STANDING COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT
LE COMITÉ PERMANENT DES TRANSPORTS
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Monday, May 29, 2000
The Chair (Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.)):
Good afternoon, colleagues. We are meeting pursuant to
Standing Order 81(6), the main estimates for the fiscal
year ending March 31, 2001: vote 15 under Privy Council
and votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 under
We welcome back the Minister of Transport and those
assistant deputies who work with the minister on a
Colleagues, this is a return by the minister to our
committee because back on May 16, when we had the
minister before us on estimates, we were interrupted
constantly by voting. The minister kindly agreed to
return to the committee so he could answer more of our
Minister, did you want to make any comments before we
go to questions?
The Honourable David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport):
Well, I have another long speech if you'd like.
The Chair: No, we'll save the speech for a bigger
crowd. Did you want to make any statements before we
Mr. David Collenette: No. I'm all yours.
The Chair: All right.
Colleagues, I have before me a list of questioners
from May 16. We'd already gone through seven
questioners, so as promised at the last meeting, I will
pick up the list of questioners from where we left off
so everyone gets a fair shot. We'll begin with Michel
Guimond, then Mr. Calder, Mr. Casey, Mr. Hilstrom, and
Mr. Drouin. And I'll take anybody else who wants to
raise their hand.
Mr. Guimond, please.
Mr. Michel Guimond
(Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Minister,
when Joe Randell
testified before the committee I showed him a report describing the
maintenance status of Air Nova's fleet of aircraft since the
decision was made to transfer the maintenance base from Quebec to
I understand that this was a business decision, a decision
taken by a company, which the government was not a party to.
However, one aspect concerns me and that is air safety. You state
in a number of speeches that you make in the House and
elsewhere—it is not surprising that you would adopt such rhetoric,
or say such things, as you are Minister of Transport—that safety
is Transport Canada's number one priority.
Mr. Minister, if safety is the Transport Canada's number one
priority, I would like to know whether there was an in-depth
inspection following Air Nova's decision to transfer certain
maintenance functions from Quebec to Halifax. This report mentions
a focus group; some employees were members of that group and were
questioned about the state of maintenance of the aircraft. The Air
Alliance employees in Quebec expressed the opinion that they no
longer have the time to do preventive maintenance, as they used to
before. They stated that their aircraft are not as well maintained
as they used to be.
What do you have to say, as Minister, to reassure someone who,
like me, makes return flights between Quebec and Ottawa 26 weeks a
year on Air Nova?
The Hon. David Collenette: Mr. Chairman, I was told that
regular maintenance inspections were carried out on the fleets of
all of the country's airlines. Up until now there were no annual
inspections at Air Nova but we will ensure that such inspections
take place in the very near future. According to Mr. Jackson, the
Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, and his officials
who are responsible for such inspections, there are no problems at
Air Nova. I was assured that Air Nova was a safe company. If you
have witnessed certain problems I will ask that that information be
conveyed to my office as soon as possible.
The problems you raise may be arguments put forward by the
unions. I can however state that there are no safety problems in
general at Air Nova. Perhaps Mr. Jackson would like to add a few
Mr. Ron Jackson (Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and
Security, Department of Transport): Thank you, Mr. Minister.
We will be looking at the internal report done by the
Air Nova employees to see whether there's anything in
there that will cause us to do further investigation.
But the minister is right, there is not a safety issue
Mr. Michel Guimond: In another connection, Mr. Minister, I
would like to discuss the amendments I mentioned to you and did
table, concerning the Official Languages Act, including its
application to Air Canada. I attempted right up to the last
possible minute to change your mind and have you accept the
amendments that I tabled on behalf of the Bloc Québécois,
amendments which were related to the demands of the Gens de l'air.
You may noted that the Gens de l'air have reacted since, which is
their legitimate right. We have not had time to discuss this very
much in the House. Why did you reject my proposed amendments to
Bill C-26 concerning official languages?
Mr. David Collenette: Firstly, Mr. Chairman, Air Canada is a
private company even though it is subject to the same rules as
Crown corporations. Our intention with this bill is to extend the
official languages provisions to Canadian Airlines and its
affiliates, especially where client services are concerned.
As to working conditions, I believe these fall under
provincial jurisdiction. The federal government wishes to maintain
the current official languages provisions and extend them to
Canadian Airlines and its affiliates.
As you know, before this bill was tabled, there was a court
case having to do with the application of the Official Languages
Act to Air Canada's affiliated companies. Through this bill we have
finalized the arguments made before the courts, because Canada's
law will henceforth clearly stipulate that the Official Languages
Act does apply to all of Air Canada's affiliates as well as to
Canadian Airlines and its affiliates. It is natural for the Gens de
l'air to raise these arguments.
Our government and myself want to say that we are entirely
satisfied with the situation that prevails currently insofar as the
use of French in the air is concerned, because there is no risk to
passenger safety. We have acquired extensive experience in the
course of the past 20 to 25 years. I was an MP 24 years ago, in
1976, when this wide-ranging debate was held. Mr. Caccia and myself
were two anglophone members who supported the Gens de l'air at that
time. Although I am a member from the Toronto area, I want to state
clearly that French in the air is a priority for us, a fundamental
issue, and does not jeopardize safety in any way. I am very proud
that Canada can use both official languages without incidents.
The Chair: Colleagues, at our last meeting, on May
16, the Department of Transport committed to a written
response to questions raised by Mr. Casey, Mr. Hubbard,
and Ms. Meredith, and we've just distributed the answers
to those questions to you all.
