spoke of approvingly. Before I get into other questions, could you articulate some of the key areas of that memorandum that you have found to be very helpful in your dealings with the railways?
I think the biggest success was just getting to sit down at the table to talk to each other. That has not always been the past practice. At times the relationship between the municipalities and the railways has not been the friendliest, and it has been adversarial at times.
The memorandum of understanding provides us with a forum where we can sit down, discuss some of the issues you have brought up in the questions today, and move beyond fixed positions towards how to deal with these issues, looking at some of the best practices. A website has been put together where people can see some of the solutions that have been put forward. So that's what the committee provides for us.
It was a memorandum to say, let's sit down and highlight what some of the issues are, whether it's noise or proximity, and how do we move forward to deal with those? The process is still in the works. Do we have all the answers? No, but we're sitting at the same table together, and I think that's important.
I'd like to pick up where Mr. Fast left off. You speak about the Ontario model and describe it as being one of success. Where the rail must run in Ontario must be very diverse. There would be rural communities, northern communities, and very urban communities. The GTA would respond to the same regulations. So it seems to be a good test field, or a place where you as an organization can assess whether or not it is the right approach.
Having considered the success in Ontario, do you find that the 300-metre setback is more effective in rural communities versus urban communities? Who is succeeding in Ontario? Who is being challenged as a result of the regulation? That input would be helpful as we consider its application across the country.
What's your current assessment on the differential, based on the different types of communities that are served and represented in Ontario?
I guess that's what this committee is looking for--some insight. You have described the Ontario model as being one of success. We've talked about the differences that are represented in the province. When you look at communities—some of which are urban, some of which are rural, some of which are up north, and some closer to the south. It's got to be a good model that you could extrapolate some of the outcomes and apply them more generally across the country.
I represent several communities where the railroad runs right through the community. What inevitably happens, it seems, is that the railroad is there, the community grows around it, and as the community grows and as the region grows and develops, there's more traffic on the railroad, and before you know it people are complaining about this noisy railroad that's running through their community, whereas it was the generator of or the reason the community exists there today.
I'm curious. I think you're opposed to this amendment, but you seem to be.... Maybe I'm missing something. You seem to be opposed to this particular amendment, but you seem to be very supportive of what happened in Ontario where they applied a very similar requirement. I'm not quite fully understanding.
It seems to be a reasonable one. Representing a community that runs up against the Northwest Territories...I don't see how the application is significantly different.
The difference, and what we're supportive of, is the discussions that occurred with regard to the municipal land-use issue, which is within provincial and territorial jurisdictions and not within federal jurisdiction. We are suggesting the process was a good process. Whether that process provided for 250, 300, or 350 metres, that was the outcome of the process.
But what we're seeing potentially happening here is that there would be a cross-Canada application of a 300-metre notification distance, when what we should be talking about is how we deal with the issue of notification in municipal and provincial jurisdictions. That process was successful in Ontario. They were able to sit at the table with the municipalities, the associations, the province, and the railway association and come to an agreement about what the notification distance would be.
I think if you use that model across the country, it would then be tailored to the needs of those municipalities and those provincial jurisdictions. It works in Ontario. The 300 metres may not work in some other province or some other territory. Again, we're talking about municipal jurisdiction.
I think I'm understanding the point you're making a little more. You have no concern with regard to the 300 metres specifically. You're concerned about the understanding, the constitutional reality, that municipalities are a creation of the province and therefore there's a jurisdictional difference.
It may be difficult to make that full argument, in that railways, of course, are federally regulated, so there is some overlap. I'm not a constitutional expert, nor do I want to begin the debate. It's interesting. I'll maybe have to remind my FCM representatives who come to my office next time that, no, they should be speaking only to the province. I say that in jest.
I understand what you're saying and that it's a concern. Would you be uncomfortable if any requirement were included in this legislation that would involve municipalities at all, because it's coming from the federal level? Is everything off the table because this is a federal regulation and therefore if it impacts municipalities it should be...? Is it the position of FCM that it's something the federal government shouldn't touch and therefore shouldn't legislate on if it impacts municipalities?
I think in this particular case it's the land usage issue if it lies within the provincial and territorial jurisdictions.
