Let's go to our witnesses. From the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, by video conference, we have Glenn Davis, Vice-President of Policy. Here in the room with us, from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce we have Ryan Greer, Senior Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Policy. From the Municipality of Gros-Mecatina we have Randy Jones, the Mayor, by teleconference. From the Town of Anchor Point we have Gerry Gros, Mayor, by teleconference from Anchor Point, Newfoundland and Labrador. From the Town of Channel-Port aux Basques we have Mayor John Spencer and Councillor Jim Lane.
Welcome to all of you.
We will start with Mr. Davis, by video conference.
Good morning. Thank you very much for inviting the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of its 93 member chambers of commerce across the region, to participate in these consultations on the development of a Canadian transportation strategy.
As an introduction, the Atlantic chamber is the oldest and largest accredited business organization in Atlantic Canada and strives to influence the local environment to create economic growth and prosperity for its citizens, including the more than 16,000 businesses and professionals who are members of chambers in communities across the region.
Our mission, experiences and extended network have provided the Atlantic chamber with a broad perspective on issues affecting our economy. In the vein of transportation, in fact, the Atlantic chamber has proposed three resolutions on transportation policy to the Canadian chamber policy debates over the last four years.
Our understanding is that in this limited time we would try to provide the committee with an overview of infrastructure and regulatory challenges that face Atlantic Canada and that if addressed would contribute to increased safety and efficiency and minimize the harm to the environment. Specifically, I'd like to raise issues in a couple of areas.
Number one is how we could improve infrastructure. In terms of infrastructure investments that would have a measurable positive influence on the movement of goods and people from Atlantic Canada to central Canada, the twinning of Route 185 between Rivière-du-Loup and Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is one of the most pressing. Accelerating the phased approach to the construction of this highway, which began in 2005 and is not slated to be finished until 2025, is critical in providing the ability to operate more efficient long combination vehicles. The impacts of this current bottleneck are increased costs, increased carbon emissions, driver shortages and accidents.
Atlantic Canada also suffers from a lack of pipeline access to domestic supplies of oil and gas. The public demise of energy east due to regulatory challenges makes it clear that Canada needs to resolve the impasse in building pipeline transportation. Our region is currently forced to access energy supplies via foreign purchases or the less safe and less environmentally safe polluting option of rail transportation. A national transportation strategy should include a vision of the necessary infrastructure to move domestic resources to Canadian and international markets.
Atlantic Canada's port facilities are also an enormous asset for communities both large and small. Situated on international trade routes, our ports have the potential to shorten transatlantic marine routes by a whole day, but this potential is dependent on the availability of adequate capacity and efficient intermodal services. Investments to increase handling capacity and efficient access to port facilities will enhance the attractiveness of our ports to international carriers. Equally, small harbour port facilities warrant attention in this strategy, as they provide support to multi-million dollar fisheries that contribute to the region and individual communities.
While much of the discussion regarding transportation strategy tends to focus on infrastructure that's missing, it can't be overemphasized that the federal and provincial governments need to urgently address the growing maintenance deficit of existing infrastructure. This applies equally to secondary roads, as well as primary; our secondary roads are often unable to handle movement of agricultural and resource products to market.
We're also very concerned about the effects of climate change in Atlantic Canada. As a region with more than 33,000 kilometres of coastline, Atlantic Canada will be heavily impacted by the effects of more frequent extreme weather events, rising sea levels and flooding.
Nowhere is this critical infrastructure more at risk than on the Isthmus of Chignecto, the land bridge between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Trans-Canada Highway, which transports an estimated $50 million in goods per day, is protected by a combination of centuries-old dikes and, by default, the class I railbed that is inspected and maintained by the private sector. All of this infrastructure is vulnerable to overtopping in the event of a combination of extreme tides and weather, a scenario where Nova Scotia and Newfoundland would effectively be cut off from the rest of Canada.
There were also stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway near Jemseg, New Brunswick, that were closed during the spring thaws of this year and last. These closures forced the diversion of truck traffic through Saint John, adding 100 kilometres to the distance to traverse New Brunswick.
I'll very quickly note that in the area of regulation, we feel that the committee should consider the unique circumstances of Newfoundland and Labrador to address the costs of ferry services and human resources. A comprehensive trucking strategy should be part of the transportation strategy in terms of labour requirements. It's also essential that the committee consider the issues of regulating the national airport system and the effect of rents on large and small airports, including the effect of security services providing funds to government that aren't reinvested.