Mr. Fontana, please.
Mr. Joe Fontana (London North Centre, Lib.): Thank
you, Mr. Chairman.
To the minister, with regard to the supplements and
the passage of the bill on airline restructuring, I
just want to ask whether provisions have been made in
these estimates, or whether it will have to be on the
supplementary estimates, with regard to the positions
of complaints commissioner that we in fact have put in
place, and obviously any other monitoring that will be
done by the CTA and the Competition Bureau—I know the
Competition Bureau is outside your jurisdiction and is
more in industry—in order for us to make sure all the
resources are deployed, so that in fact we can track
what is happening and what will happen in the airline
industry over the course of the next six months
specifically, or two years. I'd like to know whether
or not there are additional resources or all of the
resources required to ensure that customers are being
Mr. David Collenette: First of all, in the short
run, on the issues dealing with the CTA's powers on
monopoly pricing, I believe we are making some funds
available through our reference levels on a short-term
basis for the CTA, but full-time funding will be sought
and will be available in the supplementaries. That
also of course will deal with the extra commissioner
and the staff that will be required as a result of this
committee's agreement to add the extra commissioner.
So that will all be in the supplementary estimates.
Mr. Joe Fontana: As a supplementary to that, Mr.
Chairman, in light of what's just happened in the
United States with the merger of the number one airline
and the number six airline, I believe United and
USAir.... In fact they will have to seek regulatory
approval, of course, in the United States and be
subject, I think, to some sort of approvals, even
through the European Commission. I'm just wondering, in
light of the fact that Air Canada and United are Star
Alliance partners and code-share now.... We already
have a pretty big monopoly, with Air Canada
representing 80% domestically, I think, and as much
internationally. The fact that United would be merging
with USAir, essentially from a north-south
standpoint...in fact, again, the choices will be
diminished by Canadians, or Americans for that matter,
having another airline to move north-south.
I'm just wondering whether or not, first, you're
troubled by that thing, and second, whether or not any
of our regulatory bodies will be looking at that
situation as it relates to our situation in Canada.
As you know, witness after witness, including this
committee, is still rather nervous about a monopoly and
how that monopoly conducts itself with regard to the
customers. But now that you have a Star Alliance
partner essentially taking out another competitor, I
don't think that bodes well for the travelling public
in North America, let alone Canada.
So I'm just wondering about the broader issue: Does
this merger cause you some sort of concern, and what
will we do to look at it to ensure that in fact it
doesn't negatively impact Canadians?
I'll just leave it at that.
Mr. David Collenette: Mr. Chairman, we obviously
have had concerns expressed about Air Canada's dominant
position with 80% of the market, and this committee has
tried to deal with it—we have, as a government, in the
legislation—and that is the extent of our jurisdiction
on the domestic scene.
With respect to the question of the United States,
that is really a matter for U.S. regulatory
authority. We have open skies, and in the same
way as the American authorities have accepted the
consolidation of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines
without reservation, because it is not within their
conpetence to deal with it, so we must also respect
this were to be approved we would have to accept it,
but there are competition arguments that will be made
in the U.S. similar to what have been made here. This
is a little different, because here it was done to
stave off the bankruptcy of Canadian Airlines and the
loss of 14,000 jobs to maintain service to cities.
There it's simply a question of consolidation.
The U.S. has a certain track record on consolidation
and mergers. We saw it recently in the technology
sector with respect to Microsoft. They have a long
history, going back to the late nineteenth century and
early part of this century, of dealing with the powers
of the trusts—Standard Oil in New Jersey, for example,
So it's not inconceivable that the U.S. may act in a
way that is negative, but that is simply their view.
That is their authority. Because we have open skies
with the U.S., we accept U.S. carriers provided they're
certified to fly and meet FAA standards, which of
course meet Transport Canada standards.
The Chair: Mr. Hilstrom, please.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian
Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have a couple
You have shared responsibility, I believe,
with the Navigable Waters Protection Act—
Mr. David Collenette: We have some, yes.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: —and also the Canada
What has your department done in the past—or is it
still concerned or involved with this—in terms of any
aspect of public works or other ministries in regard to
dredging? We have float planes operating on the Red
River in the Manitoba area. They've been calling us up
and saying that as a result of the lack of dredging,
they're concerned about their float planes.
Do float planes, that type of commercial air service,
come under your department at all?
Mr. David Collenette: First of all, on the
question of dredging, that now has been transferred to
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, but there are some cases,
and Mr. Jackson will perhaps talk about them, where we
still have some residual authority for dredging, or at
least we're still doing it.
On the issue of float planes, I'm not sure what aspect
you're talking about, because for aircraft we obviously
have responsibilities. For a float plane landing on
water we have responsibility in terms of designating
aerodromes. For example, we just designated Victoria
Harbour as an aerodrome. Other aspects of that
particular issue would apply to DFO.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: What I'm getting at is that
it seems in the case of departmental overlap and
responsibility some operators are getting left to fall
through the cracks, so to speak. As I say, the air
service I'm talking about has worked for many years on
the same stretch of river. Every year there was
dredging, and then there wasn't. So we have a bit of a
safety issue coming up.
Of course, they're being very careful themselves, and
they'll make sure there isn't any problem. I'm just
saying there's an overlap there.
There is a main question I want to ask here. Our
Hudson Bay Route Association in Manitoba is still very
concerned about the operation up to Churchill, the rail
lines and of course the port operation itself. Now,
it's my understanding—and I believe this is history,
but I'd like you to confirm it for me—that the port is
being operated essentially by Omnitrax now.
