Thank you, Madam Chair. It's a pleasure to be here today.
I am Helena Borges, the associate deputy minister of transport. I have been before this committee before, so maybe you'll remember me.
I have with me several colleagues from the department, as well as the Competition Bureau. Alain Langlois is our chief counsel on this file. Brigitte Diogo is our director general of rail safety. I have Marcia Jones, who is our director of rail policy; Sara Wiebe, who is our director general of air policy; and Mark Schaan from ISED.
First, I would echo the chair's thanking you for coming back early and taking the time to study this bill before Parliament resumes. I must say that if you haven't been in Ottawa all summer, this is officially the first week of summer, at least weather-wise, because it has been raining here non-stop. This is actually summer as we'll have it.
Bill , the transportation modernization act, contains proposed legislative changes that would allow the government to move forward in delivering on initial measures as part of transportation 2030, the government's strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada, which the minister announced last fall. The plan was announced following an extensive consultation process with industry stakeholders, indigenous groups, provincial and territorial governments, and Canadians, which built on the findings and recommendations from the Canada Transportation Act review report. You will hear from Mr. Emerson, who was the chair of that panel, later today. This process allowed us to hear a broad range of views on the future of transportation over the next 20 to 30 years, and how we can ensure that the national transportation system continues to support Canada's international competitiveness, trade, and prosperity.
Bill promotes transparency, system efficiency and fairness. The bill proposes legislative amendments that would better meet the needs and service expectations of Canadian travellers and shippers, while creating a safer and more innovative transportation network that would better position Canada to capitalize on global opportunities and thrive in a high-performing economy.
Let me highlight the key features of the bill.
I will begin with the air initiatives. Bill proposes the creation of new regulations to enhance Canada's air passenger rights, ensuring that they are clear, consistent, and fair for both travellers and carriers. The Canadian Transportation Agency would be mandated to develop, in consultation with Transport Canada, these new regulations and would consult Canadians and stakeholders should royal assent be given to this bill.
The overriding objective of this new approach is to ensure that Canadians and anyone travelling to, from, and within Canada understand their rights as air travellers without negatively impacting access to air services and the cost of air travel for Canadians.
Bill specifies that these regulations would include provisions regarding the following most frequently experienced irritants, some of which you may have heard about: providing passengers with plain language information about carriers' obligations and how to seek compensation or file complaints; setting standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of overbooking, delays, and cancellations, including appropriate compensation for these; standardizing compensation levels for lost or damaged baggage; establishing standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of tarmac delays over a certain period of time; seating children close to a parent or guardian at no extra charge; and requiring carriers to develop standards for transporting musical instruments.
Finally, this bill also proposes that regulations be made for data to be collected in order to be able to monitor the air traveller experience, including air carrier compliance with the proposed passenger rights approach.
The legislation also proposes to liberalize international ownership restrictions from 25% to 49%. To protect the competitiveness of our air sector and support connectivity, this provision is accompanied by associated safeguards.
These safeguards include restrictions that a single international investor would not be able to hold more than 25% of the voting interests of a Canadian air carrier and that no combination of foreign air carriers could own more than 25% of a Canadian carrier.
This policy change would not apply to Canadian specialty air services such as heli-logging, aerial photography or firefighting, which would retain international ownership levels at 25%.
Liberalizing international ownership restrictions means Canadian air carriers—and this includes passenger and cargo transportation service providers—would have access to more investment capital that they can use for innovation and, potentially, further expansion.
This would bring more competition into the Canadian air sector, provide more choice for Canadians, and generate benefits for airports and suppliers, including new jobs.
More competition in the market could in turn reduce the cost of air transportation and open other markets to consumers and shippers in Canada. This could include the creation of new ultra-low cost carriers serving new areas of the Canadian market.
The bill also proposes a new, transparent, and predictable process for the authorization of joint ventures between air carriers, taking into account competition and wider public interest considerations and establishing clear timelines for the rendering of a decision.
Joint ventures are a common practice in the global air transport sector. They enable two or more carriers to coordinate functions on specific routes, including scheduling, pricing, revenue management, marketing and sales.
Whereas currently proposed joint ventures in Canada are solely examined by the Competition Bureau under the Competition Act, and thus focus exclusively on anti-competitive impacts on specific markets for air travel, the proposed new legislation would allow for the consideration of wider public interest benefits.
In addition, the new process would include clear timelines for the review process, both for the review of potential competition considerations by the bureau and the assessment of public interest benefits to be undertaken by Transport Canada. It is anticipated that this more holistic and timely review would allow Canadian carriers to engage in this industry trend, which confers benefits not only to the partnering air carriers, but also to consumers who will gain from enhanced flight connectivity and Canadian tourism, which we expect to grow based on expanded network options.
Canada's aviation sector has shown interest in investing in and accessing passenger screening services, beyond those already provided by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, in order to facilitate travel and gain economic advantages.
The proposed amendments allow for this opportunity on a cost-recovery basis.
Let me now move to the rail initiatives.
A reliable freight rail network is critical to Canada's success as a trading nation. Many of our commodities, from minerals to forest products to grain, depend on rail to move to markets both here and abroad. Canada enjoys efficient rail service with the world's lowest rates.
To sustain this, Bill aims to address pressures in the system so that it can continue to meet the needs of users and the economy over the long term. To this end, the bill promotes transparency, efficiency and strong private sector investment in the rail system, as well as accessible shipper remedies. The key measures include new data reporting requirements for railways on rates, service, and performance that would greatly increase system transparency; a definition of adequate and suitable rail service affirming that railways should provide shippers with the highest level of service they reasonably can in the circumstances; the ability for shippers to seek reciprocal financial penalties for breaches of their service agreements with railways; updated remedies for rate and service complaints, to make them easier for shippers to access; and more timely, long-haul interswitching, a new measure for giving captive shippers across all sectors and regions the option of accessing a competing railway.
