Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Transport and Communications

Issue 24 - Evidence (afternoon session)


VANCOUVER, Monday, March 25, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications met this day at 1:05 p.m. to examine issues facing the intercity busing industry.

Senator Lise Bacon (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Honourable senators, we are resuming our examination on issues facing the intercity busing industry. Our first witnesses this afternoon are Mr. Cunningham and Ms Crawford.

Please proceed.

Mr. Hans Cunningham, President, Union of British Columbia Municipalities: Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet with you today to provide the B.C. local government perspective on the intercity busing industry.

The Union of British Columbia Municipalities, or UBCM, is an association that has been representing the interests of B.C. local government for nearly 100 years. Membership in our association is voluntary, and for 25 years we have represented all 182 municipalities and regional districts throughout British Columbia. So when I speak to you today, I speak for all B.C. communities, large centres such as Vancouver and Victoria, as well as small rural and remote communities like Tahsis and New Hazelton.

Before I start to outline the key local government concerns, I should briefly like to give you an overview of the communities that make up British Columbia, because these are the ones of course about whose busing issues we are concerned. Out of the 152 municipalities that are members of UBCM, 86 of them, that is over one-half, have a population of under 5,000. Fifty-five communities have populations of less than 2,500.

While I noted that UBCM represents all B.C. local governments, this is one issue that is of more direct concern to our smaller, more rural members, and that is why I am here today. As a local elected official, I serve as chair of the Central Kootenay Regional District. As a regional district member, I represent the rural community of Ymir, which is located outside of Nelson, B.C. Coming from such a rural community, I understand the challenges and obstacles facing B.C.'s smaller and more remote centres. As rural residents, we do not have access to the same level of services as our urban counterparts, but we make use of the services available, we make due with less, and we find a way to make things work. It becomes a way of life.

This holds true no matter what the service, whether it be recreational, health care or transportation — which is why I am here. I am here address the issue of bus service and the impact that economic deregulation would have on a specific segment of the UBCM membership, that is, the remote rural community.

UBCM first became aware of the bus deregulation issue back in 1998-99, when the federal government proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act that would gradually eliminate economic regulation of the bus industry. In December 1998, the UBCM wrote to the Minister of Transport, the Honourable David Collenette, indicating our concerns. Our concerns focused primarily on the social and economic impacts that deregulation would have for the small communities throughout British Columbia. In response, the minister advised that, due to the concerns raised by a number of parties, those Motor Vehicle Act amendments related to safety would proceed while those provisions concerning economic regulation of buses would be referred to a committee for further review.

A few years have passed, but I can tell you that the issues identified back in that time, 1998-99, still remain relevant and pertinent to today's discussion. It was during 1998 that the British Columbia provincial government alerted the UBCM and other interested stakeholders about the federal government's intention to deregulate the bus industry. Our association was invited to participate in a two-day workshop and discuss our concerns about the potential impact that this would have for B.C. local government.

Briefly, I should like to elaborate on those concerns identified by our members.

Limited or no other transportation options: In the larger urban centres, residents have choices. In cities like Vancouver, you can take buses, Skytrain, planes, trains or automobiles to get from one location to another. However, that is not the case for many of B.C.'s rural communities, the other half of the province, and a large part of the province, as far as area is concerned, of course. In most areas of rural B.C., the personal automobile is the mode of transportation. However, if you are elderly, unemployed, a student, do not have access to a vehicle or just do not drive at all, your choices are extremely limited. The bus, where it is available, is not just a convenience, it is a way of life and a necessity — it may be the only mode of transportation available. The bus is used by all of those groups — the elderly, non-drivers, those who are income-disadvantaged, to get to doctors' appointments, which may be out of town, to visit families in other parts of the province, to attend school, as well as a whole host of other reasons.

I would also point out, though, that for some B.C. communities the bus is not even an option. Communities in the Queen Charlottes, as well as communities like Granisle, have no bus service. If deregulation takes place, there will be many more communities like Granisle where the only transportation option is basically no longer an option at all. What will these residents do? How will they get around?.

Of course, not only do our rural communities depend upon the buses to move people, the buses also move packages, parcels, legal documents, et cetera, where there is limited or no courier service available.

Incidentally, for those of you from larger communities who are used to next-day courier service, I recently was sent a parcel by the provincial government on a very important matter directly to our regional district; it took eight days for that parcel to get to me by courier. That was the next-day rate. The bus could have had it to me in 18 hours.

If you own an electronic shop and need to order parts to fix a customer's fridge or stove, how do you get the parts if there is no courier, or you have important legal documents that need to be delivered and there is no courier service available? For those people who depend on the bus to deliver that important part or legal document, there may be no other options.

Bus service of course also provides local employment opportunities. Depots require individuals to sell tickets, sort packages and clean the facility. There are also people required to run the restaurants and snack bars in the depots. All of those jobs contribute to the economy of a community.

The bus of course also assists in facilitating tourism for B.C. communities. Presently, bus service is coordinated with ferry and rail services, to enhance tourism opportunities. This promotes an increase in local economic development for many rural centres. If deregulation were to occur, there is no guarantee that this coordination between present modes of transportation would continue. Existing carriers may choose more profitable routes, or service may become disjointed as new carriers are unable to coordinate service with ferry or rail operations.

As local governments, we have witnessed firsthand the impacts of deregulation on the transportation industry. Many of our communities are still struggling to keep their airports operational as a result of the federal government's decision to offload airports. For those communities that have been fortunate enough to keep their airports open, they are faced with additional regulatory and administrative costs, costs that are becoming quite frankly communities overwhelming for some in a time of fiscal restraint.

As well, deregulation in the air industry has not translated into an increase in the number of new carriers, as we are all aware. In fact, many air carriers have failed or have been absorbed by the larger carriers. As well, prices have not been reduced as a result of deregulation, not for us in the Interior anyway. Where there is no competition and there is only one carrier servicing the community, that airline has a monopoly and the community is hostage to whatever the ticket price may be.

Allow me to use an example. If I were to fly from Calgary to Vancouver on a seat sale, I can do that for about $100.00. On my flight from Calgary to Vancouver, I would fly over the little town of Cranbrook, which has a population of about 15,000. Now, if I wanted to fly from Cranbrook to Vancouver, it would cost me $1,100.00 for a demand ticket, 11 times that $100.00 price, and that is because there is only one carrier serving Cranbrook. In places like Kelowna, Calgary, Vancouver, where companies like WestJet and Air Canada are competing, there is some benefit from the competition. However, we know that the number of people that require movement in the small communities does not warrant or encourage that kind of competition. That is why we need some type of regulation.

I have had the opportunity to ride the buses a fair amount, both in the States as well as in Canada. I will say this: The buses in Canada are clean; they are well run; and they operate on time. They are reliable. I have been on buses in the States, and I am talking Greyhound here, where quite frankly you would not want to rest your head on the headrest. They were stained and dirty. The conditions were less than sanitary in many cases. In Canada, however, when I travel via bus to the local areas and small towns, I know I am getting on a vehicle that is safe, on time, clean and reliable — all of which is an important consideration.

I think we all realize that intercity busing will probably always exist for those people with lower incomes; however, for people in smaller communities, we need to have intercommunity busing. Intercommunity busing must continue. Small communities need a busing system. If the bus goes, residents will have no way of getting from one place to another.

You may have heard about the B.C. government closing of some of the court houses. It is now the case that to deal with a small legal matter or a traffic ticket some people have to travel outside of their community. If there were no bus service to these communities, some of these people would not be able to attend court — unless of course they decided not to go, and then of course they would get a free ride in an RCMP car to court.

What this is all about is having a good transportation system for the people of this country.

Many older people want to stay in their small communities in the Interior. If they no longer operate their own automobile, they depend on some kind of public transportation. B.C. Transit provides some rural transportation, but to move beyond one's community, to move between communities, it is almost impossible. For instance, for an individual living in Nelson, the regional hospital is in Trail, which is a 90-minute drive. There is no way to get from Nelson to Trail by bus. There used to be, but not anymore. We need to have that kind of service.

