Speaking notes for the Honourable Marc Garneau Minister of Transport to the Economic Club of Canada


Toronto, Ontario
April 27, 2016

Check against delivery


Thank you for inviting me to join you.

As you may know, a few years ago, I spent some time in space. So I hope my remarks today will follow the old saying – that a good speech should be like a comet: dazzling…. eye-opening….. and over before you know it.

It’s been almost six months since I was named Minister of Transport and just over a month since the Minister of Finance presented his budget, in which he laid out the government’s plan to revitalize the Canadian economy through investments in the middle class.

In his mandate letter to me, Prime Minister Trudeau states that my overarching goal is to ensure that Canada’s transportation system supports the government`s agenda for economic growth and job creation.

To carry out that mandate, it is essential to look ahead. And today, I want to do just that.

We have an amazing opportunity right now to think about what transportation can do to help build this country for future generations.

Let’s start by thinking big. After all, we live in the second biggest country on Earth! Let’s strive to create a future for transportation that is based on imagination, innovation and inspiration.

Let’s talk about the future

In particular, how we can build a transportation system that is fluid in its operation, organic in its connection to Canada and responsive in meeting the needs of our society and our economy.

To meet these goals, we need to lay the groundwork for a transportation system that will be safe and secure, innovative and green, adaptable to changing trade flows, and sensitive to the needs of the traveller.

For me, the transport portfolio is critical for economic growth. To put it bluntly, I regard the Transport portfolio as an economic portfolio. I see transportation in Canada as a single, interconnected system that drives the Canadian economy.

But it’s more. It’s like a living, breathing, growing organism that needs to be maintained and kept healthy.

Just think, for a moment, how much our transportation system has changed over the past few generations.

When my grandfather was born, nobody had flown in an airplane.  But I went into space. And when my grandchildren are my age, who knows how they will have travelled?

What I’m talking about isn’t science fiction. It is the future, even if we don’t know it yet. And we need bold thinking and clear-eyed vision to see it.

This is the ideal time to do that thinking.

In February, I tabled the Report of the Review of the Canada Transportation Act, also known as the CTA Review Report, which was led by the Honourable David Emerson. It had been 15 years since the last such Review. I would like to thank David and his team for all their hard work.

The Review Report looks ahead, to examine how to position our transportation system to continue to support Canada’s international competitiveness, trade, and prosperity.

As Mr. Emerson noted “Our transportation system is the connective tissue that binds us together as a nation, enables us to participate in the global economy and helps us to ensure our economic and social well-being.”

For me, the Review has pointed toward many of the goals to which we need to aspire, in building the transportation system of the future.

I may or may not agree with all of its points but I do agree on this, we as a country must take the long view, we must develop a long-term vision of Canada’s transportation system that is focused on the future, on the outcomes we want to achieve – better growth, more competition, better service.

I want to challenge myself and all of you to think about what Canada will look like in 50 years, when it celebrates its 199th birthday.  How will Canadians get around? How will the transport system move our economy?

Let me take you on a bit of a journey through what I see as the most essential elements of our future in transportation.

When we mention economic potential, we must remember that we can have the best quality products in the world, but it won’t matter if we lack efficient ways to get those goods to international markets. 

Improving our trade corridors is a key requirement in building our future transportation system.

Earlier, I mentioned the CTA Review. It emphasized the challenges we face with transportation corridors.

It says quite plainly that Canada’s international trade performance depends on the quality of its transportation system.

The plain truth is that transportation corridors in Canada today continue to face bottlenecks that block the fluid movement of the goods transported through them. My challenge is to change that.

But it takes years to build infrastructure. So how do we, as a country, develop the next generation of transportation infrastructure that will meet the demands of markets that are not on our radar today?

One way Canada has accomplished this has been through the Asia-Pacific Gateway, originally conceived by the Paul Martin government. Since 2005, the federal government has invested approximately 1.4 billion dollars in more than 60 projects.

By partnering with all four western provinces, as well as municipalities and the private sector, we have leveraged this investment into projects whose worth is some 3.5 billion dollars.

These investments have had a spinoff effect in private investments exceeding 14 billion dollars. 

This kind of direction will need to be a part of our future and the transportation and trade connections we develop will need to be reliable and efficient, as freight traffic increases in all modes.

For example, over the past three decades, we’ve seen a doubling in the volume of goods travelling by rail, such as grain, natural resources, petroleum products, automobiles and other consumer items.  The result is longer trains, in some cases with double-stack containers, to handle the demand.

The question is whether our rail system can handle even more traffic in the future.

