Chair and CEO Scott Streiner addresses the Standing Committee on Transportation and Communications, Senate of Canada on January 30, 2018

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Thank you for the invitation to appear today.

I have the privilege of serving as Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, the country's longest-standing independent, expert tribunal and regulator.

Bill C-49 touches on several of the CTA's most important responsibilities, including consumer protection for air passengers and remedies for disputes between railway companies and shippers.

Air travel is integral to modern life. Usually, it proceeds smoothly. But when it doesn't, the experience can be very frustrating, as passengers often feel they have little control over events that can significantly disrupt family visits, vacations, and business trips.

Bill C-49 mandates the CTA to make regulations setting the minimum obligations of airlines to passengers for matters such as flight delays and cancellations, denied boarding, lost or damaged baggage, tarmac delays, and travel with children or musical instruments.

These regulations will ensure that airlines' obligations are written in plain language, are easy for passengers to find, and provide for fair and consistent measures to deal with air travel issues.

We know Canadians will want to see the regulations developed as soon as possible, but also want to have their say. So we'll launch consultations on the regulations within three days of Royal Assent, if and when the Bill is passed, and conclude them within three months. There will be multiple channels for input: an online questionnaire, written submissions, airport surveys, and eight public hearings. Once we've considered all that input, we'll work to quickly finalize effective, balanced regulations.

After the regulations come into force, we'll work to make travellers and industry aware of them – because experience shows that passengers want to know what their rights are, and to have access to recourse when they believe those rights haven't been respected. The numbers tell the story: in the years 2013 to 2015, the CTA received 700to 800air travel complaints annually. In fall 2016, we began modest efforts to better inform the public about the availability of recourse through the CTA, and those complaint volumes started to rise dramatically. This month alone, we have received 700air travel complaints – as many as we used to get in an entire year.

Let me turn now to Bill C-49's freight rail provisions. Of the various amendments the Bill makes in this area, one of the most significant is the introduction of a new mechanism called long-haul interswitching, or LHI.

LHI will give shippers who are served by only one Class1 railway company the ability to have that company move their cargo to an interchange up to 1200km away, or half the total haul distance in Canada, for transfer to a different railway company. The CTA's role will be to order that the local railway company provide this service if certain conditions are met, and to set the rate for the service based on the rates for comparable traffic.

We know that shippers and railway companies will be watching closely as we adjudicate LHI applications. Shippers want more choice. Railway companies expect to be fairly compensated. Given the complexity of the matters we'll need to assess, and the 30business-day timeline for reaching decisions, we'll be implementing a tightly managed LHI process. Our decisions on LHI applications, as in all cases, will be based on the law and the evidence before us – because these factors, and these factors alone, are what we consider as a quasi-judicial body.

While there are many other elements of the Bill with implications for the work of the CTA, I will conclude my remarks here, in the interests of time. I look forward to your questions.

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