It will probably require some kind of regulation to make that happen, some cooperation between different levels of government to make it happen.

You may know that some of our health facilities in the Interior plan to downsize. Some of them will be closing altogether, in fact. Therefore, the matter of transportation to health facilities is going to become more important. For those people who rely on public transportation to get around, the situation will be difficult.

I talked briefly about the effects of deregulation in the United States. Spokane is about 150 miles from where I live. If you lived in Spokane and wanted to go to the nearest small town, say, Colville, you would have to wait for the one bus a week that makes that trip. As well, you could not return to Spokane on the same day; you would have to wait a week before returning. That is what deregulation does.

We need to ensure that there is some type of regulatory organization, so that there will be a bus system there for the people who need it.

The Chairman: When we were in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia, witnesses there described a new unregulated van service that has resulted in a new service to small communities. Do you think it might work here?

Mr. Cunningham: It is possible. However, the distances travelled there are much less. If we are talking about travelling in the Interior, where there are communities of, say, 5,000 to 10,000 people, I am not sure that that would work.

The Chairman: How should we support rural and small community service?

Mr. Cunningham: There needs to be regulation, to maintain service wherever possible. I would like to see a reorganization of the way bus service is maintained. I am talking about adding feeder bus routes to our larger communities.

Smaller buses may be an option, but we do not want a self-fulfilling prophesy situation to arise — where we reduce the number of bus runs because there are not enough people, and then less people take the bus, and so forth, until finally the service disappears. I think perhaps we may have to work smarter rather than to close the door.

The Chairman: Are not the differences between the provincial bus regimes, which have developed over the last decade, detrimental to the industry and to the travelling public? And if they are, what is the appropriate remedy and which level of government should implement it?

Mr. Cunningham: That is a very interesting question. B.C. Transit, for example, has some buses that travel 40 or 50 kilometres in each direction, providing a feeder service. That is a subsidized service. The fares only cover something like 20 percent of the cost of operation. Of course, that becomes a block to someone instituting a private service. However, the subsidized service is there because there was a need, and no private service was filling the need. In those communities that are being served, people are paying only $2 or $3 to ride 50 kilometres, which is very affordable. However, as I said, the service is subsidized.

Nevertheless, most people feel that it is worth subsidizing that service.

Senator Oliver: Your evidence is extremely important to us, because you represent so many people in this province. You represent 182 of the municipalities here, so when you speak, you speak with a very big voice.

In your presentation, you put a lot of emphasis on the need to have regulation, almost as though it is a panacea that is going to resolve everything.

Given your concerns about the importance of transportation from community to community in B.C., have you done any studies and do you have statistics on the needs and the current situation; and if so, can you make some of that data and those reports available to us?

Mr. Cunningham: I do not have that with me.

Ms Marie Crawford, Assistant Executive Director, Union of B.C. Municipalities: I do not think we have done anything recently. However, we could certainly look back to see if there is any material in our library or any background policy.

Senator Oliver: What information did you use to help you put together your presentation for today, in terms of statistics and information and data?

Mr. Cunningham: In terms of background, we have the UBCM policy and the resolutions of our members. We also spoke to our members and asked them for their ideas with respect to this presentation.

I am not sure that I intended to put a strong emphasis on the need for strong regulation. I believe that regulation is necessary, certainly, but what is important is the need to reorganize the way regulation is done. I am not sure that we have to regulate that there must be three buses to Town X everyday or one every half hour, or those types of things.

However, we know that the profitable routes will always be there. It is the other ones we have to be very concerned about, especially in the Interior of B.C.

Senator Oliver: Since the beginning of this study, people have argued that there needs to be more busing, that it must be safe, that it must be affordable, and so on; however, ridership is dropping. What do you believe are the reasons for that?

Mr. Cunningham: The big drop in ridership is in intercity busing. When you can fly from Calgary to Vancouver for $100, why would you take the bus? I have not done any research to substantiate or confirm this, but this is my gut feeling. From what I see when I fly WestJet, the people who are on the plane with me are the same people who normally would be taking the bus.

The emphasis, therefore, should not be on large, intercity bus routes, not the Calgary-Vancouver route, for example, but more to serving small communities.

As I said, the taxpayer, oddly enough, has been happy to subsidize B.C. Transit's service rural areas. There is support for that. However, I cannot speak generally for how much the taxpayer would be willing to support. I am afraid I cannot give you all the answers you want.

Senator Oliver: Every province has different regulations regarding buses. In British Columbia, is there any mode of power that you would prefer? Would you like to see regulations respecting gasoline or propane?

Mr. Cunningham: Yes, of course. We all recognize the smell of diesel buses. In the large cities, I think the electric bus is by far the way to go.

I personally am a proponent of propane, but I understand that the life of some of the propane engines is not what it should be, perhaps because of design. That could probably be remedied through engineering.

I understand that fuel cells are around the corner. That would be wonderful.

However, for intercity routes, I am afraid that diesel buses will be the standard for the foreseeable future.

Senator Lawson: Does the UBCM have a formal policy opposing deregulation?

Mr. Cunningham: No. Our concern is making sure that we have busing and transportation to our small communities. We have talked about deregulation and are aware of the effects of it on other areas. We know it would mean a cessation of service to small communities, and that is our biggest concern. Deregulation per se is not the concern.

Senator Lawson: You are right. From the information I have, and I am sure others have as well, the net result of deregulation in both the U.S. and in other countries where deregulation took place is that rural communities lost their service. That was the first thing that happened.

Mr. Cunningham: Exactly.

Senator Lawson: It has become a by-product of that type of deregulation.

With respect to the transportation industry, particularly in the U.S., deregulation of the trucking industry and the airline industry was an abject failure. It did not achieve what they set out to do. On the contrary, it caused more problems than it solved.

Mr. Cunningham: I agree. I talked about the airfare between Calgary and Vancouver and between Cranbrook and Vancouver. Indeed, that is what happened. Deregulation has caused a decrease in airfares between large cities, and the airfares to foreign countries, where there is lots of competition, to go down, but on short-haul routes the airfares are out of sight.

Senator Lawson: The government this very week may be helping to solve the problem of ridership. The new $24 surcharge on return airline fares may force people to take their own automobile or to travel by bus — especially on routes such as Calgary-Edmonton. The government may be helping you in that regard.

Mr. Cunningham: Yes, indeed; I suppose so.

Senator Lawson: This committee is important. However, we need to have the participation of people who are directly involved and who know and understand what is happening in the rural communities all across the country, before the government simply pulls the switch and deregulates.

We appreciate you coming here and sharing your views on behalf of the municipalities.

Senator Jaffer: I am from British Columbia. I am interested to know if you have discussed amongst yourselves the issue of regulation of farm-worker buses. What is your point of view, because, as you know, they are not regulated?

Mr. Cunningham: From a safety point of view, you are correct, farm-worker buses are not directly regulated. They are supposed to be safety-checked under the Motor Vehicle Act, but as you are probably well aware, there have been a number of farm-workers buses that have been stopped and checked and have been in very poor condition.

I imagine there is a way to take care of that under the Motor Vehicle Act. Perhaps regulations could be put in place for occasional-use vehicles, because the farm-worker buses are not used in the winter. They are used at harvest time, principally. Perhaps before those vehicles are relicensed they should be required to undergo a thorough vehicle inspection.

I know that most vehicles are required in B.C. to have an inspection certificate, to display a sticker on the window. I am also chief of a local fire department, and I know that our fire trucks, even though they only run 400 or 500 miles a year, are required to be inspected very thoroughly every year. We get an inspection certificate for those vehicles.

Senator Jaffer: I take it from what you have said that there really have not been discussions at the UBCM.

