I am calling to order meeting number 104 of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are having a briefing on the status of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board's recommendations.
With us as witnesses today we have the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board representatives, Kathleen Fox, Chair; Jean Laporte, Chief Operating Officer; and Natacha Van Themsche, Director of Air Investigations.
Welcome to you all. I apologize in advance for the fact that, with the permission of the committee, we will continue for another 10 minutes or so, and then we will have to suspend and go to vote.
Our apologies, but we'd like to get your testimony on the record if we can, and be able to go into questions when we come back.
Ms. Fox, I turn it over to you.
Madam Chair, honourable members, thank you for inviting the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to appear today, to discuss progress on the implementation of TSB safety recommendations.
About one year ago, we appeared before this committee to discuss aviation safety. In the context of that discussion, we told you that the response to about three-quarters of all TSB recommendations issued since our creation in 1990 had received our highest rating, that of fully satisfactory.
However, we also noted that many of our recommendations directed to Transport Canada had been active for more than 10 or 20 years. In fact, the board was so concerned with the protracted delays and slow progress that it decided to make this a watch-list issue in October 2016.
Where do we stand in 2018? The board has recently completed its annual reassessment of active recommendations, and I am pleased to report that the responses to 79.6% of all recommendations are now rated as fully satisfactory, an increase of 3.3% compared with April 2017. This year, we've closed an additional 28 recommendations, 26 of them being fully satisfactory. The document we've tabled shows the full picture of the assessments at the end of March 2018.
Over the past year, concerted efforts were made to reach out to Transport Canada in the three modes and work with them in a collaborative manner to review all the old recommendations. All the old rail recommendations and the majority of the old marine recommendations were reviewed. A joint action plan was established with Transport Canada for the review of the old aviation recommendations. Unfortunately, TC did not meet the agreed-upon timelines, and in many cases provided inadequate updates to enable the TSB to conduct proper reassessments.
Nevertheless, the TSB conducted its own research and was able to put together sufficient information to enable the board to assess the residual risk and update the reassessment of 28 aviation recommendations. In 23 of these cases, the recommendations were reassessed as fully satisfactory. The board is quite pleased with this progress.
However, it has taken much too long to address most of these issues. For example, in 1995 the TSB called upon Transport Canada to establish guidelines for training on crew resource management and pilot decision-making. TC finally published new standards on these topics in July 2017, and these standards will come into effect in January 2019. That's about 23 years to resolve the safety issues.
In total, 24 recommendations, 21 on aviation safety and three on marine safety, have not yet been reassessed due to the late receipt of the updated responses from Transport Canada. These recommendations will be reassessed in the coming months. We hope that a few more can be closed.
As of April 1, 2018, we have a total of 79 active recommendations in the air, marine, and rail modes. A little less than half, 33 of these recommendations, are over 10 years old. This compares with 52 in April 2017. Progress has been made, but the tougher and more difficult issues are the ones that remain unresolved. Furthermore, no action has been taken to improve the process to ensure that new recommendations can be addressed in a timely manner in the future.
Let me give you a few examples of the outstanding issues.
In aviation, we have three recommendations pertaining to flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders that would bring Canada in line with international standards. These recommendations date back to 1994 and 1999.
Similarly, we have five outstanding recommendations pertaining to seaplanes dating back to 1993 and 1994. In marine, we have six outstanding recommendations pertaining to fishing vessel safety that range between 14 and 25 years old.
In rail, we have a 17-year-old recommendation on following signal indications and a 14-year-old recommendation on voice recorders.
Although progress was made during the past year, the board remains concerned about the limited engagement by Transport Canada on addressing all the old recommendations and the lack of action by the government on the identification of a systemic solution to improve the process for the future.
As stated previously, action is required on three fronts in order to address the watch-list issue of slow response on addressing TSB recommendations.
First, Transport Canada must make a clear commitment to take action on the outstanding TSB recommendations with which it agrees. Second, the Government of Canada must improve and accelerate the process for taking action on safety-related recommendations. Third, there must be a marked reduction in the backlog of outstanding TSB recommendations, particularly those that will bring Canada back in line with international standards.