Finally, the committee should also consider the concept of harmonizing regulations between provinces to create a true national highway system, one in which trucks can move freely across provinces.
In closing, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to speak about determining future priorities for the official transportation system that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also provide a basis for economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians.
Thank you, Chair and committee members, for inviting the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to take part in your study on the establishment of a Canadian transportation and logistics strategy.
Unsurprisingly, goods and people movement affects nearly every chamber member amongst our network of 200,000-plus members, many of whom have already appeared before you on this study. We agreed with much of what was in your interim report, and we're pleased to see that it cited the chamber's 2017 report, “Stuck in Traffic for 10,000 Years”.
Thank you for including the Canadian chamber on your swing through the Atlantic portion of your study. My remarks will be a little more national in scope, but I'll start by stating my violent agreement with everything we heard from my colleague, Glenn Davis, at the Atlantic chamber. Maybe we'll just echo and reinforce one issue he mentioned off the top, which is the Highway 185 bottleneck.
He mentioned it's a Canadian chamber national policy resolution. Just for a little context on that, resolutions of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, our policy positions are set through the proposal, debate and amendment of resolutions by chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across the country every year at our AGM. This means when an issue like Highway 185 is adopted at the national level, it's deemed by chambers from coast to coast to be a national priority of importance to the entire country. I think the Highway 185 bottleneck includes that. I won't get into some of the implications of that, as Glenn did, but just note that we think it's important the federal government work with the Province of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, if necessary, to accelerate the timeline of the twinning of the highway. Long combination vehicles that do take this route need to decouple, take each trailer separately, and recouple after the 41-kilometre stretch, which, as Glenn said, increases costs, increases carbon emissions and creates safety issues.
I would also like to quickly highlight the work of Krista Ross at the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, who has been a tireless advocate for this issue within the chamber network itself.
Outside of this issue, the Canadian chamber has several other policy resolutions on goods movement that I think are relevant to your study. In the interest of time, I won't go into them in detail, but would be happy to answer any questions afterwards and send the resolutions along to the committee. They include issues such as the management of the lower Fraser River, the need for a pan-territorial transportation strategy, and the importance of supporting short-line rail in Canada.
I would also like to endorse the work of the Beyond Preclearance Coalition, which the chamber belongs to. Beyond Preclearance is a group of organizations in Canada and the U.S. developing a long-term vision to advance the efficiency and security of the Canada-U.S. border. A few weeks ago, we co-hosted a border transportation summit with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the objective of scoping and designing border pilot projects that will help lead to more integrated border movements for all modes of transportation in the years, and hopefully decades, to come. We would recommend this committee use the vision that's laid out in the Beyond Preclearance white paper as the basis for cross-border transportation issues in your larger strategy.
Last, I would like to highlight what I think is our most important recommendation for your study. It comes from the Canadian chamber's Vote Prosperity 2019 federal election platform, which we released yesterday. It's the standard by which the chamber network will be evaluating all platforms this fall.
We are asking for a greater share of federal infrastructure funding to be directed towards trade-enabling transportation projects. We strongly advocated for the creation of a dedicated transportation and trade corridor fund in 2016 and we were very supportive when the national trade corridors fund was announced in budget 2017. Simply put, this kind of infrastructure has the highest return on investment of all kinds of infrastructure investment by the simple fact that it makes its users more productive. However, with $2 billion in funding over 11 years, the NTCF represents only 1.1% of the 12-year, $180-billion long-term plan.
In its first call for proposals, the NTCF received 357 expressions of interest, which totalled nearly $17 billion in funding requests. Following a screening process at Transport Canada, there were 177 comprehensive proposals submitted seeking nearly $10 billion in funding. That is five times the value of what's actually available for the NTCF over its 11-year lifespan.
This fund guarantees the biggest bang for the federal buck because it is merit-based, unlike most other federal infrastructure funds, which only require meeting basic eligibility requirements and are subject to a high degree of political influence from all three levels of government. The NTCF, on the other hand, is based on detailed assessment criteria related to supply chain fluidity, trade flows and reducing bottlenecks. In other words, it finds the projects with the greatest economic value to our export-dependent economy.
