May 8, 2015

CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Yea.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Nay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, May 11, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
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CPC

Rick Norlock

Conservative

Mr. Rick Norlock

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find the unanimous consent of the House to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

Is that agreed?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

The Chair has received a notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition Motion—Feminine Hygiene Products
Permalink
NDP

Craig Scott

New Democratic Party

Mr. Craig Scott (Toronto—Danforth, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege. I was blocked from accessing Centre Block, and thus the House of Commons, by an officer of the RCMP. This physical obstruction impeded me from performing my parliamentary duties, which I believe constitutes a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member. I am rising at the first opportunity.

I remind the House that Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament, defines “privilege” in the following way on page 75:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively…and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions....

I will fairly briefly describe what happened, then the argument on procedure will be limited, as I will adopt other argument that has appeared before the House.

Today, on May 8, at approximately 10:35 a.m., I arrived on Parliament Hill on foot by the O'Connor entrance from Wellington. I proceeded up past the lawn along the sidewalk that runs north, east of the West Block. At the top, at about the midpoint of where the sidewalk curves along the balustrade overlooking the lawn, a cluster of people were stationary in front of an RCMP officer just in front of a barrier running alongside the driveway. At this point, I was directly below the MPs' entrance to the House of Commons and obviously very close to it. My trajectory was to be, and later became, the same as it always is for me and other MPs arriving on foot: to proceed straight north from that point in the sidewalk and enter the Centre Block via the West Block entrance and thereafter the lobby and the chamber where today proceedings in which I wanted to participate were under way.

At that point, I walked through a gap in the waiting group and proceeded to walk toward and then alongside the RCMP officer, gesturing to my pin, which I was wearing on my lapel. I was asked to stop. I told the officer I was an MP and she said that did not matter. I asked whether she wanted to see my ID. She said that it was irrelevant. I nevertheless took out my MP identity card, which she glanced at in my hand but did not take to inspect. I asked whether she knew she had a duty to let an MP through. She said that she had orders to stop everyone. At that point, I proceeded to take two or three steps up the sidewalk, saying that I wanted to get to the House. She moved toward me with her arm outstretched to block my way, without physically touching me. So, I stopped to resume the discussion, as I was not going to put her in the position of acting in any further physical fashion on what were clearly orders from her superior officers. She was doing her job as best she understood it, in light of orders from the RCMP command on the Hill.

To be clear about what her orders were, I then asked whether she was under orders to stop MPs as well as others. She replied she was under orders to stop “everyone”.

At one point in the conversation I asked why I was being stopped. She said that VIPs were coming. I could see in the near distance the red carpet going up the main steps of the Centre Block. I asked whether the fear was that an MP would do something to these VIPs. She avoided the question, understandably recognizing its rhetorical nature. However, the point is clear. The only logic at work in this obstruction was one of protecting the safety of a VIP from a person the RCMP knows to be an MP. On that logic, there is little to stop the RCMP from putting in place orders that obstruct the movements of MPs inside Parliament's buildings in order to protect VIPs from us, the MPs. This may sound like a stretch, Mr. Speaker, but that is the logic of what happened. I was stopped because I was treated indistinguishably from non-MPs, as an equal threat to a visiting dignitary.

I then asked for the RCMP officer's name, and she showed her badge. I then pointed out to the waiting group that they were witnessing an MP being stopped from getting to the House of Commons. At that point, she got on her radio and asked whether she could let an MP through. An answer came back to let “everyone” through, with no specific response about an MP. I then walked the rest of the short distance to the West Block entrance to Centre Block.

I have the officer's name, but the name is irrelevant, as this issue is about the command of the RCMP, all the way up to and including the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner for Federal Policing, and their disregard for the rules of Parliament Hill related to the parliamentary privilege of MPs. This is about the system within which the officer had orders to operate. It is not about the officer, who I want to emphasize was firm but also polite.

I also took no record of the time that elapsed because it is irrelevant to the issue, which is that in these circumstances no obstruction of an MP was justified in the least. I am happy to say for the record, if it matters to some, that it lasted no longer than the time taken for the events and the conversation just described to transpire, almost certainly less than a minute.

As for precedents, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice states the following:

In circumstances where Members claim to be physically obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary functions, the Speaker is apt to find that a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.

