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STANDING COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT

LE COMITÉ PERMANENT DES TRANSPORTS

EVIDENCE

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Wednesday, March 29, 2000

• 1537

[English]

The Chair (Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.)): Good afternoon, colleagues. It's our 41st meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport. We have asked representatives of Transport Canada to come before us to give us a briefing on bus regulation.

By now you have in front of you a copy of a letter I received from the Minister of Transport outlining what he has done in taking or extracting bus regulations out of the bill to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act. He gives us the reasons for that, and he asks us specifically to study bus regulation. That's all outlined in that letter in both official languages.

We are just one individual short.... No, we're not one individual short of a voting quorum. I've had a request, if the witnesses are all right for time, to deal with a couple of motions that are before the committee first, before we proceed with the briefing.

Just one moment, colleagues.

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Canadian Alliance): I'd like my motion dealt with when this bill is finished. Okay. I think that's what I'd propose.

The Chair: Colleagues, under future business, the first motion from Val Meredith, Val has asked if it's all right with the committee that we stand down her motion until we've completed our work on the airline restructuring bill, which we will begin on next Tuesday.

Do I have consensus from the committee to move her motion down?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

• 1540

The Chair: We'll reintroduce Val's motion when we're done the bill.

Colleagues, I have a motion on a budget estimate. It's the standard practice, colleagues, that I need a mover that the Standing Committee on Transport approve the proposed budget of $59,700 for the period April 1, 2000, to March 31, 2001, and that the chair be authorized to present the said budget to the liaison committee.

Mr. Claude Drouin (Beauce, Lib.): I so move.

(Motion agreed to)

The Chair: Mr. Guimond has a motion to present to the committee. Mr. Guimond.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): I would like to inform my colleagues that I have tabled a notice of motion within the appropriate period of notice, in both of Canada's official languages. The clerk has distributed the motion, and I would like to request unanimous consent to amend it as follows. I believe that Mr. Drouin will second the motion. The amended motion would read as follows:

    That the committee convene during the week of April 10 to hear all the witnesses who could shed light on the current management problems of Montreal Airport (ADM), specifically Ms. Nycol Pageau-Goyette, Chair and President of ADM.

[English]

The Chair: Does anyone want to speak to the motion?

Can I just ask one thing, Michel? Did you say in the motion “to hear all the witnesses possible”? I am just a little afraid of that. I don't want to get bogged down into having 50 people appear before us when we're right in the middle of the airline bill. That's my only fear. I mean, if you want to take a day, a morning and afternoon, to have in everyone concerned, we can do it. But I'm just concerned when you say “every witness available”. I don't want to start dealing with a witness list from here to China.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: Perhaps it is the wording of the motion that gives that impression, Mr. Chairman. However, I do mean witnesses from ADM. I do not necessarily want the board of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to appear before the committee. This motion implies that witnesses will be from ADM's board. In other words, if Ms. Pageau-Goyette wants to bring her finance VP or another VP with her, she can. This is for one day only.

[English]

The Chair: One day?

Mr. Michel Guimond: One day.

The Chair: All right, then it's clearly understood that it would be one day.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: For one day only, but it could...

[English]

The Chair: Maximum one day. That's the understanding we're receiving from the member who is moving the motion. So Mr. Guimond is moving that we spend a day during the week of April 10.

Mr. Drouin, do you second that motion?

The Clerk of the Committee: We need to agree on the modification.

The Chair: I need consent that the motion be amended. Is everyone in favour?

Ms. Val Meredith: To a maximum of one day.

The Chair: To a maximum of one day during the week of April 10.

Ms. Val Meredith: Agreed.

The Chair: Now to the main motion, moved by Mr. Guimond, seconded by Mr. Drouin.

(Motion agreed to) [See Minutes of Proceedings]

The Chair: Thank you, colleagues. Now we've dealt with all our motions and we can move on. We apologize to the witnesses.

Before us, colleagues, we have the director of motor carrier policy and programs, Emile Di Sanza, and his boss, the deputy director general, surface policy, Guylaine Roy. Thank you very much for coming to our committee. We look forward to hearing your briefing on bus regulation. Are you comfortable?

Ms. Guylaine Roy (Deputy Director General, Surface Policy, Transport Canada): Thank you very much. I'm his boss, but he is very knowledgeable in the field, so....

The Chair: Oh, I'm sorry, I must interrupt for just for one moment.

Colleagues, in the speaking notes you've received on the future regulation of the bus industry, you have, in the French text, been given a correction on page 26. It's in the last line, 1998, on the second chart, just so you have the right number there.

My apologies. Thank you.

• 1545

Ms. Guylaine Roy: Mr. Chairman, it is with great pleasure that we appear today to assist you in your deliberations on the future regulation of the bus industry in Canada.

I propose to give you a brief account of the federal viewpoint on the bus industry and the regulatory framework in which it operates. You will find more detail on the bus industry in the orientation document that Minister Collenette dispatched with the letter inviting your committee to undertake a review of Canadian bus issues. I take for granted that all of you have French and English versions of this document.

[Translation]

My presentation today is divided into three parts: the bus industry, the regulatory issue, and stakeholder views on deregulations. I will address each of them in turn, and then my colleague and I will take questions.

[English]

The Chair: We're not hearing any of your translation.

Thank you. It's okay now.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: By bus industry regulation, we mean the control of bus service through government licensing. In the bus industry, this regulation primarily affects carriers providing scheduled inter-city service and charter operation.

The scheduled and charter bus industries are relatively small in terms of annual revenues and are also very diverse. In 1998, which is the last year for which we have full figures, Statistics Canada reports approximately $600 million in revenues divided about equally between scheduled and charter bus service. Around 200 carriers had a share in the bus revenues, ranging from the very large carriers to small carriers near the Statistics Canada reporting threshold of $200,000 per year in annual revenues.

Although many carriers provide both scheduled and charter bus service, the markets are quite different. On the scheduled side, both the passenger volume and the networks have been shrinking over the last five decades. For example, between 1985 and 1998, scheduled inter-city bus ridership dropped from over 23 million passengers to approximately 14 million. This is about a 36% drop. While the ridership in the scheduled bus industry has remained stable in a 12-million to 14-million range for the last three years for which we have numbers, 1996-1998, there has been no significant growth in scheduled service revenues over the last decade.