Mr. David Collenette: It was sold to Omnitrax.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Okay. With Omnitrax
operating that, when you divested the port and that, do
you feel you still have a responsibility in that
regard? What I'm coming to is this: Have you
considered in your upcoming legislation the impact it
will have on Omnitrax as to the grain movement through
to that port?
Now, you've divested the port. If it doesn't make
money and continue to operate, I assume you'll end up
getting the port back. In the meantime, when you bring
in new legislation, as you're doing in the next few
days with the Grain Transportation Act, are you taking
into consideration Omnitrax and the Hudson Bay rail
Mr. David Collenette: But if you're talking about
the viability of the Omnitrax operation, it appears to
us to be quite viable. I mean, they bought the rail
line and they bought the port for a certain
consideration from the federal government, not
necessarily from our department but from WED. It was a
package deal. It was a package deal that made sense to
Omnitrax and made sense to the crown.
We have no reason to believe those operations, both at
the port and on the rail line, would be unprofitable.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: At that time did they take it
into account that you might well regulate downwards the
revenues they could receive? Was that part of the
negotiations, and was that in there?
Mr. David Collenette: I can't answer this.
Perhaps one of my officials who was involved in
the negotiations can.
I would assume that this would not have been
specifically addressed in the negotiations. I also
would have assumed that the lawyers from Omnitrax were
well aware of the constitutional authority of the
federal government with respect to railways and the
jurisdiction of the CTA and the whole regulatory role
we have had in the haulage of grain.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Okay.
That's fine. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thanks, Mr. Hilstrom. We'll certainly
get into that a little deeper as early as next week,
when Omnitrax will be before us as one of the
witnesses. The minister and his officials will be back
as well, so....
Mr. David Collenette: I don't know, Mr. Chair, if
Mr. Jackson wanted to say something about Mr.
Hilstrom's first point.
The Chair: Mr. Jackson, did you want to add
Mr. Ron Jackson: Just that as far as the Navigable
Waters Protection Act is concerned, it was previously
the Minister of Transport, but with the move of the
Canadian Coast Guard to the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans, that responsibility went to the Minister of
Fisheries and Oceans.
The Chair: Thanks, Mr. Jackson.
Mr. Drouin, please.
Mr. Claude Drouin (Beauce, Lib.): Mr. Collenette, I wanted to
get back to the issue of services in both official languages. You
said that in the course of the past 25 years passenger safety has
been ensured, even though pilots communicate with air traffic
controllers in both official languages. All the better, and we all
hope that that will continue to be the case.
Do I understand that there were problems involving client
services in both official languages at Air Canada and its
affiliates? People seem to be saying that service has deteriorated.
Have you heard anything about this?
Mr. David Collenette: I have not received any reports
concerning a decrease in services in one official language. A
transition period is to be expected, however, within Air Canada's
affiliates, especially an affiliate such as Air BC, as well as
within Canadian Airlines and its affiliated companies. Certain
passengers may feel that services are less than satisfactory, but
I must tell you that generally speaking we have not received
complaints in that regard.
Mr. Claude Drouin: Thank you.
In another connection, I would like to broach the issue of
railway transportation. We know that big companies have withdrawn
their services in numerous regions. Has your department considered
the possibility of setting aside certain funds, for instance $75
million a year, to grant loans to private companies who would be
interested in providing service in the regions? In our area in
particular, there is a shortage of truck drivers at this time. We
also have problems with regard to the environment and the
maintenance of our road network. It is much more expensive to use
semi-trailers rather than trains to transport merchandise. I think
that you could really help private railway companies by granting
them loans to provide service in our regions.
Mr. David Collenette: We are in a position to say that our
railway safety system is excellent and that our laws in that area
are very strong. Short-line railways and small railway companies
fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces, where safety
regulations that are derived from federal law are applied.
Mr. Jackson, who is responsible for security, can provide
further details. Once again, I must say that I have not received
any systematic complaints about safety problems on short-line
Mr. Claude Drouin: Mr. Minister, my question was not about
safety primarily, but about a start-up subsidy program to enable
the launching of new companies in the regions. Among other
possibilities, I have in mind a program similar to the Quebec
Mr. David Collenette: I will ask Mr. Ranger to reply to your
Mr. Louis Ranger (Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy,
Department of Transport): I believe you are referring to Quebec's
Mr. Claude Drouin: The CFIL.
Mr. Louis Ranger: ...which helps with the start-up of new
businesses. For many years our department has been advocating the
development of a land transportation strategy that goes beyond
roads, a broader strategy. Within the framework of that strategy we
would create a federal envelope and the provinces could choose to
invest in road or railway transportation. Unfortunately, some very
modest sums were set aside in the last budget for road
transportation. Our department continues to advocate more generous
envelopes in order to encourage this type of initiative.
Mr. Claude Drouin: So, you are open to the idea. You have
answered my question, and I thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you, Claude.
Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian
Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Going through the estimates, Mr. Minister, I don't see
any direct reference to your department's involvement
in the research...in any way. When I was looking at
some of the material on the United States, I saw the
amount of money that the departments funnel into
researching highways, different landing craft, and so
Does your department have research on its own, or
do you funnel all of your research projects through the
National Research Council?
Mr. David Collenette: Mr. Jackson's going to reply
to that one.
