I call this meeting to order.
Welcome, colleagues, to meeting number five of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The committee is meeting in public and is being televised today. I would like to save half an hour at the end of our meeting to discuss committee business.
As you are aware, the subcommittee on agenda and procedure met Tuesday evening, and you should have all received a copy of the subcommittee's draft report. I'd also like to advise the committee that after the constituency week next week, we will be able to sit twice a week. Our next meeting will be Tuesday, November 17.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), the committee is meeting today to study report 1, “Follow-up Audit on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods”, of the 2020 fall reports of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of September 23, 2020. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The the webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entire the committee.
To ensure an orderly meeting. I would like to outline a few rules.
You may speak in the official language of your choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of either the floor, English or French.
For those participating via Zoom, before speaking, click on the microphone icon to activate your own mike. When you are done speaking, please put your mike on mute to minimize any interference. Should members need to request the floor outside of the time that has been given to them by me, you should activate your mike and state that you have a point of order. If a member wishes to intervene on a point of order that has been raised by another member, you should use the “raise hand” function. This will signal to me, your chair, that you have an interest to speak and then I can create a speakers list. In order to do so, you should click on “participants” at the bottom of the screen. When the list pops up you will see, next to your name, that you can click “raise hand”. This function creates a list of speakers.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the use of headsets with a boom microphone provided by the House of Commons is mandatory for everyone participating remotely who needs to speak. Of course, if any technical challenges arise, please advise me.
I'd now like to welcome our witnesses.
Joining us today, from the Office of the Auditor General, are Andrew Hayes, deputy auditor general and interim commissioner of the environment and sustainable development; Francis Michaud, director; and Kimberley Leach, principal.
From the Canadian Energy Regulator, I would like to welcome Gitane De Silva, chief executive officer; and Sandy Lapointe, executive vice-president, regulatory.
From Transport Canada, we have Michael Keenan, deputy minister; Aaron McCrorie, associate assistant deputy minister, safety and security; and Benoit Turcotte, director general, transportation of dangerous goods.
To our witnesses, you will have five minutes to make your opening statements.
We'll begin with Mr. Hayes.
You have the floor, Mr. Hayes.
Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to discuss our follow-up report on the transportation of dangerous goods, which was tabled in Parliament on October 27.
Joining me today are Kim Leach, the principal responsible for the audit, and Francis Michaud, who was on the audit team.
Dangerous goods are solids, liquids, or gases that when spilled or released have the potential to harm the health of Canadians and other living organisms, property, or the environment. Examples include crude oil and petroleum products, toxic and explosive gases, flammable and infectious substances, radioactive materials and corrosive chemicals. These goods play a key part in Canada's economy and society.
They are transported throughout Canada by rail, road, ship, air and pipeline. Spills and releases of dangerous goods can happen with any mode of transportation, and accidents can have tragic consequences. Therefore, these goods require special protection to ensure their safe transportation.
It is the job of Transport Canada to monitor and enforce transporters' compliance with laws and standards that are met to ensure that dangerous goods are transported safely. It conducts inspections at rail, marine, road and air facilities and buildings where dangerous goods are manufactured, stored, or received.
Another of Transport Canada's oversight functions is reviewing and approving emergency response assistance plans prepared by companies transporting dangerous goods. The Canada Energy Regulator, formerly the National Energy Board, plays a similar role by overseeing federally regulated oil and gas pipelines.
Our recent audit followed up on specific recommendations from the audits focusing on the transportation of dangerous goods that we completed in 2011 and 2015. The audit also focused on whether the organizations followed up with companies that had contravened regulations to ensure the companies returned to compliance, among other things.
Overall, we found that since our 2011 audit, Transport Canada had made some improvements in the areas we followed up on. For example, it strengthened some of its policies, procedures, systems and guidance.
However, Transport Canada has more progress to make to address the problems we identified to support the safe transportation of dangerous goods. We found the department still had not followed up to ensure that companies addressed the violations identified through inspections. For example, the department had not verified that companies took corrective action on 30% of the violations we looked at.