These measures would address the needs of shippers for greater competition in the freight rail system while also safeguarding the ability of railways to make crucial investments in the railway network, which benefits all shippers and the broader economy.
The proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act to mandate installation of voice and video recorders in railway locomotives are designed to further enhance rail safety while safeguarding the privacy of employees. They respond to recommendations from this committee, the CTA review panel, and the Transportation Safety Board, whom you will hear from immediately afterwards.
These recorders would further strengthen rail safety by providing objective data about crew actions leading up to, and during, a rail accident. This technology would also provide companies with an additional safety tool for analyzing trends identified through their safety management systems with the objective of preventing accidents before they happen.
Through its oversight role, Transport Canada would ensure that companies comply with the limits on use and privacy requirements specified in the proposed legislation.
I will now turn to marine initiatives.
Finally, Bill proposes to amend the Coasting Trade Act to allow all vessel owners to reposition their owned or leased empty containers between locations in Canada using vessels of any registry. This measure would support industry's request for greater logistical flexibility and address the shortage of empty containers for export purposes.
Bill also proposes to amend the Canada Marine Act to allow Canada Port Authorities access to loans and loan guarantees from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, which is starting to happen.
In conclusion, this bill combines proposed legislative initiatives into a single bill that are essential to advancing priority measures related to improving the efficiency and safety of the Canadian transportation system.
In addition to having undertaken a comprehensive consultation process, these proposed amendments are based on solid evidence. For instance, with respect to freight rail measures, we sought technical expertise of stakeholders from the rail sector, the Canadian Transportation Agency, key federal departments, and other authorities as part of consultations for the bill. We analyzed freight rates, investments across jurisdictions, as well as commodity movements across Canada using internal data, and grain monitoring program, and railway waybill data, as well as other data.
The measures contained in this bill are a reflection of the priorities we heard from stakeholders and Canadians during the consultation process. It brings forward proposed legislative changes that promote a safer, more efficient transportation system that would enable growth while strengthening the rights of Canadian travellers to better meet their needs and expectations.
I would add that this bill responds to many of the recommendations this committee put forward in a study last year of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.
I would like to thank the committee once again for having me here today. My colleagues and I are available to answer any questions at this meeting and throughout the entire study of the bill. We would be happy to provide any information that you don't have.
On that point, I will mention that we have made available to the committee a series of issue papers and fact sheets that may help you in understanding some of the provisions and the history behind some of the issues that we're dealing with here, the frequently asked questions on some of the items, because we know that there may be confusion amongst stakeholders about what these mean and how they would apply, as well, of course, the clause-by-clause. If there's anything more we can provide, we'd be happy to do so.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I have a final question, not that we're running low on time with these witnesses.
Mr. Garneau leveraged key findings from the 2016 Canada Transportation Act review. You were all a part of that, initiating a development of a vision for the future of transportation in Canada. With that, extensive consultations were in fact done. Those in the business, yourselves, were the experts to expand on the Canada Transportation Act review, and of course come up with the findings which we are witnessing today.
I do know that a strong consensus emerged from these consultations. We all understand that Canada's transportation system is critical to the well-being of our economy, moving goods and people throughout the nation, as well as internationally. Federal leadership and a national transportation strategy is, in fact, needed, and well overdue to support the system 20 to 30 years into the future, equalling a vision for transportation, the economy, safety, as well as efficiency.
Being efficient, as I just mentioned, and integrated, the national transportation system is vital to our economic growth, our trade, our social well-being, our environment as my colleagues across the way noted. Transportation 2030, anchored by five themes, responds to that and of course is a part of that.
Do you find that this legislation, based on your experience, which I might add is a lot more than our experience, actually achieves safety, efficiency, and finally, leverages all of our transportation assets throughout the nation to allow us to expand and enhance our global economic performance?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon and thank you very much, Madam Chair and honourable members, for inviting the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to appear today so that we can answer your questions regarding Bill .
As you know, this bill introduces changes to the Railway Safety Act and to the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, and these changes would require a mandatory installation of voice and video recorders in locomotive cabs operating on main track and would expand access to those recordings to Transport Canada and the railway companies under specified conditions. You may also know that these kinds of recordings have been in widespread use on board ships and aircraft for many years.
I bring with me today three colleagues who offer a wealth of experience.
Mr. Jean Laporte is our chief operating officer. He has been with the TSB since it was created and has extensive knowledge of our mandate and processes.
To my left, Mr. Mark Clitsome is a former director of investigations for the air branch and has been working closely with Transport Canada on the proposed legislative changes as well as those changes proposed to our own act.
On my far right, Mr. Kirby Jang is our director for rail and pipeline investigations and was heavily involved in the study on locomotive voice and video recorders that was released last year.
I'll keep my opening remarks brief today so that we can get to your questions quickly. In fact, there are just four key points I would like to make.
Number one is that at the TSB we need voice and video recorders in locomotive cabs to better conduct our investigations.
This is so critical that we have made two recommendations to this effect and put it on our Watchlist of key safety issues. Without locomotive voice and video recorders, or LVVRs, our investigators do not have access to all the information that they need to find out what happened—information that we need to help make Canada's rail network safer.
Let me give you an example.
On February 26, 2012, a VIA Rail passenger train derailed near Burlington, Ontario, killing the three crew in the cab and leaving dozens of passengers injured. The event recorder on board gave us some data, which is how we know that train was travelling 67 miles per hour on a crossover with a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. What we were never able to determine with certainty was why. Did the crew not see the signals telling them to slow down, or did they see them but somehow misinterpret them? We just don't know, and we never will. An in-cab voice and video recorder would have provided a better understanding of the operational and human factors affecting that crew and would have helped point investigators toward safety deficiencies that could then have been mitigated.
