Transportation Modernization Act

An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Sponsor

Marc Garneau  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Transportation Act in respect of air transportation and railway transportation.

With respect to air transportation, it amends the Canada Transportation Act to require the Canadian Transportation Agency to make regulations establishing a new air passenger rights regime and to authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations requiring air carriers and other persons providing services in relation to air transportation to report on different aspects of their performance with respect to passenger experience or quality of service. It amends the definition of Canadian in that Act in order to raise the threshold of voting interests in an air carrier that may be owned and controlled by non-Canadians while retaining its Canadian status, while also establishing specific limits related to such interests. It also amends that Act to create a new process for the review and authorization of arrangements involving two or more transportation undertakings providing air services to take into account considerations respecting competition and broader considerations respecting public interest.

With respect to railway transportation, it amends the Act to, among other things,

(a) provide that the Canadian Transportation Agency will offer information and informal dispute resolution services;

(b) expand the Governor in Council’s powers to make regulations requiring major railway companies to provide to the Minister of Transport and the Agency information relating to rates, service and performance;

(c) repeal provisions of the Act dealing with insolvent railway companies in order to allow the laws of general application respecting bankruptcy and insolvency to apply to those companies;

(d) clarify the factors that must be applied in determining whether railway companies are fulfilling their service obligations;

(e) shorten the period within which a level of service complaint is to be adjudicated by the Agency;

(f) 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;

(g) require the Agency to set the interswitching rate annually;

(h) create a new remedy for shippers who have access to the lines of only one railway company at the point of origin or destination of the movement of traffic in circumstances where interswitching is not available;

(i) change the process for the transfer and discontinuance of railway lines to, among other things, require railway companies to make certain information available to the Minister and the public and establish a remedy for non-compliance with the process;

(j) change provisions respecting the maximum revenue entitlement for the movement of Western grain and require certain railway companies to provide to the Minister and the public information respecting the movement of grain; and

(k) change provisions respecting the final offer arbitration process by, among other things, increasing the maximum amount for the summary process to $2 million and by making a decision of an arbitrator applicable for a period requested by the shipper of up to two years.

It amends the CN Commercialization Act to increase the maximum proportion of voting shares of the Canadian National Railway Company that can be held by any one person to 25%.

It amends the Railway Safety Act to prohibit a railway company from operating railway equipment and a local railway company from operating railway equipment on a railway unless the equipment is fitted with the prescribed recording instruments and the company, in the prescribed manner and circumstances, records the prescribed information using those instruments, collects the information that it records and preserves the information that it collects. This enactment also specifies the circumstances in which the prescribed information that is recorded can be used and communicated by companies, the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors.

It amends the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act to allow the use or communication of an on-board recording, as defined in subsection 28(1) of that Act, if that use or communication is expressly authorized under the Aeronautics Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Railway Safety Act or the Canada Shipping Act, 2001.

It amends the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act to authorize the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to enter into agreements for the delivery of screening services on a cost-recovery basis.

It amends the Coasting Trade Act to enable repositioning of empty containers by ships registered in any register. These amendments are conditional on Bill C-30, introduced in the 1st session of the 42nd Parliament and entitled the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act, receiving royal assent and sections 91 to 94 of that Act coming into force.

It amends the Canada Marine Act to permit port authorities and their wholly-owned subsidiaries to receive loans and loan guarantees from the Canada Infrastructure Bank. These amendments are conditional on Bill C-44, introduced in the 1st session of the 42nd Parliament and entitled the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, receiving royal assent.

Finally, it makes related and consequential amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Competition Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Air Canada Public Participation Act, the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 and the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 22, 2018 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
May 3, 2018 Passed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
May 3, 2018 Failed Motion respecting Senate amendments to Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (amendment)
Nov. 1, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
Oct. 30, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
Oct. 30, 2017 Failed Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (report stage amendment)
Oct. 30, 2017 Failed Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts (report stage amendment)
Oct. 30, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
June 19, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts
June 15, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague I think is referring to the regulated interswitching that has always been in place and which will continue to be in place, for 30 kilometres. Nothing has changed from that point of view. What we have done is extended interswitching to 160 kilometres, with long-haul interswitching which goes out to 1,200 kilometres and which addresses all captive shippers. The grain industry is extremely important in this country. I know that. I have met with lots of farmers and shippers. It is 10% of what the trains carry. The other 90% very often represents resources that are important to Canadian provinces and communities, but they are captive because they are on the end of one line.

