Decisions 2003: Legislation

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That’s the question Transport Minister David Collenette posed in speech delivered to the Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation annual conference held recently in Halifax. In recent months Collenette has come under fire in the industry for suggesting that some freight needs to be diverted from truck to other modes in order to ease congestion and reduce emissions. In the following excerpt from his speech Collenette outlines why more strategic alliances between modes are essential as well as revealing other parts of Ottawa’s transportation strategy.

Certain parts of our transportation network have reached their capacity, while other links are not being used to their full potential. We really need to ask ourselves if we are making the most effective use of all modes. What is required, in my view, is for all sectors of the transportation system to focus on expanding and building more strategic alliances between modes. It’s time for the different modes to look at each other more as partners, less as competitors.

We all know it isn’t always possible to substitute one mode for another. Modes are not completely interchangeable. Shippers have to choose the mode that best meets their needs.

But I believe one of the most important trends now developing – one that we should all encourage – is the growing number of partnerships between trucking companies and railways. These are to the mutual advantage of both modes as well as their clients. Some strategic partnerships are beginning to take root. Both CN and CP have expanded their intermodal services with the trucking industry. Last year, nearly one quarter of CP’s revenue and 20% of CN’s came from intermodal services.

To me, this is promising news – and not just for the companies involved. Because intermodalism is good for all of us. It’s anti-congestion. It’s about making the best possible use of all modes. It helps us move goods more efficiently. It helps make our economy more efficient. And it helps us meet our Kyoto commitments to deal with greenhouse gas emissions.

Let me expand a little on the environmental issue. The government of Canada places a high priority on the quest for more sustainable ways to move both people and goods in Canada.

Greenhouse gas emissions are a special concern. Canada is one of the largest per capita producers of greenhouse gas emissions. This is not surprising. Canada has always faced the daunting challenge of moving people and goods over the longest distances, through the harshest climate and over the roughest terrain. And we burn fossil fuels to move people and freight across this terrain and to international destinations.

So, although the transportation sector is not the only one contributing heavily to the production of greenhouse gases, it is the single largest producer in Canada – accounting for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. If we don’t meet our Kyoto targets, and if current trends continue, these emissions will exceed 1990 levels by 32% in 2010 and by 53% in 2020.

We remain committed to finding new and innovative solutions to help reduce greenhouse gases. To help meet our target, Transport Canada has funded programs such as the Moving on Sustainable Transportation Program, the Urban Transportation Showcase Program and the Freight Efficiency and Technology Initiative. We believe that a strategy of addressing vehicle efficiency, fuel use, passenger transportation and freight movement is necessary for meeting our targets.

We need to find innovative solutions to other challenges as well.

Innovation in transportation comes in many forms, and one of the most interesting is the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS. For instance, Transport Canada is working with the four provinces on the Atlantic Provinces Regional ITS Strategic Plan. This plan will provide a road map for ITS development in this region for the next 10 years. One example of an ITS project from the Atlantic region is the Confederation Bridge Electronic Tolling System, or STRAIT PASS. Transport Canada provided $93,800 funding for the system, which uses transponders on commercial vehicles to eliminate the wait at tollbooths, thereby reducing line-ups and congestion and keeping traffic flowing. These transponders are also compatible with those used at other toll facilities throughout the Maritimes, including those at the Saint John Harbour Bridge, the Cobequid Pass and the Halifax-Dartmouth bridges. Transponders can also be used to allow truck carriers with an established record of compliance to stop at one weigh scale on a trip and then by-pass the rest.

These and other innovative solutions will be an essential part of the transportation system of the future and Transport Canada is committed to supporting innovative developments. Under the Strategic Highway Infrastructure Program, or SHIP, we have $30 million available for ITS projects alone.

The bulk of SHIP funding, $500 million, is dedicated to improvements to the National Highway System. SHIP is just one of a series of infrastructure investments the Government of Canada has made since 1993. These include $4.45 billion in urban infrastructure over more than a decade, the $2-billion Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund and the $600-million Border Infrastructure Fund. And in the latest Speech From the Throne, the federal government announced its commitment to a new, ambitious 10-year agenda to upgrade this country’s infrastructure.

And there’s one other broad government priority that I would like to mention — innovation as it relates to skills development — because it is fundamental to the future success of the transportation sector.

The Government of Canada launched an Innovation Strategy last February. Under it, we are committed to working with all sectors to develop a skilled workforce to strengthen Canada’s future economic potential.

In the transportation industry, recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest isn’t always an easy task – we need to clearly demonstrate that transportation offers exciting and satisfying careers. Our demographics show us that many parts of the industry, and Transport Canada itself, are facing the prospect of high numbers of retirements over the next 10 years. This will mean a huge loss in corporate memory and a huge challenge to address.

To deal with this challenge, the transportation industry will need to make sure it is as competitive for highly skilled workers as other sectors. It will also need to show innovation, for example, by developing marketing strategies aimed at high schools and universities and by promoting the study of transportation issues.

Skills and innovation are fundamental public policy issues, and they will continue to dominate the government’s agenda in the years ahead. For our part, Transport Canada will work with industry partners to identify areas of potential skills shortages. Attracting, retaining and developing a skilled workforce will be a key element of the transportation blueprint document I will be releasing very soon.

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