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 ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her work as shadow minister for transportation.

One of the major issues within Bill C-49 is the passenger bill of rights. Of course, the Minister of Transport stood in the House and said that there were going to be stricter rules placed on airlines with respect to a passenger bill of rights. He appeared before the Senate committee and said, in fact, that he never said that there would be stricter rules, and we have the Senate now coming back with proposed amendments that would see stricter rules with respect to a passenger bill of rights. Based on the thousands of petitions that have been received and the signatures that are on those petitions, I would suggest that there is a very real appetite within this country to see a strict passenger bill of rights.

I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on that issue and on why the government is not accepting the proposed amendments from the Senate.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

Mr. Speaker, simply put, I think the bill was sold, long before it was studied at committee, on the basis that one of the centrepieces of the bill would be an air passenger bill of rights. I even heard the minister say that again this morning in his comments, yet we know that the bill would do nothing of the sort. It would not create an air passenger bill of rights. In fact, as I quoted in my remarks, the air passenger rights advocates are calling this section “...nothing more than some sort of sham.” It does not provide any specifics on what compensation levels for passengers under this bill of rights would be.

The Senate's amendments would basically give some degree of form to a passenger bill of rights by starting to put in place something that consumers can take a look at and say that these are some of the things they can expect to see in an air passenger bill of rights. However, we have none of that in the minister's motion before us.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I rise to speak to Bill C-49, I cannot look past the magnificent bouquet of flowers and the hockey jersey that I see in front me, a painful reminder that a member of our family has left us far too soon. I would personally like to extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife and their entire family. I take solace in knowing that their Conservative family will rally around them to provide comfort and support.

On another topic, it goes without saying that yesterday's sad news eclipsed an event that is a little more positive. Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of all the members elected to the House for the first time on May 2, 2011. I wish each and every one of them a happy anniversary. I would once again like to thank the people of Trois-Rivières who have placed their trust in me since then. I want them to know that in everything I do, and not just here in the House, I am always thinking about how I can do them proud and live up to their expectations.

I will now turn to the subject at hand, the debate on Bill C-49 that got off to a very strange start. The minister said it is not an omnibus bill because, for the most part, it is about just one act. However, there is so much going on in this bill that it is not at all clear how any of this can be rushed through. I do not think the word “rush” even applies in this case because we have been working on it and waiting on some of this legislation for two years now. For example, what of the air passengers' bill of rights that the NDP introduced in the previous Parliament? It was not a bill to study ways to create or implement regulations that could someday be included in a bill of rights. The NDP introduced a bill that contained a bill of rights with answers to all of the usual questions on the subject. At the time, the Liberals voted in favour of the NDP bill, even acknowledging the relevance of what we had done. Why reinvent the wheel when the MP became Minister of Transport in this government? That makes no sense. As I said earlier, there is an expression about biting off more than one can chew that seems very fitting in this case. What we are seeing here is an excellent example of that.

We have made tremendous efforts to speed up the process, because we know that there are many stakeholders in the various sectors affected by Bill C-49 who are waiting for a problematic situation to be resolved or a new procedure to be recommended.

To speed things up, the Standing Committee on Transport agreed to hold an intensive series of meetings in early September, a full week before the House of Commons reconvened. This morning, we agreed to cut our debate short so that we can proceed to a vote as quickly as possible at noon and give Bill C-49 the best possible chance of getting off the ground and solving some problems.

We could have done a much better job in a much shorter timeframe had the bill been split from the outset, when all the parties agreed on the grain transport measures. We could have dealt with that side of things quickly, taken appropriate measures, and prevented a great many farmers from being adversely affected by long, legislative delays.

However, the government's bills have a habit of favouring big corporations' bottom lines over workers' rights and consumers' best interests. Bill C-49 is no exception, hence the lack of meaningful protections for air passengers, its dubious worker surveillance measures, and the powers it grants the Commissioner of Competition.

Those are the main thrusts of my presentation; they are a clear indication of how we will be voting. Members will have no doubt understood. It goes without saying that the NDP has always fought for the interests of consumers and workers and that any bill that fails to defend those interests may not meet with its approval.

I am going to discuss Bill C-49 by putting its various elements into four main groups because I only have about twenty minutes to go over this bill, and a couple of them have already gone by.