Just to go back to a point you made about the 300 metres, we don't have a problem with the notification. Whether it's 300 metres or 250 metres, that, I think again, will depend on what each jurisdiction requires and comes to as a result of the negotiations.
I haven't looked at the whole act, so I can't really reply to your question as to whether there are other items in the act that perhaps are under federal jurisdiction that involve municipalities. In fact there are lots of crossovers when we look at the issue of cellphone towers. We don't have much jurisdiction in that. That is within federal jurisdiction.
Again, with regard to Bill , I can't say I know which pieces are within the federal jurisdiction and which are within the provincial-municipal, other than this particular piece we're talking about, which is the notification piece with regard to land use.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. First, I am pleased to be with you at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I was on the committee for a long time.
Ms. Leibovici, I was the president of the Union des municipalités du Québec. So I am well aware of the situation. Your recommendation is very wise. If the federal government wants to get involved in provincial matters—the notices are issued by the municipalities, which report to the provinces—a constitutional battle is going to ensue. It is clear that there will be opposition to that. I understand what the railway companies would like to get. But the solution that you are proposing, namely, to negotiate with each of the entities by following a model that you are in the process of developing at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is the wisest.
If I was the head of the railway companies, I would accept that and would not get involved in a constitutional debate on the topic. They would lose their case anyway. So I am happy that you adopted that position. Your comments are very wise, and I hope that the committee will take them into account.
Just to follow up on what Mr. Laframboise mentioned, I want to make it clear that I don't think the railroad should have the right to tell you whether or not you can have a development. I think they need to work with you. I think they need to be notified, and there needs to be a determination of what that area of notification is. I wasn't suggesting that your jurisdiction would be trumped by the railroad as far as development on municipal or regional land goes.
There's another area that concerned me when I first saw the act. You haven't mentioned it, and I just want to know if you've talked to the railroad about it. Under the act, the railroad has to file an emergency response plan. My experience with regional government is that the regional government would put together an emergency response plan for their area, including the railroad.
Of course, you don't collect any taxes on the railroad right-of-way--at least they don't in British Columbia--so the community is providing the service, because the railroad is not going to have people all the way along the main line who are ready to respond to an emergency. They're going to rely on the local government or the regional governments to have that plan.
My concern was if that was going to be provided by the local government, they should be paying for that, especially if they're going to incorporate that in their plan, and they have to have a plan to get their running licence. Did you discuss any of those issues with the railroad association?
I just want to thank all of my colleagues for making me feel so welcome. It's the first time in my parliamentary career that I've been to the committee on transport, and it's a pleasure to be here.
I'm here today on behalf of a number of my constituents and drivers of airport limousines at Pearson International Airport who live not only in my riding of Brampton—Springdale but also in many other ridings in the surrounding GTA area. These drivers of airport limousines at Pearson Airport have been locked out by their employer, the McIntosh Group of Companies. There are two subsidiary companies to that: Air Cab Limousine and Aaroport Limousine.
Since December 1, 2010, their situation has been very unfortunate. They have been locked out as a result of some alleged unfair business practices. The allegations that have been put forward by the drivers include the mandatory purchasing of the actual vehicle itself from the employer, the mandatory transfer of ownership to the employer without any confirmation of paperwork, the mandatory purchase of insurance from the employer itself. They also include payment of grossly inflated sums of money, for both the permit and the dispatch fees. When you take a look at all of the allegations, it is very clear and evident that these drivers, who are very hard working and who are trying to put food on the table for their families, are clearly being exploited.
They have been protesting out in the freezing cold. I actually had a chance to go and visit them. I've been on the phone with them continuously. It's really kind of a heart-wrenching situation. There have been attempts to resolve the situation for these 200 drivers, but unfortunately there has not been much success. I really strongly feel, as I'm sure many of you will agree, that in light of the circumstances surrounding the lockout, in light of the terms and conditions that are being imposed by the employer who has received the licences from the GTAA, that we as parliamentarians, and especially the transport committee, have a responsibility to study exactly what's going on, just to basically be able to shed some light, and hopefully the result will be a positive outcome.
