About the Committee
INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATIONS
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications has the mandate to examine legislation and study issues related to transport and communications by land, air, water, and space, whether by radio, telephone, telegraph, wire, cable, microwave, wireless, television, satellite, broadcasting, postal communications or any other form, method or means of communications. It also deals with matters relating to tourist traffic, common carriers, shipping and navigable waters.
The committee deals with significant legislation and studies issues important to Canadians. Over the last few years, it has considered bills touching on everything from telecommunications to the transportation of dangerous goods and concluded studies on emerging issues of great significance for Canada’s economy.
The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications has its roots in one of the oldest committees of the Senate. The committee was first created in 1867 under the name of the Banking, Commerce and Railways Committee. By 1879, it had become evident that some of the committees were too large. New committees were formed including the Committee on Railways, Telegraphs and Harbours. It became one of the busiest committees examining 149 government bills from 1925 to 1963.
In 1945, the establishment of a Committee on Transport and Communications was recommended because it was thought that this committee should handle all matters pertaining to radio, airways and other related subjects. Amendments to the Rules of the Senate in 1969 and 1983 further defined what matters are generally referred to the committee.
In 2001, the committee began a study of the intercity bus industry. The final report on this matter contained recommendations relating to the structure of the industry in Canada. In 2003, the committee embarked on a study of the Canadian news media and the appropriate role of public policy in helping to ensure that the Canadian news media remain healthy, independent, and diverse, in light of the changes that had occurred in the sector in previous years. The committee completed its wide-ranging examination of the Canadian news media in June 2006. The final recommendations covered a wide array of concerns. These included: media concentration, the inadequate funding and unclear role and mandate of the national public broadcaster, the legal and professional environment, as well as training for journalists and federal support programs. As emphasized throughout the study, the committee’s recommendations dealt exclusively with the architecture of the news media system in Canada, and not news content.
In 2007-2008, the Transport and Communications Committee completed an examination of containerized freight traffic in Canada’s ports. In its report entitled Time for a New National Vision : Opportunities and Constraints for Canada in the Global Movement of Goods , the committee urged the government to seize the opportunity for Canada to become a key player in the global supply chain. In 2009, work on emerging issues continued as the committee began a study on the wireless sector. In its report entitled Plan for a Digital Canada.ca, tabled in June 2010, the committee made 18 recommendations to help Canada develop an inclusive digital society that would allow all Canadians to access basic digital services such as health, education or other online services, whether public or private. Throughout the report, the recommended focus for government policy was on universal broadband access for Canadians, instead of a high-speed target or cutting-edge technology that would be available only to some Canadians.
Finally the committee recently examined issues related to the Canadian airline industry with four main issues of focus: the global context, domestic market, the industry’s business relationship with its passengers, and the economic impact of airports. In June 2012, the committee tabled an interim report entitled: The Future of Canadian Air Travel: Toll Booth or Spark Plug?, which contained 6 recommendations. The report concluded that Canada needs a National Air Travel Strategy as well as an updated National Airports System in order to boost Canada’s airline travel. Subsequently, in April 2013, the committee tabled its final report entitled: One Size Doesn’t Fit All: The Future Growth and Competitiveness of Canadian Air Travel. The report made 7 recommendations which focused on strengthening the industry and providing better access to air travel for all Canadians.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
Over 30 bills have been referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications in the past ten years, dealing with a wide range of topics. For example, it worked on a bill to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada, and another to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act. I t has also examined bills dealing with the transportation of dangerous goods and with Arctic waters pollution prevention. More recently, the committee reviewed several pieces of legislation, including a bill to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the economy by encouraging electronic means of carrying out commercial activities; a bill dealing with the protection of personal information and electronic documents; and bills to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at http://senate-senat.ca/trcm.asp .