This brings me to my second point. The information obtained from voice and video recorders must remain privileged. It must not be shared publicly. It must remain protected so that only those with the authority and the direct need to use it for legitimate safety purposes may do so.
Third, the information from selected voice and video recorders should be made available to railway companies for use in the context of a non-punitive, proactive safety management system.
Railway companies should be able to review the actions of their employees, for example, to see if track signals are always being called out, or if a train's limit of authority has been exceeded—actions that on their own might not directly cause an accident, but which could still indicate areas where safety can be improved.
This should not be for the purposes of discipline but rather to identify and correct systemic issues, which might lead to improvements in operating procedures or training. I stress, though, that this must happen in a non-punitive environment, which is why I make my last point. Notwithstanding the fact that we want railways to be given some access to these recordings, appropriate safeguards must be built into the legislation and the regulations to ensure that this information is not used for disciplinary purposes, except in the most egregious circumstances.
This final requirement may ultimately prove to be among the most challenging, in part because it relies on the existence of something called a “just culture”. This can be defined as an environment that draws a clear distinction between simple human mistakes and unacceptable behaviour, one that does not immediately blame the worker but seeks first to find systemic contributing factors.
Canadian railways, however, have often demonstrated a very rules-based punitive culture. While progress is being made to improve that culture, the TSB nonetheless understands employee concerns about the use and possible misuse of this kind of data.
Transport Canada should also have access to these recordings for safety oversight and should be able to use these recordings when taking action against an operator, but not against individual employees.
The proposed legislative changes are a departure from the way things have always been done, but as transportation evolves, so too must the way we do our work. There is little doubt that the information contained in voice and video recordings can be a valuable tool when used for legitimate safety purposes. The legislation and its implementation need to achieve the right balance between the rights of employees and the responsibility of operators to ensure the safety of their operations.
Thank you. We are prepared to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the committee for the invitation to appear before you today.
The Canadian Transportation Agency is Canada's longest-standing independent and expert regulator and tribunal. Established in 1904 as the Board of Railway Commissioners, the CTA has evolved over the years in its responsibilities as Canada has evolved, its transportation system has evolved, and its economy and society have evolved.
Today the CTA has three primary mandates. The first is to help ensure that the national transportation system runs smoothly and efficiently. This includes dealing with rail shipper issues, rail noise and vibration complaints, and challenges to port and pilotage fees.
Our second core mandate is protecting the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to accessible transportation services.
Our third core mandate is providing consumer protection to air travellers.
Among the CTA's most important activities in recent years is the regulatory modernization initiative. Launched in May 2016, this initiative is a comprehensive review of all regulations the CTA administers to ensure they are up to date with business models, user expectations, and best practices in the regulatory field.
Over the next 10 minutes, I would like to speak about how Bill will affect the CTA's roles and how, if and when it is passed, we will implement those elements for which we will be responsible.
I would like to note that my observations are offered from the perspective of the arms-length organization that has primary responsibility for day-to-day administration of the Canada Transportation Act.
The Minister of Transport's principal source of public service policy advice is Transport Canada, and I would defer to the minister and his department with respect to questions regarding the policy intent of the bill's various sections.
I will structure my remarks around two key elements of Bill : air passenger protection and mechanisms for addressing rail shipper matters.
Air travel is an integral part of modern life. Usually it's uneventful, but when something goes wrong, the experience can be frustrating and disruptive, in no small part because as individual passengers we have little control over events.
Bill mandates the CTA to make regulations establishing passengers' rights if their flights are delayed or cancelled, if they are denied boarding, if their bags are lost or damaged, if they are travelling with children or musical instruments, and if they experience tarmac delays of more than three hours. This is a significant change.
The current regime simply requires that each airline develop and apply a tariff: written terms and conditions of carriage. The CTA's role as it stands right now is to assess whether an airline has properly applied its tariff and whether the tariff's terms are reasonable.
We have said it's important that air passengers' rights be transparent, meaning that they can be found easily by travellers; clear, meaning that they are written in straightforward, non-legalistic language; fair, meaning that they provide for reasonable compensation and other measures if something goes wrong with the flight; and consistent, meaning that travellers facing similar circumstances are entitled to the same compensation and measures.
Last fall we launched public information efforts to help make travellers aware of the recourse available to them through the CTA if they have a flight issue that they are not able to resolve with an airline. We did so because we believe that for remedies created by Parliament to be meaningful, the intended beneficiaries have to know that those remedies exist.
The results of these efforts combined with the Minister of Transport's and media's focus on air travel issues have been dramatic. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16 the CTA typically received about 70 air traveller complaints per month. Over the last year, since we started our public information efforts, that number has risen to 400 complaints per month. And over the last week alone we have received 230 air traveller complaints. That is to say that in one week we have received one-third as many complaints as we used to receive in an entire year.
This jump suggests that the need for assistance has always existed and once Canadians knew that the CTA is here to help, they began turning to us in far greater numbers.
If and when Bill is passed the CTA will move quickly to develop air passenger rights regulations. Our goal will be to balance, on the one hand, the public's high level of interest in air travel issues and desire to shape the rules with, on the other hand, the expectation that those rules will be put into place quickly. To strike this balance we will hold focused, intensive consultations over a two to three-month period with industry, consumer rights associations, and the travelling public using both a dedicated website and in-person hearings across the country. Once in force, the new air passenger rights regulations will give Canadians travelling by air greater and long overdue clarity on their rights and what recourse is available to them.