There is the issue of the drivers themselves and their families and livelihoods that are being affected. As I said, they have been in lockout since December 1, which is a substantial amount of time, and that also included the busy season over the holidays. In addition, I think it's also causing a grave inconvenience to many passengers at Pearson who are having to wait hours to be able to get some sort of transport to get to where they're going. I would hope that we would find support from all members of this committee to be able to study this in this one particular meeting, which would be held, as my colleague John McCallum, said, on Wednesday, March 23, from 11 o'clock to 1 o'clock, and at which we would be able to hear first-hand from the drivers, from the owners, and from the GTAA themselves. So I would ask for your support in this motion.
I just want to take one 30-second break to consult, and I'll be right back.
For the information of the committee, I'm seeking an answer.
If I may ask, is the dispute between the company and the taxi drivers, or is it between the company, the taxi drivers, and the airport?
Mr. Chair, the issue of ground transportation at Pearson International Airport has been an issue for quite some time. If one were to look at a potential issue within the federal jurisdiction, I believe this issue is worth studying by the committee because it does refer to exactly what autonomous powers were indeed granted to airport authorities in the performance of their operations and administration of the national transportation system, the national airport system.
There is a serious problem at Pearson International Airport, and it has not been just since December 2010. I know from personal experience that Pearson has had issues with its taxi service, its ground transportation service affecting passengers, for at least four years.
From the point of view of being able to look at this particular issue itself, I think the committee has an opportunity not only to investigate the specifics but then, as well, if we so decide, to determine whether or not it does have some impact on the nature of the agreements between the Government of Canada, Transport Canada, and the airport authorities in the administration of their duties to provide efficient and effective transportation systems in this country.
Arbitration has been scheduled for March 9, and I don't think anyone in the House would want to interfere with that. That's why the amendment was made for March 23. They have had a number of meetings. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a successful outcome.
Just to mention, in terms of what the chair and my colleague were saying, this is not just about a labour dispute. I've been elected for six years and this conflict and tension has been going on for the last four or five years. I think the committee has a responsibility to investigate exactly what is going on when the GTAA is issuing the permits to these employers, and all these types of allegations are being brought forward.
It's not really a labour issue. I think it goes beyond that. It goes to the department, to the management of the GTAA, which is ultimately a responsibility under the Government of Canada and the Ministry of Transport. That's why I think it's important that we find out exactly what's going on with regard to those services.
Mr. Chair, Ms. Dhalla's point of view is interesting. As you know, in 2009-2010, and even well before that, I sat on this same committee. In Montreal, all the Bloc Québécois MPs had to step in with the Aéroports de Montréal, which issues permits differently than they do in Toronto. In both cases, it's the airport authority.
There was a real commotion about the issuing of permits. There were arrests following a bribery case. Also, there were various incidents of influence peddling. Aéroports de Montréal resolved the problem before the matter came before the Standing Committee of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We had also told Aéroports de Montréal that we would look into the situation if the people involved did not resolve it.
In my opinion, it would be worth taking an interest in the situation in Toronto. Mr. Chair, you are wondering about your responsibility. It's the airport authorities that issue the permits and, in my opinion, those authorities are under the committee's responsibility.
Obviously, I understand what you want to say about labour relations. I suggest that you at least make the people from the Toronto airport authority appear. If we want to understand the taxi drivers' case, perhaps we should ask questions of the owners and the drivers themselves.
But, let's make people from the Toronto airport authority appear to find out how they are proceeding and how these problems arose. Issuing permits is the responsibility of the airport authorities.
Let me start off my comments by saying that I don't in any way diminish the importance of labour disputes and a speedy resolution of those. Over my years, I've been a member of two unions. I've been a part of strikes. I've also been on the management side of strikes.
So I have enough experience to know that these disputes should be resolved in a speedy manner. Whether it's the role of this government, and more specifically this committee, to intervene in this dispute, even by looking at it and investigating, is a different matter altogether.
Actually, Mr. Chair, I'm going to raise a point of order and ask you to rule that this motion is out of order.
I'll give you the reasons why; they have nothing to do with my sentiments on either side of that dispute, because I don't know much about it.
