Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am proud to rise today to speak to a subject that is important and vital to the safety and security of Canadians, as well as our economy. The bill, as presented today, seeks to achieve multiple goals. It would modernize our ports to ensure a resilient supply chain at home, and it would secure our marine ports to keep Canadians safer. These changes would support Canada's economic recovery while taking an environmentally sustainable approach.
As we have heard from other members, the bill is very ambitious, but let me assure the House that all the goals are feasible and realistic. They come as a result of the ports modernization review that was launched in March 2018 by the then minister of transport. During the course of the review, many stakeholders were consulted, through various venues, such as ministerial round tables. The review focused on how ports could make progress on five key goals.
However, I want to focus on how this bill would enhance safety and security and help prevent contraband from being smuggled through Canadian ports, as well as facilitating the movement of legitimate commercial goods.
Over the course of consultations, we discussed potential safety and security issues at all our ports. As is the case elsewhere, the marine sector is not immune to organized crime activities, and that is why the Government of Canada is heeding this feedback and taking action. We have heard from stakeholders that the government needed to improve customs examination processes and reduce delays in getting Border Services officers to inspect cargo. That is precisely what we are proposing to do.
Stakeholders also highlighted a need for consistent standards for employee security screening at ports. This is precisely why our government is putting forward measures to increase efficiency in the presentation of containers for examination at marine ports to combat criminal smuggling efforts; reduce costs and delay for importers; increase the number of containers that would be secured from tampering on marine terminal property, through improved security measures; and increase the rate of compliance among trade chain partners by implementing additional measures to address non-compliance through penalties.
The changes I have listed would work in concert with the other measures included in this bill. They would allow our border services officers to accomplish their security mandate in a more efficient and effective way. This work would undoubtedly improve supply chain security and the flow of goods in and out of Canada's marine ports.
I know some members are asking themselves this: How would these measures impact the industry financially? These proposed measures are aimed at reducing delays and enhancing security, and they are expected to result in a long-term cost-saving opportunity for the entire trade community. This includes our importers, consumers and, ultimately, the Canadian economy.
I say this because the costs associated with the delays of examining containers and shipments subject to tampering are often passed on to the final consumer. Colleagues, this is a step in the right direction to ensure that all trade chain partners focus on improving security and efficiencies.
These changes may also improve the reputation and economic competitiveness of Canada's ports, because shipping delays and security vulnerabilities continue to have a negative impact. This is why the government expects strong support from the trade community, as the measures are aimed at addressing shipment delays and the associated costs, as well as improving supply chain efficiency. Allowing for more security at our ports and protection for Canadians and the economy should be reasons enough to support the measures.
Let me tell the House what would happen if we did not take these actions. As it stands today, the current legislative and regulatory framework does not provide the CBSA with authority to ensure containers are made available for examination in a timely manner or that adequate security measures are in place to prevent tampering prior to examination. A failure to examine incoming goods in a timely manner leaves commercial goods open to criminal exploitation. This places Canadians at risk, and it causes economic impacts to the trade community and to the wider Canadian economy.
Let me continue by saying these impacts are felt not only at home but also abroad by our international partners. Our issues can become their issues. They can translate into a lack of confidence in Canada's ability to secure its marine ports. That is why the changes proposed in this bill are integral to all parties at our marine ports, including the CBSA in carrying out its mandate for safety and security.
I want to reassure the House, the trade community and all Canadians that the CBSA continues to experience significant success from its ongoing interdiction efforts at our marine ports, despite the need for improvements. Our border officers are highly trained in examination techniques to intercept prohibited goods and illicit drugs being smuggled into Canada. Our officers look for any indication of deception and use intelligence, as well as a risk-management approach, to determine which goods may warrant a closer look. The seizures that are routinely reported by the agency demonstrate the crucial role that CBSA plays in ensuring public safety, but more can be done. That is why the government has put forward this bill to give our officers the tools they need to better complete their mandate.
With more measures in place and a requirement that high-risk containers selected for examination are kept in a dedicated secure area, our officers at the border would be better able to interdict contraband and prevent organized crime from tampering with containers before they have been inspected. The additional penalties and time limits would ensure goods are examined in the right place, which would lead to safer Canadian ports. I believe that anyone can get behind these measures to further secure goods and protect Canadians.
Madam Speaker, Canada's ports are indispensable links in our country's supply chains. In co-operation with other modes in the transportation network, they help grow our economy, create middle-class jobs for Canadians, deliver affordable goods and support Canada's growing export industry.
Canada's long-term prosperity is dependant on the competitiveness of this transportation network. This is, in part, determined by the reliability of each mode to move goods swiftly and cost efficiently. The ability to make data-driven decisions and the capability to plan for and make timely investments are critical. To ensure Canada's competitiveness now and into the future, ports require modernized tools and approaches to thrive in an increasingly global environment.
Other countries are pulling ahead of Canada. In the race to establish a fluid and agile transportation network, they have already established end-to-end systems, level approaches that consider each mode and link in the supply chain. All of this is informed by data and information sharing. To remain competitive, our government needs to adopt a comprehensive approach to supply chain planning.
Bill considers ports as central nodes in a complex, interdependent system and enables them to capitalize on their important position in Canada's intricate supply chain. The tools proposed in this bill would be informed by a cohesive data strategy that would enable prioritization of fluidity, responsiveness and agility.
A well-functioning transportation system requires and relies on the availability of vast amounts of data. Ports are nexuses where transportation modes converge. They present a unique opportunity to leverage untapped data to unlock and build an adaptable, responsive and resilient trade network. Furthermore, a resilient trade network requires continued development and growth to be provided through investment. To ensure that investments continue to serve the public as intended, they must be assessed against clear objectives.
The need to deliver a modern transportation network has never been clearer. Canadians are facing the rising cost of goods and services and product shortages. Inflation continues, and Canadians are struggling to keep up. Taking action to improve the competitiveness of the transportation network is key to making life more affordable for Canadians.
Bill seeks to enhance efficiency, facilitate data and information sharing, and maintain sustainable investment. These are the keys to ensuring that our transportation network continues to support Canada's economy and improve the life of every Canadian.
To that end, Bill would enable three competitiveness reforms that would provide ports with the tools and mandate to better manage traffic and ease congestion with the goal of enhancing gateway fluidity; empower port authorities, through the collection of data and information, to support efficient and informed planning to support resilient operations; ensure port investments align with public interests and that investments continue to be managed sustainably.
I will first speak to the need to provide ports with the tools and mandate to better manage traffic.
From end to end, ports and exports touch multiple transportation modes: marine, rail and road. These interdependencies make up Canada's transportation network, which requires a systematic approach to planning, development and traffic management. Bill would broaden the scope of the Canada Marine Act to mandate port authorities to work with the supply chain stakeholders to actively manage commercial traffic, including vessels anchoring while waiting for cargo, and allow for sequencing of rail services.
Ensuring that ports take a more direct role in traffic management would mean faster handling of ships, improvements to the fluidity of traffic flows at ports and maximizing the efficiency of supply chain operations. Additionally, the bill would enable Canada port authorities to create inland ports. Importantly, this would allow new ways of doing business that optimize terminal throughput, alleviate congestion in our urban centres and position our supply chains on a more resilient footing.
These tools would reframe the basis for collaboration between supply chain actors and Canadian port authorities. Port authorities would be empowered to take a more active role in managing the supply chain, including taking concrete actions to address congestion. However, unlocking the ability of ports to better manage traffic and ease congestion requires enhanced data and information sharing among partners.
The second main reform proposed is in support of greater competitiveness in data collection and information sharing among partners. Bill would allow ports to leverage data to better orchestrate traffic and inform port planning and smarter decision-making. As we look to best practices, governments and industry partners around the world have already improved efficiency, safety and productivity across entire supply chains by transforming their ports into data hubs. Canada needs to keep pace if we are going to remain a competitive trading nation.
As members of the House know, private investment has been a key to our competitiveness. This is also true for our ports. Private investment in our ports has been essential to the development of the port services we have today, and this will continue to be the case in the future. It is therefore critical that we continue to foster a clear and predictable investment climate while ensuring such activities support port sustainability and the public interest.
Bill would provide the government with more insight into strategic port investments by broadening the scope of reviewable transactions. Over the past number of years, Canada port authorities have called for greater financial flexibility to enhance their ability to harness investment and respond to development opportunities. Bill C-33 seeks to provide port authorities with increased borrowing and financial flexibility, balanced against the financial risks to the Crown and to Canadians. To that end, Bill C-33 would establish a triennial review of Canada port authorities' borrowing capacity.
In summary, the suite of measures found in Bill would provide the tools needed to optimize port operations, enabled by modern digital solutions, and maximize investment and capacity development grounded in clear rules that maintain ports as attractive and sustainable assets. Taken together, these measures would ensure that our ports remain resilient, efficient and competitive.
Canadians have witnessed first-hand the need for such reforms. I hope I can count on my fellow members of Parliament to support this bill.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the people of Skeena—Bulkley Valley in beautiful northwest B.C. and speak to the bill before us, Bill , an act to amend the Customs Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Canada Transportation Act and the Canada Marine Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act.
This is a fairly complex and technical bill, but really it focuses on Canada's supply chain. Canada is a trading nation, and the performance, resilience, efficiency and sustainability of our supply chain obviously have far-reaching impacts. This is something that was driven home just this past year with the atmospheric river events in British Columbia, the extreme climate occurrence that took out a good portion of the supply chain infrastructure in my province and caused some real concern and disturbance for the supplies that companies and citizens across our country require. There is also of course the impact of the pandemic on the supply chain. We saw during the pandemic a whole host of concerns, unfortunately very few of which are addressed in this bill. However, I do note there are some incremental improvements we can get behind.
I hope to focus my comments on the concerns I have heard from communities, from people in British Columbia and other parts of Canada who are impacted by the operation of the supply chain. The supply chain does not exist in a vacuum. It runs through places where people live. For years and years, people have been expressing concerns about the impact of the transportation of goods on their lives. I was somewhat dismayed to see that those concerns from citizens and the concerns from workers in the supply chain are not reflected in a more substantive way in the legislation before us.
