Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Banking, Trade and Commerce
Issue No. 8 - Evidence - October 20, 2016
OTTAWA, Thursday, October 20, 2016
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce met this day at
10:30 a.m. to study and report on the development of a national corridor in
Canada as a means of enhancing and facilitating commerce and internal trade.
Senator David Tkachuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning and welcome to the Standing Senate Committee
on Banking, Trade and Commerce. My name is David Tkachuk.
Today is our third meeting on the subject of our study on the development of
a national corridor in Canada as a means of enhancing and facilitating commerce
and internal trade. We're pleased to welcome today during the first portion of
our meeting officials from Transport Canada. We have Sandra LaFortune, Director
General, International Relations and Trade Policy; and Craig Hutton, Director
General, Strategic Policy and Innovation.
Thank you both for being with us today. Please proceed with your opening
remarks. I understand Ms. LaFortune will be starting. Please continue, and then
we'll have our question and answer session. We have up to an hour because we
have a second group today.
Sandra LaFortune, Director General, International Relations and Trade
Policy, International and Intergovernmental Relations, Transport Canada:
Thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable senators. We appreciate being invited today
to appear before your committee as part of your study on the development of
transportation, communication and other networks within Canada as a means of
enhancing economic growth and facilitating commerce.
Transport Canada has regulatory authority for several of the transportation
modes that are included within the scope of your study, namely marine, air and
motor vehicle transportation as well. My remarks today focus primarily on
transportation systems that carry domestic and international trade, systems of
vital economic importance given the fact that Canada is a trading nation.
Like the corridor concept outlined in the University of Calgary and CIRANO
paper that was presented to this committee on October 5, Transport Canada's
approach to trade-related transportation systems has also been multi-modal in
nature. Since 2006, this approach has embodied three distinct multi-modal and
trade-related strategies: the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, the
Atlantic Gateway and Trade Corridor Initiative and the Ontario-Quebec
Recognizing that as a trading nation the efficiency and reliability of
transportation directly impacts Canada's prosperity and well-being, these
initiatives sought to bring infrastructure, policy, governance and operational
issues together into integrated, multi-modal, public-private strategies.
Cooperation among the public and private sectors was a key feature of the
gateways approach. This is because key assets in our transportation system are
owned or operated by both the public and private sectors and are regulated and
taxed by all levels of government.
These strategies were supported by two dedicated funds: a $1 billion
Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Transportation Infrastructure Fund and a $2.1
billion Gateways and Border Crossings Fund. This allowed the federal government
to cost-share in projects that addressed supply chain bottlenecks and improved
transportation system capacity for international trade. These investments
leveraged approximately $1 billion in private, project-related contributions
relative to the federal government's investments between 2007 and 2016. These
projects also supported billions of dollars more in other private sector capital
and operational spending, as businesses sought to take advantage of system
capacity and performance improvements.
The recent Canada Transportation Act Review Report recognized the success of
the gateways approach amid broader findings related to all aspects of the
national transportation system.
In the context of this report, along with mandate and budget commitments, the
Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, undertook a series of
consultations with Canadians, stakeholders, provinces and territories and
indigenous groups across the country starting last spring to hear their views
and discuss ideas for the long-term agenda for transportation in Canada.
These consultations focused on five themes: safer transportation; trade
corridors to global markets; waterways, coasts and the North; green and
innovative transportation; and the traveller.
Consultations were held with a cross-section of transportation carriers,
users and academic experts, provincial and territorial counterparts and the
general public through an online portal. Given the focus of your current study,
I would like to highlight some of the more detailed comments received in
relation to the themes of trade corridors to global markets and of the North.
The minister hosted two trade corridors to global markets round tables, one
in Toronto in May and one in Winnipeg in July. Overall, there was general
agreement that while Canada has a relatively effective national freight
transportation system, collective effort is required to address cost pressures
and risks, improve timeliness and increase the reliability, capacity and
credibility of the Canadian transportation system. Stakeholders felt we need to
focus our attention and investments on the transportation corridors that carry
the majority of Canada's international trade. There was recognition that
operational and technological innovations can also help to optimize our
trade-related transportation capacity that is already in place.
Along with helping to identify corridor inefficiencies and future needs, a
stronger evidence base would help to identify strategic investments that are
most needed or will have the most impact in ensuring that modern, resilient and
high-quality transportation infrastructure is in place to serve international
markets. Coordination and cooperation among the various levels of government was
also highlighted as being an important contributor to success.
Despite the fact that there are vast networks across much of North America
that function as trade corridors, Canada's northern regions remain on the
periphery of these networks. Connections to the rest of the continent are
limited. This has an impact on potential opportunities for generating new public
revenue streams, for achieving economic growth and for facilitating commerce
with the rest of the country and with global markets.
One could consider large-scale projects that strengthen linkages between
Canada's North and our continental transportation networks as transformational
in nature, similar to the ways in which historic projects, like the
transcontinental railway, the Trans-Canada Highway and the St. Lawrence Seaway,
positively impacted national prosperity and quality of life for all Canadians.
But there are more immediate needs to address, which were raised by
northerners and those with transportation operations in the North in a northern
round table hosted by Minister Garneau in Iqaluit in July. Participants
highlighted the lack of basic transportation infrastructure in the North as a
safety, security and environmental concern.
There is no doubt that Canada's northern regions face pressing infrastructure
needs related to housing, energy and waste water, for example, which under
current national infrastructure programs tend to be ranked as higher priority
areas of investment than the needs of the transportation sector.
In addition to basic safety deficiencies, existing transportation
infrastructure in Canada's North suffers from a lack of resiliency largely due
to climate-change-related challenges, including permafrost degradation, changing
precipitation patterns and a shortened winter road season.
As your study notes, the high cost of transportation in the North is directly
related to the lack of infrastructure. Strengthening the northern transportation
system through immediate investments in basic infrastructure would support and
promote economic growth and opportunities for Canadians.
However, the territorial governments have not made representations to
Transport Canada that they would prioritize a northern corridor, as outlined in
the University of Calgary and CIRANO report, over other more basic
transportation infrastructure priorities aimed at improving the safety and
efficiency of community resupply at northern ports or increasing safety at
We do know that southern solutions to northern problems are not effective due
to the unique environmental, social and economic complexities of the North.
Strong engagement with the territorial governments, northern communities and
indigenous people is key to ensuring that federal investments have a positive
impact and provide a northern solution to address northern priorities.
To paraphrase Minister Garneau, we must remember that Canada can have the
best-quality products and most ambitious trade agreements in the world, but it
won't matter if we lack efficient ways to get our goods to international
markets. In this regard, one of the minister's top priorities, as outlined in
his mandate letter from the Prime Minister, is to help to deliver a newly
focused Building Canada Fund, which will make investments in Canada's roads,
bridges, transportation corridors, ports and border gateways, helping Canada's
manufacturers get their goods to markets.
In this context, an overarching focus for Transport Canada going forward will
continue to be on enhancing trade corridor capacity and competitiveness, along
with helping to address priority transportation needs in Canada's North.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to address the committee.
The Chair: Thank you. Senator Tannas, please go ahead.
Senator Tannas: Thanks for your presentation. I was interested to know
about Minister Garneau's initiatives in respect to reaching out and getting
feedback from various groups and interests. You mentioned in your remarks that
northern corridor was not listed as a priority. Was it discussed? Was it even in
the room as something, or was it not that it was not a priority, it just plain
Craig Hutton, Director General, Strategic Policy, Strategic Policy &
Innovation, Transport Canada: The issue around connectivity between
communities, making sure that resupply is available, making sure goods in these
communities for export can get out, those issues around connectivity were
certainly raised and certainly top of mind.
I think what was emphasized to the minister was that the needs are great, and
in terms of placing priorities on how the federal government might consider
moving in support, it's around the safety issues in communities, the resupply
and the basic infrastructure needs in terms of airport and air connectivity in
the communities. We heard that quite clearly, because the representatives who
were at that round table either lived in the communities or were representing
companies that have operations in those communities.
So that message came through loud and clear about the lack of very basic
infrastructure to ensure the safe movement of goods and people.
Senator Tannas: I understand that, and I think what we're looking to
engage in is a dialogue as to whether or not it is time for another
transcontinental railroad, a large project. I remember watching Pierre Berton's
The National Dream. I'm sure there were people who said we need to repair
the railroad between Toronto and Peterborough before we should go off into
uncharted territory. In other words, there will always be immediate needs. We
know that and get that, and there is no question that there are pressing needs
in the North in many areas.
So I'm wondering, were there any kinds of visionary discussions, or was it
simply an inventory of all the problems today that we've got that the minister
quite rightly took on and knows he needs to deal with?
Mr. Hutton: I think the representations to him were very much in the
current realities of what the communities are facing in terms of those basic
transportation infrastructure needs. The idea of a broad corridor as sort of
outlined in the report was not raised.
Senator Tannas: Fair enough. So you are here, two folks with a lot of
expertise for us. How about we talk about the northern corridor from your
perspective and what you think. Is it time for this discussion to move forward
and be examined seriously, or should we worry about the train between
Peterborough and Toronto some more?