I will say this, though: if you look at the motion that's before us, it is not at all clear what the subject of that motion is. One of the key elements of a notice of motion is to provide notice to members of the committee on the matter that they will be dealing with. All we know is that the reference in the motion is to “study the current situation with regard to airport limousine drivers”. Now, is that a salary dispute? Is that a dispute over access to spots at the airport? Is it a dispute over scheduling, profitability, licensing? We don't know what it is. It just refers to “the current situation”. Of course, as a newcomer to this committee, I have no idea what the background is. I come here quite unprepared for the matter we're discussing.
For example, one of the key elements of this motion--if we understand it to involve a labour dispute between taxi drivers, their company, and the GTAA--will involve trying to determine whether or not we have any jurisdiction at all to deal with this. As we deal with providing notice, we have to determine whether the labour dispute in hand is even one that is federally regulated. We don't know; we haven't had an opportunity, from the notice we've received, to make that determination. We didn't know it involved a labour dispute.
For example, I've just asked staff behind me to try to determine, does the GTAA actually issue licences? I haven't confirmed that for myself. Are these taxi drivers in any way regulated under provincial law? I don't know that. I don't know even the name of the company that they have their dispute with.
This whole purpose of providing a notice of motion is to give advance notice sufficient to provide members of this committee with information at hand in order to do the research and be able to debate this out of some position of knowledge.
That's why, first of all, I believe the notice of motion is out of order: it's simply too vague and doesn't actually provide this committee with the information it needs.
The second issue, of course, has already been raised: this is essentially a labour dispute. We have another committee of Parliament, I believe, that is more appropriate to address a labour issue. It certainly doesn't fall within the purview of this committee to address labour issues. Even if they are labour issues that fall under the Canada Labour Code, the mandate of this committee, even the scope of the mandate of this committee, I don't believe can accommodate that kind of study or review.
Finally, perhaps the most important aspect of it, as Ms. Dhalla has stated...and I very much respect her intervening on behalf of the taxi drivers, but under the principle of sub judice, any matter that is presently before the courts, or is being litigated in one manner or another, ought generally not to be the purview of this committee until that dispute has been disposed of in a final way.
This study has been put off until March 24. There is a very high chance that any determination at arbitration might be appealed. The arbitration might be delayed, so to establish a date now would probably be unwise.
Quite aside from that, the fact that this matter is currently the subject of a dispute that is within a quasi-judicial body would compel us as a committee not to deal with it until after that dispute had been resolved.
Mr. Chair, I would ask that you rule this motion out of order, not because I necessarily oppose the matter that appears to be the subject of this, but because it violates the principle I mentioned, plus the motion itself hasn't provided us with the kind of notice we'd need to properly debate it at this committee.
Okay. I do have a couple of thoughts. First of all, the fact that an arbitration meeting exists speaks to a labour dispute. My great concern in having a meeting like this is that trying to use the GTAA, if you will, through the peripheral issue of some provision regarding an investigation about licensing, which would presumably affect or take into account the conduct of the business and not necessarily the conduct of drivers, may affect the outcome of a labour dispute. Precisely such things should give the committee great pause about whether or not it is involved in an internal labour dispute.
It is not a licensing issue we are looking at. It's not a transport issue we're looking at. This is an internal labour dispute.
If there are issues to look at that are peripheral or otherwise, I think Mr. Fast's counsel is probably the wisest. Let the labour dispute itself be entirely resolved, and let's see if there are other issues to look at. This could end up in the courts at some point. I think we would be wise to steer clear of it for the time being. The motion itself may be premature.
I do have a concern with the ultimate aim of doing this. Do opposition members contemplate a change to licensing provisions? If so, let's speak now. I'd love to hear that.
The danger here exists in perhaps raising the profile of one side over another in a labour dispute. I hope the opposition doesn't want to involve the committee in picking sides in that dispute or to be seen to be picking sides in that dispute or offering a platform for any member to possibly pick sides in that dispute.
If this motion is actually accepted and we move forward with it, I think we will be moving in very dangerous territory. I would caution the committee against adopting the motion.
I would be interested to hear your ruling on whether it's in order. I don't believe it is in order.
That's all I need to say right now.
