I am very concerned that our current freight rail service is in private hands

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for the report back of this bill. I would have liked some more of the Senate amendments to have been acceptable to the government. However, I wanted to focus on the bigger question while we have the chance with the minister in this chamber.

I am very concerned that our current freight rail service being in private hands, is not meeting the needs of the Canadian economy. We do not have rail service to Churchill right now. We do not have reliable rail service for prairie farmers to get their grain to ports, and that results, as my colleagues know, in the backing up of large container ships into the Gulf Islands where they basically use the waters off my riding as a free parking space while they wait to get into Vancouver Harbour, and hoping that the grain is going arrive.

Is there anything, in sort of big picture thinking, coming up from Transport Canada, but short of nationalizing our freight again, which we used to have a nationalized freight rail service, to get the private sector to actually deliver goods that Canadians need, and on time?

Marc Garneau – Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague brought up some very valid points. There is no question about it. Our railways need to do better. I have been in touch with them on a regular basis and told them that they need to do better.

Canadian National will be investing over $3 billion. They have the message. Yesterday, they announced a contract to buy 350 transportation wagons to bring lumber. They are investing, also massively, in new hopper cars. They are buying over 100 new locomotives. They are building siding for more efficient travel, so that we can precisely eliminate the problems that have been brought to our attention by my hon. colleague.

Therefore, the railways understand now that they have to do better. This is particularly acute when the economy is working well because that is when we have the highest pressure. There is a lot of potash to move. There is a lot of grain to move. There is a lot of lumber to move. There are a lot of minerals to move. That is when the railways are tested at their most.

The railways, I believe, have the message that they now need to increase the number of resources that they have at their disposal and, I should mention also, hiring new staff to take care of this rolling stock.