Senators defend air travellers, workers and farmers in amendments to government transportation bill

News Release

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications

Senators defend air travellers, workers and farmers in amendments to government transportation bill

March 28, 2018


Ottawa – Senators moved to strengthen air travellers’ rights, balance rail safety against workers’ privacy interests and defend soybean farmers from paying too much to get their goods to market in a series of amendments made Tuesday to a massive government transportation bill.

Members of the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications made the amendments to Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, after careful study.

The bill itself is complex with wide-ranging implications for groups across Canada — many of whom appeared before the committee to give evidence.

The committee listened.

As passed by the House of Commons, the bill would require the Canadian Transportation Agency to create an air passenger bill of rights that would force airlines to compensate passengers who are delayed on the tarmac for more than three hours. Senators voted to reduce this to 90 minutes.

Another amendment would require Senate or House committees to regularly review and report to Parliament on the effectiveness of the air passenger bill of rights.

Citing privacy concerns and workers’ rights, committee members also reduced railway companies’ access to recordings made by Locomotive Voice and Video Recorders (similar to ‘black boxes’ used in aircraft) that the bill proposes to make mandatory in trains.

Senators voted instead to allow access to these recordings solely for the purpose of determining the causes and contributing factors of an accident.

Responding to Canada’s soybean farmers, the committee voted to add soybeans to the list of crops covered by the Maximum Revenue Entitlement — a cap on the overall revenue that Canada’s railways can earn from shipping products on the list. Most bulk crops grown in Western Canada are covered under the Maximum Revenue Entitlement.

Committee members ensured this complex and wide-ranging bill received considerable scrutiny and made every effort to hear from Canadians who stand to be affected by it so that their concerns are heard on Parliament Hill.

The committee’s amendments now go to the Red Chamber for consideration by all senators.

Quick Facts

  • Other committee amendments would empower the Canadian Transport Agency to proactively investigate whether a railway company is fulfilling its service obligations, and give farmers better access to long-haul rail interswitching so they can more easily get their goods to market.
  • Another key amendment would provide greater transparency for shippers who seek final offer arbitration to challenge excessive rail freight rates.
  • The committee held 13 meetings to analyze the bill and heard from a number of experts and interest groups.

Quote

“Our committee worked quickly to gain a thorough understanding of every aspect of this 67-page bill. The amendments we passed reflect that work and the input of Canadians who took the time to reach out to the Senate to make sure that Parliament passes well-thought-out legislation that benefits travellers, farmers and consumers.”

- Senator David Tkachuk, Chair of the committee.

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For more information, please contact:

Sonia Noreau
Public Relations Officer | Communications Directorate
Senate of Canada
613-614-1180 | sonia.noreau@sen.parl.gc.ca