Mr. Hutton: With respect to the movement of goods overall and the
movement of people, I think what is informing the minister and the department at
the moment is two processes. One was the CTA review report, which, as you know,
was tabled in Parliament last year by the minister, and he received that from
David Emerson, who was the chair conducting the statutory review of the Canada
Transportation Act. They heard from a wide range of stakeholders across the
country, and they visited the North and heard representations directly from
territorial governments and those who live in the North. That's a huge body of
evidence for that report and the findings that are in contained in it.
The minister, as you know, reached out and did his engagement process over
the last number of months through a series of round tables, which Sandra
mentioned, which encouraged feedback on the report findings but also went beyond
in terms of issues that were not addressed thoroughly by the report or that were
outside the scope of the report. His efforts over the last number of months in
terms of doing that outreach and engagement were focused through those thematic
areas. A tremendous number of ideas are coming forward, no question about it.
I think this CIRANO report, in terms of looking at corridors, as they have
conceptually laid it out, is another piece of evidence that is to be considered
with all the outreach done and the submissions made to the CTA report.
The CTA report itself focused on a number of key areas that require attention
in the North, particularly in the territories, and I think you'll find that even
the infrastructure projects that are in there are significant in terms of what
is being pointed out as being potentially needed in the North, but the report
was also clear in the CTA recommendations that it's important to work
collaboratively with the territorial governments and the folks who live in the
North, so that whatever solutions are put in place are sustainable and recognize
the priorities of the territories.
Again, it has been an opportunity over the last 24 months for a significant
number of ideas to come forward. I think the minister has been attempting to
take all that input and look at how to advance a long-term agenda for
transportation in Canada that's reflective of that input.
Ms. LaFortune: If I may, the two round tables held on trade corridors
to global markets had a cross-section of all different kinds of suppliers and
transportation service providers and also the discussions with his provincial
and territorial counterparts that the minister undertook. In those two round
tables, I can tell you that northern corridor wasn't really raised either. So it
was not just in the northern round table but also not in the two trade corridors
to global markets.
Part of the reason is people seemed to feel that not every doorway is a
gateway, so focus on the things that we really need, on the areas that have the
most vital connections, make sure there are no bottlenecks there, and allow
trade to go through both within the country and from Canada to the rest of the
world. That has to be the priority first.
The Chair: Were there any ideas on how to solve the pipeline problem?
Ms. LaFortune: Not in the round tables that I attended.
The Chair: That's a pretty important transportation issue; is it not?
Mr. Hutton: The work going on around pipelines is more with our
colleagues at NRCan.
The Chair: So the discussion was basically around local airports and
highways? Was a highway to the North discussed?
Ms. LaFortune: I don't know about the northern one. I don't think so.
But the trade corridors to global markets, no. It was not local; it was what are
the key jumping-off points to allow Canadian goods to get to international
markets, and what might be bottlenecks, what might be hindering that movement of
goods across the country. It was seen as a national system-wide thing. It was
not local; it was really seen as a national perspective that everybody took,
which was really great. And it was sort of understood that perhaps, for example,
an investment in something in Saskatchewan would really be good for British
Columbia for the Port of Vancouver or for the Port of Halifax.
The Chair: We can start this pipeline in Saskatchewan, but if we can't
finish it in B.C., what is the point of it?
Ms. LaFortune: As Craig mentioned, pipelines are more Natural
The Chair: I have Senator Massicotte next.
Senator Massicotte: Thank you for being here before our committee.
This is a very important debate. We would like to know the department's
priorities. As far as I am concerned, our perspective is more long-term. I am
curious to know what your short-term priority is. In my opinion, the most
important thing is to see this project come to fruition, which could take many
more years or even decades. Our objective is to determine if it is possible to
recommend and carry out such a project. Whether or not it has been the subject
of public debate is secondary. We are not trying to promote this idea.
We have to consider whether this project offers considerable value to Canada.
If so, how much will it cost? Is it possible to come up with a project that is
realistic and cost-effective for Canadians? That is how I would like to take an
active part in this debate. I am very pleased to see you here today, since you
are an expert in the field.
It is something that could be used for more than just transporting goods.
Moreover, that is an approval issue since all the communities affected have to
be in agreement. In addition, it is something that we will use for hundreds of
Is it something that is truly of value? If so, how many billions of dollars
would it cost? In short, is it cost-effective?
Mr. Hutton: Senator, you raise a number of very good points. The long
lead time it takes on transportation projects is absolutely the right
perspective to have. It's something that David Emerson pointed out in his
report. When you are doing transportation planning, a 30-year horizon is not as
long as you might think because of the planning that needs to be undertaken, the
thought that goes in, and the work with partners that's required.
A project of the scale that is contemplated as part of the report that was
submitted from Calgary, I don't think they yet have an idea of the overall cost
or whether, commercially, certain aspects of it would be viable.
However, we do know obviously that it would be quite costly, but as for
specific cost, there is no costing around a project like that, and I don't think
they had numbers themselves on that.
You mentioned the word "profitability." We do look at how market forces
ultimately create the condition under which projects can be viable, and that
speaks directly to the point Sandra was making around our previous role in
supporting the gateway trade corridor concept, which was the notion that these
are multi-modal corridors that we're looking at that carry significant volumes
of trade, either by value or by volume, where you can partner with the private
sector in a way that minimizes the cost to the government and cost to the
taxpayer but at the same time leverages that private sector investment, so you
might get investment in infrastructure that might not otherwise have been made.
From that point of view, that market force, that commercial aspect, that
profitability that you mention would be something that you have to look at in
every instance that you are looking at investing in transportation
infrastructure, but particularly, a project of that scale would need a lot of
careful consideration around what partners would be there and what business case
it is supporting in terms of goods that would use that corridor.
The trade flows currently are reflective of some of the corridor work that
Transport Canada has done. Planning for the future, as you say, though, is
something we need to take a look at; we need to step back in light of long lead
times, and ask where trade is flowing in the future. That is part of how we
gather the information based on the CTA review, based on the outreach the
minister has done through the round table process this past summer and
submissions that have come forward to us, and look at all these ideas and ask
what is viable for the future. Where do we need to be 30 years from now? We have
to start planning for that today.
Senator Massicotte: Human nature and especially the political process
are very short term-ish, as you well know. You have been there long enough,
including people's comments. They are worried about getting to the mail and
getting access. I'm not immensely influenced by that. Good, but I don't really
care about that very much.
But relative to long-term planning, the Blue Sky Policy, did your department
take a look and say this is a great idea? I know we are very busy planning and
responding to citizens and voters' needs, but big picture, is there merit to it?
Have you given it some thought?
Ms. LaFortune: I know that some work was done around the concept of
northern corridors when the National Policy Framework for Strategic Gateways and
Trade Corridors was established in 2007, 2009, somewhere around there. The
feeling then was that there was not sufficient volume and values of trade that
could make that viable at that point.
But also a lot of work is being done and more will be done exactly along the
lines that you are suggesting. What are the national trends around trade? What
are the international trends around trade? Where do we need to be, as Craig
says, in 30 years? How do we need to start to get there? With shifts in
commodity prices, with shifts in trade flows, with shifts in where manufacturing
takes place and how it takes place, these things are moving, and so this is work
that Transport Canada is doing some of, and we're not finished doing it yet, but
in that sense, studies like the CIRANO one is really helpful.
Senator Massicotte: When do you think you will complete your review
and reach your conclusions?
Ms. LaFortune: Don't misunderstand me. There is not a specific project
going on examining that right this moment.
Senator Massicotte: It's not on the chart? It's not in the Blue Sky
session? There is no strategic, long-term planning?
Mr. Hutton: We are looking at all these ideas and trying to get a
sense of where trade flows will be in the future. Emerson pointed out in his
report and we have also heard it during the round table sessions and other
submissions that have come in since that we need a good and better evidence base
to look at.
Senator Massicotte: I heard you earlier. All that is good, but what
will it produce and when?
Mr. Hutton: It is an ongoing process.
Senator Massicotte: It's chatting? People are talking?
Mr. Hutton: That's right.
Senator Enverga: Thank you for the presentation. I have been listening
quite attentively, and basically we have the same ideas. However, when thinking
about the national corridor in Canada, have you considered the fact that we have
a lot of communities out there that need to be connected to the rest of Canada?
Is that part of your study?
At the same time, don't you think that a national corridor will actually
allow us to tap a lot of the resources that, until now, were untapped because
there is no national corridor? Have we even thought about that in the long run?
Is it part of your planning?
Ms. LaFortune: When you say "national corridor," there are trade
corridors that exist, transportation corridors that exist along the supply chain
now, and these have received a great deal of investment over the past 10 years
through the various strategies and initiatives that I mentioned earlier.
Part of the minister's mandate letter and part of what was referenced in the
2016 budget actually also referenced the fact that transportation corridors and
getting goods to global markets will be part of the $120 billion infrastructure
program that the government is coming forward with. The transportation part will
be part of Phase 2, which should be announced within the coming months, within a
year from the budget, so thought is going into that now.
