moved that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Customs Act, the Railway Safety Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, the Marine Transportation Security Act, the Canada Transportation Act and the Canada Marine Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, before I begin my remarks, let me just take a moment to pay tribute to our friend and former colleague Marc Garneau, who resigned this week from his seat as a member of Parliament. Marc Garneau was a member of Parliament who served with dignity and pride. He served Canadians throughout his career in various roles. I know he will be deeply missed by his constituents and certainly by his friends and colleagues here in the House of Commons.
Today, I am building on the work that he started when he was the Minister of Transport. I just want to acknowledge and recognize the work he has done. It gives me great pleasure to build on a lot of the excellent work that he did.
The last three years have been extraordinarily hard on Canadians and on global and domestic supply chains. From global inflation to delays for many products, Canadians have been impacted by a global phenomenon experienced by the rest of the world. Global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, labour shortages and Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as extreme weather events, have all contributed to major supply chain disruptions.
Our government remains focused on supporting Canadians during these unprecedented times. Whether it was support during COVID or targeted initiatives to help Canadians weather its lingering impacts, we have been there and we will continue to be there. Our government's priority continues to be making sure that Canadians have access to the goods they need, when they need them, at a reasonable price.
Our government is here for Canadians.
That is why we continue to take action to strengthen our supply chain, which will help reduce cost pressures on the transportation of goods. This in turn will help make life more affordable for Canadians.
One of the many ways we are taking action is with Bill C-33, the strengthening the port system and railway safety in Canada act. Bill C-33 would modernize Canada's transportation system, making it more sustainable, competitive and resilient. Canada's transportation system is the backbone of our economy. Our primary modes of transport, which are marine, air, rail and road, are interdependent, and a disruption in one can impact the entire supply chain.
Our transportation system drives our economy.
That is why Bill C-33 seeks to modernize our ports and secure our railways, because an efficient and reliable supply chain is key to building an economy that works for all Canadians.
In January 2022, I hosted a supply chain summit and created a national supply chain task force. The mandate of the task force was to provide ideas on how we could strengthen our supply chain. Last fall, I shared with Canadians the report from the supply chain task force. It consulted extensively with industry and labour representatives across the country on priority areas for immediate and long-term actions to reduce congestion, improve reliability and increase resilience within Canada's transportation supply chain. It also met with representatives in the United States to understand how we could improve supply chains across our shared borders. The recommendations outlined in the task force report will inform the national supply chain strategy that our government has been working on.
Ensuring our supply chains are strong has always been a top priority for me and for our government. That is why Transport Canada has initiated two separate reviews since we came into government: the ports modernization review and the Railway Safety Act review. With both reviews now complete, we are able to advance concrete and immediate actions to modernize how our ports and railways respond to the evolving demands on our transportation infrastructure.
The bill I am proposing today is a demonstration of the government taking action to directly support two key modes of transportation that connect us domestically and to world markets.
With this bill, we are taking real action.
This modernized framework for port governance, railway safety and security, and the transportation of dangerous goods will be used for decades to come. Through Bill C-33, I am proposing an ambitious set of reforms to the marine transportation system.
This includes significant reforms to the governance of Canada's port authorities and improvements to marine safety and security through changes to the following legislation: the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Customs Act. In a constantly changing world, ports, as key hubs for trade, need a modern framework to better respond to increasingly complex challenges. Bill C-33 would provide them with these tools.
Additionally, I am proposing amendments to the Railway Safety Act to improve the safety and security of Canada's railway system. Resilient railway operations need a modernized legislative framework to maintain safe, secure, efficient and reliable services that not only foster economic growth but also benefit all Canadians. Collectively, these measures would keep our supply chains resilient and competitive.
These measures help our supply chains stay strong.
Finally, our government is proposing changes to the Canada Transportation Act to enhance the overall movement of goods across Canada, and to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act to enhance and clarify the safe and secure transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.
I will start by focusing on Canada's ports.
The proposal before us today is the result of four years of work and stakeholder engagement. Importantly, it takes into account the many lessons learned from the challenges that have hit our transportation network over the past few years. The changes being advanced are focused on six areas: competitiveness, investment, governance, indigenous and local communities, environmental sustainability, and marine safety and security. This bill proposes to ease congestion in our ports; advance reconciliation and enhance structured, meaningful engagement with indigenous people; act on risks posed by climate change; and promote a resilient system that is safe and secure.
I would like to first focus on the measures that would advance competitiveness.
This bill would increase competition by improving the flow of goods through our ports. This was a key ask from stakeholders, who stressed that collaboration is key to improving fluidity, encouraging investment and expanding port capacity. Additionally, industry-led recommendations from the supply chain task force called for new enabling authorities to facilitate leasing land and transporting containers inland and for regulations and legislation to empower our government to take actions that decongest ports.
To better position our strategic ports and support national supply chain performance, the bill would amend the Canada Marine Act to expand the ability of ports to govern and manage traffic, including marine vessel traffic and anchorage use, which are often a source of concern to coastal communities. In support of this traffic-management mandate, our government would establish information- and data-sharing requirements with ports and port users to improve the efficiency of their operations. We will ensure the shared data are appropriately protected.
This framework would also support the work our government is doing to develop a national supply chain data strategy. This proposed legislation would expand the operational scope of port authorities, enabling them to move operations inland and away from congested urban areas, which would reduce the impacts these operations can have on local communities.