Let me turn now to the second main component of Bill C-49: changes to the provisions dealing with relations between freight rail companies and shippers.
Facilitating these relations has been a key part of the CTA's mandate from the beginning. That reflects both the fundamental importance of the national freight rail system to Canada's prosperity, and the enduring concern among shippers about what they see as an equal bargaining power between them and the small number of railway companies on whom they depend to move their goods.
The CTA has observed that, notwithstanding these concerns, shippers make relatively limited use of the remedies available to them under the law. If this is because good-faith commercial negotiations are producing mutually satisfactory agreements across the board, that is excellent news. But if it is because the cost and effort involved in accessing the remedies are perceived to outweigh the likely benefits, or because of challenges with how these remedies are structured, the provisions in question may not be fully realizing their objectives.
We have also noted that there is relatively little information available about the performance of the freight rail system. This paucity of information affects the effective functioning of the market and evidence for decision-making, and stands in contrast to the situation south of the border.
The freight rail elements of Bill have the potential to address some of these issues. Amendments related to rate arbitrations, service level arbitrations, and level of service adjudications may help recalibrate the cost-benefit analysis that shippers make when considering whether to access recourse mechanisms. The the requirement that railway companies submit more data and that the CTA publish performance statistics online may help fill information gaps.
Perhaps the most significant rail-related change in Bill is the replacement of both the CTA's authority to set general interswitching limits beyond 30 kilometres and of the competitive line rate provisions with a new mechanism called long-haul interswitching. The CTA's role with respect to long-haul interswitching will be to order that the requested service be provided if an application is made and certain conditions are met, and to establish the rate for that service.
The bill gives the CTA 30 business days to receive pleadings from parties and to make these determinations. We've already begun to develop a process to ensure that we can meet that extremely tight timeline. We know that the parties will be watching our decisions on long-haul interswitching closely. Those decisions will be based on the criteria that Parliament ultimately adopts and on the CTA's analysis of facts before us, because as a quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator, what guides us is nothing more and nothing less than the law and the evidence.
Before concluding, I would like to mention one item that is not contained in Bill C-49: extension of the CTA's ability to initiate inquiries on its own motion.
The CTA already has this authority for international flights—and most recently used it to undertake an inquiry into some of Air Transat's tarmac delays. That case shows how relevant the authority—
Thank you, Madam Chair, and honourable members. I'm appearing here not really on behalf of anybody except myself. I headed up a transportation review, some two and a half to three years ago, of the Canada Transportation Act. Much of what I have to say will reflect some of the conclusions of that report.
In the interest of disclosure, I also serve as the chairman of the board of Global Container Terminals, which is in the transportation space, as you know. I am not speaking on behalf of that organization; I'm speaking on my own behalf here today.
I'll just read a statement into the record.
Never before has the triangulation of trade, transportation, and technology been so central to Canada's economic success. We are a small trading nation spread out over a massive and diverse geography. Canada has to get transportation right, in the interest of our competitiveness and of future generations of Canadians. Getting it right requires that we recognize the massively complex, tightly integrated, multimodal, and international nature of the transportation system. It's increasingly a system that is in constant motion, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 2014, as I alluded to, I chaired a committee charged with conducting a wide-ranging review of the Canada Transportation Act and related matters. Some 56 recommendations came out of the report, plus over 100 sub-recommendations. An overarching theme in the report was the need for better, more timely decision-making adapted to the evolving nature of today's trade, transportation, and logistics networks.
Many recommendations have been or are being acted upon, at least in spirit, by the government of the day, for example, elevated priority to infrastructure investment, including development of financing mechanisms and a more systematic database on the state of Canada's infrastructure; an increase in the foreign ownership limit for Canada's airlines; recapitalization plans for the Canadian Coast Guard; greater and more comprehensive focus on the transportation needs of Canada's north; a serious move to separate passenger rail lines and operations from freight in the high-density corridors of Ontario and Quebec; a major funding initiative to continue developing Canada's transportation and trade corridors; enhanced rights for air travellers—Mr. Streiner was alluding to that in his remarks—and strengthened standards for travellers with disabilities.
The core of the CTA review was a recognition that there are no magic fixes or silver bullets, and that getting it right involves improving governance. By that we mean establishing frameworks for decision-making that are better adapted to the massive complexity of the modern transportation system and its millions of users and service providers. Getting it right means recognizing that transportation crosses all sectors of the economy, all parts of the country, and virtually all parts of government and public policy. In few areas is the so-called whole-of-government approach more critical to our long-term future. Getting it right also means that the regulator, the CTA, Transport Canada, and other agencies, have the information, the mandate, and the tools to deal in real time with a massively complex and dynamic system.
Bill includes some significant steps to improving the information base to enable better decisions, improve dispute resolution, and generally enhance the regulatory framework. However, in my view, more is needed. Perhaps the most glaring omission in the context of Bill C-49 is the continuation of the reactive, one-at-a-time, complaint-driven approach of the CTA. I believe the agency needs the mandate and capacity to anticipate and deal with issues before they become systemic crises. Dealing with one complaint at a time when many complaints are symptoms of a broader malaise is simply not effective.
Similarly, the agency needs the power to self-initiate investigations. Where there is real and substantial evidence of an emerging problem, the agency needs the own-motion power to self-initiate an investigation, and it should have the ability, where practical, to initiate mitigating or preventive measures. None of this should detract from the ultimate authority of the minister and Parliament to direct the agency, but it should enable better, more timely decisions that lubricate the transportation system in support of better service to the travelling and shipping public.
