The Minister of Transport has introduced new legislation in the House of Commons (Bill C-52, the Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in the Transportation System Act) which would, among other things, amend the Canada Marine Act to require Canada Port Authorities (CPAs) to follow certain principles when establishing or charging port fees, and create a process for port users and tenants to challenge a new or revised fee through the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Under the proposed new legislation, CPAs would be required to observe the following principles when fixing fees:
- The fees must be fixed in accordance with an explicit methodology that the CPA has established and published;
- The fees must be fixed at levels that allow the CPA to operate on a self-sustaining financial basis and must be fair and reasonable;
- The fees must NOT be fixed at levels that would generate revenues exceeding the CPA’s existing and future financial requirements (as per below).
The proposed legislation defines “existing and future financial requirements” as including:
- Operations and maintenance costs (including costs related to port improvement and expansion);
- Management and administration costs;
- Debt servicing requirements;
- Capital costs and depreciation costs on capital assets;
- Financal requirements necessary for the port to maintain an appropriate credit rating;
- Payments in lieu of taxes;
- Gross revenue charges;
- Reasonable reserves for future expenditures and contingencies.
The proposed legislation also sets out a detailed process under which CPAs would have to notify stakeholders of any new or revised fees (including the reasons for the fee and the circumstances under which it would apply), as well as a process under which users would be able to question or contest a fee by making written representations to the CPA and potentially filing a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency.
The Federation has been a strong advocate for the development of a more effective mechamism for contesting CPA fees in several of its submissions to government (including in its comments on the Ports Modernization Review), and therefore views the proposed legislation as a positive development. This being said, we are still examining the bill’s provisions in greater detail in order to ensure we fully understand their potential effectiveness.
All of the above changes can be found in Part 3 of Bill C-52, which also contains provisions to enact a new Air Transportation Accountability Act (in Part 1) and strengthen accessibility within Canada’s transportation system overall (in Part 2). Given that Parliament is about to embark on its summer break, we do not expect Bill C-52 to undergo debate within the House or Senate before Pariament reconvenes this fall.
For additional information, please click HERE to read the government’s backgrounder on Bill C-52, and HERE to read the full text of the bill (please scroll to Part 3 in the table of contents to see the proposed Canada Marine Act changes).