The situation is very different in the charter bus market. This is a market that is more sensitive to general economic trends than the scheduled sector. Consequently, charter revenues declined during the recession in the early nineties, but since then the revenue trend has been almost consistently upward, from less than $200 million in 1991 to over $300 million in 1998. That is a 50% increase over a period of seven years.

Any description of the industry would be very incomplete if it did not comment on the rapid pace of structural changes in the last decade.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza (Director, Motor Carrier Policy and Programs, Transport Canada): The 1990s have seen changes in the structure of the industry in practically all regions. In most of the country these structural changes have resulted in consolidations within the industry. For example, Laidlaw-owned carriers are now dominant in all provinces from Ontario west, with the single exception of Saskatchewan. Laidlaw has in fact become the largest scheduled-service provider in both Canada and the United States.

Another example is Coach U.S.A., the largest American charter and tour operator, which has also made significant investments in the Canadian charter and tour markets in Quebec and Ontario in the 1990s. Coach U.S.A. was subsequently itself acquired by the even larger Scottish-based Stagecoach PLC.

In the Maritimes, both New Brunswick-based SMT and Newfoundland-based DRL made significant acquisitions.

[Translation]

The only exception to this pattern has been in Quebec, where the dominant carrier, Voyageur Inc., was divested to a number of smaller carriers in the late 1980s, and there has been no subsequent industry consolidation.

• 1550

Ms. Guylaine Roy: Now, I would like to turn to the question of industry regulation and deregulation. In Canada, extra-provincial bus undertakings—these being carriers which provide interprovincial and/or international service—are under federal jurisdiction.

As it is relatively simple in the bus industry to become an extra-provincial carrier, all the carrier has to do is provide interprovincial or international charter service—federal jurisdiction captures most of the industry.

So the bottom line here is that federal government could, in theory, set the rules for regulating the bus industry, as, for example, is the case in the United States.

[English]

However, the federal government has never directly regulated extraprovincial carriers. Instead, the Motor Vehicle Transport Act allows each province to regulate extraprovincial carriers using its own legislation and regulations.

Until the early 1990s, all Canadian provinces had similar bus regimes. Each province issued economic licences that gave the carrier exclusive privileges to provide the specific services defined in the licence. Provinces also regulated tariffs, schedules, routes, and generally, market exits. Now some provinces and territories, such as Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and the Northwest Territories, have deregulated. Others, such as New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta, and Yukon, have relaxed their economic controls.

The regulation of charter bus service has changed somewhat faster than that of scheduled service. Even the provinces that still have economic controls have allowed large numbers of carriers into the major charter markets, for example, in large metropolitan areas and at major international airports. This introduces a level of competition in these markets that has virtually the same effect as the regulation. Thus, on the regulation side, Canada has gone, in the course of the 1990s, from a consistent national regime to a fragmented one, with some jurisdictions and markets regulated and others not.

One question for the federal government and for this committee is whether this fragmentation in bus regulation is a problem. Does it matter to the industry or to bus users that, for example, market entry is possible in some provinces and not in others, or that passenger tariffs are regulated in some provinces and not in others? The broader question is whether economic controls remain appropriate for the bus industry.

As you know, governments have gradually reduced or eliminated economic regulation of transportation over the last 20 years, and this is not unique to Canada. For example, the bus industry in the United States has been deregulated since 1982. In Canada, the Royal Commission on Passenger Transportation in 1992 advised the federal government to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act to deregulate the bus industry.

Transport Canada has consulted extensively with the provinces and key stakeholders since 1994, and we will review the current stakeholder views in a moment.

Transport Canada's position in these consultations has always been that it favoured curtailing economic controls, but it wanted consensus before proceeding with changes to the federal act. Although on occasion it has appeared that consensus might be achievable, after a lengthy process and much discussion this has proved not to be possible.

[Translation]

As you know, Mr. Chairman, the amendments to the Motor Vehicle Transport Act tabled in 1999 (formerly Bill C-77) included provisions to phase in deregulation of the bus industry.

At that time, it appeared that a phased approach might reconcile opponents of change. However, it did not, and as consensus had not been achieved Minister Collenette decided to withdraw the bus provisions from the proposed amendments, and ask your committee to review bus issues.

• 1555

[English]

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: There are a number of stakeholder groups that have taken positions on bus regulation. The major bus associations have been party to federal-provincial bus consultations since at least 1994.

The Canadian Bus Association has been a major critic of deregulation of scheduled services. The association represents major national scheduled carriers, and is closely associated with regional associations in Quebec and the western provinces.

The Ontario Motor Coach Association, the OMCA, is officially neutral on the subject of deregulation. But the OMCA wants a clear signal from government as to what it is going to do and when it is going to do it. Alternatively, it wants a clear signal if government intends to do nothing.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association, CUTA, wants assurances that any changes to the federal legislation would not expose transit systems to competition from private operators. This has never been our intention, but the fact that it has been raised demonstrates how linked some bus issues are. Some scheduled inter-city bus service in Canada in fact is virtually indistinguishable from transit.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities echoes CUTA's concerns, as do several municipal governments.

[Translation]

Pensioner groups in British Columbia and Quebec have concerns about the possible erosion of low-density service in a deregulated environment, and these have been echoed by Transport 2000 and the Canadian Auto Workers and some municipalities, particularly in British Columbia.

Of the stakeholder issues, the one that raises the most concern is the possible erosion of low-density service.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: As you can see, Mr. Chairman, there remains a wide spectrum of opinion on bus regulation.

If I may, I would like to conclude by highlighting some of the key issues that are presented in the orientation documentation, of which you have a copy.

The question of whether economic regulation of the bus industry is still appropriate is clearly an important one.

[English]

Closely related to this is the question of whether the current fragmented regime we have in Canada, with some aspects regulated and others not, is in the public interest. However, this is not merely a debate over regulation and deregulation.

All parties to this debate want the same thing: a vibrant, growing, competitive Canadian inter-city bus industry. All parties also want an industry that meets the needs of Canadians, including those in small communities and rural areas. The larger question is what are the public policies that would promote these goals?

We look forward to receiving your committee's recommendations, which will be of great benefit in guiding the future of this important sector.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We will take your questions.

The Chair: Thank you very much for your thorough presentation to us. I'm sure my colleagues have questions for you. You can bet that this committee will do as thorough a job on this study as it has done in the past.

