Speaking Notes for the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, to the Canadian Railway Club


Montreal, QC
September 9, 2016

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Thank you for inviting me to join you today. It's always a pleasure to talk with people whose experience and knowledge can lead to learning new things and a better understanding of the world.

I can tell you, I've been doing a lot of learning over the past 11 months.

Since the election and being named Canada's Minister of Transport, I've been racking up kilometres in my commutes back and forth by train between Montreal and Ottawa. As I often say, it's a great way to travel!

I have been quite busy learning about the railway business these past few months.

I have visited the CN Training Centre in Winnipeg, the Justice institute in BC, the Rail Museum in Toronto, VIA Rail's maintenance centre in Montréal and Lac-Mégantic. And I've been getting out to meet as many transportation experts and users as I can.

My job as Transport Minister is fundamentally the following: to support the government's agenda for economic growth through a safe and efficient transportation system.

The Canadian economy depends on all modes of transportation, including rail, to move the goods that we buy or produce, and connect them to global markets.

Every year, according to the Railway Association of Canada, more than 280 billion dollars' worth of surface freight moves by rail: from natural resources, petroleum products, and grain to automobiles and so many other consumer items.

Getting goods, and people, from point A to point B is crucial; but what I'm most concerned about is what happens between A and B.

Today, I'd like to talk to you about that … about our government's recent focus on improving safety, efficiency and clean operation on the rails between point A and point B. I'd also like to talk about my vision for the future of rail transportation within a single, well-connected transportation network.

Safety, the protection of our environment, and the efficiency of our system are at the forefront as I assess where we have come from and envision where we need to go.

Recent progress on improving rail transportation

Let's talk about improvements to rail transportation.

Three years ago, I joined all Canadians in experiencing absolute shock and sorrow on learning about the terrible railway accident in Lac-Mégantic. This tragedy struck close to home and reminded us of the importance of constant vigilance over safe railway operations and the transportation of dangerous goods.

This year, Budget 2016 allocated 143 million dollars over three years to increase railway inspection capacity and improve training oversight.

Since becoming Minister of Transport, I have strengthened regulation and enforcement for the safe operations of railways, particularly in transporting dangerous goods.

For example:

  • In February, I announced regulations regarding key trains carrying dangerous goods. These regulations prescribe speed limits and more frequent inspections on certain routes.
  • This past April, I issued Protective Direction No. 36, which requires railways to provide municipalities and first responders with even more dangerous goods information to improve emergency planning, risk assessments, and help train first responders. It also requires operators to provide jurisdictions with information that can be shared directly with the Canadian public.
  • Also in April, I asked Transport Canada to make public additional information about railway crossings across Canada, so that information could be shared with municipalities through Canada's new Open Government Portal.
  • In June, our government brought into force an enhanced rail liability and compensation regime under the Canada Transportation Act. These new measures will ensure that adequate resources are available for compensation and clean-up in the event of a rail accident.
  • In July, I announced the acceleration of the timeline to completely withdraw DOT-111 tank cars, the least crash-resistant cars, from crude oil service in Canada.
  • There now is a stronger, tougher tank car standard, the TC-117, for dangerous goods service in North America. And requirements are stricter than ever when it comes to physically securing trains and reducing their speed when they are carrying dangerous goods in urban areas.
  • Railway companies are required to carry out more frequent track inspections and incorporate municipal safety and security concerns in their risk assessments;
  • The frequency of safety management system audits has increased to a three-to-five year cycle, or more frequently if required;
  • New Railway Safety Management Systems Regulations strengthen requirements and help railway companies manage their safety risks;
  • A new online tool has been introduced that provides first responders with information they need to assess hazards at a rail incident, identify contacts or resources and determine how to respond.
  • The tool complements the work of CANUTEC, Transport Canada's 24-hour emergency response centre, which first responders can contact in the event of a derailment.

The reason I listed these is because, as I have said time and again, rail safety is my top priority, and I am actively making improvements. This process will continue.

I would also like to make it clear that I will not hesitate to act if someone does not follow the rules. Under my watch, the department has issued several fines, or administrative monetary penalties, since they were first introduced in 2015.

What all of these efforts add up to is: We are taking the right steps to enhance the safety and security of rail transportation, so that Canadians can be confident that risks are managed appropriately and that their communities can safely co-exist with railway lines.

Having said that, there is still more work to be done.

We announced nearly 11 million dollars to continue the Government of Canada's Grade Crossing Improvement Program to improve the safety of Canadians.

Our measures for rail include supporting reliable, sustainable and efficient passenger services.

