Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, colleagues. It's great to be back with you.
Thank you for inviting me here to speak about the supplementary estimates (B) for Transport Canada and other agencies and Crown corporations within the federal transport portfolio.
I am also pleased to introduce the officials who are here with me from Transport Canada: Michael Keenan, deputy minister; Ryan Pilgrim, assistant deputy minister, corporate services, and chief financial officer; Nicholas Robinson, associate assistant deputy minister, safety and security; and Stephanie Hébert, assistant deputy minister, programs.
Mr. Chair, in past appearances before this committee, I’ve talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine have caused global supply chain disruptions that affect our supply chain here at home. Our government understands the impact that these challenges can have on Canadians, including the rising costs of living.
I’ve also stressed that the safety and security of the transportation system is my highest priority.
That's why I was pleased to introduce Bill C-33, the Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act.
It addresses both of these priorities.
Bill C-33 would strengthen our supply chain, make Canada’s transportation system more competitive and ensure that its operations are safe, secure, efficient and reliable. I look forward to seeing the legislation progress, as it would keep essential goods flowing and make life more affordable for all Canadians.
I also recognize the need to keep people moving. You will notice the high-frequency rail project mentioned a number of times in the supplementary estimates for both Transport Canada and VIA Rail.
As outlined in budget 2022, after years of important work, the time has come for some big steps forward for this major project. The high-frequency rail project would see a new, dedicated intercity passenger rail network connecting Toronto, Peterborough, Ottawa, Montreal, Trois-Rivières and Québec City. It would allow for faster, more frequent and more reliable trains with better service to major hubs and new links to communities.
There are funds in the supplementary estimates to support the procurement process and to select a private development partner to co-develop the project with the Government of Canada. A collaborative public-private partnership will help to maximize the project’s benefits for all Canadians.
A new VIA Rail subsidiary will serve as the project delivery office and will serve as the strong public sector counterpart to a private development partner.
The funding would also support important activities like work on the impact assessment process, indigenous consultations, development of socio-economic benefits, municipal and public engagement, access to railway infrastructure and rail safety updates. Funding in the supplementary estimates would also help with work to assess opportunities for improving passenger rail service in southwestern Ontario.
HFR represents a major investment.
The HFR is the biggest investment in passenger rail in Canada in a generation. VIA Rail and its employees will continue to be key partners in this project, and are essential to its success and advancement.
We are also seeking funds in this year's supplementary estimates to improve rail transportation for remote indigenous communities in northern Manitoba. The objective is to maintain safe, reliable, viable and sustainable transportation that meets the specific needs of communities between The Pas and Pukatawagan, supporting social and economic development. Many of these communities are only accessible by rail. They need this service to access economic opportunities and essential goods and services, including health care.
There's also a request in supplementary estimates (B) to support the extension of the oceans protection plan, as outlined in budget 2022.
The Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment Canada has ever made to protect our oceans and coasts.
The new funding requested would further protect our coastlines and waterways in four critical areas: continuing efforts to deliver a world-leading marine safety system, including improving how Canada responds to marine emergencies; increasing protection for marine species and ecosystems; creating stronger partnerships with indigenous and coastal communities; and strengthening marine research and science.
This work would continue to help safeguard our oceans and coastlines, while enabling supply chain resilience and supporting economic growth. By renewing and expanding the plan, we are committing to build on the progress we have made since its launch in 2016.
Finally, I also want to mention our plan to accelerate the development of light, medium, and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles, as detailed in budget 2022. This will be implemented through existing grant programming.
Canadians have made it clear. They want clear air, good jobs, and lower costs. By making zero-emission vehicles more affordable, we are helping to reduce pollution, create more well-paying jobs, and build a cleaner world for generations to come.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have.