The response to this bill has been rather tepid. As much as anything, the response has been that it is a missed opportunity to do something much more far-reaching and ambitious. However, as I mentioned, there are items in this bill that are supportable, so we look forward to seeing it get to committee where we can work with all parties to make amendments that strengthen its provisions.
I am going to focus my remarks on the portion of the bill that relates to changes to the Marine Act, that is, the operation of our ports, and changes to the Railway Safety Act, which is something very pertinent to the region I represent.
I will start with the topic of rail safety. I want to note at the outset that this year marks the 10-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy that took 47 lives and destroyed the downtown of a beautiful community. I came across comments from a fellow named Ian Naish, the former director of rail accident investigations with the Transportation Safety Board. He said in February that safety measures introduced since the Lac-Mégantic disaster have been “marginal”.
We also saw in East Palestine, Ohio, a major rail disaster that impacted thousands of people. In the wake of that disaster, Kathy Fox, the chair of Canada's Transportation Safety Board said, in referring to rail safety in Canada, “Progress is being made, but it's very, very slow. I can't say [Ohio] couldn't happen here.” These remarks should be of great concern to Canadians, because we see the volume of dangerous goods shipped by rail increasing every year.
I mentioned in my question to my colleague across the way a moment ago the work of the transport committee, on which both he and I sit. That committee, in May, released a report with 33 recommendations, and I am somewhat disappointed to see that this bill does not address any of them. One of our big concerns when it comes to rail safety is the use of something called safety management systems. This was brought in, I believe in the 1990s, under a Liberal government. Prior to that, there was a much more conventional approach to the regulation of the rail sector and the use of enforcement to do so. Safety management systems are really a form of self-regulation by the companies themselves.
This has been a concern for a number of watchdogs that keep track of changes in the rail sector. Since the Transportation Safety Board has kept a watch-list, this is a set of issues that are of concern and that Canadians should be watching when it comes to safety.
The Transportation Safety Board states, “operators that have implemented a formal safety management system (SMS) are not always able to demonstrate that it is working and producing the expected safety improvements.” I will also note some words from the Auditor General of Canada:
...Transport Canada was unable to show whether departmental oversight activities have contributed to improved rail safety. In addition, the department did not assess the effectiveness of the railways’ safety management systems—despite the many reports over the last 14 years recommending that Transport Canada audit and assess these systems.
The picture I am trying to paint is one in which the government has largely allowed these multi-billion dollar rail companies to look after their own safety, and the oversight of them has been sorely lacking. Particularly on the anniversary of the worst rail disaster in 150 years, Canadians should be concerned about that.
Bill does contain one small change giving the the ability to require companies to address deficiencies in their safety management systems. However, this is a discretionary power given to the minister and really relies on his or her willingness to use that power. At the very least, safety management systems should be made public. Currently, they are proprietary systems owned by companies and not open to public scrutiny.
Bruce Campbell, a rail safety expert who wrote a book on Lac-Mégantic and who has been looking into these issues for years, says, “Transport Canada must ensure that [safety management systems] are part and parcel of an effective, adequately financed, comprehensive system of regulatory oversight: [one-site] inspection, surveillance and enforcement supported by sufficient, appropriately trained staff.” He goes on to say that SMS, currently protected under commercial confidentiality, should be accessible to outside scrutiny. We would very much like to see the government make safety management systems public so that the public can see what railway companies are doing to ensure the safety of their communities.
It is incredible that small rural communities, like many in the riding I represent, are responsible for protecting their residents from potential disasters involving these multi-billion dollar rail companies that are shipping dangerous goods within metres of residents' houses. Many of these communities rely on small volunteer fire departments. They have limited equipment and capacity, yet we see hundreds of railcars with extremely volatile compounds being shipped right through communities every single day. It boggles the mind that the responsibility for responding to emergencies rests—
Madam Speaker, as I was saying, we need companies to be responsible for protecting communities from their commercial activities. I think that is very reasonable.
Moving on to the portion of the bill that deals with ports, these are some of the more substantive changes being proposed by the government. I will start by noting the importance of the Marine Act and ports to northwest British Columbia.
Of course, the riding I represent is home to the port of Prince Rupert. It is one of North America's fastest-growing ports. It is currently the third-largest port in Canada, and it is a port that has really transformed the face of that community over more than a decade. With incredible growth and expansion, it is now by far the largest employer in the community and has been bringing a lot of benefits to that place, and some concerns as well.
In 2022, the port of Prince Rupert moved 24.6 million tonnes of cargo through its facility, which is a pretty astonishing volume of goods. Of course, this has benefits and impacts up and down the supply chain. The community I live in, Smithers, which has long been a railway town, has hundreds of railroad workers who work for CN and are involved in the transportation of goods from the port.
Last year the port of Prince Rupert completed some exciting projects. There is the Fairview-Ridley connector road shore power project, which I will talk about in a moment, and work is under way on the South Kaien import logistics park. They are assessing the feasibility of a second container terminal, which reflects their really ambitious plans for growth.
The changes to the Marine Act we are looking at in the bill before us really reflect an attempt by the government to solidify the role of port authorities as public institutions and as publicly accountable entities. I think that is a worthwhile project, but we need to ensure that it is done effectively so that the changes actually result in more accountability, transparency and value to the Canadian public.
The changes to the Marine Act would include enabling port authorities to act as intermodal hubs and establish inland ports, and would establish a regulatory authority for traffic management and a streamlined review of port authorities' borrowing, although I would note the bill stops far short of doing what the port authorities are asking when it comes to their borrowing authority. The bill would require ports to provide more information on their activities and their decision-making to government; expand the eligibility of port authority boards and amend their membership; require them to submit publicly available strategic plans; require periodic reviews of port governance; and require them to establish advisory bodies for indigenous communities, local stakeholders and local governments. Finally, the changes to the Marine Act would establish a regulatory authority to require port authorities to set five-year climate plans and targets. I think that is important, and I will speak to it.
There is a difference between real accountability and window dressing, and I think the port association, which has expressed concerns about the added burden of these regulations, is right to be concerned if they do not effectively increase accountability and transparency. When we look at the advisory committees, for instance, I think there are many examples throughout our country of advisory committees that do not actually perform a substantive role, that are there as a sort of PR project and do not improve governance or adequately reflect the concerns of the community or the stakeholders who are being consulted. As such, for these changes to really have the effect the government is hoping they will, we believe there needs to be some degree of independence and there should be clear linkages to port authority decision-making.
A number of advisory committees are being called for in the legislation. The government is talking about requiring port authorities to set up three advisory committees. I was remiss in not mentioning the port of Stewart, a much smaller port in northwest B.C. but an important one nonetheless. For port authorities in smaller communities, the requirement to establish three different advisory committees might be more than is required. We need to look at how we can amend that to ensure that we are properly reflecting the need for additional consultation and the capacity of the community to provide that consultation.
Let us move on to the requirement for port authorities to set climate plans. I believe this is important. The activities of ports make a small but real contribution to Canada's overall emissions. There are great opportunities at ports to reduce emissions and drive down climate pollution. This requires the establishment of five-year climate plans. There is very little detail in the legislation as to what those plans would include. Our view is that, at the very least, five-year climate plans should align with the other climate accountability legislation the government has passed, legislation that we have worked hard to strengthen. It should also be consistent with Canada's national ambitions around reducing greenhouse gases and our international commitments.
As I mentioned, there are huge opportunities at ports to reduce the climate's impact and drive down emissions, and we are seeing some of those opportunities already realized in British Columbia. Shore power, in particular, is a mature, commercially viable technology that is used extensively throughout the world. Last year in Prince Rupert, the port authority embarked on a shore power project. Shore power essentially allows vessels to plug into electricity and not rely on their diesel auxiliary engines when they are tied up in the port being loaded or unloaded. This not only reduces particulate matter in the local community and improves air quality, but it reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
That project is going to make a huge difference. I believe the shore power project in Prince Rupert will reduce emissions by over 30,000 tonnes per year, which is incredibly significant. There is also a shore power project in Victoria at the cruise ship terminal there, which will see very similar benefits.
There is a need to decarbonize shoreside operations as well, including the container handling equipment. This is the equipment at the container terminal, which currently relies on diesel. That is a huge opportunity, not only to make the port's operation more efficient, but to drive down climate emissions. We also need to make parameters around climate planning more robust if this legislation is truly going to drive change. As I said, we need to align it with national ambitions and international obligations.
I will turn back to some of the pieces around accountability and representation when it comes to port governance. One thing we need to recognize, and I am not sure if it is adequately recognized in this legislation, is the central role workers play in the operation of the supply chain, both rail workers and port workers. One of the things I have heard loud and clear from port workers, particularly in British Columbia, is that there is a need for their perspectives to be incorporated into port decision-making.
Currently, on boards of directors of port authorities, there is space dedicated for local governments and for representatives from the prairie provinces. However, there is no seat on port boards of directors for the workers who allow our ports to function. These workers have specific knowledge, expertise and experience that would be of great benefit to the port authorities.
We have submitted that there should be a seat at the table for working people, for the employees of those port facilities. We believe that by working at committee, we can amend this legislation to ensure that workers have a voice in the conversation and a place in the governance of our port authorities.
A final area of concern for residents is marine traffic and anchorages. It has been raised specifically by residents of the south coast of British Columbia in the vicinity of the southern Gulf Islands.
During the pandemic, we saw incredible congestion at the Port of Vancouver. We saw many cargo and container ships backed up and anchored in various locations throughout the Salish Sea and the surrounding waters, which caused real impacts on residents who live in these small communities.
The residents are very concerned about the use of ecologically sensitive coastal areas as essentially parking lots for these large ships. They are worried about the impact on marine mammals, particularly whales, like the endangered southern resident killer whales. They are worried about the impact of anchor dragging, the risk of collisions with whales, noise pollution, air pollution and light pollution. All these things affect people's lives in a very real way.
It is disappointing to see that, despite the media coverage of their concerns, despite writing the minister repeatedly and making the minister aware of these concerns and impacts, the bill before us would do very little, if anything, to address those concerns.
