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Results: 1 - 15 of 654
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I missed the rationale given by officials last week on this bill, since I wasn't at the committee, but certainly from doing some of the reading before the committee, and obviously at the committee today, and hearing these three briefs, it strikes me that there's a degree of inconsistency, illogic, and adhocery to this piece of legislation coming at this time in the life of this Parliament. It seems to have been designed without reference to the wider goals of Canadian communications and cultural policy, something that I think the three witnesses have certainly put their fingers on.
I have another basic concern, and this goes back to an earlier life I had here over twenty years ago, in another century, as a minister of multiculturalism. We actually took great strides in trying to foster the notion of greater freedom, not just with the passage of the Charter of Rights in 1982 but also with the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1983-84, to ensure that Canadians, notwithstanding their ethnic origins, had the right to live and work in their own language. Obviously there are two officials languages in the country, English and French, but as a public policy goal, we tried to foster the retention of other languages. It was rather prescient at the time, because in the twenty years since, we've become a much more globalized world. I look around my constituency and I see young people today speaking third and fourth languages. They have been exposed in their homes, through books, through movies, and obviously through conversation. This helps them in their lives to interact in the globalized economic environment that we have today.
It seems to me that the point the witnesses are putting forward--and I don't want to put words in their mouths, but I think it was Professor Attallah who was very clear on this--is that this legislation seems to be arbitrarily based on the need for profitability of two large corporations that, granted, have invested their money and developed a certain expertise in technology, but that are in effect making cultural choices on behalf of individual Canadians as to what particular language services, foreign services, can be brought into the country via satellite. This seems to me to be fundamentally unjust, and something we have to look at.
I don't know whether any of the witnesses would like to comment on my feeling about their presentations in this regard.
I would conclude, Mr. Chairman, by saying that I think it's incumbent on us to have the minister and her officials come back and try to justify this bill being passed, at this time, in this context, in this Parliament, without recourse to a wider discussion of Canadian cultural and broadcasting policy and the challenges that face the country in terms of the rapid technological advances we're seeing. Rather than just pass this now, and sort of shut the door and go for the election--you know, put the lights out--we should ask what's going to happen after the election. Are we going to revisit this? Are we going to look at wider implications of this bill in the context of cultural and broadcasting policy?
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, I just get nervous on the issue of duopolies, and I'm glad we had that different perspective at the end. The last time I ran into duopolies, two major airlines were artificially keeping prices up and limiting choices for Canadians. There was the rise of discount operators, and once that changed, then we saw a much more dynamic system. So when Mr. McOrmond raised the word “duopoly”, that struck a nerve with me.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On the issue of the list, at this particular point in time I'm sure our witnesses are aware, as everyone is, that we have some controversial issues facing government—charges of lack of accountability on the part of ministers and on the part of public servants. What the list issue comes down to, as far as I'm concerned, is accountability.
As someone who has been on the other side of the table, I believe we have to be very, very careful to ensure that government remains accountable and that any drugs prescribed are prescribed in the proper way, authorized by the WHO or by Health Canada. As Ms. Torsney said, these drugs can be quickly added. I've been involved in orders in council where a decision was taken in an emergency and within the hour the paperwork was done. So I don't think we should worry about that.
I do have concerns with the notion that somehow NGOs have direct access to drugs without necessarily them having been prescribed, in this case by Canada. NGOs are not accountable to the people of Canada. They do great jobs. They are volunteer organizations and the like. But the government, which sanctions what drugs can be used, is accountable to the public and therefore must follow prescribed procedures.
I would certainly reject the notion that the list should be opened up. Other drugs can be added. Mr. Fontana has indicated that, but the fact is there is a procedure. It happens not just on the question of drugs; it happens on other regulatory matters. Whether it's in transportation or in other parts of government, there are procedures for allowing certain parts, in this case drugs, to be authorized.
Where I'm very sympathetic, Mr. Chair, with our guests—and I told them yesterday—is on the issue of the first right of refusal. I can't understand how this bill got to this stage the way it's written with respect to the right of first refusal. Our friend from Brazil talked about the cartel in the context of the list. The fact is we have a cartel when it comes to the research-based drug companies in the world. I think no one can see this more clearly than what is happening right now between Canada and the United States, where thousands of Americans are ordering drugs from Canada through the Internet and whereby generic drugs are significantly cheaper. Generic brands, once they have been freed from their patent restrictions, are significantly cheaper than the brand models.
