Speech Article from  Transport Canada

Archived - Remarks by the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport to the Vancouver Board of Trade

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Vancouver, BC
July 7, 2015

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Introduction

Thank you for the invitation to join you today

It’s a pleasure to be back here at the Vancouver Board of Trade, and less than year after my last visit.

Back then, I spoke about the federal government’s role in transportation, trade and support for infrastructure, and the importance of the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.

While I will touch on some of these same matters today, I want to focus on two issues in particular.

First, the future of transportation in this country and how the Government of Canada is preparing for it. And second, on a related note, protecting our marine environment and what we are doing – right now – to address this issue.

Let me begin with this second topic.

Clear Seas

The Government of Canada is committed to using trade and transportation as tools to help build our economy.

This cannot be overstated.

As the demand for our country’s natural resources continues, we can also expect that marine traffic will increase in the coming years. 

In particular, British Columbia is now faced with a tremendous opportunity in the form of proposed liquefied natural gas projects. Thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars of proposed investments in marine LNG export facilities will transform BC’s economy, and secure our future prosperity.

With that increase in traffic, we will need to pay special attention to protecting our coastal communities and our precious marine environment.

One way to accomplish this is to ensure that communities, industry, and Canadians have independent information on the best practices that could be used to safely ship Canadian exports, including natural resource products such as oil and gas.

To help address this need, I announced yesterday that our government will provide up to 3.7 million dollars to help launch Clear Seas – the Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping. 

The Vancouver-based Centre will support research and provide independent evidence-based information on how to best transport Canada’s resources to customers abroad, while safeguarding the environment.

The Government of Canada is joined in supporting this initiative by partners such as Port Metro Vancouver, the Province of Alberta and other parties.

This Centre will complement the work we are already pursuing through our World-Class Tanker Safety System initative, which is a government initiative ongoing since 2012 to strengthen and improve Canada’s tanker safety regime.

Our goals in world-class tanker safety are to prevent ship-source oil spills, clean them up quickly if they do happen and ensure that polluters pay.

Because we are serious about getting this right, in 2012, we created the Tanker Safety Expert Panel, which was tasked with reviewing Canada’s current system, and proposing measures to strengthen it.

The panel has completed their work. One of their key recommendations was for the government to create area-specific preparedness and response plans, tailored to respond to the needs of specific marine regions. This approach is known as Area Response Planning. In keeping with this recommendation, I am pleased to today announce today the launch of our Area Response Planning pilot project.

This project will create risk-based plans to address ship-source oil spills.

By working in collaboration with local communities, Aboriginal groups, industry and all levels of government, these plans will be tailored to the conditions in a particular geographic area.

We are piloting this initiative in four areas with high levels of tanker traffic:

  • the southern portion of British Columbia, including Vancouver Harbour;
  • Saint John and the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick;
  • Port Hawkesbury and the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia; and
  • the St. Lawrence River (Montreal to Anticosti Island), Quebec. 

To support Area Response Planning, Transport Canada’s Community Participation Funding Program will provide up to 2.1 million dollars to support stakeholders and Aboriginal groups that are eligible to participate in the pilot project.

These measures build on many other actions we have taken as part of our Tanker Safety System.

For example, we have already begun to:

  • Modernize Canada’s marine navigation system;
  • Increase marine inspections;
  • Work with communities and Aboriginal groups to develop area response plans;
  • Give spill responders access to alternative response measures when there is a clear environmental benefit;
  • Establish an Incident Command System under the Canadian Coast Guard to improve responses to marine incidents; and;
  • Strengthen the “polluter pays” principle by enhancing Canada’s Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund.

To expand on that, we have a robust, multi-layered regime built on the “polluter-pays” principle.  It involves strong partnerships across industry, all levels of government, and stakeholders. Before entering Canadian waters, all vessels of 400 gross tonnage or more and oil tankers of 150 gross tonnage or more destined for a Canadian port must have an agreement in place with a Transport Canada certified spill response organization to clean up any of their spills. The polluter, not the taxpayer, then pays the bill.    

Our certified partner in British Columbia, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, maintains an extensive inventory of the most sophisticated spill response equipment available today, including 28 response vessels and over 50 response trailers. This includes 12 vessels at 7 locations right here in Vancouver Harbour, as well as a warehouse in Burnaby, and thousands of meters of boom. The Western Canada Marine Response team has a network of over 500 trained responders. It is those hard working men and women who you see out on the water, laying boom, at any time of day or night, when required to protect our waters and beaches from spills.

