- 1904 to 1938: The Board of Railway Commissioners
- 1938 to 1967: The Board of Transport Commissioners
- 1967 to 1988: The Canadian Transport Commission
- 1988 to 1996: The National Transportation Agency of Canada
- 1996 to 2008: The Canadian Transportation Agency
The powers and jurisdiction conferred upon this Board are comprehensive in their scope, far-reaching in their effects and they will touch at a vital point the already immense and constantly increasing business interests of the country.
The Agency's story began with the establishment of the Board of Railway Commissioners in Ottawa on a snowbound February day in 1904. As far back as 1896, the Board's chairman, Andrew G. Blair, had seen the necessity of establishing a permanent and independent regulatory body to ensure that the public interest was served in the race to expand Canada's railways.
Railways had been at the centre of economic growth in Canada since the 1850's. In fact, they had played a dramatic role in the creation of Canada. The Grand Trunk Railway, completed between Toronto and Montreal in 1856, linked Canada West with Canada East (now Ontario and Quebec), and helped lay the groundwork for Confederation.
At the dawn of the 20th century, shiploads of immigrants were pouring into the country's ports, and the railways, with their huge land grants, were largely responsible for where they settled. Railways also controlled the movement of goods and passengers across the country, and were vital to the Dominion's industrial growth.
But as Canada's business interests became more dependent on rail travel for supplies and markets, shippers began to complain about freight prices and about the railways' near monopolies on transportation. Railways argued that they needed to charge rates that would pay their costs, which indeed they did. But they weren't charging everyone the same rate, and that was the crux of the problem.
And so on that frosty February day in 1904, the Board set to work in its temporary quarters in the West Block of the Parliament Buildings. It had the full powers of a Superior Court to hear all railway complaints and its decisions had the force of law. It had regulatory powers over construction, operation and safety of railways (except those owned by the government), and on such matters as freight rates, fares, and other charges.
The Board consisted of three commissioners: Andrew G. Blair, Michel E. Bernier and James Mills. Each was appointed for a ten-year term. Together the three men began by establishing rules and regulations for the new body. They had no models to follow, as theirs was the first independent regulatory body established by the Dominion government. They would lay the groundwork for a new method of public regulation in Canada.
The first Annual Report of the Board shows that the Commissioners took up their tasks with a great deal of energy. Between February 9 and October 18, the Board held 62 days of public sittings. The Board also hired 19 permanent employees and set up four departments to handle routine work.
The Records Department dealt with the paperwork — complaints received by the Board, orders and decisions issued by the Commissioners as well as investigations carried out. The Traffic Department dealt with tariffs and freight classifications. The Engineering Department inspected and approved construction and repairs on railways and crossings. The Accident Branch investigated railway accidents.
In the next few years, the Board made two major decisions regarding freight rates that illustrate the early acceptance of the principle of different rates according to region. In 1906, the Board allowed the use of the "mountain scale", a higher tariff charged by the Canadian Pacific Railway CP on freight going through British Columbia. The Board had decided that the higher rate was justified because the cost of moving freight through the Rockies was greater than elsewhere. In 1907, the Board reduced tariffs on freight carried in Ontario and Quebec in response to lower tariffs south of the border. The next several years would see the Board:
- assume jurisdiction over express, telephone, telegraph and electric power rates;
- deal with many serious railway safety issues;
- move its headquarters to the newly constructed Grand Trunk Railway Station building;
- investigate and rule on key freight rate disputes.
With the advent of World War I in 1914, the whole machinery of government was directed to the war effort, and gradually all facets of Canadian industry and trade — from food and clothing to fuel — fell under special regulation. As the years dragged on, the cost of supporting the war took its toll: Canada's workforce shrank, industries slowed peacetime-style production, shortages developed and prices rose. Workers at home, seeing themselves at an advantage with the reduction in manpower, demanded higher wages and prices continued to climb — including railway rates.
