Collenette emphasizes government’s role in fair and competitive transportation

by Canadian Shipper

In a speech to members of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association at their 85th annual conference March 6th, Federal Transport Minister David Collenette emphasized the need for good upfront strategic planning in the transportation industry, and for the development of a national transportation system. He said that 40 per cent of Canada’s GDP depends on trade, and that the country has to look for competitive advantages wherever possible, for example through investments in intelligent transportation systems.

But, he stressed, government also has a role to ensure the transportation industry puts safety in the forefront across all modes, and as one example cited the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, (which is now before the Senate), that will allow for the rating of motor carriers in similar fashion across several jurisdictions.
“I am impatient with the differences in safety regimes from coast to coast, and I’m fed up with all these jurisdictional arguments. We (the federal government) have jurisdiction in this case,” he said.

Collenette said that the review of the Canada Transportation Act will also provide for some insight into the climate of competition in Canada’s rail industry, especially as, outside of the Competition Act, there is no structure to analyze merger issues. He said that this became painfully clear during the Air Canada and Canadian Airlines merger last year.

“We want to make sure we’re ahead of the game in rail mergers. I share all immediate concerns about consolidation. I’ve asked the CTA (Canadian Transportation Agency) to take a good look at all of the policy issues that are arising from possible mergers when the moratorium (on rail mergers) is off in June. North American railways are becoming increasingly more integrated, so issues such as mergers and running rights, etc. all have to be considered within the broader public interest,” he said.
Collenette says that the idea of consolidation in the rail industry, and a possible CN-CP merger down the road would raise some significant questions.

“It’s not just a case of government reregulation. We need a mechanism and an ability to measure these issues,” he said.

With respect to marine shipping issues, Collenette’s speech to the CITA closely followed hisrecent introduction, in the House of Commons, of Bill C-14, the Canada Shipping Act, 200, 1 which modernizes shipping and navigation and amends the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987.

The CSA 2000 was tabled as Bill C-35 in the previous session of Parliament.
The Canada Shipping Act has been reorganized, updated and streamlined to make it clearer and easier to understand and clarifies the responsibilities of the Department of Transport and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“The Canada Shipping Act represents the Government of Canada’s commitment to modernize shipping legislation and to promote the economic growth of the shipping industry. This legislation will allow the entire marine community to operate in a manner that is safer, more efficient, environmentally sound, and responsive to the needs of Canadians in a global economy ,” said Collenette.

Key changes include improvements to provisions that protect and support crews, ensure passenger and vessel safety, and protect the marine environment from damage due to navigation and shipping activities.

The Act proposes amendments to the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, 1987 (SCEA) with a view to keeping Canada’s conference legislation in harmony with the legislation of its major trading partners.

SCEA outlines the rules under which conferences – groups of ocean shipping lines operating collectively under an agreement to provide scheduled services on specific trade routes based on agreed rates and services – are allowed to operate in Canada.

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