Thank you. We are prepared to answer any questions you may have and to provide specific examples of outstanding recommendations where not enough has been done.
Thank you for being with us today.
I have a question with regard to general aviation and the use of ELTs. Right now, ELTs are used within small aircraft. They have a false alarm rate of about 90%, and under the current technology they only work about 64% of the time. We're talking about when a small aircraft crashes and then a signal is sent in order for that aircraft to then be found. There has been a number of incidents throughout the years when a plane has crashed and the ELT actually hasn't gone off. Most predominantly, I'm talking about an ELT 406. Of course the plane cannot be found, which means the individuals—you know they have crashed, they most likely have died upon impact, though not necessarily, and in some cases the bodies are actually never found. For example, there is a family in my riding of Lethbridge, Alberta, who lost a son and his girlfriend just last June in B.C. The aircraft went down within a forested area, it is suspected. The ELT never went off, so to this day the plane has never been found. It's almost a year later.
Now, this could be prevented, it is my understanding, if there were a GPS transmitter put within the plane as well, so that it would be both an emergency beacon that would go off if the plane crashed as well as a GPS transponder, which would send a trail of breadcrumbs, if you will, to a radio transmitter on the ground. Then there would be a record of where the plane has been every few minutes.
Is this a technology that Canada would look at, or do we feel that ELTs are doing the job they need to do in order to keep private pilots safe?
Each mode is a bit different in terms of the requirements.
If we look at the major companies—the major railway companies and the major air companies—by and large, they have the proper infrastructure and support. They have fairly mature safety management systems, which their regulator oversees to ensure that they're compliant with the regulations and also effective at doing what they're doing.
The issue for us is often with the smaller operators on the railway side, on the marine side, and in the air. In the air and marine modes, they're not required to have safety management systems. Many of them may thus take the approach of just minimal compliance with regulations, which isn't in and of itself enough to effectively manage the risks in their operations.
First of all, I don't have those statistics. I'm not sure where those statistics came from.
What we know is that there have been a number of accidents in which the emergency locator did not transmit a signal, not because the ELT failed but because the antenna to which it was attached broke during the accident sequence and, therefore, wasn't able to get a signal out.
No, we're not okay with that. That is why, following the accident involving the Ornge air medical helicopter out of Moosonee, the TSB made seven recommendations, of which, if I recall, four were made to Transport Canada and three to other regulators, to improve the crashworthiness of ELTs, including not just the ELT itself but the antenna system.
Right now, with an ELT there's a gap of 50 seconds before the first signal is sent out and captured by search and rescue. This means that if the antenna is broken during that period, the signal isn't captured. We recommended that this be reviewed and reduced. We've made a number of recommendations to improve the crashworthiness of ELTs, but they are still ongoing.
Following that accident, first of all, we were unable to reconstruct the sequence of events because the aircraft was not equipped with recorders. We issued a new recommendation calling on the mandatory installation of lightweight flight recorders for commercial aircraft and business aircraft—that aircraft was being operated as a business aircraft—that aren't currently required to carry them. The minister has 90 days to respond to us since we released that, so we'll await the response.
The second thing we pointed out is that the operator of that aircraft had not been inspected since 2008 by Transport Canada, so Transport was not aware that the pilot was not qualified to carry passengers at night that night. He wasn't current. He hadn't done the takeoffs and landings required.
Third, that company did not have operational approval to operate as a single-pilot operation, which they were doing that night.
Fourth, there was a maintenance issue relating to non-compliance with an airworthiness directive, which might have been picked up in a Transport Canada inspection.
We issued a concern that Transport Canada needed to be more proactive in terms of going out and overseeing the business aircraft community and in terms of planned inspections as well, not just reacting to incidents and accidents or other reports to go out and inspect them.
I call the meeting back to order.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), this is on the main estimates for 2018-19: vote 1, under Canadian Air Transport Security Authority; vote 1, under Canadian Transportation Agency; votes 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20, under Department of Transport; vote 1, under Marine Atlantic Inc.; votes 1, 5, and 10, under Office of Infrastructure of Canada; vote 1, under the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited; vote 1, under the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc.; vote 1, under VIA Rail Canada Inc.; and vote 1, under Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, referred to the committee on Monday, April 16.
