Mr. Chairman, if I might, I should like to pick up the thread of the remarks of my colleague the hon. member for Calgary North by making one or two comments regarding some of the fears we have on this side of the Chamber. It has been suggested by other speakers, I believe the hon. member for Central Nova and others, that we welcome this type of legislation. I liken it somewhat to a schooner with a full set of sails; but, as pointed out by the hon. member for Calgary North, we are a little bit concerned about the wind that is going to fill those sails. He was talking about the efficiency and adequacy of Canadian National Railways' management effectively to administer and operate within the parameters of this legislation.
This bill essentially extends to the CTC the authority for management of what is proposed and contained therein. While it is an arm of government, it seems we would be a little remiss if we were not to take a few minutes to look at the general competency of the CTC and the CNR to administer this authority. If you look at the past history of the CTC you will find it is not such as to give someone like myself any great encouragement that it will be able to deal efficiently with the authority and power as well as the funds given to it.
As in everything else, there are certain instances which occur from time to time that discourage one in this area, and I think in this type of debate it is appropriate to cite some of them. I intend to do so, as others have done, to indicate a lack of trust in the efficiency and adequacy of the CTC.
A case occurred only a month or two ago in which an application was made by the city of Dartmouth for funds to assist in the removal of one of our city's more inelegant examples of a CN 1920 baroque, if you will, and to replace it with something more modern, thereby doing away with a very dangerous intersection. Not only did the CTC take well over a year and a half to decide what to do, but having made a decision it failed to notify any of the parties that awaited its decision in order that they could get on with this work for well over a month. This would indicate not just a lack of concern on the part of the commission, but an absolutely disgraceful and callous attitude, if you will, toward municipalities and other bodies that simply must know of decisions like this for various reasons, including budgetary ones.
This undue delay in advising the parties of the decision of the CTC is continuing to have an effect on the progress of this work. Apparently having made a decision, it was filed away and forgotten. This happened a long time ago and I have seen nothing happen in this case, so it makes one question the efficiency of the CTC.
Another area of concern is this decision making process that is entrusted to the CTC. I have in mind the authority to make decisions in this whole area of urban rail transportation and to advise ministers of the Crown. I suppose the Minister of Transport is most likely to be the one
April 25, 1974
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involved in this regard, particularly in respect of whether such shared cost programs should be initiated.
When we give authority to the CTC and a fairly heavy bank account, I think members of this chamber are quite justified in asking for some reassurance by way of action. We want some demonstrated reason for placing our trust in the ability of the CTC to administer, and I must say that my experience is such that I cannot help but be anything but concerned.
I suppose many examples could be given of this experience. I think of another one in the Halifax urban area involving a problem in the constituency of my dear colleague, our distinguished Chairman this evening. This has to do with a rail commuter service. I would cite this example to underline my concern about whether the CTC is in fact capable. This involved a long and protracted process, still underway, in the establishment of a commuter service to serve the outlying area of my own metropolitan Dartmouth-Halifax riding. In this instance all that was sought was a rescheduling of certain existing rail services to provide the people with a much needed service. The railway companies said no, not unexpectedly, citing their own problems, in the details of which I am sure hon. members are not interested.
To say the least, the railway companies, in this case both the CN and CP, were not very anxious or willing to do anything on their own and, accordingly, the citizens, with their somewhat impressive concern about this commuter service, presented a petition to their member of parliament. It eventually came across my desk and I wrote to the CNR, which again said no.
I then wrote to the Dominion Atlantic Railway which operated part of the commuter service on the tracks, and the reply I received was the same. They said they were merely a subsidiary of CPR and that since the terminal facility belonged to the CNR they could do nothing, that their hands were tied. I then addressed myself to the Minister of Transport, who in turn shuffled me off to the Canadian Transport Commission. He did so without any comment at all, I suppose believing I would flounder there.
On January 28 this year I addressed myself to the Chairman of the CTC and asked if he could advise me of the progress to date. That letter has not been answered to this point in time, April 25. Hon. members with longer memories will remember with some interest the contribution made in this chamber by a former member from Hamilton West who has since departed to a committee of the CTC. I believe he has been elevated to the position of executive director of the committee.
Mr. Macaluso, in a letter written to me over a month ago, advised me that studies in respect of this commuter service were underway but that no progress could be reported. I called his office this afternoon and the response was that there was still no word. Apparently the railway companies have not seen fit to answer the committee. So obviously the railway companies no longer tread in any fear of the CTC and feel they have successfully captured the commission.
This tale of frustration and indecision would seem to me after having been in this chamber some years, to be typical of the incompetence of the government. In addition, I am by no means convinced that the commission itself is being chaired, as it is in a sense by another of our former colleagues, in a manner that in any way demonstrates any concern, or indeed any desire, to accept the responsibilities charged to the commission under existing legislation, let alone any ability to deal efficiently with this new legislation. The inescapable conclusion I suppose one might draw from this is that the government in a sense lost the initiative to assist, let alone sustain, the CTC, which is being asked to exercise considerable authority under this particular bill.
I suggest that the apathy has spread to various other commissions and agencies. There would appear to be a lack of leadership and drive. There is frustration over the difficulty of obtaining simple things or getting things done for people, and yet when asking us to accept what is essentially a long overdue piece of legislation the government also asks us to give powers to a body whose chairman, and perhaps even the other members, should be fired.
