I'll start by saying that everything the minister said is absolutely correct.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Steven Fletcher: I am pleased to be here today.
Our government is obviously committed to making sure that Canadians have security and safety when they travel and to helping Canadian businesses transport their products efficiently so that they are competitive, they grow, and they create new jobs. We are making strategic investments and continuing to look at ways we can improve services for Canadians.
I'm here to discuss investments related to two of the crown corporations in our portfolio. That's because those are the two that supplementary estimates (B) touch on.
Before I do that, I would like to take an opportunity to highlight the important work of all the crown corporations in the portfolio, such as Canada Post, Marine Atlantic, CATSA, Ridley Terminals, Blue Water Bridge, and the whole set. We are fortunate to have them work more or less very well and serve Canadians.
I have certainly enjoyed my opportunity to work alongside Minister Lebel to oversee the management of these files, of which each contribute a great deal to the prosperity and competitiveness of Canada. The funding of these organizations will continue to deliver important services to Canadians.
Now, let me start by speaking about VIA Rail. Transportation has been identified with opportunity in Canada. Via Rail connects, or transportation in general connects, workers with jobs, travellers with destinations, products with markets. For over a century, that opportunity has moved across this country on thousands of kilometres of steel rails. The building of Canada's railroads contributed greatly to shaping our country, developing our economy, and bringing us together as Canadians.
Today VIA Rail continues this proud tradition of connecting people across the country. Our government is proud to contribute to providing Canadians with a safe, reliable, sustainable passenger rail service. That is why since 2007 our government has committed nearly $1 billion to improve VIA Rail's passenger rail service and the stations and tracks over which VIA operates. Nearly half of that funding was funded through Canada's economic action plan.
More recently, in the economic action plan 2012, our government announced $105 million for this fiscal year. This will support VIA operations and further capital investments in track signalling systems, track components, station repairs, and IT.
Overall, these projects will enhance the safety and efficiency of VIA Rail passenger service and create jobs in local communities throughout Canada. By investing in VIA, we ensure that rail continues to play an important part in moving people and providing safe, efficient, and reliable alternative transportation.
I'll just give you a sense of some of the things we've invested in. VIA recently opened a new station in Windsor, near the riding of one of your committee members, in an important part of the network. The new facilities can also be found at Smiths Falls, Belleville, Cobourg, Oshawa, and Ottawa. This will include new walkways, platforms, and other services to improve rail travel experiences for passengers.
In April we restored VIA's wonderful heritage station in Vancouver, and in May we announced some pretty awesome changes to Winnipeg's Union Station. There are also major track improvements under way in the Ottawa-Toronto-Montreal corridor, which will be completed shortly and make rail travel safer and faster.
These investments in VIA are about the future, a future in which passenger rail will continue to play an important role in Canada's transportation system. As with all important transportation projects in this country, progress for our rail system would not be possible without strong partnerships. I would also like to recognize the various governments, businesses, and community representatives who have worked along with us to maintain a modern and viable system.
Mr. Chair, just before I close, I want to touch on one other corporation. Minister Lebel has made note of the investments our government has made in the bridges in Montreal and Windsor. I'd also like to mention the work we're undertaking in Cornwall, Ontario. The Seaway International crossing at Cornwall is an important link between Canada and the United States. This project involves constructing a new bridge connecting the city of Cornwall and Cornwall Island. This includes demolishing the deteriorating north channel span of the Seaway International Bridge crossing as well as ramps that connect to the existing roadway.
While this bridge remains safe for the public, the new bridge will ensure the long-term viability of this important border crossing. Through this initiative, our government is creating jobs and supporting the future economic growth of the region. Construction of the new bridge is scheduled for completion in late summer 2013, and the final approach changes are to be completed in 2015-16.
Mr. Chairman, these crown corporations, and the others, report to Parliament through the Minister of Transport, and they do provide an essential service to Canadians. Our government is committed to ensuring they have the resources they need to carry out their mandates.
May I say, just on the VIA front, I had the good opportunity to take the VIA train from Windsor to Ottawa about two weekends ago. It's a very civilized way to travel, perhaps the best way to travel if you're travelling in the corridor between Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto. So, go VIA.