Senator Enverga: What do you think of Phase 2? What is it all about?
Can you add some more details there, or can we add ideas to help you with your
Ms. LaFortune: You are always absolutely welcome to submit whatever
ideas you might have. I'm more than happy to receive them. As for what will be
in Phase 2, I'm not really in a position to comment on that.
Senator Marshall: I was interested in what has been discussed with
regard to a corridor through Newfoundland and Labrador, because the documents
that we have been given show a northern corridor going through Labrador, and of
course in Newfoundland most of the traffic flows between Nova Scotia across the
island to St. John's where the majority of people live. So I was wondering what
sorts of options have been discussed.
Ms. LaFortune: That is the CIRANO project? Is that the map that you're
Senator Marshall: Yes.
Ms. LaFortune: I'm not aware that that corridor was ever discussed
with Transport Canada.
Senator Marshall: Okay, so there have been no discussions.
Is anything contemplated for Newfoundland and Labrador, or is it centred more
around where the majority of the population lives in Canada?
Ms. LaFortune: I don't think it's necessarily as centred around
population as around trade flows and the work that's ongoing now with regard to
where the values of trade will be, and how the key commodities and products can
move to markets will be the element that will be focused on.
Senator Marshall: Mining is carried out in Labrador, even though most
of the people live in the St. John's region, so would that taken into
consideration with regard to the establishment of any corridor?
Ms. LaFortune: The key areas of trade and the requirements of the
transportation system and the supply chain to allow commodities and products to
get to where they need to go within Canada and around the world are the areas
that will be the key foci for deciding on —
Senator Marshall: What the route would be?
Ms. LaFortune: Yes.
Senator Smith: I want to consolidate the thoughts that I'm hearing. It
appears to me that you folks are focused on more regional types of programs,
because you talked about specific needs. I guess it goes back to Senator
Massicotte's question. Do you have a strategic planning group? Because if you
look at the information that's out there, we have one corridor in our country
right now, the southern corridor, which started with the construction of our
railways. We then branched into connectivity routes into the United States,
which is our largest trading partner. As we look at the economic forecast going
forward, in terms of trade, reports have come out recently about the importance
of creating access to our future trading partners of growth, such as in Asia,
with China, with whoever ends up with a TPP trading group, so obviously India,
Korea, those types of countries. But it appears that you folks are really
looking at day-to-day, micro types of community issues as opposed to national
issues. What type of balance exists between national, transformative planning
and regional issues, which are important? I understand that.
When you talk about 10- to 30-year horizons and you're talking about trade,
it really scares me because when I hear that type of feedback, I'm thinking,
what the heck are these people doing in terms of long term? If there's a
long-term plan, it had better be being developed now because it is going to take
10 years to complete if we ever did a corridor where we had 7,000 kilometres of
roads, of pipelines, of telecommunications and had a right-of-way through the
mid-Canada area, which the CIRANO report wrote about. Of course, this was
started in 1967 by Richard Rohmer. The thought of developing this opportunity
has existed for over 50 years.
It's not necessarily a new idea. If we take one example, the one example is
moving wheat. I spent 10 years working with Ogilvie Flour Mills, which was
Canada's first Father of Confederation, the largest milling company in Canada.
We have a problem trying to get our wheat out of Saskatchewan. When I hear
someone saying that something good for Saskatchewan could be good for trade,
it's not going to be good for trade unless we can build the access on the rails
into the ports.
Not to be critical, but I'm trying to understand — where is the strategic
element in your planning process? Because you sort of said, "No, we don't really
talk about it; it wasn't put on the table. But there would have to appear to be
a balance between day-to-day or month-to-month or year-to-year programs and
something that's strategic, that is tied into the needs that we have for trade,
and those are clearly indicated. Going south has served us well, but we have to
go out to China, to the Asian countries. Hopefully, the European deal will come
through with CETA. But I'm not hearing anything strategic from you folks, and I
just wondered where that strategic element is. If it's not there, should there
be or is there a committee formed with Trade, Transport and three or four
departments where you put a strategic plan together with the various
departments? Maybe that's been done, too, but I'm just trying to understand the
logistics of the thought process.
Mr. Hutton: Senator, you raise the planning issue and the foresight. I
think both of those things go hand in hand. With the long lead times, ideas that
come along that are like this one — and this has been around for a little while
— do merit further examination.
But at the same time, if you look at the corridors that currently exist, they
are based on where the trade flows are happening. Whether those trade flows will
migrate to where they're pointing out the route where a potential northern
corridor could exist I think is up for some debate. It's also up for some debate
as to how to best connect some of those opportunities that lie along that
conceptualized corridor that's in that paper. How you might best connect those
opportunities is perhaps another issue as well.
I think that, if you're to speak to the territorial governments, there are
absolutely, right now, requiring long lead times because of the difficulty in
building infrastructure in the North, some real and pressing needs that they are
facing at the moment, which would help to increase their connectivity to the
national transportation system but, at the same time, improve safety, improve
the resilience of their transportation networks in the North. Permafrost
degradation, for example, is a huge issue that's being faced, where rainfall in
January now is something that's degrading current road infrastructure.
So there are very significant pressures on the existing system that require
the long lead times, that require lots of planning and lots of discussions with
the territorial governments for getting those investments right, both in terms
of making their current network more resilient and also looking at how you
expand those networks in a way that unlocks some of the economic potential in
Whether this idea can have merit going forward is, I think, subject to some
debate and some further discussions. I think that's the real positive benefit of
having papers like this come out because it does introduce further ideas as to
how we need to look forward and what challenges we need to meet in the future.
It does impress upon us the need to take a look at how trade flows will move
in the future and whether something like this meets a need or isn't going to
meet a need. Again, the private sector, the commercial basis, has to be there;
the market-force principle that we base our policies on has to invite that sort
of thought about —
Senator Smith: Who is going to be the catalyst to initiate that? What
I'm hearing from you is sort of like a recorded answer, to be honest with you,
which I understand. I understand the parameters that you folks work within, and
I respect that. But the fact of the matter is that we need to have some forward
thinking because this is a concept that has existed since 1967, and so this is
not news. This is something that's been in the minds of people who are forward
thinkers for many years.
So then the issue is, if you tie it to trade and trade patterns right now,
the trade patterns of the world have changed dramatically, and new economies
have grown. Twenty-five years ago, China wasn't what it is today. India wasn't
what it is today. These are going to be the two largest trading nations in the
world. Korea is a big player. Japan has always been a big player.
I'm just trying to get a sense of how you folks can tie in with other groups,
like pension funds and people in industry. Who is going to be the catalyst to
make this happen? Because we're losing time. To hear you say that these are 10-
to 30-year plans, yes, it's 10 to 30 years, but it had better be done now
because there's already been history behind it. Who is going to be that
catalyst? Maybe you could help me with that simple question.
Ms. LaFortune: Over the past 10 years and through the various gateways
and trade corridor initiatives that have been undertaken, Transport Canada was,
to use your word, the catalyst, and we brought together other departments to
look at where we need to be as a government vis-à-vis the rest of the world
around the transportation system. We're looking to continue this kind of a view
The viewpoint and the thing that was unique about the gateways and corridors
initiatives was that it didn't take a regional view. Although there were three
regional corridors, it took a whole-of-system view. Instead of just looking at
what you needed in one small place, it was the entire national system. That was
the big new thing.
Senator Smith: Could you give us some examples of the results of what
you've done in the last decade — something that we should be keenly aware that
has been a success?
Ms. LaFortune: An actual project?
Senator Smith: Yes.
Ms. LaFortune: Originally there were three different ports in
Vancouver. They were amalgamated into one so that they could focus on areas that
make the most sense.
There was the development of the Prince Rupert port that was nowhere 10 years
ago and now is the closest port to Asian shipping.
Senator Smith: Was a combination of public and private money put into
all of these deals?
Ms. LaFortune: Yes.
Senator Smith: Good.
Ms. LaFortune: This is something that we're looking to move forward on
as well. As you say, you need to look at where things are, and Asia wasn't
perhaps as big on the radar screen 10 years ago. The Asia-Pacific Gateway and
Corridor Initiative actually did look to do that, and that's why Canada is now
positioned where we are vis-à-vis Asia. We have MOUs with China, Korea and
Senator Smith: My only point — not to be rude — is that, having worked
in the grain industry, when you hear of the problems — as an old guy in the
milling business, we had a significant problem of moving product out of the
grain elevators. Neither CP nor CN could deliver. The government fined, I
believe, CN a significant amount of money for breaching their obligation. They
have a logical issue of not having the capacity to deliver the product.
The second product, which is a huge sale beside our wheat, is canola. China
is one of our biggest partners in canola.
From a simple perspective, it's great to have the Prince Rupert port up and
ready and expanded, but if we can't get the product to that particular point to
service the needs, it's not going to accomplish anything.
The concept of doing something transformative is that if you had another
vehicle to get your product to market through a port, as an example, and you had
the existing corridor, the new corridor could take pressure off the existing
corridor, which would give us more opportunity to sell more product. That is the
simple concept. The issue is execution, the time frame and the obstacles to it.