We will be working very hard to ensure that the concerns of those residents are reflected in meaningful amendments. We are talking about areas that Parks Canada has proposed as national park reserves. These are very special, nationally significant marine areas. We are going to ensure those are protected from the impact of shipping traffic, and I look forward to that.
Bill , as others have said, is not as ambitious as it could be, but we look forward to working, through the committee process, with all parties to strengthen it and see if we can get it to the point where it is supportable.
Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill . If the people listening do not know what it is and have not heard of it, that is not unusual.
It is not a very exciting bill. Let us just say that it is far, very far, from revolutionary. To pique interest in the bill, a very original title was found: an act to amend the Customs Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Canada Transportation Act and the Canada Marine Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act. Understandably, it is a large bill.
When I read it, I feel like every law in the country will be amended. When we look more closely at the bill, we soon realize that is not the case. All that to say, above all, we have no idea what this bill does. When we read its title, we have no idea what it is for. As I said, a lot of creative effort was put into a title that would say what the bill does and its purpose.
One might wonder why the Customs Act included in the bill. Will it affect the issues surrounding Roxham Road, illegal border crossings, illegal weapons crossing at the border? As we know, Roxham Road is now closed. It may no longer be a problem. However, it still was when the bill was introduced.
With respect to the Railway Safety Act, will the self-regulation of railway companies finally be ended, a kind of situation where they do pretty much whatever they want, greatly weakening industry oversight? Will this part of the bill really bring railway companies into line? No, they will not be brought into line. There is absolutely nothing to prevent CN or CP from sleeping at night, I guarantee. I do not think it will change much in their lives.
Regarding the Canada Marine Act, there are a few changes. We can start to see some substance. I say some, but not too much.
The fact that nobody is talking about it just goes to show that the bill will not change much in the lives of ordinary Canadians. Usually, when the government tables a bill, it is a big deal. Everyone is waiting for it. People are on the edge of their seats. We wonder what provisions it will include. Sometimes, the government leaks little bits to journalists to stir up interest in the bill. Then there are articles that come out. When the bill is tabled, there is a big press conference. There are media tours. Sometimes, there are regional tours in cities affected by the bill. There is a lot of noise around a bill. Normally, a bill is something important. After all, we are changing the laws of a country.
However, for Bill C‑33, there has been nothing. No one has talked about it. We hardly knew it even existed until we debated it today in the House.
I did a lot of research and I ended up finding something on the web that talks about the bill. It went almost unnoticed. The article is entitled, “a bill to strengthen collaboration between Quebec ports”. With such a title, I thought there might be something to enable Quebec ports to work better together. Moreover, this is one of the requests of Quebec ports, to be able, for example, to issue joint calls for tenders. I read the bill and saw that there is absolutely nothing in this document that will allow Quebec ports to work together more.
It seems that the former told the journalist some tall tales. The article states that close collaboration will lead to strategic investments that will improve facility services and performance while also strengthening the supply chain.
That reads like gibberish. Essentially, this is not about collaboration between ports but collaboration between the ports and the Department of Transport. In the end, that is the reality. Perhaps the journalist would have liked the bill to address the topic because the ports asked for it, but the minister was not clear in his response and that led to this article.
The article also talks about the supply chain. What would be interesting to know is what in Bill will truly help the supply chain. However, if we read the bill carefully, we can see that there is not much there that affects the supply chain. There is virtually nothing, unless the minister wants to personally start managing—or micromanaging—the ports one by one.
The fact is that, when Bill was introduced, there was a supply crisis virtually everywhere. There were problems with the supply chain, so Bill C-33 was announced. They said that the bill would improve the supply chain, but there is nothing in it for the supply chain. It is simply a way of spinning things to make people believe the bill is actually useful.
They wanted to make the bill ultramodern and topical, but that did not happen. To prove my point, I searched the text of the bill to see if it contained the words “collaboration” and “Quebec”, since there was talk of better collaboration between ports in Quebec. I will be honest, the word “collaboration” appears twice in the bill. However, those instances are in provisions that refer to railway safety. In fact, “collaboration” and “Quebec” appear nowhere together.
I also searched for the word “Quebec”. That word also appears twice in the bill, but, in both cases, it is to address minor matters concerning the management of leases by port authorities. This has nothing to do with collaboration between ports. To get back to the article, we will need to talk to the journalists. Indeed, the minister will need to explain how he came to tell us that. However, the minister will not be able to explain it because he is no longer there. There was a change of ministers.
Clearly the minister wanted to lead us down the garden path, because there is absolutely nothing in the bill to allow for collaboration between Quebec ports. It would have been a good opportunity to do that. Unfortunately, it is a missed opportunity.
The ports also asked to be allowed to issue joint calls for tenders and have more flexibility in raising funds. These are great ideas, but disappointingly, they are not in the bill. Ministers do not typically table bills every day. When a minister does get to table a bill, it is a unique opportunity for them to make their mark on history, usher in change and be remembered as someone who accomplished important things on behalf of a great country, Canada. I wish I could say on behalf of Quebec, but we are in the Parliament of Canada, after all.
Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity because no one will remember Bill C‑33. The minister will not go down in history; he is no longer in office. There is now a new who has to champion this bill, but I have not heard him say much about it publicly.
This bill lacks vision. It looks like the government is asleep at the wheel. The bill appears to have been drafted by a bunch of bureaucrats in the minister's office who brainstormed ways to better manage Canada's transportation system. They put it all in there—bits about ports, bits about customs and bits about rail transportation—but the end result lacks cohesiveness, vision and ambition. All it is is a bunch of little measures they threw together and called a bill, and then the minister introduced it in the House. It is utterly lacking in policy direction or vision.
We just started a new parliamentary session, and this is the bill that the government has decided to prioritize. We are in the midst of a housing crisis, a climate crisis, an inflation crisis, but they decide to take a bunch of random little measures and put them before Parliament, saying that this is the priority for the fall. There is something here I do not understand. Perhaps the government will have a chance to explain later, but I, for one, do not really see where it is going with this.
It is quite apparent that the government is lacking ambition and ideas, both in its legislative agenda and in this infamous bill, which really does not contain much of anything.
There are a few things in there, to be fair. For example, there is a provision that prohibits “interference with railway work...in a manner that threatens the safety of railway operations”.
We asked what "threatens the safety” means in concrete terms. Does it mean that people can no longer demonstrate on the tracks? Can workers no longer go on strike? We do not know. We need clarification on what “threatens the safety” means. How is that put into practice? We are looking forward to finding out.
The bill also provides that the minister can order a rail company to take corrective measures in relation to a safety management system. That is not a bad thing. If a problem is not resolved after many warnings, it will allow the minister to order that the problem be resolved. The minister could now have that power.
The minister can issue or cancel security certificates, for example. Anyone transporting dangerous goods will be required to register. That is not a bad thing. Previously, anyone could transport goods without being registered. It is about time that became mandatory.
In an emergency, the minister may direct a person to cease an activity or conduct other activities relating to public safety. That is not a bad thing.
The minister will be authorized to make interim orders and give emergency directions. This could apply to boats, for example, and could be used to prevent a ship from entering a port and keep it at sea. That is another power being given to the minister, but it does not mean the minister is allowed to manage the supply chain. The minister will certainly not spend their days determining which boat can or cannot enter a port and which one gets priority. That is not how it will work. However, in the event of a major crisis, we can see how it might be useful for the minister to have this power in their toolbox.
There is also mention of authorizing logistics activities in ports but it is a poorly kept secret that there are already logistics activities at the ports. It is now written in black and white; it will be done.
The bill mentions releasing quarterly financial statements for ports, which will allow for greater accountability. There is a provision requiring port authorities to establish advisory committees for indigenous peoples, municipalities and communities. Some will call it “meeting mania”, but I would not say that. I think ports need to be accountable to the public, conduct consultations and listen. Sometimes we may have to impose the things that are missing. There has been a lot of unhappiness in the past with the federal government, which does what it wants and sometimes tells others to put up and shut up. We need to make some effort to listen to what people are saying. That is not a bad thing.
There is a requirement for a climate change adaptation plan. No one will object to that. However, is the plan binding and are there quantifiable targets? No, there are no directions, just an obligation to present a plan. However, we are in a climate crisis, whether we like it or not. Parliament has passed net-zero legislation. I find it unfortunate that there is no consistency between this bill, meaning the desire to achieve net-zero by 2050, and port security requirements. This is clearly a flaw.
The Bloc Québécois, and surely members from the other parties, will want ports to assist in the effort like everyone else. Having a plan is not enough in 2023. This is not 2000; it is 20 years later and it is time to go further.
The minister will also have the power to appoint chairs of boards of directors. This raises a red flag. I will talk about that a bit later. Basically, we can see that, from the top of his ivory tower in Ottawa, the minister will be able to micromanage ports. In an emergency, that can be good, but we hope he does not abuse it. The reality is that ports are managed by port authorities. I do not particularly want to see the minister travel to each and every port to micromanage it.
We can also see that, from his ivory tower, the minister can decide who will be the board chair at the Port of Montreal, the Port of Québec, the Port of Trois-Rivières and the Port of Saguenay. That bothers me a bit because, often, the Liberals do not necessarily choose chairs for their accomplishments, their field expertise, their achievements in operations management or their great vision for the future.
For me, and I do not know about the others, putting the words “Liberal” and “appointment” together raises all sorts of red flags. In general, unless there is evidence to the contrary, I have the impression that the Liberals are not necessarily looking for someone who is competent. Instead, they choose someone on the basis of their political loyalty to the Liberal Party, to the minister or to the Canadian government. Unfortunately, if this ever happens, nothing can be done to stop it. That is not what we want. We want someone who is chosen for their skills, because they are the best person for the job, not because they are a friend of the Liberal Party. This is a big problem for us.
Their priority was to introduce a dull, unambitious bill that puts everyone to sleep. Usually, we are at the edges of our seats when the government introduces a bill. However, as trivial as the bill is, the government still found a way to put a partisan touch on it to assume a bit more power.