At a time when the international trade landscape is shifting and our competitors are making improvements to their trade infrastructure, we need to be more strategic with our investments. We cannot rely only on our geography, our natural resources and our proximity to the U.S. to generate further prosperity.
Author Parag Khanna has a terrific quote in his book Connectography, which I think should be required reading for anybody drafting a strategy in Canada, in which he notes, “Supply chains and connectivity, not sovereignty and borders, are the organizing principles of humanity in the 21st century.”
It is our view that a Canadian transportation and logistics strategy should be underpinned by having trade-enabling infrastructure as an equal priority in the long-term federal infrastructure plan. We're hopeful that this committee shares this view and will support the recommendation in its work.
You know, I think the first thing that I'd like to speak about, just to show you how different we are from the rest of the country, is that we have to participate by phone, because our Internet is not fast enough. It's being worked on. There is a project being worked on by the federal government.
We are Quebec's forgotten people, on the lower north shore. It's the last frontier. We are working together right now, from Tadoussac to Blanc-Sablon, with southern Labrador, western Labrador and, as of now, part of the west coast of Newfoundland, to complete the 138 and the tunnel across the Strait of Belle Isle, finally hooking up our country from one end to the other.
We have villages on this part of the coast that can see each other, such as Saint-Augustin, Quebec, and on the west side, Pakuashipi. They are less than a kilometre apart and it's a world apart. They don't have access. Mother Nature and climate change have hit us full force. Where it was normal to get a storm 20 years ago that had winds from 60 to 80 kilometres an hour, as we speak, storms are now from 80 to 110, sometimes even to 120. That is unheard of. When the sun goes down in the evening, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature.
People are prisoners in their own communities. The cost to travel by plane is astronomical. The community I represent, Gros-Mecatina, has a small airstrip that was put there by the provincial government. Every year, a doctor comes in to Blanc-Sablon, and they do tests on the ladies for breast cancer, and so on. They took 18 women from my community and went to Blanc-Sablon a few years ago, and on the way back, when they landed, it was nearly a disaster. They nearly went over the end of the runway. The person who did the investigation for Transport Canada told me that this was one of the three most dangerous airports in eastern Canada. I asked him what number we represented and he wouldn't say.
The road, Route 138, and bridges would allow Saint-Augustin, less than a kilometre away, to have access to the airport and the federal wharf. They're on one side of the river, and the wharf and airport are on the other side. That bridge is a must. That's two communities that would be connected. The same is true for the road between other villages. We're in 2019, and most people on this coast have not been able to see the inside of another community in summertime. The only time they get to travel is in the winter, by snowmobile.
The 138 and the tunnel are a must if we're going to preserve our way of life, our culture and our heritage. We've seen communities close. I went to school in Musquaro. That village doesn't exist anymore. Wolf Bay is another village that's been closed. Aylmer Sound is another village that has closed. Lac Sally has closed. Baie de la Terre has closed. The list goes on, but if we had access by road, those communities would still have their necessity. Our economy is the fishery. As it stands right now, we don't have access. We could fish different species and species that don't pay so much, but if you added a truck that could truck it from, say, Kegaska to La Tabatière, that would be another option for people.
Thank you. I want to thank you for inviting me to this hearing, this consultation.
A large percentage of consumer goods for the island of Newfoundland, the lower north shore of Quebec and southern Labrador come in via Marine Atlantic. This likely explains the higher cost of living in our area. This past winter, an inordinate number of crossings were cancelled due to weather and ice conditions. The same applied to the crossings of Labrador Marine on the Strait of Belle Isle. According to climate change experts, we can expect these weather conditions to continue and possibly worsen into the future.
This problem in large part can be resolved by completing Route 138 on the lower north shore of Quebec and by the construction of a fixed link between the island of Newfoundland and the south shore of Labrador. The completion of this project would greatly reduce the transportation time getting goods from central Canada to our area.
The communities on the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador and the communities on the lower north shore of Quebec are isolated, remote and dependent on Marine Atlantic and Labrador Marine for delivery of consumer goods. There are many delays in the winter months due to high winds and/or ice conditions, and this was particularly true this past winter.