Nonetheless, the war years saw the failure of competing railways and by 1923 the Canadian Northern, the Grand Trunk, Grand Trunk Pacific and other railways already owned by the government were amalgamated into a single national railway, the Canadian National Railways Company. In the years following the war it was business as usual for the Board — ruling on railway rates, grappling with the equalization of freight rates, and expanding its jurisdiction.
At the end of October 1929, the Wall Street stock market suffered a drastic fall in values. The Great Depression had arrived. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians were unemployed, some starved, others lost their homes, and families were broken apart. The government looked for ways to offer assistance. Make-work projects were established to give jobs to the unemployed. Among the projects were several supported by the Railway Grade Crossing Fund, which had been administered by the Board since 1909, to contribute to safety improvements at highway crossings. The railways also made use of government relief funds to clear the railway rights of way and greatly reduce fire hazards.
By 1935, railways were no longer the only means of transporting freight or passengers across the country. Road construction and technological advances were making motor vehicles a viable source of competition. The civilian aviation industry had also been developing for many years.
Clarence Decatur Howe, the newly appointed Minister of Railways for the Liberal government, set about reforming Canada's transportation system. The Transport Act of 1936 created the first federal department of Transport with Howe at the helm. The department consolidated the functions of three departments: Railways and Canals, Civil Aviation, and the Marine Department. 1n 1938, the Transport Act was passed creating the Board of Transport Commissioners from the old Board of Railway Commissioners.
The era of railway supremacy had ended. It was time to move on.
As Canada approached its 71st birthday in the spring of 1938, newspapers delivered daily reports of the latest skirmishes in Spain's civil war and of the growing menace of fascism as Adolf Hitler's shadow crept ominously across Europe. At home, the national economy was shaking off the lethargy that had gripped it for almost a decade in the Great Depression.
The use of motor vehicles in Canada was rising steeply, and new runways for Trans-Canada Air Lines were being laid as quickly as possible. In its last days before summer, the federal government had been occupied with the passage of several bills, including the Transport Act, which created the Board of Transport Commissioners with authority over inland waterways and airlines, along with jurisdiction over railways, telegraphs, telephones, and express companies, inherited from its predecessor, the Board of Railway Commissioners.
Though the Board was given authority over air and water transport, its powers over these two modes were actually much more limited in scope than over the railways. For example, with inland water transportation, the Board had jurisdiction over licensing and rates, but not over other matters. In the aviation sector, the Board had power of approval for licensing and rates for air service between specified points in Canada, or between specified points in Canada and outside, but the actual points and places of its jurisdiction would be determined by cabinet.
The Transport Act also gave the Board the power to approve agreed-upon charges between carriers and shippers. This section of the Act allowed the heavily regulated railways to compete in specific areas with the unregulated truckers, for instance, by making agreements for special rates with large-volume shippers for a minimum quantity of freight.
In the fall of 1939, Hitler invaded Poland and Canada declared war on Germany. Wartime conditions imposed additional duties on the Board. Many new industrial war plants and air fields were constructed and existing plants were enlarged. The consequent increased traffic on the railways brought about additions to existing railway track facilities and, to meet growing war-time demands for railway transportation services, further additions were under consideration. These increased facilities involved examination, inspection and approval. By the second year of the war, CNR reported revenues of over $300 million and, for the first time in many years, it wasn't dependent on the public purse.
Meanwhile, the approval of freight rates was removed from the Board's jurisdiction during the war. It did, however, carry on with its regular duties of issuing licenses, approving abandonment and construction of railway lines, administering the Railway Grade Crossing Fund, and investigating railway accidents and fires.
At the end of World War II, the government wanted to control the air industry and ensure its development, avoiding the problems the railway industry had suffered at the hands of private enterprise. On September 11, 1944, the Transport Act was amended to provide for "the removal of commercial air services from the jurisdiction of the Board of Transport Commissioners."
At the same time, the Aeronautics Act created a new Air Transport Board to provide licensing and regulatory functions. The Board's role was clearly laid out in the Act as an administrative body, subject to close ministerial control. All of its actions, chiefly the issuing of licences and regulations, were subject to the approval of the Minister of Transport. The Air Transport Board had none of the independence of the Board of Transport Commissioners.