These are not crisis management powers, but powers to appoint Liberal friends to important positions where they will have a little more control over what is happening in our regions. As we know, ports are the gateway for goods that move across the country.
For me, this is important, even critical. For example, more than half of Quebec’s GDP goes through ports. That is huge. With this bill, the government will not fill these positions with management experts who are accomplished managers. No, they will appoint friends of the Liberal Party so that they are indebted to the minister and will do what he tells them to do. This has the potential for political interference, which I find serious. The government can already appoint staff. It can already appoint people to port boards. It already has its eye on what is going on. It can already develop directives, programs or bills. It can already convene them. No, it wants to decide how things are going to happen and even decide to appoint friends to these positions.
For me, this is a big problem. I hope that, in committee, we will ensure that this part of the bill is removed because, in my view, it does not work. The Liberals had this idea of appointing their friends here, there and everywhere. They have not yet done so, but if we look at appointments, we can see that there are already quite a few Liberal friends on the boards of directors. However, they did not give any thought to the idea of appointing, for example, the people who work in the ports to the boards of directors. There are thousands of workers at these ports and they may have things to say to the boards. That could have been interesting, and we would like to make an amendment to the bill to ensure that workers can be heard when decisions are made at ports. These are the major points that I wanted to talk about today.
Often, the government will introduce a boring, anodyne bill, thinking no one will take any notice. However, we did notice one thing, which is that the Liberals have decided to give themselves the power to appoint their friends to key positions, such as presidents of ports. Hell is often paved with good intentions, but when the wrong tools are put into the hands of the wrong people, that leads to bad results. This power, or at least these tools, should not be given to the Liberals. We know what they are like. If they are asked not to touch the candy dish in front of them, but there is no lid and no one is watching, we know what will happen. It is easy to guess. We all remember the sponsorship scandal; we all know what the Liberals are like. They are partisan to the bone, unfortunately. That is a tendency we must fight against and guard against.
Despite the many flaws in Bill , we nonetheless plan to support it because we think it can be improved. We think that what the government is presenting can be improved, which will not be difficult because there is not much to this bill. There is definitely room for improvement. It can be improved and made more palatable, more acceptable.
True, there are some improvements in the bill. I would be lying if I said there were none at all. That said, as long as we are spending time on this bill, we might as well try to make it useful and even better than what the government introduced.
The Bloc Québécois can be counted on to work with the Liberals, provided they decide to work with the opposition instead of trying to shove a bill down our throats without listening to what anyone else has to say. In the past, I have had some very constructive discussions with the previous minister. I have also had discussions with the current minister. I hope he will be as open-minded as his predecessor. He previously told us that he was willing to incorporate several of our proposals into the bill.
In the coming months, during the committee study, we will see whether or not that open-mindedness is genuine. That could obviously have an impact on our final vote after the committee study, when the bill is sent back to the House. If there is no collaboration on the one side, why would there be any on the other? We are here to work for Quebeckers, not for Canada. There must be something for Quebec in the bill. Quebeckers must benefit in some way, and that is what we are going to ensure. The government can count on us to keep working hard to achieve that.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House today on Bill .
I hope members had productive summers in their ridings. It is good to be back to reconnect with my colleagues on all sides of the House.
Bill , on the face of it, deals with the technical subject matter of port and railway systems in Canada, but I think this bill also exposes a philosophical gulf that exists between those of us in the Conservative Party and, frankly, those in the other three parties, in how they act and vote, if not how they always sound. The Liberals and their coalition partners in the NDP have an approach that emphasizes a big, centralized government that is constantly seeking to weaken the decision-making powers, not only of private individuals, but also of the institutions that are supposed to hold delegated authority and respond to local circumstances and independent economic factors. Their agenda is a centralizing one, pulling that authority away from individuals, with losses of their freedom, and pulling that authority away from institutions that are supposed to be able to operate independently.
We have the Bloc, and I think this was demonstrated by the speaker before me, wanting to rhetorically position itself as being a decentralizer, but in fact, if we look at the way Bloc members vote, we see their support, for example, for the Liberal carbon taxes, in particular the second carbon tax, and it boggles the mind that a party that, on the one hand, says it wants to divide the country and make Quebec its own country, is on the other hand, supporting these kinds of from-Ottawa measures that impose additional costs on Quebeckers.
It is becoming clear that Conservatives stand alone when it comes to offering a different vision, which recognizes the role, yes, of the federal government, but also the richness and diversity of experience and capacity that exists across this country and, therefore, supports affirming the decision-making responsibility of other institutions, provinces, municipalities and, in this case, port authorities and recognizes the importance of having a multiplicity of different institutions making decisions that respond to those local circumstances.
This is an important bill in its policy implications. However, it is also an important bill in the way that it demonstrates a Conservative vision of emphasizing strong institutions, respect for arm's-length institutions and divisions of power, our belief in big citizens as an alternative to big government, and the role of mediating institutions.
Bill is entitled “strengthening the port system and railway safety in Canada act”. My preferred alternative title is, “strengthening Liberal control of the port system”. It is not strengthening the port system, but strengthening Liberal control of the port system. It is on that basis, and for some of the reasons I have already indicated, that we do not support it.
I do, though, in passing, want to extend my best wishes to the outgoing , who tabled this bill and has since, from what I understand, announced his intention not to seek re-election. I know that he has been in public life for a long time. I wish him very well.
Those who are not as familiar may ask how ports function in Canada. Each port has its own board, and that board is able to act relatively autonomously. It is supposed to act at arm's length from the government, which includes electing its own chair. It is also supposed to be able to look at the best interests of the port. It is supposed to be able to look at what is in the economic interests of the country, but also of that particular region, taking those local factors into account. It is also supposed to be able to develop structures for engagement and consultation that, while reflecting broad, unifying principles, are appropriate to the particular local circumstances.
The way, for instance, indigenous consultation happens at a port may vary depending on the particular local circumstances, such as the proximity of indigenous nations and so forth. This ability of ports to act at arm's length recognizes that one size does not fit all. It recognizes that expertise, local decision-making and an understanding of local factors are very important in the case of port management and in general when it comes to government decision-making. Creating institutions that can be responsive to particulars of local circumstances is important. This existing structure of ports is a reflection of that reality, and it stands in contrast with the Liberal centralizing vision held, if not officially then certainly enacted by all of the other parties in this place, save for the Conservatives.
This bill seeks to make changes that bring ports, to a greater extent, under the domination of the central government. This is where we obviously part company with the direction.
On the structure of ports, members of the ports are appointed by the federal government. There is a federal role in making these appointments, and that does provide tools for influencing the direction of ports, but it creates a balance that allows autonomous, arm's-length action on a day-to-day level. However, the federal government is still selecting the individuals it believes to be appropriate.
The bill would change the authority structure in a number of ways. It would make the boards subject to ministerial direction and would also allow the minister to appoint the chair. The previous structure was that the minister appointed members of the board, but the board would then elect its own chair, which again still involves a substantial role for the government but gives the board more autonomy in identifying the person who is best positioned to lead the board. The new structure would involve the minister appointing the board members and also the board members appointing the chair. It would also make the board subject to ministerial direction and would mandate certain structures around environmental and indigenous consultations.
Those considerations and consultations are obviously very important, but the specific structures that may be appropriate can legitimately vary depending on the size of the port and the local circumstances. They could well be matters subject to innovation and exchange of information rather than the requirement of standardization.
This is a centralizing Ottawa-knows-best type of Liberal bill, and Conservatives are opposed to it. In many respects, this bill is a missed opportunity insofar as there are things that are important about how we could be strengthening our port and rail system, but instead, the Liberal approach to strengthening anything is to try to strengthen their control or involvement in that particular thing.
We are opposed to this expansion of direct government control over the ports for four main reasons, which I will now proceed to discuss. There is, first of all, a general conviction about the importance of subsidiarity; second, a concern about the current government in particular expanding its management of things; third, the Liberal record on appointments raising some concerns about why the Liberals are trying to pass legislation to give themselves more control and ability to shape direction through appointment; and finally, highlighting how scale differences matter at the port level, and there are particular reasons in this case why having a diversity of structures for how certain issues are engaged with is quite worthwhile.
First, on the principle of subsidiarity in general, I subscribe to the general principle of subsidiarity, which means that decisions should be made at the level closest to the people affected as possible. Better decisions are made when the local experiences of the people affected are harnessed. This comes from a basic recognition of universal human potential for responsibility and creativity. If they harness the views and experiences of more people who are directly involved a situation, they will get better outcomes than if there were a smaller number of people with less immediate experience involved in that decision. A belief in subsidiarity flows naturally from a belief in human dignity and human potential for creativity.
Our constitutional framework is designed to recognize the value of that subsidiarity, which is why not every decision is made by the federal government. We have areas of responsibility of provincial jurisdiction. We have strong municipalities, and we also have arm's-length institutions that act within the federal government. Subsidiarity is not incompatible with the belief that there are also certain kinds of decisions that are of a scale and a nature that do require larger levels of coordination or action by a larger entity, such as, let us say, the national government. The impulse to subsidiarity is not to say that no decisions should be made collectively because there are certain kinds of things where the nature of the scale requires that action.
I want to point out in particular that, in this context, our Conservative plan on housing does involve recognizing the need to push municipalities to do more in getting housing built. This is completely compatible with the principle of subsidiarity because we see a situation in Canada right now where we are so far behind in getting homes built that there is an urgency that requires more pressure to move forward. There has also been a lack of appropriate scale in considering the response to this.
Members will notice in the discussion on this that the has tried, at certain points, to say that this is not really his responsibility and this is not something that he is going to get involved in. However, the Prime Minister has a . The government seeks to create policy on this. It is just that the government's policy has been ineffective. In the plan that Conservatives have put forward, it is about pushing municipalities, setting targets for them and tying federal funding to commitments to move forward. However, it is not about taking away that authority from municipalities or trying to micromanage specific decisions. Rather, it is about using the tools we have to create incentives, define what a national objective should be and reward them for moving toward that objective.