Mr. Ron Jackson: Mr. Bailey, Transport Canada does
have a research and development program. We have a
research centre in Montreal, called the Transport
Development Centre, that manages research contracts
in the field of transportation.
I think the amount of money we spend each year is
modest. We probably spend no more than $15 million or
so on research programs directed at a range of things
in all modes of transportation—marine safety, arctic
marine transportation, aviation, intelligent
transportation systems, and so on.
We're also involved with the Department of Natural
Resources in terms of energy research and development,
looking at more efficient vehicles and dealing with
such things as climate change and so on. It's an
active program but modest.
Mr. Roy Bailey: Are any of these research projects
done in cooperation with the private sector? Could you
just give me an idea of what current research projects
are ongoing at the present time?
Mr. Ron Jackson: We can get you a copy of the
annual report, which outlines the full details of the
Mr. Roy Bailey: Would you, please?
Mr. Ron Jackson: Yes.
In answer to your specific question, we do try to
leverage more than one-to-one in terms of government
funding and industry partnership in the funding of
these projects. One example of an industry-government
partnership is the Ballard fuel cell, which is the
well-known technology for powering automobiles.
There's a venture between Ballard, the Ford Motor
Company, and the government in terms of sharing
resources in this research undertaking.
We'll get you a copy of the R and D annual report so
that you can have a look at the full scope of the
Mr. Roy Bailey: Thank you.
The Chair: Thanks, Mr. Bailey.
Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.): We
have to look at operation hypotheses. I have just returned from
northern Nunavik where I met with several mayors. The
representatives of Makivik and more particularly their associates
from Air Inuit and First Air are very worried about Bill C-26. Air
Inuit has approximately 200 employees and annual sales of $35
million, while First Air has 1,000 employees and annual sales of
$180 million. On May 2, if I remember correctly, we heard the
testimony of the President of First Air, Mr. Davis, who expressed
his deep concern with regard to clauses 64 and 66 of Bill C-26. I
am under the impression that Air Canada does not intend to respect
Quebec and the northern municipalities of Nunavik. It has concluded
commercial agreements in the Canadian West, and Canadian and its
affiliate Canadian North do not have operating permits. It is
Nordair that held the operating permit. First Air has its counters
and employees who work in the field, in its airports and with
cargo, whereas Air Canada has nothing. It rents or passes things on
to Canadian North.
What is very worrisome in all of that, especially after
hearing the testimony of Mr. Bob Davis, is that one feels that Bill
C-26 could cause problems for the northern regions. I respect Air
Canada but before I will defend it in the northern sector of
Nunavik, I am going to defend our friends the Inuits at First Air
and Air Inuit.
I would like you to tell me how we can find solutions in the
face of Mr. Davis's testimony. Will there be amendments or will
Transport Canada find the ideal solution? Air Canada has never
exploited the northern regions and does not know the North and
Canadian North knows it even less, because the company is only
passing through, as it were, that region.
What I want to hear from you, Mr. Minister, is a description
of what the future holds for the northern Inuit.
Mr. David Collenette: As for operations in the northern
reaches of Canada or northern Quebec by Air Canada, the decision
will be market-driven. I am told that private companies such as
First Air and others provide good service.
I am more concerned by the regulations that will have to be
brought in in order to protect northern travellers who want to go
to the rest of the country or abroad. That is why the bill contains
provisions on interlining, for instance, involving companies that
are allied with Air Canada or its affiliates. That is why we have
presented amendments on the powers of the Transportation Agency
with regard to pricing and rates.
That also explains why in this bill we have introduced
amendments to the Competition Act, to protect new companies who
want to provide the service, such as WestJet and the others, and
perhaps companies such as First Air that will launch a service to
provide an alternative to Air Canada. As for Air Canada's presence
in northern Quebec or northern Canada, that will be a business
Mr. Guy St-Julien: I see, a commercial decision. But how can
you equate the two, when you know that Air Canada has sales of $10
billion a year while First Air has sales of $180 million? Moreover,
we know that First Air is currently the second largest company in
Nor do we know what is being discussed by the board of
directors of Air Canada. I am nevertheless under the impression
that the company intends to crush us in the North. It intends to
crush First Air and Air Inuit, in my opinion. I believe it will act
through the West to get to Nunavut indirectly, and then it will
come and crush us with its economic weight. Air Canada and Canadian
North do not provide any service to Nunavik's northern region. I
have the feeling that they want to crush us.
I'm telling you what I feel and what the Inuit who are in the
area are feeling at this time. That is why and want your officials
to read Mr. Bob Davis's May 2 testimony very carefully, and take it
into consideration. It is important.
Mr. David Collenette: Mr. Ranger will answer you.
Mr. Louis Ranger: I am not acquainted with that testimony and
I don't want you to think that we are defending Air Canada.
However, as it is the dominant carrier, we feel that it would be in
Air Canada's commercial interest to offer adequate service.
Similarly, Air Canada is not used to providing service to Asia but
could acquire the necessary expertise and take advantage of others'
experience to meet the demand in that part of the world.
In the same spirit, I am ready, at this time, in any case, to
give Air Canada the benefit of the doubt and to see what happens.
Time will tell how it will serve the clientele.
Mr. Guy St-Julien: Mr. Ranger, you give Air Canada the benefit
of the doubt, but we know that the Government of Canada and the
Government of Quebec are trustees of the James Bay Agreement. I
hope that you will read it and I hope that you will also acquaint
yourself with Mr. Bob Davis's testimony.
