Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Congratulations to you on your appointment as chair.
Thank you to the committee for inviting me here today to say a few words and to answer your questions.
I'm delighted to be accompanied by my deputy minister, Jean-François Tremblay. He will be the deputy minister until Sunday night, and then he will be transitioning, but he is my deputy minister today. Here as well are associate deputy minister Helena Borges, chief financial officer André Lapointe, and Laureen Kinney, who is the senior ADM for security and safety.
It is my pleasure to accept the committee's invitation to address my mandate letter, to present our main estimates, and to update the committee on several matters relating to transportation in Canada.
This is my first opportunity to appear before this committee since becoming Minister of Transport, and I do appreciate the committee's input on transportation issues.
I would like to begin by discussing my mandate letter from the . Really, it is the top level document that guides me.
In it he directed me to address several matters, three of which I would like to focus on today. First is the importance of improving the safety of our rail transportation system. Second is my initial response to the report of the Canada Transportation Act review. Third is the need to address marine safety, including oil tanker traffic off the north coast of British Columbia.
Allow me to expand and I'll begin with rail safety.
The first point I want to make is that safety will always be my priority in rail transportation. I'm certain that any minister of transport in any government would say exactly the same thing.
As a Quebecer, the accident in Lac-Mégantic in 2013 was for me, one of the worst events in Canadian transportation. I was recently there to meet the mayor and help open a new downtown reconstruction office.
In response to this tragedy, Transport Canada continues to strengthen regulation and enforcement of the safe operations of railways, specifically in transporting dangerous goods. This includes initiatives to improve transparency and share more information on the production, storage and transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.
In doing this work, I am especially focused on how communities and the public can be more engaged, informed and part of the decision making. I expect to be able, at a later date, to tell you more about the specific steps the government plans to take.
On the Canada Transportation Act review, I make no secret of the fact that I believe very strongly in the need for transportation to contribute to our economy.
One important way that the government can demonstrate its support for this commitment is through our response to the Canada Transportation Act Review.
Under the leadership of the Honourable David Emerson, the review looked 20 to 30 years down the road and suggested how government policy and initiatives across the transportation sector might most effectively help our transportation system to fuel Canada’s competitiveness in international trade.
You are probably aware that I received the report of the CTA review in December and I tabled it in Parliament on February 25, well ahead of the April 12 deadline. I did that because even though we are still studying this document, I wanted to get it out there so that interested groups would have the opportunity to look at it as early as possible. I wanted Canadians to see that report, even though our own analysis is ongoing.
We will follow this tabling with a substantial effort to hear from stakeholders across Canada about the review's findings. This will then allow us to propose initiatives to strengthen the transportation system and its contributions to our economy.
In particular, I intend, with the support of my colleague the , to address issues regarding the Canadian grain transportation system. These actions will aim to achieve real change so that transportation in Canada can both capitalize on opportunities and meet the evolving needs of all Canadians.
These measures will also complement action we are taking to strengthen our use of research and analysis to build evidence-based transportation policy—policy that will help us to address growing pressures to broaden our trade relations, accelerate and expand open data initiatives, communicate our investments in infrastructure, take action on climate change, and finally, renew transportation partnerships with the United States and Mexico, with which we trade a great deal.
Let me talk about collaboration and transparency. Our approach to the CTA review demonstrates our commitment to strengthening collaboration and transparency in the federal government. As you know, responsibility for Canada's transportation system is shared between different jurisdictions. That's why we need to listen to and work with provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, and indigenous groups and communities to strengthen that system.
I had the pleasure of meeting with the 10 premiers and three ministers in the territorial governments responsible for transportation a little while back. They are now looking at the CTA review.
This is why, for example, in January I travelled to British Columbia to meet with indigenous peoples and other stakeholders. It was an opportunity to hear their perspectives about how government investments in transportation can support the economy while working to reduce their impact on the environment.
Achieving the right balance is important to me. While I see the transport portfolio very much as an economic portfolio, I realize that the transportation sector is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in this country and we must explore ways to reduce its impact on our planet.
