Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
As I said earlier, Greyhound's service in western Canada ended yesterday. Market forces being what they are, the most lucrative routes are sometimes taken up by other companies. They might not offer exactly the same type of service, but the service will cover 80% or 90% of the routes. That means that entire communities, mostly rural ones, including indigenous communities, will be left without service for the remaining 10% to 20% of the routes.
Right now, we have no idea what Transport Canada intends to do to resolve this situation. I consider this an essential service. All communities need the service for reasons of work, health, family travel, and so forth.
In question period yesterday, I was just stunned when the Prime Minister answered me by saying that we “[...] are open to considering avenues toward finding effective solutions [...]”.
We have known for several months now that the service will be ending. When we hear the day after the service ended that we “are open to considering avenues toward finding effective solutions”, that means there is nothing on the table.
I still hope I am wrong, and that is why I would like to hear from the minister so we can discuss this.
My motion is as follows:
Given that public transit is an essential service and that the end date Greyhound announced for its bus services in some Western provinces has arrived, the Committee requests that the Minister of Transport appear before the Committee as soon as possible to share his solutions.
Madam Chair, I watched a TV show about school bus safety a few days ago with great interest. I'm not sure if it was The Fifth Estate or Marketplace. They talked about many jurisdictions where school bus safety has been improved by introducing seat belts on school buses. When I watched and heard the numbers of children who had been tragically killed or severely injured, I thought that maybe this was something our committee should take a look at.
The current rules were done back in the 1980s, and I think today, with the changing world we're in, particularly in rural Canada.... I have children now in my riding who are travelling up to an hour a day on busy highways, under some very difficult conditions in the wintertime. It concerns me. After watching that show, I felt that we should at least give this thing some time and attention.
I'm recommending that we look at Mr. Hardie's motion and amend it to say “no less than four meetings” and that we include school buses.
That is the amendment I am proposing to this particular motion.
I have no problem on the substance of the motion or with the proposed amendment. I am concerned, however, that work is piling up on our desk and deadlines are getting tighter. I would remind you that I tabled a motion and that it was adopted. The purpose was to conduct a study of rail passengers in particular. Now it is being postponed more and more, but not eliminated. I know it is still in the cards and on your mind, Madam Chair, but we all know that we will be leaving in June to prepare for the election. Can we look at our order of business?
I have no problem being hurried along when the House refers bills to us. That is expected. That is our job. On the other hand, we are tabling motions and thereby creating work for ourselves. Perhaps we will never have too much work, but I think we have to at least follow the order of business our committee has agreed upon.
I would say on the record that we certainly do support the motion that Mr. Hardie has brought forward, as well as the amendment to it.
Once again, we recognize that this was a motion that we were asked to consider six months ago. Due to sensitivity and Mr. Hardie's graciousness in setting it aside, we said we would revisit it later. It was something that was highlighted half a year ago, albeit on the heels of a bus tragedy.
I would suggest that if we do think this is something that is urgent, we may want to put it onto the agenda sooner than some of the other studies that have been recommended. I would suggest that, given the investigative report that was just made public, we need to be paying attention to this issue and studying it sooner rather than later.
Mr. Aubin, just to go back a bit to the rail issue, if you recall, we had one meeting on the rail safety issues to try to make sure we were being sensitive as we did our trade corridors study by including rail as part of that once we moved forward. It wasn't that we didn't want to do it. We were just trying to involve many things together so that we were respecting everybody's wishes.
Is there any further discussion on the amendment by Mr. Rogers?
(Amendment agreed to)
(Motion as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Next we have the invitation from finance to study clauses 668 to 747 of Bill C-86.
We should probably go back in camera. Does the committee want to go back in camera for the discussion on Bill C-86?
We've had an invitation from Finance to study clauses 668 to 747 of Bill C-86. It is up to the committee. I understand that there have been tentative conversations. The committee is prepared to take up this invitation. We will book a three-hour meeting next Tuesday, so that our meeting will be extended an extra hour next Tuesday morning.
