Skip to main content Start of content

TRAN Committee Meeting

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.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
Skip to Document Navigation Skip to Document Content






Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities


NUMBER 095 
l
1st SESSION 
l
42nd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (1530)  

[English]

     I'm calling to order the meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
    Good afternoon, everyone. We gather today to study the subject matter of supplementary estimates (C), 2017-18: vote 1c under Department of Transport and vote 1c under the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited. We will also study the subject matter of interim estimates, 2018-19: vote 1 under Canadian Air Transport Security Authority; vote 1 under Canadian Transportation Agency; votes 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20 under Department of Transport; vote 1 under Marine Atlantic Incorporated; and vote 1 under The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited.
    We are delighted to welcome back the Honourable Marc Garneau, the Minister of Transport, as well as his officials: Mr. Michael Keenan, deputy minister; Mr. André Lapointe, assistant deputy minister for corporate services and chief financial officer; and Mr. Pierre-Marc Mongeau, assistant deputy minister, programs.
    From the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, we have Mr. Neil Parry, vice-president, service delivery, and Ms. Nancy Fitchett, acting vice-president for corporate affairs and chief financial officer.
    From the Canadian Transportation Agency, we have Mr. Scott Streiner, chair and chief executive officer, and Ms. Carole Girard, executive director, internal services.
    From Marine Atlantic Incorporated, we have Mr. Paul Griffin, president and chief executive officer.
    From the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited, we have Ms. Natalie Kinloch, chief financial and operating officer.
    Finally, on behalf of VIA Rail, we have Mr. Jacques Fauteux, director, government and community relations; Ms. Patricia Jasmin, chief financial officer; and Mr. Pierre Le Fèvre, senior advisor to the president and chief executive officer, strategic planning.
    We welcome everyone. We certainly have a full house here today. Welcome to the committee.
    Mr. Garneau, I will turn it over to you.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Since you have made all the introductions, I can skip over the first part of my statement.
    Innovation and modernization present important challenges for the transportation sector. The funds we are seeking would help support modernization that is important to the success of our economy, and to the safety and security of Canadians. Canada must have the infrastructure and services in place to move goods and people to where they need to go, for years to come.
    As was outlined in Transportation 2030, my long-term strategy for transportation in Canada, our legislation and regulations must aligned with global standards, and with rapid and complex changes taking place in the transportation sector.
    Changes in the transportation sector must be implemented safely—without endangering Canadians or harming our environment—while supporting and strengthening our economy. We must be in step with the sector's fast-moving evolution, or—even better—a step or two ahead.
    That means fostering research and innovation, in partnership with stakeholders, other governments, indigenous peoples, academia and others. Adapting to change is not easy, but everyone at Transport Canada, and the crown corporations in my portfolio, embraces the challenges before us.

[English]

    We have taken already some important steps toward the future. This includes Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act, which is the first major step on the Transportation 2030 path.
    The transportation modernization act would amend the Canada Transportation Act and other legislation governing the air, rail, and marine sectors, helping to modernize Canada's transportation system. Through the oceans protection plan, the largest-ever investment to protect Canada's coasts and waterways, we are building a world-leading marine safety system while preserving ecosystems, forging stronger partnerships with indigenous peoples, and engaging coastal communities, industry, and other stakeholders—all with a view to learning more about our oceans.
    The proposed Canadian navigable waters act includes robust powers to enforce safeguards and protect the public's right to navigation. The Canadian navigable waters act would provide extra oversight where it's needed most, on navigable waters of greatest importance to Canadians and to indigenous peoples. It would provide more transparency for projects such as dams, mines, and bridges. We welcome the challenges before us and we look forward to the exciting changes the future promises.

  (1535)  

[Translation]

    In the supplementary estimates before you today, Transport Canada is requesting $755,900 in new funding and $122,400 in statutory forecasts for employee benefits plan costs.
    However, most of that is offset by transfers to other government departments, for a small net increase of $175,700. The majority of that offset is a transfer to the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited, which is seeking an increase of $698,500 through these supplementary estimates, to conduct a feasibility and design study for the Cornwall port of entry in Cornwall, Ontario.
    In the interim estimates before you today, Transport Canada is seeking $322.8 million in interim supply, to continue providing a safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation system.
    The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is seeking $244.2 million to continue protecting the public through effective and efficient screening of air travellers and their baggage.
    VIA Rail is seeking $134.5 million to continue providing safe, reliable and efficient passenger rail service.

[English]

     Marine Atlantic is seeking $37.8 million to continue providing safe, environmentally responsible, and reliable ferry services.
    The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited is seeking $900,000 to upgrade the roadway connecting the north and south channel Seaway International Bridges at Cornwall.
    The Canadian Transportation Agency is seeking $9.4 million to continue its work as an economic regulator that administers relevant transportation legislation.
    Madam Chair, Transport Canada, the crown corporations in my portfolio, and I are committed to sound fiscal management and stewardship of government resources on behalf of Canadian taxpayers. The financial resources sought through these supplementary and interim estimates would help ensure our transportation system continues to serve Canadian needs, as I mentioned earlier, to move goods and people to where they need to go safely and securely for years to come.
    I'd be very happy now to answer any questions.
    Thank you very much, Minister Garneau.
    We will move on to Ms. Block for five minutes.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
    I would like to thank the minister for joining us today, as well as all of the departmental officials. I know you do very good work on behalf of Canadians and I appreciate your joining us today. My question, obviously, will be for the minister.
    For weeks, Minister Garneau, farmers and the Province of Saskatchewan have all been asking you to support an order in council to force the railways to clear the rail backlog that has plagued Canada's rail system this winter, yet you have refused to do so.
    To be clear, this is not the first time you have refused to act in the interests of our farmers and shippers. When you introduced Bill C-49, Conservative members requested that the bill be split so that the rail measures in the bill could be studied in an expeditious manner. When you refused, we then called upon you to extend Bill C-30 to ensure that there would be no legislative gap, and again you refused. Finally, when the opposition members proposed reasonable technical amendments to Bill C-49 to address the concerns raised by numerous witnesses, again the Liberal members did not support them.
    My question to you, sir, is this: how much more funding would the Department of Transport have needed to request in the supplementary estimates (C) in order to draft, execute, and implement an order in council as requested by numerous farm organizations and provincial governments?

  (1540)  

     I'll start by thanking this committee for looking at Bill C-49 so expeditiously last fall. That was very much appreciated. Now I am hoping that this bill will get through the Senate in the most expeditious manner possible.
    I would also remind my colleague that despite everything she has said about Bill C-49, she and her party actually voted against Bill C-49 when it came for third reading, which is still a surprise to me.
    With respect to the movement of grain, I have been in touch with the railways. I did so at the beginning of the month. This was just after a conversation I had with the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Transportation from Saskatchewan, the two of them together. I'm very much aware of the situation, which I follow on a weekly basis, and now on a daily basis.
    I told both CN and CP that the movement of grain was unacceptably slow in this very busy season. Notwithstanding a very difficult February because of weather, the movement of grain was not at an acceptable level. In fact, they have come back with a plan. I told them that I wanted to see a plan by March 15, which they both provided. They have significantly increased the resources, both in terms of equipment—I'm talking about hopper cars and more locomotives—and more personnel, as well as prioritizing the movement of grain.
    I am now seeing an accelerated movement of grain, which, by the way is about 25% above the levels that existed in 2013-14 when we had that very bad season under the previous government. It is moving very efficiently at this point. I will make sure that it continues to move efficiently, because there is a very large backlog and I want to get western farmers' grain to market as quickly as possible.
    Well, Minister, the fact of the matter is that all those reasonable technical amendments that we proposed were not passed by this committee, which is why we could not support the passage of that bill in the House of Commons. My hope is that members of the Senate will take a very good, objective look at the amendments that I know will come forward again, because these were amendments that were brought forward by stakeholders and witnesses. I'm trusting that the Senate may be able to do what the Liberal members weren't.
    On that, I would re-ask my question of you. What level of funding would the Department of Transport have needed to request in the supplementary estimates (C) in order to draft, execute, and implement an order in council as requested by farm organizations and provincial governments?
    Minister Garneau, please keep your response short.
    It's a hypothetical question. We haven't looked at the issue of an interim order in council.
    I'm hoping that the Senate will pass the bill quickly. I don't know what their amendments will be. I'm not going to prejudge what they will be. We will look at them when we receive them.
    However, I would remind everyone that when it came through your committee, I think six of the nine amendments that were proposed were Conservative amendments. We were certainly very open to accepting Conservative amendments when it passed through this committee.
    Thank you very much.
    Mr. Fraser, you're on for five minutes.
    Excellent. Thank you very much, Minister and officials, for being with us today. Hopefully I'll get in two questions in the limited time we have. I'll get right to them.
    The national trade corridors fund is an important economic strategic fund to erase bottlenecks. In the Atlantic region, there's a specific project at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, which is an economic enabler of strategic importance to the entire region. Right now, our seafood industry has the potential for enormous growth, particularly in light of some opportunities we've been working on from an international trade perspective, with Europe, of course, through CETA, and some efforts being made at the provincial level with the Chinese government as well.
    One of the bottlenecks we have right now is that the facility cannot handle the cargo. We are losing business to American airports to get our cargo to market, which again helps boost the price. Under the national trade corridors fund, it's my understanding that the Halifax project to expand a logistics facility to get more product to market has been made. I don't want you to prejudge the outcome of an independent process, but I wonder if you can comment on the eligibility of projects of this kind and the importance of getting our products to market to help not just big traders and our biggest financial centres, but people on the ground in small communities throughout Atlantic Canada.

