CIAC appears before Senate committee studying Bill C-49

On February 6, 2018, CIAC addressed the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications. This committee is currently examining Bill C-49, theTransportation Modernization Act. 

Isabelle Des Chênes, CIAC’s Executive Vice-President, briefed senators on Canada’s chemistry industry, the importance of rail transportation and the enhancements CIAC would like to see in the legislation.

More than three quarters of the chemistry industry’s annual shipments move by rail and this accounts for one-seventh of all freight shipments in Canada.  Rail costs and service become very important factors for Canada’s chemistry producers, especially when deciding to locate a new facility or expand operations in Canada.

Des Chênes noted that while generally pleased with the language and intention of the proposed legislation CIAC believes there are areas that could benefit from some fine-tuning.

Specifically, with respect to the data transparency provisions, CIAC strongly recommends commodity specific information and additional granularity provisions be included. This would support better assessments of fair and adequate service. CIAC is also recommending the availability of information to shippers be expedited by establishing a firm, early timeline for the implementation of the regulations.

CIAC also wants the Act to include more specific language for railways to provide the highest level of service they can reasonably provide. There is ambiguity in the current language that stops short of equating “adequate and suitable” with the highest reasonable level of rail service. This needs to be clarified.

With respect to the Agency’s powers and informal resolution processes, CIAC also recommends the Canadian Transportation Agency’s powers be increased, providing it with the ability to investigate issues on its own initiative and ensure informal resolutions are implemented, are effective, and that policy makers and stakeholders are then able to measure and analyze broader trends in rail freight system performance. 

While voicing appreciation for the intent of the Long Haul Interswitching (LHI) provisions in the Bill, Des Chênes noted some members’ concerns around the range of limitations and specific exclusions. Many CIAC members are captive shippers and for some trucking is not an economically viable option. CIAC is recommending the elimination of those limitations related specifically to toxic by inhalation (or TIH) products; to traffic originating within 30 km of a different interchange; and to exclusions pertaining to high-volume corridors.