Speaking Notes for the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport – At the Conference of Montreal


Montreal, Quebec
June 14, 2016

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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank the organizers of the Conference of Montreal for inviting me to open this plenary session on building tomorrow’s infrastructure because it gives me the opportunity to talk to you about a subject that matters to me as Minister of Transport: the vital importance of transportation infrastructure in Canada’s economic development.

When he appointed me Minister of Transport, the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, gave me the mandate to make sure that Canada’s transportation system supports the Government’s economic growth and job creation agenda.

To achieve this objective, we must think of the future. And that is exactly what I want to do today.

First, this morning, I invite you to think big and imagine for Canada a flexible transportation system with an intrinsic link with the country. A transportation system that is safe and secure, innovative and green, adapted to changing trade flows. A network able to respond to the needs of travellers, of our society and of our economy. And a high-performance network, which is vital to ensure the growth of our economy and which makes my Department — Transport Canada — a department with an economic portfolio.

To make this Canadian transportation system a reality, we need to develop a long-term vision of this system that is based on higher growth, increased competitiveness and better service. But before we talk about the future, allow me to talk about the past. Canada is a vast country that was built by various explorers, such as Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain, who crossed the oceans; by fur trappers and traders, who forged our country on our lakes and rivers; and by the transcontinental railway, which was essential to build Confederation and our motto, ‘From sea to sea’.

Transportation is part of our origins and has never stopped evolving over the centuries. Our past reminds us of the importance of constantly developing a vision of transportation given the magnitude of changes that our transportation system has undergone for generations.

Building on our history, I would now like to share with you the elements that I consider essential for the future of transportation in Canada.

First of all, let’s talk about what concerns us all in the present – the economy. When we mention economic potential, we must remember that we can have the best products in the world, but it won’t matter if we lack efficient ways to get them to international markets. Clients have options and they want reliable and timely suppliers. Improving our trade corridors then becomes a key requirement to ensure the fluid movement of goods.

For example, over the past three decades, the volume of goods travelling by rail, such as grain, natural resources, petroleum products and other consumer items has doubled in Canada. The result is the use of longer trains, sometimes with double-stack containers, to address the demand.

The question is whether our rail system can handle even more traffic in the future. To answer that, we need to ask ourselves tough questions such as: what is the level of investment required and who should make those investments?

We also need to question ourselves on ways to ensure there is progressive investment and ways to maintain the fluidity and the cost competitiveness of our trade corridors while that investment is made. To make the right decisions, we will need to collaborate and ensure we have the right data and information on the performance and capacity of our transportation system.

The second essential element for the future of transportation is, in my opinion, respect for the environment. Our future transportation system must be more environmentally friendly, since transportation produces almost one quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and most of these emissions come from cars and trucks. I also shared my ideas on this subject during the recent International Transport Forum Summit, Germany, by taking part in a session on green, efficient and accessible transportation, and I intend to do the same at the G7 Transportation Ministers meeting, this September in Japan.

I am convinced that to build a cleaner transportation system, we must strengthen our support for urban public transit systems. This is why our government is investing heavily in public transit in the context of the new infrastructure plan. This investment is aimed at improving our travel between home and workplace and how we view our cities.

Another element at the heart of these changes is innovation. New technologies are already influencing the future of transportation, users’ mobility and travel. Digital technology, wireless communications, connected and automated vehicles, and space technology are revolutionizing transportation. These technologies will lead to new business models and services to businesses while transforming transportation.

For example, imagine future high-speed shuttle services, with lines that will reduce the duration of the trip. A distance of 100 kilometres between home and office could be covered in only 15 minutes! We can also imagine a farmer inspecting his fields with a drone, or even imagine space tourism. I’m not talking about science fiction. This is the future, even if we don’t know exactly what it will look like yet.

This is why we must prepare ourselves for such possibilities by adopting a clear vision and being bold. I want Canada to be not just ready, but recognized as a world leader in this field by adopting a proactive approach and regulatory system that supports innovation.

These are big issues.  Facing these many implications for trade, the environment and innovation is an ambitious project that needs input from Canadians. To improve this system and build the future of transportation in Canada, I launched a consultation process, and I am currently leading round tables with transportation experts, system users and thinkers throughout the country.

These round tables address:

  • Trade corridors and global markets;
  • Green and innovative transportation;
  • The traveller;
  • Waterways, coasts and the North; and
  • Strengthened transportation safety.

This last theme is the one I always consider my top priority. Also, I have just launched two major air safety campaigns. Yesterday, I launched the campaign on the safe use of drones, and in May, there was the one to inform people on the dangers and consequences of pointing lasers at aircraft.

I am pleased to note that so far, round table participants are putting aside the current pressures and issues of the national transportation system and are choosing to focus their efforts and expertise to develop the national transportation system required to ensure Canada’s growth. They are also talking about the importance of specifying priorities and objectives and establishing good frameworks and concrete data to guide us.

During the round tables, discussion also turns to the complexity of the highly integrated national transportation system and its issues. We need to have a good understanding of these issues in order to find good solutions that will best serve Canadians, travellers and shippers. I will also meet with my counterparts in the provinces and territories to discuss measures to take together, since the provinces and territories play a major role in this sector. Furthermore, since these questions affect all of the people of Canada, I will engage in open dialogue with them during live broadcasts on Facebook later this week.

As futurologist Jim Dator says, “Any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous” the first time you hear it.” In other words, innovation and original thought force us to take some risks and to imagine what could work rather than limiting ourselves to what works now.

As I mentioned earlier, I see transportation as playing an essential role to drive the economic growth of this country and the prosperity of all Canadians. The way we develop our transportation infrastructure will have major repercussions on the prosperity of our economy. I am working with transportation stakeholders to implement the elements of this infrastructure and I ask that you carefully consider the support you can offer so that we can accomplish this essential work.

I am ready to face the challenge. I hope that you are too.

Thank you.

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