It doesn't mean to say that I'm against research or intellectual property being rewarded, but at a certain point in time there has to be competition. The fact of the matter is the international drug companies do not compete. It is an international cartel.
Thankfully, because of what Mr. Trudeau did in 1969, in bringing in compulsory licensing—unfortunately reversed by the Conservative government, by Mr. Mulroney, in Bill C-22, in 1988 or 1987, somewhere around there—the fact is that we have developed a generic industry that has provided low-cost alternatives to Canadians, and those drugs can be available in this instance.
Now, that's not saying that the research-based companies cannot get a good return. What is a decent rate of return? I would ask colleagues to look at the rate of return of research-based drug companies and see that it's a pretty good business to be in. It requires more international regulation.
So I would hope, Mr. Chair, that the government reflects upon this and changes this. I see this as really coming right out of the Department of International Trade. I was involved in a lot of discussions on other issues, where, as a reflexive action, the Department of International Trade just says “Look, the WTO obligations are not going to be met by a specific measure”. I do not believe it in this particular case, and I would hope this could be changed.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
No, I'm agreeing with them and disagreeing with them. I've heard both sides of their arguments.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, members of the committee.
I'm glad to come back here to talk about the supplementary estimates for Transport Canada. I want to remind members of this committee how important transportation is, of course, to the GDP, as 40% of our economy is linked to trade. Much of it is in merchandise that's transported by truck, train, ship, and plane between Canada and the United States and around the globe.
Obviously one of the big challenges that we have had as a government in the last few years is to reinvest in infrastructure so that we can enhance safety, security, and economic viability of the transportation system. The federal government recognizes this, and it has invested appropriately in all modes.
You know that we invested $600 million in the strategic highway infrastructure program in budget 2000, and $500 million of this is going to go to improvements in the national highway system. Another $100 million is available for system integration initiatives such as border-crossing transportation and deployment of intelligent transportation systems.
In addition, the government announced a total of $4.6 billion in the Canada strategic infrastructure fund and the border infrastructure fund. Of the $2.8 billion in projects announced to date, 79% has been allocated to roads and highways, border transportation projects, and public transit.
Perhaps germane to recent discussions in the press, the air industry has also benefited from financial support from the Government of Canada. We provided assistance to the industry, including $100 million in compensation for the loss of business resulting from the closing of Canada's airspace after September 11, 2001, and $35 million to assist air carriers in meeting requirements for reinforced cockpit doors.
In addition, as you know, this committee is particularly aware that we've set up CATSA, the Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority. That alone saved the airlines directly more than $70 million a year, and it continues to make annual contributions towards aviation security-related policing at airports.
One thing that is not appreciated is that since 9/11/2001, the Government of Canada has assumed the liability on war risk insurance for the air navigation system, for the airlines and for the airports. This is almost an incalculable saving, because we don't know what they would have had to pay. In fact, the insurance wasn't available post-9/11. This is something we're grappling with, but other countries around the world are also grappling with it and we're trying to have a global solution to that.
Obviously we continue to monitor the health of the air industry, and we continue to be very concerned about that. I'm sure you'll have questions on that.
That is assistance to the air industry.
Now, the marine sector has been targeted for strategic investment, and one of the things I'm very concerned about right now is maritime security. We have one of the safest, most secure transportation systems in the world. We worked hard at it, and we'll continue to take the required steps to keep Canada at the forefront. You'll remember that we announced $172.5 million for marine security improvements earlier this year, and it included initiatives that improve the security at sea and on land, particularly in our ports.
Passenger rail in Canada continues to benefit from the funding of $401.9 million announced by the government in April 2000 for VIA Rail. That announcement allowed VIA Rail to face its most urgent capital needs relating to rolling stock, infrastructure, and health and safety.
Obviously, the government recognizes the importance of transportation to ensure the prosperity and quality of life of all Canadians.
Before I respond to your questions, I'd like to set the stage by talking about the supplementary estimates, and I'd like to provide an explanation as to why this money is needed.
First of all, many of the items included in the supplementary estimates were included in previous budgets. As one example, you'll recall that three of the items included in the February budget of this year were extending the port divestiture fund, providing critical funding to Marine Atlantic, and providing operating funds for the old port of Montreal.