We are extending long-haul interswitching not just to the western provinces, but to all of Canada and to all sectors, so whether it is a forestry product or a mining product that happens to be in a captive shipper situation, they will have better access at more competitive rates. This is the whole plan. We are trying to come up with a long-term solution, not just a solution that will be a band-aid for a few years, but something that is long term and applies to all of the sectors. The reaction of the shippers up until now has been positive.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to debate Bill C-49, the transportation modernization act, at second reading.

The bill could simply be renamed the transportation omnibus act for the number of different bills being amended, with many of changes being more than just technical in nature. The Air Canada Public Participation Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the CN Commercialization Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act, the Coasting Trade Act, the Canada Marine Act, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Competition Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the 2009 Budget Implementation Act, and the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act are all being amended.

How this squares with the Liberal election promise not to use omnibus legislation is beyond me. Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining about an omnibus bill, just the fact that the Liberals did and then made a promise they knew they would not keep. Furthermore, when I introduced a motion in transport committee last week calling on the committee to write to the Minister of Transport and his government House leader to ask them to split the bill into the following sections, rail shipping, rail safety, air, and marine, to provide an enhanced and possibly expedited scrutiny, every single Liberal member voted against it without even a single comment as to why.

I found this vote particularly ironic, as it was the Liberal member for Niagara Centre who raised the idea of expediting the passage of the bill in the first place, in order to provide grain farmers with a greater amount of certainty as they negotiate contracts for future shipping seasons.

The more measures that a bill contains, the more time it takes to provide adequate scrutiny. Separating the bill would be the easiest way to facilitate expedited passage, and thus my motion calling on the bill to be split into several parts.

Unfortunately, Liberal members were unwilling to split the bill into these natural divisions. This does not inspire confidence that when the bill eventually does reach committee, the Liberal Party members will be open to any amendments. While Bill C-49 is supposed to be the Minister of Transport's legislative response to the 2015 Canada Transportation Act review led by the Hon. David Emerson, it would appear that what we have before us is a bill that is designed to change the channel from some of the bad news that keeps piling up for the Liberals.

The government's communications strategy for this legislation has overwhelmingly concentrated on the air passenger compensation regime that is being introduced, and not the other very consequential measures. Here is what the Minister of Transport posted on his Twitter feed as he introduced this legislation, “These air passenger rights will ensure that travellers are treated like people, not just a number.”

Like many members here, I travel a lot and only have positive things to say about all the employees working for the airlines and at our airports. Of course, on occasion, flights do not go as we hope, but the Minister of Transport appears to be willing to pit passengers against airlines rather than fixing the structural problems in Canada's aviation regime.

This legislation does not spell out what the compensation regime will be, just that there will be one. The bill states that after consulting with only the Minister of Transport, the Canadian Transportation Agency will make regulations concerning carriers' obligations toward passengers. However, for even greater clarity, subsection (2) of proposed section 86.11 states that the Canadian Transportation Agency must comply with any instruction from the minister with regard to setting regulations concerning carriers' obligations to passengers.

What this means is that the Canadian Transportation Agency is tentatively responsible for setting what financial penalties a carrier would have to pay to the passenger in the case of a service breach, unless the minister is dissatisfied with the level of prescribed compensation that the CTA decides is appropriate, in which case he or she can dictate what that level of compensation will be.

It is noteworthy that the agency will, by law, only be allowed to consult with the Minister of Transport concerning the setting of these regulations, and not with consumer advocate groups, airlines, airports, Nav Canada and other stakeholders in the sector.

I do not understand what the purpose of consulting only the minister is. If the Canadian Transportation Agency is to be an arm's-length organization, this legislation clearly diminishes its independence. If the minister will not allow the agency to independently set the parameters of the passenger compensation regime, he should just spell out in legislation what it will be and let members of Parliament and stakeholder groups decide whether this is a good proposal or not.

