What's Happening Now?
On March 10, 2022 the Government of Canada launched a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) seeking the advice and views from industry on the High Frequency Rail project – responses were requested by May 31, 2022. Over 50 industry participants submitted expressions of interest, and Canada is reviewing these responses and continues gathering information to inform next steps in the procurement.
Through the procurement process, the Government of Canada would be seeking a private sector partner to take an innovative and collaborative approach for all aspects of the project. This approach is intended to promote innovation, drive better service for travellers, reduce risk and improve risk management, and ultimately achieve better value for Canadians. The Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) marks an important step in supporting the procurement phase for the High Frequency Rail (HFR) project. It is an opportunity to detail the Government of Canada's plan for advancing the project while seeking feedback from experienced private sector companies to help shape the High Frequency Rail project. It is also an opportunity to provide information to industry so that interested parties can prepare for subsequent phases of the procurement process, including the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and Request for Proposals (RFP).
The RFEOI supports the upcoming Procurement Phase of the HFR project—a multi-year process that is expected to include a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and a Request for Proposals (RFP). The procurement process is distinct from the ongoing pre-consultation and solicitation of feedback from Indigenous peoples, municipalities, communities, or other stakeholders that the Government of Canada is currently conducting prior to formal consultation processes. Consultation will continue throughout the pre-procurement, procurement and co-development phases, as well as subsequent phases throughout the life of the HFR project. The Government of Canada is working with Indigenous peoples to find ways to collaborate to develop the HFR project and to identify, mitigate and/or avoid any adverse effects of the HFR project.
Who is Involved?
Transport Canada is the Project Authority leading the project on behalf of the Minister of Transport, the accountable owner of the HFR project. Building on the work done to date, Canada has established an Integrated HFR Project Team to advance the project through the Procurement Phase.
During the Procurement Phase, the Integrated HFR Project Team is led by Transport Canada and includes members from Infrastructure Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and is supported by the Department of Justice. VIA Rail Canada (“VIA Rail”) and the Canada Infrastructure Bank (“CIB”) are advisors to the project. The contribution of this multidisciplinary team, brought together through a commitment to collaboration and project optimization, and supported by external advisors with global expertise, provides the project with diverse knowledge, including technical, operational, procurement, commercial and financial. The responsibilities of each participant are as follows:
- Transport Canada is the federal department that is the Project Authority and is sponsoring the HFR project.
- Public Services and Procurement Canada is the Procurement Authority and will lead the procurement process.
- Infrastructure Canada brings expertise in delivering large infrastructure projects.
- VIA Rail provides advice on the technical and operational aspects of passenger railway services.
- The CIB provides advice on financial, commercial and transactional aspects of the HFR project. The CIB is also expected to be a potential investor in the HFR project.
- The Department of Justice is the legal counsel to the Government of Canada.
The Path Forward
HFR aims to be built according to high standards of social acceptability, with a commitment to ongoing engagement with citizens, Indigenous peoples and landowners throughout its design and construction.
We know that good planning involves the community, and better decisions are made when more perspectives are considered. Communication, engagement and consultation activities are planned to help build positive and respectful relationships, share information and obtain input to help shape HFR. Opportunities to get involved will be ongoing through the Impact Assessment process.
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What is the Impact Assessment Process?
Canada is committed to ensuring that the views of Canadians inform the future direction of the HFR Project and has initiated outreach and engagement activities with communities and Indigenous peoples who may be directly affected by the HFR Project. These engagement activities will continue through 2022 and over the next several years of project development, including for the purpose of various regulatory reviews such as the federal Impact Assessment required under the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Transportation Agency’s review required under the Canadian Transportation Act.
Considering the Impact Assessment process, we are currently in the pre-planning phase of the project, which is followed by the five main phases to completing the federal Impact Assessment.
Through this phase, Indigenous peoples and the public are engaged, and project information is provided to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) so that a decision can be made on whether an Impact Assessment (IA) is required. If an IA is necessary, IAAC will issue a Notice of Commencement and post the final Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines (TISG), and related documents, that outline the information and studies necessary to conduct the IA.
Proponents—or project owners—are provided direction by IAAC on the information and studies necessary to complete the Impact Statement; Indigenous peoples and the public help shape this direction by reviewing and providing input on draft guidance documents. Sound science and Indigenous Knowledge help inform the Impact Statement.
IAAC’s assessment considers the Proponent’s Impact Statement when identifying the potential environmental, health, social and economic effects of the proposed project. The potential effects on Indigenous and treaty rights are also assessed and consulted on. The information gathered is used by the Agency (or review panel) to develop an IA report.
Public interest is at the centre of decisions around projects. The IA report and outcomes of Crown consultation inform the Minister’s or Governor in Council’s decision on whether a project's adverse effects are in the public interest. If yes, the Minister establishes conditions—included in a Decision Statement—for the Proponent to follow. Decision Statements also set out the rationale for the decision, providing transparency and accountability.
Post-Decision, the Agency actively verifies compliance with Decision Statements and corrects any non-compliance issues helping to provide greater transparency around any follow-up programs and increased access to key documentation. Opportunities for Indigenous and community participation in follow-up and monitoring programs are also created.
Indigenous Engagement and Consultation
The Government of Canada is committed to creating and sustaining constructive dialogue and nation to nation relationships with Indigenous peoples.
The Government’s commitment to an open and constructive relationship with Indigenous peoples is grounded in the principles of engaging early and meaningfully in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, fulfilling the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate, and advancing priorities on reconciliation.
Input from Indigenous peoples is essential to the success of the proposed HFR project and the Government is committed to beginning a dialogue and having meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples throughout the entirety of the project, particularly over the coming months as part of preparatory work towards a federal Impact Assessment. As this work unfolds and project parameters become clearer, hearing the views of Indigenous peoples will enable a dialogue on the proposed HFR project.
As a complement to this work, Government intends to place great value on selecting a private developer partner who prioritizes and values meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples.
By fostering strong relationships as the HFR project advances, we can develop the project effectively to create mutually beneficial socio-economic development opportunities.
Key HFR Milestones
On March 9, Canada took an important step towards launching the procurement process of the HFR project when the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Omar Alghabra, announced the launch of a RFEOI. The RFEOI was released by Public Services and Procurement Canada the following day, March 10.
With the RFEOI, Canada is seeking feedback from private sector parties that are interested in the design, build, finance, operation and maintenance of the HFR project and from those with experience in delivering projects under collaborative co-development models.
The RFEOI supports the procurement phase for the HFR project – a multi-year process that would include a RFQ and a RFP.
Submissions responding to the RFEOI were requested by May 31. Canada is now in the process of reviewing all responses and gathering information to inform next steps in the procurement.
On July 6, 2021 the Government of Canada announced the first steps in preparing for the procurement process to build a new train service in the Toronto to Québec City Corridor.
These steps include:
- Engaging Indigenous peoples and communities to obtain feedback on the project.
- Engaging with the private sector to determine capacity and seek perspectives on the best possible delivery model. The Government of Canada plans to finalize the delivery model and launch the process to select a private partner.
- Accelerating dialogue with partner railways to negotiate dedicated routes and, where necessary, shared access in and out of city centres.
In 2019, the Government of Canada granted funding and established a Joint Project Office (JPO) as a joint venture between the CIB and VIA Rail to conduct de-risking, due diligence, pre-procurement and planning activities; to explore and analyze operating models; and to develop evidence-based options of procurement and financing for the HFR project. The JPO oversaw the HFR project through to the end of 2021.
In 2016, VIA Rail put forward the concept of the construction of HFR between Toronto and Ottawa, and between Montréal and Québec City.