In addition, the department had not given final approval to many emergency response assistance plans. These plans outline what is to be done to respond if dangerous goods that endanger, or could endanger, public safety are released while being handled or transported. These plans must demonstrate that specialized personnel and equipment are available in a timely manner to help first responders, such as firefighters.
We found that approximately one quarter of the plans had not received final approval, some of which had had interim approval for more than 10 years.
We also found that, although Transport Canada had developed and implemented a national risk-based system to prioritize its inspections, the underlying data was incomplete and outdated. For example, almost one third of the sites included in the national inspection plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year turned out to be closed, had moved, were duplicates or may no longer have been involved in the transportation of dangerous goods.
In other words, at the time of our audit, Transport Canada did not have a clear picture of the community that it regulates or of the compliance status. As this committee knows, data quality has been a common theme in our performance audit reports across government. Good quality data is needed for good quality decisions.
We made five recommendations to Transport Canada and the department agreed with all of them. In its response the department included specific timelines.
With respect to pipelines, we found that since 2015 the Canada Energy Regulator had largely implemented the three recommendations that we followed up on and improved its oversight of companies that build and operate pipelines. For example—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to join you today.
My name is Gitane De Silva and I am the chief executive officer of the Canada Energy Regulator, or the CER. It's an honour to appear here today on behalf of this organization. I am joined by Sandy Lapointe, the CER's executive vice-president, regulatory.
I first want to acknowledge that I am speaking to you from the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty Seven Region in southern Alberta, which include the Blackfoot Confederacy, comprising the Siksika, Piikani and Kainai First Nations; the Tsuut'ina First Nation and the Stoney Nakoda, including the Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley First Nations.
The city of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, region 3.
The Canada Energy Regulator is a new organization that takes a modern approach to energy regulation. Our governing legislation was passed only last year. The CER itself came into being about 15 months ago, replacing the former National Energy—
Thank you. I apologize.
The CER itself came into being about 15 months ago, replacing the former National Energy Board. I'm new too. I started in this position last summer.
My job is to lead the CER forward with a new strategic plan, new mission and vision, as well as with four core responsibilities, which are safety and environmental oversight, energy adjudication, energy information, and engagement.
I am also focused on delivering the CER's four new strategic priorities, which include reconciliation, data and digital innovation, enhancing Canada's global competitiveness, and building the trust and confidence of Canadians in the CER.
The mandate of the CER is to regulate infrastructure to ensure safe and efficient delivery of energy to Canada and the world, protect the environment, respect the rights of indigenous peoples and provide timely and relevant energy information and analysis.
I'd like to begin by stating that safety is the CER's absolute priority. Our commitment to keeping people safe is at the core of who we are and what we do. As many of you have likely heard, sadly, there was a tragic incident resulting in a worker fatality last week at a Trans Mountain pipeline work site near Edmonton. On behalf of the CER, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and all those affected by this tragedy. This is a truly heartbreaking event and a loss no family should suffer.
I would like to share with the members of this standing committee what the CER has done following this tragedy. Work at this site was halted, and two CER safety specialists were immediately sent to the site. Their role was to provide oversight of the respective investigations of the company and the contractor and to conduct an assessment of risk and non-compliance.
Last Friday the CER issued an inspection officer order to Trans Mountain regarding the incident. As the regulator, we share, along with provincial authorities, responsibility for overseeing occupational health and safety measures for the Trans Mountain expansion project. The lessons learned from this investigation will be used to prevent other tragedies in the future.
Now, turning to the Office of the Auditor General's release of its follow-up audit on the transportation of dangerous goods. The audit focused on the extent to which the CER and Transport Canada followed up on recommendations from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's 2015 audit focusing on the transportation of dangerous goods.
As Canada's national energy regulator, the CER welcomes this audit, as it verifies that the systems the former NEB implemented in its response to the 2015 audit are in place.
The 2015 audit put the organization on a path to identify what was important and to up its game.
I am pleased that, overall, the OAG found that the CER has largely implemented the recommendations from the last audit and that we have improved our oversight of companies that build and operate pipelines. More specifically, they commended the CER’s operations regulatory compliance application, or ORCA system, that is used to track and document compliance oversight activities. The OAG also noted that we have improved our follow-up measures to make sure companies take corrective actions to address any non-compliance activities.