We have received some witnesses. We haven't had any witnesses from Mr. Aubin yet, but we have received witnesses from both Conservatives and Liberals. Transport Canada has unofficially confirmed that they would be here for the first hour. We're still looking for six more witnesses if we're going to do two panels of three, if that's the direction.
I recognize that the practice of breaking out parts of the BIA legislation is a practice that's been taking place, certainly since the last Parliament. We're pleased to study these particular clauses in BIA 2. I can well imagine why the finance committee has asked us to take this task on, given the very large size of BIA 2. I think it is now the largest omnibus bill around a budget implementation act that this Parliament may have had put to it.
We agree to do this. I would, however, say that I think the timelines are very tight in terms of being able to do meaningful work. We are trying to get this done in one meeting. I would suggest that we should not schedule the Department of Transport for a whole hour, given that we are only giving three hours to this meeting. That would allow us to hear from more witnesses in terms of the impact that this legislation might have on their industry.
I would suggest that we try to ensure that we hear from as many witnesses as possible, thereby limiting what we hear from the Department of Transport to a much shorter time period.
Yes, I just want to support what my colleague said in terms of the study of this bill. When I was first elected three years ago, I had the pleasure working on the finance committee. We on the finance committee asked, I think on the first budget, something like six committees to study parts of the bill because it was so voluminous. I think only two of the committees took it up. I'm pleased to see that this committee is prepared to study it.
I am concerned, though, of the timeline, and I'm wondering if there's any ability to ask the chair of the finance committee, considering the fact that we have the break week in there, if they could give us a little more time. From what I see of these particular sections, I envision that some of the testimony we could receive for this study could help us in our corridors study, because we are talking about, if I understand it correctly, marine traffic in that part of the bill.
I think there would be some other benefit to other work that we're doing, but quite frankly, we're going to have a tough time getting much in the way of input in one meeting. Because of the short notice, I suspect that people aren't going to be available.
Would the chair consider asking the chair of the finance committee if we could have additional time? I don't know what we have scheduled right after our break week, but is there a chance we could get at least one meeting that week devoted to this particular study?
The first two hours would be witnesses, and the third hour could be the balance of the report that we were going to send back. When we did this once before, the letter went back to them saying that we had....
Do you want to speak to it? How did we handle this the last time?
Just to clarify, clause-by-clause will be done in finance, not at our committee. The committee can also do a subject matter report if they wish, like a separate report or a substantive report like they would usually do.
The process we did in March 2017, I believe, was simply a letter back to the chair of finance with our findings.
I'm still having some difficulty. Can we just walk through this step by step? Next Tuesday—if everything goes well—it's been suggested that we have transportation folks for the first hour. Then were you suggesting two hours of witnesses?
It would simply be a letter back to finance saying that we did look at those clauses in particular and we are making the following recommendations, or we're sending it back with no amendments suggested. People can go to finance and make suggested changes directly, if they choose, as well.
Again, if I follow it step by step, we have witnesses on Tuesday. I'm assuming we have analysts who are going to try to give us something back on.... I don't know what this letter to the chair of finance is going to look like, and I don't know how we can prepare it in half an hour after we hear the witnesses. That's virtually meaningless.
In trying to see if there's an opportunity for additional time, I can suggest it for the next meeting on the 8th—next Thursday. We have the Parliamentary Budget Officer coming in. It was easier to add an hour on to make a three-hour meeting and not disrupt the Parliamentary Budget Officer coming, because we have been waiting for that for some time, as well.
I'm thinking out loud here without discussing this with my colleagues. If we were to add another hour next Thursday, and at that hour something was put in front of us that said that this is what we heard and this is what we recommend to finance, I'd be a lot more comfortable with that. I don't know how we would prepare the other outcome.
We could probably deal with the Transport Canada input or discussion with them in half an hour, and leave two and a half hours to spend with witnesses. I like the idea, then, of adding some time subsequently to consider what we're going to send back to finance.
I'd also recommend that we ask the Transport Canada people to be here in the room to hear what the witnesses have to say, rather than just coming in for their slot. I think that will build a context and make that part of the meeting more efficient.
I would like to support my colleagues. I think what I am hearing is a recommendation to add some time.