The items contributing funds to the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation and the air-rail link are projects announced under the umbrella of the Toronto waterfront revitalization initiative announced by the Prime Minister, the Premier of Ontario, and the Mayor of Toronto in October 2000, when each level of government committed $500 million to the project. The funding was highlighted in the December 2001 budget.
This year the budget plan 2003 was announced on February 18, and the main estimates were tabled in Parliament on February 26. This tight timing made it impossible to seek parliamentary approval for certain items as part of the main estimates process to access the funds we are seeking today in the supplementary estimates.
However, we still have to get parliamentary approval to get access to the funds requested, and that is why I am here today.
The $178,492,040 that has been requested will be used in many different areas.
Transport Canada is responsible for several Crown corporations that are accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Transport. Some of them have requested additional funds to the Department.
For example, one of the single largest sums in the supplementary estimates will go to Ridley Terminals Inc. to reimburse its credit facilities on or before the due date of February 10, 2004.
Ridley Terminals is located on a 55-hectare site on the northern end of Ridley Island in Prince Rupert. It's a sophisticated bulk-handling facility used for storing and moving coal from unit trains into ships.
In recent times Ridley Terminals Incorporated has faced some significant financial challenges. Some $77 million of the supplement is needed for the repayment of outstanding loans for the facility, and the government is the guarantor of these loans and is therefore responsible for the repayment.
In 2001-02, Transport Canada received unsolicited expressions of interest in Ridley Terminals and subsequently an RFP was issued to assist in the evaluation of options for this facility to determine the best course of action to deal with the challenges facing Ridley.
That process is not over yet.
Another crown corporation, Marine Atlantic Inc., will require an additional $16.5 million, due to a shortfall in traffic levels, higher fuel costs, and increased costs associated with vessel maintenance, workers compensation, insurance premiums, and pension plan contributions. The company has undertaken extensive internal resource reallocation, but it's unable to address this shortfall.
Marine Atlantic, as you know, provides a constitutionally guaranteed transportation link in Atlantic Canada by operating three passenger ferries between North Sydney in Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques in Newfoundland and Labrador...and Argentia in the summer.
Treasury Board has approved the 2003-2004 Business Plan for the Old Port of Montreal, another Crown corporation. However, that plan was provided too late and the funds could not be included in the Main Estimates. That is why we had to add $18.4 million to the Estimates to cover the operating costs of that Crown corporation.
Additional funds in the amount of $81,100,000 are required to extend the residential rehabilitation assistance program operated by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is one of our largest crown corporations. The extension of this program was announced in budget 2003 and funding will be used to help preserve the existing stock of affordable housing.
I should say that Karen Kinsley, the new president of CMHC, is also in the room and she would be available for answering questions.
Another project that requires funding is the Toronto waterfront revitalization initiative. As I said, it is a partnership between the Government of Ontario and the City of Toronto. And the $500 million initiative is referenced in the December 10, 2001, budget plan tabled in Parliament.
The two amounts requested, $21.4 million and $20 million, are part of a $500 million federal commitment for the redevelopment of an area along the southern border of Toronto. The funding is going to be used for expansion improvements of public transit facilities at Union Station, for an environmental assessment of design work to transform the mouth of the Don River, for improvements to former industrial and port lands in the West Donlands area, and for the extension of Front Street from Bathurst to Dufferin Street. It's part of a previously announced $1.5 billion, multi-year project for the redevelopment of Toronto.
The Port Divestiture Program is related to the divestiture of Canadian ports to local parties. In some cases, the ports are divested as operating entities but, in other cases, when the facilities are not viable anymore, the lands and facilities are divested to parties wanting to put them to other uses. The Port Divestiture Fund has been created to facilitate this process.
So far, 450 Canadians ports have been divested under this program. Ninety-nine regional or local ports have still not been divested.
The government's recently announced three-year extension of the port divestiture program is in accordance with the national marine policy, and therefore an additional $25 million is being sought for the current fiscal year to continue divesting the remaining ports.
We also need to maintain our safety programs, such as the grade crossing closure program. As you know, this program empowers the Minister of Transport to enter into an agreement to close crossings in the interests of safe railway operations.