  (1545)  

     Thank you very much for your question.
    As you point out, the national trade corridors fund—which, by the way, is in the final stages of making decisions on which programs will be funded in this first round—is intended to ensure that we have greater efficiency in the movement of goods and people through our trade and passenger corridors. We're looking at it from that point of view.
     We're looking at well over 100 projects, I will say, and we have to make the decision about which ones will go ahead in the first round. I'm certainly aware of the one in Halifax, because I was in Seoul, South Korea, last November, and in fact at the airport there, where they had water pens that were filled with Nova Scotia lobster. They were arriving by cargo plane from Halifax. In Seoul, South Korea, there's a great demand for them, and some of them are being flown on to China. I understand this particular corridor for moving some of Nova Scotia's finest products.
    Should you find yourself in Nova Scotia again this summer, I'll take you down to the wharf. Perhaps you can sample a bite yourself.
    There's another issue I wanted to tackle. On Bill C-49, you're right: we did come back early and as a committee found quite a bit of common ground on a number of issues. One of the issues we tackled was the air passenger bill of rights. In my mind, we landed on a bill that is going to enhance the passenger experience without compromising the efficiency of the transportation sector.
     One of the great frustrations I have, being new to politics, is that sometimes when we get outside of the parliamentary bubble, we're dealing in a post-fact world. I've seen some news stories floating around suggesting that the bill is actually going to double the amount of time that passengers have to wait on the tarmac. The understanding I had when our committee dealt with this was that some airlines have a voluntary program to ensure that passengers don't wait beyond 90 minutes, but that there are many ways for airlines to get out of that voluntary obligation, so to speak.
     Can you commit to us that the intention and the effect of this legislation will not double the amount of time that passengers are going to be waiting on the tarmac, but ensure they have a remedy when they are there for an unacceptable period of time?
    Thank you for the question, and I can assure you that when the bill of rights finally does come out—it is not out at this point, but will come out later on this year—Canadians will, I think, be very satisfied that we've achieved the right balance in terms of protecting their rights.
    Yes, there is misinformation out there, unfortunately. When you look at at the issue of tarmac delays, you see that there is actually no national standard that exists in this country at the moment. The only thing that does exist is that certain airlines publish in their tariffs some things about tarmac delays. For people who don't know what this tariff is, it's essentially the contract between you and the airline when you buy a ticket; it's all that fine print that most people don't ever read.
     Let me read for you the one from Air Transat. It says: “If the delay exceeds 90 minutes while at the gate, or 4 hours in the event of a Tarmac delay...”, which of course was the situation last summer at the Ottawa airport—they never did get to a gate—
    That's right.
    They were on the tarmac. It continues and says that “the Carrier must allow the passengers to deplane....”
    Let me read the Air Canada one. The Air Canada one says that it “will not permit an aircraft to remain on the tarmac at a Canadian or US airport for more than four (4) hours”.
    These are the tariffs that are published by those two particular airlines. That's their decision to do it. If, for example, after we put out a three-hour tarmac delay, one of those airlines decides it still wants to keep 90 minutes at the gate, they're perfectly free to do it, but if it's out on the tarmac, our three hours will actually be better than the four hours most people are required to wait. Also, within that three hours, there will be a requirement to provide refreshments, information, air conditioning, and bathroom services—all of those things—during that period of time.
    Thank you very much, Minister Garneau.
    Madam Sansoucy is next.

[Translation]

    I want to say hello to the minister and those joining him.
    Could you use this appearance before our committee to confirm the promise you made to conclude a funding agreement with the Government of Quebec for a bypass at Lac-Mégantic before July 6, 2018?

  (1550)  

    Yes, I can confirm that.
    I announced in January that we would conclude that agreement by July 6, as you pointed out, which will mark the fifth anniversary of that tragic event. We will announce funding for a bypass in Lac-Mégantic, as we promised in January. Right now, we are in discussions with the Government of Quebec because the costs will be shared.
    We are waiting for the mayor of Lac-Mégantic, Julie Morin, to conclude her talks with her two colleagues representing the towns of Nantes and Frontenac. They are engaged in discussions to complete the final route of that bypass, so that it would be acceptable for everyone. We expect that to be done over the next few weeks. We will make the announcement by July 6.
    Thank you.
    You have said several times that safety was your priority. However, between 2015 and 2017, you cut the budget for rail safety inspector training by 17%. We are closely following—as are you, I'm sure—the Transportation Safety Board's reports. It is important to take them into account, as the latest statistics indicate that the accident rate in rail transportation increased by 21% between 2016 and 2017.
    In this context, why was the budget for the training of rail safety inspectors reduced?
    I would perhaps challenge some of your statistics on the number of safety-related incidents. Knowing what type of incident we're talking about is also important. We can't put into the same category serious and much less serious incidents. When this kind of data is analyzed, some granularity is noted.
    To answer your question, I want to clarify that we have decided to adopt a different approach to the responsibility we have to conduct inspections to ensure that transportation systems are safe. The approach is risk-based. We used to conduct certain inspections regularly in the past—every three months, six months or annually for many years—but nothing ever changed because the risk was not high in that area. We decided to focus our resources in areas with higher risk levels.
    That said, we conduct about 120,000 inspections a year across Canada's transportation systems. I personally believe that we are performing our task effectively and that our inspectors are highly qualified.
    In that regard, we placed a question on the Order Paper. In response, we were told that the regulations do not currently require a fatigue risk management system in the railway industry.
    As far I understand, this means that Transport Canada does not perform effective oversight of the railway industry's efforts to manage train conductors' fatigue.
    Why is that shortcoming not being addressed?
    I agree with you. We have decided to examine issues such as the work day and fatigue in the railway system. We have nearly completed that assessment for air transportation, and we have decided to do the same for railway transportation. I don't know whether the assessment is already underway or it will be very soon, but we have definitely decided to do it.
    Thank you.
    A Global News report revealed that, when proficiency checks of pilots are performed by the companies themselves, half as many failures were reported as when the checks were performed by a Transport Canada inspector. However, the majority of checks, or 15,000 per year, are performed by industry pilots. Only 300 checks are performed by Transport Canada inspectors.
    Given that data, with a reduced aviation safety program, why should we trust checks performed by the industry, whose interests are at stake, instead of those performed by your own department's inspectors?
    I am satisfied with the checks performed by inspector pilots who fulfill those contracts. I would add that, some years ago, the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, determined that Canada ranked fourth globally in terms of aviation safety. I think that our track record is good, even though improvements are always possible.
    Be that as it may, I think the current system, to which Transport Canada and contract inspectors are contributing, is working well.