Having reminded you of something that you do not need to be reminded of, Mr. Speaker, I am sure I will save the House's time by adopting by reference all of the authorities cited and argued by my colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, in his question of privilege on April 30. Hansard will, of course, have those arguments in full for the Speaker to consult.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to consider my question of privilege and the facts I have just related to the House. I believe you will find that my privilege was breached and that I was prevented from carrying out my functions as an elected member of the House of Commons. If you find that there was a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Access to Centre Block
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CPC

Rick Norlock

Conservative

Mr. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC)

I am rising, Mr. Speaker, to advise that the government will be looking into this matter. We will get back to the House once we have looked at the issue and have been able to ascertain certain precedents and facts. We will get back to the House with a response from the government in due course.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Access to Centre Block
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NDP

Peter Julian

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the problem. The government has usurped your role as Speaker to look into a question of privilege. It is not up to the partisan Conservative government to look into breaches of privilege; it is up to you, Mr. Speaker. This is exactly the point that was made by the government House leader when the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley raised what is now becoming a pattern of breaches of privilege of members of the House.

New Democrats had raised significant concerns when the government decided to throw up in the air the existing security systems in the House of Commons. It did it in a very irresponsible way. It did not consult the Speaker at all. The Prime Minister's Office decided in a very partisan way how to proceed. Now we are consistently seeing breaches of privilege of members of the opposition.

The government is saying it will look into it. That is entirely inappropriate, and a breach of your privileges, Mr. Speaker; we are asking you to look into this breach of parliamentary privilege, as we asked you to look into the breach of privilege that occurred to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the member for London—Fanshawe. This is becoming a pattern.

We know that you will want to take some time, Mr. Speaker, to reflect and to look into it, but it is your purview, your office, and it is your role as Speaker to look into this, not a partisan Conservative government trying to take over what is clearly an issue of breach of privilege of a member of the opposition.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Access to Centre Block
Permalink
CPC

Rick Norlock

Conservative

Mr. Rick Norlock

Mr. Speaker, under no circumstances would the government ever suggest that the Speaker does not have authority here. When I hear the member across the way say “partisan Conservative”, that is what that is all about.

What I meant by that response is that every single member of the 308 members of Parliament has a right to speak on an issue, including the government. That is what I addressed the Chair about, not to question your authority, not to preach to the Speaker, suggesting that somehow you had better be careful, Mr. Speaker, because we are keeping an eye on you. That is exactly the sentiment.

We respect, 100% and wholly, the authority of the Chair. We think there are certain things we would like to look into to be able to give the government's side of the issue, and that is it only.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Access to Centre Block
Permalink
CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bruce Stanton)

I thank hon. members for their interventions and the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

Members will know that this is an issue that is currently being considered, and these other interventions are noted. I also note that there is an interest on the part of the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West, indicating that the government would like an opportunity to address the question of privilege raised this afternoon at a later time.

We will, of course, take all of this under advisement in the course of the deliberations on the matter.

We will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Privilege
Sub-subtopic:   Access to Centre Block
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LIB

Lawrence MacAulay

Liberal

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan, Lib.)

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure a safe, efficient, and sustainable transportation system for Prince Edward Island by: (a) recognizing the integral economic importance of the ferry service between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, and Caribou, Nova Scotia; and (b) committing to stable, long-term, sustainable, and adequate funding, notably by ensuring that all future contracts (i) are for no less than five years, (ii) maintain or exceed current levels of service.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in this great chamber. This is an issue that I have dealt with over quite a few years, and it is important in my riding. I want to thank the hon. member for Charlottetown for seconding my motion. He is also well aware of how important this service is to Prince Edward Island and Pictou County in Nova Scotia.

Members will also be aware of how important the Wood Islands ferry service is to me and to Prince Edward Island, particularly eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Every year, this ferry takes over 475,000 passengers, 160,000 vehicles, and 18,000 commercial trucks between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. The ferry has an economic impact of $27 million a year to the island, and it has a good effect on the communities, mostly Charlottetown and eastern Prince Edward Island. The ferry also has an economic impact of over $12 million to Nova Scotia, particularly the Pictou County area.

For background, the ferry service connects the Trans-Canada Highway from Wood Islands in eastern Prince Edward Island to Caribou, Nova Scotia. It is run by Northumberland Ferries Limited, or NFL, with headquarters located in Charlottetown. NFL has operated this ferry service since it was established in 1941 by the Government of Canada.

To go back even further, in 1935, prime minister Mackenzie King brought Saskatchewan politician Charles Dunning back into federal politics to make him the minister of finance after the Great Depression and to help with the country's finances. Dunning was the minister of finance in 1929, but was defeated in the R.B. Bennett election of 1930. He had a great reputation for hard work and fairness. In the 1930 general election, as I said, he was defeated.

He restarted his business career and earned a great reputation. Mackenzie King regained power in the 1935 general election, and immediately convinced Dunning that he needed him in those tough economic times. Dunning was elected by acclamation as a candidate in the dual riding of Queen's County and Prince Edward Island, which was one of the four dual ridings across the nation at that time.