To me, it's just a simple thing. I would assume one of the things we would
need is government to act with private enterprise and with influencers to try to
sit down and get a group that's going to take some of these studies that have
existed over time and that now are coming out again saying the same thing.
History does have a tendency to repeat itself, but good ideas that are never
implemented — there's a reason for it, but maybe there's a reason to do it. Just
I wonder if you have a comment on that.
Mr. Hutton: Absolutely. In terms of the partnerships and looking at
these issues, they do merit attention. The CTA report was a real opportunity
where the mandate of that statutory review was to reach out to stakeholders to
invite their submissions around how to resolve the important reliability issues
around transportation that you point out, whether in grain or in other kinds of
commodities. A series of recommendations was made in that report as to how to
improve the reliability of the transportation system.
Coupled with those findings, Emerson and the panel saw issues surfacing that
would be emerging 20 years down the road, and those found themselves in that
I think the minister is looking carefully at that report. Beyond the findings
of the report, the minister was engaged over the summer to go around and listen
to stakeholders in these round table sessions and take the opportunity to speak
to folks in communities. From that perspective, there is a thought about how we
improve the reliability of the transportation system, which is really top of
mind. A corridor is outlined in the report from the University of Calgary, but I
think there are a number of recommendations in the CTA report that don't
necessarily speak to the corridor issue but certainly speak to improving the
reliability issue of the transportation system.
Senator Smith: Part of reliability is that you need more —
Senator Day: I'd like to discuss a bit more of the history of the
Canada Transportation Act statutory review. It was begun under the previous
government; is that correct? David Emerson was appointed by the previous
Mr. Hutton: That's correct.
Senator Day: So then the report comes forth after the change of
government? Is that a report that you have sitting on the corner of your desk,
or might I assume you've got it —
Mr. Hutton: I have it right here.
Senator Day: Has it been adopted as policy by the current government?
That's the point I'd like to get to.
Mr. Hutton: The report was tabled in the house last February. The
minister indicated at the time that he was going to look at the findings of that
report. He made a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in April where he
outlined how the government was viewing the report. He indicating that as a
result of those findings, and as a result of his desire to engage directly as
well with stakeholders on the findings of the report but also on issues that
weren't necessarily addressed by the report, he would undertake an engagement
process throughout the summer through a series of round tables. Also, his
officials would be engaging with transportation stakeholders as well.
Senator Day: This report is like the subsequent Canadian Chamber of
Commerce report: There are a number of interesting ideas there, but there's not
a decision that this is policy.
Mr. Hutton: There is no decision that it's policy. It is advice to the
government and represents a significant amount of work that was done over a
period of 18 months to collect the views of stakeholders through either
submissions or direct meetings that the panel was having in certain regions.
Senator Day: Two things flow from the report, according to our
briefing notes, and one of them is that the report — the Canada Transportation
Act Review — called for the development of a national Canadian intermodal
transportation strategy. Have you been charged with doing that now? Are you in
the process with the minister of doing an intermodal transportation strategy?
Mr. Hutton: A lot of work is under way to assess the report and to
collect the findings that were heard throughout the summer in the minister's
round tables. Then the minister will decide how to advance issues as a result of
Senator Day: In due course.
Mr. Hutton: In due course.
Senator Day: The other item that flowed from this is a national
corridor protection program, and that is the government working in conjunction
with the provincial governments building up rights-of-way. When you know you
want an intermodal transportation corridor to go somewhere, it may not be there
for 10 or 15 years, but to acquire the land and the rights-of-way, is money set
aside for that? Is that happening now?
Mr. Hutton: Again, that recommendation was made in recognition of that
planning issue and in recognition of the fact that transportation activities are
often up against other competing interests, particularly in urban areas. The
government is obviously looking at the findings around that, along with all the
other recommendations in the report. Certainly, it's informing the government's
view of how they want to advance on next steps.
Senator Day: Is there a drawer full of rights-of-way that you've
obtained now? Is somebody working on that — the right-of-way section?
Mr. Hutton: All these ideas are being assessed at the moment.
Senator Campbell: Can you tell me who the lead is on this project, or
this concept of a corridor? Who is leading this thing in government?
Ms. LaFortune: In terms of transportation corridors?
Senator Campbell: No. In terms of a corridor, we're talking about a
corridor here that would be for transportation, oil, communications and rail.
Just to back up just a minute, have you ever read this Mid-Canada Development
Corridor: A Concept, by Richard Rohmer?
Ms. LaFortune: I haven't.
Senator Campbell: I suggest you get it because it was put out in 1967.
It's quite a brilliant report from an incredibly brilliant Canadian — who is
still alive, I might add — and it will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary
next year. Maybe we have to go back to the future, but I suggest that you get a
hold of that and make it widely read within government, because somebody has to
lead on this thing.
It can't be fragmented. The government has to come together. If we had
followed Rohmer's report, we'd be so far ahead of the game now, it just scares
me. We have people come here and nobody accepts responsibility for it. They take
their little chunk over here and, "Oh, we're studying it and we've looked at
it." Who actually is leading this? Is there a lead? Does anybody care in
Mr. Hutton: Again, ideas that come forward are looked at. They are a
part of a number of ways that you can solve important issues that are affecting
whether it's transportation or other types of the movement of goods. I'd say
Second, I would say, regarding an approach to the movement of goods and
taking a national perspective, the gateway and corridor initiative took a look
at taking a systems approach to transportation. In multi-modal corridors where
there are intermodal hand-offs that have to be smooth, there has to be the
elimination of congestion because, as Sandra was saying, if there's congestion
at the Port of Vancouver, that directly affects producers in Saskatchewan.
Taking that kind of a view is absolutely something that Transport Canada has
led on in the past, to great success, and to the effect that other countries
have tried to mimic that approach. The branding of gateways and that trade
corridor approach, I think, has been successful.
I think the next move, really, is how we can build on the lessons of that
trade corridor approach. Certainly, the CTA review, again, was an opportunity
for those ideas to be collected. The last statutory review happened in 2000-01,
so it was quite a period of time until the next statutory review was done,
having been launched, as you know, by the previous administration, but the
report was received by this government.
As an opportunity to look at the findings coming forward and the ideas that
are there, it requires a lot of discussion between partners who have roles to
play in how these corridors work. Certainly, a lesson we learned through the
national gateway and trade corridor approach was the fact that you've got
provincial and territorial partners, you've got commercial partners, and
everybody is shooting for an objective where you want to make these corridors
work efficiently. They all have their individual roles to play, but, absolutely,
the federal government has a role to play in pulling those partners together and
making sure that everybody is sort of rowing in the same direction.
Senator Campbell: Who is leading it?
Mr. Hutton: This report was done out of the University of Calgary. I
think it's an idea generated by, as you say, going back a number of years in
terms of this, where it's geographically located or was thought about being
located. That's an idea that's been led by the academic community, and others.
It's certainly welcome as part of the mix in terms of how we think goods need to
move in the future.
Senator Campbell: Are we going to let the academic community lead this
Mr. Hutton: I'm not sure I understand.
Senator Campbell: You say the academics are leading it. Are we going
to let the academic community lead us into the future, or is the government
going to play some role? It's just so frustrating because everybody agrees this
is a great idea, but nobody wants to jump on it. Nobody wants to do the hard
slog and get down in the mud because there are too many people involved and,
"Oh, we'll sort of muddle along."
I just want to know who is going to lead this. Should we be talking to the
Prime Minister's office and say, "You should be putting this together?" I've
heard nothing today that gives me confidence in where we're going.
There was one comment you made that B.C. recognized Asia 10 years ago. I can
guarantee you that British Columbia recognized Asia far longer than 10 years ago
and has been working on that.
There's this information that's going around in circles that, at the end of
the day, makes no sense and is counterproductive. If nobody wants to do this, if
it's not going to happen, that's fine. That's a decision. But we're caught in
the middle of this, "Oh, we really want to do it, but we just don't know who is
going to lead this."
I want to know who we should be having in here to lead this, because we're
serious about this, believe it or not. We're serious about this. We believe this
is something that is viable and should be looked at. Who do I call?
Mr. Hutton: I won't conclude anything for the committee. I think
you've got a number of witnesses that are coming into the committee to talk
about the issue, and I think the committee will make up its mind in terms of how
an initiative like this, if there's value to it, needs to proceed. I don't think
I want to prejudge that.
The Chair: We don't have a lot of time, so we'll try to clean this up
because we have two witnesses waiting. I don't want to give them short shrift.
Senator Ringuette: You used the idea that the gateways have come
forward, and that's how the studies were done and the concept was put in place,
and it seems it's being seen worldwide as a great success. The Pacific Gateway
is complete as a project.
Where are we with regard to the Atlantic Gateway? I've seen no movement and
no investment whatsoever in the last seven or eight years. It was a major
promise, but I haven't seen real progress on that file. Where are we?
Ms. LaFortune: First off, yes, the Pacific Gateway is seen as a best
Senator Ringuette: And I'm very proud of that.
