Opening remarks from Ms. France Pégeot (Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Transportation Agency) to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts - April 17, 2023

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I would like to thank the Committee for the invitation to appear today.

With me is Tom Oommen, Director General, Analysis and Outreach, at the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The Agency's mandate is based on the Canada Transportation Act and contributes to the National Transportation Policy, which strives for an accessible, competitive, economic and efficient national transportation system that serves the needs of participants and communities, and in which people trust.

We have three main roles. We help ensure that the national transportation system runs efficiently and smoothly in the interests of all Canadians, particularly in the area of rail and marine transportation. We provide consumer protection for air passengers. Finally, we protect the fundamental right of persons with disabilities to an accessible transportation network.

The Agency has a dual role. First, we are the economic regulator of the transportation industry. We make and implement regulations. We issue determinations, for example on Canadian ownership of airlines. We also monitor and enforce legislation and regulations.

Second, we are an administrative tribunal. We provide access to justice by resolving various disputes between regulated industry and its users, either informally or formally through adjudication.

Accessibility has always been and continues to be a priority for us. I would like to start by acknowledging that barriers do still exist for persons with disabilities in the transportation sector. And despite the progress made over the last few years, there is still work to be done.

Following two years of consultation, the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations came into force in phases between 2020 and 2022. These new regulations integrated two previously existing regulations and six voluntary codes of practice and cover large transportation service providers. The Agency is currently working on proposed regulations that would apply to small ones.

The Agency also developed the Accessible Transportation Planning and Reporting Regulations, which came into force at the end of 2021. These are designed to ensure that the various members of the transportation industry plan how they intend to improve accessibility, in consultation with persons with disabilities, and demonstrate how this translates into concrete results.

To ensure continuous communications with persons with disabilities, we have established an accessibility advisory committee. This group, which meets at least twice a year, brings together members of disability rights groups and also industry. This forum lets us get input on projects, priorities and regulations, and provides us with an opportunity to share information on our activities.

The Agency encourages everyone to bring forward complaints if they believe a service provider hasn't respected its accessibility-related obligations. In most cases—97% of the time—the Agency is able to help resolve those complaints through informal processes such as mediation. All accessibility complaints are prioritized, and I am pleased to inform you that we currently have no backlog with respect to accessibility complaints. We monitor compliance with the regulations and investigate all incidents involving people with disabilities that are brought to our attention, whether it be via media, for example, or other sources.

Beyond the specifics of our regulations, I believe it's also crucial for transportation service providers to instill a culture of accessibility at all levels of their organizations. There is an opportunity currently to ensure that new and existing staff are provided quality training on accessibility, and that each and every individual is imbued with a culture of respect. I emphasize this at all my meetings with industry executives.

We’re proud of the work we're doing at the Agency, and we recognize that action must be taken beyond our authority to eliminate barriers in transportation. We’ve therefore taken a leadership role on the international stage. For example, to improve the handling of mobility aids, we have led three research projects in collaboration with the National Research Council and Transport Canada. And our work has been an important contribution to recent International Air Transportation Association guidelines on mobility aids.

Additionally, the Agency, representing Canada, is chairing an ICAO—International Civil Aviation Organization—initiative to develop a compendium of accessibility statutes, regulations and best practices of various countries. The compendium can be used as a reference for countries looking to develop or improve their regulations, and it will inform ICAO's direction on improving accessibility.

Throughout the audit, we have collaborated fully with the Auditor General representatives, and we welcome their findings and recommendations. We're committed to implementing the plan of action which is identified in the report.

Thank you very much. I will be pleased to answer questions.

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