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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue 1 - Evidence, February 25, 2009

OTTAWA, Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 6:32 p.m., pursuant to rule 88 of the Rules of the Senate, to organize the activities of the committee.


Vanessa Moss-Norbury, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, there is a quorum. As clerk of your committee, it is my duty to preside over the election of the chair. I am ready to receive a motion to that effect. Are there any nominations?

Senator Cochrane: I nominate Senator Bacon as chair.

Ms. Moss-Norbury: Are there any other nominations?

Senator Dawson: May I ask if she wants to accept?

Senator Bacon: I will accept it for sure.

Senator Cochrane: Thank you, senator.

Ms. Moss-Norbury: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Cochrane that the Honourable Senator Bacon do take the chair of this committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Ms. Moss-Norbury: I declare the motion carried. I invite the Honourable Senator Bacon to take the chair.

Senator Lise Bacon (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Cochrane, for moving my name. I accept with pleasure to chair the meetings of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.

I wish to welcome the new members, Senator Wallace, Senator Housakos and you, Senator Cochrane. You are not a new senator but you are a new member of the committee. I also want to welcome the members who have been here for a few years, who were members of the previous Parliament and who were with the committee.

I thank you again. We will proceed with the election of the deputy chair.


Senator Merchant: Madam Chair, I move that Senator Janis G. Johnson be designated as vice-chair of the committee.


The Chair: Is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Senator Johnson is out of town, but she will accept with pleasure to be the deputy chair of the committee.

Senator Zimmer: Madam Chair, do you need a seconder? If you do, I will.

Senator Bacon: No, normally we do not. Next is the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure.

Senator Dawson?

Senator Dawson: I nominate Senator Francis Fox.

The Chair: As the third member of the steering committee.

Senator Eyton: Can we have a vote on that?

Senator Dawson: No.

The Chair: Do you have another motion, Senator Eyton? No?

I need a motion to print the committee's proceedings.

Senator Cochrane: I so move.

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Authorization to hold meetings and to print evidence when quorum is not present.

Senator Zimmer: I so move.

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Number 6, financial report. We have to adopt the draft first report prepared in accordance with rule 104. You all have a copy of the financial report, so we need a motion to adopt the report.

Senator Wallace: I so move.

The Chair: You do? Okay.

Research staff. Do we have to go through that too?

Ms. Moss-Norbury: Yes, all of it.

The Chair: I need a motion for the research staff from the Library of Parliament.

Senator Dawson: I so move.

The Chair: I want to mention that Terry Thomas is here. Terry deals with communications, and Nathalie Pothier with transport. I need a motion on that, too.

Ms. Moss-Norbury: Senator Dawson made that motion, and they can sit at the table if they would like.

The Chair: Authority to commit funds and certify accounts.

Senator Housakos: I so move.

The Chair: Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Travel. I think you all have read that. Do I have to read it all?

Senator Fox: I so move.

The Chair: I think you can read it.

Designation of members travelling on committee business.

Senator Housakos: I so move.

The Chair: Travelling and living expenses of witnesses.

Senator Cochrane: I so move.

The Chair: For the senators who were not here before, I think you know that sometimes we need witnesses, and they have specialties that they can help us with. Sometimes we have to pay for their travelling expenses. That is part of it.

Electronic media coverage of public meetings. We usually have our meetings televised when the ministers appear before us.

Senator Wallace: I so move.

The Chair: The time slot for a regular meeting is usually Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The meetings would be held in Room 256-S. Tonight there is something special and we had to move here to 356, but it is normally 256-S. Do we need a motion for that?

Ms. Moss-Norbury: No.

The Chair: Other business? Last time we met, we had some suggestions about studies that we could do here in this committee. The last study we had was on containers and containerized business. We produced a report, which I would ask the new members to read. We spent about two years — I do not think I am mistaken — on the same dossier to finalize a good report.

Last time we mentioned that we could work on the communications for the next year or two, whatever it takes to study. I had prepared a few items on the agenda. Were they distributed?

Ms. Moss-Norbury: No. We will distribute them.


Senator Dawson: Are there any legislation in the other place that will be sent to us in the next few weeks?

The Chair: No, not many.


Maybe I can start with the legislation first, while they distribute the papers.

