Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-49.
Our rail transportation system is essential to Canada's reputation as a reliable trading partner. It is one of the economy's driving forces. That is why our government is taking a proactive approach by introducing this bill. The proposed measures will support the system's commercial orientation, which has made Canada's freight rail service one of the most efficient systems with some of the lowest freight rates in the world—even lower than in the United States.
Railway companies have also made significant investments to make Canada's rail transportation system more efficient and safe. That is why this bill also includes measures to promote future investment. This bill not only adds to our success, but will also ensure future risk management. Even if the rail transportation system is currently doing fine, there are some pressures to handle.
Canada's freight rail legislative framework must address these pressures, and that is why Bill C-49 would foster a balanced, efficient, transparent, and safe freight rail system. Overall, the freight rail measures in this bill strike a delicate balance between railway and shipper interests and provide the right conditions for our freight rail system over the long term. These legislative provisions would provide shippers with stronger tools so they can access the highest level of service at the best possible rates.
Through their diligent work in reviewing Bill C-49, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has proposed amendments that would further strengthen Canada's freight rail legislative framework. Amendments made by the committee include providing captive shippers in British Columbia, Alberta, and northern Quebec with access to long-haul interswitching; extending the notice period for the removal of interchanges and clarifying that the removal of an interchange does not relieve a railway of its level of service obligations; advancing the timelines for the coming into force of the new data requirements on service and performance metrics to six months following royal assent; and tightening the timelines for the posting of these metrics on a weekly basis by the Canadian Transportation Agency, which would improve transparency. Together, these amendments would strengthen the freight rail provisions while maintaining the balance that Bill C-49 is intended to achieve.
Safety is also a critical element of our future success, and that is why this bill includes important measures on voice and video recorders. We recognize that the greater use of technology can often create challenging and complex dynamics in the work environment. I am certain that my hon. colleagues can appreciate that this is the case with the proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act, which would mandate the installation of voice and video recorders in the locomotive cabs, including both freight and passenger trains.
As background, allow me to remind my hon. colleagues that the call for in-cab voice and video recorders was added to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's watch list in 2012. Further, the question of mandating this technology has been studied numerous times and been the subject of various recommendations from technical industry working groups, the TSB, and parliamentary committees. This includes, over the years, Transport Canada working groups, with the participation of the railway industry and labour unions, to study the feasibility and safety benefits of requiring this technology in locomotive cabs, specifically in 2006, 2009, and 2012. The latter resulted in the adoption of a voluntary approach whereby railways were encouraged to install the devices on a voluntary basis. More recently, there have been calls for a mandatory regime in the independent Canada Transportation Act review report and in the 2016 report of a committee of this House, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has always supported a regime such as the one being proposed in this legislation, which is outlined in their safety study on in-cab recorders published in September 2016. In that report, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded that to maximize safety benefits, the use of data obtained from these recorders should not be limited to post-accident investigation, but rather should be used to also support proactive safety management.
The government has carefully considered and examined how to maximize the safety benefits of this technology while respecting employee privacy. This is why the changes we are proposing specifically define, limit, and control access to, and uses of, the data obtained through these recordings in accordance with Canadian privacy laws. As my hon. colleagues can attest, this is a comprehensive and balanced approach that would significantly advance railway safety while expressly supporting employee rights.
Bill C-49 also proposes a new, transparent, and predictable process that takes into account both competitive and public interest considerations in the assessment of air carrier joint ventures. Under the proposed process, the Minister of Transport would receive a report from the commissioner of competition identifying any risks to competition. The minister would assess these arrangements from a public interest perspective and make a decision taking both competition and public interest considerations into account.
As mandated by the amendments made at committee, a summary of the commissioner's conclusions and the minister's final decision would be made public to ensure the transparency of the process. Making this information public would inform Canadians of the grounds for granting or refusing a joint venture arrangement, and under what conditions, and would likely help build public confidence in the process.
Also, due to a clerical error, the text of the French language version of the adopted amendment continues to make the publication by the commissioner of competition a voluntary step in the process instead of a mandatory one. There is a government amendment being proposed at report stage today that would correct this clerical error so that the English and French versions of this bill will be aligned.
To conclude on this topic, it is expected that joint ventures would lead to better connectivity and an overall improvement in the air passenger experience, while ensuring competition.
As it relates to air passenger screening services, Canada's largest airports have expressed an interest in improving the timelines of passenger screening, either through additional screeners or technological innovation. At the same time, some smaller non-designated airports have expressed an interest in obtaining screening services to help develop economic opportunities. The proposed amendments to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act are important, as they would create a more flexible framework to allow CATSA to provide these services on a cost-recovery basis, which would in turn allow Canada to maintain an aviation system that is both secure and cost-effective.
Additionally, important amendments to the Canada Marine Act are proposed that would allow Canada port authorities to access loans and loan guarantees from the newly created Canada infrastructure bank, which would support investments in Canada's trade corridors and infrastructure projects, contributing to our long-term growth as a nation. Finally, Bill C-49 would improve the efficiency of Canada's supply chain by allowing foreign vessels to reposition owned or leased empty containers between locations in Canada on a non-revenue basis.
In summary, Bill C-49 provides critical objectives, including fair access to shipper remedies, efficiency, long-term investment, transparency, and safety. I urge members to support Bill C-49 in its current form and to adopt it as quickly as possible so that the right conditions will be in place for a successful winter season in our rail transportation system.