Ms. LaFortune: I'm not sure anything is ever actually 100 per cent
completed. There are always improvements that you can make.
The investments that were being made in the various gateway initiatives were
dependent on what that initiative required and what already existed there. In
the Atlantic Gateway, there wasn't really an issue of bottlenecks or capacity.
The capacity was there. It was an issue of trying to make the best use of that
capacity and of marketing the fact that that capacity existed so that the
Atlantic Gateway transportation elements could be used more effectively.
Several investments were made around marketing, in particular, the Atlantic
Gateway, and there was an Atlantic Gateway officials committee that had
representatives from the Atlantic provinces and from some of the transportation
suppliers and users in the Atlantic. They came up with where the best way to
spend any kind of investment in the Atlantic gateway would be. It's different
there than it would have been.
Senator Ringuette: Was the money spent?
Ms. LaFortune: Yes.
Senator Ringuette: The money was spent. The Atlantic Gateway is
complete, as far as you're concerned?
Ms. LaFortune: I'm not exactly sure what you mean by complete, in that
there are always things that you could do differently.
Senator Ringuette: But 90 per cent?
Ms. LaFortune: The focus of the Atlantic Gateway was not on capacity
building on bottlenecks, because that wasn't the issue there.
Senator Ringuette: It was certainly an issue at the Port of Halifax.
Senator Wallin: We heard testimony from the group of academics that
are trying to put this project together. They want to study it. Their question
to us, interestingly, was that we need this funded in order to do this work.
They've laid it all out. Is that something that Strategic Policy and Innovation
would be prepared to look at, in order to fund the work that they have proposed
Mr. Hutton: I'm not in a position to commit to any funding on behalf
of my department.
Senator Wallin: I know you can't say yes today. Do you do that sort of
They are doing this work. They have a plan. They have laid it out and they've
said, "Here is the corridor that we're looking at. It's all subject to change.
It could all move, because we have to actually research it, cost it, look at the
efficacy of it," et cetera. But they need money to do it. Is that something that
your department, in terms of strategic planning and innovation, might look at,
Mr. Hutton: Again, we welcome reports like this.
Senator Wallin: No, no; not to read the report but to fund the report.
Mr. Hutton: I can't commit to funding.
Senator Tannas: I've learned something here, and it has been terrific.
I really appreciate you folks being here, and I'm not at all being patronizing.
What we're looking at is an issue of geography, the realities of a right-of-way,
the capacity that exists today and what will be there in the future. I have a
couple of questions.
You have outlined how you have helped expand the capacity of the existing
important corridors in Canada, and we've talked about that, the gateway strategy
and so on. I presume the whole purpose of it was to expand the capacity, get rid
of existing bottlenecks.
If our trade went up by 50 per cent, the volume of goods travelling on our
transportation corridors, just the volume of traffic increasing by 50 per cent,
are we in a position to handle that? Would the existing corridor handle a 50 per
cent increase of crude oil, grain, goods, automobiles, et cetera?
Mr. Hutton: That's an excellent question. A lot of modelling is being
done, and there is more work to do. The Emerson report talked about that need
for data, a better ability to forecast what traffic patterns will do and whether
the transportation system can handle those loads. But I think it's also a
question of geographically where will those flows be, because there is no sense
in locating transportation infrastructure where the flows actually won't go,
which is why that commercial piece is so important.
Senator Tannas: Let's just assume, then, maybe it's export flows, so
our exports. Because it's all about getting crude oil somewhere. It's about
getting grain somewhere. We can't eat all the grain we produce. One of the
blessings, potentially, of global warming is that all of Central Canada could
become a place to grow trees and food.
The question I'm asking is has work been done that actually ties growth to
the existing corridor, and when do we max out? Is there anything you've seen
that actually gives you pause, at your high positions, to say, "Yes, you know
what? At some point this is maxed out. We have fiddled around with it as much as
we can to get it as efficient as possible, and it maxes out." When is that?
Mr. Hutton: I think there is more work to do on that question. But I
do think we've seen where there has been a peak in commodity prices before in
terms of those flows. There is work to do in improving reliability, and the
Emerson report deals with that quite substantially.
There is more work to do on how we optimize the existing capacity that's
there today. How do we optimize it? Some of that is through technology. Other
issues will be through minor adjustments and adjusting capacity here and there.
When we look at the West Coast and the issues there and the exports to those
important growing markets, how we improve the flows off the West Coast is
another important consideration that needs to be thought about.
The Chair: Thank you very much for appearing before us. It was a very
I'm pleased to welcome John Van Nostrand. Mr. Van Nostrand is the founding
principle of SvN, a Toronto-based architecture and planning firm. In 2014 Mr.
Van Nostrand wrote an article for The Walrus in which he described
Richard Rohmer's concept for a corridor in Northern Canada.
And also with us is Rick Laliberte, who drove all the way from Saskatchewan.
He is a former member of the House of Commons, from 1997 to 2004. Mr. Laliberte
represented the riding of Churchill River, which is over half our province. My
understanding is that Mr. Laliberte also supported Richard Rohmer's idea of a
corridor in northern Saskatchewan.
John Van Nostrand, Founding Principal, SvN Architects + Planners: I
would like to thank you for having me. I'm not quite sure how I got here. It may
have been through Jack Mintz, whom I have been talking with since their study.
That was generated by the article I wrote the year before he began his work.
They are very connected.
I run a multidisciplinary firm which I created in 1978 at home, and we are
now about 130 people. We worked around the world on this issue of relationship
of resources to transportation and linking resource areas with urban areas. I'll
highlight that type of work. We have been very involved here in Canada on
corridors, and not the multi-modal kind because that's a transportation
interpretation, but multi-use. That is what we are really talking about here
because it is not just about modes of transportation. It is about moving oil,
Yesterday I heard the Prime Minister on The Current. At one point Anna
Maria Tremonti asked what the three big issues are for him. Number one was the
economy. I read that one of the major drivers of the economy is immigration and
the kind of immigration. The second big issue was restructuring our relationship
with Aboriginal or indigenous people. He wants to establish a meaningful
relationship because we have not had one. Third was balancing environment and
business, and investment and resource development.
So I thought this is probably the most important opportunity we have to
demonstrate all three. I hope that will be clear by the time I've talked and
questions come up.
I also highlight that this is a growth issue. I'm shocked that the federal
Minister of Transport is not onto it. We are now 35 million people. We will be
75 million by 2050, and we'll be 100 million by 2100. That's 100 per cent and
then 100 per cent again of growth in that period. You may think that's a long
time, but the railway is now 100 years old and is still a major source of what I
would call our first corridor.
It is very much a growth issue. This is about practical stuff, not
theoretical. I worked in Thompson, Manitoba, on a regional plan there that in
part had to do with the Churchill opening again as a harbour with the opening of
the Northwest Passage. That does make the Atlantic a gateway.
The Chinese are making a major investment in Greenland right now to have a
port they can get to in two days from China. They will be coming down our
eastern seaboards if we allow that to happen. We are way behind. We have no
ports. We're not even thinking about ports in that area.
When I was working on that, they were talking about a corridor that runs from
the gulf up to Churchill, so that's a whole other idea. That's a U.S. idea. I
remembered Mr. Rohmer had this idea back in 1967 when I was a student, so I
wrote an article. In 1967 we all lived within 300 miles of the border. I would
say that it is still the case. If you take that line and the tree line, there is
an 800-mile corridor right across the country. In that corridor are the boreal
forest, 60 to 75 per cent of our natural resources, minerals and forest, et
cetera, and 75 per cent of our Aboriginal peoples. Moreover it is a temperate
area. He showed that in 1967. That band of boreal corridor runs right around the
world by the way, right across Russia. It is exactly the same corridor. They use
it. We have not. We haven't had the population to address it, but we will have
that population shortly.
I learned from Mr. Rohmer. I learned that nothing happened. He released his
report coincidentally with Pierre Trudeau's election. He was concerned that Mr.
Trudeau was a Liberal and had another agenda. Mr. Laliberte was part of bringing
it back under Mr. Chrétien, who tried to table it again when he was here as a
major issue for the country. It was ignored again. I don't think this is
something we can ignore. It is a big part of our growth in the near future.
So I went back, and you will see in there an illustration of that corridor.
Mr. Rohmer said we will have all kinds of growth here in the next 50 years. What
has happened since 1967? What has happened in that 50 years? The map in my study
shows that the developments which happened up there are the key developments in
the country. If you look from the West, we're talking about what is going on in
Whitehorse, Dawson, and it takes in the whole Kitimat, Port Rupert and Terrace
areas. The oil sands of Alberta are in this corridor. The potash and oil in
Saskatchewan are in it. The nickel and mining going on in northern Manitoba is
in it. Churchill is coming. The Ring of Fire is in it. We are very involved in
working with that in the future. The existing Timmins-Sudbury complex, which is
still producing highly, is in it.
The iron ore development in Quebec — I know things are up and down in the
corridors — but the whole Plan Nord for Quebec is a plan for the Quebec part of
the corridor. Then we move into Newfoundland, and it is oil and gas with
This is what has happened in 50 years. It's not just about that. All those
activities are directly linked to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg,
Toronto and Montreal. They are all driven by those economies, but we sort of
somehow black it out as being something different.
