Interview with Scott Streiner, President and CEO, Canadian Transportation Agency, at the International Transportation Forum, 2017 Summit (from May 31 to June 2, 2017)
The Canadian Transportation Agency, which I lead, is an independent tribunal and regulator with responsibilities both for the economic regulation of the national transportation system and accessibility issues for people with disabilities. Under the proposed legislation which the government has tabled, the Agency would have a number of new or of enhanced roles.
On the air side, the legislation will give us the ability to pass regulations related to the protection of air travellers' rights. On the rail side, we'll have a number of new responsibilities, perhaps the most notable of which is something called long haul interswitching. It's a Canadian rule that allows for shippers who are served by only one railway company to have that company move their goods to an interchange point for transfer to another railway company, and to do so under regulated rights.
The Agency will be responsible for the implementation of these sorts of new measures. On the air passenger side, we will consult widely with industry, with experts, with consumer advocates and with other interested Canadians, and develop the regulations that will outline exactly what a traveller is entitled to if something goes wrong with their flights.
On the rail side, we will also be consulting with interested stakeholders and developing the relevant regulations and guidelines to implement these new measures.
I understand that raising awareness is a key priority for the Agency. How is your organization ensuring that Canadians are aware of your services and mandate?
Yes, for an organization like the Canadian Transportation Agency, it's important that those parties for whom legislative remedies exist actually know that we're there to help. Parliament has given the Agency a number of responsibilities: to protect air travellers, to protect persons with disabilities who are using the national transportation system, to protect shippers who are moving their goods by rail or by marine shipping. And we at the Agency believe that those folks need to know that if something doesn't go quite right, they can turn to us for assistance.
When they do that, we try to resolve any disputes as informally as possible. We try to facilitate or mediate a resolution and, if that doesn't work, then we can arbitrate or we can adjudicate a resolution.
We've been using a variety of tools to let Canadians know that we're here to help: we've been increasing outreach through social media, we have been engaging in more stakeholder events, we've been using some targeted advertising particularly during travel season, and we've been engaging more with the media, including with you, and we think that those efforts are paying off. We think that more travellers, more shippers, more persons with disabilities are aware of the services we offer, and when they can't resolve issues with the transportation service provider, they're asking us for our assistance.
The CTA has three core mandates. It's an organization which actually dates back to 1904. Canada turns 150, this year. The CTA has been around for 113 of those 150 years. So we really are part of the fabric of Canada's national transportation system. Our oldest mandate is to help keep the national transportation system running smoothly and running efficiently. We do that through setting rules, we also do it through resolving disputes.
Our second mandate, much more modern, is to protect the human right of persons with disabilities to accessible transportation services, and our third mandate is to provide consumer protection to air travellers. If something goes wrong with someone's flight, they can turn to us and we'll try to help them resolve those issues.
So those are our three core mandates. Our priorities for the coming three or four years are as follows. First, to make sure that we get the framework right and in particular to modernize the regulations. We've got a suite of regulations. They've been around a long time. We think it's time to make sure that they keep pace with industry practices, with user expectations and with best practices in the regulatory field.
Our second priority is excellence and service delivery to Canadians. Our third priority is outreach, helping to make sure that stakeholders and other Canadians are aware that we're here to help. And the foundation for all of those priorities is to ensure that our organization is healthy, that it is well and that it is high performing, and that our staff are ready to respond with agility and creativity to the various challenges before us.
This whole forum, this time around, is about governance and transportation. How important is good governance to transportation?
Well, I think sometimes when we think about transportation, it's natural that we focus on infrastructure. Infrastructure is crucial to transportation. We will often times think about new technologies: absolutely crucial. But I think sometimes we can underplay a little bit how important it is that we get the rules set up right, how important it is that the regulations protect users, on the one hand, and facilitate innovation and efficiency, on the other, how important it is that we have coherence among the various jurisdictions.
You know, if you're moving a parcel from Shanghai through Europe to North America, you don't want to have to grapple with multiple regimes and a whole bunch of administrative hassles. So I think that effective governance of the transportation sector, whether it's rules and regulations, whether it's the existence of administrative bodies like mine is crucial to making sure that the system meets the needs of national economies, meets the needs of our societies, and actually is able to adopt new technologies and help to support prosperity on a go-forward basis.