Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House again to speak on Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act. As we know, this omnibus bill would substantially amend 13 different acts and have consequential impacts on three modes of transportation: rail, air, and water. It should have been broken up, yet the Liberals across voted against the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek when she made recommendations in committee to break this up and study each one in greater detail in order to cover some of the problems we have in Canada.
This bill is in response to the Canada Transportation Act review, which was tabled in 2016 by the Liberals, but was initiated by previous Conservative minister Emerson in 2014. The review Emerson did was looking ahead 20 years to 30 years to identify priorities and potential actions in transportation that would support Canada's long-term economic well-being. We recognized that transportation and the economy were changing, and had to make sure the legislation was up to date. The Emerson report was submitted to the minister almost 18 months ago, and provided the government with 60 recommendations to address a range of changing conditions and challenges across Canada's transportation sector. Unfortunately, the Liberals decided to launch another consultation process and are only just tabling the legislation this year.
I am not going to say there are no good parts to this bill. There are good parts and there are bad parts. They missed the mark in a few areas, and I would like to address some of those. I am going to address the good ones too.
I will deal first with railroad. In going through Bill C-49, the creation on new long-haul interswitching regulation has a lot of good facts. That followed suit from the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act that was brought in by the Conservative government. I am not going to go into too much detail, but there are good parts of it and there are some bad parts. I know it has been debated a lot in committee, and I think they worked pretty well on that.
One area I would like to comment on, which I think was positive, is that the Canadian Transportation Agency would gain the power to order a railroad to compensate any shipper that would be adversely affected for a railway's failure to fulfill the service level obligations under the new definition. It would also allow the Canadian Transportation Agency to try to inform these settled disputes between railways and shippers, and would mandate 90-day rulings by the CTA.
I was very glad to see this. CN runs through my riding of Yellowhead, and is a major east-west corridor for it. Over the last three or four years, I have received many complaints from major companies in forestry, coal mining, gravel hauling, fracking sand hauling, grain hauling, etc. about the railroad company committing to have a train at a specific location or facility at a certain time. These companies would have a crew of 10 people ready to load that train, yet no train would show up, and sometimes would not show up for a day or two. They are paying these crews, have shipment orders that might be going to the west coast or need to connect with a ship to get to an overseas port, and yet the railway did not consider that in good faith. This portion of the act is excellent to see, and hopefully it will resolve those types of issues.
Another concern I have that was not addressed in this omnibus bill is the length of trains that are now running in Canada and the lack of proper crews on those trains. Trains are running that are probably two to three times larger today than they were 10 or 15 years ago. It puts a lot of stress on the train crews and on communities. I am going to give an example, but before I do, I want to read a section of the Grade Crossing Regulations. Section 97(2) states:
It is prohibited for railway equipment to be left standing on a crossing surface, or for switching operations to be conducted, in a manner that obstructs a public grade crossing—including by the activation of the gate of a warning system—for more than five minutes when vehicular or pedestrian traffic is waiting to cross it.
It went on to say in section 98 that if there is a repeated issue with trains blocking a crossing, it should be resolved through collaboration between the rail company, local road authorities, etc. If that does not work, the local authority can send a letter to the minister to request a resolution.
Rail crossings have been brought up a number of times and the government and the committee failed to address those concerns. I am going to give an example.
The town I live in is Edson, located in the centre of Yellowhead riding. Our town is divided by the railroad tracks. We have two-mile trains that come in and stop, whether it is for crew changes, whether it is for checking brakes, or whatever. I could stack on my desk the number of complaints that the train is stopped for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. When it does that, people from the other side of that track cannot get into town. We have had ambulances stranded and emergency situations. We keep bringing this up with CN, but we do not see changes.
CN is monitoring the crossings, but we still continue to see blockages. This is a problem. CN says if we phone it in, that CN will break a train. Try to break a train two miles long at a crossing. It is virtually impossible. If a person has a heart attack on the other side of that train and needs an ambulance, that person's life can be in jeopardy. That is the situation we are facing in our community and other communities throughout our riding.
CN says people can talk to the railroad company, then go to the minister and look for results. I did that as the member of Parliament. I called a meeting of CN and Transport Canada. The Transport Canada officials said, “We have really long trains. Disregard the five minutes, it is not a big problem. Ten or 15 minutes, so what?” We have big trains and Transport Canada is not interested in looking after it. That is a failing in the new regulations. It should have been addressed.
Creation of air passenger rights regime is right. We all know that over the last few years we have seen a lot of bad things happening in airlines and we see a lot of bad things happening in Canada: delays, lots of times the airlines say they do not have a crew, people cannot go to a smaller community, or the flight is cancelled.
One thing that was not addressed and is very important to Canadians is the cost of air travel. As an example, I go back and forth to my riding almost every weekend. It costs me four times as much to go to my riding than to go from New York to Los Angeles, which is 1,000 kilometres shorter. We need to look at the costs incurred by Canadian air travellers.
We are looking at parts of the new air regulations allowing CATSA to be increased at certain airports to improve the flow of people going through and security measures. I do not disagree with that. I spend a lot of time going through Ottawa and Edmonton airports, but that cost should not be deferred to the air traveller. I believe it should be incurred by the Government of Canada, which is requiring the security recommendations.
I want to quickly deal with marine ports and the ability for them to borrow money from the new infrastructure bank. I believe that is totally wrong. The infrastructure bank would say it would lend $100 million or more, but what about the small communities like Edson, the city of Fort St. John, small cities across this country that are looking for infrastructure money to assist them in their infrastructure needs? We are going to take that money and squander it in the large centres and large seaports, which is not the right way to do it.