The House of Commons has Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Arctic Waters Pollution Act, but I am not sure whether it will come to this committee. It could be referred to the Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, but we shall see. As well, Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Marine Liability Act and the Federal Courts Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, is at second reading. It was presented by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and could come to us. Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, was also presented by the Minister of Transport in the other place. It is in committee so we do not have any dates that it could come here. There are not many bills currently before the House of Commons. Therefore, I wanted to discuss a study that the committee could begin and that could last about one year.

Senator Cochrane: What is the study suggestion?

The Chair: Well, I believe the information was distributed to you. We will not make any decision today. I just want you to read it and perhaps make other suggestions the next time we meet. Reflect on it during the week and we will discuss it further next week.

Senator Cochrane: What did you say it was on?

The Chair: One part of it is the topic of high-speed Internet and its availability across Canada and why certain regions and communities are not yet connected to the broadband network. I would ask members to come back with other suggestions, because I am not the one to make all the decisions. All members of the committee have a voice here.

Senator Zimmer: Madam Chair, at the last session we passed a bill about advertising for Air Canada and West Jet. At the conclusion, we spoke about the fees set by Transport, how they set the fees, what the revenue is, where it goes, what they build, and whether it is necessary. I had heard, and I hope it is not true, that when they tore down the terminal in Toronto it was a humongous cost. There are certain elements that can be used to blow that up and use a bulldozer to take it down. This is an area that we want to consider at some time, because they are making millions. Do we really need all these nice terminals? Are they effective and efficient? I do not know. That is just a thought.

The Chair: I welcome your suggestions, because we need to discuss it next week. All suggestions are welcome and we will make a choice together.


Senator Dawson: I noticed that yesterday the National Finance Committee was hearing the Minister of Transport about the infrastructure file. I was wondering whether this should not be normally the business of the Transport Committee. Since there is agreement in the House of Commons for a quarterly assessment to be made of the progress accomplished in the infrastructure file, I would ask the steering committee to decide whether it would be appropriate that the minister be invited, on a quarterly basis, to come before our committee to tell us about the progress made in these projects.

The Chair: We will have a meeting next week; Senator Johnson will be here and we will be able to meet with Senator Fox.


Senator Cochrane: Who is on the steering committee?

The Chair: Senator Johnson, our deputy chair; Senator Fox and I.


I believe that we will not have a discussion today. The only way to proceed is for everyone of us to go back home and think about suggestions for next week. If you want to forward them to us during the week so that we can look at them together when we meet, that is fine; but we will have everything on the table next week.

Everyone can make his or her own suggestions and we will have an in depth discussion on this next week in order to have a good selection of issues to examine during the next year.


Senator Eyton, do you have anything to add?

Senator Eyton: Not on any of that. We need to think about what work we should be doing because we are here in Ottawa as part of a national government. It seems that we should be looking at national issues or have a national vision. When we get involved in the details, we tend to focus there and forget about the broader picture.

This country was created by a railroad that linked the East and the West. Since then, Air Canada came along and joined people together. Broadcasting, in a way, has brought us together as well. I would hope that we could define an issue for study that would be practical and useful and would represent a national picture. For example, during our container study we talked mostly about the West Coast gateway and the East Coast gateway, and a little bit about how we could connect.

It is important that we try to capture a national undertaking and make national recommendations. For example, it could be exciting for us to try to bring the country together in a consistent and coherent way through broadband available to every Canadian. Let us see where we are now and determine how we could do that. It is not enough that 150 companies or so provide various levels of service here and there. Rather, there needs to be a consistent standard available to all Canadians via an equally attractive proposition.

I am not sure what the national vision is, but things can be done in a small way or in a big way, and I would suggest that we could be more useful in looking at it with a national perspective.

The Chair: Is that not what we usually do?

Senator Eyton: We tend to get tied up in the details, such as we need a new wharf in Halifax, or something. I would like to start with a vision and then work backwards, as opposed to starting where we are now and working forward.

The Chair: Do you feel that communications will not do that if we had a dossier on communications?

Senator Eyton: Certainly, it could do that. I suggest dealing with it from a national perspective and starting where we want to be five years from now compared to where we are now and then fill it in.

The Chair: Okay.

Senator Zimmer: Madam Chair, I believe that Senator Eyton is trying to say that after the last examination on ports, which we do not have in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, we felt a little left out, although I kept pushing the Port of Churchill as much as possible. You are pushing inland, but we were running a little dry. I support Senator Eyton's comments.

The Chair: Next week we will have a discussion and make a decision. Please feel free to prepare questions and topics of study.

(The committee adjourned.)

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