Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue No. 1 - Evidence, March 22, 2016

OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 9:31 a.m. for the consideration of draft budgets to study the development of a strategy to facilitate the transport of crude oil to Eastern Canadian refineries and to ports on the East and West Coasts of Canada; and the regulatory and technical issues related to the deployment of connected and automated vehicles.

Senator Michael L. MacDonald (Deputy Chair) in the chair.


The Deputy Chair: I call this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications to order. We have two items of business this morning. The clerk has distributed two budgets for your consideration.

For simplicity, I suggest we begin with the budget dealing with the conference on automated vehicles. The Conference Board of Canada is holding a two-day session in Toronto on April 19 and 20, 2016. This financial request proposes sending two senators to the conference.

Are there any questions on the budget application?

Senator Mercer: Why travel by train or plane? Why don't we just get an automatic vehicle — let them take us. You want to test this stuff.

The Deputy Chair: They have us flying up and taking the train back on Wednesday after the conference.

Senator Black: What days?

The Deputy Chair: Tuesday and Wednesday, 19 and 20.

Senator Black: Of April?

The Deputy Chair: Yes, April.

Senator Mercer: Why are we limited to two?

The Deputy Chair: That's a good question. Why are we limited?

Senator Mercer: It's a subject matter of interest to more than two of us. I appreciate the budgetary restrictions, but I know nothing about it; I have never seen a vehicle that does this. I've never been in one.

It seems to me that it might be a conference that more than two of us would want to go to.

The Deputy Chair: If I can respond to that, Senator Mercer asks why we are limited to two. It's probably because we were dealing with this from the point of view that the pipeline was our priority. I believe that we wanted to make sure that we kept abreast of what was going on with this before we started studying it.

But, for myself, I think you make a good point. This is a big subject. The minister has requested we look at it.

Do people believe we should be sending four instead of two? Should we consider that?

Senator Mercer: The minister has asked us to have a look at it?

The Deputy Chair: Yes.

Senator Mercer: And I think that's an important thing. In any other committee that the minister has asked us to have a look at this — it doesn't matter which government it was — we said, "Okay this is important. He or she is looking for some advice on this.'' And to have two of us exposed to this conference is one thing.

I haven't looked at my schedule, so I have no idea whether I would be available.

Senator Plett: I was assuming they meant you and me were going.

Senator Mercer: They'd need a bigger budget.

The Deputy Chair: What do people think? I'm very interested in the subject but, like a lot of people, I'm not particularly well-versed in it.

Senator Black: In my view, if we're going to study something, the more knowledge we have going into the study is helpful. So if this is a reasonable way to gather knowledge, that's what we should do.

Senator Greene: I have no problem with doing this. I won't be able to go, as I have a couple of other conflicts in Ottawa, but I think it's probably a good idea.

Senator Plett: I concur for sure.

I know this isn't fact-finding — this is a conference; however, it's fairly common that when we do go on trips that the invitation gets put out to all senators on a committee. Rarely can they all go, but certainly the invitation goes out to the entire committee to travel. Clearly, the budget will go up by many times, because it not only involves more senators, it involves staff and may involve translation. I don't know what all it would involve.

So I guess that all needs to be taken into consideration, if it's something that all of us are interested in.

The Deputy Chair: This one wouldn't involve staff, I don't believe, because it's not our conference. It wouldn't involve translation, either. But it would change the budget from about $9,600 to just over $19,000. Just double it.

Senator Mercer: What if you moved air travel to Toronto and we went by train? Because it doesn't cost anything —

The Deputy Chair: If I'm coming up to Ottawa from Halifax, for example, I'm not going to come up by train.

Senator Mercer: But you're going to be here, anyway. It's a sitting week.

Senator Plett: What days are those?

The Deputy Chair: Tuesday and Wednesday.

Senator Mercer: You will be here, anyway. You and I will fly from Halifax to Ottawa anyway that week, okay? So that cost is already built in. It's not a committee cost; it's just the cost of getting from Ottawa to Toronto. If we switch that cost from plane to train, then we have reduced the cost significantly. Quite frankly, the train ride to Toronto from Ottawa is very comfortable.

Senator Black: It is 4.5 hours.

Senator Mercer: It is 4.5 hours; I agree with that. However, calculate the time it takes to get to the airport. Also, you've got to be there at least an hour in advance of even a 30-minute flight to Toronto. You've got two hours there and another hour and a half at the other end, because you're going to fly to Pearson not to Toronto centre. It's close to four hours, anyway.

Senator Black: Fair point.

Senator Mercer: It seems to me it's economical to do it the other way.