Perhaps during my intervention you could clarify for us how long the Parliamentary Budget Officer is going to be with us on Thursday. Was that going to be the full two hours? Typically, I think, when legislation is referred—
Typically, when a committee is reviewing legislation, you do a study of that legislation. You have time in between for each of the parties to determine whether they want to make amendments to that legislation. They then come back and propose them during clause-by-clause.
I think you're suggesting that after we've heard what we need to hear on Tuesday it's incumbent upon each party to submit amendments to the finance committee. If that's the process that's in place, then we probably don't need to come back on Thursday. If we wanted to come back and share the amendments that we wanted to put forward and see if there is any agreement on that, then we need some time on Thursday to do that.
Following this discussion, any of us can submit amendments directly to finance for consideration prior to clause-by-clause. We can acknowledge the fact that we had a three-hour session or whatever, and refer it back with or without amendments. There is the possibility that we could take that second hour from airport noise on November 8 if there was something that we wanted to submit to finance—not to take away from the PBO's presentation—but we would have to do it no later than November 8.
I will be brief because Mr. Liepert said a lot of things that I agree with.
Personally, I think that, on one hand, there is definite interest in the committee doing this study. On the other, there is obviously also some discomfort with taking part in what is a bit of a charade. We are working on the biggest budget bill in history and want to get it passed in two weeks, with the committee studying it for three hours from start to finish. In other words, there would be hearings and a report. If that is truly the proposed order of business, I am withdrawing because I do not want to be party to that charade.
I am really interested in the substance of the matter, and it takes a certain amount of time to consider it. It would be rather absurd for the committee to send a letter, saying that we have held a three-hour meeting on the matter, but that we do not have any recommendations because we did not have time to come to an agreement.
Moreover, that would diminish our work. If we do not agree on a certain number of recommendations at the end of a discussion, if certain parties also send their own recommendations, that's fine, it is part of the game and the way things are done.
If, however, we have just three hours to consider the matter, and then send a letter to the Standing Committee on Finance, saying simply that we met for three hours and have nothing to say, I repeat that it would be a charade and, in that case, I no longer wish to continue.
If, on the other hand, we find the time that is needed, the amount of time that we seem to be freeing up, I am on board.
I'm going to suggest we go forward with the three hours that we said. We take the second hour of November 8 that we would have been spending on airport noise and use it to be able to put forward any suggestions based on the testimony we heard in the three hours, and we circulate any suggested amendments to the clerk as soon as possible. That way, we all know what the thought process is, since we will only have that one hour.
Does that sound like something that satisfies everybody?
I always hate rescheduling people when we ask them to come to appear before us. I don't know if this is going to be very popular or not, but what about adding an hour that day, versus cancelling the airport noise witnesses?
I never feel very good about cancelling people we ask to come on a specific day.
What is everybody's schedule? Would we want to add another hour to the meeting on November 8 in order to accommodate all of the things we're trying to do? I don't know what everybody does in the next hour after they leave here.
There's been a suggestion that we add an hour on November 8.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay, so we're going to add an hour on to the November 8 meeting. If that's okay with everybody, that's what we're doing.
The November 8 and November 6 meetings are both going to be three hours.
We start on November 29. We should get it November 8, for November 29, which gives them two weeks' notice. We'll see how that accommodates everybody.
Supplementary estimates will be on November 22 with Minister Garneau. Infrastructure has confirmed that they're going to send the deputy minister for supplementary estimates. Minister Champagne will be here on December 6, in Centre Block, for that meeting.
There's one other thing I want to raise. The trip that we were talking about to St. John's, Newfoundland, the last week of January, has not seemed to be received very well out there.
Madam Chair, I want us to go to St. John's, Newfoundland, but given Newfoundland winters, I'd much prefer that we reconsider the time frame and look at maybe April. The chances of getting to the province at that point would be much greater than in January, when at any time you could have a snowstorm that interrupts the trip. I suggest we look at April.
The idea would be to withdraw this from the Liaison Committee request and resubmit it for the April 1 segment and aim for the first opportunity in April to do that travel. Would that be okay with everybody?