Mr. Chairman, I would like to say a few words on Bill C-27, one of the most important pieces of legislation which, I believe, have been put before us during this session.
This bill binds the government for many years. The first question I am asking myself on this bill before us is to know if there are priorities in the field of transportation other than the relocation of railway lines.
Farm producers of western Canada as well as lumber operators complain, justifiably so, of a lack of railway cars. There are also reasonable complaints that the passenger service between the major cities is really of inferior quality, and I believe that these should be priorities to consider in order to improve transportation services.
The relocation of railway lines may have a sound basis. The environment needs protection, and urban beautification is desired. There is also talk of pollution, but knowing how fast has been the growth of urban centres in recent years, I think that this will continue for quite some time. And, in spite of the answer given by the minister to my hon. colleague for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Barnett), that urban development plans will prevent new construction along the relocated railway lines, I wonder to what extent they will work out.
A few weeks ago, I heard an interview on the radio about the pollution problems in Montreal. We know that in the metropolitan area that problem is rather serious at times and a director of Miron Co. Limited was asked his views, because the company was charged with polluting the air around its plants. The director's answer, in my opinion, was correct. He stated that when Miron Company was set up on its present location, that is a rather long time ago, it was practically open country where there was no residential area and it was precisely why it had been chosen. However, today the city is surrounding the plant. How can the people be prevented from getting close to that pollution centre? We know that such a large cement plant does create pollution problems.
In my opinion, the relocation of railway lines could create a number of problems.
In the past, people used to build their homes near waterways. For instance, they started with the St. Lawrence River. Then, they established their settlements along the main rivers, for these rivers provided the best means of transportation of that era. Later, people built villages along railway lines. Today, we mentioned Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City and some other great cities which have existed for hundreds of years. In those days, development was fairly slow. Today, railway lines can be relocated, but steps will have to be taken to prevent people from crowding around the new railway lines which will be rerouted out of the great cities.
If land is to be recovered in downtown areas, much will be lost in the areas surrounding the cities. When the hon. member for Scarborough (Mr. Harney) spoke a while ago-I do not know whether he had Montreal in mind- but he spoke of railway transport as an inexpensive mode of transport at a time of energy crisis.
In Montreal, for instance, we have commuter trains which offer the workers an inexpensive and convenient mode of transport. In Montreal East, railway lines will have to be replaced by another means of transport. Of course we have the subway and buses, but because of the large number of cars and trucks on our highways and streets, buses are not the answer to the massive movement of workers from the outskirts to the city or vice versa.
April 25, 1974
To my mind, commuter trains are very useful, and I wonder whether it is wise to cancel that means of transport.
There is another means of transport between large centres such as Quebec, Montreal, Toronto and the large cities in western Canada or the Maritimes, namely the plane. Still, one has to leave from downtown and drive several miles to reach an airport. For shorter trips, if you take the train to go to Halifax or Vancouver for example, you will still find a station downtown.
But if you relocate the railways, you will have to travel a longer distance before you can get to a station.
Mr. Chairman, we might create problems while solving existing ones.
I suppose that when he prepared this bill before submitting it to the House, the minister has made some research to see how much money had to be invested in travelling.
The minister said that more than 600 municipalities would benefit from this act. My opinion is that it will require a considerable investment. I do not know if the minister has figured out how much it would cost in total, but I guess that the budget will have to be allotted each year and that the House will have to vote these sums.
There is another point just as important. Has it been foreseen, since the amount invested each year is rather limited, which cities will be able to relocate these lines?
I think there will be violent controversies between municipalities and provincial or federal governments.
A few minutes ago, the hon. member for Calgary North (Mr. Woolliams) mentioned the need for three-level conferences so that the three levels of government can reach an agreement on this question. But I am not so sure it would be useful to invite municipalities to such conferences to discuss these projects.
Recently Mayor Lamontagne of Quebec City compared the current situation of municipalities to that of a child of divorced parents. It is never possible to speak to both parents simultaneously; in the same way, municipalities cannot meet senior levels of government at the same time to discuss problems together.
Therefore, if we want to be logical, if we want to implement this program in order that it may bring the satisfactory results we are anticipating, municipalities will have to be allowed to have their say about the development of their area.
It may be, as the minister said a few moments ago, that in a large city, a relocation may involve more than one municipality. At that time, serious negotiations will be required to bring about agreement among the parties involved.
I think that on the whole, the bill proceeds from a good principle, but I feel that care will be needed in its application and in the surveys and studies to be conducted.
Perhaps we want to solve some of our cities' problems. Well and good, but I am wondering whether in doing so we will not be creating new problems.
In any event, if we relocate these railway lines and stations that were in the centre of cities, I believe that we must consider at the same time developing a rapid transit
Relocation of Railway Lines
service, not too expensive and suitable for workers living in the suburbs.
Subtopic: RAILWAY RELOCATION AND CROSSING ACT