With regard to grain transportation by rail, as I was saying, although the measures are late in coming, we should not reject everything outright, far from it. I am referring to the main measures concerning grain transportation.

Grain producers following the debate have experienced economic uncertainty since August 1, 2017, upon the expiry of measures meant to help producers and shippers negotiate better shipping rates.

We had already proposed not only that the bill be split, but also that we bring back the temporary measures created by the previous government while waiting for Bill C-49 to cross the finish line. That was rejected.

In the absence of safeguards to improve competition, producers must accept the rates imposed by two railway companies, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. Some might think that with two railroads there would be competition, everything would be going well, and that producers could find the best deal for the services they want. However, everyone knows very well that we are dealing with a duopoly. That is why the NDP twice proposed that the bill be split. I will move on because I have already spoken enough about that and time is flying by.

Although we voted against omnibus Bill C-49, we have always supported measures that affect the rail transportation of grain. We support the Senate's amendments on this issue and many others. We do so for the sake of consistency. Strangely enough, many of the amendments proposed in the Senate were almost exactly the same, give or take a comma, as those proposed by the Conservatives and the NDP when this bill was examined in committee. The party in power did not accept those amendments. It agreed to a few of them, after similar amendments were proposed by the Senate, but it rejected most of them.

As I said earlier, members of the opposition are not mandated by the public to systematically oppose everything the government does. The role of the opposition, which does not control the legislative agenda, is to point out that the party in power may not know everything about the bill it has introduced on a certain subject and that perhaps we could find ways to improve it if we worked together. That is why the opposition is trying to find solutions. Need I remind the government that 61% of voters voted for opposition members from various parties in the last election? I believe that those voices must be heard. Unfortunately, our democratic system falls a bit short in that regard. The sooner we implement the electoral reform proposed by a number of parties during the last election campaign the better. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not keep their promise in that regard.

I want to come back to the Senate amendments. We welcome the amendment that gives the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to conduct proactive investigations into rail transportation of grain. I almost feel like applauding but I will restrain myself, and hon. members will quickly see why. In fact, we are at the same time disappointed in the government's position to make this Canadian Transportation Agency initiative conditional on the minister's approval.

Once again we are seeing the centralization of powers into the hands of a single person who holds the title of Minister of Transport. Imagine how independent a Canadian Transportation Agency investigation will be if the agency has to first justify the ins and outs of that investigation to the minister. There is a good chance that the agency will be told “no” or “yes, on condition that... by focusing the investigation on...”. This inconsistency and ministerial intrusion is totally unacceptable. This completely changes the nature of the proposed amendment.

Next, I would like to talk briefly about voice and video recorders. Bill C-49 requires railway companies to install voice and video recorders in locomotives. We strongly oppose this provision, unless these recorders provide for better safety systems and prevent potential rail accidents by providing information. We had said that we would agree to installing these recorders if the recordings were used exclusively by the Transportation Safety Board to analyze a situation and look at all potential findings, which would help us improve how things are done. We refused to allow these recorders to be used to provide information on workers, even randomly. We initially thought this would be appropriate. However, this change could violate section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, as I was saying, companies could end up using these recordings to monitor employees or take disciplinary action, which we believe is completely unacceptable.

Often a train conductor spends more than 12 hours in his cabin. Can you imagine being in front of the cameras for 12 hours? That is our reality here in the House, but rarely for 12 hours in a row. What is more, we are not alone and we do parliamentary work. When a conductor is alone in a locomotive, he might end up talking to himself. If he gets a text message that puts him in a bad mood, he might make an inappropriate comment that could be used against him later. That is unacceptable to us. A bipartisan committee made up of representatives from Transport Canada and the major unions found that this was not the solution and that it was intrusive. The proposed installation of these voice and video recorders is therefore problematic.

I would also like to talk about the passenger bill of rights because it is truly hogwash. Everyone is talking about it, including the media. This is a critical topic that affects the vast majority of people watching us, since most of them travel by air for business or pleasure, for vacation or recreation. At some point, we have all had an unpleasant experience that made us wonder what recourse we had.