Getting it right also requires the establishment of robust governance frameworks for organizations created and empowered by government to run various aspects of the transportation system. Airport authorities, for example, were set up 25 years ago to recapitalize and operate Canadian airports. In general this has worked very well, but the governance arrangements need to be refreshed. Airports are for the most part local monopolies with de facto powers of taxation. I note airport improvement fees, for example, buried on airline tickets, tepid accountability to the public, and no real shareholder to hold boards and management to account for the way in which capital is deployed. Similar arguments could be made about port authorities. For the most part there are no legislated guiding principles spelling out public interest considerations. Authority relationships with tenants and customers are important aspects of the public interest, yet there is no clear guidance against abusive pricing power or limiting preferential arrangements with tenants that may undermine the common user principles that are so critical to well-run public facilities. Also, should authorities be permitted to go into business in competition with their own tenants, for example?
At the moment, there is no practical mechanism of appeal for possible abuse of power over tenants and/or customers. An aggrieved party can't even appeal to the CTA because the agency is not empowered to deal with it, and appealing to the minister is generally not practical. There are many mandated entities outside of government. They operate across different modes of the transportation system and with arrangements that are generally spelled out in ground leases, bylaws of the entities or some other form of contractual arrangement. Many of these governance issues were highlighted in the CTA review.
Again, decision making in the world of transportation, where thousands of service providers interact to serve millions of customers and shippers, is all about governance. A healthy, vibrant, global, competitive transportation system requires clear accountabilities in combination with strong checks and balances. The Canada Transportation Act should spell out the principles of good governance to be applied to regulatory bodies as well as non-governmental facility operators and service providers. The act should also include the formal requirement for ongoing renewal of a national transportation strategy. The concept of a decennial review is archaic and it should be done away with in favour of an evergreen process.
Thank you, Madam Chair and honourable members. I look forward to our discussion.
I'm Murad Al-Katib. I'm CEO of AGT Food and Ingredients Inc. I had the honour of serving with Mr. Emerson on the Emerson report as well. I was his lead adviser on the grain sector, on the western Canadian rail chapter, as well as on natural resources, including oil and gas and the mining sector. I'm going to bring to you some perspectives not only in that role, but also as president of one of Canada's largest container intermodal shippers. AGT Food is among, maybe, the top five or seven container shippers in the country. We're also the largest class 3 railway in the country now as well, with the purchase of a short-line railway in Saskatchewan.
Let me pick up on a couple of points that were made by my colleagues. One concerns the work we put forward and the work before you now as Bill . For Canada as a trading nation, transportation infrastructure and the interaction of policy with that infrastructure is one of what I would consider to be Canada's most important generational activities. It means taking a look at how we enable the economy to seize the opportunity, as trade continues to grow, particularly to get our products to market, because of the large geographies we have in our blessed country. With these physical distances, the regulation within the system needed to be addressed in a number of areas. I'm going to break them down into bite-sized pieces.
Transparency of the transportation system was a resonating point of our report and a point that continues to resonate within industry. I think that Bill addresses greatly one of the major criticisms of the system previously. At least now we have a system such that, if these measures are put forward, the railway systems will be not only encouraged but mandated to provide data input to a system. That data will come into the CTA, will be synthesized, will be published, and will allow policy-makers to make more informed decisions instead of attempting to react on the fly. I think data transparency is a very important part. It is something that was demanded by industry, among the recommendations we made, and certainly it is something we see within Bill C-49.
When we looked at transparency, though, to reiterate both of my colleagues' comments, there was quite a strong desire for ex parte powers of the agency to investigate and be able to look more like a Surface Transportation Board, like a U.S. type of system. We seem to be falling a little bit short on that within this particular round, but we are encouraged as industry, I think, by the type of moves that are being made.
In talking about transparency, I always made the point to industry to be careful what you ask for, because it comes with responsibility. One thing you have to recognize always is that this is a transportation system. Think of it as a supply chain in which each link in the chain is essential for the link directly in front of it and directly behind it. One thing we have in the transportation system is a tendency whereby each link only blames the link ahead of or behind it.
This is a very important element, in that the responsibility of the industry becomes also reliable reporting of our forecasting, reliable reporting of our performance within the system. Efficiency is something that data transparency will drive in the system. I think this is a very important element. This isn't just about railways; it's about each link in the chain.
As that chain continues, fair access to the system is part of what we were looking to see achieved, and I think we made some very good measures in Bill . What we were aiming for in our recommendations was a system whereby the playing field would be levelled to a point that we could encourage commercial agreements.
I think we have to also be very careful. Over-regulation of the transportation industry is a very slippery slope. Over-regulation of our railway system can certainly also have unintended consequences. We have a difficult environment, with long distances, the physical attributes of our terrain, and climate, such that with over-regulation we could actually drive a non-competitive system to become a drag on the economy. But while I say that, I think that fair access to the system and encouraging commercial agreements was really part of the foundation of what we were recommending.
So let's get to some of those.
Shipper remedies were quite strong within Bill . There were a number of moves on the agency's authority to make operational terms within service level agreements more permanent. Reciprocal financial consequences were mandated, which was a major ask of shippers for well over a decade, and which were actually skipped in a number of the previous policy revisions. So it was a very popular move within the shipper community to encourage, then, that when you would sit at the table with your railway on a service level agreement, those operational terms would be defined, reciprocal financial consequences would be mandated by each side, and the agency could then impose those on the parties if they couldn't come to a commercial agreement.
Streamlined dispute resolution mechanisms were key. I think we made some very good progress on those. With regard to the definition of adequate and suitable accommodation, you're probably going to hear a lot about that over the next three or four days, but I do think we've certainly made some very good progress there.
