Proposed legislative changes to support building stronger supply chains


An efficient and resilient transportation supply chain is key to expanding Canada’s economic capacity and productivity. The proposed legislative amendments under the Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act aim to amend current legislation and modernize the way Canada’s marine and rail transportation systems operate and remove systemic barriers. As a result, these amendments would strengthen our transportation supply chain and would respond to the rising cost of living.

In addition to the creation of a Supply Chain Task Force and the publication of its final report earlier this Fall, two separate, mode-specific reviews had already been initiated: the Ports Modernization Review launched in 2018, and the Railway Safety Act Review launched in 2017.

Both reviews are now complete and Transport Canada is able to advance concrete actions to modernize the tools the federal government, ports, and railways need to respond to the evolving demands of a complex transportation system.

While more targeted measures will be brought forward to respond to the Task Force Report, the proposed legislative changes are a demonstration of what the government can do to rejuvenate key modes of the transportation supply chain. This modernized playbook for port governance, railway safety, and the transportation of dangerous goods will be used for decades to come.

Collectively, these measures would situate these two interdependent modes—rail and marine—to be better positioned to help improve the competitiveness of Canada’s transportation supply chains.

Summary of the proposed amendments for ports

To better position our strategic ports and support national supply chain performance, Bill C-33 seeks to expand the mandate of ports, making them responsible for actively managing traffic, including marine vessel traffic. The bill also clarifies regulatory authorities pertaining to oversight of ships at anchor within port waters.

The proposals would seek to advance the role of Canada port authorities as strategic enablers of supply chain resiliency and efficiency. The ports-related proposals have been grouped by theme, and include competitiveness, governance, and financial management, working with communities and Indigenous Peoples, environmental sustainability, and safety and security.

Port competitiveness: These measures would seek to position Canada’s ports as strategic hubs that support national supply chain performance and effectively manage investment decisions for sustainable growth.

Amendments to the Canada Marine Act would seek to:

  • Expand Canada port authorities’ mandate over traffic management in support of gateway efficiency and resilience. This would include establishing a regulatory authority for traffic management to enable port authorities to institute practices and systems, including in respect of anchorages and vessel management, and data sharing in support of their role as enablers of supply chain fluidity.
  • Enable the development of inland terminals that would enhance gateway throughput and alleviate congestion.
  • Establish a streamlined review process for port authorities’ borrowing to strengthen their financial position and ability to respond to development needs and opportunities.
  • Improve the government’s ability to have insight into ports and their activities to help ensure supply chain fluidity through informed decision-making.  

Amendments to the Canada Transportation Act would seek to:

  • Reduce the Investment Notification and Review threshold to better ensure competition and national security.

Governance and financial management of Canada port authorities: These measures would seek to better reflect the evolving context in which Canada port authorities serve as arms-length instruments of public policy and reinforce good board governance through measures to improve composition, due diligence, transparency, and accountability.

Amendments to the Canada Marine Act would seek to:

  • Enable well-functioning, diverse, and proficient boards by expanding eligibility, amending the membership of some boards, and taking steps to strengthen strategic planning and decision-making for port operations.
  • Further promote sound governance by establishing periodic reviews and a regulatory authority to ensure efficient and transparent operations.

Working with communities and Indigenous groups: These measures would serve to advance reconciliation and forge relationships based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnerships. In particular, this would include more opportunities to create and maintain meaningful dialogue with local and Indigenous communities to better inform port decisions and optimize responsiveness and transparency on economic, environmental, and social issues.

Amendments to the Canada Marine Act would seek to:

  • Recognize Indigenous groups alongside users and communities to further support meaningful local and community engagement.
  • Establish new advisory bodies or mechanisms to enable structured, transparent engagement with Indigenous communities, local stakeholders, and local governments.

Environmental sustainability of port infrastructure and operations: These measures would seek to take action on risks from climate change, build climate resilience, and reduce pollution. Furthermore, measures would support Canada’s ambitious commitments on climate change, including exceeding the Paris Climate target by achieving 40 to 45 per cent emission reductions by 2030 and getting to net-zero by 2050.

Amendments to the Canada Marine Act would seek to:

  • Better integrate environmental considerations into port authority planning and decision-making and enhancing transparency on environmental performance, including a regulatory authority to advance climate objectives and set targets.