We'll begin our questioning with Val Meredith.

Ms. Val Meredith: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to ask the department officials one question. Do you feel the government is responsible for maintaining bus service in non-profitable bus routes? Do you feel the government should be regulating that bus service, and it must be—and I use the words “must be”—available to outlying rural areas?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: I would not want to indicate, from a policy point of view, where the government should be. We are here to provide information on the bus deregulation issue, give you some background information, and maybe explain how the government got to table Bill C-77. But I cannot really pronounce, at this stage, on the options the government should consider in the future, or should have considered.

• 1600

Again, some key questions are raised in the orientation document, which the government is looking to you to give some input on.

Ms. Val Meredith: Would you say that's not one of the key concerns, though? It would be like Canada Post, where commercial enterprises would take the best routes, the ones they could make money on, and remove their service from those routes that would be a losing proposition for them. I guess that's how I read it.

The main concern would be whether there should be regulation to ensure that in all parts of Canada, non-profitable and profitable routes had bus service. Would that be a fair assessment of what the issue is?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: If you look at the orientation document, that is one question that is raised, in terms of the impact of bus regulation on remote areas, rural areas, or regional areas.

I guess maybe we can explain how we got into considering this issue, in terms of consultation, when Bill C-77 was developed. Maybe we can give you some background information on that specific issue.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: Thank you.

Indeed, consultations regarding bus regulation span a number of years. I guess the first place to start would be with the discussions that were part of the agreement on internal trade, where some provinces raised the issue of disparity between provinces as a barrier, in terms of interprovincial trade and services.

At that time, the council of transport deputy ministers set up a national task force involving the federal government, provincial authorities, and representatives from the bus industry to look at a series of questions. In fact a lot of the issues that are put forth in the orientation document you received are the same sorts of things that were being debated at the time.

The intent was to look at the situation in the industry, how services were being provided, what the issues and options were, and the increasing concerns over the changes that were taking place among various provinces in the way they regulated. There were concerns expressed by certain provinces on the decline in ridership, in terms of inter-city bus services.

Certainly on the charter side, which is more commercially focused, we've seen increasing growth. But in terms of the provision of scheduled services, which is really at the heart of providing the kinds of services to all localities your question addresses, there was concern that ridership was declining. There was also concern that the kind of regulatory regime that was in place, in terms of both the framework that was in place at the national level and the kinds of regulatory regimes that were being put in place by the provinces, maybe wasn't the answer to dealing with the need to provide those kinds of services.

Certainly there was recognition that it was the role of the industry to provide those services. The question has always been what kind of overriding regulatory framework would be most suitable. In 1996 that task force provided a number of recommendations. At that time, as even most recently, the intent was always to seek consensus.

There was consensus on three elements. The first was to adopt a fairly standard model for streamlining and harmonizing the regulation of scheduled bus services. There was also the recommendation, agreed to by all parties, on deregulating charter bus services, and finally on deregulation of bus-parcel express. There was also an intent to come back and review how successful those measures we put in place had been. Not all provinces adhered to the kind of timetable that was being advocated at the time.

The department came back with a proposal, in the form of a discussion paper, in 1997. Based on the recommendations that were made by the task force, it was recommended that the MVTA be amended to provide for deregulation of scheduled bus services after a transition period. Inherent in that was of course the deregulation of charter services.

• 1605

Following some feedback from stakeholders, there was a second proposal by the department, which looked at deregulating the industry in terms of various other options and models. Again, that received feedback and a number of comments from a range of stakeholders and provinces.

In 1998 we looked at a series of other options, including the models in place in some provinces normally reformed to as “reverse onus”. Reaction on the part of the provinces and the industry was that if you're going to deregulate, you might as well go ahead and do it rather than try to do it piecemeal.

The final proposal, which really took the form of Bill C-77, tried to be clearer and more precise in terms of the approach to take. As you know, it did provide for a transition period. Inherent in that transition period was the understanding that it would provide provinces and the industry with the time necessary to make the adjustments. It really was intended to address the kinds of concerns that had been expressed some five years earlier about the decline in the industry, the degree of fragmentation that was taking place, and the lack of uniformity that was becoming apparent across jurisdictions.

We outlined in our opening remarks some of the concerns expressed with respect to the proposal being advanced. I trust that this may be helpful in terms of a backdrop of how we got to the position we did on Bill C-77.

The Chair: Thank you, Val.

Claude.

[Translation]

Mr. Claude Drouin: Mr. Di Sanza and Ms. Roy, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here today.

Many questions come to mind when we talk about deregulation. In your brief, you stated that the United States deregulated its industry in 1982. Then you mentioned some provinces or territories here where the industry was essentially deregulated.

First of all, I would like to know how deregulation is working in the United States. If my information is correct, regular bus ridership is dropping. Is it also dropping in the United States? Has ridership increased in provinces that have deregulated the industry? That is my first question.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: There has clearly been a decline in ridership in Canada in recent years. The details are provided in the orientation documentation. As you mentioned, we also stated that the United States deregulated the bus industry in 1982. However, one country cannot always be compared with another, because there are many differences in the methods used to collect data, administration, and other factors.

On the whole, some communities have lost services. We can say that unequivocally, because it is very well documented in some reports. In 1982 and for several years thereafter, the industry adjusted. If we look at the trend since 1982, we see that ridership has remained fairly stable, and in some cases even increased. In other words, in no case has ridership declined the way it has in Canada.

As for the figures for provinces that have deregulated the industry, it is, again, somewhat difficult to compare one province directly with another, given the different ways in which data are collected. However, we can say that provinces which have deregulated and provinces which have amended their regulations to open up the market have not reported withdrawing services to any significant extent. On the contrary, in some markets with competition ridership has increased and all carriers have benefitted.

I am of course speaking generally. If you require more details, we can review some of the documents tabled during consultations held over the years. These are documents submitted by a number of provinces, including Alberta, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Some studies have also been carried out in Ontario. The studies have been on penetration of the specific bus market the province was considering.

• 1610

Mr. Claude Drouin: You have touched on an important point, Mr. Di Sanza. In Quebec, we are wondering what would happen if the bus industry were deregulated.

At present, it appears that some profitable lines are used to subsidize service to remote regions. If the industry were deregulated, those remote regions might be deprived of service because competition on profitable lines would prevent carriers from investing to subsidize service to those remote areas. I would like to know what other places have done to show that this is not happening.