We will need to ask ourselves some tough questions – what is the level of investment required? Who should make that investment? What, if anything should be done about the grain revenue cap? What is the appropriate level of regulatory intervention required to ensure there is progressive investment and quality of service in our trade corridors?

And in the marine mode, with traffic having grown by about 50 percent in the past three decades, we also face a challenging question: Are Canadian ports operating efficiently enough to face these growing demands?

We will not improve the system with investments in infrastructure alone.  We need to make smart policy decisions.  I am challenging my teams and all Canadians to think carefully about how and why we do things the way we do.

Another key element of our transportation system relates to the phrase on Canada’s coat of arms, “A Mari Usque Ad Mare.” From sea to sea. Only it really should be from sea, to sea….to sea.

Our coastal areas and waterways are seeing more shipping than ever before. Marine traffic at the Ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert has almost doubled since 1990 and container traffic through the region is expected to double in the next 15 years.

As a former naval officer, I appreciate the importance of marine transportation.

My vision is of a system that encourages long term economic growth and that does not harm our marine environments. That’s why I am working with my government and Cabinet colleagues to have robust monitoring and spill response in place, if accidents do happen.

But there is another sea and a whole region – to the north.  We can and must build a better transportation system to serve and support it.

Canada’s north is a region that has seen tremendous change, and is poised to see much more.  A hundred and fifty years ago, Sir John Franklin set out to find the Northwest Passage, and until recently, his disappearance remained a total mystery.

We connected Northeners with the rest of Canada through communications satellite technology decades ago and we still lead the world in this technology.

But our challenge now is to plan and provide the transportation infrastructure and services needed to unlock the North’s vast economic potential; while preserving this fragile environment and respecting the ways of life of northern and indigenous communities.

This means we will have to find ways to build stronger and safer transportation connections to and through the North, without creating negative impacts on traditional communities and local eco-systems.

Many remote communities rely on the air transport system for food, for health, and for contact with family.  How do we ensure that this transportation link is provided for in the long term and is as affordable as possible?

We will also need to reach out to indigenous communities and work with them. That’s why I am also working closely with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Honourable Hunter Tootoo and my other Cabinet colleagues, to consult with communities and hear what they think are the best ways to protect the waterways in their region in the future.

In any future examination at Canada’s transportation system we also need to look at how we transform it to make it more green. We need to build a future economy based on protecting our planet.

Having viewed that planet from space, I too want to protect it for my children and their children, so I believe that our future transportation system must be greener.

The reason is simple: transportation generates close to one-quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and most of these emissions come from cars and trucks.  I feel the responsibility to reduce that. It’s a huge responsibility, but one we can’t shy away from.

We must lay the road to the electrification of our transportation systems – electric cars, electric charging infrastructure and but also our public transit systems. I am convinced that in order to achieve a cleaner transportation network we must boost support for urban transit systems. That’s why Budget 2016 proposed to invest heavily in public transit as part of a long-term infrastructure plan.

Such investment could help change our notions of commuting and how we think about our cities.

This change has been taking place for decades. In 1954, the TTC’s first Yonge Street subway line opened, running just over seven kilometers between Union and Eglinton stations. Today, the subway system stretches nine times that distance.

Imagine high speed commuter services of the future, with lines that might reduce commuter times so much that a 100-kilometre commute to the office might take only 15 minutes!

We need to be prepared for such possibilities. And I want Canada to be, not only prepared, but a world leader for generating such ideas.

Advances in technology also relate to another important factor for future transportation, and that is our approach to innovation. 

Given the traffic in Toronto, I imagine some of you would have gladly come here today in a car that would have done the driving for you. This kind of transportation is closer than you think.

Connected and automated vehicles will also be safer. In fact, last year, the US Department of Transportation said that a combination of connected vehicles and new crash avoidance technology could address some 80 percent of collisions.

My vision is to see Canada at the forefront of this trend, maximizing the use of vehicles that communicate with each other and with the infrastructure that they use.

But also, let’s think beyond the city.

Prairie farmers can now survey their crops with cameras attached to unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. In the future, they will be able to use GPS apps on their smart phones to track the location of containers that move these crops to markets.

To support these new technologies, we will also need a regulatory regime that supports innovation.

As you all know, our transportation systems must be safe. Now that may not be very flashy, but it is a precondition.

Last month, Jean Lapierre, the Minister of Transport from 2004 to 2006, perished in an air accident that also took the lives of six others.

Just yesterday, I spent the day in Lac-Mégantic, where people are still recovering from the tragedy that took the lives of 47 residents in 2013.