The Air Transport Board's first Annual Report clearly advanced the government's thinking: "In accordance with laid down policy, direct competition is not permitted on scheduled air routes. The reason is that, at the present stage in the development of air transportation in Canada, the volume of traffic is such that there is not room for competing services and it is considered uneconomical to try to divide the small available business between two or more carriers. While at some later date a policy of competition might be justified, at the present time it would be disastrous and is considered against the public interest."
Wage and price controls were dropped at the end of the war, and the Board of Transport Commissioners was soon back at work hearing applications for increases in railway freight increases. It was a tumultuous time for the railways and by extension for the Board. The combination of fierce competition from trucking and air operations exacerbated by higher operating costs was putting extreme pressure on the railways, which were already shackled by stiff regulations.
During this period, the Board was the target of harsh criticism from various quarters for its handling of the railway problems. On March 15, 1951, the report from the Turgeon Royal Commission was tabled in the House of Commons. It recommended an equalization of freight rates; that the Board establish a uniform system of classification of rates throughout Canada, excluding the Maritimes; that the Board establish a uniform system of accounts and reports for the railways; and that the lower rates on grain and flour as set out in the Crowsnest Pass Agreement of 1897 continue.
In January 1952, the Board began hearings on rate equalization. After a long series of consultations, equalization of class rates finally went in effect in March 1955. A new department of Accounts and Cost Finding was set up by the Board to handle the uniform classification of rates and associated accounting systems.
The following several years would see a gradual reconstruction of Canada's national transportation policy, culminating with the passage of the National Transportation Act in 1967.
The main points of the 30,000- word bill were: the establishment of the Canadian Transport Commission (a merging of the Board of Transport Commissioners, Air Transport Board and the Canadian Maritime Commission) to direct all forms of transportation under federal control — railways, shipping, airlines and inter-provincial trucking; that railways would have the freedom to set freight rates without regulation; and that railways would be able to abandon uneconomic branch lines and passenger services unless the government specifically ordered otherwise in the public interest, and then paid their deficits.
Another major policy shift in 1967 regarded the airlines. Canadian Pacific Airlines was allowed to significantly increase its competition with Trans-Canada Air Lines TCA and double its transcontinental service to two return flights a day. It was also allowed to add Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa to its transcontinental services.
A historic turning point had arrived. It was Canada's centennial year and the National Transportation Act became law. The nation was getting ready to celebrate.
Centennial year was a time of euphoria. Throughout the spring and summer of 1967, Canadians enthusiastically waved their flag— the new maple leaf that had been adopted by Parliament in 1965— and expressed their national pride with countless parades and costume parties. Expo 67 in Montreal, the centrepiece of the Centennial, was a huge success. Expo officials clocked more than 50 million paid admissions to the site from April 28 to October 27.
The influx of tourists brought heightened activity to the transportation industry. CNR reported that 18 million people used its passenger rail services that year, a 25 per cent increase over the previous year. Airlines experienced a spike in business as well, with a 20 per cent rise in traffic (from 1966) at Montreal's Dorval airport alone.
However, in the cooling winds of autumn, the celebratory mood drifted away and the Canadian Transport Commission (CTC) met for the first time. The CTC's mandate was to deal with all modes of transportation as a competitive whole "with the object of coordinating and harmonizing the operations of all carriers engaged in transport by railways, water, aircraft, extra-provincial motor vehicle transport and commodity pipelines."
The ultimate aim of the Act was "an economic, efficient and adequate" transportation system. To achieve that, the CTC was instructed to provide regulation without restricting competition among the modes of transportation; to ensure fair distribution of costs of services provided at public expense; to provide compensation for services that carriers were required to provide in the public interest; and to ensure that rates set by carriers should not be unfair.
The CTC established separate committees to handle the five modes of transportation: rail, air, water, motor vehicle and commodity pipeline (except oil products). The CTC set up the International Transport Policy Committee in 1968, which took over responsibility for monitoring international agreements for the different modal committees. And in 1970, yet another committee was formed, the Review Committee, set up to review appeals of decisions that had been made by the modal committees. The majority of the CTC's work, however, was concentrated on the rail and air modes.