The Deputy Chair: Senator Runciman?

Senator Runciman: I'll take the train, anyway. It's more convenient for me.

Senator Greene: There is a conflict with the Banking Committee. It's meeting in Halifax on the Tuesday. That's why I'm not able to do it, so maybe there will be other people caught in that conflict, too, I don't know.

The Deputy Chair: Speaking personally, I know if I'm flying out, I would rather fly directly than fly to Ottawa then take a train to Toronto.

Senator Runciman: Build the flights in. If you don't spend it, you don't spend it.

The Deputy Chair: We could do that. For some people, leave here —

Senator Mercer: I would be happy to take the train from Ottawa.

The Deputy Chair: I'm happy to take the train if I'm here.

Senator Mercer: What time does the conference start, do we know?

Daniel Charbonneau, Clerk of the Committee: It starts at 7:45 in the morning.

Senator Mercer: That means leaving the night before. That might defeat my suggestion.

The Deputy Chair: Fly up here then take a train.

Senator Mercer: I didn't know the starting time, because you have to be there.

The Deputy Chair: You have to be there Monday for Tuesday morning.

Senator Plett: It is Tuesday and Wednesday. Certainly, we can take the train back here for Thursday.

The Deputy Chair: That's already in the budget.

Senator Mercer: That's why we're going one way by train.

It seems to me that this isn't going to be an issue that we're going to be spending most of our time talking about in the next few months, but it is an issue that needs to be examined.

The Deputy Chair: Yes, if I could add that we'll go over this later. When we do go out west, potentially to Edmonton, we'll have an opportunity to take an hour or two and study these vehicles in Edmonton.

Senator Mercer: Yes.

The Deputy Chair: We'll be doing piecemeal work on this while we're doing the pipeline study. So this will be consistent with it. Do it; get it done.

Senator Mercer: I think that is a very efficient use of our time. There is no sense in going to Edmonton to talk about pipelines and not talk about these cars when Edmonton is the centre doing the most work on this issue. Start getting efficient.

The Deputy Chair: If there are no other questions, the budget of 9,682, are we going to establish it to be 19,364? We need a motion in that regard.

Senator Black moves that. That's done. Okay.

Senator Plett: I think that is a question that needs to be asked: Are we in agreement?

The Deputy Chair: Are we in agreement?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: All right, the next budget application is for the two trips for public hearings and fact finding related to our study on the transportation of crude oil. One trip would be to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. The second trip is Montreal, Saint John, Halifax and Port Hawkesbury. Please note that the Senate administration has not had an opportunity to review this application. The total budget, as you can see is $331,852.

Are there any questions on this budget application or any questions on these two activities? Do you want to start first with the Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton trip?

Senator Black: My view is this is a national issue. We have to be seen to be acting nationally. We need to be in communities; we need to be seen to be listening. We need to be seen to be consulting. It's important for our work.

The Deputy Chair: I'm putting this stuff together. I was of the opinion that not only do we have to go to the communities where the source of this product is a large issue at the moment, but we also have to go to the ports where we would potentially be carrying this product. Senator Runciman?

Senator Runciman: How does this line up and not line up with the National Energy Board hearings on the pipeline? It might seem to be redundant. That's my only concern. If we have got a national commission looking at this whole issue of Energy East, I gather we're going to look at more than that.

The Deputy Chair: No, we're looking at not just Energy East, but looking at Trans Mountain and the Northern Gateway and all the means of moving this stuff across the country through communities, and the three or four different transportation vehicles there are for moving.

Senator Runciman: There is no conflict in terms of timelines for any of those projects with the National Energy Board?

The Deputy Chair: Off the top of my head, I don't know if there is a conflict. Senator Black, can you add anything to that?

Senator Black: I would say two things. The first thing is that, obviously, the Trans Mountain and Energy East National Energy Board hearings will be ongoing, or the Government of Canada will have that extended period of time in which to consider the application, so there will some overlap, but my own view is that this exercise could be very helpful for that process, because the National Energy Board, as we all know, has a very limited mandate.

The Deputy Chair: Yes.

Senator Black: I think we will hear from some folks.

The Deputy Chair: I believe we have a much broader approach to this. We can bring a lot of people to the table that may not be at the table at the National Energy Board.

Senator Runciman: I agree with that. My concern is timing. I think this has to be a contribution to the national debate, so I wouldn't want to see it coming in at the tail end of any recommendations flowing from the board. We have to look at those kinds of timelines.

The Deputy Chair: I agree, Senator Runciman. I also think we should be coming out of the gates with this and going right at it. Perhaps we can make a contribution before the National Energy Board makes its decision.