These and other events like the derailment in Gogama remind me that the most crucial thing I can do as Minister is to help keep the people using our transportation system safe. Nothing else is as important.

Air travel in Canada has increased by more than 30 percent in the last three decades, but the number of aviation accidents has declined by nearly 50 percent.

Aviation itself is also progressing. Aircraft are lighter, more efficient and last longer. New air traffic control systems and software help aircraft to be more efficient and safely fly closer to each other.

Technology is clearly the most promising way to make transportation safer in the future.

Finally, the transportation system of the future needs to better meet the needs of travelers, who seek greater choice and convenience at a reasonable cost.

I launch the challenge to consider new ways to increase the competitiveness of our air sector to improve connections for Canadians to get to domestic and international destinations.

I will challenge all of us to look at improving the airport experience.  In today’s world of online booking and check-in, often the only line-ups are for security screening.  How do we balance world-class security and passenger wait times?

For example, passenger traffic at Toronto Pearson airport has almost doubled in the past three decades. Late last year, I took part in an event at Toronto Pearson airport to mark its 40 millionth passenger in 2015 – a record for the airport; and the year was not even over.

Just cast your mind ahead to 2030, when Toronto-Pearson forecasts it will serve some 66 million passengers per year. That’s a lot of people to manage, and our airports need to be up to the task.

Along with connections, we must also consider the air traveler experience and determine if we need new tools to assist consumers.  The traveler needs to know how decisions are made when flights don’t go as planned and what their recourse is.

And for rail travelers, Canadians would like to see a passenger rail system that is world-class.

That is why Budget 2016 provides Transport Canada with funding to study VIA Rail’s proposal for a high-frequency rail service in the Windsor-to-Quebec City corridor.

The simple fact we must address for all travellers is this:
Canadians are spending more on transportation in all forms. In the past 30 years, household spending on transportation has more than tripled to 16 percent of their expenditures – second only to shelter.

My vision of the Canadian traveler experience is one where we have more integrated and seamless connections between air, rail and transit, to reduce the overwhelming reliance on the automobile.

These are some big issues. And sorting through the implications of what I have just talked about is a tall order that requires a conversation with Canadians.

The CTA Review started this engagement. The report is a comprehensive source of independent advice to government. 

The timing of the report is opportune and brings me to an announcement I want to make.

In order to expand on the advice that has come to me from the CTA Review, I am pleased to launch an initiative to discuss my vision for the future of Canadian transportation.

We will start on May 24 in Ottawa with an engagement process that will take us into the fall.

I will begin by holding roundtables this spring and early summer with transportation experts, system users, and big thinkers across Canada. These sessions will address the themes I have discussed today.

We will hold discussions around the themes of Trade Corridors, Green and Innovative Transportation, The Traveler, Waterways, Coasts, the North, as well as Safety.

This will be complemented by workshops and meetings that Transport Canada officials will hold with stakeholders to hear their analysis of the CTA Review and other transportation issues.

As well, this fall, I will meet with transport ministers from the provinces and territories to discuss what actions we must take to start building our transportation future.

And finally, these are matters that affect all Canadians, so we will connect online with them online and through social media tools.

The futurist, Jim Dator, says this. “Every good idea should sound crazy the first time you hear it.”

In other words, innovation and original thinking force us to take some risks and think about what could work instead of only what does work.

So let me close by returning to my days spent in space and on the sea.

There is a term in aviation, ship navigation, and emergency services called "situational awareness". It is about knowing what is going on around you and developing a "feel" for the best way to react when variables around you change.

My vision of the future transportation system in Canada requires this situational awareness: to be ready to collect information in real time so as to adapt and react to changing situations.

The federal government cannot develop this ability alone. It will take unprecedented information sharing between the transportation sectors, governments and several other bodies to accomplish this goal.

But this is absolutely critical for our transportation system – better for safety, better for moving goods efficiently, better for all Canadians getting from point A to point B.

If we truly see transport as a living, breathing, integrated system, we must see it as having all modes connect and function in harmony.

Ships docking and connecting with trucks and trains arriving at port.

Aircraft unloading and syncing up with transit systems arriving at airports.

Railway crossings that are safer because they can detect approaching vehicles.

As I said earlier, I see transportation as essential to drive this country’s economic growth and the future prosperity of all Canadians.

But we must also design and manage the transportation system so that we continue to protect passengers, communities and our environment.

I challenge all of us to think about how we can achieve both of these goals, so we can develop a transportation system that is even more safe, efficient and green, and which supports both our economy and our country.

I am up for the challenge. I hope the rest of you are, as well.

Thank you

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