Opening remarks: Oral hearing on possible rail service issues in Vancouver
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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Scott Streiner. I'm Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, and Chair of the Panel of Members that is investigating possible freight rail service issues in the Vancouver area. I'm joined on the Panel by Members Lenore Duff and Gerald Dickie.
The CTA is Canada's longest-standing independent, expert tribunal and regulator. One of its core mandates is to help ensure that the national transportation system runs smoothly and efficiently. The CTA has, with respect to all matters necessary for the exercise of its jurisdiction, all the powers of a superior court.
Canada's rail system is a backbone of the national economy, and Vancouver is one of Canada's most important trade gateways. For these reasons, efficient freight transportation services in the Vancouver area are critical for the producers and shippers who rely on them and for the country's prosperity.
This investigation was launched by the CTA on January 14 on its own motion, with the authorization of the Minister of Transport, pursuant to a new authority that came into force last May. This is the first time the CTA has used this authority.
By its nature, an investigation of this sort proceeds step-by-step. The hearing we're holding today and tomorrow, together with the report of the Inquiry Officer appointed when the investigation was launched, constitute the initial information-gathering phase of the investigative process. Once that information is before us, we begin to concentrate on those matters that the evidence suggests warrant closer attention, and may direct more specific questions to relevant participants. Participants will have 20 days to answer those questions, and another 10 days to review and reply to one another's answers.
We recognize that the investigation is moving forward at a fairly fast pace, and that this has required railway companies and other parties to respond promptly to information requests. This pace reflects not only the significance of the matters before us, but also the fact that the legislative provision giving the CTA the power to initiate rail service investigations on its own motion includes directory language indicating that the investigation should be completed in 90 days.
The structure of this hearing was outlined in the Order of Proceedings issued last Thursday and updated yesterday. Today, we'll hear from the three railway companies, a terminal operator, and a number of shipper associations. Tomorrow morning, we'll hear from an additional shipper association and the Port of Vancouver. Finally, before wrapping up tomorrow afternoon, the railway companies will have an opportunity to make reply remarks. Participants are permitted to use their presentation time to provide evidence that substantiates or supplements information submitted to the Inquiry Officer, and to respond to any aspect of the submissions or presentations of other participants. In addition, the Panel may pose questions to participants during or after their presentations. Participants should endeavour to complete their presentations in two-thirds to three-quarters of their allotted time, after which the Panel will confer privately and formulate any questions. During the remaining time, the Panel will pose its questions and the participant will have a chance to respond to them.
Our expectation is that this hearing will be entirely, or almost entirely, public. However, the Panel retains the ability to shift to an in camera format if a party persuades it that the public release of information it intends to present would cause it harm. Should that be the case, anyone who is not a direct participant in this hearing, a CTA official, or a contractor providing interpretation or transcription services will be asked to leave the room.
While we don't intend for this hearing to be unnecessarily formal, the Panel expects parties and observers to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with a statutory investigative process. Only CTA Members, the Registrar, and scheduled participants are permitted to speak in the course of the hearing. Cell phones should be turned off or switched to silent mode. Once I have completed my opening remarks, no video or audio recordings are permitted. And any exit from, or re-entry to, the room should be kept to a minimum and done quietly.
Reporters who have questions about the hearing process, or who wish to receive copies of any of the documents on the public record, should speak with the Communications liaison who is with us today.
Before I invite our first presenters to come forward, do any of the participants wish to raise any procedural questions regarding this hearing?