Senator Runciman: It would be nice to know what their timelines are, if they have proposed timelines.

The Deputy Chair: Can he we get timelines on the National Energy Board?

Jed Chong, Analyst, Library of Parliament: I'm actually looking at the NEB's website now for Energy East. It doesn't look like they have anything scheduled specifically. All it says is that sessions are to be scheduled in 2016. Right now, it looks like it's a little bit vague.

Senator Black: They are doing pre-consultations now. There is something going on now on Energy East.

Mr. Chong: I believe that's a provincial process through the Bureau d'audiences publiques, BAPE.

Senator Mercer: Part of the process we need to be aware of is that the provinces, in particular, the Province of Quebec, are doing some work on this, too. We need to be conscious of it. We can't let that supersede what we're doing, but we need to be aware of it.

Senator Runciman: Can we follow up on that, just to pursue?

Mr. Chong: I can look into it more, but upon first glance, the NEB's website for Energy East doesn't have specific dates.

Senator Mercer: It would seem to me the analyst is right. We're going to bring things to the table that the National Energy Board is not going to talk about. We're going to be much more inclusive. We add that other part to the study that they may not be able to or may not want to do. This is what we do best, sir, and we shouldn't shy away from it. This is an important issue.

The Deputy Chair: It is a very important issue right across the country.

Senator Mercer: Exactly, right across the country, not just an East Coast-West Coast thing. It's everybody in between.

Senator Runciman: I would like to see the analyst follow up with a phone call to the board and have a specific conversation rather than relying on websites, if he could do that.

Mr. Chong: I'll see what I can do, yes.

The Deputy Chair: Senator Black?

Senator Black: I think it's great. When will we have those dates?

The Clerk: Actually, this budget application has to go to the budget subcommittee for Internal, then to Internal, and once that is all done and whether or not the funding is allocated, then steering will decide on the dates in consultation with the whips.

Senator Mercer: I don't want to go backwards, but do we need a reference for this trip to Toronto?

The Clerk: We have one.

Senator Mercer: We have one already, good.

The Deputy Chair: I want to add one thing. The clerk and I spoke about it on the phone the other day. We put these trips together. Most of the provisions are made to go to the oil areas and the export ports, but, of course, we're talking about transporting petroleum right across the country. I did mention at the time whether there is an argument to spend a day or two in Toronto or Sarnia. This has to go through the heart of the country. I'm wondering what people think about that. Are we missing an opportunity or perhaps not doing due diligence when we don't do that?

Senator Mercer: I don't know that Toronto is the heart of the country.

Senator Plett: Thank you.

Senator Mercer: Particularly on this issue. The pipeline is not going to go through Toronto.

The Deputy Chair: No, I'm talking about the pipeline that is going to go through Ontario. It's running west to east.

Senator Mercer: Yes. The Government of Ontario can meet us wherever we want to meet them.

The Deputy Chair: If you want to go to North Bay, we can go there.

Senator Mercer: I'll take North Bay; there's nothing wrong with North Bay. Closer to spring, North Bay is a little better.

Senator Black: I think that idea has merit for a day. Choose a place. There are a couple of places where I think both rail lines and pipelines converge. I don't know where they are, but they are somewhere. That would be very useful. I think it would signal to the community that we're paying attention. Just a day, up and back.

Senator Plett: I don't necessarily disagree with your point, senator, but, first of all, the heart of the country, of course, is Winnipeg, Manitoba, and if we want to go through all parts of where the pipeline goes through, then we've got to go to every province. I don't know that I support that, but certainly Manitoba is as important to Manitobans as Ontario is to Ontarians.

The Deputy Chair: As it should be.

Senator Plett: I suggest we stick with the budget as presented for now and see whether we can get that. If we need to expand that later, then we expand it later.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Senator Plett. Anyone else?

All right, honourable senators, is it your pleasure to adopt this budget for submission to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Carried.

Is there further business?

Senator Black: I have one point. I intended to send a note. However, I'm not sure whether the note went to my colleagues on this committee last week. Last Tuesday, the transport committee of the U.S. Senate held one or two days of hearings on driverless cars. I think it would be interesting for the clerk and the analysts to see exactly what the evidence was, who presented. I think it would be very interesting to have a summary done for us on that.

Mr. Chong: I got the e-mail.

Senator Black: So it did go? That's what I was wondering.

Mr. Chong: Yes, I got the e-mail. When the committee does sit down to study the automated vehicles issue, I will prepare background material for them. Then this information can be included as part of that background material.

The Deputy Chair: Any further business? If not, the meeting is adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)