Mr. Elmer M. MacKay (Central Nova):
Mr. Speaker, we in this party regard Bill C-27 as a very significant piece of legislation. As our House leader has said, in the interest of expediting the orderly passage of this bill, we are prepared to speak briefly on it and, we hope, constructively, so it can be discussed further in the Committee of the Whole.
By way of an opening comment, I think I should say that it is a good and constructive development that the government has finally recognized in a tangible way the connection between urban development and transportation. This piece of legislation is not only somewhat overdue, as has been said by hon. members previously, it develops a somewhat new concept further to the concept
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the drafters perhaps had in mind. It is interesting to see, for example, that there is a very clear and somewhat innovative concept of the divisions of powers reflected in this particular bill. We have a division of powers as between federal, provincial and municipal authorities. This piece of legislation also involves at least two federal ministries, urban affairs and transportation. Clause 7 of the bill also involves the ministry of public works.
This concept of intergovernmental and interdepartmental co-operation is one that has intrigued me greatly. It is one that is welcome in many areas of legislation, and it is needed, for instance, in the activities of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion. It is certainly appropriate in the Departments of Urban Affairs and Transportation because, as all members know, there is a growing realization that many of the problems faced in this country require the concerted efforts of more than one government department.
It is very clear that much of the efficacy of this legislation will depend on the efficiency and expedition with which the CTC performs its task. One cannot help but be impressed when one reads this legislation with the great responsibilities the Canadian Transport Commission has. If this commission does not improve its tendency, I would suggest without meaning to be sarcastic, to frustrate to a certain extent and delay proceedings, then I think the thrust of this legislation could be seriously impaired.
There is no particular region in Canada that will not benefit by the provisions of Bill C-27, and I think it is significant in respect of the total transportation picture in this country. I say that because it seems obvious that if this legislation is carried out according to its scope, meaning and apparent intent, it could involve, in some areas of this country, significant rerouting of our major rail lines.
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Marchand) has said recently that he does recognize that his department lacks an over-all policy. Further to this, it has been pointed out on many occasions that one of the policies which must be considered in respect of the total transportation picture, is a policy in respect of the poor maintenance of the roadbeds of our major rail lines. This has many significant implications.
In addition to this situation, we are aware that a former President of the Canadian National Railway system questioned the priorities involved in allocating many millions of dollars to the STOL program in an attempt to improve transportation links between major cities, particularly in central Canada. This money, which has been tentatively and actually allocated in some cases for this STOL program, as opposed to what might have been done, in the opinion of the former President of the CNR might have been used to improve the rail systems in this country.
The reason I say this bill may have an important effect on our nation's transportation system is that if there are significant changes made to reroute and change some of the present railway rights-of-way, these new additions or changes to be made will presumably be of a modern and highly satisfactory nature in so far as technology is concerned. Having regard to the old adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, I would think that somewhat in a converse analogy, when these major rerouting changes are carried out, surely they will by contrast
Relocation of Railway Lines
expose the inadequacies of much of our railway systems to which they are connected, particularly in serving areas where passenger travel could be very profitable if the roadbeds of the rail lines were upgraded and updated.
For that reason, I think this bill might serve as a catalyst in persuading this government and the Minister of Transport that while they are making these changes in respect of some of the traditional rights of the railways, to which the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Leg-gatt) has referred, and to which the Minister of State for Urban Affairs (Mr. Basford) referred, and I have in mind the traditional rights in respect of expropriation and things of that nature, to use this piece of legislation as a springboard from which to refinance and perhaps rebuild larger stretches of railway rights of way so that Canada can take advantage of some of the technological advances presently known, to improve and upgrade our transportation system generally.
There is no doubt, as the minister has said, that this bill has significance in the realm of urban development. Certain cities, or the core areas of these cities, have to some extent been held back and sometimes actually stunted by the effects of having freightyards and railway rights of way in certain areas which, with the passage of time, are better suited for other purposes. This is true all across the nation. It is true in the city of Winnipeg which is one of the few cities that has had a comprehensive study done in this area. But it is also true of places like Halifax, St. John's Newfoundland and practically anywhere you might want to go across Canada. With the concept expressed in this bill it is obvious the government has recognized the need, even at a great deal of cost, to do something about this situation. Certainly, I think the government is to be commended in this regard.
There is another aspect, of course, of this legislation that is important. It has to do with the terrible safety record our transportation system, particularly rail transport, has accumulated over the years. In comparison to other industrialized nations, it is quite evident that our railway system is at about the bottom of the list. For those members who have not had the opportunity to do so I would really recommend that they make themselves aware of the contents of a study carried out by Professor Lukasiewicz of Carleton University. This man did a very interesting treatise or project involving the history of our railways in this country.
Professor Lukasiewicz paid particular attention to the situation involving the passenger carrying capabilities of the various railways and the failure of the CTC to effect meaningful changes despite the fact it has had a very definite regulatory function since it was formed. Professor Lukasiewicz points out that really the situation in this country's railway development has been one of institutionalized obsolesence. In fact, this is part of the title of the work he has composed. Unless the Minister of Transport is prepared to seize on the initiatives that this particular piece of legislation might provide, and unless he is prepared to carry on and do something tangible pursuant to the speech he made a couple of days ago in Montreal when he said that the railways and not the highways are our hope for the future in this country so far as efficiency
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Relocation of Railway Lines
of movement of people is concerned, this piece of legislation will probably, although it will be useful, not have the far-reaching and sweeping effect it might otherwise have.
