Speaking notes for the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport Appearance before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications

Speech

Ottawa
February 17, 2016

Check against delivery

Introduction

Mr. Chair, Honourable Senators, thank you for inviting me to meet with the Committee today.

I appreciate the Committee’s interest in transportation and I know you have recently studied several aspects of Canada’s air transportation sector.

The past few months have been a time of “firsts” for me and this is another – my first opportunity since becoming a Member of Parliament to appear before a Senate committee and my first opportunity to appear before any Parliamentary committee since becoming Minister.

I hope to talk, but also to listen.

To quote an old pilots’ saying, “You can’t propel yourself forward by patting yourself on the back.”

Rail Safety

While I wish to cover several issues today, I’ll begin with what is always the priority of transportation, and that is safety.

As a Quebecer, the accident in Lac-Mégantic in 2013 was for me, one of the most tragic moments in Canadian transportation. I was recently there to meet the Mayor and help open a new downtown reconstruction office.

In his mandate letter to me, the Prime Minister directed me to propose measures to reinforce railway safety.

So, in response to this, Transport Canada is working to further strengthen the safety of rail, specifically in transporting dangerous goods.

This includes developing better information on the production, storage and transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.

And it includes examining how this information is shared with communities that could be affected by the transportation of dangerous goods.

At a later date, I would be happy to communicate more about the specific steps the government plans to pursue.

Canada Transportation Act Review

Next, I would like to note the approach we are taking to the government’s response to the Canada Transportation Act Review.

The arm’s-length CTA Review examined how to ensure that the national transportation system continues to support Canada’s international competitiveness, trade and prosperity.

I received the report of the Review in December and expect to table it soon in Parliament.

Following the release of the Report, we will want to engage with stakeholders on the findings of the Review, and on potential initiatives to strengthen the transportation system and its contribution to the economy.

Collaboration with key partners is essential to affect real change and ensure Canada’s transportation system is positioned to capitalize on opportunities and meet the evolving needs of Canadians.

Collaboration and Transparency

Our approach to the CTA Review demonstrates our overall commitment to strengthening collaboration and transparency in the federal government.

As you know, responsibility for Canada’s transportation system is shared between different jurisdictions.

To affect real change, we need to work with provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, and communities, on initiatives that will strengthen that system.

This is why, for example, in January I travelled to British Columbia to meet with indigenous peoples and other stakeholders, to hear their perspectives about how to implement my mandate commitment to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic along British Columbia’s North Coast.

On a broader scale, we discussed how government investments in transportation need to support the economy while also working to reduce their impact on the environment.

Achieving this balance is important to me.

I see Transport Canada very much as an economic department, and I see its job as one to promote research and innovation to make transportation safer and more efficient.

Also, since the transportation sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in this country, I also I also want to explore ways to reduce its impact on our planet.

Connected/Automated Vehicles

Supporting new technologies is one way to ensure that we are making progress in achieving safety, efficiency and environmental gains in the sector. In this respect, the emergence of connected vehicles and automated vehicles hold real promise for the future of transportation.

Connected vehicles use wireless communication, GPS and digital maps to exchange information with each other and provide road users with safety and mobility information.

Automated vehicles use sensors, cameras, controllers in the vehicles to help them operate and navigate.

To replace what humans do behind the wheel, we need both technologies to achieve fully self-driving vehicles.

We need connection: vehicles communicating with other vehicles and with information systems along the road, so they have enough information to navigate and operate safely.

And automation: technologies to actually control the vehicle and keep passengers informed about its operation.

The technology I am talking about is not science fiction.

It is in development today and has the potential to improve safety, efficiency and the environmental performance of transportation in Canada and other countries.

Recognizing this, Transport Canada helps to support the Canadian connected vehicle test-bed, which is based at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

As well, the department is working with domestic and international bodies to harmonize standards and regulations for automated vehicles.

And, this past September, Transport ministers from G-7 countries committed to establish a working group on automated vehicles.

There remain, however, many questions we need to address about these vehicles.

Some are technical, but others involve legal and jurisdictional issues that we might start considering now, so we are working to regulate this technology as it is developing and not after it is ready to introduce.

So today, I would like to request that this Committee launch a study on connected and automated vehicles.

The aim would be to highlight the regulatory, policy, and technical issues that Canada needs to address to successfully deploy these technologies.

And it would consider the long-term implications and challenges of these technologies, such as impacts on privacy, energy and land use, transportation demand and employment.

I am confident that your work could help to set standards for the development of these vehicles in Canada and other countries.

Mr. Chair, Honourable Senators, should the Committee agree to launch this study, I assure you that I, as well as my department, will fully take part in developing the study’s mandate and options to be considered in order to maximize its reach for the benefit of Canadians.

Conclusion

I believe that these initiatives and others demonstrate the direction we are pursuing to keep transportation in Canada safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible.

I welcome input from this Committee and I look forward to working with you to strengthen our transportation system and build a strong future for Canada.

I now welcome your questions. Thank you.


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