The OAG did have one recommendation relating to how the CER documents the analysis of filings for the approval of conditions. The OAG recommended that “the Canada Energy Regulator should ensure that it has documented its analysis of companies’ submissions about how pipeline approval conditions have been satisfied”. The CER agrees with the OAG’s recommendation.
We are taking steps to address the OAG's finding and to implement corrective action by the end of 2020. Specifically, we will ensure that the correct documentation is added by updating the guidance to our staff and the systems that we operate.
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to come before you today to speak about the work of the CER. We are committed to continual improvement, and we will always take on board any measures—like this audit—that can help us become a better regulator.
Before I wrap up, I would like to thank the CER staff, who worked so hard on this audit. Their professionalism and passion are greatly appreciated.
I look forward to your questions.
Good morning. It's good to see you again, Madam Chair.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts today.
As part of the audit of Transport Canada’s transportation of dangerous goods program, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development issued five recommendations to Transport Canada.
At the outset, I would like to thank the interim commissioner and his team for their rigorous review of the program. We take very seriously the findings and the recommendations from this audit, and we've begun implementing them.
We also recognize and appreciate the value of this audit in helping us to continually improve our oversight and the safe transportation of dangerous goods in Canada and to deliver on our mission to be a world-class regulator.
As noted in the audit, Transport Canada has made some important progress in terms of addressing the earlier recommendations from the CESD. These include implementing agreements with all provinces and one territory to share data related to the transportation of dangerous goods, given that it is an area of shared effort between governments; clarifying requirements for the review and approval of the emergency response and assistance plans, the so-called ERAPs; and adopting a risk-based plan to target inspections.
Following the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, Transport Canada began a series of immediate and longer-term actions to further strengthen federal rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods. Actions were taken under the following pillars: promoting open transparent government and community engagement, enhancing international collaboration, and reinforcing the oversight regime.
Transport Canada also amended regulations to impose stricter requirements on the securement of unattended trains and to require that railway companies carrying large volumes of dangerous goods reduce the speed of their trains.
Regarding oversight, the department has overseen the implementation of a more robust oversight regime in recent years. The number of oversight personnel employed by the transportation of dangerous goods program has quadrupled from around 30 inspectors to over 100, and approximately 5,900 inspections are planned in 2020, compared to 2,300 in 2012.
While these actions represent significant progress in improving rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods, we fully accept the findings of the CESD regarding the need for further improvement. We have already started taking action and have implemented changes to address two of the five recommendations. The first relates to procedures and training for inspectors to ensure that follow-up on violations is undertaken by companies, and the second involves a more rigorous oversight process ensuring that facilities do not operate with expired registrations.
We are working on the other three recommendations, and they will be addressed over the next two years through continued improvements and the implementation of a national risk-based oversight system by refining and modernizing data collection efforts to better understand the national rate of compliance and the emerging risks in the transportation of dangerous goods and by addressing the delays in the final approval of the emergency response assistance plans.
Madam Chair, I should say that our progress in addressing these recommendations is closely related to the organizational transformation we've undertaken across all of Transport Canada, with the top priorities being shifting from paper-based to digital work processes, transforming our service delivery and modernizing our safety regulations and oversights.
In our safety oversight programs, we're working to use digital platforms and tools for our inspectors to enable our system to be responsive and risk based, to enable us to have common oversight processes and to make better and more effective use of data and analytics in driving our oversight program. The work under way to improve the TDG program is really an important element of this broader departmental strategy. For example, we're modernizing digital information systems and allowing for better capture and analysis of data to have a comprehensive risk-based oversight of regulated companies in this program. One example is the new TDG inspector information system, which is currently undergoing beta testing. We plan to roll it out in the spring of 2021. That will no longer allow inspections to be closed off or completed until there's a confirmation of follow-up.
In closing, we are committed to ensuring continued improvement in how we deliver our program to ensure safe transportation of dangerous goods in all modes of transport in Canada, and we would greatly appreciate the analysis, critiques and recommendations of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development in informing and shaping our efforts.