It's not the Far North, it's middle North. This is the next area we will move
into whether we plan for it or not. The resource companies are already ahead of
us. We've worked in a number of these areas on planning. We worked in Alberta
and produced a study called CRISP which was the provincial infrastructure
program for the oil sands over the next 50 years. That was commissioned by the
Treasury Board of Alberta and approved by the last cabinet of the last
government. It is the same in northern Manitoba.
By the way, all these cases were with First Nations agreement. We think that
in northwestern Ontario they are holding it all up. They are not holding it all
up. They want access to this economy just as much as we do, but they want to do
it in an equal way. The opportunity is fantastic to build on this government's
emerging relationship with First Nations.
This is not the first time; it's actually the third time. They have now found
a Cree map. I have seen the original map, which is a map of how to get from Lake
Ontario to the Pacific Ocean. Nobody can put a date on it, but it's probably the
13th, 14th, 15th century. That was the first corridor. All the voyageurs, French
traders and Hudson's Bay benefited from those maps.
For the second corridor, they built a railway across the country in 1886 to
open up the Prairies when the resource was wheat. It was about a resource. It
was done by the federal government, so to say we have never done this before is
not right. We did do it. The federal government surveyed the land up into
parcels and it was Crown land, but it made a unique arrangement of transferring
Crown land to the railways, to Hudson's Bay Company and to public municipal
agencies so they could use the uptake of the land. The railway is obviously
adding value right across the country, so they put the money up front, but
downstream they sold land to pay for the cost.
For instance, the railways got 100,000 acres — sounds like a lot to me; I
don't know why they needed that much — per mile of railway to pay for it, and
Hudson's Bay got enough to build all new commercial facilities. They were the
only people we had who were interested at the time. In 45 years, that corridor
opened up the whole of the southern Prairies. There was an elevator every eight
miles, and around every elevator they put a town plan. So we have 770 towns out
there that are still functioning. They functioned for wheat originally, and now
they're functioning for potash. Now First Nations are taking them over because
they need to expand. I describe a very forward-looking plan in here.
Then I'll end to say that I've presented to both the Liberals and the NDP
before the last election. I was invited by them, having read the article, to
come and talk about their platform from the election a year ago. How do you deal
with this in a policy sense? So I said that we're talking about putting — I call
it the boreal corridor now, and not just me. I think it really is the boreal
corridor. It's not mid-Canada because it is paralleling that. We need to bring
it into the discussion of our growth as a country.
Eighty-nine per cent of our country is still Crown land. Why not use it to
fund this? Why not get into the same kind of relationships that government got
into 150 years ago? I don't see why we wouldn't. At the same time, it would
force us to resolve our relationships with those 75 per cent of First Nations.
I'm not saying this will happen in the next four years, but it is really
critical. I've worked in Africa, Latin America, all major resource areas of the
world, and their major issue is their relationship with indigenous people.
That's my main job. We get paid by mining companies to set up a table between
them and the affected parties, so we are neutral. We only work with a company on
the basis that we're neutral and we bring them together. We have worked this
out. It may take 18 months. That might be as long as it takes to make a real,
meaningful treaty. I don't think we should be surprised by it. The First Nations
are prepared to take that time, but they need to talk.
I go on and elaborate on some policies, but I would say that I don't think
it's only a national responsibility. That was a kind of failing of the Rohmer
thing, thinking the government will step in at a higher level. I think it has to
be integrated with the provinces, First Nations communities and local
municipalities. You can't just talk big. You have to figure out what it means on
the ground, what it will look like, what will it mean for me, my mining company,
my reserve and my small town in northern Alberta or Quebec.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Van Nostrand. Now we will go to
Mr. Laliberte, who has driven here all the way from Saskatchewan. Also keep in
mind I want a lot of time for questions. Mr. Van Nostrand was very enthusiastic,
so we kind of extended overtime.
Rick Laliberte, as an individual: Thank you.
[Editor's Note: The witness spoke in his native language.]
My name is Richard Victor Laliberte, and I'm of Metis Cree descent out of the
banks of the Beaver River on the Churchill River system in the boreal forest in
Saskatchewan. I want to share a bit of history.
This region of Canada is incredible. Just talking about my travel, I left
Beauval with 16 inches of snow, and two hours later there's no snow on the
Prairies and it has been a beautiful Indian summer drive across the Great Lakes
all the way here. The dynamic of this country is incredible and the challenges
This report, like the mid-Canada reports before it, is a major undertaking.
This is a huge responsibility, I would say, and also a huge time for us to plan
ahead, as you can see with the transportation and resource challenges.
My focus today will be on indigenous title. I hope you don't mind, even
though it's the Banking, Commerce and Trade Committee, but it gives you
certainty for your investments into the future and also our future.
The Chair: Just so you know, Mr. Laliberte, we have taken all of that
into consideration. We actually have a large delegation of First Nations from
British Columbia who will come here at the end of October, so we want
information like you are providing here. It's not an afterthought.
Mr. Laliberte: Thank you. The other part I want to mention is my
family's economy has been trapping, hunting, fishing, and berry picking,
anything that lives off that land, off the boreal forest. We have been foraging
that forest for years. Our DNA is literally in the trees because we have left
everything. It's life. It's a beautiful life. It's a hunter-gatherer life, not
an agrarian, urbanized life.
A quick snapshot of how Canada came to be, I view cities as city states. I
think the cities have huge population density, but for them to make political,
futuristic and democratic decisions, you can't overlook the contribution the
people of the land can give. I think that's a very critical point. When I say
"people of the land," in some terms they will use us as stakeholders. Duty to
consult — let's go talk to the stakeholders. Actually, the indigenous peoples
are rights holders.
When you talk about Crown land, the initial engagement of the British Crown
with the indigenous nations of this country was an international instrument of
treaty. It was a sovereign recognition between the British Crown and the
sovereign recognition of the indigenous nations of this land. The Cree, the
Dene, the Mohawk and the Ojibway are all sovereign nations. You get the picture.
I have provided a map of the drainage basins, and this is appropriate all
across the country. You will see that the drainage basins coincide and overlap
with the treaty boundaries. Because there were no surveyors to say, "I want this
piece of land negotiated with these treaties," they used river basins, and the
river basins are a distinct line. One side of the river flows to the
Saskatchewan River, so to speak, and the other one flows to the Churchill River.
So there is a distinct line, and that's how treaties were negotiated across the
country, by using water basins.
When the treaties came into play, they also recognized the sovereignty of our
people. We are not Cree. We are not Indian. The terminology is very critical to
us because it is right from our hearts, Creator-given: *nêhiyawi. In that way,
we understand who we are. We can identify with each other.
So what is missing, I believe, in Canada, when Canada was created, the
British Crown brought its instruments of governance with it, hence you see
Parliament Hill with the House of Commons and the Senate, the two houses forging
the future of our country. Even how the house was designed in a church, two
sword lengths apart, where an opposition would temper the governance, we would
paddle straight out, so to speak, like in the sense of a canoe.
The thing is, it has to be a vessel. It can't be based on one time in
history. Let's provide a vessel for ourselves so we can make decisions now but
also guide it into the future.
One thing missing with the parliamentary structure is the Aboriginal
indigenous people. I believe that the nations of this country — the Cree, Dene
and Mohawk — need to have a presence in Parliament. Along with the work I did
with mid-Canada and promoting mid-Canada during my time in Parliament, I also
saw the need to transform the governance of this country. One recommendation had
shown up in the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples. But that recommendation
fell on the cutting-room floor, because the governance issue of Canada was not
mandated to the Royal Commission. What it needed was to get the proper
relationship with Aboriginal people. We needed to transform Canadian governance,
and it recommended an Aboriginal house. In my seeking around as a curious
individual on Parliament Hill, I believe that house exists. That house is the
Library of Parliament.
The Library of Parliamentary survived a fire. All the government buildings on
the Hill went up in flames in 1916, except that one building. If you look at it,
it's a stone teepee. The flying buttresses support it all from the outside, so
when you walk in there's no structural support on the inside. It's like walking
into a teepee.
If I look at the history of treaty making, as an example, at Fort Carlton,
there were already forts — a square fort — and when the treaty signatories came
for the treaty negotiations, the teepees were set up outside. So, you had the
teepee structure and the fort structure. Square building structures like the
fort are like the House of Commons and the Senate, which are both square, but we
need this round, unifying force. I think that's the Aboriginal house.
I think there should be a third house of Parliament. There should be a House
of Commons, a Senate, and an Aboriginal house. That's the vessel that could
chart the future of our country. That's where decisions of ecology, structure,
health, social issues, economic issues, international issues and peace and war
issues could be negotiated in the parliamentary structure, rightfully so, as
parliamentarians here. But I'm challenging, I guess, the Government of Canada to
look to an inclusion of indigenous peoples and their nations on this
The other side is that of the province. This is at the federal side. In the
1970s, uranium mines were being explored in northern Saskatchewan, and at that
time there was a consultation and the Bayda report. In that report, they did not
want to build another uranium city, a mining town where all the waste and
infrastructure is left vacant. Today, when you look at it, it's just a vacant,
empty entity. They didn't want to do that, so they agreed with us that the
northern communities could come in on a seven-day rotation of flying into the
communities, and we wouldn't develop a big municipality. Originally, it was
Cluff Lake, which is now decommissioned, and they have moved on to new mines.