  (1555)  

[English]

     Thank you very much. I'm sorry, but you're over time.
    We're on to Mr. Hardie.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Mr. Minister, I wanted to talk a bit more about the trade corridor funding. There was an item, I believe in one of the Vancouver papers, that decisions on the funding are eagerly awaited out on the west coast. Your department provided a list of some 40 bottlenecks that are in the way of a smooth flow of trade through what is a very complex region, in transportation terms, both between the domestic flow of goods, services, and people, and of course trade in and out of the two major ports.
    On what basis are you going to make decisions, then, regarding which projects to support with the funding?
     That's a very good question, and it allows me to link back to the movement of grain, which was brought up by Ms. Block at the beginning and is very important. Most western grain goes to the west coast. There's some that goes to Thunder Bay, and some goes to the United States, but the vast majority goes to Vancouver and up to Prince Rupert.
    As you know, the port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada, and there are some bottlenecks in the Lower Mainland. One of the things that will help with the movement of grain, ultimately, will be to reduce the number of bottlenecks. It's not just grain, of course; it's also potash, forestry products, mineral products, and containers. It's a variety of products that we move. About $200 billion moves through the port of Vancouver every year.
    We're looking at it from the point of view of how we get the best bang for our buck—if I can put it that way—in terms of addressing specific bottlenecks. We can't address everything because we don't have enough money to do that, but we want to focus on those that will make the movement of all those goods the most fluid possible. We're spending a great deal of time trying to come up with the right ones so that when products move to the west coast, they move as efficiently as possible with the least amount of delay.
    I don't know if it is fair to ask you to comment on this, but do you have confidence in the degree of planning, especially integrated planning, between all of the complementary pieces on the west coast?
    I do indeed. As you may know, the national trade corridors fund is not just 100% federal money: it is partly federal money, but it is also provincial money. It is also, in some cases, private sector money, and it could be municipal money. That should tell you that a lot of parties are talking together because they have a mutual interest in eliminating a problem, and that is the approach that is being taken.
    We will prioritize those projects for which the funding has been assured by the all of the other partners, and that usually happens for projects where there is the greatest deal of concern about the bottlenecks.
    I wanted to talk a bit about grain. As you pointed out, this committee did quite a bit of work looking at rail operations. Through this committee, we brought forward some recommendations to the effect that, for the first time, there be reciprocal penalties on the railways for failure to meet performance agreements with shippers and farmers.
    I would want some kind of speculation, I suppose, about what would have happened in the current situation in the Prairies had those reciprocal penalties been applied to the railways.
    Well, to some extent it's speculative, but there's no question that one of the major accomplishments of Bill C-49 is that it will provide more options to shippers—who, in some cases, are in the situation of being located where there's only a single railway—and ultimately to the farmers who supply them, because they will have reciprocal penalties in place.
    There's a new definition of “adequate and suitable service”, and there are a number of other measures. You have seen it yourself, because you received the testimony during 30 hours in September from a whole bunch of people who provided you with input.
    The feedback I've received from many of them is that this was a bill that tried to achieve that balance in terms of not only addressing long-standing shipper grievances but also ensuring that we still had the capability for our railways to be able to continue as businesses. They need to invest in new infrastructure. They need to continue to provide service for the movement of all those goods across the country. I think we ended up with a bill coming out of this committee that was a really well-balanced bill, and I hope that will be the case when it comes out of the Senate.

  (1600)  

     Thank you very much, Mr. Garneau.
    We go on to Mr. Badawey.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Thank you, Minister and team, for being here today.
    I have to congratulate you, Minister. You've put a lot of legislation through in the past year, as well as what your vision is now. It is long overdue.
    I want to touch on and speak about some of the topics that Mr. Hardie brought forward as they relate to trade corridors.
    Can you give us some information and an update on your vision with respect to the different layers that you've established when it comes to the national transportation strategy—trade corridors, modernization of ports, infrastructure investments—and working with our municipal, private sector, regional, provincial, and territorial partners? I heard in your opening remarks about innovation and modernization. I heard economic enhancement. I heard strategy integration and, once again, infrastructure investments. Obviously they will allow us to perform much better on a global economic stage.
    Can you comment on that and where you see us going in 2018, 2019, and beyond?
    Thank you.
    I will try to encapsulate what Transportation 2030 is, which is the document that guides us. There are a number of objectives with respect to our transportation system. I've said many times that I regard our transportation systems in this country as absolutely crucial for the economy. In fact, I regard transport as an economic portfolio.
    How efficiently we move our goods determines ultimately in part the economic prosperity of the country. We're a trading nation. The people we market to across the world have other choices. Among other things, the quality of our products and our trade agreements are important, but unless we get the goods to them in an efficient way, they're going to go look elsewhere. It is very important. It's also important to move people efficiently, and that's why the national trade corridors fund is an example of trying to make the system more efficient.
    Second, from an environmental point of view, we live in a world today where we have to recognize that 24% of the greenhouse gases produced in Canada come from transportation. The majority do come from cars and trucks, about 80%, but railways, airplanes, and ships also provide their contributions, if I can put it that way. Trying to move towards cleaner transportation modes is part of our agenda as well.
    The third is innovation. Innovation is important not only in terms of.... It helps in a host of manners if we're talking about any mode of transport. If you're moving towards more innovative modes of transport, they probably will be more efficient in terms of fuel economy. They'll probably be cleaner. Those are also important.
    Another element that I would like to mention about our coasts and our northern territories and the Arctic, of course, is a focus on marine safety, a focus on trying to ensure that those coastal areas and the Arctic remain places that are attractive for people, not only as tourists but as people who live by the sea and from the sea. We are trying to satisfy our coastal first nations on the west coast and our Inuit in the north in such a manner that they can continue with the quality of life that they expect.
    Those are, overall, the general guiding principles behind the Transportation 2030 vision.

  (1605)  

    Great. Thank you, Minister.
    The last question is with respect to VIA Rail. We have here $134.5 million to provide safe, reliable, and efficient passenger rail surface in the most cost-efficient manner. Can you comment a bit on why and how? Why is there this investment, and how is it going to enhance travel for the customer?
    Many people don't know this, but the Government of Canada subsidizes VIA Rail in this country. When you buy a ticket, if you are in the corridor between Quebec and Windsor, where there is 94% of the travel, there is a certain amount of federal subsidization. If you're in other parts of the country, the subsidization is in the hundreds of dollars per ticket.
    One of the reasons we want to go to a new fleet in the Windsor-Quebec corridor is that it will be more efficient and hopefully will cost less.
    The concept of high-frequency rail, which we're looking at, has the potential, if we can satisfy ourselves that many more people will take the train, of making VIA Rail more self-sustaining so that less money will be required from the federal government by VIA Rail.
    We know that passenger service is important to Canadians, but we would like to make it as competitive as possible. We would like to get, if possible, to the point where we can diminish the federal subsidies. We're not there yet.
     Thank you very much.
    We move now to Mr. Chong.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Thank you, Minister, for appearing in front of us.
    You're asking in the interim estimates for some $82 million for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority and for authorities to enter into commitments for up to $196 million. I have a few questions about that.
    What is the status of Manny Moroun's bridge project since you granted a permit to him last September for a second bridge at that crossing? What's the status of his project?
    With respect, by the way, the Gordie Howe bridge comes under Minister Sohi at the moment. I think once it's built, it will come under me.
    I understand.
    It's an infrastructure project at the moment.
    With respect to the Ambassador Bridge, at the moment it is the main crossing bridge between Windsor and Detroit. The decision was made, given the age of the current bridge and the application from the owner of the bridge, for us to allow a replacement bridge.
    What is the status of that replacement bridge project? Have they begun construction? Are they going to?
    No, they have not begun construction.
    When are they going to begin construction?
    I don't know exactly when. However, it will be under very specific conditions, which I'm happy to give you at any time.
    When is construction on our bridge, Canada's bridge, going to begin?
    You will have to ask Minister Sohi that. I'd rather not answer on his behalf.
    Okay.
    Let me ask you a broader question, then, because this relates to cabinet decisions.
    We're building another bridge as well in this country—“we” being the Government of Canada, your government. That's the Champlain Bridge. It's costing some $4 billion, and your government made a decision to waive the tolls on that bridge, effectively passing that cost along to taxpayers across the country.
    Is your government contemplating waiving the tolls on the Gordie Howe bridge that crosses between Detroit and Windsor?
    No, it will be a toll bridge.
    I don't see how that's fair. The people of southwestern Ontario deserve to be treated equitably.
    I will explain it.
     If the federal government is building two $4-billion bridges, and one is paid for out of general revenues and the cost of the other is being borne by the people crossing that bridge, I don't see how that's fair to the people of southwestern Ontario, for whom this bridge is the single most important bridge crossing.
    You're talking about the Gordie Howe bridge.
    That's right.
    That's between Canada and the United States.
    That's right, but it's the single most important bridge in the province of Ontario. Twenty-five per cent of all merchandise trade between Canada and the United States passes over that bridge, and it is an incredibly important bridge crossing, just as the Champlain Bridge is for the people living on the south shore of Montreal who need to commute to the Island of Montreal.