My colleagues and I look forward to your questions and comments.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
First of all, Mr. Hayes, my thanks to you for your report highlighting what has happened at Transport Canada over the past few years.
Ms. De Silva, I would also like to thank you very much for your testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Keenan. This is not the first time we have had the opportunity to speak. I would like to say that Transport Canada has made progress over the past few years on rail improvements since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. Many improvements have been made, but allow me to focus on what can be further improved, Mr. Keenan. I feel it is important.
A report like the one tabled by Mr. Hayes is worrisome for people in the Lac-Mégantic area. In that respect, to put you in context, I will read two passages from the mayor of Lac-Mégantic's open letter:
The day after the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic, consciences awoke, political will rose, and committees mobilized. But seven years later, are we collectively forgetting what happened that night?
A little further on, she writes:
But what I am asking you today, out of a duty to remember, is to see to it that everyone moves to action, and does so quickly. If reports are this worrisome seven years later, something is wrong. I would thank you to take the reports seriously.
Mr. Keenan, I saw in your responses that you had decided to take action, but what worries the people of Lac-Mégantic a lot is the response time given this shift to digital you are undertaking. How can you assure the people of Lac-Mégantic right here, right now that measures are being taken and you are acting as quickly as possible? When I look at the current report, I see many gaps. It shows that the department has not followed up on violations identified during inspections. Some of the gaps raised in 2011 have yet to be corrected.
Mr. Keenan, in a nutshell, what can you do to speed things up? Actually, what we want is to make things go even faster.
Thank you for the question.
It has been years since the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic, but it still looms large, not just for the citizens who suffered in that community but for the whole country. We continue to drive and push our program of dangerous goods and railway safety to ensure that we don't allow a tragedy like that to happen again.
I fully understand the mayor of Lac-Mégantic's concerns.
I can say that we are working across multiple avenues to continue to dramatically improve the rigour of the program on dangerous goods and the program on rail safety.
In particular, Transport Canada has taken a series of strong enforcement actions in the Sherbrooke subdivision over the last two years to get at a number of issues that came up with the operation under the CMQ.
Mr. Keenan, I understand, things always take time. However, the people of Lac-Mégantic are concerned; several things have happened.
Over the past few years, Transport Canada has made a commitment to correct the shortcomings, but with each report, we can see that things are still going backwards. In his report, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development states the following:
1.30 We found that in 18 (30%) of 60 violations, Transport Canada did not verify that companies took corrective actions to return to compliance...
- had no evidence to determine whether violations have been resolved, and that it did not follow up with companies to obtain the required evidence
It's very disturbing to read that when you have experienced and gone through a tragedy like the one in Lac-Mégantic.
In 2009, I sent a letter to asking that dangerous goods no longer be transported by rail through Lac-Mégantic because the tracks were in terrible condition. Unfortunately, I did not even get an acknowledgement of receipt from Transport Canada or the minister's office. We know that those tracks were not built for trains running at such a low speed.
People are still worried, Mr. Keenan. What follow-up have you done on this matter? I could ask Ms. Crandall to send you the photos I received this morning of the current condition of the tracks. It would be good to send them to all committee members as well. Despite repairs by Canadian Pacific, Lac-Mégantic still has safety issues.
Mr. Keenan, you have set deadlines through to 2021. Honestly, with the staff you have, I wonder how you are going to be able to speed things up so that the next commissioner's report is not as devastating. Despite the progress, sadly, major gaps still remain.
Again, thank you to all the witnesses for the presentations to us today. I'm going to follow up on data with Mr. Keenan. That was something I had a question about.
First, I'm looking at the audit scope.
Mr. Hayes, I was very interested when I read in the audit that you were using sustainable development goals as part of your audit plan, specifically target 3.9, which is: “By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination.”
Are we typically using the United Nations sustainable development goals as part of our audit plans?
I'll comment generally, and I may invite a supplementary response from my colleague, Mr. Turcotte.