The Railway Transport Committee's first priority was to set out the framework for rationalizing passenger rail service and branch lines. Since 1959 when the Railway Reductions Act had been enacted as a temporary measure, freight rates had been frozen and the government had been paying annual subsidies to railways for their losses. By 1967, the government had paid out over $500 million.
The CTC's goal was to eliminate the subsidies by gradual reduction within eight years; to allow railways to set their own rates according to competition; and to allow railways to abandon the uneconomic branch lines and passenger service, unless required in the public interest, at which time the government would compensate the railways.
Still, by 1974, total payments for various statutory subsidies administered by the CTC for rail, water, road and air transport was more than $232 million, up $52 million from 1973. The major outlay was in payments to the railways as compensation for uneconomic services they were required to provide in the public interest. The price paid by taxpayers was constantly mounting.
Meanwhile, the Air Transport Committee was occupied with the steady stream of applications for commercial air licences. As with CTC decisions on discontinuance of rail service, the Air Transport Committee considered the licencing applications on a case-by-case basis, to determine present and future public convenience and necessity. The volume of applications increased — from 377 in 1967 to 695 in 1974.
In 1969, CP Air (formerly Canadian Pacific Airlines) was allowed a larger share of the transcontinental route — 20 per cent. Regional carriers were also taking over more routes, often in areas where the large carriers chose to withdraw their services. Subsidies were used as encouragement for the regional airlines to supply uneconomic routes, where no other transportation was available. Although more competition was being allowed in the air mode, Canada's publicly owned airline, Air Canada, was still granted priority.
Key developments over the next decade included:
- A jurisdictional change in 1976, where the Canadian Radio-Television Commission assumed authority over telecommunications from the CTC.
- The Air Canada Act of 1977, which removed the airline from CNR control and made it a separate Crown corporation, under the jurisdiction of the CTC and subject to the same regulations as its competitors.
- The creation of a new Crown corporation, VIA Rail, which absorbed the Western and Eastern transcontinental passenger services of both CP and CNR.
- The passage of the Western Grain Transportation Act, which replaced the venerable Crowsnest Pass Agreement.
- On September 4, 1984, the Conservative government under Brian Mulroney came into power. One of the priorities identified by the Mulroney team was transportation policy reform.
In July 1985, a position paper on transportation was introduced in the House of Commons. It was called Freedom to Move — A Framework for Transportation Reform. The paper outlined sweeping revisions to transportation policy that involved reduced economic regulation and greater reliance on market forces. The paper also stated that the government's view "requires the establishment of a new regulatory agency as a successor to the Canadian Transport Commission." The fate of the CTC had been decided. It would be replaced by another agency with less regulatory authority.
On January 1, 1988, the new National Transportation Act became law. It created an agency to replace the CTC and included the following changes to the original Act: provisions for confidential contracts for rail shippers; increased intramodal competition; reduced regulation governing the commercial airline sector; rate arbitration for shippers and carriers; and protection of the unique nature of the North's air and marine transportation.
After 20 years, the Canadian Transport Commission had become obsolete. Under a new agency, Canada's transportation system would have "freedom to move."
The powers of the new Agency were designed to ensure responsiveness to public interest, industry needs and policy direction from the government. The Agency had the authority to grant transportation licences, review public complaints and help resolve disputes between shippers and transportation firms.
The new National Transportation Act (1987) stated that safety was a priority, that competition should be the prime force to drive the Canadian transportation industry, and that shippers and travellers should be the chief consideration in establishing policy. The Act also directed that competition should be not only intermodal (between different modes of transport), but also intramodal (between carriers within a particular mode). Regional economic development was an expressed goal. Also, all modes should be treated fairly, and carriers should pay for facilities provided at the public's expense.
