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Canada’s transport minister seeks to beef up port investments, railway safety

Legislation aims to help country ‘modernize the way … marine and rail transportation systems operate’

The Port of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. (Photo: Shutterstock/romakoma)

Omar Alghabra, the Canadian minister of transport, has proposed legislation aimed at port investments and the adoption of further railway safety initiatives.

The Strengthening the Port System and Railway Safety in Canada Act, introduced in the House of Commons, seeks to bolster and fortify Canada’s supply chain amid geopolitical and climate-related events as well as changes in trade patterns, according to a Thursday news release. 

“[The act] aims to amend current legislation and modernize the way Canada’s marine and rail transportation systems operate and remove systemic barriers,” the release said. “As a result, these amendments would strengthen our transportation supply chain and would respond to the rising cost of living.”

A summary of the proposed amendments affecting the ports and railways is available here

Port amendments seek to position Canada’s facilities to be more competitive, enable effective management by their authorities and promote sustainability for infrastructure and operations.

Railway amendments look to improve the transparency and efficiency of safety oversight through modernizing key regulatory processes.

The bill builds upon strategic reviews that Transport Canada undertook starting in 2017. In 2017, former Minister of Transport Marc Garneau charged an independent panel to review the effectiveness of the Railway Safety Act, with its findings released in May 2018.

A port modernization review was launched in 2018 to consider how policy, legislative and regulatory changes could assist Canada’s port authorities, according to Transport Canada. The review was finalized in October. At that time, Garneau indicated the Canadian government should explore how it responds to private investments in the ports. 

Against this backdrop, Alghabra created a supply chain task force in January 2022 to explore how to strengthen Canada’s transportation supply chain. The task force released its final report on Oct. 6.

“Private investment will continue to be central to our ports having world-class facilities and services, and it will continue to welcome investment as a catalyst for growth and innovation,” Transport Canada said in Thursday’s news release. “A clear and predictable investment climate is key to enabling investors to play this important role, and taking steps to make sure investments support supply chain fluidity will help Canadians get the goods they need, when they need them, at an affordable cost. 

“For this reason, a new policy statement on port investment is being advanced, which sets out a clear set of principles to guide government decisions. The application of these principles would be enabled by new legislative tools being advanced under the proposed bill.”

Meanwhile, the rail component of the legislation responds to the review of the Railway Safety Act as well as introduces amendments to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act of 1992. Proposed amendments would also address Transport Canada’s capacity to respond to ongoing and emergency safety risks.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.