There is another aspect that is just as problematic, and could also penalize customers. Does a monopoly not jeopardize quality of service? I myself have seen people spend an entire one-hour trip on their feet, because the carrier did not feel it had to put on a second bus. The carrier had a monopoly. In any case, it might have been unable to add a second bus because there were not enough customers to make the second bus profitable. There are some very contentious points there.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: This kind of cross-financing—using profitable lines to subsidize non-profitable lines—is of course different with every carrier. It may also be done in some provinces and not in others.

It is clear, and good studies have shown this in Quebec, that some companies sort of link up the viable lines, the less viable ones and those that aren't viable at all.

To answer your question, it is clear that in some provinces what is being encouraged is what are called replacement services to fill the needs, real or potential, of the market. Then you're talking about vehicles that are a bit different from those that are in current use. Maybe you would need smaller buses in some cases.

Now, that's the kind of thing you can do even in an unregulated context. It's clear that in some provinces, Nova Scotia among others, there are unregulated van services. That is one of the things that we were looking at in our consultations with the provinces and the industry: to make sure that all passenger transport services offered would be covered by regulations specially where safety is concerned. Vans of a capacity of fewer than 10 passengers are not. That's certainly a concern that exists both at the provincial and federal levels, making sure that all services are properly regulated in this respect.

It is true there could be some loss of service. In fact, the study done by the Canadian Bus Association has shown that, in its ranks, some were offering what they call viable services, as you can see on page 13 of the English version and 15 of the French. And for those services, even the Canadian Bus Association admitted that, in most cases, the fares could be lower and in others, where client density is low and the services less viable, that there might even be a loss of service.

Now, during the discussions we had with the provinces and the industry, we were looking for options or available replacement services. We saw examples, in other provinces and in the USA, of small communities that are served in ways other than through the classic passenger bus service we know today.

Mr. Claude Drouin: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you, Claude.

Mr. Guimond, please.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Di Sanza, Madam Roy, thank you for your presentation. Ms. Roy I'd just like to say that your presentation was as music to my ears, especially when you said what we have on page 7, which is that in the absence of a consensus, Mr. Collenette had decided to withdraw the provisions on motor-coach transportation and asked your service to examine the different matters.

• 1615

Actually, I saw that the Bloc Québécois's travels in June, after the tabling of Bill C-77, and the piling up of postcards by the Bloc Québécois to ask for the withdrawal of economic deregulation—I sent at least 10,000 personally to Minister Collenette—were justified. I want to thank you for having put it down, black on white, although the concern of my colleague from the Beauce...

[English]

The Chair: We'll try to get out the champagne, Michel. Do you have a question there?

Voices: Oh, oh!

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: I want to say that we set up contacts with people from British Columbia who are concerned about deregulation, with people from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and groups like Transport 2000 that you mentioned. Mr. Chartrand, who works in Mr. Collenette's cabinet, is a past president of Transport 2000 Quebec.

Now for my questions, which are rather technical and specific because I'm going to be working on the bill we have before us. Even though the Minister says that we don't have to draw inspiration from Bill C-28, I have questions on C-28. I wonder whether what we are told not to do directly is not being done indirectly. Here's what I mean.

Do you agree that a business...

[English]

The Chair: Order, Michel.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: No, no.

[English]

The Chair: We have to be a little careful here. They're here to brief us on the busing industry, not to answer questions on Bill C-28. Bill C-28 has only been at first reading. It hasn't yet received second reading in the House, and it hasn't yet been referred to our committee.

If you want to structure your questions to the witnesses on things that are applicable to the bus industry vis-à-vis, say, the economic side—and we know the safety issues are still contained in the bill on busing but not necessarily the economics—then fine, but I'm going to have to cut you off if you're dealing specifically with any clauses in Bill C-28. That has not yet been referred to our committee.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond: I'll put my questions in that sense.

Do you agree that an extra-provincial business, one that is not from Quebec but which carries passengers between Quebec and Ontario, must necessarily register with the Quebec Transport Commission in Quebec? Is that the case?

As we don't have any bill, we don't have any provisions. Despite the comment that our committee's chairman has just made, could I still bring up the provisions that were included in Bill C-77? Did C-77 take away from the Commission des transports du Québec's jurisdiction businesses that were under extra-provincial jurisdiction? You can well imagine that this is a capital point.

A voice: The department is quaking.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: As I was mentioning in my opening statement, as soon as a business is extra-provincial it falls under federal jurisdiction in matters of economic regulation.

As I was also saying, the Motor Vehicle Transport Act delegates the regulation to the provinces, so there's a sort of a framework. Those powers weren't exercised directly; they had been delegated to the provinces. So I'm not sure I quite understand your question.

Mr. Michel Guimond: As the federal government did not exercise jurisdiction, the certification was being given by the provincial regulatory organizations, even in the case of extra-provincial businesses.

Ms. Roy, tell me if I'm right. Extra-provincial motor-coach transportation businesses don't have to offer regular transport between Montreal and Toronto. A company called Orléans Express, from Quebec City, could organize chartered transportation when the Expos play in Toronto or chartered transportation when the Expos are playing the New York Mets and, under Bill C-77, it would become an extra-provincial carrier. So it would not fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission des transports du Québec anymore. Mr. Drouin had the advantage of going ahead of me and putting the question about the concerns of the BC retirees. As the companies don't have an obligation to provide service, the power delegated by the federal level to the provincial jurisdictions is thus withdrawn.

• 1620

If you introduce competition at large, the companies will concentrate on the heavily populated areas where they make money. They will stop carrying between Montreal—Gaspé. They'll stop carrying from Montreal to Val-d'Or or Baie-Comeau.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: The federal jurisdiction is only exercised by delegating the power to regulate to the provinces in the bus sector. Now, as you say, a carrier can fall under federal jurisdiction as an extra-provincial carrier. The provisions of C-77, first, provided for deregulation of extra-provincial businesses for inter-provincial and international services. Bill C-77 provided for a transition period for intra-provincial and extra-provincial services and that was a two-year period. That's what was provided for in the bill, at that time.

It is clear that, as you say, a business, in most cases, can operate inside a province but come under federal jurisdiction because it operates a charter service once or twice a year. So it was clear, and everybody recognized it, that that could have an impact at the provincial level. That is why there was a provision for this transition period.