Similarly, parliamentary approval is required for a grant to the International Civil Aviation Organization for the universal security audit, in the amount of $42,000. We think this audit is a very important program and it's part of a larger program of an internationally recognized means of verifying the implementation of ICAO aviation standards worldwide. We made a $350,000 grant to the program in February 2002, and the additional funds requested represent the balance of Canada's commitment.
Both of these grant programs are being funded from existing Transport Canada reference levels, but they are required to be listed in the estimates, an undertaking that was not completed in time for the main estimates.
More and more, transportation is at the heart of our economic well-being.
Each year, the transportation system ships more than $1 trillion worth of goods across the country and employs more than 850,000 people.
As you know, our role has changed dramatically over the past ten years. And while Transport Canada no longer owns and operates a large part of the transportation system, it continues to play an important role in the strategic support of certain transportation infrastructure, oversight and regulation of the industry and the safety and security of important transportation infrastructure and its users and transportation policy. The expenditure of these funds through the supplementary estimates process will help us continue to fulfill the responsibilities.
Thank you.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
The old port is the historic part of Montreal. I think they've done a remarkable job in preserving the old buildings, old infrastructure. Of course, the port of Montreal is one of the Canada port authorities under the Canada Marine Act.
The old port of Montreal is, in effect, a cultural, historic area in Montreal that attracts tourists.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, and it is not unusual.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
No, there will be no more requirements for us, barring some unforeseen emergency, before the end of the fiscal year. Of course, whether or not additional projects in transportation or anything else in government are funded or not funded or reduced really is a subject for the next budget, which we expect early in the new year.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
There will be no financial requirements for any additional transportation-related initiatives, barring an emergency, before December 31, 2004.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
That would follow in further years. In fact, what we're looking at is because of the changeover that is going on and the uncertain economy in the last few months, any additional funds would be ramped up so that the bulk of it would be in the latter years. It wouldn't be upfront. But there's nothing in this fiscal year, I can assure you.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
There's nothing more. But as I've said, government has done quite a lot.
There's one outstanding issue I'm sure members would want to talk about, and that's this whole airport rent issue. I have some personal views that I've expressed, and Transport Canada has certainly been leading the analysis on this file, but any adjustment of airport rents, particularly reduction, obviously, is a budgetary item; it's not within Transport's purview. I can give you my view as Minister of Transport and I can tell you the department's view.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
There was a measure for some airport deferral, interest-free, which has been taken up by certain airports. It largely benefits the bigger airports, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. But that is not what the air industry wanted.
I was hoping to have this issue resolved by now, but it's very complex. All of the deals have been analyzed and all of the deals were somewhat unique. Again, this is not something that Transport Canada can change alone. This has to be a decision of the Minister of Finance in the budget.
I don't disagree personally with the need to deal with the airport rent issue. This was a regime that was put in place in the early years of our government when we brought in the national airports policy, a policy, by the way, that I think has worked very well. However, I must admit that the airport rent methodology and logic is somewhat difficult to understand--and, I think, difficult to accept. The five largest airports are paying $250 million a year right now, but other airports will come on stream.
There is a concept called “participation rent“ that my officials can describe to you, which the airline industry calls usurious methods, and I am not, frankly, in disagreement. Certainly my position has always been with my cabinet colleagues that we must do something on this.
On one hand, I say to the airport operators that they all signed deals knowing what they were getting into, though no one could foresee the downturn we had. On the other hand, the regime, as it cranks up later on, I think has to be adjusted.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
There are bigger issues facing the air industry, and it is not just in Canada. It is worldwide in terms of the inability of full-service carriers to adapt to the new economic realities. That is an issue in Europe and an issue in the United States as well as in Canada. In those countries you don't have the same airport rent formula that we have.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
From the CRF, the big government fund.
View David Collenette Profile
Lib. (ON)
I should just say, Mr. Chairman, that I think, frankly, one of the problems is that this airport rent policy is flawed. The fact the Department of Transport has to have its A base depend on the uncertainties and the vagaries of the market I do not think is sustainable. I do not believe it is generally followed throughout the government.
As Mr. Ranger has explained, the department is really up against the wall, as well as the airlines. So we have the same concerns as the airlines because of the way it is affecting us. We don't want to cut, for safety reasons particularly, any employees and programs. So it is serious, and this is the point that I have made to my cabinet colleagues. I was hoping to go back to committee before now, and I think it will be before Christmas. But this matter I believe must be resolved in the next budget.
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