The ability of Canada's port authorities to rise to these new challenges and improve supply chain fluidity is dependent not only on new authorities proposed in this bill, but also on their financial capabilities to invest in infrastructure and take action. The current rules put rigid limits on port borrowing, which ultimately inhibits growth. To facilitate timely and more predictable access to funding, port borrowing limits would be reviewed every three years. These regular reviews would also hold ports accountable to responsible debt repayment to limit financial risk to Canadians.
Proposals in this bill would also improve investment in ports by providing greater clarity and predictability to private investors who have been key to the development of the world-class ports we have today. Specifically, this bill proposes to amend the Canada Transportation Act so that transactions at ports with a value of more than $10 million would be eligible for review by the Minister of Transport. This would ensure these investments meet Canada's competition and national and economic security objectives. This bill would allow our government increased flexibility to act quickly to mitigate security threats to supply chains and further their resiliency during times of emergency.
The recent devastation to rail corridors resulting from flooding on the west coast illustrates the need to have tools to respond when the safety or the security of supply chain operations is under threat. Specifically, this legislation would enable swift intervention in exceptional circumstances caused by disruptive events, such as pandemics, extreme weather and the actions of a hostile state actor. With these new powers, I, as the Minister of Transport, would be enabled to send a notice to the responsible authority and direct measures to be taken to restore supply chain fluidity.
I would now like to focus on measures that seek to update the governance structure of Canada port authorities. These measures would provide ports with the tools necessary to meet current and future challenges.
Let me be clear. The arm's-length nature of ports remains an essential part of their operations and will be maintained. This feature is key to ensuring our ports are seen as credible partners in the global market. However, consultations with stakeholders and local communities identified that the governance structure could more effectively balance national, local, economic and socio-environmental considerations. That is why I am proposing changes that would better frame the relationship between government and ports while enhancing efficiency and transparency and preserving port authority autonomy.
These measures involve providing the Minister of Transport with the ability to designate the chairperson of the board from among the board members and in consultation with the board. This measure would ensure Canadian port authorities and our government are aligned on how we deal with the increasing complex economic, social and environmental issues facing our ports.
Prairie provinces play a crucial role in supporting a competitive Canadian economy, with ports representing the gateway that connects them to the rest of the world. Given the interdependence between the two, the bill would increase the prairie provinces' representation on the boards of the Prince Rupert and Thunder Bay port authorities. This would reflect their growth and importance to the Canadian economy and would mirror similar structured changes previously made to the board of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
In addition, a series of amendments would improve board performance, accountability and transparency.
First, I am proposing to broaden the pool of prospective board candidates by expanding the list of eligible persons to serve as directors. Currently, the exclusion criteria are far too broad and exclude individuals whose employment would not present conflict, impacting the eligibility of highly qualified candidates. This would enable port authority boards to access a wider selection of highly qualified candidates and would further facilitate their success.
Another improvement being proposed through the bill is a requirement for Canada port authorities to undertake a review of governance practices every three years. These reviews would evaluate the effectiveness of board governance practices, such as assessments of conflicts of interest and record-keeping practices. The results of these assessments would be shared with Transport Canada and would inform future policy measures as needed.
Furthermore, legislation would provide the authority to make regulations pertaining to the governance of Canada's port authorities. This authority would enable the government to keep governance requirements up to date, recognizing the importance of working with port authorities, indigenous groups and stakeholders as part of the regulation-making process.
As I have noted, a key challenge to port governance is in aligning their national mandate with local realities. As part of the engagement process, we heard about the importance of a strong relationship between port authorities and local, notably indigenous, communities. Indigenous communities stressed that more could be done to recognize indigenous rights, including increasing efforts to address issues and consider interests raised by indigenous communities.
It is important to work with indigenous peoples.
This bill would create more opportunities for port authorities to work together with indigenous groups and for local communities to improve responsiveness and transparency in port management of economic, environmental and social issues. This change of approach starts with a proposed amendment to the Canada Marine Act that would explicitly provide distinction and recognition for indigenous groups within the legislation, setting the stage for better port-indigenous community engagement.
Building on this, and as a complement to the ability to designate the board chair, and a suite of measures to improve internal port governance, proposed changes would see ports being required in law to establish three new advisory committees: one with indigenous communities, one with local stakeholders and one with local governments. These groups would be designed to structure engagement, enable ongoing dialogue and inform port planning and decision-making.
Indigenous peoples, municipalities, communities and industry groups also stressed that ports should also be leaders in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building greener infrastructure and operations. Aligning with our government's climate agenda, new reporting requirements in Bill C-33 would have ports better integrate environmental considerations in their planning, specifically in their financial reporting, to better account for and mitigate environmental risks. In addition, our government is proposing important new measures to ensure ports establish targets, monitor progress and publicly disclose the results of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and mitigate climate-related risks.
I will now turn my attention to port security.
Our government recognizes that securing our ports is critical, not only to the integrity and competitiveness of our gateways but also for the safety of all Canadians. Bill C-33 proposes significant improvements to enhance the safety and security of the marine sector while strengthening our supply chain. Once in place, this legislation would give Transport Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency the authorities needed to enhance timely screening of containers and to build a more secure and efficient marine transportation system at the same time.
I will speak briefly to what Bill C-33 seeks to strengthen in the safety and security of Canada's railway and movement of dangerous goods regulation. A resilient, fluid rail supply chain must be underpinned by its safety. To maintain our rail sector as one of the safest and strongest in the world, we need to ensure our regulations remain up to date.
There is so much in this bill that would further improve the resiliency and safety of our ports and rail network. I look forward to engaging with my colleagues in this chamber to ensure that we advance this bill. I look forward to my colleague's feedback and questions and to passing this bill.