  (1610)  

    Let me explain why.
    Let me just finish my point.
    The other thing I can't understand is why your government and you in particular granted a permit to Manny Moroun to build a second bridge, taking the capacities of bridge crossings at Windsor-Detroit from four lanes to 12 or possibly 16 lanes in an era when cross-border traffic at that border crossing has plummeted by some 40% over the last decade, putting at risk the very financial viability of the Gordie Howe bridge and essentially forcing the people of southwestern Ontario to pay much higher tolls in order to compensate for this drop in traffic in order to ensure that this bridge can be paid off.
    I don't understand why you granted that permit last September. I didn't think the answer that you gave to our committee last time was satisfactory. Your government has denied permits for large infrastructure projects in this country, such as Enbridge's northern gateway project, a $7.9-billion project that was in Canada's interests, yet your government and you in particular have granted a permit to an American who has for 40 years worked against Canada's interests at that border crossing, putting our trade at risk.
    I don't understand why you granted that permit when your government has denied permits for other large major infrastructure projects in this country.
    Madam Speaker, is there time for me to answer that?
    You have 30 seconds and I'm willing to give you another 30 seconds, so I'll give you a minute.
    Thank you.
    First, on the Champlain Bridge, we announced our policy in the 2015 election. We said we would not toll the bridge. Our policy is if it's a replacement bridge, we don't toll it. It's replacing the existing bridge, as opposed to being a brand new bridge. Of course, the Gordie Howe bridge is a brand new bridge and will be an extremely important artery for the movement of goods between Canada and the United States. Our projections are that we do need two bridges. We've said that right from the beginning.
    Again, for the benefit of everyone, we will be allowing the current Ambassador Bridge to be replaced by a new bridge under very specific conditions with respect to what changes need to be made where the bridge lands on the Windsor side and also with respect to the fact that the existing bridge will have to be closed before the new bridge opens.
     Thank you.
    Mr. Iacono, go ahead.

[Translation]

    Madam Chair, if the minister would like to say more about this, I could give him a few minutes of my time. I would be happy to let him answer the question a bit more in depth.
    I think that I have pretty much answered the question.
    Mr. Chong and I have differing opinions on the need to have two bridges. We firmly believe that we need two bridges. We will build the international Gordie-Howe Bridge, a project initiated by the previous government, Mr. Chong's government. We recognize the importance of having a second bridge, but only under certain conditions.
    Once the new bridge has been built, it will lead to the shutdown of the existing bridge, which is 90 years old and part of which is already closed because it is unsafe.
    Thank you, Minister.
    First, as a former VIA Rail employee, I would like to thank you for the good news you announced on Monday.
    The Government of Canada is continuing the implementation of its successful long-term plan that prioritizes travellers by replacing its fleet for the Quebec-Windsor corridor. Our railway transportation network is booming. In 2016, VIA Rail experienced a 4.1% increase in ridership, and a 9.5% increase in passenger revenues compared with 2015.
    Do you think the request of $134.5 million will help maintain that growth? Could you elaborate on how that money will be used?
    Thank you for your question.
    According to what I've been told, over the past four years, VIA Rail's number of passengers has increased, slowly, but in the right direction. People are starting to pick the train more often. We hope that will continue, as it provides an important comfortable alternative. We studied that when we looked into the high-frequency train concept.
    As for the $134 million, we think the money will help VIA Rail continue to provide the same level of service. However, as you know, we have decided to start replacing the fleet as of 2022. About a year will be needed to select the contractor. After that, the company that wins the contract to build passenger cars and locomotives will start manufacturing them, so that the first cars would be available in 2022 and so that we would have an entirely new fleet by 2024.

  (1615)  

    Will a percentage of that amount be set aside for safety and the railway?
    We always ensure to meet safety standards, just as VIA Rail does. As you know, 97% of the railway itself does not belong to VIA Rail, but rather to CN. Only a small portion belongs to VIA Rail.
    Another concept will be implemented with the high-frequency train. Over a good portion of the Quebec-Windsor corridor—not 100%, but a good portion—VIA Rail will have its own railway, which will enable trains to travel more quickly and not have to stop to let a CN freight train pass.
    Aside from faster travel, will that new modern fleet provide anything else to travellers?
    Absolutely.
    First, it will be more reliable because new equipment will be used.
    Second, it will be more accessible. Currently, one place on a train is reserved for someone in a wheelchair. According to the contract, the mandate is to have three spaces for those individuals, in addition to having a small elevator that will enable someone in a wheelchair to get on the train, more accessible washrooms and devices to enable people with hearing problems to get safety instructions visually. So we are emphasizing accessibility.
    In addition, the new locomotives will help reduce the smog they cause by 85% and reduce greenhouse gases by 5%. There are other important considerations, such as the fact that locomotives will be bidirectional. That way, when a train arrives from a location and wants to return there, it will not have to be turned around. That will help save time, in addition to potentially having dual-mode locomotives—which would use diesel and electrical power—in case the railway system gets electrification later on.

[English]

     Thank you very much, Minister Garneau.
    We'll move on to Mr. Liepert.
     I have one question that I think should be a one-word answer, and then I'd like to turn it back over to my colleague, Mr. Chong.
    My question is with respect to the community participation funding program, for which $3.4 million is being requested. I'm looking at the criteria to access these funds. Among the criteria, eligible activities include “funding to reimburse the costs of coordinating, preparing for and participating in engagement activities....”
    I'd like you to assure Canadians, Mr. Minister, that not one cent from this program will go to individuals or organizations that act illegally or that encourage illegal activity with respect to the Trans Mountain pipeline or any other energy project.
    As you know, budget 2017 provided $1.5 billion in funding over five years to Transport Canada and several other departments to implement the Government of Canada's oceans protection plan. Grants under this element of the OPP assist indigenous and local communities in understanding, identifying, preventing, or mitigating potential effects of marine transportation on their communities. The initiative enables those communities to work collaboratively with federal and other stakeholders, share their knowledge and expertise, and contribute to the development and improvement of Canada's marine transportation system.
    Let me drop my notes for a second and be very much more explicit. We need to engage our indigenous peoples, especially in coastal areas, because they have an expertise from living there for thousands of years. They're often the first responders when there are incidents. We need their help, they want to help, and we are going to use their help. This is something that has never been done, but I think it is one of the things that I am most proud of with respect to our government, and that is engaging coastal first nations—and of course we're going to do everything the proper way.

  (1620)  

    Well, I don't know that you answered my question.
    Can you guarantee that no funds from this program will go to organizations that encourage or participate in illegal activity relative to Trans Mountain or any other energy project?
    Well, we don't condone illegal activities as a government.
    So the answer is “no”.
    I would say to you that we do not condone illegal activity in this country.
    Okay.
    Mr. Chong, go ahead.
    Thank you.
    Madam Chair, how much time is there?
    [Inaudible—Editor] minutes, which would include an answer if you would like one.
    Sure. I would note, though, Madam Chair, that the time allotted to members is not simply for questions. It's also for commentary—
    Of course.
    —so.... I appreciate that, Madam Chair.
    I want to go back to the general bridge policy of the government, since you're also asking for money for The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited.
    In the argument you've given to us that the Champlain Bridge toll is not going to be applied because it's not a new bridge could arguably be applied to the Confederation Bridge that crosses the Northumberland Strait from the mainland to Prince Edward Island. Residents there have to pay $46.50 to cross that bridge, and that is arguably not a new bridge. The deal in Confederation was that P.E.I. would have a permanent link to the mainland. That was constitutionally guaranteed. It was part of the deal that brought Prince Edward Island into Confederation post-1867. Therefore, arguably, that "new" link, that Confederation Bridge, is not a new link. It just replaces an older link, which was the ferry service.
    The argument the government makes that we're going to waive tolls on one bridge that we own in this country but not on other bridges that we own—others that cost billions of dollars a year—to me sounds like pure politics.
    It's not fair to the people of the region that I live in, the people of Wellington County and the people of Halton Region, who depend heavily on a manufacturing industry that has supply chains that are closely linked with manufacturing sectors in the American northeast. Why do we have to pay tolls on our bridges, or why do Prince Edward Islanders have to pay a toll on their bridge, yet people living in another part of the country don't? It doesn't seem fair to me.
    I think the concept of equity and fairness for all Canadians, particularly in a country so regionalized, is incredibly important. I'd like a better answer or at least maybe an indication that the government is going to reconsider their bridge policies in respect of the waiving of the tolls on the Champlain Bridge.
    I would also note that the Champlain Bridge actually was tolled well into the seventies or eighties, and those tolls helped pay for the original construction of that bridge. It was only when the bridge had been largely paid for that the federal government decided to lift those tolls. There was a principle at play here, and I don't believe it's being followed by the current government.
     Thank you very much, Mr. Chong.
     Go ahead, Minister Garneau.
    In reply, it's very simple. We made a decision that we would not toll the Champlain Bridge because it's going to replace the bridge that is due for disposal as soon as the new bridge opens. With respect to the Confederation Bridge, it did replace one ferry, but there's a ferry service to Prince Edward Island that still operates.
    Ms. Sansoucy, we can squeeze in one question for you.