Mr. Cunningham: Not on that specific issue, although the issue of safety has been discussed, yes.

Senator Lawson: On the issue of the transportation for farm-workers, the most serious problem is that there have been a number of accidents involving vehicles that have a capacity of 12 or 15 people that in fact have had 20 or 30 or 40 people jammed into them. It is not only a case of having the vehicles inspected for safety concerns; there should be checkpoints, similar to the kind on highways for trucks, to check the number of occupants in those farm-worker vehicles.

Mr. Cunningham: Good point.

Senator Adams: I understand that industries are regulated in part out of a concern for safety, and I understand that there is a need for safe public transportation, but industries can be deregulated and still be safe.

Mr. Cunningham: The question of safety of course should be foremost in the minds of all of us, and I know that with regard to charter bus services there have been some accidents and some safety violations that I am personally aware of. Of course, we mentioned some of these other incidents.

The general record of Greyhound, which is the big server in B.C. as far as intercity and large transportation goes, has been remarkably good, which is obvious and stands for itself. Let's face it: We need to ensure the regulation and safety of our charter buses. How to do that, that is not really for me to say. I can make some suggestions, but I am not an expert in that area.

The Chairman: If there are no more questions, I would like to thank Mr. Cunningham and Ms Crawford for attending today. Feel free to send us any information that you see fit.

Mr. Cunningham: We have made notes, and we shall indeed. Thank you very much for inviting us. We have enjoyed appearing here.

The Chairman: Senators, our next witness is Mr. Holland.

Mr. Wil Holland, Past President, British Columbia Old Age Pensioners Organization: Honourable senators, the British Columbia Old Age Pensioners Organization is an advocacy group that has been around since 1932. We have about 8,500 members in 77 branches scattered throughout the province. When we say ``advocacy,'' we are concerned with anything that might affect seniors, and in that respect we like to be treated equally and fairly and in consultation when it is necessary.

Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to fully undertake detailed research in examination of all aspects of the problem here, so what our presentation aims to do is to present the experience of myself and some others. What I have done is put in some numbers and quotes from Monica Townson, for example, who took her information from Statistics Canada.

Seniors are not quite as wealthy as some people believe. Seniors are not a bunch of paupers, though. They like to pay their own way, but they want value for their money. In that regard, my written presentation includes some statistics on seniors' incomes.

I checked the Internet for travel costs. I also made telephone calls and used the cost of my own tickets during the Christmas holidays as an example of bus rates for seniors. That information can be found on the bottom of page 4 of my written presentation. If we look at the numbers in that table, there are some astonishing numbers.

I wanted to go from Abbotsford to Calgary, and then from Calgary to Edmonton. VIA Rail does not have a service directly to Calgary. You would have to go up to Edmonton and then take a feeder line down, and that is very expensive. Even with their discount fare, where one senior rides free, it still comes to $556.40. The standard Greyhound prices were fairly high, $474 for two people, from Edmonton to Abbotsford and Abbotsford to Calgary. The advance ticket sales were a little bit less, except the Edmonton to Abbotsford number. You will see that it is higher than the regular fare, which tells me that there is false information on the Internet.

In terms of the WestJet rate, I think the rate you get depends on how long you spend on the telephone. The longer you talk, the less the rate becomes. At least, that is what happened to me last night when I phoned them.

Nevertheless, given those kinds of numbers, why would one take the bus?

I would like to say a few things about services. I remember a trip by bus from Golden, British Columbia to Kelowna in the early 1950s, a trip that took us over the gravely old road called the Big Bend Highway. Rogers Pass road had not been built yet. We left Golden about 9:00 p.m., and we got to Mica Creek at about two o'clock in the morning. We pulled up to a motel that had a small cafe attached to it; however, the proprietor had closed down. Our bus driver was very thoughtful, though. He pointed us to some public facilities on the property — which he illuminated with his headlights. A little bit crude perhaps, but an example of Canadian ingenuity and thoughtful service.

Last October, I had to travel from Abbotsford, B.C. to Port Elgin, Ontario. The service to and from airports was frustrating. I experienced many inconveniences.

The more interesting experience occurred on Saltspring Island. My brother-in-law has a charter fishing business there. We delivered his boat to Saltspring Island and then we wanted to come back. We waited in the parking lot for the bus to take us to the ferry at Fulford Harbour, which is about five miles away. The bus was late. After 40 minutes, we began to realize that something was wrong. We only had a 20-minute window in which to catch the ferry, so we went to the local pub to ask someone to drive us to the ferry. Fortunately, someone offered to drive us to the ferry. We learned that the bus had broken down two weeks earlier. No notice of that was posted; there was nothing to indicate that the bus was not in service.

The point of these stories is to say that, while buses may be air-conditioned, equipped with extra roomy seating and lounge services, and so on, my experience — and probably that of others — is that there is still room for improvement of bus services.

The following are some suggestions. We think that there should be an increased efficiency and some new innovation. The Web sites need to become more user friendly, with easy access to schedules and fares, especially for the peak season and off-season times, excursion rates, discounts for seniors. If you look at the Greyhound Internet site, they talk about regular bus fares, fares for seniors, seven-day excursion fares, 14-day excursion fares, special packages, but never the bottom-line price. They need to improve their information on their Web site. As well, information about smaller bus lines, the feeder lines, is perhaps known locally, but that type of information is certainly not available for wider distribution.

I go back to my experience with Gray Line, trying to get into Port Elgin. It was difficult to get any information. There has to be improved transportation planning, including a system of minibuses. As well, I think costs have to be lowered. Otherwise, it just will not take it.

I think there is a new opportunity for buses since September 11. Because carry-on baggage is now monitored carefully — passengers are no longer able to take glass or metal objects, for example — there is a new opportunity for buses, to take over some of that travel.

I have a daughter who lives in Mississauga. I no longer enjoy the drive from Abbotsford to Mississauga; in addition, I have a hearing impairment, so I do not enjoy air travel as much. According to the Internet, I can get a Greyhound return fare to Toronto, with the senior's discount, for $598.13. For the two of us, that is close to $1,200, for a return fare. We can go to Europe for that amount. I would expect that, for that price, there would be overnight accommodation en route, included in the fare. It is such a haul from Vancouver.

There needs to be better integration with the service industry, such as hotels and airlines. That needs to be explored.

I am sure many members of the B.C. Old Age Pensioners Organization feel the deregulation of intercity busing has inherent dangers. We suspect that complete deregulation might result in the selection of the most profitable routes, while marginal bus line routes could be lost, and especially in the smaller rural communities that depend on such services. We also fear a loss of continued inspections for safety standards of equipment and drivers. I was once in a bus many years ago that upset, and it was an awful feeling. I think I was the second one out the window. As I standing outside of the bus, the rear wheel was still spinning. The driver had fallen asleep. Fortunately, the bus overturned in a swampy area, a boggy area, and there was minimal damage, but it is not a very thrilling experience.

In terms of bus service for smaller communities — take, Terrace, B.C., for example. It takes 24 hours to go from Terrace to Vancouver. Four years ago, it cost around $650 to fly from Terrace to Vancouver. I do not know the current bus fare; however, there needs to be service from those small communities into Vancouver, and for those communities in between as well.

We need to maintain our bus transportation system, for a number of reasons, including cost efficiencies and protection of the environment. We believe we have a good transportation system in Canada, but it can probably do with some refinement.

The Chairman: Mr. Holland, what are the prospects for serving remote and rural routes with a service different from the large intercity buses? Are small vans and the like feasible options of these routes?

Mr. Holland: Well, if they are anything like the shuttle van that took me into Vancouver — I do not know how many hundred thousand kilometres it had on it, but it rattled and shook constantly. I think a system of micro buses would probably be better than vans, buses that could accommodate, say, 15 or 20 people. I do not really know what the answer is to that.