As for giving Air Canada the benefit of the doubt, I have to
tell you that I don't think that will pan out.
The Chair: The legislation did provide.... I
think the minister already said that we have a
watchdog. The watchdog has to report every six months
to this government and this Parliament and the Canadian
We also have the review of the CTA coming in June, so
we'll be able to look at that as well. If that
circumstance should develop, we have the mechanisms in
place to address it.
Mr. David Collenette: May I just say
one thing on the question of the watchdog? You mention
that it reports every six months. There is an
impression that has gotten out there, which we're
trying to correct with letters to the editor, that
somehow the commissioner reports to me or to Parliament
through me every six months. In other words, it just
hoards up all the complaints and then reports. That is
absolutely not true.
The truth of the matter, as you know, is that we're
going to establish a full commissioner who is going to
be on the job every day with a dedicated staff that
will monitor all these complaints, deal with the
complaints, and refer to the CTA itself or to the
Competition Bureau or to the courts to act as a
mediator and to have the powers to produce documents.
So it's erroneous for people to think that somehow it's
just going to report every six months and then people
will forget about a complaint.
The point you raised about the reporting, which is a
valid one, led me to make a statement to emphasize that
the impression the media have out there is the wrong
one. I'm trying to correct that.
The Chair: Mr. Hilstrom.
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: In regard to legislative
regulatory initiatives, page 47 of the report, I see
this was signed off by Deputy Minister Bloodworth, I
believe it is, on March 7. You indicate that you're
going to introduce the proposed Grain Transportation
Act by June 2000, which you of course indicated today.
You indicate also that under direct outputs, there is
a communications and consultation strategy to keep
stakeholders informed during the legislative process.
I find something very strange. Today in Manitoba, the
newspapers have some of your communications strategy
coming out in a “Dear Editor” letter. It goes
through to describe this legislation, the whole system,
and how everything is going to work and all that. But
it's not signed by Mr. Collenette. It's signed by Mr.
My question to you, Minister, is who is speaking for
the transportation ministry, you or Mr. Goodale?
Mr. David Collenette: What we agreed was that in
certain cases, such as replying to some letters in
western Canada that largely dealt with the role of the
Wheat Board, Mr. Goodale would sign the letters. But
he has sent the letters to us for our input.
Rather than having a three-headed monster waiting
around for signatures, there are certain cases where he
will be replying directly. As the lead minister on the
file, obviously I'm involved, but let's face it; he is
from Saskatchewan and he's responsible for the Wheat
Board, which is one of the components of this change.
As part of the government strategy, he obviously will
take the lead in western Canada in explaining the
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Mr. Minister, the Wheat Board
is one of the components of this, but there are an
awful lot of players in this rail grain transportation
that are not the Wheat Board. The Wheat Board only
handles wheat and barley. Besides that, you have all
the other shippers that are going to be affected by
this and the marketing of the other grains. I've
mentioned Omnitrax, which is going to be coming
It just seems to me—and I'd sure like to be corrected
on this—that the Wheat Board is running these grain
transportation changes as opposed to the Government of
Canada and you as the minister representing
transportation in this country.
Mr. David Collenette: That couldn't be further
from the truth, Mr. Chairman. The fact is that Mr.
Goodale, Mr. Vanclief, and I were the ones who worked
on this file for two years. We had responsibility for
various components. Transport Canada was the lead
ministry. The three of us signed the memorandum to
cabinet. The provisions were the result of a consensus
we had reached. Therefore, if Mr. Goodale speaks on
this, he speaks for me and Mr. Vanclief as well as
himself. By the same token, when I speak, I speak for
Mr. Goodale and I speak for Mr. Vanclief.
It's just a question of practicality. The fact is
that I have regional responsibilities for Toronto as
well as being Minister of Transport. Obviously, if
this applied to the Greater Toronto Area, I have duties
that I would take a lead in more than Mr. Goodale. Mr.
Goodale is from western Canada, he has a responsibility
for one of the components in this, and he is a
co-signer. It is an action of three of us in concert.
We're speaking with one voice, no matter which one of
Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Certainly Minister Goodale is
speaking on behalf of the Canadian Wheat Board, but
what we're finding in western Canada is that he doesn't
speak for the big picture of rail transportation.
That's what we had expected that the minister,
yourself, would be doing. As a result, this tripartite
type of ministry that you've put together, the three of
you acting as one, has resulted in us trying to pass
this legislation, I suppose.... Is the objective still
to pass it by the next crop year?
Mr. David Collenette: Well, if we want farmers to
share in the benefits of $178 million, I would hope
that it's passed within the next few weeks so that the
money could flow. Even though the bill was introduced
later than we would have liked, I can't believe that
any of us would want to unduly delay this legislation
and deny producers the benefits of $178 million.
On the question of the triumvirate, in government
initiatives of an interdisciplinary nature it's not
unusual to have two or three or four ministers sign off
on things. In fact, I regularly sign off on things
with Mr. Dhaliwal, the fisheries minister, because of
the overlap in regulations dealing with shipping. It's
not unusual to have both of us speak on a particular
For practical reasons, by virtue of Mr. Goodale's
regional responsibilities and responsibility for the
Wheat Board and natural resources, he is in western
Canada more than I am. This obviously means that he is
there and more able to respond on a day-to-day basis.
But I'll be leading the charge at second reading on
Thursday and I hope you listen to my speech and I hope
you will come to the conclusion that I am indeed the
guardian of the transportation oversight on this
The Chair: Mr. Clouthier.