But the one promise in the Bayda report was a regional government. And for
that regional government, we went through an options survey where the residents
were all asked, and we all agreed that a regional government would be
advantageous for us, because people were literally coming off the trap lines,
getting in their work boots and going to the mines to work.
In transition, the impact of that decision making was that the royalties of
this new economy could come back to our communities so that we could fix our
houses. At the same time, there was also a federal initiative called DREE, the
Department of Regional Economic Expansion, before the Department of Western
That was very focused in our region. In our communities, we built all our
roads, all our water and sewer systems, our gymnasiums and our high schools.
Everything of a municipal structure was built in no time flat.
Our people were employed, we were trained, and the sky was the limit. Then a
change of government happened. A promise was made that regional government would
come. A change of government happened, and it died at the provincial level.
But then there was a little bit of hope. The northern Inuit of Quebec came to
investigate their treaty land title and indigenous land claims, and they had a
choice either to choose reserve structures, as some First Nations have been
involved in, or other forms of government.
They came to Saskatchewan to investigate. They didn't like the reserve
structures because, as Inuit, they need to live off the country. They need to go
beyond their communities to survive. They really liked the regional government
of northern Saskatchewan, which was called Northern Municipal Council, at the
time. They came back, and that was the advent and the birth of Nunavik.
Today in northern Quebec you have a regional government, governing the Inuit
lands under one agreement between the provincial Government of Quebec and the
federal Government of Canada. They involve all the sea ports, infrastructure and
all the social needs in that region.
That's what we were on our way to in Saskatchewan, so I would like to
challenge all our provinces in this country to look at this. Let's look at
northern Manitoba. Let's look at this boreal corridor. Let's create a regional
government. Let's have the provincial governments, with their powers, involved,
but let's weave a national policy. And as referred to in other documents, it's
also unifying our country. It's like a Metis sash. You may have to weave one
way, but we weave a policy the other way, as well, to hold it all together.
And in this national policy, we don't want to pit one against the other,
because you have treaty regions like Treaty 9, Treaty 5, Treaty 10 and Treaty 8.
These are separate regions and separate indigenous nations, but if we can unite
and plan, we might give you the best possible alternatives or recommendations in
That's where I had left off in 2002, in promoting it with Jean at the time,
to get a research institute dedicated to mid-Canada to address the ecological,
environmental, economic and indigenous rights needs. All these needs can be put
in there and forecasted; and, like you said, somebody has to take it seriously
and take a lead. I believe that's what I heard here. Somebody has to have a head
on, if you know what I mean. We have all the heart, all the will and all the
resources, but it is a head without the opportunity to hear, forecast, listen
and decide. The whole issue of seven generations and planning forward is very
critical in our indigenous world, but we have got to go beyond.
Once we leave this track — this corridor — it's not reversible. I don't think
we can ever close it. So we have to do it right, and the word of caution was
from a Dene trapper in northern Alberta. I was listening to the oil sands
royalties hearings in northern Alberta, and at the end, the last speaker at the
hearings, in regret, said, "I never saved any land for my children."
What he meant was they had negotiated all the oil and gas leases in northern
Alberta, all the forest leases were done, all the national parks were given out,
and all the outfitting for bear, moose, and fishing was doled out. There was no
more to go to the land in northern Alberta to ask for.
In that sense, as indigenous people, our source of life is in the North. We
must be careful how we tread on it. Give us the instruments of governance and
include us in this governance so that we can make the decisions with you for our
future. There's so much at stake in this decision. It's our livelihood and our
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laliberte.
Senator Black: Gentlemen, your enthusiasm was tremendously
interesting, both of you. It was a really interesting morning, and I thank you
both for that.
I have some practical questions, if I may. Perhaps I'll address them to you,
sir, but please feel free to add any commentary that you want to.
In terms of the vision of a boreal or a northern corridor, I'd like to talk
about some practicalities, if I could, so I can hear what your vision, based on
your experience, would be. Can you talk to us about how you would see ownership
and governance being developed, and what the corridor would contain, in your
Mr. Van Nostrand: I'll start with what it would contain when I say
multi-use versus multi-purpose. I mean that we are, I think, interested in
building a pipeline across the country to get our oil back to our country, which
makes a lot of sense to me. That technically requires moving sludge, your heavy
oil, so my understanding is that every 200 miles you need a source of energy to
push that through.
Senator Black: You need a pipeline.
Mr. Van Nostrand: You are going to need an energy corridor. We need
fibre optics for people to communicate. We probably need a maintenance road, but
why wouldn't that become a highway? Maybe not everywhere. So it's a
There are all kinds of good things and bad things, but the railways declared
10 miles on either side of the railway to be the lands that would be negotiated
back with the people who had the rights on them. They didn't do that, but I
think that's the opportunity we have now because I very much agree with Mr.
Laliberte's notion that we have two different cultures here; one is
hunter-gatherer and one is agriculture. We would be the first country in the
world to recognize that.
Senator Black: You're saying railways should be included in the
corridor, or a railway? Did you say that or not?
Mr. Van Nostrand: I didn't particularly say "railway."
Senator Black: May or may not?
Mr. Van Nostrand: I know that it's going to be —
Senator Black: Fair enough; and transmission?
Mr. Van Nostrand: Transmission for sure. Road.
Senator Black: Do you see any capacity for small airports?
Mr. Van Nostrand: Well, they're there. Actually we don't have a
shortage of small airports in the corridor.
Senator Black: I have a picture of that.
I have no concept of land ownership. I understand it's complicated because of
our relationships with indigenous folks, but how does the corridor get
Mr. Van Nostrand: I wonder if we can't just drill down into what
actually happened. As far as I know, and as far as my history tells me, the
transfer of Crown land — and there are all kinds of issues of how that gets
transferred — actually helped pay for the railway in the early stages of
Senator Black: Is most of this land Crown? That's the question.
Mr. Van Nostrand: Yes, it is.
Senator Black: Is most of it subject to treaty?
Mr. Van Nostrand: Yes. But our country is 89 per cent Crown land.
We're basically still a colony, with the greatest of respect. We're a very
successful British colony. I worked in them. What's really interesting is
exactly what Mr. Laliberte is saying, which is they've gone through the change
because all those countries were majority indigenous people. I'm talking about
Africa. They had a war because the British chose certain people over others.
Senator Black: If I can focus just a little bit, in terms of the
corridor, would you envision a process whereby the Government of Canada, in
consultation with provinces and indigenous folks, would declare a corridor,
expropriate a corridor? How do you see that happening?
Mr. Van Nostrand: Even when you build a highway now you look at a
broad band. You have to start by looking at the entire corridor. You have to
plot out where the economies are, where the hunter-gatherer communities are, and
then you work out an alignment. Guess what? It may not be a straight line. It
may be a line that wanders, so I believe the federal government should be taking
the lead on it.
Senator Black: That's what I wanted to know. We heard some of this a
little earlier in the day.
Do you believe there should be a minister appointed to own this? To Senator
Campbell's great question, who should own this?
Mr. Van Nostrand: I don't know what that organization would be because
it's somewhat unprecedented, but I could certainly give some thought to it and
get my thoughts back to you.
Senator Black: That would be very helpful.
Mr. Van Nostrand: You're going to have 600 chiefs getting together in
Winnipeg on November 1 to 3 to talk about issues like this. That's a wonderful
opportunity to engage them as well because it's an unprecedented organization.
Senator Black: We want to do some thinking on that, so that will be
Senator Tannas: I think it would be helpful if you could both tell us
your efforts in explaining this and the reaction that you got from current and
John, you explained this to both NDP and Liberal leaders, and yet it didn't
make its way onto the platform, or it has not been mentioned in any way that I'm
aware of by either of those two groups. I'm obviously most interested in the
Liberals because they've got their hands on the wheel.
Maybe you could talk a little bit about whether you are surprised that you
haven't heard anything. What was the reaction like?
Mr. Van Nostrand: No, I've actually heard quite a bit, and here we
are; we're a year after the election, and we're here talking about it somehow
with you, the senators.
Senator Tannas: It's thanks to you and Jack Mintz. It's not thanks to
anything any government leader or politician has mouthed other than the folks
that you're sitting here with.
Mr. Van Nostrand: Just to be straight, when I went to talk to the NDP
there was a map on the table of the corridor, and I told them I had never seen
that map. And they said that's our constituencies. They are, of course,
extremely interested. I mean, there's some kind of correlation between resource
and northern development — Nickel Belt members and all of that kind of stuff —
so that was a surprise.