In the trip from Vancouver to Kamloops, for example, the bus passes the road into Ashcroft, which is 10 or 15 miles off the highway. There should be some kind connection from Ashcroft to the TransCanada Highway, so that people from Ashcroft could catch the bus. It is too costly for the bus to make a special trip into Ashcroft. There should be a minibus system whereby a passenger could be delivered to the TransCanada Highway to catch the main bus — and the main bus should know in advance that one or two, whatever the number, passengers will be making the connection. Parcels would be handled separately, of course. I am not sure how it should all be set up, but there has to be some innovation and careful thinking about these things.

The Chairman: You say in your conclusion that there is a need for increased efficiency and innovation. These things usually come about through competition, which you get by deregulating, and you are opposed to deregulation. What other way is there to improve things?

Mr. Holland: As I said, better information on the Internet; as well, bus drivers should be arranging en route for hotel services, et cetera.

The Chairman: Coming back to the van, sir. We met with senior citizens from Atlantic Canada, in Halifax, the other day, and they like the van services that have been offered, door-to-door service. Does that sound like a useful innovation that might work here?

For example, if an individual needed to go into town to a doctor's appointment, he or she could arrange to have a van pick come directly to the door.

Mr. Holland: I think there is some merit there. To catch an 8:30 a.m. flight out of Vancouver, an person living in Abbotsford would have to take the 5:00 a.m. shuttle from Abbotsford — which is only 65 or so kilometres from the Vancouver airport. That means an extra three and a half or four hours just to get to the airport. If that could be cut down to two hours, then, yes, I would say a van service would be desirable. That would be an example of increased efficiency.

Senator Oliver: Mr. Holland, I enjoyed your presentation. It was down to earth. You told us some interesting stories about your travels and about the costs of those travels, and it is something that we can go back to later on in our study.

There is no doubt that Canada is a huge country, larger than a lot of other countries in the world. As such, it takes a long time to get from point A to point B. Perhaps what the federal government ought to be looking at is a way of subsidizing or assisting entrepreneurs who are attracted to the busing industry. I am sure you would agree with me that people go into a business to make a profit, and if they cannot make a profit, they are not going to stay in the business.

Mr. Holland: That is right.

Senator Oliver: Given the long distances over which they have to travel, there could be some assistance.

As well, we, as a committee, would have to look at some kind of regulation to make sure that, if an operator did get federal money to assist with the cost of transportation to rural and remote areas, it would have to maintain certain safety standards and convenient schedules, among other things. Would you agree with that?

Mr. Holland: I think so. The federal government, at one time, subsidized the Canadian Pacific Railroad, for example. The payback was a unified country. There was a good payback in the long run.

I think, particularly for the smaller communities, I would agree, there needs to be some sort of subsidization.

Senator Oliver: I do not know much about British Columbia, the area where you are from. Are the rural communities here still quite vital, or have a lot of the younger people left to come to the big cities? If that is the case, would you agree that at the same time that we are thinking about busing we should be trying to find other ways to revitalize the rural communities, to get more economic opportunity there to justify even a minibus going in?

Mr. Holland: Yes. Our entire economy, everything, is interrelated in some way.

For example, there is a train from Mission to downtown Vancouver. The fare is $30.00. There are, I believe, four trains each morning from Mission. They sit in Vancouver all day and do nothing, and then the four trains come out in the evening after the workday is over. That is not efficient.

On the topic of young people, yes, they want to live in the larger urban centres; that is where all the excitement is. However, many of them cannot afford to live downtown. House prices in Vancouver are exorbitant.

If you go east of downtown, however, house prices drop by at least $1,000 for every mile out from Vancouver. The implication of that, though, is pressure on the transportation system. People commute from as far away as Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, White Rock, Mission, Agassiz. People commute from all those communities because they cannot afford to live downtown, where their jobs are. The result is heavy highway traffic, smog, et cetera. Everything is interrelated. We need something to fix that.

Senator Jaffer: I want to thank you for your presentation. We appreciate you dedicating your private time to make this presentation to us. I was very interested in your travel stories and how important bus service is to seniors.

For those seniors who are physically challenged, what services are available to them? Are there adequate services for seniors who are physically challenged?

Mr. Holland: I am afraid I am not in a very good position to answer that. I know there are those small vans that move people around within cities; however, I am not aware of how handicapped people are handled on the larger bus systems. It is important though.

Senator Jaffer: You talked about improving information about bus schedules, et cetera, on the Internet. From your experience, are a lot of seniors using the Internet?

Mr. Holland: More and more are. Four or five years ago, the number was about 25 percent. I have heard some people say that now up to 50 percent of seniors use the Internet. Whether those numbers are correct or not, I do not know.

Senator Lawson: While there are many services available to seniors who have disabilities, et cetera, we have to concern ourselves with those seniors who are not physically challenged but who still need access to transportation.

Mr. Holland: That service is called handyDART.

Senator Lawson: Yes. I know that my mother-in-law would make arrangements to be picked up at the seniors' home she lived at. They would pick her up and take her to an appointment, and then take her back to her residence. Sometimes they would ask us to deliver her partway to Langley. That service is very effective; the system works well for them. However, I think it has limited application because of cutbacks in the field of health.

Is there a handyDART system up in your area?

Mr. Holland: Yes. If you happen to live on Vancouver Island or one of the Gulf Islands, some such location, and your general practitioner refers you to a specialist in Vancouver, say, you will be given a referral slip by your doctor and your transportation will be provided free of charge. I do not think that has been cut back, as far as I know.

Senator Lawson: I want to know how to expand that type of system, to care for a lot more people. I do not quite know how we are going to do that.

The bus operator we heard from this morning said that if deregulation were to take effect 35 or 40 communities would loose their bus service.

Mr. Holland: That is right. There are problems related to health care. People are often hospitalised in communities far from their homes. How does an elderly person visit his or her spouse in the hospital, if that hospital is miles away?

Senator Lawson: I do not have the answers, but we will certainly have to find them. One thing I am certain of is that the government must not move speedily into deregulation without hearing from involved people — the bus operators and the users. We must understand their needs and bring them together. I think this committee, under the auspices of our chairman, will write a report that will be a major ingredient in trying to find a solution for that.

Mr. Holland: I wish you every success.

Senator Gustafson: I have just one short comment. Transportation is very regional in this country. Each province is different. You talked about all the people who commute into Vancouver daily. That is quite different from the situation in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. It will be very difficult to develop a program that will facilitate the whole country.

Senator Lawson: As a farmer, Senator Gustafson, have you considered perhaps a horse and buggy? It is an environmentally friendly and safe mode of transportation.

Senator Gustafson: We are getting awfully close to that now.

The Chairman: Mr. Holland, thank you very much for participating in this proceeding.

Our next witnesses are Mr. Paul Landry and Mr. James Storie of the British Columbia Trucking Association.

Mr. Paul Landry, President and Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia Trucking Association: Madam Chair, honourable senators, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about bus transportation issues. First, I will provide a little background information about our association.

The British Columbia Trucking Association is a recognized voice of the commercial motor carrier industry in British Columbia. We were formed in 1913, and our objectives are to advise our members on all matters affecting the commercial motor carrier industry, to promote and protect the rights and interests of the owners of motor carrier companies, and to promote just and fair government regulations and enforcement thereof.

Notwithstanding our name, the B.C. Trucking Association represents 37 bus companies in the province that operate about 800 buses. Our bus company members provide both scheduled and charter operations, as well as sightseeing and tourist services. The gentleman with me today is primarily in the sightseeing and tourist business. We believe that our member companies handle well in excess of 50 percent of the non-transit business in British Columbia.

I know the committee wishes to deal with many other issues related to the bus industry, but I will start off by talking about the question of regulation and deregulation. Our members have been grappling with the issue since 1998, when the federal government first tabled Bill C-77.