On the point of order itself, it seems to me there's absolutely no doubt there is a federal jurisdiction involved in a matter of federal governance over the Canadian transportation system. The federal government provided opportunities for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to enact, to the benefit of all Canadians, an effective and efficient airport system. For all practical purposes, it is Canada's largest airport, handling the greatest number of aircraft, passengers, and freight cargo in the entire country.
There's a dispute that stems in part from the approach that airport authority has taken in dealing with some of its suppliers. I say “in part” very deliberately. As a member of this committee, I would like to analyze and determine if there is cause for further study.
There is a very broad motion before us, and you will determine if it is in order or not. It's very targeted in terms of the timeframe this committee is prepared to allot to investigate it. But it seems to me that in its scope and general application, it's totally in keeping and consistent with other studies this committee has undertaken.
I would caution you as chair about ruling that because a quasi-judicial function will be conducted some time in the future, it is inappropriate for this committee to hear witnesses involved in that.
I'll raise a hypothetical example. Say, for example, that during the conduct of the study on rail safety there was a dispute between railway personnel and the company over a serious safety issue and as a result there was a work stoppage. We would effectively be suggesting that we would be unable to draw in, as witnesses, those who were involved in that issue while we were conducting the study on changes, amendments, or proposed amendments to the Canada Railway Safety Act. That would not be a very healthy situation for this committee to find itself in.
From that point of view, I would simply say we're not studying legislation or any particular matter; we are studying a situation that is understood and known to be under way at an airport authority that has been granted certain rights and privileges as a result of a decision of the Government of Canada.
I would like to know, as a member of this Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, whether or not our fiduciary responsibility as a government and a committee is being acted upon to determine whether or not those powers, rights, responsibilities, and privileges granted to the airport authority are acceptable.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. You're probably talking about the general motion at this point. I don't want to speak to whether or not it's in order, except to ask a question.
Mr. Byrne spoke about the necessity of investigating airport authorities, but I recall from Ms. Dhalla's comments that it's McIntosh who is the owner of the company in dispute right now. I don't know if McIntosh is a subsidiary of the Toronto Airport Authority or if it falls under provincial regulation, or even city regulation, as it applies to these permits and labour laws. I'm not sure where the federal aspect comes into this. It seems very tenuous, at best.
Maybe if there were a motion that asked the committee to review the application of transportation by airport authorities across the country, that might be a bit more in line with the mandate of this committee. If that were the case, I have some issues I'd like to bring up from my own airports.
There was another case that the City of Calgary recently dealt with relating to the cabs and limousines at that airport. I looked into whether there was federal involvement in that, and I was hard pressed to find any issue the federal government could be involved in as it relates to those transportation sectors. Once people are outside the airport, there is nothing that the federal government regulates.
I really don't see how this could possibly fall under the federal jurisdiction, unless I'm missing something. Maybe the federal government owns McIntosh, or maybe the airport authority owns McIntosh. Or maybe the federal government has given McIntosh some money. If that's the case, then I think we better follow the money, and maybe my committee of government operations and estimates would do that.
I don't know if McIntosh is owned wholly or in part by the airport authority or if it's owned in part or wholly by the federal government. That's the only way I could see that the cab companies would fall under review of this committee or a committee of the federal Parliament.
Mr. Chair, I thought Ms. Dhalla spoke about the dispute being between the drivers and McIntosh. It relates to the purchasing and selling of cars without any paperwork, the dispatching fees the drivers are being charged by McIntosh, and the exorbitant fees they're having to pay for the refurbishment of cars.
I see that as a dispute between the drivers, who are independent business owners, and the company, which is obviously a private commercial entity. The federal government owns no part of it, nor does the airport authority.
I still don't understand how the federal government would get involved with this. Should the federal government step in to say that the federal government should now own all of those cars? Or should the federal government get involved to say that the government would now regulate how much the company could charge its independent operators for refurbishment of cars? Or should the government regulate the dispatching fee?
I don't know what the end result would be, or what this committee could recommend. If it's simply to say we're going to be a peacemaker, I don't know of any time that the federal government has been involved and the end result was that they said “Okay, we'll make peace because you guys make a lot more sense than we do.”
I just don't see where the federal involvement is.