However, whether it's in the present act, in the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, in Bill C-77 or even in Bill C-28, the framework remains the same. The power to regulate in the sector of passenger transportation is delegated to the provinces.

In this whole thing, it is now recognized that a federal jurisdiction is exercised in the delegation of this power.

Mr. Michel Guimond: One last question, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: A short one.

Mr. Michel Guimond: Yes.

Given the fact that you are officials working at Transport Canada, what category of people would you suggest that we meet with? If you were in our place, who would you contact and where would you go on a trip across Canada? We need your insight. You are the experts. Where should we go? Should we visit all the provinces? What suggestions could you make regarding our decision to travel across Canada to take the pulse of bus users?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: We have already provided the committee's clerk with a list of the main stakeholders in the bus transportation industry. This list is available to the committee.

We have provided you not only with a list of the stakeholders who are directly involved and with whom we deal fairly regularly, but also with a list of people who contacted either the Minister or the department to signal their interest in appearing before the committee. These people learned of your work from the press release that was issued by the department in September, announcing that the issue would be referred to a Parliamentary committee. They then wrote to express their interest in being heard and in meeting with you.

• 1625

We are prepared, and I think that this has already been done, to provide you with the list of these people who would like to appear before you.

As for the provinces, I think you should go wherever you want. I would not rule out any of the provinces. It is a national issue, so I believe that it is to your advantage to see the whole picture.

Mr. Michel Guimond: [Editor's note: Inaudible]

[English]

The Chair: Thanks, Michel. Nice try, though.

On the heels of my colleague's question, is it your experience, having done some considerable research on the bus industry, or have you seen anywhere in the world—I mean, it's not just North America that has busing, it's everywhere—a template that works in the busing industry?

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: There have been initiatives in various parts of the world to bring uniformity to some national regulatory regimes. Certainly we have the experience in the United States of a federally regulated industry that deregulated in the early 1980s. We have the experience in Great Britain in terms of opening up the market, certainly, but we'd have to say that their situation would not be comparable to the dynamics we find in Canada, either in terms of the federal-provincial dynamics or with respect to the nature of the industry itself, the number of players, and the distinctions we have between the various segments of the industry.

As we indicated earlier, if there was a comparable situation, to the extent that there is one, the closest one would probably be that of the U.S. However, if the committee is interested we can certainly make available any of the reports provided to us in the course of our consultations over the years that did make reference to the situation in other countries.

I could not, though, at this stage indicate to you that a situation in a country other than the United States would necessarily be precisely comparable to the situation facing us in Canada.

The Chair: If the clerk could receive copies of those reports it would be most helpful. Past experience has shown that maybe we don't have the full answer in some other country, but there might be a piece of the puzzle that has been solved by another country elsewhere on the globe and that works to our advantage.

So we'd appreciate receiving those reports, if they're available. Thanks very much.

Mr. Calder, please.

Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I want to back up here. I've been leafing through your orientation document on the bus industry, and basically, with your presentation, it's almost scheduled versus charter.

The scheduled ridership is down 36%. Why is that? Is it because of scheduling, is it because of pricing, or is it because the population is aging and they're starting to look at something different?

Charters are up 50%. Is it because of the aging population—i.e., now they're more interested in going someplace exotic instead of taking a scheduled ride to wherever?

We see that the bus right now has 33% of the market share, and that those who use it the most are the ones making about $20,000 a year, at 32%. That diminishes right down to 8% for the population making $60,000 a year.

How do we stop the decline in scheduled service, or is that something that's unstoppable because of the aging population?

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: In fact, a lot of the questions you ask are similar to the ones that were discussed in our dealings with both provinces and industry.

• 1630

To respond to your last question—that is, how do we stop that—some of the provinces felt that the way to arrest the decline in ridership was effectively to provide an opening of the markets so that carriers could offer possibly a different range of services, or offer competitive rates on certain markets, provide alternative services. As we explained, that was certainly not the view of all provincial jurisdictions. It was not necessarily the view of all the industry participants who we consulted, either. But it's clear that in some of the markets that have opened up there has been a different range of services that have been provided; there have been different kinds of services that have met different requirements.

As I pointed out earlier as well, we have had, from a regulatory point of view, leakage in the industry in terms of alternative services that fall out of the scope of the regulatory framework, small van services that we know operate in some markets that would require changes to certain regulations to make sure they're covered from a safety point of view. Some provinces have indicated that in their consultations users of these services have told them to not touch them—they respond to a service we need. We're not advocating necessarily those kinds of services in the discussions we've held. We're simply trying to determine here what kinds of services are being addressed or are being established to meet different requirements.

Your question is why has there been a decline in ridership. We can point to a number of different reasons. They may vary depending on the kinds of services being provided, and they may vary from locality to locality, but certainly demographics probably has something to do with it, socio-economic factors, the use of the automobile. If we look at the statistics, we see that on a per capita basis the use of the automobile has increased considerably over a period of time. There has been abandonment of some services in terms of scheduled routes. Is that a result of the decrease in ridership preceding it, or is the decline in ridership a result of that? That again will vary.

However, to be fair and to put that into context, we only have to look at any region in Canada where as the urban areas expand, what used to be inter-city services suddenly become part of the transit systems. So we can't tally up the number of route abandonments and say we have several thousand route abandonments and therefore we have loss of ridership because they've been abandoned. That's not necessarily the case everywhere. In some cases those inter-city services have been picked up by transit services.

We need to keep a pretty broad and holistic overview of the kinds of factors that are at play. But it's clear that no matter how you measure it, there has been a decline in ridership. This is the key question that our consultations attempted to address. Is that a result of the kinds of barriers that might exist between provinces as well in terms of some markets being deregulated and some markets not being deregulated? We tried to take that into account. Is it a factor of some markets, some emerging markets, some non-traditional markets, not being properly addressed by the conventional scheduled services? That could be a cause as well.

So there are a multitude of reasons that could apply. Some of them are quite well documented actually in reports that have been prepared either by the industry or by consultants hired by different provinces.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: If I can comment, you put your finger on it: there's a stagnation in revenues and there's a decline in the ridership. That has occurred in a regulated environment. If you go with deregulation you could have a more open market, have more competition, and you could see a more vibrant service given, a better customer service given to customers. So opening up a more competitive industry with deregulation could help.