Bill C-49 almost entirely overlooks this very important matter. What it does say is that once the bill receives royal assent, extensive consultations will be held to establish regulations, which will be approved, amended or rejected by the Minister of Finance and that will lead to the creation of a passenger bill of rights. Even if Bill C-49 were to receive royal assent before we rise for the summer, we would still be without the long awaited passengers' bill of rights.

I gave the minister the benefit of the doubt. I said to myself that he believes the consultation is necessary because he does not yet know what position to take on some of the elements of this bill of rights and because he wants as much information as possible. He already has all the information he will get. I am familiar with the minister's reading and comprehension skills, and I know that he has the file well in hand.

This morning, I asked a question about a specific amendment the Senate proposed to reduce tarmac delays from three hours to 90 minutes before disembarking passengers. I am sure we all remember what happened to those Air Transat passengers just a few months ago. I think examples like that show that the Senate's amendment makes sense.

I asked the minister if he was rejecting the amendment because he is fundamentally opposed to it for clear, compelling, obscure reasons, or if he was rejecting it because it would be the subject of future consultations and regulations that will be proposed at some point. The minister rose and gave me a very eloquent explanation of why he was fundamentally opposed to the 90 minutes and in favour of the three hours. That made it abundantly clear to me that the minister has already made up his mind about what the Canadian Transportation Agency is going to suggest in terms of regulations. How many months are we going to have to wait for those suggestions? That is another unanswered question.

If his mind is already made up, why not put the bill of rights directly into Bill C-49? That would give us a chance to vote on a bill of rights, rather than on a process that will lead to a consultation that may eventually, by the next election, allow him to again campaign on the promise of a passenger bill of rights. People have been waiting far too long. They want answers.

For example, the bill of rights that the NDP proposed in the last Parliament was largely based on the European charter. According to many of the witnesses who testified during our studies, the European model is the gold standard. With regard to flights that are subject to the European regulations, the regulations need to be invoked in 0.4% of cases because of excessive wait times. However, that figure is four times higher for flights subject to Canadian regulations, for this metric alone.

I would like to quickly move on to my fourth point, namely measures concerning joint ventures. I think they provide a crystal clear demonstration of a slippery slope. If memory serves, Air Canada and Delta Air Lines have proposed a joint venture. Essentially, a joint venture proposal should be favourable. Two companies decide to pool their equipment, airlines, and services in order to offer passengers the best service at the lowest price. However, if a joint venture between two industry giants creates fierce or unfair competition for smaller industry partners, there is a fundamental problem that may completely undermine the level playing field we are aiming for.

Thank goodness for the competition commissioner, who used to be able to reject a proposed joint venture on the grounds that it did not foster healthy competition. However, Bill C-49 takes that authority away from the competition commissioner and gives it to the minister. For the sake of national interest, a very broad and often abused concept, the minister alone will be able to approve joint ventures, even if they go against the competition commissioner's recommendations, because making recommendations is all the commissioner will have the power to do from now on. I think that is completely unacceptable. It goes against the initial goal, which is to provide Canadians with better services and better fares.

I am out of time, so I will stop there. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to elaborate on some aspects of my speech when answering my colleagues' questions.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Sean Fraser Liberal Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for sharing the committee work with me.

I have two questions with respect to his comments under the passenger bill of rights and the proposed amendment that would limit the timeline to 90 minutes as opposed to three hours.

First, will he acknowledge that there is no legal obligation on air carriers today to compensate passengers for delays beyond that, that any measures that exist are purely voluntary, and that the law is therefore a step in the right direction?

Second, if we limit the amount of time at issue in this law to 90 minutes, does the member see risk that air carriers will respond by avoiding departure altogether and returning to the gate early when they see they could be facing a penalty, thereby further compromising the ability of air travellers to get to their destination altogether or in a timely way?

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Although we often disagree, I must say that I really enjoy working with all members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The simple answer to his question is no.

I must once again point out the irony of the fact that, although my Liberal colleagues seem to have very specific opinions on what the passengers' bill of rights should contain and why, they are refusing to include those measures in Bill C-49. It seems to me that they are talking out of both sides of their mouths if they refuse to budge on their proposal. Once again, we can compare this to the bills of rights in other countries and on other continents in order to compare apples to apples and ensure that a concrete plan is proposed rather than conducting yet another study.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-49 is an important piece of legislation, important enough that amendments were put forward by both the official opposition and the NDP at committee. These amendments were rejected by the Liberal majority on committee. The bill went back to the Senate, and the Senate came back with almost exactly the same amendments. I think that is a reflection of what Canadians would like to see in this legislation.

