Mr. Steve Butland (Sault Ste. Marie):
Mr. Speaker, this is the third or fourth time I have had an opportunity to speak to this bill. I do not want to upset my friends from the maritimes, in particular P.E.I.
I agree with my friend from Saanich
Gulf Islands that indeed the debate did get quite vitriolic. Generally, very reasonable people have said what I think are some very unreasonable things. After my original speech and some of the amendments, I am not very amused with comments concerning rhetoric coming from the NDP. The citizens of P.E.I. and the rest of Atlantic Canada are not very happy with the criticism that has been levelled. In no way did we want to criticize the people of Atlantic Canada or Prince Edward Island. We still maintain that 30 per cent of the people in P.E.I. are likely opposed to this link.
If we were in the shoes of the members from P.E.I., we would be saying the same thing. This is job creation at its greatest. It would be a real test. I was thinking of an appropriate analogy. If somebody said that they were going to build a skydome as they have in Toronto in Sault Ste. Marie, would you support it? If somebody is going to build it for you I would probably be jumping up and down and saying, absolutely. Whether or not it is best to spend private developers' money and taxpayers' money is another thing. The hon. member for Halifax sort of intimated where there is unemployment, we should build bridges.
People talk about the municipal infrastructure program. We are talking about sewers that are collapsing across this country and built bridges that are collapsing. We are dumping raw sewage into the waterways of the country. To equate this to the national infrastucture program I do not think is really acceptable.
They are continually saying: "You people do not have a member elected in Atlantic Canada, in P.E.I. nor do you ever hope to have one". Well, we hope to have one. To say that we do not have a right to comment or to question the project is inappropriate.
You do not have to be a native to appreciate native issues. You do not have to be a Jewish person to understand anti-Semitism. You do not have to be black to understand discrimination. To understand and appreciate some of the pitfalls of a fixed link, I humbly suggest you do not have to live in Atlantic Canada. I want to put that in perspective. I appreciate that perhaps this is not terribly substantial but I want to say that we put forward amendments that we thought were substantial and some that I thought were quite reasonable and might be acceptable to the government side. They were not.
This legislation that has been brought forward, as my friend for Annapolis Valley-Hants suggested to me when I was looking for the rights words, is nothing more than to enable the private developer to bring forth the deal with all of its details. It is nothing more than an enabling piece of legislation. It is wide open. It is very open-ended. To submit some of those concerns before the Canadian people is not wrong. This is a megaproject.
I have not yet decided if I am against megaprojects or not. To deny the fact that it is not a megaproject is ill-founded.
I want to talk for a minute about bridges, the length of bridges and the hazards. I am told that this is a nine-mile long bridge. I live fairly close to a bridge. We have an international bridge from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. It is a very short span. Fifty miles away is the Mackinaw Bridge, one of the world's finest bridges. It is five miles long. There is no guarantee that you can cross that bridge in bad weather. The wind can be so severe that they close the bridge. To say you can get back and forth every time is not the truth. This proposed link is longer and I suspect the ice flow is much greater.
To proffer some of these concerns is surely not inappropriate. I would ask that members at least give us that.
If the people of P.E.I. were given funds for community or job development, I wonder if this would be their first choice, their second choice or their tenth choice. I am not convinced about that.
I always go back to the very beginnings of this. Who brought it forward? It was a developer who said: "How about if we build a bridge for you? What would you think of that?" I know there is a whole chronology and history of events. I do not know it all that well but I do know there was an expression of interest, not by the people but
June 15, 1993
by the developer. It is not the appropriate title but it is sort of a turnkey approach. "We will build you this thing and in 35 years we will turn it over to you".
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT CROSSING ACT