Pulse Canada requests amendment to Bill C49 in open letter to Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communication
March 8, 2018 (WINNIPEG) – Pulse Canada is seeking immediate consideration on an amendment to Bill C49, the Transportation Modernization Act, that would grant the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) own-motion/ex-parte power. In an open letter sent earlier today to the Standing Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communication, House of Commons Standing Committees on Agriculture and Transport and Ministers Garneau and MacAulay, Pulse Canada stressed the need for Bill C49 to be strengthened to ensure future transportation system failures can be acted on before they become a crisis.
Railway performance is the worst it has been since 2013/14 when the government stepped in with an Order in Council to “get grain moving”. On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Transportation Minister Marc Garneau sent a letter to Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) instructing both railways to develop a strategy to move grain by March 15.
Pulse Canada strongly believes that amending Bill C49 to grant the CTA own-motion/ex-parte powers will help avoid future extraordinary disruptions to the transportation system. Having own-motion power would give the CTA investigative powers and the authority to address issues on a systemic basis and to issue general orders. This was also recommended in the Canada Transportation Act Review led by the Honorable David Emerson in 2015 –which informed the drafting of Bill C-49.
“This amendment will ensure the regulator has the authority to proactively monitor the system, identify and investigate problems before they become a crisis and take the necessary action”, said Greg Cherewyk, Chief Operating Officer for Pulse Canada. “We cannot afford to wait until we’re in the midst of a crisis to act.”
Pulse Canada is the national association of growers, traders and processors of Canadian pulse crops. Canada is the world’s largest supplier pulses, with annual exports reaching more than 130 countries.
Media Contact: Madeleine Goodwin, Manager of Marketing and Communications, (204) 925-3787, firstname.lastname@example.org
Original Letter – sent 08/03/2018:
Bill C-49 can be transformational legislation. To achieve that, C-49 must be amended to include a full suite of measures that will ensure that the needs of Canadian businesses are met under a full range of operating conditions. Legislation that ensures that action is taken before extraordinary service disruptions occur requires the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) be given the authority to act on its own motion and be granted ex-parte powers.
Canadian businesses have again experienced an extraordinary disruption to the Canadian supply chain in 2017 /18; railway performance is the worst it has been since 2013/14 when the Government stepped in with an Order in Council designed to ‘get grain moving’. Now, only four years later, Canadian Ministers have again decided to intervene. This time, Ministers have responded by issuing a letter to the heads of CN and CP asking them to immediately take measures to improve service. In both cases, political action came 6 months after clear signs that railways would not be able to meet their customers’ needs. This is the inherent weakness in the legislative framework that must be addressed.
The only recourse for the Government is to utilize Section 47 of the Canadian Transportation Act, which provides Government with the ability to act only when an extraordinary service disruption that will impact the continuing operation of the national transportation system has already occurred. Section 47 is inherently reactive and comes after significant damage is done to farmers, shippers and the Canadian economy.
The Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications has an opportunity to make the necessary change to Bill C-49 that will give the CTA the ability to initiate action prior to a full-service meltdown. By amending Bill C-49 to provide the CTA with own-motion/ex-parte powers, the government can ensure that system performance is monitored, evaluated and investigated proactively to ensure relief measures are put forward on a schedule that allows Canadian businesses to service their customers consistently and reliably.
Other major sectors of the Canadian economy rely on a regulator to proactively ensure major problems/disruptions are investigated quickly, efficiently and without the need for political intervention. The National Energy Board (NEB) and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) both have own-motion and ex-parte powers that allow them to make a decision based on evidence and data to conduct proactive investigations. The replacement regulator proposed in Bill C-69 the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, currently before Parliament, has also been granted this power.
It is the CTA’s responsibility to regulate the railways, yet it has no ability to intervene to address the current service crisis. The Canada Transportation Act Review led by the Honorable David Emerson, which informed the drafting of Bill C-49, recommended “amending the Canada Transportation Act to confer upon the Agency investigative powers, and the authority to act on the Agency’s own motion and on an ex-parte basis, as well as to address issues on a systemic basis and to issue general orders”. The Agency itself requested own-motion powers in its most recent annual report, highlighting its lack thereof as a major weakness in its ability to discharge its regulatory responsibilities. Shippers from across all sectors broadly support providing the Agency with own-motion/ex-parte power.
The Government of Canada has an obligation to act in a manner that protects the economic interests of the country. Now is the time to strengthen Bill C-49 to ensure that both commercial relationships and oversight by the Government of Canada work effectively to prevent catastrophic service disruptions. Failing to act now will result in yet another lost opportunity to provide the backstops needed to ensure that Canadian businesses are regarded as consistent and reliable suppliers and have the confidence to make the needed investments to grow all sectors of the economy.
Chief Operating Officer