My hon. colleague spoke about these amendments. Why does he think that the Liberal government is not accepting the amendments that were made not just by the opposition and the NDP but by the chamber of sober second thought, the Senate?

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

It is often said that two heads are better than one. Sometimes many heads have the same ideas. It should signify a pretty broad consensus when the amendments proposed by opposition members from all parties at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the amendments brought forward by the Senate were so similar. It means that we are on the same page.

Why do the Liberals not agree with us when, as I said earlier, we represent 61% of the population and we are proposing the same amendments? There is really no need for this political posturing. However, that seems to be what is happening over there, since these amendments are being refused for reasons that I am at a loss to explain.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sit on the agriculture committee, and back in January it held an emergency session to look at service delivery and problems that western grain farmers were facing.

With regard to service delivery, the CTA would now have the ability to investigate service problems on its own without having to wait for complaints. There would be new reporting requirements on rates, service, and performance to try and enhance transparency, as well as competitive access through captive shippers and the second carrier through the new long-haul switching remedy. Would the hon. member not agree that we have addressed service issues that were critical to move grain in western Canada and that really we are on the right track here?

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would qualify that by saying that Bill C-49 will ultimately address a number of issues that have been facing farmers for months now. I would like to add that we are extremely sensitive to that and remind my hon. colleague that we proposed taking action much sooner to prevent these problems from happening in the first place, to ensure that the measures set out by the previous government would be extended beyond August 1, 2017, and finally, to ensure that the measures dealing with transporting western grain would be separated out of Bill C-49 so that they could be incorporated into the rest of the procedures as quickly as possible. I realize that we both share the same concern. I would advise my colleague to initiate a serious discussion within his own caucus to ask why they refused to fast-track that process.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Kanata—Carleton Ontario

Liberal

Karen McCrimmon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my hon. colleague for all his work on this issue. The work was done in a very collaborative way, and we appreciate that.

I want to reassure him that the approach we have undertaken with respect to the passenger bill of rights is in alignment with the European approach, in that Bill C-49 is the legislative framework for the passenger bill of rights and is equal to the European treaty article 79(2), which is the European legislative framework. Out of that flows the regulatory work, which in the European model is derived into flight compensation regulation 261/2004. Right now this is the legislative piece, and the regulatory piece will follow.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her kind words. I agree that the work in committee was collaborative. Why can this collaboration not continue?

My second issue is with her comment that their approach to the passenger bill of rights or the proposal is in alignment with the European model, which, as I said earlier, serves as a model for a number of legislative measures. We all agree. Why not include it, then? Why prolong the suspense, why drag things out, when hundreds of thousands of passengers are waiting for clear rules across the board? The government could have drawn upon these rules, or even amended them to reflect the Canadian reality. We are stuck in a vacuum with Bill C-49. The government wants to start consultations when everyone seems to agree that the European model is the one to follow.

Could the government pick up the pace and introduce an actual bill of rights?

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, for years I sat on the opposition benches in hopes that we would see legislation of this nature. Many different stakeholders, from prairie grain farmers to people who travel via airlines, have waited a long time for this legislation. The Prime Minister has always said that there is always room to make things better, but I believe this is a giant step forward in advancing the important industry of travel and transportation.

I would hope to see support as we deal with the finalization of the legislation, so I would like to get a clear indication from my colleague from across the way if it is the NDP's position to support the legislation at this stage.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do indeed remember, perhaps not all, but many of the years during which my colleague sat on the opposition benches because I was there too.

If memory serves, which I think it is this morning, I also remember that he voted in favour of an NDP motion to establish a passengers' bill of rights. I do not really see how a bill that contains nothing remotely like that can be considered progress. It seems more like a step back to me.

He asked for a clear indication. When I asked my Conservative colleague a question, I said I would support the Conservative motion calling on the government to be open-minded and accept all of the Senate's amendments. Many of them are amendments proposed by opposition parties of all stripes. If we are truly collaborating, then the government should give a little and I am sure we would find common ground.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-49 and the motion put forward by the government.