[Translation]

    Of course, we could continue our discussion on aviation safety.
    The latest statistics published by the Transportation Safety Board point to an increase in accidents in commercial air transportation. However, there is no additional funding in Budget 2018 for the aviation safety program. Since 2015, your department has even cut the aviation safety program's funding by 12%.
    Earlier, you told me you felt that the track record has been positive, but it is difficult for me to understand how an inspection budget can be reduced when the accident rate is increasing.

  (1625)  

    Ms. Sansoucy, the only thing I can tell you to reassure you—and I have probably said this a few hundred times in the House of Commons—is that safety is my priority. I can assure you that, if I had any doubts regarding safety, I would not accept the current situation. However, I do accept it because we have an intelligent and pragmatic system based on risk—a system that works.
    Do I have time to ask a quick question?
    There are inspection reports on the safety management systems of Canadian airline companies. Can those reports be released proactively?
    Would you please repeat your question?
    There are inspection reports on the safety management systems of Canada's airline companies. Companies are currently engaged in a lawsuit because they are concerned that Transport Canada is releasing those reports, under the Access to Information Act. That would be important information.

[English]

     That's a very good question. We seek to be quite transparent in the civil aviation inspection program. There are some points of information that are confidential, where the confidentiality advances the inspection oversight program, but some of it needs to be public. We could get back to the committee on exactly what information is available and what can be made available. We could return that quite quickly.

[Translation]

    I think it would be useful to provide that information, or a good portion of it, to the committee members.
    We will do that.
    Thank you.

[English]

    Thank you very much. The members thank you, Minister Garneau, and your officials for being with us today. The hour is up. As you move out, another minister will move in.
    It went so fast.
    Thank you all very much for being here. We will suspend for a minute or two.

  (1625)  


  (1630)  

     I call the meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities back to order.
    We will now continue with our study of the subject matter of interim estimates 2018-2019: votes 1, 5, and 10 under Office of Infrastructure of Canada; vote 1 under the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated; and vote 1 under the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.
    We are delighted to welcome the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. Minister Sohi is accompanied by his officials: Ms. Darlene Boileau, assistant deputy minister for corporate services and chief financial officer, as well as Ms. Kelly Gillis, deputy minister for infrastructure and communities.
    For the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges, we have Mr. Claude Lachance, senior director, administration.
    For the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, we have Ms. Linda Hurdle, chief operating office, as well as André Juneau, interim chief executive officer.
    Welcome, everyone, to our committee. We appreciate your being here.
    Mr. Sohi, please begin your opening remarks.
     Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me and our staff to speak with you today about Infrastructure Canada's interim estimates.
    I want to start by talking to you about what my department is doing to build and support strong and inclusive communities where everyone has access to the opportunities they need to thrive. You have already introduced my staff members, so I won't do that.
    The government has been working closely with our provincial, territorial, and municipal partners to deliver on our commitments to make historic investments in infrastructure. As you know, we are investing more than $180 billion in infrastructure projects across the country through the investing in Canada plan. Our plan aims to help grow the economy; support the middle class; build inclusive, accessible communities; and support low-carbon, green, and sustainable investments.
    The first phase of our plan was focused on rehabilitation and upgrades to existing infrastructure. It supported the design and planning stages of new large-scale light rail projects in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta.
    Through these early investments we made, cities like Halifax are benefiting from the 29 new buses they bought using investments from the public transit infrastructure fund. These new buses are fully accessible, meaning that all residents of Halifax can benefit from them. In Manitoba, communities are benefiting from 23 water projects, such as the construction of a new reservoir and pumphouse in the Rural Municipality of West St. Paul. These projects are keeping Manitoba's waterways clean and the communities healthier and livable.
    Over the past two years, my department has approved over 4,100 projects for a combined investment of over $35 billion across all of our programs. Based on the information that our partners have provided us, more than 90% of these projects are under way.
    We have also made considerable progress on the new Champlain Bridge project. This new bridge is one of the largest infrastructure projects in North America. It will have a lifespan of 125 years once it is completed. Construction of the new bridge is now more than 65% complete. We continue to work closely with our private partner, Signature on the Saint Lawrence, with the objective of opening the bridge this December.
    We have also significantly advanced the Gordie Howe International Bridge project in Windsor-Detroit, which will allow for a vital and more efficient trade corridor for Canada and our biggest trading partner, the United States. To date, we have completed significant preparatory work. The proponent will be announced in June. I'm pleased to say that the construction of the bridge will start this fall.
    We are moving forward with the smart cities challenge. It was launched in November of last year and is now under way, with communities across the country submitting their applications. Finalists will be announced this summer.
    Overall, we have made great progress on some key immediate infrastructure needs, and now we are focusing on the long-term, transformational aspect of our plan. We are working with our partners on their long-term investments in key priority areas such as public transit; green infrastructure; community, culture, and recreation infrastructure; and rural and northern communities infrastructure.
    I am currently working closely with our provincial and territorial partners to reach new bilateral agreements that will see more than $35 billion in federal funding invested across Canada over the next 10 years. I'm pleased to note that, to date, we have signed bilateral agreements with the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and New Brunswick. I have confidence that we will finalize the majority of the remaining agreements in the coming weeks. The budget also provided the updated funding profiles for our programs, which reflect the interim estimates we are discussing today.
     I want to be clear: all of the funding in our plan remains available for the projects and programs to which it is allocated. We have committed to more than doubling our infrastructure investments, and that commitment stands. Our programs are designed to flow funds only when claims are submitted to the department by our partners. The budget provides an update on the forecast for when we expect to receive and reimburse those claims.

  (1635)  

    Thank you so much for having me here today.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Sohi.
    We move to Mr. Chong for five minutes.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
     Thank you, Minister Sohi, for appearing in front of us today.
    I first have a comment about your infrastructure plan, and second I have a few questions about the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority and federal bridge policy in general.
    My comment on infrastructure is that during the last election you promised, among other things, three things in particular for infrastructure. The first was that you would run deficits of no more than $10 billion a year in order to fund historic investments in infrastructure, which was the second commitment, and the third was that any unspent money, any lapsed money, would be transferred into the gas tax fund to top it up.
    Instead, what I see here in the estimates and also in the most recent budget is that your deficits are much larger than $10 billion a year and that you're not spending the money that you promised on infrastructure. In fact, last week the Parliamentary Budget Officer said approximately one-quarter, 25%, of the money promised is not being spent. That money, in the government's language, has lapsed and is being reprofiled for future years—much of it after the next election, I would note—so two of these commitments are not being met.
    The third commitment is also not being met. While there was some modest transfer in the last while into the gas tax fund of lapsed, unspent money, you're not fulfilling your commitment to transfer everything that was lapsed, everything that was unspent, into the gas tax fund to be transferred to municipalities across this country. I just make note of that, because I think Canadians clearly voted for that in the last election. They elected a majority government, but this commitment, these three commitments, are not being lived up to.
    I have a few questions about the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority. Thank you for the information that the proponent is going to be selected shortly and that construction will begin in the fall of this year. That's good news.
    I have a few questions, though, regarding the general policy of the government with respect to the tolling of federal crown corporation bridges.
    We built, some years ago, a bridge crossing the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island, which cost in excess of $1 billion. That bridge was in part to uphold our constitutional obligation to P.E.I.'s entry into Confederation to provide a year-round link to the mainland. The people who use that bridge have to pay $46.50 to cross it. I've actually used it a number of times, and it's expensive. It's not cheap to cross. You pay the toll one way, but it's still an expensive toll to pay.
    We have a proposed toll, which is yet to be announced, on the Gordie Howe bridge, which is going to be quite high, I think, because the costs are now estimated to be upwards of four and a half billion dollars.
    Then we have a third bridge that is also owned by a federal crown corporation. It crosses the St. Lawrence River, connecting the south shore of Montreal to the Island of Montreal, and that bridge was once tolled. That toll paid for the construction of the original bridge. We're now building a replacement bridge, but there's no toll on that bridge.
    I don't see how that's fair to the people that I represent in Wellington County, Halton region, and southwestern Ontario, who are being asked now to pay the toll for the most important bridge crossing in this country by far, the Windsor-Detroit bridge crossing. I don't see how it's fair to the people of Prince Edward Island, who have to pay this toll of $46.50 to cross to the mainland when in another region of the country there is no toll because the government made a decision that makes no sense to waive the toll just for the residents of that particular region.
    I'd like the minister to explain the rationale behind federal bridge policy and tolling.