If this legislation were truly aimed at reducing the cost of travel for the passenger, while increasing service and convenience, the minister would immediately lobby to have the government's carbon tax, which will make every single flight more expensive, withdrawn. He would reform the air passenger security system, which was universally identified as a major irritant for all passengers during the Canada Transportation Act review by all the organizations that participated in the process.

While it would be preferable to have the sections of the bill dealing with air and rail examined as stand-alone pieces of legislation, I can only surmise that the government's complete mismanagement of the House's agenda has led us to the point where an omnibus transportation bill is what we have in front of us today. At least we have finally begun debating something in the transport sector, now that we are two years into the government's mandate. So far, the only achievement the minister has to show in terms of legislation is the act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

Let us talk about Bill S-2, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act. This was first introduced by the government's representative in the Senate 13 months ago and passed third reading in the Senate on February 2. The minister claimed that Bill S-2 was a priority in his speech to the Montreal Chamber of Commerce in November 2016, yet it has not been touched since.

On May 12, just days before the introduction of the legislation we are debating today, the Minister of Transport introduced the oil tanker moratorium act, a bill that his own officials conceded would only impact the future development of Canada's oil sands and no other activity in northern British Columbia. Equally concerning about this oil tanker moratorium, which could be renamed the oil pipeline moratorium, is that there is considerable support among first nations on B.C.'s coast for energy development opportunities, but the wishes of these first nations are being ignored. For the Liberals to move forward with this tanker moratorium without properly consulting coastal first nations is extremely hypocritical.

The Liberals go to painstaking lengths to emphasize the amount of consultation they undertake, but it is becoming more and more apparent that their interest in consulting is about being told what they want to hear and not about listening to differing views. If anyone needs further proof that Bill C-48 was introduced only for political purposes, it is that this moratorium has been introduced as a stand-alone bill and not as part of this omnibus package we are debating today.

The Minister of Transport's silence and inaction on critical and time-sensitive transport issues, especially rail transport, is leading to uncertainty for both shippers and the railroads, which both want certainty as they negotiate shipping rates for the season.

That is why over the past several months I have asked many times whether the government intends to renew the sunsetting measures in Bill C-30 before they expire on August 1, 2017. The response I have been given time and time again is that the government recognizes the urgency to get this done and that legislation is forthcoming. Unfortunately, the Liberals have made a muck of this, and the key measures in Bill C-30 will sunset before any replacement legislation can receive royal assent and become law.

Last week in the transport committee, a Liberal member moved a motion calling on the committee to begin its consideration of this bill, Bill C-49, in September, before the House begins sitting, to expedite the study of the sections of the bill that deal with the shipping of grain. While Conservatives have no objection to considering this legislation in September before the House returns from the summer break, government members fail to realize that our producers needed them to turn their attention to this months ago, as the measures will sunset on August 1 of this year. At best, there will be a two-and-a-half-month gap between when the measures in Bill C-30 sunset and replacement legislation is in place.

By the time this legislation has passed, the majority of contracts for this year will have been negotiated with the law in flux. Because of the government's mismanagement of the legislative agenda, these popular measures will sunset without replacement, and shippers will be the worse off.

This is important to note, because for a combination of reasons, including a lack of rail capacity, preparedness by railways and shippers, weather, and the size of the crop, western Canada's 2013-14 grain crop did not get to market in a timely manner. Consequently, the previous Conservative government introduced Bill C-30, which gave the Canada Transportation Agency the power to allow shippers access to regulated interswitching up to 160 kilometres, mandated that CN and CP both haul at least 500 tonnes of grain per week, and introduced a new definition of adequate and suitable service levels. With this extension, the number of primary grain elevators with access to more than one railroad with the extended interswitching limits increased from 48 to 261.

These measures were met with universal support from the members of the shipping community, because even if they did not use interswitching, they could use it as a tool to increase their negotiating position with the railways, as the shippers knew exactly how much the interswitch portion of the haul would cost them.

At the same time, the government announced that the Canada Transportation Act statutory review would be expedited, and it began a year early to provide long-term solutions to the grain backlog of the 2013-14 shipping season and other problems in the transport sector within Canada. The hon. David Emerson, a former Liberal and Conservative cabinet minister, was tasked with leading the review. This review was completed in the fall of 2015 and was on the Minister of Transport's desk shortly before Christmas. The minister then tabled this report in mid-February 2016 and promised wide consultations on the report. As the key measures of Bill C-30 were going to sunset on August 1, 2016, and parliamentarians were hearing from the shipping community that it would like to see these extended, Parliament voted in June 2016 to extend those provisions for one year.

