Collenette tables Ottawa’s vision for the future of Canadian transportation

by Canadian Shipper

Transport Minister David Collenette has just tabled his much-awaited government blueprint for Canadian transportation.

The 10-year plan, boldly entitled Straight Ahead, calls for sweeping regulatory changes to the transportation sector, such as giving Ottawa the power to review merger proposals involving railways and other transportation companies.

"I believe the policy framework we have set out in this document will allow the transportation system to successfully meet the economic, social and environmental needs of the next decade and beyond, and will improve the quality of life of Canadians."

The document covers the full spectrum of long-term transportation issues in Canada, ranging from airline and railway competition issues to critical infrastructure needs, environmental pressures and safety and security imperatives.

The transportation blueprint process included consultation with a range of stakeholders in the industry, among users, and with provincial and territorial governments. Among other things, Transport Minister David Collenette convened a series of roundtable discussions with stakeholders to learn their perspectives on the transportation system and its future direction.

Throughout 2001-2002, the Minister held roundtables in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver to discuss issues including the needs of shippers, large and small carriers, the special needs of the west and north, and urban transportation.

However, within minutes of the document’s release, Collenette came under fire from the Canadian National Railway, which felt the transportation vision Canada missed the opportunity to further de-regulate the nation’s rail transportation system.

"Canada has the best rail transportation system in the world the lowest freight rates, the best service, and the most efficient operators in CN and CPR as a result of an enlightened policy of rail de-regulation since 1987. The minister’s vision document fails to build on these strengths, and it fails to further de-regulate the grain transportation sector," commented E. Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer of CN.

CN also said it is concerned that the vision paper recommends that a regulated connection rate (RCR) provision be incorporated in the Canada Transportation Act (CTA). A RCR a regulated rate for moving goods over an originating railway to an interchange point for transfer to a connecting railway would be an unprecedented regulatory measure, replacing the Competitive Line Rate under the current CTA regime.

In terms of motor carrier transport, the document states that Transport Canada will continue to:

 take a leadership role to ensure that a consistent national safety rating regime is put in place;
 seek greater compatibility in North American standards through the existing North American Free Trade Agreement and bilateral mechanisms; and
work cooperatively with provincial and territorial governments to ensure that a consistent national hours of service regime for commercial vehicle drivers is put in place.

(A new national hours of service standard was developed by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators and approved by the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. The new standard would increase the minimum daily off-duty time for commercial drivers who operate through more than one province from eight to 10 hours, an increase of 25 per cent, and reduce the maximum workday by 12.5 per cent, from 16 to 14 hours)

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