The new Agency's operations were restructured to reflect the Act's philosophy. Unlike the CTC, which had separate divisions set up according to transportation mode, the new Agency was divided into branches according to the duties performed. The Dispute Resolution Branch settled rate or service disputes and monitored acquisitions and mergers of transportation companies; the Market Entry and Analysis Branch was responsible for licensing within all modes; the Transportation Subsidies Branch dealt with subsidy payments, determination of Western grain rates and railway rationalization proposals. The Legal Services, Corporate Management and Human Resources and the Secretariat branches provided relevant expertise and support to the other branches.
The National Transportation Agency would continue to hold public hearings into transportation matters and settle disputes between shippers and carriers, but now only in response to specific complaints or at the government's request. The Agency would also provide final-offer arbitration along with mediation, but the services would be offered only upon request. This was in keeping with the emphasis on minimal regulation and the Agency's redefined role to respond to problems rather than seek them out.
The Agency no longer had a pro-active role in policy-making, but was bound to follow the policy directives of the government. As the government booklet, Freedom to Move, explained, "the Minister of Transport is accountable to Parliament for national transportation policy and for the actions of the Agency. The government may issue general policy or other binding directions to the Agency and may alter any decision, order or regulation made by the Agency."
With a move toward deregulation, the Agency's regulatory duties were also redefined. Air services were no longer required to prove "present and future public convenience and necessity," except in Northern Canada, where the airline industry was still considered fragile. In the rest of Canada, an air service needed only to be "fit, willing and able," that is, able to operate a safe air service with proper publication/insurance coverage. Earlier conditions regarding routes, schedules, fares and equipment had also been removed. However, in instances of monopolies in service, the public could appeal fares to the Agency.
The new Act reduced regulations in the rail sector so that shippers could negotiate confidential contracts with individual railways, and file the agreements with the Agency. The new Act required only that rates be compensatory to cover the actual cost of shipping. The new Act also made it easier for railways to sell an unprofitable line, and ensured a government subsidy to the public to establish other means of transportation when necessary.
If a line had future economic potential, the Agency could order the railway to continue service on a subsidy basis. If the line was found to be uneconomic, the railway had to give 90 days' notice of abandonment, during which time the public had 60 days to appeal. The Agency then had to make a decision within six months. Marine transportation in the North was protected in the same way as Northern air services. No new service would be allowed to enter an area that would endanger existing services.
A new assignment for the Agency was the monitoring of major company mergers and acquisitions in all modes of transportation. The Agency was also required to conduct annual reviews of the National Transportation Act. A major review of the Act was required in the fifth year of operation. The new legislation stated that transportation services must be offered without undue obstacles to public mobility, particularly those with disabilities. The Agency was instructed to investigate any complaints in that regard. In July 1988, the Agency was further empowered to prescribe, administer and enforce regulations for the accessibility standards of persons with disabilities for all of the modes of transportation.
The creation of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board in 1989 removed the Agency's role in investigating railway accidents. But the Agency continued to distribute subsidies and set the annual rate scale for the movement of Western grain.
By 1991, the mainstream media was questioning the success of transportation deregulation. The Southam News reported, "With airline losses up, competition down and gasoline prices and taxes higher, touring Canada this summer is costly." The report continued, "While deregulation was supposed to open Canada's skies to new airlines, the effect has been quite the opposite. This summer Canada's market is clearly dominated by Air Canada, Canadian Airlines International, a unit of Calgary's PWA Corp., and 11 regional airlines within their control." The Southam report dubbed the Canadian air industry a "duopoly". But the Agency stated in its 1992 Annual Review that "in spite of apparent concentration in the industry, the level of domination at the route level has decreased considerably."
Key developments over the next four years would include:
- An amendment to the National Transportation Act to include the words "accessible" and "persons with disabilities" in its declaratory clause, making the needs of travellers with disabilities an integral part of the Agency's jurisdiction.
- A reorganization of the Agency in 1993 to create departments along modal lines that included the Rail Branch, the Air and Accessible Transportation Branch and the Marine, Trucking and Regulatory Operations Branch.
- The Canadian government signing an "Open Skies" agreement with the United States in 1995 that allowed unlimited access of airlines between the two countries.