  (1640)  

     We are proud that we are building the Champlain Bridge and that we are making it toll free. The decision to impose a toll was made without any consultation with the City of Montreal or with regional municipalities or with the business community or with the people who will be using this bridge.
    This is a replacement bridge. The Champlain Bridge is not a new bridge. People in Montreal use the existing bridge without paying for it. That's the reason this bridge will not have a toll.
     Gordie Howe International Bridge is a new crossing. There is nothing that is owned by the federal government. It's a private bridge that people pay to use.
    The distinction we make is this: when we are replacing existing infrastructure for which Canadians are not paying, we do not charge a toll. We charge a toll where we're building something new, and there's a price to that.
    On gas tax funding, let me make it clear that when we got into government, there was close to $1 billion unspent, unallocated, from the previous government, and we gave one year to all the proponents to give us the projects to be funded through those dollars. I'm proud to say the majority of those dollars are now attached to the funding. There was some funding that remained, and we transferred that to the gas tax.
    I respectfully disagree with my colleague that we are not delivering infrastructure. I'm proud that we have given approval to so many projects in the last two years—4,100 projects with a combined investment of $35 billion. Almost 90%, or more than that, based on the information we have, are under way. Those are projects creating jobs in communities. I have given examples of some projects. Close to 2,000 new buses are being bought with those investments. Water systems are being replaced. Cultural recreational facilities are being upgraded.
    We're delivering on all of the commitments we made.

  (1645)  

    Thank you very much, Minister.
    We'll go on to Mr. Sikand.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Minister, I would like to start off by thanking you. You recently made an announcement in Mississauga for funding for transit. I think it was close to $339 million under the bilateral agreements. Thank you for that. I've heard positive feedback, as it's going to help improve MiWay. People in my riding use that service heavily.
    Turning to my question, my colleague mentioned the PBO report. Minister, I would like to ask you a question in regard to reprofiling. We've read about the reprofiling of infrastructure funding lately. I feel this is something Canadians don't quite understand. Could you please elaborate?
    First of all, congratulations on the funding. That $338 million will leverage close to $1 billion in investment in public transit in Mississauga. We are proud of that.
    That's a very good question you're asking. We appreciate and acknowledge the report from the PBO, because this is a challenge we have faced. This is not a new challenge. It's the same practice that previous governments have followed—namely, once we approve a project, there's funding attached to that project, but it takes a number of years for the project to actually be completed. We have to wait until the project is completed. Then the project proponents, which are sometimes provinces and municipalities, have to wait until we get the invoices to pay out the funding, the federal share of that commitment, at the project's completion.
    For example, we have approved a large project for the City of Calgary, the southwest ring road. The construction is happening, jobs are being created, work is being done, and the funding we have attached to that project has not been paid out yet. The reason is that we will have to wait until the project is completed before we get the invoices. What we have to do is continue to reprofile that funding into future years. That's the challenge we have, and we are trying to figure out the solutions.
    Thank you. It makes sense to me.
    I want to circle back to the funding announcement you made in Mississauga. Could you elaborate on how the bilateral agreements tend to work?
     I take a lot of pride in the way we work so closely with provinces, municipalities, territories, indigenous communities, and many other partners, because this is a shared responsibility. We make the funding available, but it is actually the proponents, our partners, that build that infrastructure. In your case, Mississauga will be building that infrastructure.
    In order for us to deliver on those commitments, we need to work with them. That's why bilateral agreements that we are signing are so transformational in how we give them the flexibility. We empower local decision-making and we come to the table as partners.

  (1650)  

    You have two minutes left, but we'll move on. If no one is picking up your time, I'm on to—
    Whoa.
    Well, then be prepared, because we have a tight schedule.
     I'll pass the remainder of my time to my colleague.
    We have two minutes that are being eaten up, so....
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Thank you, Minister, for being here today, as well as members of your team.
    It was mentioned by the opposite side, by the Conservatives, that the recommendation is to bring some of the infrastructure funding into the gas tax. I want to go to that, because I'm sure there's a reason for it. In my former life as a mayor, I recognized how valuable the gas tax was, but at the same time, I recognized how valuable this sustainable funding envelope, the $186 billion that you've announced, is and will be moving forward. Could you explain the difference?
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the gas tax contribution is 100% federally funded, whereas the $186 billion can be equated to or equalled up to $558 billion when you factor in the ability to leverage with the provinces, the territories, and the municipalities. It's sometimes even more if you include the private sector.
    If you could elaborate on the benefits of that strategy versus simply having the 100%-funded gas tax, I would appreciate it.
    The commitment we made was that any lapsed funding will be transferred to municipalities through the gas tax funding. None of our current infrastructure funding has lapsed. It is either tied to the programs or tied to the projects that we have already approved, and those projects are going ahead. It would be very irresponsible to take that money and transfer it to the gas tax funding. Then how do you meet the commitment that you've already made to those projects? That's why we wait until the programs are wrapped up, and if there is any money then, we transfer it to the gas tax.
    You're right about the leveraging, and we leverage the majority of the funding. As I said, $336 million for Mississauga will generate $1 billion of investment into public transit.
    Thank you very much.
    Go ahead, Madam Sansoucy.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I want to say hello to the minister and those who are accompanying him.
    It will be my pleasure to ask you questions soon.
    That said, Madam Chair, I would first like to table a notice of motion presented by my colleague Robert Aubin, member for Trois-Rivières, on Friday, March 16. I will read it.
That the Committee undertake an emergency study of no less than three meetings on:
- the measures that the government intends to take in order to prevent any future delays in the implementation of infrastructure projects;
- the details on the progress of infrastructure projects to date; and
- a full update on the government's plan to spend $186.7 billion on infrastructure;
and that the Committee make recommendations and report to the House by June 2018.
    Madam Chair, I hope you will find unanimous consent among my committee colleagues for undertaking this urgent study.

[English]

    Madam Sansoucy, would you prefer to hold this until we do our committee business at 5:15?

[Translation]

    Yes, if the committee agrees.

[English]

    Even though this is all about infrastructure—

[Translation]

    There is no problem. I can start to ask my questions.

[English]

    We'll hold this down until committee business at 5:15, if that's all right with everyone.
    Thank you.
    Continue, Madam Sansoucy. You still have the floor.

[Translation]

    So I have five minutes starting now, Madam Chair?

[English]

     Yes, you do.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    We will begin with the Infrastructure Bank of Canada, Mr. Minister.
    What specific measures have you put in place to guarantee that both the managers and administrators of the Infrastructure Bank will not be in a conflict of interest when it comes to the bank's investment projects?
    I will tell you concretely why I am asking that question. Ms. Jane Bird is a senior business adviser in the Bennett Jones LLP law firm in Vancouver, an important Canadian law firm, where she provides advice to public and private sector clients about issues related to the development and execution of various infrastructure projects.
    Can you confirm to us beyond any doubt that the administrators' businesses will not profit from the Infrastructure Bank's investments?

  (1655)  

[English]

    Through you, Madam Chair, thank you so much for the question, and congratulations on your new role as critic for the infrastructure and communities portfolio, Madame Sansoucy.
     I can assure you that the process we undertake for the selection of board members, board chairs, or the CEO of the Canada Infrastructure Bank is open, transparent, and accountable, and vigorous screening is applied to any possible or perceived conflict. The rule for the chair or the CEO is that they will not have any vested interest in any projects that get reviewed or funded by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    My next question also concerns the Infrastructure Bank of Canada. James Cherry, one of the bank administrators, has spoken in favour of the privatization of airports. We simply want to make sure that the administrators who are appointed will not be promoting the privatization of airports.
    Have you abandoned the project to privatize airport authorities, or not?

[English]

    Through you, Madam Chair, the mandate of the Canada Infrastructure Bank is not to look at current infrastructure and privatize it; the mandate is to actually build new infrastructure, to only engage in building new infrastructure. We are very clear. The issue of airport privatization is not in the mandate of the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    I have a question for you, Madam Chair.
    We know that we will have to go and vote. I simply want to know how you will ensure that we vote on the motion before we go to the House.

