Opening remarks for The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport to the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities
March 9, 2016
Check Against Delivery
Madame Chair and Honourable Members, thank you for inviting me to meet with the Committee today.
I am joined by Jean-François Tremblay, Deputy Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Mr. André Lapointe, Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer, and Ms. Laureen Kinney, Assistant Deputy Minister for Safety and Security.
It is my pleasure to accept the Committee’s invitation to address my mandate letter, to present our Main Estimates and to update the Committee on several matters relating to transportation in Canada.
This is my first opportunity to appear before this committee since becoming Minister of Transport and I appreciate the Committee’s input on transportation issues.
I would like to begin by discussing my mandate letter from the Prime Minister. In it, he directed me to address several matters, three of which I would like to focus on today:
- The importance of safety in our rail transportation system and measures we might take to reinforce it;
- My initial response to the report of the Canada Transportation Act review; and
- The need to address marine safety, including oil tanker traffic in our waters.
These are important factors in transportation, and they form the foundation for some matters I wish to mention today.
The first that I wish to note is that safety will always be my priority in rail transportation. I’m certain that any Minister of Transport in any government would say the same thing.
As a Quebecer, the accident in Lac-Mégantic in 2013 was for me, one of the worst events in Canadian transportation. I was recently there to meet the mayor and help open a new downtown reconstruction office.
In response to this tragedy, Transport Canada continues to strengthen regulation and enforcement of the safe operations of railways, specifically in transporting dangerous goods.
This includes initiatives to improve transparency and share more information on the production, storage and transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.
In doing this work, I am especially focused on how communities and the public can be more engaged, informed and part of the decision making.
I expect to be able, at a later date, to tell you more about the specific steps the government plans to take.
Canada Transportation Act Review
The second mandate commitment I mentioned concerns the need for transportation to contribute to our economy.
One important way that the government can demonstrate its support for this commitment is through our response to the Canada Transportation Act Review.
Under the leadership of the Honourable David Emerson, the review looked 20 to 30 years down the road and suggested how government policy and initiatives across the transportation sector might most effectively help our transportation system to fuel Canada’s competitiveness in international trade.
You are probably aware that I received the report of the CTA Review in December and tabled it in Parliament on February 25th.
We will follow this tabling with a substantial effort to hear from stakeholders across Canada about the Review’s findings.
And we also expect to propose initiatives to strengthen the transportation system and its contribution to our economy.
In particular, I intend, with the support of my colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, to address issues regarding the Canadian grain transportation system.
These actions will aim to achieve real change, so that transportation in Canada can both capitalize on opportunities and meet the evolving needs of all Canadians.
And they will complement action we are taking to strengthen our use of research and analysis to build evidence-based transportation policy – policy that will help us to address growing pressures to:
- broaden our trade relations;
- accelerate and expand open data initiatives;
- inform our investments in infrastructure;
- take action on climate change; and
- renew transportation partnerships with the United States and Mexico.
Collaboration and Transparency
Our approach to the CTA Review also demonstrates our commitment to strengthening collaboration and transparency in the federal government.
As you know, responsibility for Canada’s transportation system is shared between different jurisdictions.
That’s why we need to listen to and work with provincial and territorial governments, the private sector, indigenous groups and communities, to strengthen that system.
This is why, for example, in January I travelled to British Columbia to meet with indigenous peoples and other stakeholders.
It was an opportunity to hear their perspectives about how government investments in transportation can support the economy while working to reduce their impact on the environment.
Achieving this balance is important to me. While I see Transport Canada very much as an economic department, I realize that the transportation sector is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in this country, and we must explore ways to reduce its impact on our planet.
Marine Safety – Oil Tankers
This addresses the final point in my mandate letter that I noted earlier.
I intend to work with my colleagues the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to improve marine safety in our coastal waters.
This will include taking measures to formalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast, something to which the government is very committed.
Madame Chair, I would be happy to elaborate on these commitments in the question and answer period, but before closing, please allow me to note two budgetary matters concerning Transport Canada.
The Main Estimates provides a listing of the resources required by the department for the upcoming fiscal year, at a point in time. It does not include funding that may be received within the fiscal year, most often related to items announced in the Government’s Budget. Funding for Budget items received by the Department , if any, would be accessed through the Supplementary Estimates process, which as you know, normally occurs three times each year, subsequent to the Main Estimates. These could include funding for new programs or renewed funding of existing programs.
Our Main Estimates for 2016-17 total approximately 1.3 billion dollars, a decrease of 21.6 percent from spending plans approved in the 2015-16 Main Estimates. Sunsetting funding for programs such as the Port Asset Transfer Program, funding for Programs that are winding down, such as the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund and funding for the Detroit River International Crossing project, which has since been transferred to Infrastructure Canada, are no longer included or included at a lesser amount, in this year’s Main Estimates and help explain the decrease.
Grants and Contributions changes
I should also note that these estimates reflect changes that Transport Canada has made to the votes structure for grants and contributions. I would like to take a moment to explain this.
As you may know, parliamentary control of grants and contributions in federal bodies has been categorized by the type of expenditures – such as operating costs, capital, or grants and contributions – rather than by the program purposes of these expenditures.
In 2012, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates recommended that the Treasury Board Secretariat move from this current model to one based on program activity.
Under this approach, the grants and contributions vote of organizations, such as Transport Canada, would be organized by programs, rather than by the type of expenditure.
As such, expenditures would be categorized more by their aims than by how they fit into the structure of a federal body. And for parliamentarians, this would provide more informed control over federal expenditures.
Based on this recommendation, Transport Canada has moved to put this new model into practice as a pilot to see how it functions for both parliamentarians and the department.
And, as a result, we hope this kind of categorization will give you a better understanding of Transport Canada’s work.
Madame Chair, I believe that the matters I have outlined today demonstrate the direction that Transport Canada is pursuing to keep transportation in this country safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible.
I value input from this Committee and I look forward to working with you to strengthen our transportation system and build a strong future for Canada.
That concludes my opening remarks. I would now welcome your questions.
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