As outlined in a submission you heard this morning, our members have been frustrated by the inability of governments at all levels to clearly articulate whether the industry is to continue to be regulated or whether or not it will be deregulated. This uncertainty puts our industry in an awkward position. Business decisions have to be made with some sense of where we are going in the future. I think it is fair to say that there are diverse opinions in our industry regarding the threats and opportunities associated with deregulation. I am sure that as you have crossed the country you have seen those sorts of stressors and strains in terms of charter companies and scheduled bus companies presenting different views.

However, regardless of which side of the fence bus companies are on, in British Columbia in any case, it is almost universally agreed that the Motor Carrier Commission does not do a good job in terms of regulating our industry because their decision-making processes are both time-consuming and cumbersome. For our members it is difficult to run a business and respond to customers and markets in that kind of environment. It is our view that the Motor Carrier Commission frustrates ethical and compliant bus companies who wish to play by the rules, while having little negative impact on companies that do not play by the rules.

Notwithstanding the problems with the Motor Carrier Commission, it is the BCTA's view that the provincial government is more likely to be able to deal decisively with the question of regulation in the short-term, since, unlike the federal government, it does not have to broker arrangements among the different provinces. BCTA bus members would prefer to deal with our provincial government about regulatory matters. In fact, over the course of the last number of years, we have been involved with the Motor Carrier Commission in efforts to streamline regulation and reduce red tape — red tape as it applies to operating authorities, permits, tariffs and fleet size.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the government in British Columbia is undergoing substantial changes in terms of the role of government. We are seeing many agencies subject to budgetary cuts. I addition, their very roles in terms of provision of services to the public are being called into question. The Motor Carrier Commission is probably being looked at as we speak, with a decision likely to be made this year with regard to its future.

Given that there is not much change in regulation at the federal level, we would prefer to see the provinces and their constituents carry out their own evaluations in terms of the bus industry. In addition, the BCTA bus members support certain regulations that were outlined in a brief I believe you have previously seen related to Motor Coach Canada. These deal primarily with the role of government in terms of the future of the bus industry.

The first is strategy. We think that the federal government needs to determine the national passenger strategy for both urban and rural Canadians and determine, within that context, what the assigned future role of the inter-city bus mode will be.

From an environmental standpoint, we think that buses play an important future in terms of enabling Canada to address the Kyoto commitments, although I guess nothing has been signed yet. Canadians want to see some changes made in terms of greenhouse emissions. Presuming that the cost of private car travel will increase substantially over the next decade, we think government should specify how the role of a bus mode should be enhanced to ensure mobility for all Canadians.

Third, from a taxation standpoint, we think that a higher capital cost allowance for bus equipment — at least equal to the 40 percent declining balance classification now in effect for the motor freight industry — be introduced to encourage fleet roll-over to the more environmentally friendly four-stroke diesel engine technologies and to encourage modal shift away from private car usage.

While we do not know to what extent this committee is prepared or able to deal with the issue of competition between public transit and private bus companies, our association has consistently held the position that government resources should not be used in competition with tax paying private companies. There are a number of local examples of where that sort of thing is happening.

Madam Chair, that is the sum of my comments. I would be very pleased to answer any questions the committee might wish to ask me.

The Chairman: Is the non-deregulation of the industry still appropriate and should some or all of the industry be deregulated now or at some point in the foreseeable future?

Mr. Landry: As you can appreciate, the members of my association have different views on that. In the past, however, we have presented the government the position that charter bus services should be deregulated, while scheduled bus services continue to be regulated. I must say that this position is under review by my bus membership, so I am not exactly sure of where we are going. However, it has been our position that the bus industry is well supplied in terms of good quality services and the public is protected through forms of legislation other than entry control from a consumer protection standpoint. Services are well priced, very affordable, and of course, high quality.

The Chairman: I understand that trucking was economically deregulated in British Columbia a number of years ago. Could you give us your views on the benefits and drawbacks of the new regime?

Mr. Landry: For the trucking industry, prior to deregulation, I guess the horse was out of the barn already. It was just a matter of formality to deregulate the industry. I think it has always been the purpose of regulatory bodies for both the bus and trucking industries to try and match the supply of equipment to a demand for equipment. Certainly in the trucking industry, we were and have been for many years in an over-supply situation, so there was very little for the regulators to do. Any efforts to deal with applications in a sensible scientific and fair way were probably wasted, because, as I say, the industry was already oversupplied. There was very little likelihood that matching the supply of equipment to the demand for equipment would ever be achieved, so they were dealing with very isolated, small decisions in the context of a very competitive market.

The Chairman: Are the differences between the provincial bus regimes, which have developed over the last decade, detrimental to the industry or to the travelling public? If they are, what is the appropriate remedy and which level of government should implement it?

Mr. Landry: I have to speak of course from the experience of my members. I think it is fair to say that the different provincial regimes have not been an issue in terms of our province reaching a decision on the question of regulation versus deregulation. Our concerns relate primarily to the provision of services within British Columbia. We have not set our minds to whether or not that is a good thing, except to say that our recommendation, which is that federally nothing changed from this perspective that we be allowed to deal with it locally. I think that probably by inference means that we are not particularly concerned.

Senator Oliver: One of the fascinating things about a study like this is that you hear from a wide variety of witnesses from different provinces and you begin to see how diverse and difficult the problems are. One of the advantages, however, of having someone like you appear before us is that you have practical knowledge and experience, and can give us the data and information that we need to make a sound decision in the end.

With that preamble, I want to ask you a few questions that are more specific. I notice that in your papers, you have asked questions of us and you have not answered them. I am going to put those very questions to you and ask you for an answer. For instance, in your summary you say that what has to be done is ``the development of a national passenger strategy for both urban and rural Canadians.'' What would you like to see in such a strategy?

Mr. Landry: Senator, you make a very good point about the questions that we pose. As Canadians, we hear a lot about the air industry, about Air Canada, about what happened to Canadian and Canada 3000. There is a great deal of debate and discussion about the air industry, perhaps less so in terms of rate. It seems to me that the workhorse — although perhaps not in terms of numbers — but the bus industry has served this country very well. I am not an expert on precisely what role the bus industry should play, but I would think it would be in terms of providing low-cost, intercity services — primarily to rural communities — to people who can either not afford or do not have access to other modes. I think the committee's task has been to look at why there has been a decline in terms of bus transportation services.

The experts should be looking in a scientific and a very objective way as to how that can be accomplished — either in the context of a new regulated environment that might promote additional new or perhaps different services or in a regulated environment that would provide some sort of subsidized provision of services to rural communities.

I know that is not a very scientific answer, but I do not hold myself out to be an expert. I do know that if I want to find plenty of information on the air industry, there are many places I can look. Likewise, with respect — to a lesser extent — the rail industry. There is virtually no debate on the bus industry, and I think this is a healthy process and I commend the minister and the Senate committee for looking at it.

Senator Oliver: Normally, when you take government away from trying to run a business — because it generally does a bad job — and you leave competition between two entrepreneurs or two companies out to make a profit, the consumer ultimately benefits. Would you favour, therefore some kind of a busing system that retained the essence and the guts of a free-enterprise system, but with government support on issues such as safety and scheduling and so on?

Mr. Landry: Generally speaking, senator, yes. I think the private sector can be very innovative in terms of providing new cost-effective services, and I think that definitely has to be the basis for whatever policy moves forward.

Senator Oliver: The second question you asked us is how the role of bus mode should be enhanced to ensure mobility for all Canadians. What is your answer to your question?

Mr. Landry: I think that whatever it is we do needs to be done in an objective way. We need to look at other models that have been applied in the U.S. or perhaps in Europe. I am afraid I do not have the opportunity or resources to do that kind of thing. Some days I wish I did, it would be nice to deal with a single issue.

In any case, I think there are good examples elsewhere and I encourage the committee to look at this in a very objective way. Look where there have been successes and failures and learn from those. I cannot believe in this world that there are not some very good examples in terms of models that we might be able to follow.