I would like to talk about marine safety and oil tankers. I intend to work with my colleagues the , the , the , the , and the to improve marine safety in our coastal waters.
In working with these ministers as well as with other members of cabinet, this will include taking measures to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia's north coast, something to which the government is committed. It's clearly spelled out in my mandate letter.
Let me turn now to the main estimates.
Madam Chair, I would be happy to elaborate on these commitments in the question and answer period, but before closing, allow me to note two budgetary matters concerning Transport Canada.
The main estimates provides a listing of the resources required by the department for the upcoming fiscal year, at a point in time. It does not include funding that may be received within the fiscal year, most often related to items announced in the government’s budget.
Funding for budget items received by the department , if any, would be accessed through the supplementary estimates process, which, as you know, normally occurs three times each year, subsequent to the main estimates.
These could include funding for new programs or renewed funding of existing programs.
Our main estimates for 2016-17 total approximately $1.3 billion, which is a decrease of 21.6% from spending plans approved in the 2015-16 main estimates. Sunset funding for programs such as the ports asset transfer program, funding for programs that are winding down, such as the gateways and border crossings fund, and funding for the Detroit River international crossing project, which has since been transferred to Infrastructure Canada, are no longer included, or included at a lesser amount in this year's main estimates, and help to explain the decrease.
Finally, I'd like to say a word on grants and contributions changes. I should also note these estimates reflect changes that Transport Canada made to the vote structure for grants and contributions. I'd like to take a moment to explain this.
As you may know, parliamentary control of grants and contributions in federal bodies has been categorized by the type of expenditures—such as operating costs, capital, or grants and contributions—rather than by the program purposes of these expenditures.
In 2012, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates recommended that the Treasury Board Secretariat move from this current model to one based on program activity. Under this approach, the grants and contributions vote of organizations, such as Transport Canada, would be organized by programs, rather than by the type of expenditure. This is key. As such, expenditures would be categorized more by their aims than by how they fit into the structure of a federal body. For parliamentarians, this would provide more informed control over federal expenditures.
Based on this recommendation, Transport Canada has moved to put this new model into practice as a pilot to see how it functions for both parliamentarians and the department. As a result, we hope this kind of categorization will give you a better understanding of Transport Canada’s work.
Madam Chair, I believe the matters I have outlined today demonstrate the direction that Transport Canada is pursuing to keep transportation in this country safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally responsible.
I value input from this committee and I look forward to working with you to strengthen our transportation system and build a strong future for Canada.
That concludes my opening remarks, and I would now welcome your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Badawey, for the question. I was also struck by that quotation you cited in the early part of the report.
As I said in my opening speech, the transport ministry is viewed by me as an economic portfolio. I believe, and I've said this often, that the economy of our country depends on three big things: one, the products and services we have to offer to the world; two, the treaties we have with other countries that enable us to exchange these products and services; and three, how well set-up our trade infrastructure and trade corridors are in efficiently getting our products and services to other countries. I definitely regard the trade-related infrastructure part of transportation as a critical component.
For example, we know our railway system ships about 280-billion dollars' worth of goods annually, at least in 2014. That's a very large amount. Can we make it more efficient? The port of Vancouver handles 140 million tonnes of goods. Can we make it more efficient? Can we make other ports more efficient? How efficient is our intermodal transport? How many bottlenecks do we have in the country that are unnecessarily slowing down the efficient movement of trade-related goods that we want to sell to other countries, especially in many cases across the border into the United States where we do a great deal of trade?
For me this is an extremely important element of my mandate. It is the economic side of the transport ministry. I mentioned in my opening remarks that we are going to consult during the spring and summer with key stakeholders to see how they react to the recommendations. There are some 60 recommendations in the Emerson report.
Transport is not just a federal jurisdiction. We work with provinces and territories. I am interested in hearing what they have to say, because the more we are in sync on transport issues in this country, the better it is for all of us.