Mr. Murray Calder: I have one final question. We all know that the baby-boom generation is aging. I was one of the users of the bus system when I was a student, and I am not now. But the other side of the coin is two years ago I ended up with bifocals, and there might be a day when I might rather ride on a chartered bus going someplace than driving. Have you done any studies into that as to what that segment of the population is really starting to look at within the bus industry and how are we going to be able to proactively address that?

• 1635

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: There have been different studies, not necessarily that were done by us but as we've referenced in the orientation document. In fact, the Canadian Bus Association did a very comprehensive study on their own just two years ago, if you look at the scheduled market.

There have been a multitude of other studies that have looked at market potential in a number of different ways. If your question is specifically with respect to the charter sector, we haven't done anything specifically on that. The charter sector is not the contentious issue with respect to regulation of operations across jurisdictions.

As we pointed out earlier, it's largely commercially driven. For the most part, even the provinces that feel they have to maintain a degree of regulation on scheduled services were in the context of our consultations amenable to deregulation of the charter sector. The charter sector, many of them felt, should be free to effectively address whatever the market demands were in that respect. The contentious point has typically been in scheduled services.

So the quick response to your question is no, we haven't done anything specifically on the charter because that is not where the key issues have been.

The Chair: Thanks, Murray.

Bev.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Thank you.

I'm going to get my questions in, and I apologize if I have to leave before you totally answer them, but I want them for the record.

First of all, as someone who has taken the bus, used the bus for a number of years, and still does on a regular basis, I can honestly say that I have never heard people complain about the cost of bus prices. The seats on the bus, in most cases, are bigger than the economy seating on airlines. And for the most part, people are quite satisfied. So I am concerned when we talk about the need for competition to improve pricing and service. I'm one who would say I've never heard complaints about the pricing. That's from myself as well. I take the bus on a regular basis, and I've never heard people complain about the service.

Actually, in my riding people will tell you that the most guaranteed service is by taking the bus. You may not be able to rely on the planes to get through, but it takes an awful lot to not have that bus go through. So generally there is satisfaction from what I've seen.

So I would hate to see a situation where we push deregulation and risk that for the sake of competition we end up with a situation like we had in the airlines, where we have bus lines going out of business because say a profitable particular route takes all the cream and someone else is left with serving the rest of the population.

I note that bus passengers are disproportionately represented as the less affluent, students and the elderly. So my question is that list of people who you thought might want to make presentations to the committee, did it include any students' associations, seniors' associations, or less affluent populations, who would have the key impact?

The Chair: It wouldn't matter, Bev. We'll get your list. We'll come by for that.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais: No, I'm asking if they were on the list, because if they're a key user, disproportionately represented as bus users, I would be—

The Chair: We'll ask them.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais: I'm asking if they were on the list. That's a fair question.

Could you let them answer, Stan, about whether they were on the list, because I haven't seen the list.

The Chair: Take it easy, Bev.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais: As well, noticing that there is a differentiation between the different provinces as to how they operate the bus lines, do we have anything in writing as to what the bus rates are in those provinces, whether or not they've gone up in areas where they were deregulated or whether the service has gone down? Has there been any improvement in those areas where the cost rate has gone down?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: To the first question, I was just discussing with Emile to check if the list provided had any of the student associations or elderly associations, but we don't think they are on the list. Very often these groups don't organize themselves to make representation. So that's for the first question.

I don't know if we....

The Chair: We've established that they might not be on the list. But that's all right, because if we feel they should be, committee members can make their suggestions and we'll have them on the list.

• 1640

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: In terms of user groups per se, they have not been the most vocal. However, we have received input from a range of different user groups, if you will, outlining some preoccupations on their part for maintaining services. In other instances we have received feedback through the provinces themselves. The provinces do conduct studies, they do have focus groups, and they do go out to a lot of these user groups you referred to. Because it is an industry where we do delegate to the provinces the regulatory administration of the industry, it's understandable that they would be the front line of contact with a lot of these groups. So we've relied heavily on them for that sort of thing.

In respect of your question on what has happened with regard to rates, there again it's somewhat difficult to go down to a micro level, although in many instances the actual tariffs are available. They are part of the licences that are issued, and some studies have been done that are based on that. In fact, the Canadian Bus Association has done some work, and we heard earlier about the kinds of results they saw, depending on the kinds of markets we're dealing with. So in the high-volume corridors, for example, the conclusion on the part of that study was that rates would probably fall as a result of market opening.

The Chair: Mr. Casey.

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester, PC): I was really interested in the graph you have here about the passenger-kilometre per litre of fuel. I was really surprised to see how economical bus travel is relative to air and auto. Is it part of the policy development to encourage bus use because of that and because of the greenhouse gas emissions advantage by using buses? Is it part of the motive or part of the policy planning to try to encourage bus travel for those reasons? Has that anything to do with it at all?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: By these graphs we just wanted to illustrate the impact on the environment, the fact that it's a user-friendly type of mode of transportation. It's not to promote one mode over the other. It's just to show how it compares with other modes of transportation.

Mr. Bill Casey: Do you have statistics that show bus usage relative to the overall transportation compared with other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe? Do people use the bus as much in Canada as they do in other countries?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: We don't have the statistics at hand, but we could find them and provide them to the committee.

Mr. Bill Casey: I'd appreciate seeing that.

One comment you made was that some Nova Scotia services are not regulated. You pointed to Nova Scotia in particular. What services in Nova Scotia are not regulated that are regulated in other provinces?

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: I indicated that it came to the attention of the groups involved in the consultations that because of the size of the equipment being utilized, some of the van services being provided could in some instances fall beneath the safety threshold of the national safety code.

Mr. Bill Casey: Was this just in Nova Scotia?

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: Not necessarily, no. I alluded to a number of other markets that we're told are being served by some van operations that may fall under the threshold.

That has been brought to the attention of an outfit called the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, who are provincial administrators responsible for safety. In fact, the Canadian Bus Association has made a strong argument that there should be equitable regulation on a safety front of all operators of bus services, and that council is actively addressing that issue to ensure that all forms of passenger transportation are equitably regulated from a safety point of view.

Mr. Bill Casey: Moving to school buses, who regulates school buses? Do the provinces regulate them, or do you regulate them? Does the federal government regulate them? As far as safety design and usage is concerned, how is that broken down?