Senator Oliver: I appreciate your comments on CCA. What is it now and what would you like to see cap the cost amounts?

Mr. Landry: We would like to see it follow the same approach that has been taken with respect to the trucking industry.

Senator Oliver: Yes, but what is it now?

Mr. Landry: Forty per cent store.

Mr. James Storie, President, Vancouver Trolley Company, British Columbia Trucking Association: For the trucking industry. For the bus industry, it is 30 per cent.

Senator Oliver: You are looking for 10 per cent?

Mr. Landry: That is correct.

Senator Oliver: Are there any other tax changes you feel might help and assist?

Mr. Landry: That is the only one I feel competent to speak on.

Senator Lawson: We had a conference here a few weeks ago. Premier Campbell brought the cabinet and the members of the legislature together. He invited the parliamentarians both from the Senate and the House of Commons and the mayors of the 15 largest cities to come together ``on a non-partisan basis and see what we can do to help British Columbia. How can we improve the economy?''

One of the things we talked about was transportation. There was a lot of concern and the focus was on the delays at the border. I thought Premier Campbell made a very keen observation when he said that the border is one thing, but it is getting to the border.

As you and I both know, we have probably increased the population by one million people in the last 25 years and we have not built one single new road, so we are on the verge of gridlock, trying to move trucks, trying to move buses, trying to move anything. I was pleased to hear the premier say they were concentrating on four different routes going to the border and if they can get rid of some of the road blocks and delays and so on, that will speed up the process significantly. Then, again, we keep talking about another crossing, you look at the view out here, you see across the water, another crossing about there.

From time to time, we hear suggestions to do what they did in New Brunswick and build a bridge from here to Vancouver Island. This is a great idea; it will cost billions of dollars and so on. We have all these major programs, however I notice in my own backyard — which is 152nd and 32nd, just this side of White Rock — that we have had the worst problem trying to get on and off the freeway. They talked about it for 12 years. Two years ago, they rearranged the interchange. It did not cost very much. In fact, it did not cost anything because now there is going to be a major shopping complex, and the Mayor of Surrey was able to persuade the shopping complex to build the access and egress.

What happened as a result? Each morning and evening, it saves people getting on and off six to ten minutes. Multiply this time by the times hundreds of thousands of people going there and for trucks and buses and I think you will agree that that is a huge savings.

Following the Senate hearings about the waterfront and security problems down there, senators St. Germain, Forrestall and I had a further meeting. We met with the senior officials of the port. As we toured the port, one of them raised a question. He said that they have these new HOV lanes on the Port Mann Bridge and that they liked to move trucks at night. They wanted to know why were prohibited from using those HOV lanes at night when they are not being used by anyone else. Would it not make sense to speed up the process for buses and trucks to do that? You and I could probably find 50 or 100 of those little roadblocks. We are talking about the federal government's very good infrastructure program. Instead of talking about the huge ones, if we concentrate on those small ones we might be saving hundreds of thousands of hours a day and speeding up the movement of buses and trucks if we just came together on those kinds of problems.

Your association would know every one of those. If we had a crash program over two or three or four years, similar to what is happening here is happening in Alberta, Saskatchewan and every other province across the country. If we only spent some time and money and focus on some sort of a crash program to deal with those efficiencies, we might cut costs. We certainly would save huge costs to the trucking industry, I am sure you would agree with that. That is really a question.

Mr. Landry: I do agree with that, Senator Lawson, but I must say that infrastructure, like the bus industry, is like the weather: everybody talks about it and nobody does anything about it. I think that there are many pinch points in the lower mainland. We do have to make better use of what we have. We can have a freight transportation strategy that looks at the needs of commercial vehicles specifically because the freight has to move and the people have to move. We need to move buses through traffic; we have to make special provisions for them. There is no question that has to happen.

I must also say that I do not agree with one aspect of what you said. I do not think that federal government's infrastructure program is all that wonderful. Even though we have to make better use of what we have today. There is a need for investments in terms of infrastructure development. Port Mann Bridge is a pinch point; the Massey Tunnel is a pinch point. You are familiar with all of these. When I see what is going on in the U.S. in terms of infrastructure development and the role that their federal government plays compared with what is going on in Canada, I must say, in strong terms, that it is shameful that there is not more federal participation in terms of infrastructure. The Government of British Columbia has said that it is getting out of the business of building roads. Well, I suppose that means that the private sector is going to build roads. We have a need for creative and innovative approaches to infrastructure development. I do not think it is the single role of any level of government. At the same time I am not sure that, my comment regarding the benefits of private enterprise notwithstanding, there is still a significant role for government leadership in terms of infrastructure development.

Senator Lawson: I agree. The U.S. system, where taxes coming from gas wind up at the federal government and are dedicated back to an exclusive fund for roads and bridges and so forth, is far superior to ours.

Mr. Landry: I agree.

Senator Lawson: The Massey Tunnel, for those who are not aware, was the Dease Island Tunnel. When that was proposed, they said it would not work environmentally and that it was not possible from an engineering point of view. The minister of the day — a fellow named Phil Gaglardi — claimed it would be a triumph of imagination over engineering. He went ahead and built it over everybody's protest. Funny thing, the day after it opened, you could not find a single critic. So, we agree.

Senator Forrestall: I have a couple of question that may not help our study much, but the answers would be interesting nonetheless.

First, with respect to concerns about Kyoto, a number of people have come before us expressed concerns about the atmosphere and whatnot. We have had some good new diesel technology and outboard motors. Somebody earlier today suggested that perhaps for the foreseeable future — and that scares me a little bit — we have to rely on diesel. I would have thought we were closer to the dual cell technology than that. Do you know very much about these two energy systems? I do not know.

Mr. Landry: Not very much.

Senator Forrestall: I just wondered if the fuel cell produces enough power. These are big trucks with enormous engines and whatnot. Can you help us out a little bit?

Mr. Storie: There is new, rather exciting technology out there. Westport, a local Vancouver company has obtained orders throughout North America for a new technology they have, which is a natural gas-diesel type of product. My vehicles are propane fuelled, and we do that because it is an environmentally friendly fuel. Among other products we have, we do the shuttle in Stanley Park. In the presentation we made to the parks board, we stressed how environmentally friendly these are compared to the propane vehicles. Part of the frustration of changing a fleet over to Westport or the Ballard fuel cell is that there is no incentive from government to help to do it. It is a cost you take on yourself. I would love to see some type of incentive provided — whether it is in lower fuel taxes for example, to help people that take those steps to get cleaner-fuel vehicles.

With the Ballard technology, the test vehicles have adequate power for certainly urban transportation. I am not sure how they will perform on the highway, but they are quite capable of working in an urban environment. We will just have to see how long it takes before that they can be used on a regular basis.

Senator Forrestall: You say ``adequate'' for urban transportation. That would be about a 54-seat passenger transit?

Mr. Storie: I am referring to the type of roads on which the vehicles will be running. I cannot say how it will be on a long highway, but the technology will be adequate for running around a city.

Senator Forrestall: As nice as the new technology and diesel is, and as you said, it can be married with Westport, are we going to be saddled with diesel for the rest of our lives? I am a fan of diesel; my wife has 390,000 kilometres on her diesel car. However, I ask the question because of the importance this has and how you structure and what the look of transit is going to be.

Mr. Storie: Here in Vancouver we have fleet of trolleys powered by electricity. They are in the process of ordering new trolleys. People have been asking why it is that while many other cities in North America are taking on the Westport technology, which makes for cleaner and less expensive vehicles, we are looking at electrical trolleys here. I think alternative fuels are something that should be looked at with an open eye, because we are seeing technology change every day.

Senator Forrestall: Would you give the incentive to the production companies or would you give it to the user?

Mr. Storie: Well, I manufacture trolleys as well as run them, but I think the operator deserves the incentive. The operator who is willing to make the investment to use this type of fuel should be given an incentive to do so and should be encouraged in every way possible.