This is just to illustrate that obviously, on certain areas, there is a vital role for the federal government to engage in, but there has to be a healthy interplay. With the Liberals, the irony has been that, on some areas where the federal government needed to engage, they have tried to avoid responsibility. However, the Liberals have, at the same time, tried to intervene, rhetorically if not directly, in areas that are very clearly not their jurisdiction, butting in on things that very obviously have nothing to do with the decision-making power of the federal government.
Again, as it applies in the case of ports, we can see the importance of local decision-making and the impulse of the government to ignore the role of local decision-makers and to move counter to this principle of subsidiarity, which is a principle that, sadly, the Liberals do not believe in.
In their ideal vision of the world, all of the decisions that are of significance to this country would be made by a small group of people inside the 's Office, without even harnessing the full energies of our national parliamentary democracy. I think that has had some dire consequences in many obvious cases, and on this point I will move to the next, which is the challenges with the government's centralizing impulse in particular, in a context where the government has demonstrated profound incompetence in all aspects of our national life.
I will not have time to detail all of these points, but in a context where the government is failing to do its job, is failing to make life more affordable for Canadians and has failed on environmental policy, on housing and on many other fronts, it is nonetheless persistent in saying that it wants more control of people's lives and that it wants to be able to exercise more control and direction over previously independent bodies. I will point out as an obvious example, in one particular case, the on-again-off-again labour disruptions, or the back-and-forth associated with that, the harm that was done and the failure of the minister to resolve that situation.
Environmental policy is something that, rhetorically, we hear a lot about from the government, yet the government is missing all of its environmental targets while using environmental policy as an excuse to impose new taxes. The way the Liberals talk about it, if one does not support their tax plan, one is against taking action on the environment.
The reality is that the government's tax plan has made life less affordable for Canadians and has not actually allowed it to achieve any of its targets. Sadly, we see the other parties in the House, the NDP and the Bloc, in lockstep with the government in its insistence on imposing new taxes. This is a space in which the government is trying to take more control for itself again, telling provinces that they have to have a carbon tax or it will impose one directly from Ottawa.
It has not worked on many fronts. We can talk about the government's approach to passports. We can talk about its policy failures during COVID and about the fact that fewer houses are being built today than decades ago, even when our population was smaller. We have a government that has, across the board, been either incompetent or malicious, yet it is seeking more control over institutional decision-making, through Bill . We are not prepared to give them that control.
The third point I wanted to raise around this is that we have a particular concern about the government's desire to use this bill as a tool for strengthening its power of appointment, in terms of its ability to appoint chairs of boards. We have heard numerous stories about the flawed approach the government has taken to appointments, appointing donors or consulting supporter information before making important appointments, trying to whitewash issues by appointing people who have close relationships with the . This is the way the government has approached appointments, so it will not be surprising that there is no appetite on this side of the House to give the government more control over the appointment process when the current system, the election of a chair of a board by the existing members of the board, is working just fine.
I will quickly make my last point, which is that, obviously, in terms of important decision-making, scale matters. There are many different kinds of ports that have very different circumstances because of such massive variations in the amount of traffic that goes through them. We recognize the importance of all ports. We want them to thrive and succeed in ways that reflect their local circumstances and the expertise of those who are running the ports. That means avoiding Ottawa-knows-best, Liberals-know-best and one-size-fits-all approaches to this.
In conclusion, Conservatives recognize the importance of freedom, local autonomy and subsidiarity. We reject the centralizing we-know-best approach of the and of the other three parties in the House that are supporting his vision. I believe that our alternative approach in opposing the bill and emphasizing local autonomy, expertise and the importance of community-based decision making is a much better approach and one that would be much better received by the Canadian public.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill . Let me begin by thanking the sponsor, the , and you for allowing me to participate in the very important second reading debate on this bill, strengthening the port system and railway safety in Canada act, with regard to improving the safety and security at Canada's marine ports. I believe we can all agree that this piece of legislation is intended to achieve many goals that would eventually streamline the work taking place at our marine ports, increase our supply chain resiliency and ensure the work at our ports is environmentally sustainable, all while increasing safety and security measures to keep our goods safe and protect Canadians from harm.
Before I continue, I will indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I want to take the time today to further explore the measures we are proposing to enhance border security at our major marine ports.
The Canada Border Services Agency, the CBSA, has an important mandate to provide border services that support national security and public safety priorities while also facilitating the free flow of persons and goods. Each and every day, at marine ports from coast to coast to coast, the CBSA upholds its mandate by screening and examining imported goods arriving on container vessels. I want to make it clear that in their role, CBSA officers, whose daily activities would be affected by the proposed amendments in this bill, are already authorized to examine all shipments crossing Canada's border to ensure harmful goods are intercepted before they can enter our communities.
Today, the government is seeking to modernize the existing Customs Act authorities to resolve long-standing security risks and reduce obstacles to efficient trade at our marine ports. Modernizing the Customs Act would enable the CBSA to further address issues that may leave our marine ports vulnerable to organized crime and that may compromise the agency's ability to achieve its safety, security and facilitation mandate.
These changes are directly aimed at reducing delays and enhancing security at our marine ports. They would also result in long-term cost savings for Canadian importers, the trade community and consumers, and would ultimately help our economy continue to grow by reducing backlogs and lowering the costs associated with delays.
In order to help continue reducing criminal activity at the ports, we are proposing the following three changes to address security threats associated with organized crime, smuggling and internal conspiracies.
The first step the government is proposing is meant to address security gaps and reduce delays by requiring that high-risk shipments are made available for examination upon request of an officer. This would be achieved through Customs Act amendments and the creation of new regulations.
Second, the government is seeking to increase the security of high-risk shipments by introducing an amendment that would require that goods be brought to a secure area upon the request of an officer. This, in turn, would require marine ports to create secure areas that meet security requirements.
Lastly, Customs Act amendments are being proposed to enable the creation of new monetary penalties to help ensure that all entities involved in this supply chain comply with the new requirements. Penalties for non-compliance would be proportionate to health, safety and security risks.
Allow me to further elaborate on the three proposed changes to clear up any ambiguity that members may have regarding them.
In short, the first proposed amendment relates to making high-risk import shipments available to a CBSA officer for examination in a timely manner. The agency has noted that high-risk shipments selected for examination are not always made available by the terminal operators. This leads to supply chain congestion, delays for importers and an increased risk of tampering and removal of contraband while containers await examination by CBSA officers.
As it stands now, there is no defined time period in either legislation or regulation. This amendment to the Customs Act would provide an authority to make new regulations prescribing the time and manner of making shipments available for examination. Furthermore, these obligations would extend to other entities within the supply chain who have the care and control of goods, including terminal operators.
The second proposed amendment would require those responsible for these shipments to bring them to a secure area in accordance with the regulations. Currently, the Customs Act does not provide a definitive or specific obligation to ensure that high-risk shipments awaiting examination are moved to a dedicated secure area within marine terminals. As a result, shipments are at risk of being tampered with, and their contents, including drugs and weapons, are at risk of being removed by criminals prior to examination.
I acknowledge that some may argue that existing measures are enough. However, there are many documented instances of containers being breached and unknown contents being removed, while remaining unsecured and easily accessible by internal conspirators when stored with all types of marine cargo on port properties.
Can we truly not continue to advance our security measures to keep up and stay ahead of those committing illicit activities? Adding extra layers of security means that Canadians can feel safer knowing that more contraband and dangerous products are being stopped and therefore do not enter our communities.
To help ensure compliance with these new requirements, additional contraventions would be added to the CBSA's existing penalty system, which would allow the CBSA to issue penalties when goods are not delivered within established time frames. Currently, only the person reporting the goods to the CBSA can be compelled to present them, and there is no timeline within which to do so. As a result, only the persons reporting the goods can be held responsible. In the marine mode, this means that the CBSA cannot compel others who may handle these shipments, such as terminal operators, to make them available to the CBSA in a timely manner.
The government is taking action to ensure the right parties take responsibility for their role in the process. This would lead to fewer delays and lower storage fees for importers, as goods would be moved to secured areas at the right time, examined sooner and released once cleared by the CBSA. This is expected to translate into lower costs for consumers down the line. I believe that having lower costs on commodities is something that every member in this House can support.
I hope members can now understand the urgency and need for these amendments to the Customs Act as something that is not driven by politics, but is a security requirement that would benefit the safety of all Canadians. The changes outlined in this bill would ensure that the CBSA continues to fulfill its mandate to protect and secure Canada's borders and incoming goods while further protecting Canadians from harmful products.
Mr. Speaker, let me take this opportunity this afternoon to thank all members and all parties of the House for participating in this very important second reading debate on Bill , strengthening the port system and railway safety in Canada act, with respect to improving the safety and security at Canada's marine ports.
I would like to further describe the rationale for the measures that are designed to enhance the security of Canada's marine transportation system.
Transport Canada has the important mandate of promoting a safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible transportation system. In addition to developing policies and programs for marine security, the Minister of Transport also has the lead responsibility for marine security policy, coordination and regulation across government, a whole-of-government approach.
When introduced in 1994, the Marine Transportation Security Act was intended to address a long-standing omission in federal powers and better equip the government and the marine transportation industry to respond to any threat to the security of people, goods, vessels, ports and facilities in the Canadian marine environment.
In the decades following, Canada's marine security landscape has changed significantly. While concerns around physical disruption perpetrated by terrorist actions still exist, emerging challenges, such as cybersecurity and biosecurity, are challenging our current threat-focused security framework.
Canada's marine transportation system is a central component of our national, provincial and regional economies. It is one of the primary means for moving Canadian exports to market and for imported goods from abroad to arrive in Canada, as well as in the Midwest in the United States, through the networks we have established throughout the many years of partnerships with different sectors. As such, it is an important enabler of Canadian economic growth well into the future.
As an example, my home riding and region of Niagara is an integral part of our economy. Niagara, which is known as a multimodal transportation hub, is essential to the overall Canadian economy and is growing to be one of the nation's most strategic trade corridors, therefore strengthening Canada's overall international trade performance.