The message I want to get forward today is really about what brought us here and whether Canadian agriculture had to go through all this pain and suffering when we really did not achieve much at the end. What is disingenuous with the entire process is that over the last several months the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Agriculture were telling our producers, stakeholders, and shippers to hang on and be patient, that once Bill C-49 was passed it was going to resolve all of their problems and we would not have a grain backlog in the future.

I am going to speak more on the agriculture side than I will on some of the other elements of Bill C-49.

The inaction by the ministers and the government on this issue for almost a year has been mind-boggling. Last June my colleague, the shadow minister for transportation, put forward a list of amendments that would have addressed many of these problems we are facing, but they were turned down. Now we have them back on the table from the Senate. They went through the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and again through the Senate. Now they are here, and the Liberal government is saying it will be supporting a number of those amendments. I am not sure what changed over those 10 months; the Liberals could have supported those amendments last June, but they did not.

It was the start of time after time when the Liberals were given numerous options to get Bill C-49 through the process as quickly as possible, as well as to address many of the problems that our grain farmers across western Canada have been facing. Every time the Liberals were given an option to address the situation, which became a crisis in January and February, they did nothing.

Last summer, we encouraged the government to extend the provisions of Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, which extended interswitching and mandatory minimum volumes, a process that we had in place in 2013-14 when we went through the previous grain backlog. This addressed many of those problems. Our stakeholders, producers, grain terminals, and shippers were satisfied. They were quite pleased with that process. It gave the rail lines some accountability to ensure that they were able to move grain as well as other products, whether it was lumber, mining, or oil and gas. We want to make sure that all our producers have an opportunity to get their commodities to market.

In the fall, when Bill C-49 was first brought to the House, we saw that it was a massive document and that it was going to be extremely difficult to get any sort of consensus on a bill that dealt with everything from video recorders and locomotives to an air passenger bill of rights to interswitching. How were we possibly going to be able to find some sort of satisfaction among all stakeholders and within all the different points of view in our industries, let alone here in the House of Commons or in the Senate?

At that time we saw that this was going to be an issue. With the size and the scope that Bill C-49 entailed, we knew that getting it through that process with any sort of expediency was going to be nearly impossible. Once again we provided what I thought was a thoughtful resolution to the Liberal government, which was to split Bill C-49 into two bills. We would take many of the aspects of the bill that had to do with grain and grain transportation through the process as quickly as possible. Some of the other contentious issues that had to do with airline rights and other issues would take longer to go through the process, but we knew there was no time crunch or time sensitivity of the kind that there was on the grain side.

Last fall, with a larger-than-average harvest and the challenges CN and CP were facing in terms of meeting the contracts, we saw the rail line numbers dipping with each weekly report that was coming out.

We raised the alarm bells last fall that this was going to be a problem. We encouraged the government to split Bill C-49. I recall being in this House last October making almost the same argument that we were not going to get Bill C-49 through this process in a timely fashion to prevent another grain backlog. Again, it fell on deaf ears.

The result of that inaction last October, before we got to this point, was rail service that put us in a grain crisis. It is a crisis that still exists today. I do not think we can miss that point. Although we are here now, no problem has been resolved. We have road bans across the western provinces. We have more than 30 transport ships off the coast of British Columbia waiting for product. Those demurrage costs of $10,000 a day and up are now being passed on to the producers. Who will pay those additional costs that are now being passed on to our farmers across western Canada?

We have to keep that in mind as we have this discussion and this debate today. The crisis our farmers have been facing since last fall is still there, and it is not going away anytime soon. It is going to impact their fall season. They cannot move grain right now. Many of them are finally in the fields seeding. Road bans are in place in many of the western provinces, inhibiting their ability to actually transport grain to the terminal.

They are watching us today with a lot of focus on the decision we will be making in this House. How are we going to address the problems they are facing? The crisis has become so bad that our most recent report says that almost half a billion dollars' worth of grain is sitting in storage bins across western Canada. That is grain that our producers and our farmers cannot sell. They are unable to sell their product and get it to the terminal and then to the coast.

These same farmers who are unable to sell their product still have bills coming in. There are mortgage payments, lease payments on land, equipment purchases, and input costs as they try to get ready to start seeding. There are programs in place through Farm Credit Canada and the advanced payments program, essential programs that are in place to help in these times of extenuating circumstances.