Mr. Hec Clouthier (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke,
Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm not looking at the big picture, Mr. Minister. I'm
just looking at the snapshot of the upper Ottawa
Valley. As I was perusing this information, I noticed
that on interprovincial bridges....
It's rather propitious that I'm here because I was
just raked over the coals this morning by the mayor of
Rapides-des-Joachims because they want a new bridge. I see
it's under PWGSC, under Public Works, and I'm just
wondering if you have the sign-off authority on that
from Minister Gagliano. I know you probably don't know
of which I speak, but there's a little Bailey bridge
up at Rapides-des-Joachims that goes over to Quebec from
my riding. Mr. Minister, why would some be under
Transport Canada and other ones under Public Works and
Government Services Canada?
Mr. David Collenette: Well, we have to answer for
all the sins of our forefathers in life and this may
have been one of them. Over the years, for different
political reasons at different times, bridges were
built and they came under one department or another.
For example, around Ottawa you have Public Works, you
have the National Capital Commission, and maybe
somebody else that has a responsibility for the
The Chair: The city.
Mr. Hec Clouthier: The NCC I see down here.
Mr. David Collenette: We have international
bridges where the federal government has arm's-length
authority, such as the Blue Water Bridge Authority.
The Chair: Didn't some of those bridges also...?
The rail lines were involved. Usually a rail line ran
under the bridge, under the road.
Mr. David Collenette: In some cases, but not
The Chair: Public Works took the ones that had
nothing to do with transportation.
Mr. David Collenette: For example, the Champlain
Bridge and the Jacques Cartier Bridge are bridges that
we have transferred to the Federal Bridge Corporation.
There were some that came under the seaway that have
gone to the Federal Bridge Corporation.
There's the issue of Sault Ste. Marie. When the
Canadian part of it reverts back to Canada, the
Province of Ontario doesn't want it, so it would revert
to the Government of Canada, and we're debating
internally as to whether that should revert to
Transport Canada in its own right or to the Federal Bridge
Corporation, or perhaps, as is more likely, we'd
establish a bridge authority where there's local input
but with oversight from the federal government. So
there's all manner of reasons.
We have responsibility for fifteen bridges, there are
33 under Public Works and 99 under Parks Canada, and
the NCC has three. Frankly, I would like to see all
bridges, perhaps not some of the Parks Canada bridges
within provincial parks, but by and large
interprovincial bridges and—
The Chair: There you go, Hec. Put your name in
for minister of bridges.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Collenette: All those bridges come
under the Federal Bridge Corporation. So this is
a time of reorganization.
But having said that, Mr. Chairman, we have no money
for bridges, unless of course the municipalities and
the provinces want to agree to have a bridge built
under the infrastructure program.
Mr. Hec Clouthier: Do I have a couple of minutes
The Chair: Yes.
Mr. Hec Clouthier: A question that begs to be
answered then is, would Public Works and Government
Services have money? Because this is out of your
jurisdiction. Am I reading you right? You said
Transport Canada has fifteen, now Public Works and
Government Services. So I go and pester Minister
Gagliano if I want some money for this bridge. Am I
reading you right when I say that?
Mr. David Collenette: You can go and ask him,
Mr. Hec Clouthier: Okay.
Mr. David Collenette: He'll probably tell you
the same thing, that he has no money.
Mr. Hec Clouthier: Yes, but I'll talk to him about
Now I can bug you on my pet peeve, which as you know
is Highway 17, which goes under the sobriquet “Killer
Strip”. I just want to get this straight in my mind.
Has there been any change, Mr. Minister, in the
allocation of federal funding to Highway 17, in
particular to the three designated hot spots across the
country, of which mine is one, as you well know?
Mr. David Collenette: Well, as you know, Mr.
Chairman, the highway programs with Ontario, as with
many provinces, have lapsed. We now have $600 million,
just announced in the budget, that can be applied for
national highways. We are consulting with the
provinces, and Mr. Ranger has been across the country
with Madam Robillard's officials on the infrastructure
program, because there's some transportation overlap,
consulting with the provinces on the design of the
program. We hope to have that underway, or at least
public, later this fall so that funds can start flowing
There certainly is a case, in my view, for funds going
into Highway 17, because of the volume of traffic on
that highway and the fact that it is one of the more
notorious highways in the country from the point of
view of accident safety. But the decision to spend on
that stretch of highway—whether under a municipal
infrastructure program or under the straight
federal-provincial agreements with the $600 million, or
if it's increased, with whatever else we get—is the
priority of the Government of Ontario. As long as it
meets the criteria set down in the program, the
province establishes the priority.
Mr. Hec Clouthier: Okay, so there could be some
funding there. But I see Mr. Ranger shifting in his
chair. He's probably saying “Oh, no! Now
Clouthier's going to be after me on this.”
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. David Collenette: There's nothing shifty about
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Hec Clouthier: I meant he was shifting
Mr. David Collenette: The bottom line is that once
we get the program up and running, and if the $600
million is even augmented in subsequent budgets, the
local communities have to take their case to Queen's
Park and say they should spend there, rather than on
the 403 or the 401 or Highway 11 or whatever else.
That should be the priority.
Mr. Louis Ranger: If I shook my head, it was
because the need, as measured in this country, just to
repair the roads—we're not talking about expanding the
road system, just repairing it—has been estimated at
$17 billion, and the amount we have that has been
allocated is $600 million over four years. So if I'm
shaking my head, it's because I'm trying to reconcile
all this and how to go about setting priorities.