I've already begun some consultations by meeting with the Secretary of Transportation in the United States as well as the Secretary for Homeland Security, because both security and transport are essential aspects of trade between Canada and the United States, and we do a great deal of trade with the U.S. by road, ship, and rail.
There will be a consultation process. In the fall what we anticipate to do is to decide the recommendations we will go forward with, those we will not go forward with, and those we may partially go forward with. Before we get to that point, we want to have this consultation process throughout the spring and summer.
I thank you for your question, and I know that you are deeply committed to rail safety, as am I. I can assure you that it will remain my top priority.
Indeed, rail safety is very clearly spelled out in my mandate letter. After what happened in Lac-Mégantic I think it became clear to many people in this country that yes, rail carries dangerous goods and some of them go through people's backyards, and suddenly people became very concerned about the safety of the rail systems.
There is no question that the previous government put in place some measures, largely in response to Lac-Mégantic, such as how to immobilize a train in a safe manner, although I see we still have some work to do. There's the upgrading of tanker cars that carry dangerous materials. There are different measures that are more constraining with respect to liability and compensation to put more responsibility onto the railroads. Also there are changes in the rules. Yes, an important component of that is to ensure that we are adequately inspecting and ensuring that our rail companies are travelling this country safely and on safe rail systems.
Has enough been done? No. There is still more work to do. In the four short months that I've been in this portfolio, I have seen, for example, that in 2015 there were 737 train derailments. Most people do not hear about them. Many of those train derailments don't necessarily involve the train falling over on its side. Sometimes it just comes off the track and sometimes it's fairly minor and sometimes no dangerous goods are involved.
I think we can do better and you have brought up questions in question period about belt packs remotely controlling trains, the issue of fatigue, which we have brought up as well, and of course the recent example of a railcar in Regina travelling four kilometres through the town.
We're looking at all these things. In short, the answer to you is that we can do better. I believe we need to do better. It is a priority for me, and we are looking at different ways of doing it.
Thank you for your suggestion.
I have to deal here with the adoption of the main estimates. I need the committee's attention, please.
The chair will call the votes.
CANADIAN AIR TRANSPORT SECURITY AUTHORITY
Vote 1—Payments to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority for operating and capital expenditures..........$624,005,722
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION AGENCY
Vote 1—Program expenditures..........$24,290,330
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Payments to Marine Atlantic Inc...........$140,122,000
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
OFFICE OF INFRASTRUCTURE OF CANADA
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$110,040,788
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$68,690,586
(Votes 1, 5, and 10 agreed to on division)
THE FEDERAL BRIDGE CORPORATION LIMITED
Vote 1—Payments to The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited..........$31,414,312
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
THE JACQUES-CARTIER AND CHAMPLAIN BRIDGES INC.
Vote 1—Payments to the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc...........$351,919,000
(Vote 1 agreed to)
Vote 1—Operating expenditures..........$480,702,203
Vote 5—Capital expenditures..........$119,226,521
Vote 10—Contributions—Gateways and corridors..........$258,354,429
Vote 15—Grants and contributions — Transportation infrastructure..........$103,219,554
Vote 20—Grants and contributions — Other..........$38,062,477
(Votes 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20 agreed to on division)
Vote 1—Payments to VIA Rail Canada Inc...........$382,830,000
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
WINDSOR-DETROIT BRIDGE AUTHORITY
Vote 1—Payments to the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority..........$215,989,827
(Vote 1 agreed to on division)
The Chair: Shall the chair report vote 1 under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority; vote 1 under Canadian Transportation Agency; vote 1 under Marine Atlantic; votes 1, 5, and 10 under Office of Infrastructure of Canada; vote 1 under The Federal Bridge Corporation; vote 1 under The Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges; votes 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20 under Transport; vote 1 under VIA Rail Canada; and vote 1 under Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Minister Garneau and your departmental staff, for being here with us today and staying a whole two hours. That's a lot of time, I know. We really appreciate your taking that time and staying with us.