Senator Lawson: Last fall I attended, with the federal minister, the fuel cell technology group that has been established at UBC. They were presented with $2.7 million on top of some $13 million that they previously available. They gave a demonstration of a bicycle they rode around the parking lot a few times — it certainly seemed to work very well without being pedalled. They gave a very optimistic report and predicted that within the next decade, fuel cell technology will be as common as diesel technology is today.

With respect to the Ballard technology, they also said they are running tests on 50-seat buses for one of the companies in the U.S.

Mr. Storie: Yes. They have a couple of test vehicles that they are operating.

Senator Lawson: As I understand from their report, they are having considerable success with that as well.

Senator Forrestall: I am sorry, Madam Chair, I was thinking in terms of a thirty-wheel truck, with five or six axels.

Senator Lawson: Absolutely.

Senator Forrestall: Eight million pounds

Senator Lawson: That is what they are aiming for.

Senator Forrestall: Will it haul them up the hills?

Senator Lawson: They expect to have that technology for that purpose. I think the priority was dealing with buses, for city buses.

Mr. Storie: They have entered into agreements with companies such as Cummins and others, where they are producing engines for trucks now. I know that Westport is doing that. I believe Ballard is looking at other engines; they have entered into agreements with many international builders for that purpose.

Senator Lawson: The federal government certainly has indicated their positive response to it. They made a very generous loan to Ballard, and they are doing it out here. So they have put quite a few millions of dollars in both of those areas, so they seem convinced that it has merit.

Senator Adams: Two years ago we studied a few trucking companies. Buses, of course, are different because they carry passengers and do not have to haul freight. Some trucking companies are satisfied with the regulations and some bus companies want to restrict the regulations. Why is that? A truck driver running his rig on the highway may drive for 12 hours; is a bus driver subject to the same regulation, the same hours? Train engineers drive for only four hours and are paid $80,000 a year. Can bus drivers only drive so many kilometres on a particular run before being relieved by another driver? How does the system work?

Mr. Landry: Hours of service for both industries are exactly the same. There is a good argument as to why the bus industry should have different regulations, but as things presently stand and probably into the foreseeable future, hours of service are the same for both industries.

Senator Adams: Maintenance costs are high with respect to trucks. They must be checked after a certain number of kilometres. Is that why you are concerned mostly about safety?

Mr. Landry: With regard to vehicle standards and vehicle inspections, the regime is the same for buses and trucks in British Columbia. The brake standards, steering, tires and so forth are all out of the same regulations governing motor carriers. Periodic inspections on the vehicles are required every six months for both trucks and buses, so there really is nothing that distinguishes the busing industry from the trucking industry. Licensing standards are essentially the same, medicals and that sort of thing, so there is nothing very different.

It is our understanding in both cases that safety in the busing industry has improved steadily over the last decade or so, and it certainly has in the trucking industry as well. There has been a steady improvement.

Senator Adams: Do you have an idea as to how much it costs to have a truck safety tested every six months?

Mr. Landry: That is a good question. I am not sure. I think the inspection takes something like an hour or an hour and a half and costs something like $100 per bus.

Senator Adams: I want to get rid of my car in Ottawa because it costs me over $2,000 to get the safety check if I want to sell it; but if I do not get the safety check, then I cannot sell it.

Mr. Landry: I think one of the differences between the truck and bus industry and regular road users is that there is a requirement for a daily inspection on commercial equipment, so brakes have to be checked on a daily basis — lights, tires, windshields, that sort of thing. There is a very high standard. It is folly for people in either industry to not maintain their vehicles. There is a great public responsibility in terms of sharing the roads. From a business perspective, who would want to do business with a bus company that has a bus parked by the side of the road because it has broken down or they have a bad safety record? Likewise with the trucking industry. We are in the business of providing service, and service means the equipment keeps running and keeps running safely.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course, there are companies out there that should not be there, and we think the governments need to do more about that, but they really are the exceptions.

Senator Adams: Do truck drivers require more training and more medicals than bus drivers?

Mr. Landry: The standards are not different. I do not think that the drivers are monitored more closely. I think both professional truck drivers and bus drivers are subject to random medicals, unless reported. If something comes up, obviously, at a physician's office, then the physicians are required to report problems. This may be different in other jurisdictions, but in British Columbia, there is sort of a random draw in terms of medicals. Every year a certain number will be required to take a medical. Based on the results of those sort of random tests, if you like, a judgment has been made that that is an appropriate way to go.

Senator Oliver: Some provincial regulators concerned with the traffic of have appeared before us in other jurisdictions. During your presentation today, you had some rather harsh words for the MCC. You said it was time- consuming and cumbersome, and that it frustrates ethical and compliant bus companies while having little negative impact on companies ignore the rules.

You are referring to a provincial regulatory organization here in British Columbia. Do they use the need and the necessity of the public interest test? Is that one of the problems that you were concerned about? Could you give us a little more insight into what your main concern is about the way they conduct their business?

Mr. Landry: Certainly, senator. First, dealing with issues other than public necessity and convenience, there is the whole question of tariffs that need to be approved and schedules.

Senator Oliver: What is the problem there?

Mr. Landry: The problem is that companies change schedules and tariffs over the course of the year maybe three times for different seasons. Usually by the time you get your schedule in and it is approved, the bus companies are in another season already, so most of them just go ahead and apply whatever charges they think are appropriate. Eventually the Motor Carrier Commission gets around to saying something, whether it is approval or disapproval, whatever. It is the same thing with schedules. Something changes and in our industry, you have to be ready. The decision-makers have to be in a position to respond quickly to recognize the needs of the company.

Senator Oliver: What is a more efficient way of dealing with it? In other words, should this kind of thing be regulated?

Mr. Landry: It is our view that the most that would be required would be a simple filing, so that if tariff changes occur, you just file the tariff. If the public has a complaint about that tariff, then of course the commission has factual information on file and can deal with it at that point.

Likewise with schedules: simply file, and the commission can look at it on an exceptional basis, rather than having to review everything.

Senator Oliver: In other words, you would like some regulations, but not too many?

Mr. Landry: We think that if there is a role at all, it is from an oversight standpoint rather than a regulatory standpoint.

Allow me to add one more example. Unlike many other jurisdictions in Canada, British Columbia regulates fleet size, so you might have 100 vehicles, but you need 101 because you have some new business coming from offshore. An application has to be made.

Senator Oliver: To get an extra one.

Mr. Landry: To get an extra bus. So there is this sort of silly game that is played in British Columbia that if you have 110 plates — which is permission to operate 110 vehicles — your business drops to 90, you only need 90 vehicles, you put 20 plates in the drawer and you wait for the business to come back. There is not a good understanding what is actually happening out there because people are playing these games. We are saying that if you have the authority to do certain things — say servicing a community or providing services within a certain area — then it is best left to the business community to decide how they will meet the demands.

Senator Oliver: What about the entry of a small player, for example, someone who has 15 buses. Is it difficult for them to get into business and get routes and tariffs and so on here in British Columbia?

Mr. Landry: I think it is extremely difficult. Now, I have never had to go through the process myself, but I would guess it would be probably a year to two years, depending on who is objecting.

Senator Oliver: Because it has to go through the MCC process once again?

Mr. Landry: Application process, review of application, objections, public hearing, that sort of thing — and this is the charter industry, which is well supplied by perhaps hundreds of authority holders. It is rather an interesting situation.

Senator Oliver: Mr. Storie, you are an entrepreneur. You know my view that we should not have too much regulation, but leave a little bit to the free enterprise and the market place, competition.

Mr. Storie: I agree 100 percent. Mr. Landry looks a little nervous to throw this over to me about the Motor Carrier Commission, I believe, because I have seen situations. I currently own 11 vehicles, own and operate 11 vehicles.

Senator Oliver: Eleven buses?