Security events, however, can have a significant impact on port and marine-related operations, which in turn directly affect the efficiency of Canada's supply chains. Concerns over security issues, including a dated regime, can lead to the perception of Canada as a weak link in global supply chains that can affect when and where companies decide to invest. Hence, this is the reason for the bill.
Such a perception could adversely affect Canada's relations with other major trading partners and have significant impacts on future opportunities for economic growth and development, like what is happening in the Niagara region as a transportation hub, with respect to the movement of trade and people. Right now the transportation committee is discussing high-speed rail to bring the country closer together and enable us to welcome visitors who can move around our great nation with great fluidity in tandem with the movement of trade within the infrastructure we have established throughout the past century.
A secure transportation system promotes a secure economy, a resilient supply chain and further supports the competitiveness of Canadian ports. In a constantly changing world, Canada's marine system needs a modern security framework to adapt and respond to increasing complex challenges in tandem with other methods of transportation, such as rail, road and air.
Today, as part of Bill , the government is seeking to modernize the Marine Transportation Security Act to ensure that it remains modern, usable, flexible and a consistent piece of Transport Canada's legislative framework. Modernizing the act will enable the government to have access to tools to address new and emerging security concerns, reflecting the challenges, but, more important, addressing those challenges so we accrue over time confidence with future as well as present international investors.
The proposed amendments will introduce new ministerial authorities, such as the power to make interim orders, the ability to require ports and other marine facilities to accept vessels that have been directed to these locations, and the ability to issue emergency directions to persons or vessels to address immediate security threats.
Unlike other marine legislation, the current Marine Transportation Security Act does not provide effective tools to be used in exceptional circumstances across the industries. The ability to make interim orders will align across Transport Canada's legislation and allow the department to take immediate action to deal with security threats or risks, or take action to address a threat to marine transportation security or to the health of persons in the marine transportation system. This will allow us to better protect the integrity and efficiency of Canada's supply chains.
The proposal will also introduce new regulatory-making authorities that will allow Transport Canada to: one, implement a cost-recovery framework; two, address maritime threats and risks to the health of persons involved in the marine transportation system; three, implement formalized information-sharing channels with federal partners; and, four, establish exclusion zones for vessels.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted emerging biosecurity threats, such as global pathogens, which pose significant risks to public safety and the broader Canadian supply chains, as well as those that flow to Canada, into the U.S. and to our binational partners internationally.
The marine environment poses a unique vector for virus transmission, with cruise ships, for example, or vessels interacting in northern and remote communities. An outbreak on board a vessel or at maritime facilities could cause significant impacts to workers' health and security, which would have a direct effect on our supply chains.
Finally, this proposal will support a shift in the approach to marine security since the act was first established. The shift includes enabling the department to enter into agreements with partner organizations to oversee enforcement of the act and its regulations. This will allow Transport Canada to leverage expertise of organizations and the capacity of other government departments, once again, a whole-of-government approach.
The proposed amendments to the act included in the bill will modernize Canada's security framework, but, most important, it will create more fluidity to ensure more confidence in our transportation system across our great nation.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
One of the most defining moments since I was elected was when the rail lines in my riding, both the CN and CP rail lines, were washed out. There were over 30 wash-outs in the Fraser Canyon. In fact, one day in November two years ago, I was in a meeting with the minister of emergency preparedness. I walked out of that meeting into a media scrum asking about all the latest drama of the Conservative Party of Canada. I nearly lost it, because on that very day when they were asking about the status of a senator in the Conservative caucus, the rail lines in B.C. had been cut off, our highways had been washed out and our entire transportation infrastructure connecting British Columbia to the rest of Canada was not functioning.
We faced some serious challenges in British Columbia, but the press gallery here did not care about that. In fact, it was not even on its radar that British Columbia was cut off. Unfortunately, Bill , written by the public servants in Ottawa under the former minister, falls very short of what we need in British Columbia to ensure Canada has a competitive infrastructure network to ensure we can export and import goods, and so that our marine ports, our inland ports and airports have the infrastructure they need to maintain a well-functioning, competitive economy.
It goes without saying our infrastructure network creates billions of dollars in economic activity every year, 3.6% of Canada's GDP, and employs hundreds of thousands of people. In addition to that, one in five jobs in Canada are directly related to trade. Therefore, those one in five jobs are directly related to Canada's ability to move, store and efficiently transport the goods we produce here and sell abroad and the goods Canadians consume and import from other countries.
Going back to the landslides that washed out the rail infrastructure both for CN and the CP rail lines in Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, the former minister of transportation started to take very seriously the challenges Canada was facing with supply chains. Good, he did that. He established a task force, to great fanfare, to address some of the pressing issues we had.
I had a chance to look over that report last night. Some of the key recommendations included to unstick the transport supply chain. The report goes into detail about how the Vancouver port authority is ranked right now as one of the worst and inefficient ports in the world. This is largely because of what has already been raised in this debate: we cannot move container traffic out of our ports quickly enough, mainly because we do not have the infrastructure to do so.
The second thing the report called for was to digitize and create an end-to-end supply chain visibility for efficiency, accountability planning and investment in security. I will note this bill does touch upon a few of those things by allowing other ports of entry to go through the CBSA process of marking where our goods are coming and going.
The task force talked about establishing a supply chain office. When I hear that what I hear is the department in Ottawa has not allocated the right number of people in its department to deal with the first problem, which is unsticking the transportation supply chain. What I read in the expert report is that Ottawa has not been doing a good enough job under its current mandate to make sure goods can flow efficiently in Canada.
The fifth point was to engage indigenous groups. This bill does talk a bit about more consultative powers in conjunction with indigenous people. I will note that in my riding one of the largest employers of indigenous people is the rail lines and the Ashcroft Terminal. Yes, there are tensions from time to time, but I do believe the private sector is already taking reconciliation seriously in the number of indigenous people it is hiring, and those jobs go a long way in those rural and remote communities, especially for first nations.
The next recommendation in the report talks about protecting "corridors, border crossings and gateways from disruptions [and interruptions] to ensure unfettered access for commercial transportation modes and continuity of supply chain movement.” Again, I see this recommendation tied to the first one, to unstick the transportation supply chain. We are not doing a good enough job of moving goods efficiently in Canada.
The next recommendation is to engage the U.S., provinces and territories to achieve reciprocal regulations and practices. Again, it is related to the first point, to unstick the transportation supply chain. We are not doing a good enough job of moving goods efficiently in Canada.
The report discusses revising the mandate of the Canadian transportation authority agency. All in all, with regard to the national task force, the former minister communicated very clearly to Canada and to private enterprise that he was going to take action, that we were going to see some major improvements.
It goes without saying that under the previous Conservative government, billions of dollars were invested in western Canada under the Asia-Pacific gateway.
We had Highway 17 created. Some of our rail lines were twinned in certain places. There were new interchanges and overpasses put in to ensure that goods could move smoothly. We had legislation put in place to improve the commercial viability of our exporters and importers, to make sure that Canadians could get the products they needed and vice versa, globally, again, because Canada is a trading nation.
When we turn to the legislation here today, what I see is a lot of new red tape, new authority and a prescriptive, bureaucratic approach that does not address the key issue that the very minister who put this legislation forward wanted to respond to when he established the national supply chain task force in the first place.
Where does that leave us here today? Small businesses across Canada are decrying the increased shipping costs to access the Asia-Pacific gateway. We have had labour disputes at our ports in British Columbia recently. We have thousands upon thousands of businesses that are not working as quickly as they want to because they are constrained by our supply chains, by our rail networks.
What I want to see from this government, as this legislation moves forward, is to look at rewriting the focus of this bill, to ensure that we accomplish a few key things, namely what measurable improvement can we attribute to this legislation to make goods move more efficiently in Canada? What regulatory hurdles that currently exist can be removed to ensure that our small businesses, our exporters and importers, can get the products they need quickly enough?
I know that in Saskatchewan, farmers are constantly scared about the bottlenecks that we face in British Columbia. Saskatchewan produces some of the best pulses in the world, yet it cannot get those products to market quickly enough because our transportation rail infrastructure is not there.
I know that importers of Korean steel in British Columbia are facing much higher freight costs, largely because of some of the issues raised here today. Those products are sitting on a ship off the coast of Vancouver Island because they cannot get a docking quickly enough at the port of Metro Vancouver. These are all things that this legislation can address but it is not there yet.
It goes without saying that I will not be supporting this legislation but I do hope that, at committee stage, the government can do a 180 and refocus its efforts on the recommendations that are well received from the national supply chain task force, to do something that is going to support small businesses, Canada's overall GDP and competitiveness in a very challenging global economic climate right now.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise and speak to Bill , an act to amend the Customs Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Canada Transportation Act and the Canada Marine Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act. That is quite a mouthful, but it is simply known by its short title of “Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act”.
By way of background, in April 2017, the then minister of transport, the hon. Marc Garneau, launched a review of the Railway Safety Act. Then in 2018, he announced a review of Canada port authorities to optimize their role in the transportation system. In late 2022, the previous minister of transport received the Final Report of the National Supply Chain Task Force, 2022, as other members have noted.
Bill was brought forward in response to the Railway Safety Act review and the ports modernization review. If passed, this proposed legislation would amend several existing laws, as indicated in the long title of the bill.
What has become increasingly obvious is that urgent action is needed to address supply chain congestion. In fact, this is exactly what the Final Report of the National Supply Chain Task Force 2022 called for: urgent action to immediately address supply chain congestion.
It is rather typical of the government to refuse to take action until the issue has reached a crisis point. We have been waiting four years for a plan to modernize our ports, and this bill fails to address the root causes of supply chain congestion.
While this comes as no surprise, it is nonetheless frustrating that the government continues to propose inadequate legislation to address important issues such as this one. Bill does not offer solutions to long-standing issues between railway shippers and railway companies. Instead, it seemingly indicates that the status quo is just fine.
There is also nothing in the bill to address labour disputes that impact supply chains. While it does clarify that rail blockades are illegal, which was already known, the real issue here is with enforcement. This clarification will do nothing to change the reality of rail blockades. Only the enforcement of our laws will.