Quality of produce and other goods suffers due to the delays, and travel time from our area to the mainland of Canada is far too long and costly. To travel by road from the tip of the Northern Peninsula to Sydney, Nova Scotia, a distance of approximately 900 kilometres, generally takes in the neighbourhood of 24 hours or more, taking into consideration the waiting time at the Marine Atlantic terminal and a six- or seven-hour crossing.
Cellphone coverage in our area is sporadic at best, with many communities having no coverage at all. There's also a need for high-speed Internet.
Completion of Route 138 in Quebec and construction of a fixed link from the island of Newfoundland to the south coast of Labrador will resolve many of the issues we face today.
There are obvious benefits to tourism. Tourists will be able to enter Newfoundland and Labrador through Quebec and return via Port Aux Basques or vice versa, therefore not retracing their steps.
Completing the two projects will have significant economic benefits to the area. First, it will provide employment opportunities for local residents during construction, and upon completion, additional employment opportunities will come about because of increased traffic. There should also be opportunities for new businesses such as restaurants, gas bars, hotels, B and Bs, etc.
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to speak here today. It's a great privilege. It shows that the government is willing to listen to the people from the small areas.
Today I want to talk about cost recovery. Prior to talking to that, I'll mention that the federal government challenged Oceanex in court recently.
On November 30, 2016, Canadian historian Raymond Blake appeared on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Minister of Transport in a federal court in Newfoundland and Labrador to a challenge of Marine Atlantic's right to a federal subsidy.
In an affidavit, Dr. Blake stated that it was understood in the negotiations which led to the Terms of Union between Newfoundland and Canada in 1948 by both the Newfoundland delegation, appointed by the Government of Newfoundland, and the Government of Canada, that under terms 31, 32, and 33, the Government of Canada had a responsibility not only to operate and maintain the Gulf ferry and provide an efficient service, but also to cover all costs associated with operating the ferry service. Both sides also believed that when Canada took over the Newfoundland railway, including steamship services, it would result in lower transportation costs to and within Newfoundland, which would then lead to a lower cost of living in Newfoundland. There was no expectation that the ferry from Port aux Basques to North Sydney would operate on a cost-recovery model. It was understood that Ottawa would cover all deficits incurred by the ferry and that, moreover, the Gulf ferry service would, like the union of Newfoundland with Canada more generally, provide great benefits to the people of Newfoundland. It was a subsidized ferry for the benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador.
To put things in context for the members of the standing committee, the Crown corporation Marine Atlantic was created in 1986. The company uses two vessels primarily, but has a fleet of four to accommodate the busy summer travel season. It employs about 1,300 people and provides around 1,700 sailings annually for over 300,000 passengers and 90,000 commercial vehicles. Marine Atlantic is the only vehicle passenger service into Newfoundland and Labrador, with 25% of the passengers being non-resident. In 2003, the Canadian Industrial Relations Board ruled that constitutionally obligated service was essential and its operations critical to the health and safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
To reinforce the words of Dr. Raymond Blake, there was no expectation that the ferry from Port aux Basques to North Sydney would operate on a cost-recovery model. Cost recovery has a chokehold on Marine Atlantic. Cost recovery forces tariffs up or equates to service cuts to Newfoundland's constitutionally provided extension of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Cost recovery was introduced by the Government of Canada in 2007 at 60% of operations cost. Fast-forward to 2019 and it is now at 65% of operations cost. However, hidden within that is a cost recovery of 100% on many services, such as a seasonal run to Argentia, on-board vessel concessions, drop trailers, etc. Cost recovery, we believe, has to end.
In 2015, the federal Liberal leader, now , voiced alarm over the previous federal government's cuts to Newfoundland's essential service and committed to work to ensure that Marine Atlantic remains affordable to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Prime Minister Trudeau highlighted cuts and cost recovery, stating that such measures had forced fares to rise by 11% in the three years leading up to 2015.
Since the 's pre-election stand in 2015, fares have risen another 10%, not factoring in the additional burden of security fees and fuel surcharges. Sadly, since cost recovery was introduced in 2007, fares have increased by an alarming rate. Oddly enough, 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of Newfoundland's entry into Confederation with Canada. Was this the vision for those negotiating the Terms of Union in 1949? I think not.