Minister Sohi, welcome.
We welcome you here today with your officials. We are trying to move it along fast because of the timing. We have a vote that won't be too long.
For your opening remarks, Minister Sohi, please go ahead.
Thank you so much for having me. I'm always honoured to be here with my staff.
I have the privilege of updating you on Infrastructure Canada's main estimates for 2018-19. Specifically, the department is requesting $6.15 billion to support the continued delivery of our long-term plan. This funding will ensure that communities across Canada have the money they need when they need it.
I also want to outline the significant progress our government has made to give all Canadians an even better place to call home and the brighter future they deserve. My honourable colleagues, the population of Canada is growing, and that means our communities must keep up with the demand for better ways to connect Canadians with each other. We also need faster, more efficient ways for Canadians to move the goods and services they produce to all parts of Canada and beyond. That is how our country will continue to grow and prosper and that's why, in every corner of this country, you see ground being broken, tunnels being dug, water treatment plants being upgraded, roads and bridges being improved, new buses and trains being rolled out, and 2018 is shaping up to be another busy construction season.
We are investing more than $180 billion under the investing in Canada plan. Together with our partners, we are making significant progress in implementing a plan that responds to their needs. That is because provinces, territories, municipalities, and indigenous communities own 98% of the public infrastructure in Canada.
I am proud to say that the first phase of our government's investing in Canada plan is making a real difference in the everyday lives of Canadians. It is already creating new opportunities for Canadians across the country to do business, trade, learn, and innovate, and is supporting thousands of jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it.
Since the start of the government's mandate in November 2015, nearly 600,000 new jobs have been added to the economy. The results did not happen by chance. We have enacted a comprehensive plan for the economy, through measures such as middle-class tax cuts, the Canada child benefit, and investing in infrastructure. These infrastructure investments are supporting thousands of new jobs in—
We have enacted a comprehensive plan for the economy through measures such as middle-class tax cuts, the Canada child benefit, and investments in infrastructure. These infrastructure investments are supporting thousands of new jobs in construction, manufacturing, transportation, engineering, and professional services.
In the Montreal area, the construction of the new Champlain Bridge is creating thousands of jobs. In December, when it is scheduled to be open to traffic, the bridge will make it easier for Montrealers who travel back and forth from the south shore. Likewise, the Gordie Howe international bridge will provide an additional crossing at one of the busiest points of the Canada-U.S. border, and the expansion of this critical trade route will improve connection between Windsor and Detroit.
Let me dig into how this plan has already delivered concrete results for Canadians after only two years. I'm proud to report that more than 20,000 projects are either in progress or already completed. These investments are improving public transit systems. In British Columbia, faster, more frequent bus service is being rolled out to all metro Vancouver communities. More than 500 bus drivers are being hired in the largest recruitment drive since the 2010 Olympics.
Our government's investment is also improving water treatment plants across the country. This means cleaner and safer drinking water for more Canadians, regardless of where they live.
Our investments are expanding the number of affordable rental housing units while renewing the existing stock. That means more Canadian families will have access to a safe and affordable place to call home and indigenous communities will have access to better housing.
Through the disaster mitigation and adaptation fund, which we just launched last week, our investment will better protect communities from the potential impacts of a changing climate. That means fewer communities will have their lives disrupted by extreme events such as flooding and fires.
Through the smart cities challenge, we're encouraging communities to use data and connected technologies to improve the quality of life for all Canadians. For the first round, we received 130 applications representing communities from every province and territory.
I also want to take this opportunity to reiterate our progress on bilateral agreements and why they are so important. Stable and predictable funding is what allows our partners to better manage the existing assets while planning for new infrastructure projects. To date, I have signed eight bilateral agreements, and we're working hard to finalize the remaining five.
One of the projects these agreements are funding is Calgary's green line LRT route. This new line is expected to support an estimated 20,000 jobs during the design and construction phase, and an additional 400 long-term jobs will support its operation and maintenance when the new line is up and running. Once in service, the green line will provide transit riders in the city's north and southeast communities with a direct route to the downtown core. It will also improve connections to hospitals, employment centres, and community centres.