Mr. Storie: Trolleys. I have a new one coming on board shortly. I have certificates to operate eight of them, and the rest of them I operate on temporary operating certificates. I have applied for licences for certificates for those vehicles. I applied for five new certificates, was granted two. During the summer, my vehicles are all on the road, so I thought I clearly demonstrated that I had business enough for 11 vehicles. For no reason, I have to reapply and continue operating on temporary operating certificates during the season until such time as I am granted authority to operate them.

Senator Oliver: You are not losing anything just because it says ``temporary,'' you can still do all your routes?

Mr. Storie: Oh, yes, but I have to be aware of what date the temporary certificate runs out. I have to renew it, I have to put in the applications, I have to pay a fee — you cannot forget the fees you have to pay for everything. Unfortunately, there are jobs on the wrong side of the ledger, in my view I would like to create them in my own company. We have had some frustrations. A lot of it has to do with process.

You talk about a small operator, and you mentioned 15 vehicles. Fifteen vehicles is a reasonable-sized operator in this province, and a lot of people enter the industry because they go in and they have an idea. They have to apply through the Motor Carrier Commission because they are carrying people for a fee. A lot of specialty vehicles or specialty companies — such as the eco-tourism companies — want to take people from downtown Vancouver out to Deep Cove to go kayaking.

They need a Motor Carrier Commission certificate to operate their own vehicle. They have to go through a whole process to get that. Once they get that certificate, they have entered the industry.

Senator Oliver: What is the answer? What should it be, then?

Mr. Storie: I think, as Mr. Landry said, more along the lines of filing. I think there is an onus on the Motor Carrier Commission to make sure that the right people are coming into the industry. We do not want just everybody coming in to operate buses and running all over carrying people if they do not know how to operate buses properly. By operating them, I mean they have to have staff who know what they are doing, who are properly trained. They have to have proper preventive maintenance set-ups so that their vehicles are safe at all times. They need to have procedures for different things.

Once they have that in place and have demonstrated a financial ability to run the business, I think they should be allowed to come into the business. If they want to add vehicles because they have been successful, they should be allowed to add vehicles to their fleets within the same parameters.

We came up with a new product a couple of years ago, and we had to go through a filing process to change our tariff. So it goes out to new product, nobody else is doing it. The only person that is taking any economic risk is myself, but I have to file, pay money to file for this particular route. I have to disclose to a large degree my idea to the rest of the industry, so that if they look on and say ``Hey, great idea,'' they can jump in very quickly also. They can also block me by objecting to my application. We have different ideas as to whether the objection is valid or not, but if there is an objection, then we can go to a hearing, and it can take a couple of years to get a decision on a new product.

There is a philosophy that it is easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission. I do not like to endorse that, but I must tell you, there are companies that do that in little things. You know, if you put your fare up a dollar, you have to go through a whole process. You have to publish a notice in the newspaper; you have to write to the city clerk in the affected municipalities to say that you are changing your fares; you have to put the application in of course with your $200.00 fee.

The whole process is onerous on the operator. The B.C. Trucking Association and a number of operators have been working with the Motor Carrier Commission in B.C., and I believe they have been successful a little way in cleaning up some of this, but they have a long way to go.

Senator Oliver: Do you have to hire a lawyer every time you go in there, or can you go in by yourself?

Mr. Storie: I had one application that took a long time to get through — more than two years. It got through very quickly after I got a lawyer involved. I think I have some ideas on how to do things, but it is amazing the response that the lawyer gets compared to the response I get.

The Chairman: Are you saying that the test for entry only needs to be fit, willing and able?

Mr. Storie: There are a lot of tests on entry. There is a lot of debate on what the entry level should be. I do not think anyone should be able to walk in, put in an application and start a bus company tomorrow. That is not appropriate. Certainly, in the airline industry and that there are other requirements that must be met. I think those same requirements should be met in the bus industry.

We have to show our plan for how we are going to operate; we have to show how we are going to maintain our vehicles; how we are going to operate financially. There are a number of tests that should be performed, but if the tests performed at the entry level are strong and well defined, then I do not think we need a host of other things for which we have to make application every time we want to change something.

Mr. Landry: Madam Chair, I would just like to qualify something relating to our remarks with respect to the need for flexibility apply primarily to charter and tourist-oriented services, but not intercity schedules. Our position has been that the regulations remain in place. We feel it is a totally different marketplace.

Senator Gustafson: If somebody buys you out, do they buy all your licences with that company, or do they have to go through all of the procedures?

Mr. Storie: They can buy out my licences and make an application to transfer them over to them.

Senator Oliver: Like a fishing licence?

Mr. Storie: Well, maybe on a fishing boat, not a personal fishing licence, so I do not have experience there.

Senator Forrestall: The exchange between yourselves and Senator Oliver prompts me to ask about how to undo something: you have to deal with the municipality, you have to deal with the province. Do you have to deal with more than just those two bodies?

Mr. Storie: When we are talking employment law we deal with the federal government obviously. We also have to have our GST numbers and all those things. We must deal with three different levels — primarily the provincial level. The municipal levels are not too bad, although we have to have vehicle-for-hire permits in the City of Vancouver; we have to have a business licence, all of those things.

Senator Forrestall: Do you have to go somewhere else to pick up your plates for your vehicle?

Mr. Storie: As it goes right now, I have to have my vehicles tested every six months for safety, which we do that. I must provide my insurance agent with copies of the safety inspection and the commercial vehicle inspection notice before he can give me insurance. Then I cannot get my motor carrier plate until I have a copy from my insurance agent of my insurance — which is fine if you are insuring all the vehicles at the same time. Yet many operators, as the season progresses, will insure a vehicle, have it inspected and then get the certificate. There is a procedure you have to follow all the time. There is no one-stop shopping.

Senator Forrestall: Why is that?

Mr. Storie: That is a very good question, and I am not the one to ask.

Senator Forrestall: Why not? You are the one that has to suffer.

Mr. Storie: We have to deal with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, ICBC on all three of those issues. The ICBC also runs the motor vehicle department, so I would like to think that there is technology available that would enable them to do everything at the same time. We have raised this with the Motor Carrier Bus Advisory meetings and they are aware of our desires. I hope they are working towards that.

Senator Forrestall: I expanded just beyond the province to interprovincial busing, trucking or whatever, the commercial vehicle.

Mr. Storie: Unfortunately I only operate in one province, but it must be a little more cumbersome for those operators in different provinces.

Senator Forrestall: It is cumbersome, if you want to operate in Nova Scotia. If you want to operate nationally, it is getting easier. You do not have to write 10 different letters. The motor vehicle department inspection requirements must be satisfied. Nova Scotia is not very happy with Ontario's inspection. We have talked about the waste of human and financial resources that could be better directed towards a more efficient operation so a carrier can provide better services.

I strongly urge you to use every national body that is available to you, including the Minister of Transport, who perhaps is the best body to assert this. They talk about it, they pay lip service to it, and they do not do anything about it. I think it would clean up an awful lot of headaches, problems. Why should you have to wait? The biggest killer for industry is seeing an opportunity but being unable to target it because of the way you have to deal; the opportunity slips by the boards. By the time you get all of this done and you get a piece of equipment, somebody else has got it. It is too late.

Mr. Storie: I have a perfect example of that. Last year we started a new tour. We applied for it at a period in time, targeting a June 1 start-up. We got permission about June 18, I think. It is hard. You cannot do ``fam'' tours, you cannot educate people about your product and then not be able to offer it. You can offer it, but it is a little dangerous to ask for forgiveness. We like to do it the proper way. Last year, that particular product cost us our first season because we had to keep delaying its introduction. It finally became too late because we went into our peak season and the people that we wanted to talk with — the concierges and the people in the hotels and on the front lines — did not have time to come out and see what we had at that point.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Landry and Mr. Storie for your presence here today. You have added to our knowledge of some situations that we want to take into account when we prepare for our report at the end of the year.

The committee adjourned.