Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Good morning. It's a pleasure to be back with you at this committee today to discuss Transport Canada's main estimates and supplementary estimates (C).
I thank the committee for inviting me to take part in its work.
I'm joined today by representatives from Transport Canada. Here for the first time as deputy minister is Arun Thangaraj. Ryan Pilgrim is chief financial officer and assistant deputy minister of corporate services.
I'm happy to be here today because it gives me an opportunity to discuss the important work Transport Canada has been undertaking on behalf of Canadians.
As much as I would like to never mention the word “COVID-19” again, we continue to live through some of its lingering impacts. The extraordinary disruptions to travel and supply chains we witnessed over the last two years are, fortunately, improving. We remain focused on addressing these challenges and are determined to learn from many of the lessons learned during that period.
Budget 2023 outlines several initiatives that will fundamentally transform and improve our supply chain. While I'm happy to discuss budget 2023 with you today, you invited me here to talk about the main and supplementary estimates.
Let me go over some of the ambitious actions the estimates are funding: introducing Bill C-33, the strengthening the port system and railway safety in Canada act; making sure Canada's air transport sector is reliable and safe for travellers; taking strong steps to meet our climate commitments; and continuing to strengthen Canada's rail system.
In the supplementary estimates (C) for fiscal year 2022-23, the main estimates for fiscal year 2023-24 and budget 2023, you will find many examples of how committed our government is to ensuring Canadians have a safe, secure and sustainable transportation system.
In my opening remarks, I will highlight a few of those examples.
In the main estimates for Transport Canada, you will see grant funding for the very successful program for incentives for zero-emission vehicles. Our plan to accelerate the deployment of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles was detailed in budget 2022.
By making zero-emission vehicles more affordable, we are helping to reduce pollution, create more well-paid jobs, and build a cleaner world for generations to come.
The main estimates also include a $270-million increase in funding, when compared to the previous main estimates, for work toward high-frequency rail, a project that I know this committee is very much interested in.
On February 17, I was in Montreal to announce the launch of the request for qualifications phase for the HFR project, in order to identify and qualify up to three top candidates to build a new, dedicated intercity passenger rail network connecting Toronto, Peterborough, Ottawa, Montreal, Trois-Rivières and Quebec City. The new dedicated rail line will complement and build on Via Rail's current services, driving transformation in the populated corridor. This is the biggest investment in passenger rail in Canada in a generation, and the largest transportation infrastructure project Canada has seen.
You will also notice that Via HFR, a new subsidiary of Via Rail, is included in this year's estimates. Via HFR was created in November 2022 to advance the HFR project. As a wholly owned subsidiary of Via Rail, it will operate in close collaboration with Via Rail but at arm's length. This will allow Via Rail to focus on its core responsibilities while Via HFR will develop the world-class expertise necessary for designing and advancing the HFR project.
In the main estimates for Via Rail, there is funding to support Via Rail capital projects. Also, budget 2023 announced funding for maintenance on trains on Via Rail routes outside of the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.
Our government will also continue to work with all Crown corporations to ensure they have the resources needed to continue to properly deliver their essential services. For example, in the main estimates, there is funding for the Federal Bridge Corporation Limited to help offset the impact of pandemic-related reductions in revenue. Just last month, I announced $75.9 million for the Canadian Transportation Agency to ensure they have the resources they need to address passenger complaints.
Our government was the first in our history to implement the air passenger bill of rights. We have strengthened it since 2019, and we will continue to do so. That's why in budget 2023 we announced proposed changes to the Canada Transportation Act to strengthen airline obligations to compensate passengers for delays and cancellations.
Finally, in the supplementary estimates, you will see funds for eastern Canada ferry services. These funds would help to address increased fuel and labour costs amidst lower revenues due to lingering effects of the global pandemic.
I'm confident that the investments in the supplementary estimates (C) and the main estimates will keep people and goods moving efficiently and effectively and advance a safe, competitive and clean transportation system.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my remarks. I'm happy to answer any questions you and our colleagues may have.
Thank you very much.