Today, certified oil response organizations operating in Canada south of 60 degrees latitude, such as West Coast Marine Response, must be able to respond to a 10,000 tonne spill in Canada’s waters in a prescribed period of time. Amongst other things, the Area Response Planning project that I am announcing today will consider whether and by how much to increase that mandatory capacity, on a region-by-region basis, in order to further safeguard our coast and strengthen our ability to respond to spills, all while ensuring that costs are borne by shippers, not taxpayers.

One other important action taken is the expansion of our National Aerial Surveillance Program of vessels in Canadian waters.

In fact, National Aerial Surveillance Program aircraft assisted in dealing with the recent fuel spill that took place in English Bay.

Having personally flown on these aircraft, I’ve been impressed with the skill that their crews bring to monitoring our coastal environments.

These efforts to continuously strengthen our tanker safety system demonstrate our resolve to support safe and efficient shipping of our natural resources.

And they highlight our commitment to protecting our valuable marine environments, both in this region and across the country.

APGCI

Our actions to protect the environment go hand in hand with our efforts to support our international trade agenda and transportation infrastructure in this region, through programs like the Asia Pacific Gateways and Corridors Initiative.

The Government of Canada has invested more than 1.4 billion dollars in some 50 projects, partnering with the four western provinces, as well as municipalities and the private sector.

In fact, just this morning, I was in Richmond to join our partners to mark ongoing progress of two projects that are receiving funding from the APGCI.

These are projects to widen the No. 6 Road from Wireless Way to Highway 91 and also to widen the Nelson Road and Westminster Highway.

Beyond Traffic

These initiatives and others demonstrate how we are looking ahead in transportation.

Now, I want to talk a little bit more broadly about the overall future of transportation in Canada.

I’ve been thinking about this after reading a substantial report that the United States Department of Transportation published this past spring.

Titled Beyond Traffic, it is a “blue-sky” document that looks ahead 30 years to the future of transportation in the U.S.

At some 300 pages, it is not a quick read. But it touches on many issues we also face in Canada or will face together with our American neighbours, since our systems are so integrated.

Let me mention some of the points it makes.  

The first point is that the most important transportation innovation of the recent past and the future may be this smartphone.

It can help drivers to choose routes based on how traffic is moving -- hands free, of course.

It can tell transit riders when buses or trains will arrive and let air travellers adjust their flight bookings.

Second, the report notes that new communications technologies, combined with factors such as flexible schedules and “hoteling” – unassigned office space -- will change how people work and commute.

In fact, the fastest growing mode of commuting is actually telecommuting.

And third, the report points out that people are actually driving less than they did a decade ago. This is especially the case for younger adults, as many choose to live where they can bike, walk and take public transit to work or school.

Our government is in tune with this.

It understands the need for new and improved public transit.

In fact, in our Economic Action Plan 2015, we are proposing to provide 750 million dollars over two years, beginning in 2017, and one billion dollars a year thereafter that will go into a new and dedicated public transit fund to support major public transit projects.

When it comes to marine transportation, the US report points out that automation is increasing efficiency on ships, and that our ports will be increasingly automated.

As well, the use of intermodal freight in containers is changing the game, allowing increasingly seamless movement of goods between ships, trains, and trucks.

And we know that the game could change more in succeeding decades, due to shifts in freight demand, shipping and manufacturing.

So, what do we take from these marine trends?

First, if we want to maintain strong international shipping and trade, we’d better be ready with safe and efficient facilities.

And second, we’d better keep developing people who have the skills to operate them.

This is why I support marine industry training initiatives, such as the one here that is run by the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association.

These programs are helping to develop a new and more diverse maritime workforce with new skills in transportation.

Technology is also changing aviation in many ways. For example, it is improving the precision of air traffic control and allowing aircraft to fly in closer spaces, thus reducing congestion and delays.

Applying this to Canada

These trends in US transportation provide us with points to consider in Canada, since our countries are not all that different and many of these trends and issues apply here.

The people I lead at Transport Canada are always looking ahead to find the best way to deal with the fluidity of the future.