In the fall of 2016, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities undertook a study of Bill C-30 and held a number of meetings on the merits of these measures and whether they should be allowed to sunset. We were assured that if we lived with this extension, these issues would be dealt with by August 1, 2017.

The vast majority of the testimony heard was supportive of maintaining the 160-kilometre regulated interswitching limit at committee, which is why the committee's first recommendation was the following:

That the Canadian Transportation Agency retain the flexibility provided under the Canada Transportation Act by the Fair Rail For Grain Farmers Act to set interswitching distances up to 160 km, in order to maintain a more competitive operating environment for rail shippers with direct access to only one railway company.

Anyone who has read this bill will know that the government ignored the committee's main recommendation. At some point during this debate, I hope to hear from Liberal members on the transport committee about whether they believe that the government was right to ignore the committee's recommendations, and if so, whether the entire committee study was just a waste of time.

Basically, what the government is proposing with this legislation is to replace the 160-kilometre interswitching limit with the creation of a new long-haul interswitching tool that would be in effect between Windsor and Kamloops on hauls of up to 1,200 kilometres, or up to 50% of the length of the entire haul. Shippers would be charged the regulated interswitching rate for the first 30 kilometres of the haul and then a Canada Transportation Agency-determined rate, which would be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the price of a similar haul, for the remainder of the distance to the interswitch point. Shippers would only be able to interswitch at the first available interswitch point within the zone.

What the government has done is take a little-used existing remedy, called a competitive line rate, and rename it long-haul interswitching.

Under a competitive line rate, a shipper could apply to the agency to set the amount of the competitive line rate, the designation of the continuous route, the designation of the nearest interchange, and the manner in which the local carrier would fulfill its service obligations. We know from history that this remedy was infrequently used because of the prerequisite that the shipper first reach an agreement with the connecting carrier, and the two main carriers effectively declined to compete with one another through CLRs. What we do not know is what the difference will be at a practical level between this new long-haul interswitching and the existing competitive line rates.

Like competitive line rates, long-haul interswitching is a much more complicated system for shippers to use, and the jury is still out on whether this will achieve the minister's stated objective of improving rail access for captive shippers. When Bill C-30 was first introduced, there was universal support among shippers for the extended interswitching. So far, very few organizations I have spoken to can say that this tool is better.

In conclusion, this much is certain: the key measures in Bill C-30 will be allowed to sunset on August 1, before this legislation receives royal assent. The Liberals have had nearly a full year to get new legislation in place but failed to do so, and shippers will suffer the consequences.

Canada remains one of the most expensive jurisdictions in which to operate an airline, and it is about to become even more so with the imposition of a national carbon tax. This bill does nothing to address the systemic cost issues, which are passed on to passengers, that were identified by the Transportation Act review. As has been the case with almost everything with the current government, optics trump everything, and this bill exemplifies that.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would have liked to have put this question to the minister, but I did not get the opportunity. I also had the pleasure of serving on the committee with the hon. member. Of course, she participated in the very long, intensive review on rail safety. I am sure she recalls when the minister used to stand in the House and say, “Rail safety is our number one priority”, yet that is exactly the measure that is not included at all in this legislation, nor have we seen a single measure tabled in this place to respond to our unanimous report.

What I am deeply troubled by is that the Liberals have hand-picked one of the measures that was highly contentious, which has to do with recorders. There was some concern that this information, if made available to the rail companies, would be used against the employees. However, what they have not dealt with is the issue of rail fatigue, which, according to the workers, is the real concern.

I wonder if the member could speak to whether she shares my concern that we have seen absolutely nothing come forward, apart from this one rather prejudicial measure, to address serious concerns across this country about rail safety.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for her question and for the work she did while she was on the transportation committee. I believe she was the member who was pushing for the committee to set in place a timeline for us to conduct the review of Bill C-30 to ensure that we were not bumping up against the deadline that we now seem to be bumping up against.

Definitely, rail safety was one of the first studies we undertook, when we were first elected, as part of our first session.