One of the biggest local issues at the time for the people of Prince Edward Island, and I am sure for Pictou County in Nova Scotia, was that the establishment of this ferry service was vital to the economy of both areas. Dunning made sure that the interests of the people he represented were looked after and established the ferry terminal at Wood Islands. A new privately owned company, Northumberland Ferries Limited, was established to manage and operate the ferry service, and the government kept ownership of the terminal properties and the vessels.

Charles Dunning left politics in 1939, but the ferry service was nevertheless established in 1941. It has continued to be one of the most important issues for the people of eastern Prince Edward Island to this day. I might add that Mr. Dunning was elected from Regina, and I am pleased to say that the Regina area has a habit of electing very good finance ministers.

It is also important to realize that this was done after the Great Depression. The people had the wisdom at the time of how important this was, and that if we were going to have a good economy, we had to have good transportation links. Mackenzie King, Charles Dunning, and many other people, certainly understood the vital importance of this link.

A major redevelopment of the Wood Islands terminal took place in the early nineties. I happened to be here at the time. One of the things that was done was double deck loading. This meant that the new vessel that came into service was able to load vessels a lot quicker, and it made for more efficiency.

The federal government continues to provide financial assistance to NFL under the terms of a contribution agreement while the company leases two ferry terminals and the vessels from the federal government. Today, it is the only ferry service to the mainland. As an interprovincial ferry service, the route qualifies for federal funding, with the amount of approximately $6 million per year to keep the critical link between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia operating safely and efficiently.

The way that the government has treated this critical link to the mainland over the past few years is quite concerning. Near the end of the last five-year deal, which was put in place by the Liberal government, there was quite a lot of speculation that the funding would be cut and the service reduced to one vessel or eliminated entirely. Eventually, with the support of the people from Prince Edward Island and Pictou County in Nova Scotia, we convinced the government to back away from that awful idea. Thanks to the government and the people who rallied, they put a three-year deal in place. That was followed by a one-year extension, in 2013. Then last year the government extended the service for two more years.

Short-term contracts are not enough. The operators of the ferries, the people and business people in Prince Edward Island and Pictou Country, Nova Scotia need stability. They need to understand that this critical service will remain in place. They need to have a longer term deal in place for at least five years, and one that maintains or exceeds the current service that is provided.

In fact, a document put together by the four Atlantic provinces called “Charting the Course Atlantic Canada Transportation Strategy 2008-2018” highlights that ferry service is integral to an economy of a region. It lists Wood Islands and Caribou as strategic marine ports and service centres for cargo and passenger movements.

This important document, which I encourage all members to read, also states that federal cuts to ferry services have potentially serious consequences for our entire region. We all know that things have only become worse in the last number of years. The fact is, the government does not do anywhere enough to supply our country's ferry services, especially in the Atlantic region. I hope that this motion will bring to the attention of the government how vital this is to our region and other regions in Atlantic Canada.

We just have to look at the Marine Atlantic and the government's recent cut of $108.1 million to the service. This service is also an interprovincial service connecting the Trans-Canada Highway to Newfoundland. Marine Atlantic expected that there would be more money in the budget, but instead it got nothing, and the government thinks that is the way to go.

This is what worries so many people in Atlantic Canada and in my district of Cardigan. The government fails to see the importance of these vital links in our region. In fact, it fails to see the importance of the Atlantic region in general. We are all aware of how much the cutbacks have affected our regions.

I am quite concerned about what will happen, but with the communities, the business leaders, and everyone working together, I am hopeful that we can secure a long-term deal. I hope my motion will be supported by the government and all of the people in the House.

All we want is to have a service provided to us in eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. The government may highlight its spending of $13 million on engine upgrades and rehabilitation for infrastructure of the wharves in 2013, which was a good idea, but we have to be careful where that goes.

Most of this work had already begun and was planned and budgeted for by Transport Canada, so it was not actually new money. The work had already begun well before the announcement. It is work that was needed to be done, and I am pleased the work was done, but we have to make sure that the service continues the way it is.

Conservatives on the island after this had happened had great hopes that there would be a long-term investment coming, but we only ended up with a short two-year contract. I can assure this House and the people of Canada that this fight is just beginning

I would like to say I am hopeful that these needed infrastructure upgrades would set the stage for the government to put a new deal in place, but there are a number of things that concern me about it.

The Conservative government likes to hand things over to the private sector. It is in a cost-cutting mode and it has already hit eastern Prince Edward Island especially hard with the closure of the addictions research centre, our national award-winning EI claims processing centre, the devastating changes to the EI program, and a number of other federal government jobs lost in the area.