We are doing exactly that. We're building a system where inspectors use hand-held devices to enter data directly. We're putting in more sophisticated digital databases to escape the kinds of problems that the CESD found with some of the data quality. If there were three infractions under the same section of the TDG reg, it would only be reported once.
We're working to fix all of that to get a continuous cycle of better data, both from our inspections and other sources, in order to have a risk-based inspection plan. We would then have frictionless inputting of data from front-line inspectors. The other part of the equation is that we've had a more than tripling in the number of front-line inspectors than the TDG warrants. There's more data, better data, and a better plan.
Good morning, Mr. Hayes, Mr. Keenan and Ms. De Silva. Thank you for your presentations, which were very interesting.
I agree with what my colleague Mr. Berthold said. We are all familiar with the Lac-Mégantic tragedy seven years ago. It left very painful marks on everyone. It's important that we explore potential solutions and areas in need of improvement so we can prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again.
My first question is for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr. Hayes.
I looked at your report. Based on what we can see on railway inspections, is it possible to require railway safety inspectors to apply enforcement measures? Transport Canada standards do not really do enough. As an Officer of Parliament, can you order reform in that respect?
I want to make sure I understand, Mr. Keenan. Are these inspectors specifically assigned to the transportation of dangerous goods program?
I have here a QMI Agency article from July 2013, following the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. At that time, Transport Canada stated that it had 101 railway inspectors and that the number had not changed in the previous six years.
However, according to you, the number of inspectors rose from 30 to 130 between 2012 and 2020. So it quadrupled. I am trying to understand, because when I do the math, from 2013 to 2020, only four new inspectors would have been brought in per year, on average.
That's a very good question. Thank you for the opportunity to be more precise on this issue.
At Transport Canada there are two different major programs of inspection: the transportation of dangerous goods, which includes rail, but also includes marine and air and, through provincial authorities, road, and that implements the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act; and we have a separate program of rail safety inspectors who implement the Rail Safety Act.
In the case of the transportation of dangerous goods, the number of inspectors has increased from 30 to 130, which is more than a quadrupling of their number.
I think the statistic you're referring to probably relates to rail safety inspectors. In the statistics I'm looking at, that number increased from 107 in 2012 to 152.
The number of rail safety inspectors went up by about 50% and the number of dangerous goods inspectors went up by over 300%.
Thank you, Mr. Green and Madam Chair.
I really appreciated hearing the presentations from our witnesses and I'd like to thank them for being here today.
By way of introduction, the region that I represent, Skeena—Bulkley Valley, comprises about the northwest quarter of British Columbia. It includes CN Rail's main line, which runs through a number of communities, including such communities as Fraser Lake, Burns Lake, Houston, Smithers, Hazelton, Terrace and Prince Rupert. A large volume of dangerous goods is transported along that main line, and there are several projects that would increase the volume of those dangerous goods. This situation makes the report we have heard about today an issue of such great concern for people in the riding I represent.
The Alta Gas project is a propane terminal in Prince Rupert with 60 cars per days currently servicing the project. The Pembina terminal is just about to be opened and will bring another 28 cars per day, and the Vopak project, which is currently in assessment, will result in the movement of as many as 240 railcars per day.
Many of the communities along CN's main line are protected by volunteer fire departments, and their mayors have expressed deep concerns over the years about the transport of dangerous goods and their ability to respond to emergencies.
I'm reading from this report. I'll read a couple of the passages that stood out to me from Mr. Hayes' presentation:
We found that the department still had not followed up to ensure that companies addressed the violations identified through inspections. For example, the department had not verified that companies took corrective action on 30% of the violations we looked at.
In other words, at the time of our audit, Transport Canada did not have a clear picture of the community of companies it regulated or of the compliance status.
This is of grave concern to people in our region.
My question is for Mr. Keenan. You mentioned that you plan to address these shortcomings over the next two years. I'm wondering what you would say to the mayors, to the volunteer fire departments and their fire chiefs, and most importantly to the residents who live along that rail line in northwest B.C. Should they have to wait two years to have these shortcomings addressed?
That's a very good question.
Madam Chair, as the member has indicated, that is a busy rail line through those communities. The answer is no, they shouldn't have to wait for two years. The two years indicates when we think we'll be done implementing fully all five recommendations.