I know that our producers do not want to have to rely on those assistance programs for a product they work hard all year to plant and harvest and are now trying to sell, but are unable to because of logistics.

As my colleague from Guelph said, we had an emergency meeting of the agriculture committee. I want to commend my colleagues on that committee for agreeing to have that emergency meeting with many of our stakeholders.

One of our witnesses at that meeting was a young farmer from Saskatchewan. I thought he put it quite well. He said, “We have to face so many uncertainties when we are in agriculture: uncertain weather, uncertain input costs, uncertainty when it comes to the commodity prices. The one thing we should be able to rely on is a reliable transportation system, which we do not have right now.”

One of the key issues with Bill C-49 is that it does not resolve those problems. We have gone through this entire process. As I said earlier, the Liberal government, the Minister of Transport, and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, through this entire process, have said that we should be patient, because Bill C-49 would address all the problems. Then just a few weeks ago, we had both ministers admit publicly that Bill C-49, indeed, will not resolve a lot of the problems that have been raised.

The government is asking our producers to suffer through yet another grain backlog, which should never have happened. The government had all the tools in place to address this problem, yet it did nothing. I can understand the frustration of our producers across the western provinces. They are looking at us today to take action to ensure that they never have to face this sort of issue again.

We have had many of our grain, barley, and pulse growers here over the last couple of weeks as they have had their days on the Hill. They have raised some other points that I do not think we have talked enough about as we have gone through this process. Not only is this grain backlog causing them to suffer because they are not able to sell their product, it is tarnishing our reputation as a reliable trading partner around the world. A lot of our producers are not getting a premium price for their product, because for all intents and purposes, Canada does not have a reputation for being able to get their contracts out in a timely fashion. We cannot meet our commitments to other countries. When prices are high in the fall, in October, November, and December, we should be selling our crops. We are not getting them to market, to the terminals, and to the west coast until the spring, sometimes a year later, so we are missing out on those premium prices, because we have an inept logistical system and an inept transportation system, a transportation system that has very little to no accountability.

Earlier today, the Minister of Transport was talking about one of the amendments the Senate had brought forward, which I think is critical. It is on “own motion powers” for the Canadian Transportation Agency. That was an amendment brought forward at the standing committee for transportation. It was an amendment brought forward by many of our stakeholders. They want accountability for the rail lines. If there are issues, and our stakeholders see issues, the Canadian Transportation Agency, once it receives a complaint, or even if it does not receive a complaint, can take action to try to address some of those key issues. It is a key part of Bill C-49.

The Minister of Transport earlier today spoke very highly about this part of the bill when he said that we are giving the CTA its own motion powers, which will make such a critical difference for our producers. In fact, in the amendment the Liberal government has put forward, there are no own motion powers. It states in the amendment that the authorization goes to the Minister of Transport. He will be the one who decides if the CTA can take action and put forward some guidelines, a template, on what action can be taken.

Let us put that into a perspective that I think all of us in the House today can understand. That is like my parents saying, “You know what, son? You can do whatever you want with your life, as long as it's okay with mum and dad”. That is what the Liberal government's own motion powers are in Bill C-49. Who is going to give that any credence? There is supposed to be some accountability in Bill C-49 for our shippers. However, this only comes into effect if it is okay with the Minister of Transport. It is okay for people to make their own decisions, but they have to ask the minister first. That has nothing to do with own motion powers. It is really quite hollow hearing that this is going to be a critical part of the bill, because it is taking the arms of the CTA and tying them behind its back.

As we have gone through this process, every step of the way we have offered the Liberal government a solution. My colleague, the shadow minister for transportation, has offered another solution today. She has brought forward an amendment that will concurred the Senate amendments to get this bill passed as quickly as possible.

We are not saying that we agree with every aspect of Bill C-49. In fact, I think we have heard in the debate today that there are still some significant issues with the bill. We also listened to our stakeholders. They need something that will give them some piece of mind that there is going to be some sort of legislation in place to help them address some of the problems they are facing.

We have had stakeholders like the CFA. They represent 200,000 farm families. The Grain Growers represent 50,000 active producers, and they are asking for no further delays on Bill C-49. They want it passed immediately. That is what my colleague's motion today will do.