In Edmonton, improvements to the busy railway crossing at 50 Street and the CP rail will reduce congestion and travel time for drivers. It will also give businesses in the area a more efficient way to move their products around Edmonton. During the construction phase, this project is expected to create 900 well-paying jobs.
My colleagues, the investments I have outlined today are already paying dividends for Canadians, and they will continue to do so for generations to come.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you, and I'm happy to take questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for attending this meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The topic I am going to discuss with you involves all three aspects of the committee's name.
In Transport Canada's 2018-2019 departmental plan, the department presents its three core responsibilities: a safe and secure transportation system, a green and innovative transportation system and an efficient transportation system. It seems to me that VIA Rail's proposed infrastructure project, which consists in building a new track solely for transporting passengers on the north shore, specifically addresses these three pillars: transport, infrastructure and communities.
However, I must say that, since the last budget, the people of Trois-Rivières, like those of other municipalities, are concerned and disappointed with the direction in which this route seems to be going. They are left wondering, because the wording always seems to be changing. The , who was in Trois-Rivières recently, told us that the private sector had to participate in the project in order to get it rolling. At least, that's what the people where I'm from understood.
Does his statement tell us that VIA Rail's proposed high-frequency rail project will be funded by the Canada Infrastructure Bank?
If so, we're not only talking about public funds. The government would also need private funding before taking action, correct?
I'll make this even easier for you.
As the , do you believe that it is appropriate to invest in this type of infrastructure, whether or not its funding is provided in full by the public purse, or by the Bank? Does your government believe in funding this type of infrastructure?
We're talking about Canada's most densely populated corridor. If we do not get this done in this corridor, I really wonder where we will be able to develop a mode of transportation that is essential, innovative, green, and so on.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Minister, I would like to congratulate you. You have probably done more for Albertans in three years than the previous group did in a decade, when you look at all the support, the capital investments, etc.
I want to talk about two areas that will maybe in part take us back to our old days in public transit. As we move toward more accessibility for the disabled, I know many transit systems across Canada are still using the old high-floor buses. They are keeping them on the road after 25 or 30 years, it seems, in some cases.
Will the built environment, buses and otherwise, be supported through funding from your infrastructure fund, or will there be additional funding for this?
Minister Sohi, Bill would assert federal jurisdiction over all operations and construction related to Trans Mountain. It's a real tool to enforce federal jurisdiction.
We support your approval of the Trans Mountain expansion in the national interest. We agree wholeheartedly with your emphasis on the jobs it will create and on the necessity to increase pipeline capacity. When your government approved it, we supported that approval and said that approval is one thing and getting it built is another.
In addition to the ongoing negotiations with the proponent, which you won't disclose, will you simply support this legislation that asserts federal jurisdiction over roads, bridges, power connections, the terminal, and the operations and maintenance of the pipeline in order to stop the roadblocks and delays, which are really what is risking the Trans Mountain expansion, in which the has failed?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to quickly bring up two points.
First, concerning the Champlain Bridge, on March 21, you stated that 65% of the work has been completed. I am far from being an expert on bridge construction, but it looks to me that the completion work may take longer than the large structural work.
Can you still confirm the December 21, 2018, deadline? Is this still an achievable target? If not, why not?
I'm sorry, Mr. Aubin, but your time is up.
Thank you, Minister.
I will now deal with the disposition of the main estimates.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the committee will now dispose of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, minus the interim estimates the House agreed to on March 22, 2018.
It is votes 1, 5, and 10, under Office of Infrastructure of Canada; vote 1, under The Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc.; and vote 1, under the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.
Do I have unanimous consent to deal with all the votes in one motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
OFFICE OF INFRASTRUCTURE OF CANADA
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$99,901,528
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$760,949,312
(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to on division)
THE JACQUES-CARTIER AND CHAMPLAIN BRIDGES INC.
Vote 1—Payments to the corporation..........$250,127,000
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
WINDSOR-DETROIT BRIDGE AUTHORITY
Vote 1—Payments to the Authority..........$195,992,153
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Shall I report these votes to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Thank you, Minister, and your staff, for being here and answering the questions.