Concerning the one the member raised with respect to our following up on compliance on the majority but not all of our findings and violations and issues, let me say that we're moving now. The CESD noted a 30% rate of our not following up; we've brought that figure down since the CESD found that. We believe we're almost at zero and we're in the process of putting in place a tool for inspectors in early 2021 that will require that it go to zero, because they won't be able to close a file until they've verified that there is 100% follow-up on compliance.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a motion. I'm hopeful the we will have unanimous support for it.
It is merely calling out what the Auditor General had requested in her testimony. I will read the motion into the record en français:
That the Standing Committee on Public Accounts call upon the government to provide the auditor general with the $31M she has requested that is required for her to achieve the Office of the Auditor General objectives, and that the committee report this to the House.
I believe this motion should have unanimous support, as it merely formalizes the request made by the Auditor General.
She did say in her testimony that, in fact, the government was sending positive signs that they were going to provide her with this information. As I'm sure all members of the committee are aware, the Auditor General's work is extremely important. If her office is not properly funded, we miss out on getting important information that will allow the government, and indeed all parliamentarians, to make better decisions, as great decisions are based on great information.
I look forward to your questions and comments on my motion. I look forward hopefully to getting unanimous support of the committee.
I agree with you, Madam Clerk.
I believe everyone is giving a thumbs-up that we do have agreement to support this motion.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Lawrence, I'm not sure if you have any time left.
Madam Clerk, do you have the clock still running, or are we through the six minutes?
Thank you very much for the question.
Of course, the CER expects to have zero incidents from its regulated companies, and, as I said before, safety is really at the core of everything we do. We did deploy two safety inspectors to the site immediately following this tragedy, and then further to their inspection we did issue an inspection officer order, which requires Trans Mountain to comply with a number of issues.
I could perhaps pass it to my colleague, Sandy Lapointe, who is the head of our regulatory section, who could give you more specifics on what that inspection officer order entailed.
Madam Chair, I have a very brief question for Mr. Keenan and Mr. Hayes. Then I'm going to yield to my colleague from Nova Scotia, Mr. Blois.
I had the privilege of visiting the town of Lac-Mégantic with Mr. Berthold—it is in his constituency—after our government took office in 2015. We visited the site and spoke to the people, who were really affected by this tragedy. I know this issue is very important, not only for the people of Lac-Mégantic, but for all Quebeckers and all Canadians.
Mr. Keenan, in point eight of his testimony, the Commissioner stated that the department had not verified whether companies had taken corrective action to return to compliance in 30% of the violations reviewed. I guess his office did not look into all violations. You talked about the steps you have taken to rectify the situation.
If the auditor came to your department today, would he see that the 30% rate has been significantly reduced?
I can only agree with you and the minister from the region on the impact and the devastation of the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic.
In terms of this issue, you are absolutely right: the CESD did note it was 30%. That is too high. If he examined that today, he would find a rate that is way below 30%. It's not quite at zero, but we're getting it close to zero. By early 2021, we'll have a system in place that requires that rate to always be at zero.
I would add one more point about the effort, because you speak to the need to increase and accelerate our progress wherever we can. One area where we did manage to accelerate progress in the protection on dangerous goods was in the phasing out of lower quality railcars for tank cars. In 2014 we phased out the DOT-111s and had a phased schedule for going to the highest safety ratings on the so-called 117s. We accelerated that three times in the intervening years. Some of the medium- or intermediate-quality tank cars that were supposed to be on the rails until 2025 have already been removed from service in Canada.
Thank you, Mr. Fergus and Madam Chair.
I'm going to ask my question of Ms. De Silva, but I'll make a comment to Mr. Keenan, and perhaps he can address it in his remarks at some other time. It concerns how you actually get the data and the compliance information from the companies and whether or not Transport Canada has enough resources in regions. Is it about having enough personnel on the ground? I'll let you address that another time.
Ms. De Silva, you mentioned in your remarks that one of the priorities for the energy regulator is being globally competitive. I assume there's a bit of a tension between creating the certainty that's needed for companies to invest here while obviously not compromising safety but making sure that we have a regulatory system that is clear. In your mind, how do we go about creating that global competitiveness such that we can draw investment to our country?