What is really interesting is that there have been a number of studies and very little action on the studies the committee has undertaken. As the member noted, the minister has stood up many times saying that rail safety is his number one priority. I find it somewhat curious that the ink was barely dry on the government's announcement that it would begin the review of the Railway Safety Act when it included a measure like the LVVR measure in this act, when it was about to launch a review of the Railway Safety Act. I do not know if this is by design or default, but it seems a somewhat incoherent approach to all matters in the transportation file.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of her speech the member was referencing all of the different transportation aspects the bill touches on. Knowing that we have an integrated transportation network within Canada and we are moving toward a transportation 2030 integrated strategy, is there one type of transportation that you would like to see removed from this discussion, such as air transportation?

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I think I pointed out at the beginning of my speech that what we have in front of us is an omnibus bill. We actually tried, in committee, to encourage the members to consider breaking out the different modes of transportation so that we could actually study them more effectively, and in fact, expedite those measures that are in Bill C-49, which were meant to replace the measures that were in Bill C-30.

My answer is absolutely not. However, I think that we could have taken a more systematic approach and not had all of these measures included in an omnibus bill, which is probably not going to get the due consideration it needs.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we were talking about is that on August 1, the last legislation we had is going to be sunsetting. However, I think something that people do not recognize is that the start of the crop year is August 1. That is when contract people are working hard to make sure they have their contracts and everything is set up with the rail providers. We now have this uncertainty because we are going to have this gap.

The other point, which I had mentioned to the minister in my previous question, is the difference between the 30 kilometres they are setting up and the 160 kilometres that has been analyzed as we have gone from 48 to 261 sites. It was done for a reason. There was a reason why the 160 kilometres was there, and this was the discussions that had taken place with various shippers and other groups.

On the whole, the legislation is going to weaken the shipper protections against railways and especially the protections for grain farmers in western Canada. I wonder if the member would comment on that particular position at this moment.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I know this is something that is very near and dear to the member's heart.

Coming from Alberta, knowing that the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act was actually addressing issues that grain farmers in the Prairies were experiencing, I can tell members that what we have been hearing from stakeholders, as they have begun to review the legislation and as they have begun to take these two pieces of legislation and compare them, is that they are confused. They do not understand exactly what the changes are meant to accomplish. They believe that the devil is in the details.

While they continue to look at this, they continue to highlight the fact that these measures in Bill C-30 are sunsetting on August 1. There will be a gap. That is why we asked the committee to consider calling upon the minister and the government House leader to break out at least the measures in Bill C-49 that would address the measures in Bill C-30 so that we could at least address the concerns of our shippers and our producers as they are bumping up against that August 1 deadline.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:45 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.

I want to say what a pleasure it is to work with her on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We agree more often than not on both the form and content of the bills that come before us.

I would like to ask her opinion on something very specific. This bill lacks substance, as I said earlier. It is airy-fairy. Many of the measures in it are so vague that we cannot tell whether they will be relevant or effective. I want to share just one example. The minister is increasing the foreign ownership limit for Canadian air carriers from 25% to 49%. He says this will make the market more competitive and result in cost savings for consumers.

That increase from 25% to 49% is from the Emerson report and was stuck into the bill with no explanation. There is even a University of Manitoba study showing that there is no connection between increasing foreign ownership and lower fares for consumers.

Is the government just making stuff up?

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate working with the member on committee. As he said, often we find ourselves on the same page when it comes to our responses to the governing members' comments and initiatives.

My response would be that the member is absolutely right. When we take a look at the measures that are included in Bill C-49, for some there are absolutely no real explanation for why they are included, except to perhaps state that they were part of the Emerson report. This is a report that the minister has had in his hands since December 2015.

As committee members, we thought that we were going to be taking a systematic review of that report and dealing with all of the recommendations that Mr. Emerson and his panel had come forward with. We have done none of that. Instead, in the last couple of weeks, what we have gotten is an omnibus bill that has a couple of issues chosen that the minister wants to highlight, rather than a systematic approach to looking at the issues within our transportation sector.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 10:50 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say that I am deeply disappointed in many ways, as I rise to speak to Bill C-49.