Port safety and security: Measures would seek to provide a resilient marine transportation system that is efficient, safe, and secure.

Amendments to the Marine Transportation Security Act would seek to:

  • Protect marine transportation, critical infrastructure, and the promotion of marine transportation resilience.
  • Enable the Minister of Transport to enter into agreements to leverage expertise to address security risks and threats, including cyber security.
  • Enable the Minister to issue Emergency Directions to persons onboard a vessel or at a marine facility if immediate action is required to mitigate a direct or indirect threat to marine transportation security or to public health.
  • Provide the authority to establish Interim Orders to mitigate threats or risks to marine transportation security or to public health.
  • Integrate risk-based decision-making, including for vessel directions, to enable Transport Canada to react quickly and effectively to situations of unacceptable security risk.
  • Establish new regulatory authorities respecting threats or risks to public health to enable Transport Canada to react effectively to potential emerging threats in the marine mode and support current and future pandemic responses.
  • Establish new regulatory authorities to support Transport Canada’s robust administration and oversight of Canada’s marine security framework.
  • Amend regulatory authorities to support information sharing with federal and provincial partners.
  • Seek to modernize enforcement by revising penalties for violations to align with Transport Canada’s marine safety legislation.

Amendments to the Customs Act would seek to:

  • Improve screening by expanding authority to require and enforce the delivery of containers for inspection to reduce the impact on, and costs to, importers as a result of delays.

Summary of the proposed amendments for railways

The proposals found in the Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act would furthermore strengthen the rail safety and security regime in Canada in order to respond to the evolving demands of a complex transportation system and to address risks to community safety. The objective of the proposed amendments is to modernize railway safety and security regulatory oversight, and address gaps and emerging challenges.  The amendments will provide modern and flexible tools that will allow rail companies to remain competitive, efficient, and sustainable, and to support the resiliency of Canada’s supply chain. The railway proposals have been grouped by theme and include efficiency, enhanced transparency, and oversight.

Enhanced transparency and collaboration: These measures would improve the transparency and efficiency of the rail safety oversight framework through the modernization of key regulatory processes.

Amendments to the Railway Safety Act would seek to:

  • Allow the Minister to request any relevant information when assessing rule exemption requests.
  • Provide the Minister the ability to consult broadly in rule decision-making.
  • Require a review of the Railway Safety Act on a five-year cycle, ensuring an adaptive legislative framework.

A more efficient rail network: As technologies evolve, these amendments would ensure that the Canadian rail system is poised to adapt in kind. This will promote a more efficient, and thereby stronger, supply chain.

Amendments to the Canada Transportation Act would seek to:

  • Provide for the use of automated systems in decision making.
  • Expressly authorize the use of telecommunications by Transport Canada inspectors, investigators, and enforcement officers for the purpose of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with other Acts for which the Minister of Transport is responsible.

Amendments to the Railway Safety Act would seek to:

  • Provide more flexibility associated with rules and exemptions. This will support the continued fluidity and efficiency of rail operations while reducing administrative burden.

Modernized oversight of railway operations: This element would ensure an appropriate and up-to-date rail safety and security framework by bringing certainty to planning and decision-making for the rail industry and enable effective enforcement and compliance with rail safety and security provisions.

Amendments to the Railway Safety Act would seek to:

  • Provide a broad definition of “safety” to include “security” throughout the Act.
  • Authorize the Minister of Transport to negotiate assurances of compliance and enter into compliance agreements before or after the issuance of an Administrative Monetary Penalty.
  • Add prohibitions related to unruly or dangerous behaviour on-board trains or at stations; and unlawful interferences such as tampering, and destructive acts with railway operations.
  • Provide authorities to require railway companies to create security management systems and for the Minister to order corrective measures regarding those systems.
  • Create the authority for the Minister of Transport to grant, cancel, and suspend transportation security clearances under the Railway Safety Act.

Summary of the proposed amendments for the transportation of dangerous goods

Amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 would seek to:

  • Modify and provide new Ministerial and inspector authorities to provide greater flexibility to address ongoing and emergency safety risks.
  • Create an Administrative Monetary Penalties regime to address a significant enforcement gap in the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program.
  • Create a client registration requirement to provide Transport Canada with a reliable and comprehensive inventory of stakeholders who import, offer for transport, handle, or transport dangerous goods in Canada.
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