We provided more than 42 million dollars in new funding to VIA Rail. This money will allow VIA to upgrade infrastructure, increase safety at grade crossings and security at stations, and plan for the future of VIA's rolling stock.

Budget 2016 also provided Transport Canada 3.3 million dollars to study VIA's proposal for high-frequency rail.

This strengthened legislation and funding demonstrate our commitment to making things better, right now. But we also need to look to the future and part of knowing how to proceed is hearing from, and listening to, stakeholders like you.

We predict long-term growth in demand for Canadian commodities, as well as increased container traffic to move imports from Asian markets. We are already seeing the result of the increased demand: longer trains, in some cases with double-stack containers.

The good news is that our railway system can handle this volume. However, we need to address inevitable challenges and continue to think about innovation and efficiency as we develop reliable trade connections.

We have to plan for the next generation of transportation infrastructure, to meet the demands of future markets.

Our transportation system has changed so much over the past few generations. When my grandfather was born, no one had flown in an airplane, yet I was able to travel to space.

I often wonder what things will be like when my grandchildren are my age. Who knows how they will travel?

The Canada Transportation Act Review helped to raise some of the issues, we need to look at as we work toward building a better, stronger transportation system that serves the needs of the future. The Review's Report was tabled in Parliament at the beginning of the year, and I read it with great interest.

Now, it's up to me and my government to set a long-term agenda – a road-map, if you will – that positions Canada's transportation system to support international competitiveness, trade, and prosperity for future generations.

To help me do that, I launched a public consultation with Canadians, industry stakeholders, provinces, territories, and indigenous groups, focusing on some key themes.

We looked at issues around safer transportation; trade corridors to global markets; green and innovative transportation; the traveller's experience; and waterways, coasts and the North.

I wrapped up a series of roundtables in July that took me, literally, from coast to coast to coast – from Vancouver, British Columbia to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to Iqaluit in Nunavut.

I also sought input through on-line submissions and social media, including a live Facebook chat to hear from middle class Canadians on their travel experiences and ideas for the future. Some of you may have participated in the consultations. If you haven't, know that my office is always open and my staff available to hear from, and listen to, stakeholders.

I do hope you took the time to have your say, because there are important questions to answer such as:

  • How much more traffic can our railway system handle?
  • How much investment is needed, and by who?
  • What is the appropriate level of regulatory intervention?
  • How can we ensure progressive investment and quality of service in our trade corridors?
  • How do you see the role of rail transport within an integrated transportation system?

How would you answer those questions?

My vision for the future of transportation includes:

  • A world-class travel and transportation system that is safe and can adapt to changing conditions.
  • A passenger system that better informs travellers about delays and offers greater choice and convenience at a reasonable cost.
  • Basic infrastructure that ensures safer and more efficient transportation connections throughout the North, so we can unlock its vast economic potential without creating negative impacts on indigenous communities and fragile environments.
  • Electrification of our transportation system, from cars to public transit to boost urban systems, create more efficient commuter services, and transform our notions of driving back and forth.
  • And a regulatory regime that enables innovation and that makes us a world leader in implementing new transportation technologies.

I know it's a very big wish list, but, a big country with a big transportation system requires that we dream big and be prepared for big steps.

You may have heard that we are looking at the sustainability of a proposal to develop a high frequency rail service on dedicated tracks in the Windsor to Quebec City corridor. We've provided 3.3 million dollars to support an in-depth evaluation of that proposal.

Just like all the other innovations and possibilities I mentioned, it's an exciting prospect that starts with imagination, innovation and inspiration.

So let's continue to think ahead and plan for the future, together.


Railways in this country have a long history. Our founders envisioned a system that would connect us from east to west. Today, with more than 48,000 kilometres of track, Canada has one of the largest rail networks in the world.

Every year, hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of surface freight moves by rail. The volume of these goods has doubled in the last 30 years, and we need to be ready to continue to meet that kind of demand.

No one in this room will argue against the need to design and manage systems for the continued protection of passengers, the industry, our communities, and our environment.

The government needs to do its part to meet the needs of our society and our economy, and my job is to look after Canada's transportation system.

I'm pleased about our recent progress, and I will continue to work hard towards the vision I have outlined today.

But government cannot do this alone. I count on you – partners, leaders, executives and friends of the railway industry. It will take unprecedented collaboration, compromise and information sharing between the transportation sectors and government to achieve these goals.

I hope you will join me in breaking down barriers and dreaming big.

I would like to invite you now to come to the microphone and tell me what is important to you and what you would like to bring to my attention. Thank you.

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