The same year, 2007, when the cost recovery was imposed on Marine Atlantic, then Newfoundland member of Parliament, now senator, the Honourable Norm Doyle stood in the House of Commons and pleaded for a better deal for the people, stating it was a very costly service.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I also agree to eliminate the date, if that makes things easier for everyone.
I may have a suggestion, if committee members' schedule is a bit flexible. We intended to study the passenger safety draft report at our May 30 meeting. I may be imagining things, but I have the sense that a broad consensus developed during that study on the safety of bus passengers.
Perhaps we could ask the minister to appear during the first hour. If that works with everyone's schedule, we could devote the second hour to the draft report and agree to go beyond the regulatory 13 hours. That would be one way of squaring that circle.
Does the committee agree to the changes Mr. Jeneroux has made to his motion, so that it would read that the minister appear “before the end of the session, to appear on her mandate letter”?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Is everyone in favour of the motion as amended by Mr. Jeneroux, the mover of the motion?
We'd like a recorded vote? Okay.
(Motion as amended agreed to: yeas 9; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Mr. Jeneroux has 30 seconds left.
Okay. Thank you.
No, not as of late, we haven't met to discuss that. We've never had any meetings about the circle route. We have a great circle route now for tourists coming to the island, going through the Argentia, which is non-constitutional, which the federal government offers. It allows people to come in to the island and come back through the island.
You mentioned costs. If I can say one thing about the costs, the thing that irritates me the most is my head tax. There's a head tax on people travelling out of Newfoundland. This year they announced there will be no rise in fares for passengers, but commercial units went up 2%, and there's a fuel surcharge on every ticket sold for every individual who travels. My wife and I just made a reservation. I pay 18%, my wife pays 18% and I pay 18% on my truck, a fuel surcharge. When a bus comes in, every person on that bus pays an additional 18%. That's killing tourism for me. It's driving up the price of commodities. I had to mention that as well.
When you talk about the fares going up, they've had the fuel surcharge in place since 2007. As a Canadian, I think it's very unfair when you have to make a choice between whether you want food items on the shelf versus the price you have to pay for them. We are a retirement community; the average median age is over 50. A lot of people are making choices that they don't want to be making.
Some of those are other policy resolutions that the Canadian chambers and boards of trade have passed. One is linked to the need for a pan-territorial transportation strategy. Obviously, the need for infrastructure far exceeds the amount of funding that's available in the north. That, combined with the jurisdictional divides, the segmented nature of the way projects are decided upon, and how political parties are established.... We think that infrastructure investments in the north would benefit strongly from having a pan-territorial approach, some sort of pan-territorial coordinating body, to try to bring the three territories and the federal government together to make more coordinated decisions.
We have another resolution on the management of the lower Fraser River. It carries two-thirds or three-quarters of the volume of the St. Lawrence. Unfortunately, there are so many different jurisdictions, non-profit entities and levels of government that are involved in the management of the lower Fraser River. There is a lot of concern from our members in the Lower Mainland and from those who require the river to move their goods that decision-making and future planning around the river itself need to be better coordinated, not unlike what I was talking about up north.
We also have a resolution on the books around short-line rail. I think that this committee has heard plenty on the challenges and the importance of short-line rail to our economy, and the challenges of the those railroads in accessing capital funding. We have another resolution on the books for that, and then we have several around trade transportation corridors' seeking more funding, better co-ordination and a greater strategic focus from all levels of government, but especially the federal government, on investing in our trade corridors.
Beyond Preclearance was started about a year and a half ago. It's co-chaired by the Vancouver Airport Authority and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region on the other side of the border. It has members in Canada and the U.S.—various organizations and companies—and it's basically built around taking what we had with Beyond the Border and figuring out what the next evolution is of Canada-U.S. border policy.
Both Canada and the U.S. are going to be under immense resource requirements to meet future volumes. This is in terms of hiring tens of thousands of new border agents and having significantly higher volumes to deal with at the border. That's a big problem for all of our members who are already facing, in many cases, significant delays and challenges in getting their good and services through the border.
Beyond Preclearance put out a white paper last year that lays out, across all four modes, what the future of border crossing could look like. This is about how you take new technology, such as biometrics, remote and multi-use screening, and potential issues like blockchain, to start clearing carriers as far away from the border as possible—away from where.... Imagine a crate that is unloaded in the port of Vancouver. If you could clear it in a way that both the Canadian and American border agents could track it and assume that it is cleared and, therefore, can pass seamlessly through the Canada-U.S. border....