We want to ensure that we can get this bill passed as quickly as possible. Again, every time we have offered an option or a solution to get this bill through the process, the Liberals have put in yet another step and delay.

They are saying today that if they do not support our motion, and they want our support to pass their amendments and the minister's motion, this all of a sudden will be a quick process. That is simply not the case. If the Liberals do not accept our motion and they pass theirs, Bill C-49 will go back to the Senate, and the Senate will have to agree to the Liberals' amendments. It is yet another obstacle to keep Bill C-49 from passing. This is going to be a ping-pong ball that will go back and forth, or maybe not. Maybe the Senate will agree to the Liberal amendments, but we do not have any assurance of that.

There are amendments they could have passed almost a year ago. There have been opportunities put forward to pass Bill C-49, or, what preferably would have been the case last fall, to extend Bill C-30, and we would never have faced any of these issues.

I am really encouraging our colleagues across the floor to support our motion today, pass the Senate amendments, go right to royal assent, and give our stakeholders the assurances they are looking for to ensure that they can get their job done. What this comes down to is our stakeholders' inability to get their products to market. We have a great deal of concern that this will spill into the fall as farmers get ready for next year's harvest. That has been the disconcerting part of it all.

I think my colleague across the way can understand the comments we heard at our emergency meeting last month on the grain backlog. Many of those witnesses came forward and said that they have given up on it this year. They know that they are not going to get their grain to market and are hoping that this does not impact next year's harvest and next year's shipping season.

I want to highlight that this bill is certainly not perfect. There are lots of concerns about what is in Bill C-49. I want to read some comments from the Premier of Saskatchewan, who has been extremely vocal in his concern about Bill C-49 and the problems it has caused in Saskatchewan. We have seen that Nutrien has just announced that it has laid off or is laying off more than 600 employees, which is going to impact maybe up to 1,300 employees in rural Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Premier said, “This is a direct result of the federal government not taking action where there is a huge problem, and they have the clear authority to fix it.”

What have the Liberals done in response to that? They have done nothing. Once again, they want to put this bill back to the Senate, which would delay this process even further.

We have to highlight the financial impact these delays have had. Again, $500 million in grain is sitting in storage bins across western Canada, not getting to market. We have now seen the job layoffs in Saskatchewan at Nutrien, and that is just one company, one potash company. Certainly there will be others that will be facing similar problems.

This is having implications for rural communities. If farmers cannot sell their grain, and they cannot get it to market, it means they do not have money in their pockets to spend in our small communities. That is grocery stores, gas stations, and little movie theatres. That is charities, ball teams, and fundraisers. Those are the things that are suffering because our farmers do not have money in their pockets. They cannot get their grain to market, and that is a direct result of the inaction of the Liberal government when it comes to this grain backlog.

The Liberals could have stopped it a year ago. They could have stopped it in the fall. They could have taken action with an order in council in January or February. Every single time, they have stuck up for the rail duopoly.

With Bill C-49, there is no accountability. Why have the Liberals made our grain farmers suffer through yet another grain backlog? When it comes down to it, they have really done nothing.

Transportation Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I consider my hon. colleague from across the way, the member for Foothills, a friend on the agriculture committee. We often disagree, but we generally are focused on our customers and constituents and how we can improve the agriculture industry in Canada.

Speaking of the industry, we are now shipping to order for the third straight week. Last week, 6,424 were spotted. The current demand is about 5,000 cars per week. Therefore, we are getting to the other side of the problem we were looking at in January.

However, working with the rail industry is working through legislation. Today, locomotives and cars are on order, and staff is being hired. I visited Winnipeg a few weeks ago and saw the training programs in place to get people on maintenance crews helping to refurbish locomotives. There are $3.4 billion in the capital program on rail, and we are looking at $400 million in track infrastructure as a part of that investment.

Looking at the transparency of the proposed legislation on what is adequate and suitable rail service and how the rail service providers will work with the shippers to determine the circumstances they are under with respect to adequate and suitable service, the shippers will have the ability to seek reciprocal financial penalties in their service agreement, which they did not have before. Therefore, the shippers would have a hammer to use in situations where they would not be getting service.

Does the member agree that we are getting better service through the rail companies largely as a result of the attention we are paying as a government and working with the opposition on this?