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Transportation Modernization Act promotes economic growth and enhanced travel: Senator Mitchell

Bill C-49 is being sponsored in the Upper Chamber by Senator Grant Mitchell.

Government legislation to modernize rules surrounding transportation in Canada will create a safer and more reliable system that will promote economic growth and enhance travel, the Senate sponsor of the bill told the Upper Chamber during debate last week.

Bill C-49—known as the Transportation Modernization Act—is the result of extensive consultation on a wide range of measures related to air, railway and marine transportation, said Senator Grant Mitchell.

“Bill C-49 goes a long way to enhancing service, safety, competitiveness and capital investment in our rail, air and marine transportation systems,” Senator Mitchell said during a second reading speech on Nov. 9. “It is good public policy, and it has broad support amongst the industries it addresses, and the people and markets they serve.”

The Transportation Modernization Act is the Government’s first step in implementing the plan detailed in Transportation 2030 – A Strategic Plan for the Future of Transportation in Canada, which was announced by Minister of Transport Marc Garneau in November 2016.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate on November 2, 2017 after being adopted in the House of Commons.

Enhancing Safety, Service and Trade Corridors

The legislation addresses many air travel irritants by requiring that the Canadian Transportation Agency establish a new passenger rights regime that would outline clear standards of treatment in common travel situations, including financial compensation in some circumstances.

It would also increase the limit of foreign ownership of Canadian air carriers from 25 per cent to 49 per cent, with associated safeguards, in an effort to bring more competition into the sector.

In terms of rail transportation, the bill requires the Canadian Transportation Agency to offer formal and informal dispute resolution services. Railways companies would also be required to install voice and video recorders on trains as an increased safety feature.

Furthermore, Bill C-49 introduces a new competitive access measure called long-haul interswitching to help vulnerable shippers that only have access to the lines of a single railway company. It would require available railways to transport a shipper’s goods to a place where there is access to a competing railway.

Senator Mitchell said the legislation balances the need for competing commercial interests while ensuring that enterprises that are crucial to the Canadian economy—including farmers, forestry companies and mining businesses—are able to access lower cost shipping costs.

Finally, the bill also improves the efficiency of marine shipping in Canada by allowing all vessel owners to reposition their empty containers by ship—creating busier and more competitive ports. The provision currently only applies to Canadian and European Union vessel owners, leaving other foreign vessels owners to rely on rail or trucks to reposition.

Bill C-49 also proposes to allow Canadian port authorities to access loans and loan guarantees from the newly created Canada Infrastructure Bank to support investments in national trade corridors.

“A careful review of this bill reveals what I believe to be a legitimate and worthy effort to balance clearly competing and significant commercial interests, to recognize the need for competitiveness in various complex transportation markets, to pursue fairness for sometimes if not often vulnerable shippers, and to respond to the need for safety and enhanced customer service in transportation systems,” Senator Mitchell said.

Transportation Modernization Act promotes economic growth and enhanced travel

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