[English]

    We have indicated to the minister that at 5:15 we would go into committee business. If we have unanimous support, of course, from the committee, even though the bells are ringing we'll be able to have 15 minutes of committee business.
    The first thing we'll do is vote on your motion.

[Translation]

    Okay. Thank you for that clarification.
    Let's continue.
    In the supplementary estimates (C) expenditures, which we are discussing today, we see that $2 million is proposed for the Infrastructure Bank. Can you tell us in detail what that amount will be used for?

[English]

    I'll ask Deputy Minister Kelly Gillis to respond.
     The money in the interim estimates for the Canada Infrastructure Bank is to support staff and some professional services in the transition and the opening of the bank. We have a very small transition team in supporting the bank and becoming operational.

[Translation]

    Very well. Thank you.
    Over the past five years, Infrastructure Canada has on the average spent $1.1 billion less per fiscal year than the amount authorized by Parliament. On the average, the unspent amounts represent 24.8% of the amounts approved. I am the member of Parliament for a riding made up of 25 municipalities that have enormous needs. Do you not find it problematic that Canadians are not benefiting from infrastructure funds that have been approved?

[English]

    Through you, Madam Chair, there's no funding that has lapsed in the infrastructure programs at all. What we are referring to is the reprofiling of funding that already has been approved for the particular projects, only until we are able to receive the invoices and pay their money out.
     We are very pleased to work with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as well as provincial and municipal associations. They're generally very happy with the way the infrastructure funding is being invested in their communities. As I said, we have approved a number of projects. After listening to the communities, we have also given them extended time to complete those projects, because they were feeling that under phase one there were so many projects that were being funded that they needed additional time to complete those projects. That's why we have given them additional time.

  (1700)  

     Thank you very much, Minister.
    We'll move on to Mr. Fraser.
    Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll be sharing my time with my colleague Mr. Hardie.
    Minister Sohi, thank you for being here.
    As you know and have been keen to discuss with me before, I primarily represent small towns and rural communities. When it comes to infrastructure funding, there are some historical challenges that the communities I represent have faced. The smaller they are, the bigger the challenge, it seems. The primary challenge is that historically there has been a requirement that these smaller communities chip in maybe a third of the cost of a project, for example. One of the things this leads to is that rural communities often miss out on having any presence of the federal government in their community, which particularly compounds the social problem of young people leaving our communities because they're less vibrant and they don't have access to the same resources that others do.
    Our rural caucus has been advocating for a change in the way we do things, to have a carve-out for small towns and rural communities and to change the share that small communities are required to contribute in order to access federal infrastructure funding. What's your plan to make sure that small communities like the ones that I represent in Pictou County and Antigonish on the eastern shore aren't left behind when it comes to federal infrastructure dollars?
    We appreciate the range of diversity that exists in our country, cultural and linguistic and geographical diversity, with our large-sized urban centres, mid-sized communities, small communities, and rural northern communities. We want to make sure that every community gets the necessary support from the federal government. That's why we have created this dedicated funding of $2.4 billion to support rural and northern communities on projects and also to get northern communities off of diesel and on to a more sustainable source of energy.
    You have identified something that we have heard very loud and clear from MPs as well as from mayors and councillors in small communities. What we are doing moving forward is that instead of having the cookie-cutter approach that every community must match one-third of the funding, the province must match one-third, and the federal government gives one-third, we are changing that formula for communities with populations of less than 5,000 people. The federal government will pick up the cost at 60% of the funding, and provinces will provide one-third of the funding. That takes a lot of pressure away from local communities. They will only contribute a small amount. Their tax base is very limited, and we feel this is a transformational change when it comes to supporting small, rural, and northern communities.
    Thank you, Minister. This is transformational. This is going to make a very big difference for me at home.
    Madam Chair, I'd like to share the remainder of my time with Mr. Hardie.
    Actually, I'll cede my first question to my colleague Angelo.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    Thank you, Minister.
    My question is very simple. It is about the Champlain Bridge. We know that it is an essential structure for the province of Quebec and for the economy. Today we are examining a request for $62.5 million. Could you explain in detail how that amount will be used?

[English]

    I'll ask my staff to talk about the amount, but as I said earlier, 65% of the work on Champlain Bridge is completed. If you drive by there, you can see the bridge emerging from the water. I think there are some pictures being passed around that you can look at on the funding appropriated in these estimates.
    Thank you for the question.
    As you see, in the estimates under capital expenditures, there's a total of $760 million. In our agreements on the Champlain Bridge, the majority of that—almost all of it, other than a very small component—will be going to our commitments to meet our proponent's payments for the construction of the bridge this year. All but $2 million will go to the payment that we are due to pay for bridge construction.
    I have a quick question for the home team here. I want to talk about Surrey's light rapid transit line. Using that as an example, you've had some questions about the money not being spent. Saying that you've announced it but it hasn't gone out the door is a little mischievous, I think, because many of the people who are asking the questions know full well how these things work.
    Using the Surrey LRT as an example, how much money are we dedicating to that project, and when will we actually run up and stuff it in somebody's pocket? When will we rush out there with a cheque and present our portion of that particular project?

  (1705)  

     Through you, Madam Chair, what we are doing to support Surrey's LRT project is that we have given approval for a funding commitment from the federal government for the design and planning work of that large infrastructure project. That work is being done.
    You're absolutely right, though, that the design work would not have proceeded without the federal government's commitment to that project. We haven't paid any money out yet because we have to wait for the invoices, right?
    It is very important to understand that such large projects cannot be possible if the federal government is not at the table to support the ambitions of local governments. That is why I am so proud that we are investing $29 billion in public transportation—LRT systems and subway systems—throughout the country to make sure that people are not stuck in traffic, that our air is clean, and that we are dealing with the pollution and the environmental degradation resulting from the changes in climate. Public transportation is very important.
    Thank you very much, Mr. Sohi.
    We'll go on to Mr. Badawey.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Minister, I have to say it is refreshing that at this level of government we're seeing a shift to a culture that takes partnership into consideration and takes into consideration being more of an enabler for our partners, the public, and the private sector to meet their strategic goals and therefore their outcomes.
    What I've heard today that you've been doing that by integrating investment for better returns on investments in environmental, economic, social, and cultural projects. They're very proactive projects.
    I too, as Mr. Sikand has alluded to, received $81 million for transit in Niagara, which was actually leveraged—once again, leveraged—to $148 million. That is the largest transit investment in the history of the Niagara region. We're very appreciative of that.
    My point is this, Minister: we're seeing a lot of these investments and, as I said earlier, there is a culture shift with respect to investments being made by taking into consideration all the different priorities of all the different ministries.
     We spoke with Minister Garneau earlier. We talked about the national transportation strategy. We talked about trade corridors. We talked about the ports modernization project. We talked about infrastructure investments attached to those recommendations that will satisfy the financial requirements. We talked about municipal strategic planning and private sector leveraging.
    In your words, how do you see everything coming together and meeting those four priorities, which are economic, social, environment, and cultural?
    Through you, Madam Chair, when we were designing the long-term infrastructure plan, we had all those objectives in mind. How do we create economic growth that benefits everyone? How do we build a stronger middle class? How do we provide opportunities for those Canadians who work hard each and every day to join that middle class and to build inclusive, welcoming communities? That's why everything we do is focused on those objectives.
    Another thing that is transformational is that our partners looked for long-term sustainable and predictable funding. This 10-year plan gives every municipality a 10-year horizon to know how much money they're going to get for those four areas of investment so that they can start planning and prioritizing the needs of the local communities. The ad hoc approach did not work in the past. This sustainable approach will help.
    Minister, regarding the announcement today of the $125 million facility that UPS is putting in place in Montreal, which will be 180,000 square feet, taking advantage of our infrastructure—mostly transportation, of course—how do you find that these investments you've made will help complement the investment that UPS is going to make in Montreal?
    Can you tell me what UPS is?
    It's UPS; that's right.