Since this bill was tabled, there has been a change of minister. This may be due to a realization by the government that it has failed on this file. It may be an attempt to save face by shuffling ministers around, pretending that the Liberals have recognized their shortcomings and that changes will be made.
However, the pattern has been set. The government will continue to put forward flawed policy and centralize power in Ottawa. Speaking of centralizing power, the ports are supposed to operate at arm's length and work in the best interests of both the national economy and the supply chain. However, the previous minister of transport made it clear in his speech on this bill and while answering a question from my colleague, the member for , that the government is shortening the arm's length and trying to exercise more control over the ports.
This is an area of deep concern. Ports must have the freedom to operate effectively. This starts with letting them elect their own leadership. The ports do not need Liberal ministers to choose the chairs of local port boards. Ministerial authority to appoint the chair reduces the independence of ports.
This raises the following question: Why does the government believe that it should be the one to appoint the chairs of port authorities? It has not come forward with any reasonable explanation for this measure. Canadians do not need more centralized decision-making in Ottawa.
An unfortunate vice of the government is its hubris, which causes its members to think that they have the Midas touch, despite breaking all that they touch. One only needs to look at how the has run his cabinet for the last eight years, dictating to it and centralizing power in the PMO. This has resulted in disaster after disaster.
Another aspect of this bill that would hamper the work of Canadian ports is the new reporting requirements. These requirements would reduce the efficiency and competitiveness of Canadian ports, and they would be especially burdensome for smaller ports. This is yet another hallmark of the Liberal government: extending its control over larger enterprises and drowning smaller businesses in red tape, reaching the point where they are completely reliant on the government.
Furthermore, overly prescriptive and bureaucratic red tape would increase costs, which would inevitably be passed on to Canadian consumers. Additionally, the new proposed advisory committees could restrict the ability of ports to make decisions that would improve their capacity and efficiency.
Businesses do not need more government regulation; they need more freedom to be able to operate efficiently on their own. They do not need the government to tell them how the business should be run. The people who work in this industry and at these ports know better what they need to do to increase efficiencies. Imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to ports across the country does not take into consideration the unique challenges at different ports.
Decision-making by local port authorities is key to modernizing and improving the efficiency of ports around our country. Again, the additional ministerial powers in this bill would limit local decision-making by port authorities, leading to further delays in modernizing our ports. This, in turn, would reduce their efficiency and impact competitiveness. The result would be higher costs passed on to consumers, contributing further to the cost of living crisis that the government has created in this country.
One piece missing from this bill is the provision of any solutions to long-standing issues between railway shippers and railway companies. This is a crucial part of the supply chain. However, the government has left this out, demonstrating that it has no intent to properly fix the issues that were highlighted in the task force report. This shows a worrying lack of understanding of the important aspects of the supply chain. Instead of taking the opportunity to make changes and address this issue, the government seems to be content to let the opportunity pass as it continues to double down on poor policy.
While Conservatives will always support measures that strengthen our supply chains, we cannot consent to efforts from the Liberal-NDP coalition to centralize power in Ottawa and put ports under the thumbs of Ottawa gatekeepers. Conservatives will not support propping up ineffective gatekeepers, which have only made life more difficult for Canadians. The Liberal-NDP coalition needs to work to remove gatekeepers, not validate them by granting them more power and responsibilities.
Conservatives cannot support an increase in red tape and bureaucracy, especially in our supply chain. While the Liberals want port authorities to be aligned with their objectives, as stated by the previous minister, we believe that ports should operate in the best interests of the national economy and the supply chain.
With a country the size of ours, we need an efficient supply chain in which all parts work well together. I believe that the government should go back to the drawing board and draft a bill, which it could present to this House, that makes good, substantive changes to our supply chain and addresses the concerns that were raised by the task force.
A bill purporting to address supply chain congestion must address all the concerns from stakeholders and remove the “Ottawa knows best” solutions that seem to be a hallmark of the government. This bill does neither.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to be speaking about strengthening the board governance of Canada's strategic ports. My riding of Steveston—Richmond East is home to all of the above: rail, air and sea. It is an island city by nature, one which I look forward to the Speaker's visiting sometime.
The governance model that underpins Canada's port authorities was designed to establish responsible stewardship of these key strategic assets and to position them as commercially oriented actors that can act credibly in the marketplace. The day-to-day operations of these port authorities are directed by independent boards of directors that are responsible for ensuring that port planning, decisions and operations are made firmly within the public interest. In this context, the Minister of Transport retains the critical role of setting the strategic direction that guides the work of these boards.
For 20 years, this governance model has served Canada well. It has provided Canadians with world-class services while ensuring that capacity grew in support of Canada's economy in a gradual and financially sustainable manner. At the same time, Canada and the world have evolved. Our trade with the world is growing and is increasingly diversified. The shipping lines that support the trade have consolidated and are building even bigger ships, and the logistical connections between transportation services and shippers are growing in intensity and technological innovation. These developments underline the importance of ensuring that our ports can adapt to serve our national supply chains and global connections to the world.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that ports undertake their national mandates in very local contexts. As Canada's ports have grown, so too has public interest in their operations. In the eyes of indigenous and local communities, port governance is not only a question of orchestrating safe marine trade but is also now, more than ever, intertwined with environmental sustainability and our important national agenda for reconciliation. Simply put, Canada port authorities are being called upon to be more adaptable and responsive to an increasingly complex operating context. Things have changed since they were created over 20 years ago.
At the centre of government's approach to ensuring that port governance keeps pace are three important objectives: ensuring that port boards have the right people in the right positions to manage these strategic assets, structuring ongoing engagement with indigenous and local communities to better inform decision-making, and enhancing reporting to enable better public engagement, accountability and oversight. I will speak to these three objectives in turn.
Having the right composition and people in place on boards of directors is key to supporting enhanced board performance. This is why the government is proposing to add an additional prairie province director on the boards of the Thunder Bay and Prince Rupert port authorities in recognition of the role these ports play in the export of prairie commodities. In addition, greater flexibility is being proposed to enable more than one municipal directorship in instances where a port is located in more than one municipality. Recognizing board leadership of these strategic assets is critical, and Bill proposes to enable the Minister of Transport to designate the board chair from among and in consultation with the directors.
With respect to engagement with indigenous and local communities, this bill proposes to establishment structured mechanisms to enable more meaningful and ongoing dialogue. The port modernization review undertook extensive stakeholder consultations. During these engagements, it was noted that the depth and quality of relationships among port authorities, indigenous and local communities can vary. Such relationships are key to aligning expectations and goals and to informing port decisions that have economic, environmental and social implications. As a result, this bill proposes the establishment of three separate advisory committees at the port management level for engaging with indigenous nations, local communities and local governments. These committees would enable more meaningful and structured opportunities for engagement.
The third key governance objective this bill seeks to advance is increased reporting as a means of promoting transparency in port planning and operations, including environmental performance. Bill would reinforce port authorities' due diligence in planning by requiring them to provide land use plans on a five-year cycle. This would facilitate input from local communities and stakeholders in the port planning process. In addition, the proposed measures would modernize financial reporting and disclosure requirements that align with internationally recognized standards. Bill C-33 would further require port authorities to publicly report on greenhouse emissions and establish climate adaptation plans. These measures would position ports to be leaders in managing climate risks. Importantly, these new environmental reporting requirements would align with the government's ambitious climate change agenda and would be consistent with the requirements for other public institutions.
To promote ongoing improvements to port governance aimed at ensuring that these entities remain best in class, Bill would require port authorities to undergo a triennial assessment of board governance practices. This is an important best practice in corporate governance that befits assets of such national importance. These assessments would evaluate the effectiveness of and adherence to governance practices, including those related to record-keeping practices, the use of skills matrices and the promotion of diversity in recruitment. The results of these assessments would be shared with Transport Canada to inform future policies that help port governance remain best in class. Taken together, these important governance reforms would establish more proficient, transparent and accountable port authority boards consistent with the important role played by ports as instruments of public policy.
These measures build on the successful foundation established in the 1990s, when the Canada Marine Act was first enacted. They would update port governance to modern realities and serve to better align national and local realities, and they would do so by maintaining ports that are nimble market actors and can better support Canada's connections to the world.
We are pleased to advance these reforms. Bill would fundamentally reposition Canada's port authorities and maintain these world-class facilities that underpin our critical supply chains and national economy.
Mr. Speaker, Canada is a fantastic home. Our country spans more than half of the northern hemisphere and crosses more than six time zones. It is quite incredible. We are the second-largest country by way of geographical size and have the most extensive coastline, spanning more than 240,000 kilometres. It is amazing.
Our home is vast, and the early years of Confederation were spent ensuring that our nation would be built in such a way that it would allow all of this land to be united. From coast to coast, Canadians built infrastructure that was necessary to move goods from one end of our country to the other and to equip themselves to be able to send our goods across the water to other countries. Rail, of course, played an incredible role in this and continues to play a role in our country's ability to get trade goods to market and within the confines of own country.
The project of our very first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was a masterpiece of sorts. It was the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was meant to unite us as a nation. It was meant to serve our economic well-being as a country, and it did just that. In fact, it was so visionary that it continues to do just that.
Rail and national infrastructure were pivotal to how our nation was built, and we remain united today. As these means of transport and infrastructure were set up, both on the national and subnational levels, our economy grew and we fashioned ourselves as a nation committed to trading. To this day, we are an export nation. It keeps us strong, but only as much as our infrastructure is strong.
Canada is blessed with a plethora of natural resources, abundant land and incredibly hard-working people who will get the job done, that is, when the government frees them up to do so. Canadians work hard. They work hard between every coast in this country to build, grow, harvest, mine and collect the fruits of their labour and then get it to market. Our domestic economy feeds and fuels the world. In fact, there is such great capacity in this regard that I truly wish the government would get out of the way and allow us to excel.
Nevertheless, our rails and ports provide the means for our industries to deliver what Canada has to offer to the world and to bring to Canada what the world has to offer to us. The infrastructure across our great land provides the opportunity for every worker, farmer, business owner and their family to be sustained. It allows them to get the goods they need for their households and their businesses.
