Transport Act review spawns many recommendations

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OTTAWA, Ont. — Transport Minister David Collenette has released the final report of the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) Review Panel and the result are nearly 100 suggested changes.

“The panel has produced a far-reaching report — containing more than 90 recommendations — which will play a pivotal role in shaping the transportation policies of the future,” says Collenette.

The minister received the panel’s final report, entitled Vision and Balance, on June 28, and it was tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The report’s recommendations focus on several areas, including competition, mergers, commercial operations, efficiency, infrastructure, urban rail corridors, sustainable development and e-business.

The panel virtually dismisses one of Collenette’s pet-plans — a zillion-dollar high-speed rail link in the Quebec-Windsor corridor.

The panel’s most crucial recommendations, however related to roads and a commercial transport sector it says has suffered greatly from federal neglect. The panel’s road themes at first seem to reflect the conclusions of the 1992 Royal Commission, which were that Ottawa collects billions in fuel taxes and pays nothing toward road construction. That should change, it said.

“All fuel taxes [should] be used for transportation purposes or as a means of charging for costs caused by transportation, such as environmental damage and the health-care system costs,” is what the Royal Commission said and the same sentiment was echoed during yesterday’s announcement by the panel.

Ottawa collected $4-billion from fuel excise taxes in 1998, but paid next to nothing to road transport. The provinces collected another $10.3-billion in fuel taxes and automobile fees. In all, governments spent only $11.6-billion of the $14.3-billion collected from road-related taxes.

“The existing system is dysfunctional,” says the panel, “and radical reform will be needed eventually.”

Collenette, who has been rumored to been on his way out of the Transport Minister’s office within the next year, says the panel’s findings will help form the future of transportation in Canada for years to come.

“The work of the CTA Review Panel will be one of the key building blocks in the development of a new transportation blueprint for Canada,” adds Collenette. “In the meantime, the department will continue its work to ensure a safe and efficient transportation system for Canada and Canadians.”

The transportation blueprint project, which the Minister launched earlier this year, is intended to renew the transportation agenda of the Government of Canada by developing a framework to guide future decisions in over the next decade and beyond.

It will build on the work of the CTA Review Panel, current consultations with stakeholders, the work of the Transportation Table on Climate Change and the outcomes of the Millennium Transportation Conference, sponsored by the Minister in June 2000. It will also be the subject of discussions with provincial and territorial ministers of transportation and parliamentary committees in the fall.

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