With new blood on the commission perhaps it might be stirred up and we might get a little action. I suggest we will not get such action under the present system. I cannot even get an answer after 18 months in respect of a simple matter like a commuter service or the reason that a train schedule cannot be altered by five minutes in order to accommodate thousands of families who live in a very rapidly growing area, albeit not the largest area of Canada but a healthy and growing area.
I do not wish to wander from the subject matter before us and cover other areas, but there are a number of other matters which have been touched on by the hon. member for Abitibi and by my hon. friend from Vancouver Island, who spoke about planning priorities and so on. I do note that in virtually every phrase in the bill there is some reference to the convenience and safety of the travelling public.
I would be somewhat remiss if I did not direct another shot at the minister, not necessarily the minister who is guiding this bill through the House, in respect of safety and the assurance that Canadians must have in respect of their transportation facilities. This is the assurance that institutions such as parliament owe to the people who use the transportation system. I refer to the regulatory body which investigates accidents within the parameters of its regulatory authority. Here we are giving more authorithy to the CTC to administer a fund that will be established, yet we do not consider the other aspects. I suggest, and I believe other members in this chamber share my view, that there is nothing in the performance of the CTC to warrant any confidence in it with regard to the administration of this particular bill.
The requirement in respect of public inquiries is a permissive thing under this legislation. We might have wished the minister had provided within the bill a means by which the public at large could perhaps, by the simple instrument of a petition to the CTC or other body, apply for a public hearing. I note that my colleagues to the left in this chamber would like that provision to be mandato-
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ry, so that there would be public hearings in every instance.
It would seem to me, however, that many applications for meaningful and useful assistance will be made under the provisions of this legislation, and not all of them by any stretch of the imagination will require public inquiries. Indeed, the process of establishing the mechanics of a public inquiry might in some cases unduly delay the issue. So rather than have this made mandatory, I wish the minister might have built in a provision for an inquiry to be made on the part of people who might be affected. I cannot help but say, perhaps just in passing but fairly seriously, that the Minister of Transport, and indeed even his delightful and charming parliamentary secretary, while sometimes agreeing with me, on many occasions are not prepared to do anything about ideas that are presented. They have not really demonstrated any enthusiasm in respect of the transportation needs of Canada. Perhaps that will change shortly, but there is no enthusiasm. That is a somewhat startling admission regarding those who have had a degree of absolute control over that area for long periods of time. But I think even the parliamentary secretary would admit that there are times when he himself is not enthusiastic, even though we are chiding him for being the only live spokesman for the department. The department has run out of steam; it has given no leadership. We have been waiting for this piece of legislation, as the provinces have been waiting for it, for ten years now, and the government asks us to approve it with enthusiasm when we know they will turn it over to a body which operates within their parameters and reports to them. But there is no steam there either; there is no energy. I do not think even Geratol will help the chairman of that commission. There is no demonstrated reason why we should express other than respect for the measure that is in front of us and a deep concern for the commission, the body that will administer it.
As I say, we praise the principle of the bill, but its implementation and effective administration cause me some concern, as I am sure they do many thousands of Canadians. I commend my colleague, the hon. member for Central Nova, for the remarks he made here this afternoon. This is indeed an interesting bill. One aspect of it is that it seems to bring together several ministries of the Crown.
Perhaps I should stress again the need for the government to assure us that as the body behind this piece of legislation they will accept some responsibility with regard to the attitude of the CTC to the implementation of the provisions of this bill. The government should perk them up a little bit and get them working. Good God, a few mistakes once in a while are nothing compared with the work that can be achieved. It would be a welcome and refreshing thing to most of us in this chamber compared with their track record in recent years, which has shown them to be somewhat less than useful, at least as far as I am concerned.
Obviously the commission will have to do better in the future, but they will not do better unless the government spurs them on. My colleague, the hon. member for Calgary North, earlier asked who runs the country. It seems to me
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that it is the CNR in these times. Obviously the CNR do not care about the CTC and they have never given a damn about the government. So I am not all that happy with the administrative mechanics behind this legislation, or with the demonstrated enthusiasm on the part of the CTC, indeed the absence of it on the part of the government, to make sure that the provisions of this bill are not only administered but administered with some imagination and enthusiasm. The government should ensure that this legislation does not bog down in some corner of somebody's back filing drawer, but rather that it is used to the extent that the provinces and municipalities require to correct some serious situations that have existed for many years and that worsen each year as property values go up.
Let the government take hold of the CNR and of the CTC and let them know once in a while that this chamber and they as the government do have some concern about the way in which these two bodies go about administering this act. When the government do this, some people on this side of the House will let them have the type of support that is required for the meaningful implementation of the provisions of this bill. For many of us this will mean a long overdue but very welcome involvement in work in our own communities.
We welcome this bill, Mr. Chairman, but I request of the government that they make absolutely certain that the administrative body is shaken up a little bit. Let the government point out to them the necessity for a more vigorous approach to the massive problems that they must tackle under the provisions of this legislation and make sure that they do so with some enthusiasm.
Subtopic: RAILWAY RELOCATION AND CROSSING ACT