In terms of the overall efficiency piece within the system, long-haul interswitching is also something that there's a lot of angst about in the system, because within the grain industry in particular, with the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, we actually had 160-kilometre interswitching available, hanging there as a shipper remedy that was basically accessible. It was there, and it was extended. That has been sunsetted now, and long-haul interswitching has been introduced as a potential new remedy. I think the angst amongst shippers is from not understanding whether or not it truly can be implemented. Having heard the comments of my colleague Mr. Streiner, I have a level of optimism that in essence shippers will have a chance to apply for 12-month long-haul interswitching, which will involve distances much longer than 160 kilometres, and combining interswitching and the competitive line-haul rates could be an effective mechanism.
It is a new system, and I think that sometimes leads to angst, and as Mr. Streiner has stated, the CTA will be judged by its ability to react and implement. I've also made very strong recommendations to both Transport Canada and the agency to consider expedited renewal processes. So once it is approved for a one-year duration, how do we get the second year and the third year approved on a quicker and quicker basis? Those are service delivery things that I have some optimism about.
In terms of the maximum revenue entitlement, the modernization started within the provisions of Bill being suggested here, we recommended much broader modernization of the maximum revenue entitlement. There are some first steps that I think are very positive. The container intermodal traffic being excluded and the interswitching revenues being excluded are, I think, common sense provisions, and it made a lot of sense to include those within the modernization. To me, the ability of the railways to reflect individual railway investments was always a ludicrous provision; when one railway invested, that investment was split between the two railways. We've now fixed those. We've fixed out, with the proposals, adjustments to incentivize hopper car investments. These are all positive provisions that still protect the farmer within the MRE and still allow time to see what effect those mechanisms have, but I think they have been very positive.
There are the regulated interswitching rates as well, and then the reduction or the elimination of the minimum grain volumes.
We've made some good progress, I think, and I'm looking forward to being here over the next hour to answer your questions and to give our perspective as you need.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee tonight. I am pleased to be here today.
My name is Ray Orb, and I'm the president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, or SARM.
SARM represents all 296 rural municipalities in Saskatchewan. Our members are home to a major agriculture sector. Saskatchewan represents nearly 40% of Canada's farmable land. This has allowed Saskatchewan to become the world's largest exporter of lentils, dried peas, mustard, flaxseed, and canola.
In 2016 Saskatchewan exported $14.4 billion worth of agrifood products. For a landlocked province like Saskatchewan, getting these products to market requires an efficient and effective world-class rail transportation system. That is why I'm appreciative of today's opportunity to talk about Bill since SARM members and the agriculture sector rely so heavily on the transportation system.
SARM has been an advocate for increased data reporting. More data means that better decisions may be made by producers and others in the supply chain. In SARM's view, railways should be required to produce plans that detail how they will deal with demands resulting from the upcoming crop year. This should include railways' contingency plans for larger yields and how they will deal with the cold winter months in the Prairies—that is, the equipment and the number of crews that will be needed, for example.
SARM is pleased to see that Bill includes an expansion of the Governor in Council's powers to make regulations requiring major railway companies to provide information regarding rates, service, and performance to the . Enhancing data requirements and making more information available to those in the supply chain is not an immediate resolution to transportation issues, but it is a crucial piece of the solution.
Another advocacy point for SARM has been the need for reciprocal penalties. Holding railways and others in the supply chain to account is important as producers are the ones who ultimately lose out when levels of service are not met.
It appears that Bill will enable shippers to obtain terms in their contracts dealing with amounts to be paid in relation to a failure to comply with conditions related to railway companies' service obligations. Clarification for producers on how this will function is required. It would be beneficial for all parties involved if the Canadian Transportation Agency would provide further clarification on the issue, such as guidelines or best practices for reciprocal penalties.
SARM is disappointed that reciprocal penalties are not officially mentioned in the legislation. Should an impasse occur between the shipper and the carrier regarding reciprocal penalties, will the CTA intervene? Further clarification on the informal dispute resolution services is required. While there appear to be more details to sort out regarding reciprocal penalties, SARM is happy to see that reciprocal penalties will be allowable.
SARM also welcomes the amendment on the informal dispute resolution services. Providing cost-efficient, effective, and timely dispute resolution services is imperative for producers. Once the harvest is completed, producers must get their products to market in a timely manner to fulfill their contract obligations. Disputes should be resolved as quickly as possible so that producers won't face any additional penalties or unnecessary delays.
Long-haul interswitching may also be a positive new provision for producers. SARM supported the increased interswitching distances in the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act. It was hoped that extended interswitching from that act would be made permanent. While the extended radius will benefit more producers who are eligible, they must still negotiate with carriers before applying for long-haul interswitching. It remains to be seen whether this new provision is the long-term solution needed.
The retention of the maximum revenue entitlement, or MRE, is appreciated by SARM and its members. SARM members oppose the elimination of the MRE. This provision protects producers from excessive freight rates, ensures the movement of grain, and allows railways to reinvest in the rail network. Rather than eliminating the MRE, SARM members have passed a resolution requesting that the MRE formula be reviewed as soon as possible. SARM hopes that the changes to the MRE will continue to ensure railway accountability and transparency while still protecting producers from high freight rates.
Overall, Bill appears to address many of the concerns facing producers. The CTA review provided the agriculture sector with many opportunities to provide feedback and SARM is appreciative of this. SARM will continue to provide comments and feedback at every opportunity and looks forward to continuing to work with the federal government and all agriculture stakeholders to advance the sector.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you today.
First of all, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I'd like to address what we consider to be the critically important issue of locomotive voice and video recorders.