What the white paper has done.... The subsequent work that the coalition has been doing is designing pilot projects, in co-operation with Public Safety, CBSA, CBP and DHS, to imagine what these borders of the future would look like and to start pilot-testing those issues now so that we can figure out what the technology is and what the investments will be to keep the border not only safe and secure, but also more efficient.
It's a really good piece of work that we would highly recommend the committee consider in its strategy.
Thank you. We will certainly read it if the document is sent to us.
My next question is open to all, because several of you spoke about climate and environmental issues.
There has been a lot of discussion today about developing road infrastructure. I find it hard to see how we can fight climate change effectively by multiplying the number of roads in an attempt to decongestion them, as hoped.
It's even more problematic because of the lack of truck drivers. Even if we had more roads, we would not have more of those drivers. However, most of the transportation in Canada relies on trucking. Should we not consider a quiet revolution in transport modes--but a revolution, nonetheless--to encourage short circuits, different modes of transportation, and another way of consuming?
For instance, what were the improvement and development project forecasts for route 185? How many years will it take for us to once again be grappling with the same road congestion issues? Will it take 10, 20 or 25 years?
The question is for all of those who would like to answer.
I have a couple of comments.
On fighting climate change, I think that anytime we can increase the fluidity of our supply chains, there will be less congestion, fewer trucks sitting in traffic and fewer regular commuters stuck in traffic at rail crossings and the like. Improving the fluidity of all of our trade corridors can help reduce congestion.
The other thing on the case for more trade-enabling infrastructure is that yes, it should be adaptable; yes, it should be future-proof; yes, we should be thinking about the next two or three decades ahead. The good thing about transportation infrastructure is that unlike all the other kinds, it generates more economic growth, which means more revenue for government to invest in the other types of programs and infrastructure, including the type of infrastructure we may need in the future. Until we know what those modes may be, whether autonomous vehicles or all-electric trucks, growing our economy as much and as fast as possible by allowing our producers to get products to market as quickly and easily as possible is the best way to do that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Welcome to all of our guests, particularly our Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
I want to focus my questions on Mayor Gros and Mayor Jones.
I'll go first to Mayor Gros, or Gerry, I should probably say, after knowing you for so long.
You talked about some of the challenges and why you think it's necessary for us to seriously consider the potential of a fixed link across the straits. You talked about the bad weather, climate change, wind conditions, ice, and the challenges those pose for trade and transportation for people in your region of the province. You also made reference to new business opportunities.
Mayor Gros, what do you see as the major economic benefits of a fixed link, if it were to become a reality, for your community and for western Newfoundland and Labrador, and of course, the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec?
First of all, if we get the fixed link and Route 138 is not completed, then I don't see any benefit. I think the two go hand in hand.
With Route 138 completed and a fixed link between the island and the mainland, transportation time from central Canada to the island and to the lower north shore of Quebec would be reduced tremendously. Right now, goods shipped from Ontario or farther west have to come through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, etc. As the mayor of Channel-Port aux Basques indicated, there were a number of crossings cancelled this year, so trucks sit on the other side for days at a time. The impact shows on the shelves in the grocery stores. I have never seen produce and fresh fruit in as bad shape as I've seen it this year, along with bare shelves.
Completing that road connection from central Canada to the Atlantic provinces, in particular, Newfoundland, would reduce the cost and speed up the time.
The question now, Mr. Jones, is going to you.
Mayor Gros referenced Route 138, of course, in order to make this potential fixed link viable or to have any economic impact.
Have you, as mayor of your community, made representation to your Quebec provincial government to complete Route 138? If so, what is their response to your proposal? Are you optimistic that anybody is listening to this request to complete 138 for the benefit of your region, so that you don't lose any more communities and you can protect your culture? You've talked about loss of culture and so on.
Of course, I'd like you to also comment on the economic benefits that would go with completing Route 138.
Thank you very much for the question.
First of all, two weeks ago, we had the people come in from Transports Québec and announce that two sections of road will be done: from La Romaine to Kegaska, and from La Tabatière—my own town—to Tête-à-la-Baleine. There are some 80 kilometres of road that have to be completed within the next five years.