You are correct that our legislation does, in fact, explicitly state that we have an obligation to enhance our global competitiveness.
A few of the things that we're doing in that regard are to increase the transparency and predictability of our various processes. Part of this includes putting increased information online. We also have a commitment to provide energy information and analysis, so we're working right now to put about 60 years' worth of data—which we have currently in binders and PDFs—online and accessible to people. We're also working to automate some of our simpler application processes to decrease the timelines involved in them, and also to help people better understand where they are in the process.
We also regularly engage with industry and a wide variety of stakeholders to understand where the challenges may be and then incorporate that feedback. One of the things we're doing at the moment is looking at our onshore pipeline regulations and launching a review of them. We are looking for input, because we are very focused on this point, and as you said before, we are looking to enhance global competitiveness while always putting safety first, protecting the environment, and advancing reconciliation, all at the same time.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. De Silva, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is underway, and the situation concerns me, particularly when it comes to emergency preparedness.
In 2015, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development's report on monitoring pipelines under federal jurisdiction made some rather striking observations. It noted room for improvement in the review process for company emergency manuals, using the most recent audit as a benchmark. A third of the manuals reviewed still lacked key information.
The Pipeline Safety Act took effect on June 18, 2016. What is happening with the Canada Energy Regulator in this regard?
How has the situation evolved since 2015 and since these new regulations came in?
In the opening statement of Mr. Hayes, he mentioned that with respect to pipelines, the Auditor General has found that, since 2015, the Canadian Energy Regulator has largely implemented the three recommendations.
I just want to congratulate Ms. De Silva for her wonderful work and the work of her staff. I think it's fantastic that you've addressed these. That is a good thing.
I have a very quick question about the tragedy in Edmonton—and, of course, my sincere condolences go to the family.
How long was that site halted for, Ms. De Silva, or is it still halted?
Okay, I'll just move on, then.
We do know that transporting goods such as oil is much safer by pipeline than it is by rail. It is also more environmentally friendly. At the same time, we are continuing to increase our transport of oil by rail. In the last 10 years it has almost doubled, which I don't understand.
I guess I would address my questions to Mr. Keenan.
In the text of your statement, Mr. Keenan, you mentioned that Transport Canada has “also amended regulations to impose stricter requirements on the securement of unattended trains”. My thought here is: Why do we have unattended trains carrying dangerous goods? How frequently do unattended trains carry dangerous goods?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank all of the witnesses for their testimony and presentations today.
The stat that really stood out to me today was that 99.998% of our transportation of dangerous goods obviously resulted in the right outcome that we're looking for. It's clear that there's more work for Transport Canada to complete, and I think Mr. Keenan has recognized that. Not to take away from any of the events that have happened, but I think we certainly have a great standard.
Mr. Keenan, I want to go back to you to talk about the regional capacity element. Can I let you quickly address that?
We engage with industry regularly to get their feedback on what they feel is working and where they see room for improvement.
Transparency is one thing that they're focused on. Certainty and understanding our processes are always key. They're pleased to comply and submit the right information; they just want to be sure they're clear on what that information is.
We're always looking to improve that process. As I said before, one of the things we're doing at the moment is looking at our onshore pipeline regulations and seeking feedback there on what could be improved.
As you pointed out, we are always looking to other jurisdictions. We want to make sure that we have the best possible systems in place, so we're involved with a number of fora, both within Canada and internationally. One example is the Western Regulators Forum, where we work with western provinces to see what they're doing and how we can better collaborate. We're involved in avenues such as the OECD, and we consult with our American colleagues.
Really, I wouldn't say there's any one system, but we're always looking for opportunities. Often it's very incident specific and geographically specific. There are a whole variety of factors there. We look for those opportunities to share that information on what we can.
Thank you very much, Mr. Berthold.
Do we have unanimous consent for points three to nine in the report, as presented?
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Thank you very much for that.
It's very efficient. I hope it is to your satisfaction, Mr. Green.