My name is George Bell and I work for Metrolinx, an urban transit authority in Toronto that operates Go Transit systems and the Union Pearson Express linking downtown and the airport in Toronto. Metrolinx, through GO Transit, is the largest commuter rail operator in Canada, with over 450 kilometres of track on seven lines in the greater Toronto-Hamilton area. What surprised me when I moved to Toronto for this work is that one in every six Canadians lives in the GO Transit service area. We move over 250,000 people a day. We have a very large fleet of rail equipment: 651 passenger cars, 62 locomotives, and we supplement that with the 15 rail vehicles we have on the Union Pearson Express line. We run 61 train sets a day and we make about 300 trips a day currently. If we put that in context a little further, our largest trains hold about 2,500 passengers. That means that each of our largest trains has about the same number of people on it as five jumbo jets—five.
When we operate our trains, we operate in what's known as a push-pull fashion. That means the locomotive always stays on one end of the train. If we were on an east-west run, the locomotive stays on the east end of the train, no matter which direction we run. If we run north-south, the locomotive runs on the south end of the train. We supply motive power either to push or pull our cars across the track. When the locomotive is pushing, the crew that operates the train is on the opposite end of the train in what's known as a cab car, which has a replica of the locomotive controls and controls the locomotive by remote control. It's converse when we operate from the locomotive. This is important context.
Since our inception, Metrolinx and GO have steadily increased GO transit train service with the goal of transforming from a rush hour commuter service to a two-way, all-day regional transportation service. Our newest program, regional express rail, will build on the planning and infrastructure progress we have already made and fast-track future service expansion. This means that electric trains will be running every 15 minutes or better on our heaviest corridors; that four times the number of trips outside of weekday rush-hour periods will be run, including evenings and weekends; and twice the number of trips during weekday rush-hour periods. The result of this expansion is that we will see approximately 6,000 weekly trips by 2024.
All of this is critically important when we consider the contributions to railway and passenger safety that can be gained from the introduction of locomotive voice and video recorders. Metrolinx and GO have very significant safety responsibilities to our commuters, our communities, and our employees. We take these responsibilities very seriously indeed. We strive to be leaders in safety and are frequent early adopters of new technologies and techniques. Locomotive voice and video recorders are one example of our forward thinking. GO has already equipped all its locomotives and cab cars with LVVRs.
To give you an idea of what those look like, they consist of a recording system that's fed by four cameras and two microphones. I'm sorry, I'd hoped to have some pictures for you, but I don't have them. Three of the cameras show the interior of the locomotive. We can see the two operators from behind, we can see them in the corners of our view, and we can see the back wall of the locomotive from the front of them. We do not focus on the faces or expressions of our operators. The cameras that are looking at them from the front focus on the back wall, which is full of diagnostic equipment for the locomotive, and we can see a great number of outputs from our diagnostics on that wall. The two cameras that are looking at them from behind can see how they operate the trains. We can see their hand motions, we can see their throttle controls, their brake controls, we can see if they're on the phone, which is a prohibited activity—but nonetheless possible.
We have two microphones in the locomotive that can capture all the ambient conversation within the locomotive. The fourth camera faces out in front of the locomotive. It's an unfortunate reality that railroads, and commuter railroads in particular, see a lot of suicides. The camera that looks out the front of the locomotive gives us evidence of what's occurring in front of the locomotive. It's the only camera in the system that is readily downloaded. The other three cameras need special permissions to be downloaded and can't be downloaded by anyone but the relevant authorities.
When we consider the system, we strongly believe that the technology that we have in place in our locomotives can save lives and make the travelling public safer. The Transportation Safety Board has called for the use of LVVR technology to be used both as part of their investigatory processes and by railway companies as part of the safety management systems to proactively identify areas for safety improvement. It's undoubtedly useful to collect evidence that may be used after an accident to assist in determining the cause of that accident. It's our opinion that a more powerful and responsible approach is to enable the information captured by an LVVR to be used before an accident occurs. The ability to identify behavioural or ergonomic trends that may lead to accidents would be a great benefit in maintaining our safety.
Metrolinx agrees that the privacy of our operating crews is very important. In the case of an LVVR installation, crews have been well informed that the technology is in place and how it's used. That said, we do not view the operating controls of a cab car or a locomotive to be a place where there should be an expectation of privacy. Our engineers and conductors are highly qualified professionals, and we expect them to conduct themselves in such a manner when they're operating our trains. Further, we believe that if there is to be a balance between safety and privacy, safety must prevail. This is particularly true when we consider that any risk-taking behaviour on the part of the operator of a commuter train puts not just the safety of that operator in jeopardy, but can also put in harm's way the 2,500 people who may be on the train. We believe that we owe those passengers and their families an utmost duty to look after their safety on our trains. Empowering railways to use locomotive voice and video recorders in a non-punitive and proactive manner will help us meet that duty.
Thank you for your attention.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today, Madam Chair. I'm very pleased to discuss Engineers Canada's stance on Bill , the Transportation Modernization Act.
My name is Jeanette Southwood. In my previous role as principal at a global engineering firm, I was global sustainable cities leader and Canadian urban development and infrastructure leader. My team focused on areas that included supply chain, business continuity, and climate adaptation, urban intensification and restoration, and the strategic integration of cutting-edge global innovation and knowledge into solutions for private and public clients. Our portfolio included rail.
I am currently the vice-president of strategy and partnerships at Engineers Canada based here in Ottawa. Engineers Canada is the national organization that represents the 12 provincial and territorial associations that regulate the practice of engineering in Canada and licenses the country's more than 290,000 professional engineers. Together we work to advance the profession in the public interest.
With the entire Transportation Modernization Act open for public review and consultation, Engineers Canada's testimony today pertains directly to section 11 of the Railway Safety Act, specifically in relation to the design, build, and maintenance stages of railway work in Canada, and we have three recommendations in particular that I'd like to touch on in my remarks today.