Mr. Hec Clouthier: Okay.
The Chair: Thanks, Hec.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Since
questions aren't getting asked about just the
estimates, I'd like to ask a question in regard to the
number of aviation inspectors. Actually I think it
came up during the estimates sometime last year that
there weren't enough aviation inspectors, and there was
concern that there wouldn't be enough even within the
workforce to get them into the system. Has anything
been done in the area of aviation inspectors?
Mr. David Collenette: Before I let Mr. Jackson
answer that in detail, I have to tell you there
was a story recently that somehow we are relaxing
our standards by virtue of speeding up the cycle of
approvals. We corrected the record, and that's why
you haven't see any other stories. Mr. Jackson can
give you the details.
The fact is we can adjust the safety inspection
cycles to meet the production cycles of building
aircraft, say a Bombardier. That does not mean a
diminution. It means, in the same way Bombardier
increases its productivity and production, we, by
virtue of new techniques and new applications, can
increase the productivity of Transport Canada
But the good news—and Mr. Jackson will give the
actual figure—is that we have hired more inspectors
rather than having fewer inspectors.
Mr. Ron Jackson: Yes.
There were two issues. One was our ability to attract
and retain inspection resources where we had funding
for them, and the second was whether we had sufficient
funding to hire as many people as we needed to do the
job, given the workload out there. I'm happy to say on
both counts the matters have been to a large extent
With respect to the first point, we went through a
series of collective bargaining exercises last year,
and I'm happy to say we have a better package for our
people now than we did before that round of bargaining
was concluded. Secondly, we did launch a very
aggressive recruiting program, and that has been
successful in replenishing our inventories. We now
have a much better pool of people from which to select
than before the campaign.
As far as the funding was concerned, we received
additional resources for inspectors. That came out of
the last budget in fact. We had some money previously,
but I think it was $21 million that was added to the
base for all modes. The predominant mode, though, was
aviation. I think that probably results in some
150-odd inspectors being added to the base of what we
So we've stemmed the tide of attrition because of the
efforts we've taken. Our vacancy rate is now down
below 5%, which is much better than it has been, and
we've added new resources to the mix. So the problem
that was there a year and a half or two years ago has
to a large extent been addressed.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Thank you.
There is some concern with a monopoly carrier and
maybe other carriers trying to cut costs at the expense
of safety. Is there any plan to beef up inspections
and maybe do some more in these early times of having a
monopoly carrier or the risk of maybe some carriers
cutting costs at the expense of safety?
Mr. Ron Jackson: We have a team now looking at the
whole process of the Canadian-Air Canada amalgamation,
and there is increased oversight in terms of watching
both carriers, because as you know, the plan is that
once they do merge, they will start operating under one
series of documents rather than two, as they do today.
Similarly, with respect to the formation of the
national regional carrier with the amalgamation, that's
also being looked at with the same kind of scrutiny as
we're giving to the other.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Okay.
I'm going to give you a scenario, and I will put this
in writing to get the information, but since you're a
captive audience—the door is still locked—I'll ask
you because you're here. Say on a direct flight from
Ottawa to Vancouver, passengers get on the plane and
are told they're going to have to stop in Winnipeg to
take on more fuel, because they don't have enough fuel.
On their flight it's mentioned, or it might have been
mentioned right then. Or, they're told, thirty
passengers will have to get off if they want enough
fuel to get them to Vancouver, but they're running a
little late. Then while they're on the flight, it also
comes on over the intercom that although the pilots are
over their required amount of hours, rather than delay
them getting to Vancouver, they're going to continue on
from Winnipeg to Vancouver. What would be your
impression of this scenario?
Mr. Ron Jackson: I'd like to know more about it.
Mr. Michel Guimond: Hmm, very interesting.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: That was the scenario out of
Ottawa a week or so ago.
Mr. Michel Guimond: The press will appreciate
Mr. David Collenette: Before we start telling all
these horror stories, we really have to be a bit more
reasonable about what's going on. You may be on to
something, but let's find out what kind of plane it was
and what the atmospheric conditions were that day.
Let's find out about the passenger load and where those
pilots came on. Did they come on during a stopover
in say Halifax? We're
pretty tough on pilots flying—
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Fair enough. I did indicate
that since you're here, I wanted to get your impression of
Mr. David Collenette: Just in case there's
anybody from the media here, I don't want another story
without details. It's fine to have exposés—
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: I did tell the member of
Parliament who told me this that I would expect to
Mr. David Collenette: So it's hearsay.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Well, it's from a member of
Parliament. Now, I can't—
Mr. David Collenette: That's hearsay.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: No. They're representing
Canada, and I hope they're all as truthful as I am.
The Chair: Thank you, Bev.
Mr. David Collenette: I'm sure they're all as
truthful. I'm not sure about how accurate.
The Chair: We have five more minutes with the
minister, and that's it. We have three questioners, one
question each. They are Guy St-Julien, Roy Bailey, and Michel
Guimond. Guy, a short question.
Mr. Guy St-Julien: To follow up on what I was saying earlier
concerning the North, I have to add that the Inuit have a great
deal of respect for you, Minister. They know that you are a man of
action and that you bring your projects to fruition.
Here's my question. The KPMG study concerning the Quebec
railway network, which was carried out in co-operation with the
federal government, views certain things favourably. Via has been
discussed, but at this time it would appear that CN is having
greater difficulty ensuring the safety of its railways. We know
that there was a derailment last week in the La Tuque area and that
VIA can no longer get through. What does the future hold for VIA in
the Val-d'Or region and in Senneterre, in the Abitibi region? What
does the KPMG study say about the future of Quebec's railway
The Chair: Thanks, Mr. St-Julien.