But here’s more good news: people in both public and private sectors in Canada are already addressing some of these questions. They are going beyond what transportation is and talking about what it could be.

This is exciting.

There are specific programs in Transport Canada – as well as projects we are supporting in research and with businesses – that are looking to the transportation of tomorrow.

And suffice to say, there are many overarching issues that face our communities and our country.

The Arctic

One major issue is the Arctic, which holds both promise and challenge for transportation in Canada.

Challenges, such as how transportation infrastructure is limited there. And that, when such facilities are built, they can be tough to maintain.

But travelling to and through the Arctic continues to be an important pursuit.

Canada has long recognized that marine transportation, in particular, plays a key role in opening up the North’s vast potential.

So, for more than 40 years, we have worked to address the risks that ships face in polar waters.

A prime example of this is how we helped the International Maritime Organization to develop the Polar Code.

It addresses factors such as:

  • ship design and construction;
  • lifesaving and navigation equipment;
  • operational and training factors, and
  • pollution prevention measures.

We should take pride that, when the Polar Code comes into force internationally in 2017, its safety and environmental measures will finally come close to what is already in place for vessels in Canada. 

Canada-U.S. coordination

When it comes to transportation in general, however, one challenge we face is that consumers and businesses here want their transportation technologies to work seamlessly, whether they are in Canada and the U.S.

If you thought converting kilometers to miles was tricky, just imagine the problems you’d face if your connected car of the future didn’t run the same if you drove it across the Canada-U.S. border.

That is why we continue to work with our American partners under what is called the Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan.

I should note that our recent announcements regarding rail tank cars demonstrate the work Canada and the United States are accomplishing under this arrangement.

Not only does this relationship strengthen our long-term security and trade relationship, it outlines concrete measures to facilitate trade and travel, improve security and economic competitiveness, and it aligns regulatory approaches between the two countries.

Strengthening rail safety

And on the topic of rail, in addition to announcing the stronger TC-117 tank car, we’ve continued to take actions to enhance railway safety across Canada. For example, we’re working with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to conduct a joint safety study on the use of locomotive voice and video recorders – something I strongly support. 

Together we’ll explore how we can use these recorders to provide important and crucial data to accident investigators and improve safety.

Adapting to change - CTA Review

Before closing, I want to mention one more thing we are doing to proactively address the transportation changes in our future.

That is the arms-length Review of the Canada Transportation Act.

The Canada Transportation Act is Canada’s umbrella economic legislation for the national transportation system.

Its review is being led by David Emerson, former Minister of International Trade, who is supported by a strong and experienced team of advisors with diverse private-sector and public-sector experience.

These are people who – like you – know just how critical the transportation system is to Canada’s well-being.

This review is taking a long-term view — 20-30 years — of the transportation system. It is considering patterns and shifts and their implications.

You might say the review will act a bit like the connected vehicle technology I mentioned earlier – a sort of early detection system to help alert us to key trends and issues that lie ahead.

That way, we can plan for and better adapt to these changes.

I expect that some of you have been involved with the review and have made submissions, so thank you for contributing to this important process.

Mr. Emerson will submit his recommendations later this year, and I am confident that the review will have insightful recommendations to help us chart a path forward for transportation in Canada.

Conclusion

I’ve covered a lot of ground today. So let me close on this thought.

Being Minister of Transport and doing my job has two sides to it.

On one hand, it is truly inspiring.

Transportation is something whereby, in Canada, we can measure social and economic progress.

Talking about its future and thinking big ideas is something we need to do.

It has inspired explorers to travel and map our waterways.

It led to the creation of the airplane and the automobile.

And it prompted our nation’s founders to envision a ribbon of steel to connect west and east.

That said, government’s role in transportation – and my role as Minister – carries some weighty responsibility.

Responsibility for the economy, for the environment, for national security.

And for what is my top priority: safety.

Transportation is one way our society is constantly evolving, and as such, it offers us tremendous opportunity.

It can be stimulating and even inspiring to think about this opportunity and, to look to the sky.

But for those of us who regulate transportation in Canada, we must also keep our feet on the ground and consult with those who will ultimately feel the impact of our decisions.

I think most of you have heard the expression, “You can’t get there from here.”

But I am here to tell you, “Yes, we can.”

As long as we continue to think ahead and work together.

Thank you very much.


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