9th Annual Canadian Transportation Agency Meeting on Railway Issues
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Opening Remarks for Marian Robson, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Transportation Agency
Panorama Room, National Arts Centre
April 14, 2005
(check against delivery)
Good morning everyone, and welcome to the Canadian Transportation Agency's ninth annual meeting held in co-operation with the Railway Association of Canada. My name is Marian Robson, and I am the Agency's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here again today. The fact that we are now just one year away from this event's tenth anniversary attests to the continued interest in these issues.
For those of you who may be less familiar with the Agency, it is Canada's national transportation economic regulator, with jurisdiction over rail issues, as well as marine and air matters. We are also responsible for removing undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities in the federal transport system.
The Agency, which marked its centennial as an organization in 2004, actually began as the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada. One can safely say that rail transportation has been an Agency concern since day one.
These days, the Agency is of course still involved in the adjudication of shipper-railway disputes, but it also plays an important role in many other areas, from the complex calculations involved in the transfer of the Government of Canada's hopper car fleet to Western farmers, to the approval of the O-Train light rail extension that will run from Ottawa's south end to just around the corner from here.
As a key player in the country's rail sector, the Agency works closely with organizations such as the RAC. Today's event is just one example of our many collaborative efforts, and I would like to thank the association for its part in making this meeting possible. I would also like to thank Agency staff in the rail and marine, communications and secretariat branches for all of their hard work.
Since its inception in 1997, this meeting has grown. Each year it has been attended by a broader representation of government participants, all with an interest in hearing first-hand about an interesting and topical range of subjects presented by Canada's foremost rail transportation association.
That is the case again this year. We welcome representatives here today from:
- Transport Canada
- Transportation Safety Board
- Environment Canada
- NAFTA Secretariat
- Industry Canada
- Department of Justice
- Department of International Trade
- British Columbia Ministry of Transportation
- Ontario Ministry of Transportation
- Finance Canada
- Department of Fisheries and Oceans
- Statistics Canada
We are truly pleased to have with us colleagues from so many of the organizations that are often our partners on Agency files. Transport Canada and the other transportation agencies immediately spring to mind, but the Agency also works with Foreign Affairs on bilateral air agreements, the Border Services Agency on marine coasting trade issues and Agriculture and Agri-Food on the grain transportation file, to name but a few.
Events such as today's are an excellent opportunity for government officials to learn more about the rail and transportation industries' operating environment.
For the Agency, acquiring and sharing knowledge is key to carrying out our organization's mandate.
During the past year for example, Agency officials were able to see first-hand the effects of the West Coast congestion issue thanks to a Vancouver-to-Calgary rail tour organized by our friends at the RAC.
This same topic has also been the focus of discussions between the Agency and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, the Association of American Railways and the Western Transportation Advisory Council, or WESTAC.
On the Prairies, Members and staff toured grain facilities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and met with officials from the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission.
Back in British Columbia, senior staff and I travelled through the province last fall in the wake of CN's acquisition of BC Rail. As the deal put the former provincial railway under the Agency's jurisdiction for the first time, the familiarization tour was organized with a focus on the provincial and municipal governments, port authorities, shippers and, of course, railways.
On the operations side, the Agency is proud of the growth of its mediation program, which has played a significant role in resolving, for example, several producer car issues and complaints.
Although most of these cases are confidential, the parties to a 2004 case in Saskatchewan did choose to make the details of their Agency-mediated settlement public.
In this instance, Agency mediators helped a group of farmers and CP come to a mutually satisfactory agreement for the movement of producer cars on the White Fox Subdivision in the northeastern part of the province.
Just a few weeks ago, the Agency was pleased to see its work in this area recognized when the Minister of Transport tabled amendments to the Canada Transportation Act which, if adopted, would entrench it in the Agency's enabling legislation.
The amendments also include improvements to the recourses available to rail shippers, a greater role for the Agency in the urban passenger rail sector and another measure that would allow us to resume handling railway noise complaints.
No changes have been proposed to the existing running rights provisions in the Act.
It's been a busy year for those of us involved in Canadian and North American rail transportation, and the next 12 months look like they're going to be busier still.
That's why events such as this annual CTA-RAC meeting are so important, since they provide such valuable insight into where the industry is headed.
So without further ado, I would now like to call on Bruce Burrows, Acting President of the RAC, to introduce today's head table and program.