• 1645

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: Whether it's school buses or any other type of operation, Transport Canada is responsible for the manufacturing standards of the equipment itself. However, there is a provincial role with regard to the operation of both the equipment and the driver. In many instances that falls under provincial jurisdiction. Now, there is something called the national safety code. It's a series of standards related to safe operations, which is incorporated in all provincial regulations and legislation that govern the operation. These standards are generally comparable from one jurisdiction to the other.

Mr. Bill Casey: What is the state of the debate about seat belts and school buses?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: I'm afraid we're not qualified to respond to that question. It's not really in our area. We can find the information and maybe send a response to the clerk of the committee.

Mr. Bill Casey: Thank you.

The Chair: You're welcome, Bill.

I imagine that when we get into the safety aspects we'll bring in some people to talk about that subject, and we'll get some of those answers for all of us. That's the usual practice.

With regard to any information requested by a colleague, we'd appreciate it if you could give it to the clerk, and then the clerk will distribute it to all members.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: Sure.

The Chair: Thank you.

[Translation]

Mr. Drouin.

Mr. Claude Drouin: Mr. Di Sanza, you said a few minutes ago that if there were to be deregulation in Quebec—I apologize for talking mostly about Quebec, but unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the situation in the other provinces, although I am just as concerned about it—in remote areas, there could be a 24, or even 12-or-14-passenger bus, which would mean that such a link could become profitable and be regularly scheduled. I think that the standard is 45 to 47 passengers.

We were told that service would perhaps not be provided by a 12-passenger bus, but by a 24-passenger bus. I have discussed this with Quebec carriers, and they say that there is not much difference in operating costs. There is not a big decrease in costs in terms of vehicle registration or the driver. What they need to be profitable is volume, the largest possible number of users.

However, is the difference in costs between a 45-or-47- passenger bus and a 24-passenger bus substantial enough that the depreciation costs can allow for transporting only 18 or 24 passengers, for example? In the example that I spoke of a few minutes ago, involving a route that is full and for which there is no competition, people are left standing, whereas, if a 12-or-24-passenger bus were allowed, an extra bus could be added, providing excellent service. This would probably have the effect of increasing the number of passengers, because they would be more comfortable and that they would have a safer ride. In my opinion, this would be to the advantage of the carriers. I do not wish to go on and on this issue and loose you, but in your opinion, would there be a major impact on costs?

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: At this micro-economic level, it depends largely on the markets being served and on the types of operations that exist. Our talks with the industry are quite open and go back many years. We would therefore rely heavily on the information that the industry might provide us with, in order to assess such a situation. They are the experts, they know whether this kind of equipment will work in this market. As you know, our involvement in this sector consists of establishing a regulatory framework for policies. We are not involved in micro-economic regulation, in determining whether a service is profitable or not.

In some cases, the provinces follow this situation much more closely, and we rely heavily on studies provided to us by the provinces, including Quebec, which very carefully monitors all the markets served in the bus transportation industry.

• 1650

Mr. Claude Drouin: I have one last question. In discussing deregulation—I am thinking aloud and this may not make any sense—there could be a form of deregulation that would provide for competition on so-called profitable or heavily used lines, on condition that a levy or toll be earmarked for services to remote regions. We must not ignore remote regions. If there were a form of deregulation that allowed competition, but the competitors had to pay a levy, through the province, to subsidize remote regions, we would perhaps be able to reach our two objectives: people would be better served, with more frequent connections, and we would not be abandoning our remote areas, ensuring that people in these regions would be able to travel to large urban centres, for reasons such as health care or employment. It is important, because they often travel by bus for health reasons.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: All in all, we will not comment on future possibilities. It is something that is discussed in the Orientation Document, where we raise the subject of impact on remote regions and possible options. This may be something that you will hear about during your deliberations in the various provinces and regions. This may be one of the questions you will want to ask at that time. We are not in a position to speculate and say whether this option would have the desired...

Mr. Claude Drouin: If the sector were to be deregulated, could this be done or could this no longer be done?

Ms. Guylaine Roy: I do not wish to speculate on that at this time.

Mr. Claude Drouin: Very well. That's not a problem. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

The Chair: Thanks, Claude.

Roy Bailey, please.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and to our guests.

Every time a bus passes me on the road, I think of my first experience of ever driving in Mexico. I got insurance first, lots of it, and I crossed at a little place by the name of San Luis in Arizona and drove, and a bus passed me. Every time a bus passes me to this day, I recall that bus: no doors on the back, kids hanging out the windows, people standing up, and two broken springs. It was unreal, the safety there, compared to ours.

In answer to my colleague's question, the Highway Traffic Act in each of the provinces goes beyond the federal in the control of busing and testing of drivers, and sometimes adds additional safety features. I was in that business for a long time.

I'm going to put three or four little quick questions. They're questions of interest I have in the development.

Number one, why don't we see at the major bus depots, even in our cities, any security check on the luggage? I may be wrong, but we go on the aircraft and we have security checks, and I'm wondering if anywhere has those security checks. That always puzzled me, because sometimes a huge amount of baggage goes on, and there doesn't seem to be any checking of that.

The other thing I have a growing interest in is this. I'm from Saskatchewan, where all buses, with the exception of the chartered routes of Greyhound, are government-owned, and they're all losing money. Even the Regina to Saskatoon route now loses money. What they have done to supplement that is they have also become small-freight carriers. My question on that is a safety feature. I know they mainly stow that with the baggage underneath the bus, but now I am seeing on some of the runs a few of the back seats removed. I know that may be provincial, but when we travel, we may have to address that question.

I want to get back to my colleague, Murray Calder. These chartered buses are a blessing in disguise where I live. They pick the old people up. They know where they're going to stop for dinner. They know where they're going to stop for the night. They know where they're going to the casino. They know the hotel they're staying at. It's a booming business.

• 1655

There are two reasons for that. I did a little study of my own. Number one, where I come from, we have the highest percentage of seniors of any place. Number two, the safest and the only type of holiday they can get where they can have door-to-door service is the chartered bus. If you looked in Saskatchewan at the percentage, the passenger bus would be lower and the tour bus would be higher.

I have one final question; I know we've gone on for a long time. Do you know of any inter-city bus service in any city in Canada that actually operates without a subsidy? I'm talking about Ottawa-Carleton, the Regina city bus, or any city bus anywhere, even if it's inter-city or within a city, that actually operates without some form of subsidization.