First, the bill was sponsored by the minister whose name I must not mention in the House, but who was an astronaut in his previous career. I admit that I have a virtually unbounded admiration for all Canadians who pursue a career as an astronaut. They are truly remarkable people with extraordinary resumés.

That is why when the Minister of Transport, a former astronaut—once an astronaut, always an astronaut, I imagine—told me in the House that he was studying the bill, that answer had tremendous value to me. I recognize him for the intellectual that he is, and I told myself that his reflections would surely bear fruit.

When I heard him answer that he was thinking about the relevance of the high-frequency train, for example, at first I was motivated and awaited his response impatiently. When the minister told us, month after month, that he was studying the transportation issues in Bill C-49, I told myself that the bill he finally tabled would be a bang-up piece of legislation.

For example, we are now awaiting the results of an inquiry into the events at Lake Saint-Pierre. I am thinking that will also be extraordinary.

However, on this rare occasion where the minister introduces something in the House, Bill C-49 in this case, I must say that my disappointment is as strong as my expectations used to be.

What do we find in this legislation, into which the minister has invested more than 18 months of study, thinking, reading and, I expect, exhaustive consultation? We find three kinds of measures.

I would say that the first category is made up of empty shells and the second, of questionable measures. The term “questionable” does not necessarily mean that they are bad. Some are definitely bad and should be removed. Others may deserve some amendments or would require a better argument to show how they may deliver on the promised Eldorado.

The bill does include a few good measures, which are sadly lost in a sea of measures trying to tackle any and all possible aspects of transportation. As a result, as happens too often in this House, we are asked to cast only one vote and to swallow a lot of nonsense in order to support the few measures that may make a difference. As my colleague rightly said earlier, this bill should be split in two.

Let us then focus on these three categories. I will try to give examples that are concrete enough to see what things could look like. Let us see first what has probably been, in the media, the most high-profile element of the minister's presentation on Bill C-49, the new passenger bill of rights. To me, it is the perfect example of an empty shell.

I said earlier, while asking a question to the minister, that in the previous Parliament, the NDP had introduced a passenger rights bill, which the minister voted for. The bill was complete and skilfully written. It was the result of much hard work. Let me give just one example to see what that bill looked like.

First, let us talk about cancelled flights, something that probably happened to each one of us. Clause 10 of the NDP bill provided for a reimbursement or re-routing. The clause reads as follows:

The air carrier shall offer without charge to every passenger to whom this section applies the choice between

(a) reimbursement of the full cost of the ticket at the price at which it was bought, for the part or parts of the journey not made—and for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger's original travel plan—together with, when relevant, a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity;

Furthermore, there was money allocated to all of that. We were therefore talking about flight cancellations and flight delays, with very specific and well-thought-out measures. We were also talking about the rights of passengers who, sometimes, have to wait long minutes, if not hours, on the tarmac because the plane cannot take off for some reason and who, at this time, have no rights. We were talking about passengers being denied boarding, their rights to be refunded or redirected, and their right to information. In short, this bill already contained all the necessary measures.

What does Bill C-49 propose? With regard to flight cancellations, we are going to ask Transport Canada to make proposals. With regard to flight delays, we are going to have to wait for Transport Canada's proposals. With regard to passengers' rights, including on the tarmac, Transport Canada will probably conduct a study on this. We realize that the list is getting longer and that, right now, air passengers have no idea what their rights will be under Bill C-49.

As we say back home, the minister has simply kicked the can down the road, but one day, he will have to deal with the can. The government is going to ask me and all members of Parliament to vote on that according to our conscience? Should I be for or against the total lack of substance? It seems to me like a figment of my imagination or an abstract idea on which I cannot vote. If the minister has not finished his bill, he should do his homework first, then present us with his bill later.

In fact, I find it rather puzzling that the minister asks airlines to comply with the spirit of the law while we are studying Bill C-49 and while the transportation agency will be drafting regulations that the minister could well reject, which would delay the process even more.

Could someone explain to me the spirit of an empty shell? I simply cannot understand it.

The foreign ownership limit for air carriers, which I asked about earlier, will increase from 25% to 49%. What is this decision based on? It is based on a recommendation of the Emerson report, which does not show beyond any doubt, or even with some doubt, the relevance of this measure when it comes to market competitiveness and the results or positive impact that it could have for passengers in terms of air ticket costs, for example.