The federal subsidy is critical for the survival of the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service. It is also important for the people of Nova Scotia, especially Pictou County and central Nova Scotia. We truly cannot afford to lose this kind of economic activity after having to deal with so many other losses.

We need a long-term contract. We need stability. I hope the government will see fit to support this motion, support this vital ferry service, and ensure future contracts are at least five years in length and maintain or exceed the service levels currently provided. It is vital to the business communities and the people I represent.

I hope the government will take a look at just what took place over the last number of years. We have to go back and see the wisdom that there was in the people who established this. It goes back to Mackenzie King's government. It goes back to just after the Great Depression. Money was very short, but King and Charles Dunning saw the great need for this ferry service and how important it would be for Prince Edward Island and the Pictou County area of Nova Scotia.

About $6 million is the amount involved, and it generates about $27 million. It is vital to every part of our economy in eastern Prince Edward Island.

When we look at charting the course with the Atlantic Canada transportation strategy, they were able to indicate quite clearly how vital these services are if we are to have an efficient and vibrant economy in the areas where these ferry services are in place.

If there is any concern about whether it is valuable or not, I wish that government members would talk to Tom Carver or Morley Annear. These people own large trucking companies. They understand the cost that is involved. They understand what it would cost in order to take stuff even to a hardware store in eastern Prince Edward Island. They understand the costs that there would be for even fertilizer to come to the province. All of us understand exactly how important it is for the tourism industry.

It is very important that the House understand how vital the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service is to the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island and Pictou County, Nova Scotia. I urge my colleagues to support this motion and give us a long-term contract.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island
Permalink
CPC

Jeff Watson

Conservative

Mr. Jeff Watson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have had the great pleasure of extending a Nova Scotia vacation into Prince Edward Island, specifically by way of the ferry that the member mentioned.

In his speech the member noted a number of significant investments made by this government since 2006. I believe it is over $100 million in that particular ferry now. He did forget to mention the over $1 billion that we put into Marine Atlantic, and more coming.

He called these things “good things to do”. He did say he was “pleased”. He was so pleased, but he could not bring himself or his colleagues to vote in support of any of the appropriations to make the ferry meaningful.

The member knows very well that this government is looking at the long-term sustainability of our ferries, including this one, but based on his past performance, can he tell us whether he is just going to vote against any of that support anyway?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island
Permalink
LIB

Lawrence MacAulay

Liberal

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay

Mr. Speaker, I truly believe my colleague from Essex is a fair politician. However, to indicate that I would vote against an omnibus bill that contains a number of poison pills that we cannot accept has absolutely nothing to do with the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service. It has absolutely nothing to do with the economy of Pictou County in Nova Scotia or the economy of eastern Prince Edward Island.

I would ask my fair and hon. colleague from Essex this. He used the ferry service. Could he please understand and indicate to his colleagues how vital this is, in fact, indicate that to my colleague from Pictou County himself? If they use this service, they will understand how vital it is. Again, I ask that they please evaluate this and do the right thing.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island
Permalink
NDP

Philip Toone

New Democratic Party

Mr. Philip Toone (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Cardigan for his speech. He raises a very interesting question, especially for the people of eastern Canada, the Maritimes and Quebec, where there are many ferries.

We are all wondering how it is possible that budget 2015 makes no mention whatsoever of ferries and provides no funding. We heard the parliamentary secretary say that the Conservatives are interested in examining the issue of ferries. I would like to get it in writing that they are willing to support us in eastern Canada with real measures to support ferry services throughout the Maritimes and in western Canada.

When the Liberals were in power, they abandoned and dismantled public services. One example is CN, which is a basic, essential service across Canada and one that they utterly abandoned.

Is it not true that the Liberal Party developed the bad habit first and simply paved the way for the Conservatives, so that they could do what the Liberals did, only faster? Is that not the case? Are the Conservatives not simply Liberals in a hurry?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island
Permalink
LIB

Lawrence MacAulay

Liberal

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine started off quite well but then he went astray. If we want to talk about what governments did, I sit alongside a former minister of finance who balanced the budget, but that is not the subject today.

The subject today is to ensure that we have a proper contract signed for the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service. We want to ensure we have the proper transportation system in place.

My hon. colleague from Essex indicated that there were a lot of expenditures. My concern is the Conservatives spent a lot of money on the Montague post office, but then they sold it to the private sector. If they take away the federal government investment in the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service, the service will end.

