On October 6, 2020, Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, Ontario's Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction, introduced Bill 213, An Act to reduce the administrative burden on people and businesses by enacting, amending or repealing various Acts and repealing a regulation ("Bill 213").
At First Reading at Queen's Park, the Minister noted Bill 213's stated objective of enabling the Government to work better for citizens and be proactive with businesses in this time of pandemic. Specifically for the bus industry in Ontario, the main effects of adopting Bill 213 would be the repeal of both the Ontario Highway Transport Board Act (RSO 1990, c O.19, the "Act") and the Public Vehicles Act (RSO 1990, c P.54, the "PVA"), and the dissolution of the Ontario Highway Transport Board (the "OHTB") thus bringing an end to a longstanding public debate and to the economic regulation of the industry. The Act and the PVA provide for the OHTB to act as a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal and ensure the orderly development of the paid passenger transportation industry in the province. More specifically, the OHTB is responsible for issuing operating licenses to intercity bus operators to provide service over defined routes. In order to obtain such licenses, an applicant had to demonstrate to the OHTB that the proposed service met the test of "public necessity and convenience."
The text of Bill 213 suggests a near-total deregulation of the bus transportation industry in Ontario, but the actual impact of repealing the Act and the PVA on the transportation services available to Ontarians remains to be determined, particularly in the context of the current pandemic which has severely affected the financial circumstances of all of the existing carriers. Given that Bill 213 provides that the Minister of Transportation may make any transitional regulations necessary to phase out the application of the repealed acts, it will be interesting to see whether and when the Ontario government will eliminate the current structure. This also leads to the big question of how Quebec will react and whether it will follow suit. McCarthy Tétrault's Transportation and Logistics group will continue to follow the Bill as it makes its way through the legislative process and will provide updates here.
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