On Friday March 4, 2016, UCTE was briefed about Transport Canada’s budgetary concerns and the potential impact this may have on our members. In response to the Lac Mégantic tragedy, the government at the time made promises that included increasing the number of inspectors. Unfortunately this political decision did not come with the necessary dollars to cover the additional costs. The result: Transport Canada is forced to cover amplified costs with money dedicated to operations. It cannot continue in this manner.
To add insult to injury, Transport Canada’s staff responsible for financial administration of the department now have Big Brother in the form of a Treasury Board assigned guardian watching over them as if this situation was a result of their mismanagement of public funds.
Despite reassurances that nothing will be frozen, Transport Canada is asking its management team to find various areas of reductions within discretionary spending including in the areas of the types and number of inspections within the various modes of transportation and required training to maintain inspector certification. The goal is to bring salaries back to approved salary levels. In his communiqué to all staff, Jean-François Tremblay, Deputy Minister stated that they are taking steps to deal with the budget shortfall “while minimizing the impact on employees”. Regardless of well intentions, this can only add further stress to employees.
UCTE is concerned that the safety of the travelling public will be negatively impacted because of a political decision with no financial backing. Our inspector members are being asked to downgrade the types of investigations that are scheduled. With the downgrading of investigations to more of an audit function, we are concerned that in depth reviews of systems and functions will go to the way side.
By these actions, this government is demonstrating a lack of understanding of the position that Transport Canada finds itself as a result of politicians not considering administrative requirements. Political promises should not be made without ensuring the necessary funds are there to deliver on the commitment.
UCTE will continue to meet with Transport Canada and monitor the situation. If members have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your Regional Vice-President.