A study by the University of Manitoba shows the exact opposite. It shows, beyond any doubt, that an increase in the foreign ownership of a Canadian airline cannot be linked to an effect on airfares.

Again, why is the government introducing this measure? I do not know. Bill C-49 is nebulous. I do not think we will be able to solve this issue given the short amount of time that will be available to the committee to study a bill as large as this one. There is another serious problem here, namely the Liberal bulldozer. The Liberals dragged their feet on introducing measures, that is, if there are even any in the bill, and they are now trying to rush the bill through.

I would like to come back to the agreements between airlines, which the minister also talked about. Again, like we have seen many times before, the legislation enhances the powers of the minister. I must say that every time that happens, a little light goes on. It tells me that we should be worried about what is happening. What powers does the minister want, and what good comes from it?

Basically, these joint venture agreements are nothing but a type of partial merger that is approved when rules of competition continue to apply. That is why entities like the Competition Bureau, which is the competition tribunal, exist.

Members will recall the joint venture between Air Canada and United Continental Holdings. These two airlines asked to merge their operations for 15 air routes. At the time, the Competition Bureau approved five of them, and the situation has not changed since then.

That means that even if that is against the rules of competition, in the public interest—another concept that is not defined in bill C-49—the minister could muzzle the Competition Tribunal, and authorize that joint venture for the 15 air routes. Again, there is a lot of uncertainty, and I am unsure as to how to vote on this bill, for as long as I do not understand its implications.

As for the Coasting Trade Act, maybe members will recall that during the elections, liberals had promised not to touch it. That is another example of a broken promise that liberals intend to be flexible on, circumvent, or, more specifically, break.

Therefore, what is being proposed in the bill? We are now told that the repositioning of containers, which was allowed only for Canadian shipowners, will now be permitted for ships registered in other countries. One could say this is meant to promote a competitive market, but we all know that foreign shipowners do not necessarily have to follow the same rules and the same requirements regarding their staff as Canadian shipowners. Chances are that we will never see what I would call fair competition.

Dredging and the carriage of bulk commodities will be allowed between the ports of Montreal and Halifax for ships registered in a member state of the European Union. I suppose this is meant for the government to implement the agreement it is about to sign with the European Union.

However, before making such a public statement, one should specify what the reciprocal measures are to look like. Will Canadian ships be allowed to carry bulk shipments on the other side of the Atlantic? The bill does not say anything about this. The law would also be amended to allow ports to obtain financing from the famous infrastructure bank, which everyone talks about because it would not serve anybody's interest, except the Liberal Party's wealthy friends.

Let me remind everyone that the infrastructure bank is supposed to finance projects worth $100 million or more. Therefore, for an ordinary port like the one in Trois-Rivières, I am not sure that bank is the finding of the century. This is part of the measures that are not very well explained in the program.

As far as the Railway Safety Act is concerned, it would have been interesting to see a clear and precise provision in the bill ensuring that a rail bypass was built for our fellow citizens in Lac-Mégantic. Instead, we are being told again that corporations' interests will prevail over the workers' interests. Among other things, railway companies will have to equip their locomotives with voice and video recorders.

First of all, if the goal is to give the Transportation Safety Board, or TSB, additional tools so it can investigate after an accident and make sure that whatever caused it would never happen again, one could say that the voice and video recorders are the equivalent of the black box aboard airplanes and might be acceptable. The point where things become unacceptable is where railway companies have access to these audio and video recordings for, perhaps, security reasons, but also potentially to monitor the work of their own employees. It bears asking whether such a measure, which enables employers to watch employees through a camera lens all day long, violates the employees' right to privacy. This question has to be asked.

It is especially important to ask how having a voice and video recording device in a locomotive would somehow resolve the issue of conductor fatigue. That is a problem that has absolutely not been resolved. Ostensibly for security reasons, we have completely side-stepped the main issue and the main risk factor, namely human fatigue. It is absolutely unbelievable; so much for that.