With the mayors and the Innu chiefs of all of the north shore, and the grand chief, we went to Ottawa in December and again met with in Sept-Îles. We had representation from western Labrador, the mayor of Goose Bay, the mayor of...not Labrador City, but the other one that's right next to it—
Thank you very much, Mr. Iacono, for giving me some speaking time.
I thank all of the witnesses for being here with us.
Hello, Mr. Jones. Thank you for taking part in this meeting. We have spoken before on several occasions. I also thank you for playing the role of ambassador for the Lower North Shore. I wanted to say that today because it's historic for us and for the Lower North Shore, which is located in my riding. It's a very vast area. It covers 350,000 square kilometres and includes 400 kilometres of coast. I wanted to provide some context.
Within those 400 coastal kilometres, there are people who refer to themselves as “coasters”. There are also two Innu nations who live there, the Unamen Shipu and Pakua Shipu nations. We talked about people who live in remote areas, but on top of everything, these people are cut off from the continent. We do say “continent” back home, both in English or French, and Innu. We talked about the consequences of climate change. I think that Mr. Jones would agree with me that all of the consequences, be they economic, social or cultural, are immense. We're talking about survival. We aren't just talking about development, which is the key to survival.
I'm going to open a sidebar to my colleague Mr. Aubin's intervention; he spoke about climate change and its repercussions on the development of infrastructure. We can't consider development in remote areas like this in the same way as we look at development in urban areas. It is different.
Mr. Jones, you are the ambassador for the Lower North Shore, Gros-Mecatina and La Tabatière. I would like you to give us an idea of what development means in the region of the Long Range mountains, notably what is called “ the buckle”, not only from the economic perspective, but also the social one.
When you say that the population is cut off from the continent, that does not only mean that the food isn't fresh, but that sometimes there simply isn't any. It happens that people can't get out when they are sick and deprived of all services. The young people, who don't have access to education, are leaving.
I would like you to describe the situation on the Lower North Shore further, and what it means. We aren't making additional requests; we don't even have basic infrastructure. You will agree with me, since you tried to mention it several times, that the Government of Quebec, the people of the North Shore, as well as all of the elected representatives, federal and provincial, and the Innu and Naskapi chiefs, are favourable to the project and are themselves applying the necessary pressure to see it go forward.
I'm sorry I spoke so long. Could you, for the people who are present here, give us the real picture of the situation on the Lower North Shore?
Good afternoon, and thank you to all of you for being here.
First of all, I'd like to preface my comments by saying that I represent a riding in Calgary, Alberta, and so my in-depth knowledge of the east coast is quite limited.
Ironically enough, while we're sitting here, across town in front of the Senate, the is before the Senate trying to defend Bill . To those of you who are not familiar with Bill C-48, this is the bill the brought before the House of Commons with no scientific data to back up this tanker ban on the west coast. It was something the Prime Minister decided to do while he was flying over British Columbia. It landlocks provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan from using the transportation corridor of Canada to export our goods.
You've all had lots of experience dealing with tankers coming in and out of your ports on the east coast. What experience, if any, have you had with spillage or other incidents? What sort of view do you have whereby we have a government that allows tanker traffic on our east coast but won't allow it on the west coast, because, in the words of our , it is a pristine coast? That sort of tells me it is a little more pristine and important to preserve than the east coast.
Do any of you have any comments relative to how safe it is based on your experience of having tankers coming in and out of your ports?
Madam Chair, I have to say that I do to some extent have to sympathize with your comments about the wind, Mr. Spencer. I've been in your neck of the woods on a few occasions in Port aux Basques and Isle aux Morts, Devil's Isle area. It is quite windy. In February you can't even see your hand in front of you with the snow and the wind.
Actually, I've watched the ferries go in and out while being at the Port Club with some friends. You do have a unique challenge there, especially as it relates to climate change. Our intent is to give that carbon-related pricing back to you to therefore invest in a lot of those carbon-related challenges that you're experiencing versus default onto the property taxpayer or the waste-water ratepayer.
With that, I'll turn to my question. On transportation strategies both locally and provincially, have you established transportation-related strategies at the local level? Are you working with your neighbours provincially to also recognize and establish those strategies?
Mr. Greer, I'm coming to you next just as a head's-up so you can prepare for it.
Locally and provincially, have you established those transportation-related strategies?