Finally, we will look at points one and two. Perhaps I will turn it over to the clerk to provide some context for these two points in the report for the members of the committee who are not part of the subcommittee. Then we can move into debate.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
For the members' information, our committee has been a member of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees for a number of years. Every year, the CCPAC hosts an annual conference of all members, which includes the members of the public accounts committee of each province and territory. They have asked us on a number of occasions to host it. We've never been able to. They've asked us to host the 2022 annual meeting. The previous rendition of this committee had agreed to do that. Because of the election and the prorogation, that is now for this committee to decide.
We've made some informal, tentative moves to move forward because of the time. I will provide members with information about the association. I was able to find some actual paper copies of programs; I couldn't find any electronic ones. I will scan them and send them to the members shortly.
Basically, it's a question of the committee deciding whether or not it will host the meeting and then giving the chair and me instructions to prepare a budget that the committee would then adopt and take to the Board of Internal Economy for approval. We then see what kind of situation we can set up in case there is an election before 2022 and members of a new committee don't have a chance to vote on hosting this meeting.
It's really the beginning process steps. Previous chairs of this committee who spoke to you a couple weeks ago were certainly very in favour of the federal committee's hosting this.
In a way we're a bit delinquent, not for lack of trying, but because of the circumstances of elections and prorogations. If it's the committee's interest in moving forward this way, we did take the step of having the chair of our committee elected to the executive board, which would give them an opportunity to participate in discussions for planning future meetings. Ms. Block would be that representative if the committee decides to host the 2022 meeting.
If you have any questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would agree that we should host it. I would hazard a guess that the majority of the work would probably fall to our analysts or our resource staff of the committee. I would be interested to know, even though it's 2022, who would be helping to plan this? Would it actually be the chair in cooperation with the clerk and other analysts and other resources? Who would actually plan this?
I think that's what Mr. Longfield was referring to in saying that we should be a little tentative and that he wants to know a little more. It very well could not be us by the time 2022 comes around, but if there are other individuals who can continue that work regardless of who sits in the chair of this committee, then I think of course we should move forward with it.
Madam Chair, I can speak to a couple of those issues.
The budget is actually relatively small. We ask for a certain amount of money, and then we are reimbursed by the registration fees. The costs are also shared with the legislative auditors. It's a joint meeting. Part of the meeting is held together and then each group goes off and does its business meeting. They share the costs sixty-forty. They're smaller, so they get 40%. It ends up that the actual dollar amount is not very large for this size of a conference. It's only held for approximately two and a half days. There's a registration fee, and of course people pay their own accommodations and whatnot.
In terms of who does the planning, the executive committee is made up of the chair of the public accounts committee of the host for the present year, the chair of the committee that hosted the previous year, and the chair of the committee that's hosting the following year. They do the planning, and the implementation is done by parliamentary staff and the Auditor General's office staff as well, because they are jointly involved with the planning.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We will be providing a proper agenda of past meetings, but perhaps I could take just 30 seconds here. It's a typical conference. It's three nights and two to two and a half days long. There is an opening cocktail reception and usually a plenary. The bulk of things will take place on the second day.
Usually on the second evening there is the expectation of a meal that's part of an excursion. In the past we went to a colonial site. There was a meal presented in a traditional cabin, a huge cabin. Other things included boat cruises, bus tours and things like that. On the second day there is keynote speaking and guest speakers. By the end of the second day, usually the auditors group will separate and the public accounts group will separate and have meetings. In the past four that I've been to, the chair of federal public accounts committee has always been invited to speak, as has the Auditor General.
It is a combination of most conferences that we've all attended. That's sort of the general structure. There would likely be, for people coming to Ottawa, a lot of excitement, because it isn't one of the provincial capitals. The Gatineau hills, the canal, the rivers and that sort of thing would also come into effect.
Thank you very much, Ms. Yip.
I appreciate all of the interventions that have been made on this motion.
I'm wondering if the committee is ready to adopt the motion in the report regarding this conference.
I'm seeing thumbs up. All right. It looks like that's supported.
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Shall the report be adopted?
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: Great.
Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, November 17.