So far as the safety aspect itself is concerned, I see that the drafters of this legislation did have something specifically in mind because there is, as I recall it from reading the bill, a provision that approximately 80 per cent of the cost of installing devices like a revolving light for the main head beam of a locomotive be provided. This is the type of measure together with the improvement to our railway crossings, that has been trying out for attention over the years. Although I realize it is counter-productive to take the time of the House to flay the government for not doing so earlier, still I think there is merit in taking a few moments to say that it is difficult to understand why some of the obvious improvements contemplated by this piece of legislation were not brought forward a long time ago. However, I suppose this is in keeping with the general philosophy that until very recently this government has had, and may still have, of promising to make available remedial legislation and then somehow never managing to bring it forward in a decent length of time.
We will watch with great interest the uses to which the railway lands are put, which this bill will permit to be appropriated, pursuant to the procedures over which the Canadian Transport Commission has jurisdiction. I am sure many members, upon reflection, in respect of this principle, will want to elaborate on it during the committee of the whole proceedings because this probably will become quite an issue in many communities where railway lines are to be rerouted. I am very hopeful that when this issue does come up it will not be something that will turn into an exhibition of jealousy and fighting or perhaps be a political football in the municipal field. I think there should be some strict guidelines or jurisprudence developed very carefully so that these lands which will be made available will not be tied up by petty bickering either at the municipal, provincial or federal level. It seems to me that unless the minister is prepared to show more initiative than he has-and perhaps this is a fair comment to make in respect of both the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Urban Affairs-he should make sure that the CTC carries out quickly its responsibilities under this legislation, otherwise much of its timeliness and much of the good inherent in it will not come to pass.
I do not know what the statistics are concerning staff employed by the CTC, but I suspect, like many other government commissions, agencies and departments it is too big. I suspect it is larger than is necessary. I also suspect that because of the scope of this legislation and the responsibilities given to the CTC that it will become even bigger. So, again I wish to point out to the minister that while he is watching the activities of the CTC he refrain from the obvious temptation to permit this empire to grow any larger, and that he look for quality rather than quantity when looking after the needs of this very powerful commission.
I suspect that the Minister of Transport, who probably will be closing this debate as has been suggested, may have some particular comment to make, as did the Minister of State for Urban Affairs, in respect of his particular interest in this piece of legislation which involves these
joint responsibilities between the two departments. I hope the minister will take this opportunity, although it may be to some extent related only in an indirect way to the bill under discussion, to answer the question to which many transport authorities in this country have been long awaiting an answer, concerning what the priorities are and what other measures are to be brought forward to supplement the upgrading of the railways and the roadbeds generally between the major population centres in this country.
We would like to know whether the minister still intends to proceed in the same way with regard to the STOL program or does he intend to divert some of the money-I think the figure is around $200 million if I recall it correctly,-to assist in the proposed aims of Bill C-17 and in expanding the improvements that no doubt will be required to link the existing roadbeds to the diversions and changes contemplated under this legislation. So far as the initiatives required are concerned, and which have been mentioned in the legislation-initiatives which if I read the bill correctly are at least by implication supposed to emanate from municipal and provincial governments-
I would hope we do not become involved in the type of situation I have noticed in respect of DREE, where there is a somewhat parallel situation, in that there are mutual areas of responsibility, particularly in growth centres, where one particular type of policy is advocated, by cities or municipalities, and the province is so jealous of its constitutional prerogative that it watches very closely to see that the cities or municipalities do not deal directly with the federal government, whereby adding administrative complications. I hope that this type of situation can somehow be circumvented in respect of this legislation and that methods will be explored by the federal authority to make sure that needed projects and improvements pursuant to this legislation will be undertaken without necessarily waiting for the provinces, municipalities or civic governments involved to decide what is the exact time at which they might proceed or by what method they would like to see it done.
I recognize that there will be certain problems almost "diplomatic" in nature, involved. I am not suggesting for one moment that the federal ministers of the Crown should try to over-ride or in other ways usurp the very real contributions that municipalities and provinces have to make in allocating priorities and determining the methods that should be employed. What I am pointing out to the minister is that I hope in some way an effort will be made to avoid any type of impasse that may develop and that early on in the application of this legislation there will be a great deal of time made available to try to establish guidelines, and to try to avoid any conflicts or jurisdiction, real or imagined, that could impede the proficiency and the speedy implementation of this legislation.
There are all sorts of comments that any member of the House could make about a bill that is as sweeping as this one. I think that it would be a mistake to go into it on a purely parochial basis. Much has been said on the subject of urban renewal. The hon. member for Calgary North (Mr. Woolliams) has dealt with this particular subject in his usual learned fashion over the past few months. The
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minister himself has spent a lot of time on it, and it is well known that the field of transportation and all the various ills implicit in it have been aired in a very complete way. Therefore, I do not propose to speak much longer on this occasion, except to say again that there are probably within this legislation areas of concern that are so long standing that it will take the people affected by them quite a while to realize that here is a vehicle which at last may be able to solve some of these impediments to urban development and to take away some of the roadblocks that have plagued our transportation system.
The only way in which a piece of legislation such as this can be made effective is to get it through the House as quickly as is reasonably possible after we have had a look at it in committee of the whole, and then to make certain that it is being implemented and administered in such a way that its provisions are not used as political footballs by any level of government, but that a genuine joint effort is made by the municipal, provincial and federal authorities involved to do something constructive, because few, if any, problems existing in this nation need attention more than urban development and transportation.
Subtopic: RAILWAY RELOCATION AND CROSSING ACT
Sub-subtopic: PROVISION FOR PLANNING, ACQUISITION OF LAND, GRANTS, GRADE CROSSING ASSISTANCE