The first recommendation is that the engineering principles in section 11 of the Railway Safety Act be further defined. The second is that professional engineers be involved in the entire life cycle of railways' infrastructure. The third is that climate vulnerability assessments be carried out on Canada's rail infrastructure and that Canada's rail infrastructure be adapted to a changing climate.
First, regarding engineering principles, in Canada engineering is regulated under provincial and territorial law by the 12 engineering regulators. The regulators are entrusted to hold engineers accountable for practising in a professional, ethical, and competent manner and in compliance with the applicable provincial or territorial engineering act, code of ethics, or legal framework in place. Technical provincial and professional standards of conduct are set, revised, maintained, and enforced by regulators who are all professional engineers in their jurisdiction.
By virtue of being a regulated professional, professional engineers are required to work with the public interest in mind and to uphold public safety. For this reason, Engineers Canada strongly supports and encourages the direct involvement of professional engineers in the design, construction, maintenance, evaluation, use, and alteration of all engineering work related to railways in Canada, not only to increase transparency and public confidence towards a safe and well regulated rail system, but also to uphold public safety and accountability on all railway work.
It is vital that the federal government incorporate professional engineers through the entire life cycle of a rail project, and not just in the final approval of rail work. Engineers Canada encourages the federal government to put measures in place to ensure that this is the case. It is equally important that it be professional engineers who take on the responsibility of overseeing and maintaining the standards and regulations set out by the federal government.
Currently the Railway Safety Act outlines that companies are obligated to report on the qualifications and licences of safety personnel. However, ambiguity and the possibility of misinterpretation are evident in section 11 of the Railway Safety Act, specifically in regard to the definition of engineering roles and engineering principles. The act states:
All work relating to railway works—including, but not limited to, design, construction, evaluation, maintenance and alteration—must be done in accordance with sound engineering principles.
The ambiguity around the term “engineering principles” creates space for misinterpretation and a potential situation where public safety is compromised. The act should specify that where engineering principles are to be applied, they must be applied by a professional engineer. Federal public servants who are tasked with overseeing the engineering work referred to in section 11 must also be professional engineers. Communities are better protected by the consistent application of safety and siting procedures where professional engineers are involved in decisions.
Our second recommendation is regarding the life cycle of railways' infrastructure. Involving professional engineers in the life cycle of rail projects will not only ensure that they are carried out with public safety top of mind, but engineers are also well equipped to design, build, and manage resilient rail infrastructure.
Canada's railway infrastructure is an integral enabler of Canada's growing economy, as we've heard from the two speakers who preceded me, providing services to more than 10,000 commercial and industrial customers each year, moving about four million carloads of freight across the country and into the U.S., and getting approximately 70 million people in Montreal, the GTA, and Vancouver alone to work each year. This vast integrated network needs to operate with efficiency and public safety in mind, both of which require a high level of reliable service.
Finally, I'll turn to our recommendation regarding climate vulnerability. Resilient infrastructure is the driving force behind productive societies, stable industries, and increased public confidence in civil infrastructure. However, Canada's infrastructure report card noted that much of Canada's current infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, which is becoming increasingly frequent and severe. Vulnerable rail infrastructure presents a risk not only to public safety but also to the productivity of Canadian individuals and businesses and of the country's economy. Without the consistent application of climate vulnerability assessments to inform rail design, public confidence and trust in rail infrastructure will be fragile.
For example, floods and historic record water flows severely damaged Churchill, Manitoba's Hudson Bay Railway tracks on May 23, 2017, just a few short months ago. This major flood severely damaged five bridges, washed away 19 sections of track bed, and required that 30 bridges and 600 culverts be checked for structural integrity. This specific rail line transports food, supplies, and people to the remote community of Churchill, Manitoba, a community frequently visited by tourists during the summer months. With severe damage to the Hudson Bay Railway, service disruptions have now caused goods, services, and people to arrive by air transportation, an expensive mode of transportation to the northern community. The catastrophic damage to the rail line will take months to repair, causing major service disruptions to both individual and business productivity, as well as decreased public confidence in rail infrastructure.
Climate vulnerability assessments provide early awareness to planners regarding the potential impacts that extreme weather events could have on both public and private infrastructure in communities across Canada. Professional engineers in Canada are leaders in adaptation and are ready to work collaboratively with the federal government to provide unbiased and transparent advice to safeguard rail infrastructure from the devastating effects of climate changes. Engineers Canada, in conjunction with Natural Resources Canada, has developed a climate risk assessment tool that greatly enhances the resilience of infrastructure, increases public confidence in rail infrastructure, and decreases the severity of climate change impacts on individual and business productivity.
The public infrastructure engineering vulnerability committee protocol, also known as PIEVC, gives engineers, geoscientists, infrastructure owners, and managers a tool to design and construct rail infrastructure that will withstand today's rapidly changing climate. The protocol has been applied to a wide range of infrastructure systems more than 40 times in Canada, including with Metrolinx, and three times internationally. Engineers Canada encourages the federal government to invest in early assessment and prevention tools, such as the PIEVC protocol, to be a condition for funding approvals, accepting environmental impact assessments, and approving designs for rail infrastructure projects that involve rehabilitation, repurposing, maintaining, and decommissioning existing rail infrastructure. This investment will contribute to maintaining levels of service, safeguarding the environment, strengthening individual and business productivity, and upholding public safety.
Madam Chair, thank you for allowing Engineers Canada to present to the committee today on this important issue. We hope the committee will recognize that professional engineers play an integral role in Canada's transportation infrastructure and that our profession is ready and willing to ensure that Canada's railway system is resilient and safe and continues to be an enabler of Canada's economy.