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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Senator Gustafson: We are getting awfully close to that now.
The Chairman: Mr. Holland, thank you very much for participating in
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.