- The elimination of three railway subsidy programs under the Western Grain Transportation Act, the Maritimes Freight Rates Act and the Atlantic Region Freight Assistance Act.
- The privatization of CNR.
- The institution of the new Canada Transportation Act receiving royal assent on May 29, 1996. The Act introduced exceptional changes in regulations that would transform the Agency.
As the Annual Report for 1996 related, the National Transportation Agency was dealing with the upheaval involved in reducing a staff of 500 by almost half. According to the new Canada Transportation Act, the Canadian Transportation Agency, which began operations on July 2 of that year, would be a streamlined version of its former incarn ation. The Agency membership was reduced to a maximum of seven full-time Members appointed by Cabinet for a maximum term of five years, and a maximum of three part-time Members appointed by the Minister of Transport.
The existing national transportation policy had remained largely intact in the Canada Transportation Act: namely, that "a safe, economic, efficient and adequate network of viable and effective transportation services accessible to persons with disabilities ... that makes the best use of all available modes of transportation at the lowest total cost is essential to serve the transportation needs of shippers and travellers, including persons with disabilities, and to maintain the economic well-being and growth of Canada and its regions."
The Agency would continue in its role as a quasi-judicial tribunal and an economic regulator with responsibilities that included issuing licences to air carriers and railways, resolving disputes over various air, rail and marine transportation rate and service matters, and the determination of the annual maximum rate scale for Western grain movements. The Agency also had powers to remove undue obstacles to the mobility of travellers with disabilities.
The Canada Transportation Act provided for an easier process for railways to sell rail lines or to discontinue service; eliminated the Agency's role in monitoring mergers and acquisitions of rail carriers and airlines; removed rail subsidies for continuing uneconomic freight and passenger service; and removed entry restrictions for Northern air services so that all domestic air service was put under the same licensing regime.
Regulation of motor vehicle transport and commodity pipelines was removed from the Agency's mandate. The Agency was given a new role in consumer protection with a financial fitness requirement for air services. Under the new Act, air services were prohibited from advertising if they didn't have a licence. The Act required the Agency to make a decision in a timely manner, allowing no more than 120 days from the receipt of an application or a complaint. The Agency was also granted the authority to levy fines for non-compliance with regulatory provisions.
The Canada Transportation Act required the Agency to conduct an annual assessment of the Act and to report on any difficulties observed in its administration. This requirement provided a checkpoint for the Agency to report loopholes encountered in the Act.
As the Canadian Transportation Agency opened its doors, the approach of the new millennium presented a whole new array of challenges in Canada's transportation system. An aging population raised increasing concern about the need to make transportation accessible to people with disabilities. Passenger air travel was expanding in a fiercely competitive market at the international level, while on the domestic side Air Canada and Canadian Airlines were the major players in a market that saw little growth. A balance would have to be maintained between the twin objectives of encouraging competition and protecting Canadian interests.
Rail and marine carriers were exploring new frontiers in intermodal container traffic. Meanwhile, as the two major freight railways, CP and CNR, sold off their branch lines, short-line railway operations were springing up in large numbers.
But even as the Agency was adapting to meet these new challenges, it still was occupied with many of the same concerns that had brought about the creation of the first Board of Railway Commissioners almost 100 years before. These concerns included a major complaint filed by the Canadian Wheat Board involving the railways' movement of grain for export markets. That complaint would eventually lead to the passing of Bill C-34 on August 1, 2000, which placed a revenue cap on what CNR and CP could earn for the movement of grain.
In the same period, the Agency began to look for speedier, more efficient ways to deal with disputes. In 2000, a pilot project was started in the Rail and Marine Branch, in which mediation was used to settle disagreements between two parties, without the time and cost of public hearings. The Agency began to train mediators, and made them available upon request, to shippers, carriers and other parties.
Meanwhile, the Agency's role in the Marine sector had undergone key changes, outlined in the Canada Marine Act of 1998 and in an amendment to the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act of 2001.