I just throw them all out together.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: I'll take your questions in the order you asked them.

With regard to security checks for luggage, as you know, in the air sector, international rules of passage, travelling, and so on govern all of these things, and there are federal regulations. Typically the terminals used for bus services are privately owned by companies themselves or various conglomerates. If any security checks were done for the luggage itself, they would probably be at the initiative of the industry itself, or if there were any commercial requirements to do so, that would typically fall under provincial business regulations of some sort. I'm not aware of any federal regulations that would require that to take place.

In terms of the safety features you alluded to with regard to the carriage of parcels or freight in some instances, there again, if there are safety considerations, they may in some instances fall under the usage of the equipment in terms of the standards related to the configuration or the manufacture of that equipment. In other instances they may have bearing on provincial regulations in terms of the operation of that equipment. So it may depend specifically on how that service is being provided.

With respect to your last question, I wasn't clear on whether you indicated inter-city scheduled services of the type Greyhound operates, or if you were talking strictly of transit-type services within large metropolitan areas.

Mr. Roy Bailey: That's right; I'm mainly speaking of the bus service within Ottawa-Carleton, the Toronto bus service, or whatever. I'm just wondering if anywhere in Canada they do in fact operate without some form of subsidization.

The Chair: That may be a bit of a tough question.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Yes, I realize that.

The Chair: I'm not sure these people are dealing with city buses.

Mr. Roy Bailey: The reason I ask that question is this. Deregulation in the bus industry—we just went through a long bit on the air carriers—does not necessarily mean there will be competition. When you get into the rural areas across Canada, I don't think deregulation plays a factor in serving rural Canada at all, because there's only going to be one bus there. There are not going to be two competing with one another. That's just a comment. I'm fairly sure I'm correct in that.

The Chair: Thanks, Roy.

Mr. Emile Di Sanza: With respect to transit services, as we indicated earlier, this was not an area being targeted by the discussions we were having. In fact the kinds of proposals being advocated through the various stages really had to do with interprovincial services and those within federal jurisdiction: interprovincially and internationally.

• 1700

The issue of potential transit competition was only very recently flagged to us by the Canadian Urban Transit Association. Certainly it was not an area that was dwelt upon in terms of our series of consultations. Frankly, it was not an issue that was raised either by provinces or by the industry, so it's not an area in which I would consider us to be experts in terms of being able to respond to your question specifically. I suspect that situation would also vary considerably from one provincial jurisdiction to another in regard to how transit services are really being dealt with, whether they're subsidized or not. We are aware that in some instances they are, but in other provinces they may not be.

The Chair: Mr. Asselin, please.

[Translation]

Mr. Gérard Asselin (Charlevoix, BQ): A few minutes ago, we were told that transit ridership, including bus ridership, was made up mainly of students, the elderly and low-income families. Students travel from their home to school. Some people travel from their home to Quebec City or Montreal to gain access to health care services. These are people who cannot travel by airplane because it is too expensive. For example, on the North Shore, there is only one access road and no railway. The alternative is air transportation. However, a plane ticket for travel from Baie Comeau to Quebec City costs $400 or $500. It costs between $700 and $800 to fly to Montreal. This is unaffordable for this kind of client.

First of all, we know that Quebec City and Montreal are transportation hubs. These are places through which people travel but these hubs, Quebec City and Montreal, are used by people coming from all parts of Quebec and, from there, these people head for Toronto and elsewhere.

Of course, there should be interprovincial regulations, but under extra-provincial regulations, a carrier could provide bus service between Montreal and Quebec City, Quebec City and Toronto or Montreal and Toronto. As Mr. Drouin said earlier, this carrier should compensate, providing service—as is currently done—between Quebec City and Gaspé or between Quebec City and the North Shore. There is a distance of 1,100 kilometres between Quebec City and the Lower North Shore.

These airlines should be required to maintain a minimum level of public bus transportation services in these regions. I would even go so far as to say that the federal government should indirectly subsidize this public transportation service, because the federal government committed itself in Kyoto to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to reduce pollution. If we are to achieve this, we must increasingly use public transit. At the same time, this would ensure transportation services in remote regions. The government, by means of regulations, would ask profitable intra-provincial bus carriers, or extra-provincial carriers, to subsidize transportation services in the regions. In this way, it would partially reach its objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline and diesel fuel combustion, and it would reduce the number of cars on the roads and the risks of accidents.

[English]

The Chair: The witnesses can choose to answer if they like, Mr. Asselin, and I'm quite positive that you're speaking from the heart, but it's still policy. These people from the department are here to answer our questions on where we are in the regulatory regime right now. Those questions are probably better asked of the Minister of Transport if we call him before us on the bus industry. Those kinds of questions can be put to him to see what the government's direction is on busing, both inter-city and interprovincial. There's no question that those are probably most appropriate for a minister who has to deal with policy, but I'm not quite sure they're the kinds of questions you'd ask of a departmental official who is here just to tell us where we are in the regulatory regime, whether we're touching economics or safety.

If the witnesses would like to answer, that's fine, but you don't have to. It's a bit of an impossible question for you.

[Translation]

Ms. Guylaine Roy: We are always prepared to answer questions, but this kind of question or statement is instead within the realm of politics.

• 1705

Our reason for being here is rather to provide factual information or information on Bill C-77 or on deregulation of bus transportation. We are not in a position to comment on political issues.

[English]

The Chair: Is that okay, Mr. Asselin?

[Translation]

Mr. Gérard Asselin: I will resume another time.

[English]

The Chair: Are there any further questions, colleagues?

Mr. Roy Bailey: Could I make an observation on seat belts in school buses?

The Chair: Right after we dismiss the witnesses, Roy.

We want to thank Mr. Di Sanza and Ms. Roy for answering our questions.

We will begin our study of Bill C-26—I believe that's what it is, the airline restructuring bill—next Tuesday with the Minister of Transport. After the committee has dealt with Bill C-26, we'll quite possibly make a return to this study. We would hope that when we return to this issue you could make yourselves available just in the event that we have any further questions.

Thank you very much for appearing before the committee.

Ms. Guylaine Roy: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here with you.

The Chair: Colleagues, we're adjourned until our next meeting, which is on Tuesday, at 3:30 p.m., with the Minister of Transport, on Bill C-26. Thank you.