If I may, I'll jump in because I'm trying to save a minute here for Churence.
I think you're all bang on, it's just a matter of bringing it all together. That's what this process is for, establishing logistics strategy. The trade corridor strategy is to do exactly what you're saying: to validate, justify, those infrastructure investments. The challenge that we're having, however, going from coast to coast to coast is trying to put it all together.
As a takeaway for you folks, perhaps we could get a facilitated process primarily by the chambers of commerce, both Atlantic and national, to let us know those needs, and therefore the financing that's going to be invested in those needs. That way we can plug it all into the national strategy and therefore bring forward not only the overall strategy when it comes to transportation and logistics, but also the funding that has to complement it in the future.
Thank you so much for joining us today to those of you who have dialed in and are video conferencing. We really appreciate the testimony we've heard today. Like my colleague, I am from the Prairies. I have visited all the maritime provinces, but I have to admit that I'm not intimately related to some of the challenges you have, which is why it's great to have you here today to tell us about those challenges.
I also want to thank Mr. Rogers for pushing hard on getting us to include this part of our study before this session ends. You have a great advocate there.
Mr. Greer, I appreciate the observations you've made in regard to how improving the fluidity of our transportation systems can have an impact on transportation related to reduced GHG emissions. I also really appreciate the resolution that you spoke to in regard to our short-line railways and would like to get a copy of that. You may have sent it to all of us as members of Parliament, but I would appreciate being reminded of that, either by having you forward that to the committee, or to my office as well.
One thing we have not touched on today is our air transportation systems and how they have an impact on economic development in our various regions. We've been seized with some of the issues within our air industry because we are about to finish our study of the BIA.
Mr. Greer, I know that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has advocated for competitiveness in the airline industry. I'm wondering if you could tell us quickly what effects an increase in the cost of a consumer's ticket price will have for Canadian competitiveness in this market.
At the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we have spent a lot of time over the past several years talking about the challenges with air travel competitiveness. There's generally been a reluctance from the federal government to look at what ticket cost is composed of, what some of the federally imposed costs on air travel prices are and what that means for travel, tourism and people.
We've also been watching the air passenger protection regulations, which are going to add cost to ticket prices. Generally, we've been asking the federal government to take a step back, work with industry and look at what goes into the cost of air travel in Canada, and where we're most and least competitive. We have major routes in Canada that are cross-subsidizing a lot of our rural and northern routes. Those routes are the highway system, the Trans-Canada Highway of the north, in many cases. There are no highways. It's the equivalent to the highway system.
Certainly, we would be strongly supportive of an overall look at what goes into the cost of air travel. Obviously, we're against any proposals to increase the cost of air travel. We're already a high-cost destination. If I'm a European traveller looking at Denver and the Rocky Mountains, cost more than any other thing may drive me to go down south. We've long called for an examination of federally imposed costs on our travel and would be supportive of ways to try to reduce those.
Yes. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Although I have few illusions about the outcome of the vote, I will express my opinion. Many witnesses have spoken about the part they would like us to eliminate from this omnibus bill. We were given the example of NAV CANADA several times, but no one was able to demonstrate that there was a real parallel there. I think that the funding of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA, is the main problem with respect to security measures. If the security service is used as a cash cow by the government because the funds collected on passenger tickets do not translate into safety measures, the problem will not be solved by this new proposal.
As for the delays, several stakeholders say that this bill should, at the very least, provide the possibility of going forward independently, in the context of longer term planning, so that all of the stakeholders may not only better contribute, but also adjust to the situation. In short, for a host of reasons, I don't understand why such an important measure is being slipped into an omnibus bill.
I simply move that it be withdrawn and that the measure be the subject of an independent bill in the next Parliament.
Madam Chair, I have a motion here, if I may.
As this is our last scheduled meeting on the BIA, I would like to suggest that the committee send a letter in response to FINA.
As for the committee's perspective, I propose that you, as chair, simply thank the finance committee for the opportunity to look at divisions 11 and 12 of Bill , inform its members of the hearings we had on this matter and advise that the committee as a whole does not have any recommendations or amendments to propose.
I would also like to remind all members that, if they have any amendments, they can submit them directly to FINA before the established deadline of Friday, May 17, 2019.
Thank you, Madam Chair.