Mr. David Collenette: As for Val-d'Or, you are referring to
the possibility of extending railway service through VIA.
Personally, I am in favour of such an extension because I think it
holds potential for air and railway tourism travel. For instance,
tourists can be transported from Montreal to Val-d'Or by train and
from Val-d'Or to Montreal by plane. I'm currently examining a
business plan before submitting it to Treasury Board, and I will
ask VIA officials to consider the possibility of extending service
or restoring service that was cut 10 years ago. We are going to
examine each project individually.
Mr. Louis Ranger: I'm going to reply to your second question.
As I explained to Mr. Drouin, we at the department have always
talked about a road fund, but we believe that we should begin to
think about a broader fund to support land transportation.
Mr. Guy St-Julien: How much money are you thinking of?
Mr. Louis Ranger: Well, rather than tell provinces that they
would have a given amount for road transportation during the next
four years, we could tell them that they will have a given amount
for land transportation. In certain regions, it would be preferable
to allocate the amount, whatever it may be, to rail transportation
rather than to roads, because certain goods are better transported
by rail. That is why we asked KPMG to carry out studies in Quebec,
but we did that in all of the regions of the country as well. That
was part of our thinking for the longer term. We should not stop
with road transport, but look at the issue in a broader
Mr. Guy St-Julien: Will the committee be provided with a copy
of the study?
Mr. Louis Ranger: The KPMG study?
Mr. Guy St-Julien: Yes.
Mr. Louis Ranger: I think so.
Mr. Guy St-Julien: Very well, thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Bailey, one question.
Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Minister, I'd like some
clarification on your infrastructure grants as such.
Who determines what type of activity, what kind of
structure, and what kind of work project qualify for
infrastructure grants? Of your department or the
recipient, be it the provincial government or the municipal
government, who makes the actual decision as to how
much money goes to any given project?
Mr. David Collenette: We have announced a certain
amount of money in the infrastructure program.
Officials are now consulting with the provinces on
their expectations under that program. Of course, the
expenditures have been specifically designated. For
example, on municipal infrastructure it's
socially assisted housing, transportation,
environmental projects, such as sewage treatment and
drinking water, which is particularly applicable given
what has happened recently, and there may be one or two
other areas. It would be up to cabinet to design a
program for those funds.
It's the same for the $600 million on the highways. It will
be spent on the national highway network. That's the
25,000 kilometres so designated by the council of
ministers, including the federal government.
With regard to what specific projects get funded and
in what amount, that is really a decision of the
municipalities in consultation with the provinces, or
in the case of the federal-provincial, it's simply by the
I'll give you one example. Right now we're involved
in issues dealing with the need to fund the
Greater Toronto waterfront redevelopment. Let's say
that there was $300 million going to the City of
Toronto over six years for the infrastructure. If the
City of Toronto wanted to spend that money entirely on
the redevelopment of the waterfront, then one would
assume that most of the projects connected with that
could be funded, because it's largely transportation.
It's environmental cleanup of the river and realignment
of the mouth of the Don River. All of the expenditures
have to pass the test. But the actual priority would
come from the municipalities, or in the case of the
$600 million, from the provinces directly.
Mr. Roy Bailey: Thank you.
The Chair: Thanks, Roy.
Michel Guimond, please.
Mr. Michel Guimond: Minister, I'm going to make a comment
instead of asking a question.
I would like you to thank on my behalf, the officials who
prepared the “Federally-owned Bridge/Highway Infrastructure” table.
This is a document that will be very useful to me. I am convinced
that my colleague Mr. Hubbard will also find the document very
useful, as will my colleague Val Meredith. I am somewhat tired of
hearing that the federal government only maintains and operates the
Jacques-Cartier and Champlain bridges in Montreal. I can see what
there is in Cornwall, Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia, Campbellton,
Hamilton, Kingston and Selkirk in Manitoba. I see that the federal
government owns 227 kilometres of the Trans-Canada Highway in
Newfoundland, Alberta and British Columbia. This is a very well-crafted
document that will be of great use to us. There are 150
bridges and road infrastructures throughout Canada. The government
is responsible for more than the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain
bridges. This will prevent certain colleagues from engaging in
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. David Collenette: That was a statement, sir. It was not a
Mr. Michel Guimond: I had indeed said that I was going to make
The Chair: Mr. Drouin, one question. Are you all
Mr. Claude Drouin: Yes.
The Chair: Mr. Minister, thanks for coming before
the committee on estimates.
I do have a request of you, in particular your
officials. Provided the House time is there for second
reading and we get through second reading in the House
this week, we'll be dealing with the new grain bill as
early as next Monday. On the Monday when you and your
officials appear, we'd really appreciate it as a
committee if there were good information on the
background of each one of the clauses in the bill
so that we can be fully informed and hit the ground
running, as it were.
Time will be short, and we'll be
working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on most days,
colleagues, so please make adjustments to your schedules.
Mr. David Collenette: We'll get that done, Mr.
Chairman, because we want to assist you. We can do a
compendium of all the background information that I and
my other two colleagues have and make that available to
you. If we could get it to you by Friday, I say to my
officials, you could then read it over the weekend, and
that would be helpful.
The Chair: Thank you.
Thank you, colleagues.
The meeting is adjourned.