Rail is literally in the centre of my home city of Lethbridge. We are home to the High Level Bridge, which spans the Oldman River. It is the largest railroad structure in Canada and the longest trestle bridge in the world. It is at the core of our centre.
Canada's railways and ports are more than just the infrastructure that gets stuff from point A to point B. Infrastructure is a piece of the Canadian nation-building legacy, and it is the vital artery of our economy, which is not just our present but also our future. To believe in our infrastructure and keeping it strong is to believe in the Canadian people, our country and its vibrancy going forward, because without a thriving economy we cannot have a thriving people. Without infrastructure to get product to market, we cannot have a thriving economy. Therefore, infrastructure is essential to our economy, which is essential to the strength of our people and this dear country we love.
Let me be clear. Our infrastructure in this country has its fair challenges, in particular infrastructure around transportation, so I understand the desire to address those challenges, fix problems and look for greater efficiencies and greater effectiveness. However, this bill does not do that. This bill does not answer the call that was put out for meaningful change. Overall, this bill is an abysmal failure in that regard.
Bill is a failed attempt to strengthen the port system and railway safety. It amends several acts in order to do that. It was drafted in response to the Railway Safety Act review and the ports modernization review.
It was delivered with promises to improve affordability, to improve safety and to improve efficiency, and it was delivered by a minister who is no longer functioning in that capacity. I wonder if that is perhaps a bit symbolic of the confidence we should have in the bill. More than that, the draft of the bill, the content of the bill, speaks for itself in terms of how much confidence we should have in it.
Bill fails in so many ways to address the issues that are at play. For starters, it fails to address the urgent need to alleviate supply chain congestion. This was outlined in the final report put forward by the national supply chain task force. Stakeholders have said that there is nothing in this bill that would improve supply chain efficiencies. For example, there is nothing in this bill to address labour disputes that impact supply chains.
Furthermore, the bill does not solve long-standing issues between railway shippers and railway companies. There is also nothing in the bill to address the Port of Vancouver's inability to load grain in the rain. Folks, let us be clear here: It is Vancouver; it rains all the time. If we cannot load in the rain, when are we loading? If we are not loading, how are we getting product to market? Wait. We are not. That is why we basically have a congested parking lot known as the Port of Vancouver.
It is a problem. It is driving up the cost of goods and is making it so that some of our store shelves do not have products on them to begin with. This bill had the opportunity to address some of these key issues, but it failed.
I hear all the time from those in my riding about their frustrations concerning these things. They simply want to get their product to market in a reasonable fashion. Farmers want to get their grain onto trains so those trains can go to ports and those ports can let others take the commodity across the ocean. That is how this needs to work. That was the potential of this bill. It had the potential to address these issues.
It is a failure in and of itself that it did not. However, on top of that, the bill decided to heap on even more bureaucracy and more red tape to make things even more difficult. Not only did it fail to solve the issue, but it actually creates more issues. There is a good piece of legislation for everyone.
As I mentioned, our port is already a mess, but the government has decided to apply a bit more red tape to see how much more of a mess it can create, so out comes Bill . In this bill, the government decided to implement a new advisory committee. No doubt this could restrict ports in making decisions to improve their capacity and efficiency. That is a problem.
Bill would also increase the ministerial authority to appoint the chair of port authorities, therefore reducing the independence of our ports, which are supposed to operate at arm's length from the government. Additional ministerial powers would limit local decision-making and would lead to further delays in the modernization of our ports. In the end, the overly prescriptive and bureaucratic red tape would increase costs, which would then be passed on to consumers, consumers who are already paying through the roof due to the government's inflationary spending and carbon tax.
Clarifying that the railway blockade is illegal certainly will not reduce disruption. Imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to ports and to railways across the country does not recognize the unique challenges faced in this vast nation. The entire bill is symbolic of a government that is incredibly out of touch and not willing to listen to the true needs of this nation. For this reason, I will not be voting in favour of the bill, and I would urge the House to act in the same way.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today on Bill , the strengthening the port system and railway safety in Canada act.
The asked a great question about how we could fix this bill once it went to committee. Being on the Standing Committee on Agriculture, the bill was very interesting to me, especially being from Saskatchewan where we are landlocked. The railways are an important mode of transportation for our commodities. It is a bit disappointing that this has missed the mark in improving the efficiency of the railway system and ports.
I will talk about agriculture for most of this speech, because it is interconnected between agriculture and our supply chains in our transportation system.
Like most of us did, I had a lot of time this summer to go around the riding and visit folks. I was able to get the member for out to Regina this summer, and we got her on a combine. We were combining lentils just outside of Regina. We were also able to get the chief superintendent from the Depot Division, F division, on a combine as well. That day we were combining durum.
What these all have in common is that once they go from the field to the combine to the bins, the next step is to get them to the port. That is the transportation system we have in the country.
The thing that happens so often, almost like clockwork every winter, is a slowdown of the trains because they cannot pull as many cars because of the cold weather. We really need to focus on this and have more options available to get our commodities to market. We have heard this time and time again from producers across Saskatchewan and the Prairies.
I know my friend from would hear many of the same complaints from producers and from the agriculture sector as a whole. They are very good at getting their yields off the field; the problem is getting them to port.
My colleague, the member for said it very well, that one of the aspects we were looking to strengthen is the efficiency of the port system. Not being able to load grain cars and ships in the rain in Vancouver is a substantial problem. This could have been addressed in this legislation to strengthen it.
Bill would amend seven existing laws, including the Canadian Marine Act, the Customs Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.
My colleague from talked about the ever-increasing bureaucracy and red tape that was added in this current iteration of Bill . We do not need more red tape when it comes to our ports. I think everyone in this chamber would agree that we have to be more efficient at transporting our goods. Canada is an exporting economy. We see that now more than ever in Saskatchewan.
We have some big players in Saskatchewan. The head office of Viterra in Saskatchewan. I talked to its CEO and he put it very clearly that we needed more efficiency at the Port of Vancouver. We did talk about this bill a little this summer when we ran into each other. He was looking forward to seeing what was in it. I had a chance to give him a call the other day and he was quite disappointed. In fact, many stakeholders have been disappointed in what this bill has provided so far.
Some of the people who were not consulted on the bill were CP Rail, the Association of Canadian Port Authorities, Canadian Marine Pilots, Western Grain Elevator Association, Port Nanaimo, Canadian Canola Growers, Global Container Terminals and the Chamber of Shipping.
One of the comments from CP Rail was that after working on this for four years that it was a whole bunch of nothing. That is one of our main stakeholders with regard to the bill. When one asks what could be done better, we could have a conversation with CP on how this bill could be improved. I hope CP Rail representatives are on the witness list when we get this to committee.
Another one of the people who could be consulted is a man from Saskatchewan, Murad Al-Katib of AGT Foods. This company transports and ships across the world. One thing he says is that getting container ships is a difficult thing to do in Canada.
What we could do is have conversations with the people on the ground who need the railway system improved. One thing I would like is to have the witness list include some of these people when this legislation comes to committee, people like Murad Al-Katib and companies like Viterra. These people have used the port system.
The Port of Vancouver is the gateway to the world for us as exporters. There are efficiencies we could improve on, obviously. Like I said earlier in my speech, we really need to be able to load grain cars in all weather. We have to do it safely, of course, but we need to be able to do it in all kinds of weather.
When we are trying to get our goods to market, in talking to the railways about the huge inefficiencies, another thing we could do is get some pipelines built. If we take some oil cars off the railways, then we would have the ability to actually ship more grain on a daily basis.
When it comes to Saskatchewan, and my colleague from Alberta agrees, there is no more efficient way to ship oil than through a pipeline. We have seen through other legislation like Bill , the no-more-pipelines act, that we cannot get things built in this country.
When we talk about the overall vision for infrastructure across this country, that vision needs to include more pipelines being built to get oil from west to east. We do not have those conversations. There needs to be infrastructure debate in this chamber about how we are going to move forward into the 21st century. This also includes building pipelines. It includes the electricity grid as well, because we need to become more efficient when it comes to shipping materials across our beautiful country.
One of the other things I found very interesting is some of the amendments and the impacts they would have on the ports, such as the proposed amendment to expand Canadian port authorities' mandate over traffic management, including vessels moored or anchored. We talk about expanding the port authorities' mandate. Have we had that discussion with the port authorities? Do we know if they have the capacity to even expand that mandate? That is the question I have for the , and hopefully we can get that answered when we are in committee.
Another question I have is on enabling the development of inland terminals. Have they talked to some of the proponents that would be building and expanding these terminals and what they need to see in this legislation?
Another amendment would be to streamline the review process for port authorities' borrowing. Obviously, that is something we could have a conversation about and discuss in committee as well. On establishing new regulatory authorities to oversee Canada's marine security framework, whenever there is talk about expanding authorities, I would like to have conversations on what that means to shippers and distributers across the country.
I would also like to have the conversation about how we are going to be able to get goods then across the ocean. We talk about getting to the port. We also need more efficiency when it comes to having the ability to load ships with grain. We need to be building more capacity to ship LNG. We have had Germany and Japan come to our country and ask for help when it comes to LNG. One of the reasons we cannot do it is because we do not have the capacity to load these vessels to get the LNG to different areas of the world. That is a conversation we should be having as well.
The United States built five, six or seven LNG terminals over the last three or four years and we have built nothing. We have become a country where it is almost impossible to build infrastructure under the current government. People want to be able to invest in our country, but the goalposts keep moving on when we can actually get something built. We are then really having trouble attracting foreign investment to our country because they do not see how we would have the capacity to export.
We have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in this country over the last eight years because of investment flowing from Canada straight to the United States. This is because investors believe our infrastructure is not sufficient to be able to transport the goods they want to produce in our country.
We have a wealth of natural resources and we do not have the ability to get those resources to port and then to the destination after that. Therefore, this bill, unfortunately, misses the mark in trying to create more efficiencies at the Port of Vancouver. It misses the mark and increases our capacity on the railways. For that reason and many reasons, after reaching out to stakeholders, they do not like the bill, we do not like it either and we will be voting against it.