There's a constituency, but the thing is it's a coherent constituency, and it
was 18-year-olds through to proven people. The Liberals were less interested
except for two people. One is the present Minister of INAC, who I'm still
discussing this with. I think she will tell you that we've been talking
extensively about this. The second is the Minister of Trade, Chrystia Freeland,
who grew up on a homestead in northern Alberta. Therefore she knows what's going
on up there and she's gone from there to the world, but we don't recognize her
strength even here. So I hope iteration number two is that she gets to be
included in this discussion.
This is about trade; it's about trade with people who provide us with certain
supplies, and it's not about bringing food. There is a hugely interesting study
on the Mackenzie Valley by a person called Hugh Brody. He proved that the Dene
have an economy because if you put a value on caribou meat, which we don't, they
have a huge economy. But we're taking the caribou away, so we've got to
supplement that with steak that costs $26 a pound. And we're wondering what's
We need this. We need these people. And then I'll just say that I was on Anna
Maria Tremont's program for half an hour on this.
Senator Tannas: She'd like to be in the government, but she's not.
Mr. Laliberte, could you give us a little flavour of the reception you got in
your time promoting this?
Mr. Laliberte: Just to go back to Richard Rohmer's presentation to
Prime Minister Trudeau, the issue of fuddle duddle is related to mid-Canada.
That day it was presented was the day of the fuddle duddle incident on the Hill.
Just to see the atmosphere of an individual being faced with a huge decision and
dealing with politics at the same time. Richard Rohmer brought that to my
The other part is in terms of governance, like we said, our indigenous
communities in the North don't feel a part of the decision making at all. Regina
makes all the policy decisions for northern Saskatchewan, Edmonton makes all the
decisions for northern Alberta, and Winnipeg makes the decisions for Manitoba.
We're not in the economy at all.
As I said, we have to redesign ourselves to be included. Look at the history,
even in the Assiniboine, when there was the original request for a province in
the Prairies, it was Alberta and Saskatchewan together, and that reality came
into play now with this western accord. Now we have B.C., Alberta and
Saskatchewan sharing the same policies of human resources, trade, labour and
contracts. I see Alberta trucks in northern Saskatchewan steadily. These guys
are competing on contracts in our own communities, and we're still trying to get
a bank loan to get our trapline in order.
There is this big missing part. The whole industry of finance in this world
leads to certainty. You may want a mortgage, but in Aboriginal title we don't
have the land ownership. Maybe we have the house but not the land. So you have
to really look at this in relation to how you're going to involve indigenous
The Chair: Do the Aboriginal banks not help?
Mr. Laliberte: They're like any other bank. You're dealing with the
mortgage, but they're just a different store front. So you have to really think
of how title and indigenous responsibility is carried or invested or
compromised. That's why this research institute originally brought it forward.
If this report is gaining momentum, we need to do something faster. That's why
including governance at the national level and local level is very critical at
Senator Campbell: Thank you for coming today. It's fascinating.
This may be a little crazy. Mr. Laliberte, what would happen if the First
Nations took the lead on this? Since it's running through your territory and
Crown land and we know that the barriers to this, in many instances, will be
First Nation concerns before we even start, what would happen if the First
Nations took a look at this? If they actually took the lead on it, I think they
probably would recognize the benefits to it.
I was interested in your third part of government. That's a different topic.
But if you truly believe that, then I think that the leadership of the First
Nations across Canada, treaty or not treaty, could lead on this.
We always get to money, and that's always the end game, but if there was, on
the part of the First Nations, a will to lay this out — and as you said, nobody
knows this land better than you. The people that live there know where the
rivers flow. They know which direction it's going. We know where the resources
are. You probably did too before we even did. What do you think about that?
Mr. Laliberte: I think that's the proper way to go, not only with the
northern corridor but as a Canadian for the entire country. That's why I
referred to —
Senator Campbell: I want to focus on this because if the First Nations
could pull this together, the rest of it would flow from that. You would be
demonstrating great leadership, tremendous leadership. From my point of view,
before we do anything, we have to have partners, leaders who are in the First
Mr. Van Nostrand: I think it's interesting to look at countries that
are ruled by indigenous people. I worked in one called Ghana. The way they deal
with things is that the royalties that come out of all the resources are
distributed from the federal government, to the provincial level, to the
regional level, to the chiefs in the community affected. So getting back to the
practical side, they are distributed across the spectrum to pay.
There are lots of precedents. If you look at the IFC guidelines for how to
work in developing countries to a mining company, you'll see an important
document that has an entire chapter on what are your relationships with
indigenous people. That mining company here doesn't have to do any of that. It's
not subject to any kind of —
Senator Campbell: I think that's muddying the waters. My question is,
is there leadership in the First Nations to put this proposal forward in some
way, shape or form for everybody to have an active discussion on it?
Right now I would have a difficult time seeing this come to fruition without
complete First Nations support and recognizing that they are nations. People
imagine that they are unified. They are not. These are actual nations. Imagine
Europe in the 1800s. These are actual nations. The nations have to get together
to decide whether this is what we want to do. If they do decide that, then I
think we're in a position of sitting down and discussing it.
Mr. Laliberte: I believe that's the call for the sovereign indigenous
nations to come together and help govern the country, and as I mentioned, a
third house. This project or initiative may be the lever to consider a bigger
picture or a bigger move.
The recent Daniels decision on Metis rights reinvigorated my
indigenous rights to be a treaty negotiator. In my region, it's Treaty No. 10,
so the Metis should be included in Treaty No. 10. There's Treaty No. 9. Let us
get all of them together and include this in how we're going to venture forth as
a country. Our colonial past is gone. Let's do it as a country, what we're
living with here now, and here are the treaties. These are the instruments that
created the country. Canada's foundation is the treaties.
So instead of Crown lands, let's call them treaty lands because the Crown is
just a figment of the British imagination over there. This is what we ought to
deal with from here on. The sovereign title is held by the indigenous people. So
bring the indigenous people in, and let's create a vessel that we can decide on
how we're going to develop the roads —
Senator Campbell: It's backwards.
Mr. Laliberte: It's the other way, that's right.
Senator Campbell: Let the Aboriginal people come and say this is the
vision that we have for this corridor and we need help, but we're prepared to
sit down and work at this as a group of nations. Until we do that, nothing is
going to move because the nations range from this size to this size. And you
can't ignore this one here.
Senator Wallin: My question follows on that directly, which is we are
where we are. We have the provincial structures, the regional structures, the
federal-provincial relations, the western accords, all of those things are
existing structures, and on the indigenous First Nations side we've got many
groups in different forms that want development and jobs. We've got other groups
that are opposed to that, on environmental or political purposes. So to even
contemplate Senator Campbell's notion here, do you see a route — and this is not
about the third house, it's about our existing structures — to put your part of
the equation together with such different issues and belief systems that are at
odds in the indigenous part of the equation?
Mr. Laliberte: The closest I could recommend is probably a prime
minister calling all indigenous leaders of the land. I think that's your closest
relationship between the Crown and the indigenous nations.
We've seen it with accords, the Kelowna Accord, and we've seen these
gatherings take place. But a big issue like this, I think the Aboriginal people
and the indigenous people need to know so that they can look into the future and
see where this could lead to, the advantages and the disadvantages.
I think that dialogue needs to come from the Prime Minister level, because
the Prime Minister also will be dealing with the premiers. This is also dealing
with provincial policy, but the indigenous and treaty relations are probably at
the Prime Minister and indigenous leaders' level, and the Metis and Inuit
included as well.
Senator Wallin: And you believe that it would somehow be able in this
project to come together, despite the differences that we've seen over pipelines
and developments and all of that stuff?
Mr. Laliberte: I can't say the green light will be given on the
project, but with the contemplation and also on the guidance to the federal and
provincial decision makers we may be overlooking basic responsibilities that may
be come from the community level or from the bush, so to speak. All of that must
come back to us.
That's why this whole research was brought forward in 2002. There is so much
when you look at the trade issues such as the international trade commitments
we're making and what we will be negotiating in the future. You have to get your
products to market, so there is somebody thinking, but is somebody thinking of
the impacts and the communities and the potential? There could be other
potential as well. It could be a different-looking corridor by the time we have
the discussion, and the technology might grow. Somebody brought up Zeppelins as
an example when I was here. They said Zeppelins could carry freight and people
without leaving a footprint.
The technology is a challenge; pipelines are one, railways are another, and
roads are another, but in terms of ownership and maintenance, the northern
people watch development drive by. We want to be part of it, so give us time. I
think there will be an opportunity to be a part of it, but the bigger impact is
the truth of who will pay for it and who will invest in it. It's the same thing
with the CN Railway. Where did that money come from? Who invested at that time?
We are at the cusp of that time again.
Senator Wallin: I agree.
The Chair: Are there any other questions? If there are no further
questions, I want to thank our two witnesses.
Mr. Van Nostrand and Mr. Laliberte, thank you for your contributions. I hope
you will continue to watch the witnesses as they come forward. As I mentioned,
Mr. Laliberte, a fairly large contingent of representatives of First Nations
from northern B.C. will be here as well. I'm sure they will have much to add,
and we will continue to pursue that as well.
With that, senators, thank you very much. Meeting adjourned.