By the turn of the century, publication/statistics in 1999 showed a sharp rise in air passenger travel since 1987. Despite the expansion in air travel, however, Canadian Airlines was teetering close to bankruptcy that year. After a series of negotiations with different parties, it became apparent that Canadian might negotiate a merger with Air Canada.
In anticipation of the re-establishment of an air monopoly in Canada, the Transport Minister introduced A Policy Framework for Airline Restructuring in Canada on October 26, 1999. The policy laid out a series of conditions necessary for the Air Canada-Canadian Airlines agreement to be permitted, including one that required Air Canada to continue all of Canadian's routes for at least three years. On December 21, Air Canada was allowed to take control of Canadian Airlines.
In February of 2000, a new policy was tabled in the House of Commons. Bill C-26 would, among other things, give the Agency increased authority to review passenger fares and cargo rates on monopoly routes, to review domestic terms and conditions of carriage and to require notice of discontinuance of services on monopoly domestic routes. The return to a dominant-carrier situation was now making it necessary to increase regulatory powers for the Agency to ensure competition.
Bill C-26 also foresaw the need for some assistance to airline customers who were increasingly frustrated by airline problems. The position of an Air Travel Complaints Commissioner was created to work within the Agency to review and attempt to resolve complaints of airline customers.
A major part of the Agency's mandate was to ensure that there were no undue obstacles in the transportation system for people with disabilities. In 1995, the Agency had established Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations. The Air Transportation Regulations also addressed terms and conditions for carrying persons with disabilities. Agency inspectors monitored carriers and facilities across the country to ensure that the regulations were followed.
The Agency was also launching codes of practice for the transportation industry. The codes were intended to encourage voluntary compliance within the industry rather than using a regulatory approach. The codes outlined areas where transportation facilities and equipment should be improved, including features such as handrails, elevators, lighting, lettering on signs and provisions for wheelchairs.
In addition to codes and regulations, the Agency addressed an increasing number of complaints from persons with disabilities. Among these complaints, were precedent-setting cases dealing with obesity and allergies as potential disabilities, and a historical decision issued by the Agency which found 14 undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities in VIA Rail's Renaissance cars.
On September 11, 2001, passenger jets hijacked by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington and a field in rural Pennsylvania, sending the global airline industry into a tailspin. Two months later, Canada 3000, the largest charter carrier in Canada, declared bankruptcy.
The September 11 tragedy sent shudders through the world's financial markets, already hit by a crash in the high-tech industry and scandals involving major U.S. corporations. The invasion of Afghanistan by a Western coalition including Canada, added to the recessionary atmosphere. Major airlines around the world struggled with huge financial losses and insolvency throughout 2002 and 2003.
In 2004, the Canadian Transportation Agency celebrated its centennial year. Key developments over the next four years included:
- Canadian National Railway's acquisition of BC Rail, the third largest railway in Canada, which put that former provincial railway, with its 2,300 kilometres of track, under the Agency''s jurisdiction.
- The Agency's determination that persons who require medical oxygen available to them when they travel by air encounter obstacles to their mobility.
- The Agency's decision in favour of one-person-one-fare policy. The Decision meant that for domestic services, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet may not charge more than one fare for persons with severe disabilities who are required to be accompanied by an attendant for their personal care or safety in flight, or who require additional seating for themselves, including those determined to be functionally disabled by obesity for purposes of air travel.
- Amendments to the Canada Transportation Act (Bill C-11), which gave the Agency increased responsibilities, including the authority to resolve noise and vibration complaints caused by the construction or operation of railways under federal jurisdiction.
Today's Agency bears little resemblance to the original Board of Railway Commissioners, created over a century ago. But there has been one constant in the intervening years. The Agency, moving through time, has reflected not only the evolution of Canada's transportation industry, but the economic reality of the nation itself.
As it steps into its second century, the Canadian Transportation Agency faces new challenges. It will accept new responsibilities as legislation dictates and adapt to shifts in government policies. But it will remain constant in its goal — to help achieve an efficient and accessible transportation system with Canadians' interests at heart.