The previous speaker spoke at length about grain transportation. There is a glimmer of hope in that section of Bill C-49 that could alleviate some of the long-standing concerns that producers have and potentially address the issue of standards sunsetting on August 1. I have a really hard time understanding this. Given the time necessary to give a bill royal assent, even in a streamlined fashion, I fail to see how royal assent could come down from the Senate like a dove from the sky before August 1.

There an urgency about these measures, and a lot of them seem interesting, but they cannot be demonstrated, and we do not have the time to consult with key stakeholders to see if, for example, new provisions about interswitching fit their needs, and if the new ways to calculate the guaranteed minimum income meet their expectations. There are several.

I want to talk about two things. It is clear from what I am trying to explain, and will not have the time to finish, that supporting this bill at second reading will be very difficult for me. That being said, even if I vote against Bill C-49 at second reading, I will make sure to work as hard as possible in committee to propose amendments to strengthen it. We could even support the bill at third reading if the Liberals can show its usefulness.

For this purpose, in the interest of consistency and to prioritize issues of grain transportation and postpone studying the bill's other sections that do not involve such tight deadlines, I seek unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-49, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts, tabled in Parliament on May 16, 2017, be amended by removing the following clauses: (a) clauses 3 to 13 and 22 to 59, related to grain transportation; that the clauses mentioned in section (a) of this motion do compose Bill C-51, an act to change temporary agreements related to grain transportation; that Bill C-51 be deemed read a first time and printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for the referral to the Standing Committee on Transport; that Bill C-49 retain the status on the order paper that it had prior to the adoption of this order; that Bill C-49 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.

That is the motion, and it is a simple one. It seeks to remove from Bill C-49 all clauses related to grain transportation, so that we can quickly study the legislation in time for the August 1st deadline. We would look at the remaining clauses later.

That is both my proposal and my conclusion.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 11:10 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question.

The events we have witnessed over the past few weeks undoubtedly made an impression. I had hoped that Bill C-49 would feature a clause setting out clear, straightforward rights for passengers who are “victims” of overbooking.

We are being told that Transport Canada will submit a proposal to the minister sometime over the coming months, a proposal which the minister will be free to accept or refuse. If he were to refuse it, the question of passengers' rights would be delayed even further. As I mentioned, when it comes to the passengers' bill of rights, Bill C-49 is an empty shell.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 11:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the problems the hon. member saw in the legislation.

He mentioned the use of equipment for recording audio and video, and that this had some problems around it. The Railway Safety Act is very specific that this equipment is only to be used under prescribed circumstances defined within the act, and that rail equipment needs to have that equipment on board for it to be operated within the limits of the legislation.

The Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act says how the information that is collected would be used, how it would be restricted, and who would have access to that information.

Is there part of this that is not getting interpreted or is part of that still causing a problem with the hon. member?

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 11:15 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. I would be curious to know who the minister consulted on that specific subject. I have a feeling that workers' groups were not consulted.

If such a recording device were available to the TSB to help them get to the bottom of what caused a particular accident, I would not necessarily be against it. What really bothers me is what little we are doing to help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

Where are the provisions in Bill C-49 that would make it so that accidents are not recorded on audio or video tape because they never happened in the first place? Where are the provisions around train conductor fatigue? Where are the provisions that will prevent accidents from happening or at least reduce their occurrence as much as possible?

Audio and video recording devices will not prevent accidents. They only allow us to understand what happened after the fact and maybe help us reduce or prevent the same type of accident. However, nothing in Bill C-49 addresses the issue of train conductor fatigue.

Transportation Modernization Act

June 5th, 2017 / 11:15 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his hard work on this bill and for raising many cogent points. He did not have the opportunity of participating in the rail safety review, although he is well aware of those issues since he comes from Quebec.

A serious concern that was raised during the previous review on rail safety was regulatory capture. That was one reason that there was unanimous agreement that the government needed to expedite a review of rail safety. The concern was that Transport Canada appeared to be, by and large, from what we looked at, captured by the sector. Now the minister is suggesting that the passenger bill of rights will be developed by Transport Canada. There seems to be a pattern of reverting back to an entity of which there are suspicions that there is regulatory capture.

I wonder if my colleague could speak to that and to his concern that there has not been enough consultation. Perhaps the government should come forward with a clearer idea of what it plans to do in initiatives like the passenger bill of rights, which our former colleague spoke to almost every day in the House when he was elected.