Mr. Dan Heap (Trinity -Spadina):
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against this motion. In spite of the interjections of the hon. minister I believe it is an unwise motion for all concerned within Canada, but most of all for the people most directly concerned.
It is a motion to spend about $1.5 billion over 35 years to build a bridge from New Brunswick across the Northumberland Straits to Prince Edward Island. While we have heard arguments in favour of it, I believe there are two serious arguments against it.
The first argument is the inadequately studied effect on the environment. Yes, there have been many studies. By the law passed by this government there is the environmental assessment and review process that looked at the other studies. About 150 people spoke to the matter and gave many points of view. They were from the Island mainly, but from elsewhere also. The conclusion was that the idea of a bridge-not a particular bridge but a bridge idea-should not be approved at this time.
The point of the government setting up an environmental review process was to have that sort of thing heard. I mentioned that 150 people spoke but I believe ten times that many attended. The environmental review process had to take all those points of view into account.
Some of the points made by the environmental review process were that there was risk of damaging the near shore spawning grounds. Also there was a general feeling it could be incompatible with sustainable development. There were difficulties in finding socially acceptable solutions for the displaced ferry workers and fishermen, and I will come back to that.
There was concern generally that not enough attention had been given to the environmental impact on the Island, even on how tourism might be affected by the bridge. My colleague from Sault Ste. Marie mentioned the opinions expressed by Islanders, including business people as to what the bridge might do to tourism.
We have heard about the benefits of putting a community in communication. It has often been found in Ontario and also out west that it works two ways. Communication, travel or information can bring activity to a community, or it can suck activity out of a community. The concern was that it was not at all clear which way the bridge as contrasted with the ferry might affect Prince Edward Island.
Those are only some of the environmental concerns but they are very serious ones.
There has been a great deal of discussion over the past decade or longer about the fisheries off the Atlantic coast particularly off Newfoundland. The argument continues as to where the cod went. We should at least take warning that if we do not seriously consider the possibility that these sources may be destroyed perhaps forever, we could be very sorry later on.
This brings me to the second argument. A number of the Islanders who are very directly concerned, particularly the ferry workers and fishermen, oppose this project.
We heard about jobs. Somebody has estimated 1,000 jobs. Well 700 jobs stand to be in danger. Whether there is any sure basis for 1,000 construction jobs has not been made clear. We know the company doing this project is foreign based. From experience we can expect that it will do its best to make sure most of the profit and if possible most of the jobs go to the United States or Britain where that company is based.
We have often been disappointed by rose coloured prospects of jobs from foreign investments that turned out the other way. They sucked jobs out of the country instead of putting jobs in the country. To drop 700 ferry jobs for an unknown number of construction jobs may not be wise. That is 700 jobs per year for the ferry crews contrasted with an unknown number of construction jobs per year over the next 35 years and unknown indirect effects on jobs and businesses on the Island itself. Perhaps more jobs will be gained, perhaps not.
June 14, 1993
Therefore I support the motion of the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie that clause 4 of the bill be deleted. That is the clause by which Parliament gives up all concern for any effect of this bridge on employment, the environment, or anything else. It simply says the government can sign a contract with a company and that is it.
In particular, clause 4 indicates: "The minister may on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada enter into one or more agreements in respect of the crossing. These agreements entered into under this section may include (a) provisions respecting the design, maintenance, financing, development, construction and operation of the crossing''. In other words, from now on Parliament will have nothing to say about any of those important matters.
Clause 4 continues: "(b) undertakings in relation to industrial and employment benefits"-a pig in a poke-"(c) provisions respecting the tolls, fees or other charges that may be imposed in respect of the crossing". In other words, we do not know what this bridge is going to cost Islanders in terms of prices of products to be brought across the bridge instead of being brought as now by the guaranteed ferry service.
It is unfortunate that many of the other amendments were ruled out of order, but I can understand that clause seems to have that effect. I hope members will delete that clause to at least leave open the possibility of looking at various matters that have not as yet been looked at, such as halting the proceedings until the Friends of the Island court case has been completed.
This morning an hon. member for the Liberal Party referred to the problem of delay that can be caused by a court case. It is better to look at it first rather than afterward. There is the uncertainty of the constitutional amendment that has not been passed. Another matter is asking the National Transportation Agency to show what the cost of the ferry will be as compared to the cost of the subsidy for the new bridge.
A number of other matters should be considered by this House not only because of the cost of $1.5 billion that will be laid upon the whole of Canada, but also the benefits that should be secured.
For example, there should be a plan for re-employment of at least half of the ferry workers. There should
be a plan to deal with the ice problem, so that it does not destroy the fisheries. We cannot rely on SCI, a foreign corporation, to take care of those things adequately. It is not clear that the government will negotiate them adequately. Therefore Parliament should have the opportunity to speak and decide on those points.
While I recognize that quite possibly a majority of the people on the Island are in favour of this, there is a minority who are against it. There are times when the minority has been right. The minority voice should be heard, especially when it affects far more than just the people on Prince Edward Island.
I hope the government will reconsider this bill and at least allow this amendment which opens the way for bringing back those vital concerns I have mentioned.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT CROSSING ACT