  (1710)  

    What is UPS?
    UPS, United Parcel Service, just announced a 180,000-square-foot facility today in Montreal.
    Do you find that the infrastructure investments that we—
    Absolutely.
    One thing we clearly understand is that infrastructure investments unlock and enable many other investments. Private sector investment is so critical and dependent on well-functioning and efficient infrastructure to move people, to move goods and services, and to invest in people, so that they are healthy people, enjoying the quality of life that attracts people to their communities.
    All those things that we do enable private sector investments into our country.
     Thank you very much, Minister.
    Go ahead, Mr. Liepert.
    Minister, you and I represent the same people, Albertans. If you aren't hearing it, I certainly am, and that is unhappiness in our province over equalization. We can't do much about that because there's a formula. I think there has been real hope in Alberta over the past couple of years that one way of levelling the playing field would be that Alberta could get some significant infrastructure dollars to put people back to work.
    You keep talking about approved projects. I don't expect you as a minister to know all of the projects specifically, but you are an Alberta member of Parliament. I'd like you to talk a little about some of the specific projects that are happening in Alberta, not the approved ones. Where are people working?
    You've been in office for two and a half years now. Where are people working in Alberta on projects that have come out of this deficit funding for infrastructure? Don't tell me about the ring road; that was money that was put into the pot before the last election. The Calgary ring road announcement of funding came with the Conservatives, so don't talk about the ring road.
    I'd like you to spend some time talking to my constituents, as an Albertan, and all of our constituents, about some of these major infrastructure projects in Alberta.
    Through you, Madam Chair, thank you for that question, and thank you so much for your passion for Albertans. I share that passion.
    I know that Albertans have gone through very difficult times for the last two or three years because of the decline in oil prices and the mismanagement of the previous governments. They did not manage the resources properly and did not invest those resources to create economies—
    Answer my question, Amarjeet.
    Since coming into office, we have approved a combined investment of $4 billion into Alberta's infrastructure. That is almost three times higher than the previous government did for Alberta in the last five years.
    Those projects are being built. There is an LRT project in my city that is under construction. There are waste-water investments that are being delivered now. There is roadwork being done on Highway 2. The design work is being done on Calgary's green line. All those things are happening in our communities. There are a number of other projects that I can identify for you.
    This government cares about Albertans. That is why we advanced $250 million in stabilization funding. That is why we provided $35 million to clean orphaned oil wells. That's why we extended EI benefits for laid-off workers, which has benefited thousands of workers—close to $400 million of investment in families and people. The Canada child benefit is close to $900 million for Alberta's families.
    We're doing what we can, and we're proud. I'm proud to be—
    I hope you'll be proud when you take it in 2019, Minister, because it isn't even close to the equalization efforts that Albertans are concerned about. You have not identified specific projects that Albertans are working on. You continue to talk about approved projects. We'll see whether Albertans give you any credit for it in the next election, sir.
    I'll turn the rest of my time over to Mr. Chong.
    There isn't more time, because we have committee business to do. I can suggest that we will have Minister Sohi back here shortly, and you'll have lots of additional time to ask questions.
     My apologies that we have to cut it short because of committee business. Otherwise we would have you for another 15 minutes.

  (1715)  

    Thank you so much once again for having me.
    Thank you so much to everybody. I'm going to suspend.
    Yes, madam.

[Translation]

    I have a request for you.
    In the interest of transparency—I know that this is a principle that is prized by the government—since I tabled the motion during the public meeting, I would like us to vote on the motion before the meeting ends. Otherwise we could do so next Monday.

[English]

    We have it before us. You've asked that we deal with this now.
     Is there unanimous consent to deal with Madame Sansoucy's motion in open session?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: We're all right with that.
    Minister, you're free to leave. Excuse us while we try to deal with this.
    Madame Sansoucy has already moved the motion. Is there any discussion or comment?
    We have Mr. Fraser, Mr. Badawey, then Mr. Chong.
     Excellent. Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Thank you for moving the motion. I'm inclined to support it, but I would like to move a mild amendment. There's some language that I find disagreeable, but it doesn't change the nature of what you hope to achieve.
    Specifically, I don't view this necessarily as an emergency. I think we're talking about $180 billion over a very long period. I would—
    Mr. Fraser, can I interrupt for one second?
    Certainly.
    The bells have started. I need unanimous consent to continue.
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: Okay, fine. Thank you. Keep going.

[Translation]

    Thank you.

[English]

    I would propose that we delete the word “emergency” and delete the words in the first bullet: “any future”. Otherwise, I am fine with the proposal and I think it's a good idea.
    Go ahead, Mr. Badawey.
    Once again, Mr. Fraser has read my mind.
    Okay.
    Go ahead, Mr. Chong.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I guess we're on the amendment to the motion.
    I'm comfortable with the amendment. I understand the amendment is to strike the word “emergency” and to simply have it read “That the committee undertake a study of no less than three meetings.” I'm comfortable with that amendment, whenever we vote on it.
    I strongly support the motion, whether it's amended or not. I think it's important that we study this issue. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has pronounced on this twice. There was a study last fall, and one last week, and I think it's clear that we need more information, in particular because the Parliamentary Budget Officer has indicated so. I think it's pretty important that we undertake this study and do it some time before we adjourn for the summer.
    Okay.
    Go ahead, Madame Sansoucy.

[Translation]

    I simply want to understand properly.
    If we amend the motion, this will not change the fact that if we want to make recommendations by June 2018, at the latest, we will have to begin this study very soon. We must not delay beginning the study, even if we remove the word “emergency” from the motion. Do I understand correctly? Even if we remove the word “emergency”, we will begin the study.

[English]

    Madame Sansoucy, I have already looked at the calendar. If we are going to delay the autonomous vehicles, we'll do it two weeks from next week. I'm suggesting that with the support of the committee, we start on autonomous vehicles on April 16, as soon as we come back—

[Translation]

    Very well. Okay.

[English]

    —because I recognize it's important for everyone. We would start that immediately.
    I'll work out the number of meetings that we can manage to do this, possibly up to the time when we would leave for the trip, providing the trip gets approved. That would give us sufficient meetings, and then we can continue on.
    Would that be all right?

[Translation]

    Thank you for those clarifications.

[English]

    All right.
    All those in favour of the amendment—
    I'm sorry—
    Oh, sorry, Mr. Liepert.
    We're still in the open session, by the way. We've never gone in camera.
    Yes.
    Was there only one change, just striking “emergency”? I thought I heard you say something about future delays.
    It was to strike the words “any future delays”. The reason—and I expect there's probably some disagreement as to my position on this—was that the language, to me, suggests there has been some delay that's serious enough to include in the motion. I don't necessarily see that being the case, so I wanted to frame it as a forward-looking one, rather than building an assumption into the motion.
    It just doesn't make sense. Read what that line would say after your proposed amendment, because—
     “Future”.
    What I was hoping it would say is “in order to prevent delays”.

  (1720)  

    So just take out “future”.
    Sure.
    So delete “future” and delete “emergency”.
    Perfect. Okay, thank you.
     Okay. We have to vote on the amendment first.
    All those in favour of the amendment?
    (Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    (Motion as amended agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
    The Chair: You indicated that next week we will do the two meetings on automated and connected vehicles.
    We're still in the open session, so we're going to do what we're doing. With respect to the ocean war graves, our analyst has suggested that if I were to write to Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard in regard to the ocean war graves, we might be able to solicit a bit more information for their report.
    Do I have the permission of the committee to send letters out seeking that information?
    I've suggested to the analysts that they have until we come back from Vancouver, if the trip is approved, to do that report, so they're not under pressure.
    Have I missed anything?
    If we go until April 29, that would give us five meetings on infrastructure. Would that be satisfactory to everybody? That's a lot of meetings on infrastructure. Is that all right?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: Okay, that's fine.
    I have a question.
    Yes.
     Maybe I haven't read my mail, but have you sent a witness list out yet for the hearings next week?
    Do you mean the ones for the automated vehicles?
    Yes.
    Yes. That was done some time ago. I think we had them when we had our witnesses. That's already done for the next two weeks for those meetings.
     We have that list, then.
    Yes. The clerk has the list.
    I wanted to raise the issue regarding what happened in Arizona last week. Are there witnesses who are going to talk about safety or unforeseen—I don't know what the wording would be. In light of what happened in Arizona last week, do we have witnesses who can maybe shed some light on how to solve that issue?
    If we share the witness list that we have put together...the clerk has been indicating to them that we wanted to go to the future. We know what the Senate report said. It was great, but we wanted to move beyond that. I'm sure they'll come prepared to respond to the accident that happened last week.
    Thank you.
    At least, I hope they will.
    Regarding the witness list, then, for our infrastructure study, we need to have them by March 29, which is next Friday. Can you please submit your witness lists for that study?
    Thank you all very much. The meeting is adjourned.
Publication Explorer
Publication Explorer
ParlVU