We cannot play games here and talk about other issues. The issue here is the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service, and to ensure the Government of Canada puts a proper contract in place.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island
Permalink
CPC

Jeff Watson

Conservative

Mr. Jeff Watson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his annual Chicken Little motion that he brings before the House once again.

Canada is a maritime nation with vast coastlines. Ferry services have allowed for greater economic development and the building of stronger and more integrated communities.

Ferry operators employ Canadian businesses to help ensure Canadians receive the safest and most efficient ferry service possible. According to the Canadian Ferry Operators Association, ferry services directly employ over 8,400 people with well-paying jobs and indirectly help generate over 22,600 jobs throughout Canada.

Moreover, as important components of regional transportation networks, these ferries connect families, bring tourists to the far corners of our country and ensure businesses in remote communities have opportunities to connect to larger markets every day.

Our government recognizes the benefits that ferry services provide and supports ferries from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is for these reasons that I am pleased to rise and have the opportunity to speak on private member's Motion No. 591 on ferry services between Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island and Caribou, Nova Scotia. The motion before us today proposes that we recognize the importance of the Wood Islands to Caribou ferry service, that all future contracts with the ferry operator are at least five years in length and that we maintain or exceed current service levels.

I can assure this chamber and Canadians that our government does support the Wood Islands to Caribou ferry service. Our support is long-standing and consistent.

This ferry service was first established in 1941 when the federal government began providing support for the service through Northumberland Ferries Limited, which has remained the ferry operator for all of these years. While the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry is only an eight-month service, it helps to meet the diverse transportation needs of Prince Edward Island's economy. During the 2014-15 operating year, the ferry moved over 353,000 people and over 15,000 commercial vehicles across the Northumberland Strait. It is an important component of the island's economy. As such, our government has provided $100 million in funding to support the continuation of service since 2006.

Another way our government supports the ferry service is by leasing the two terminals and chartering the two ferries used on the Wood Islands to Caribou route, the MV Holiday Island and MV Confederation, to the current operator for a nominal amount. However, the MV Holiday Island, built in 1971, and the MV Confederation, built in 1981, are aging. These ferries have required significant investments over the past four years to maintain safe and reliable operations.

Our government has invested over $10 million in the past four years to undertake a number of repairs on the terminals and ferries, including a main engine replacement for the MV Holiday Island. Our government has made these investments because it recognizes that important economic and social infrastructure has developed and been enhanced by the presence of the ferry service.

Finally, our government further supports the island through its contribution towards the Confederation Bridge. To support this alternative transportation route, this government provided $61.7 million in funding toward the bridge in 2014.

Our government's commitment to ensuring safe and secure transportation linkages in the Atlantic region is further highlighted by the approximately $150 million our government has provided to support the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec to Souris, Prince Edward Island and the Saint John, New Brunswick to Digby, Nova Scotia ferry services.

I would like to note that a new vessel was purchased in October 2014 at a cost of $44.6 million to replace the MV Princess of Acadia on the Saint John to Digby route. This vessel will ensure the continued safe and reliable operation of another important eastern ferry service, while creating jobs and economic opportunities in the region. The competition to name the vessel closed in February, and so I know everyone is looking forward to learning the winning name and a date for the ferry's entry into service.

Also, on les Îles de la Madeleine, our government heard the need for a year-round link to the islands. In 2009, our government extended the 10-month service to year-round service.

As announced in July 2014, our government is working toward developing a long-term sustainable approach to supporting eastern Canada's ferry services. This initiative, along with our government's announcement of a $58-million investment in the three eastern Canada ferry services until March 31, 2016, has created an opportunity to establish a sustainable, long-term approach to supporting these ferry services into the future. Our government is using this time to engage the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, and ferry operators to further this initiative that is in the interest of all Canadians.

I understand the member for Cardigan's desire to ensure that the region continues to be served by a reliable and efficient ferry service. However, our government is conducting this work because ferry services are facing challenges. Pressure on ferry sustainability is following a worldwide trend. Domestic and international ferry operators are responding to these pressures through new and innovative approaches. These new approaches could be implemented in a way that would allow our ferry services to be more efficient while also improving the passenger experience. There is a need to understand and learn from these approaches to ensure that the eastern Canada ferry services continue to meet the high standards Canadians expect.

To conclude, our government is committed to supporting the Wood Islands-Caribou ferry service through a long-term, predictable, and sustainable approach.

Our current objective, however, is to ensure that our government has the time to complete its examination of options to determine the right level of service under the right parameters to support the long-term prosperity and economic development of the region.

Motion No. 591 would impede our government's ability to do that. It is for this reason that our government cannot support Motion No. 591.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Ferry Services to Prince Edward Island
Permalink

May 8, 2015