Obviously, you understand that I was going to maintain the amendment moved, BQ-6. First of all, I believe that provisions in the Canada Labour Code would supercede this legislation. Even the Liberal Party moved a similar amendment. With regard to the statutes added in amendment BQ-6, they are the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act.
I could put forward a number of additional arguments in support of maintaining this condition in the amendment. However, among other things, it would be important for access to information issues to ensure that Bill C-6 does not contradict the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act. It is important for us as lawmakers to show to Transport Canada and to all stakeholders that, under Bill C-6, the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act would prevail over Bill C-6, with regard to access to information among other things. Some provisions in Bill C-6 restrict access to information.
It is very important for us to ensure that access to information is always authorized at the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board. In spite of some of the comments made, we know Bill C-6 can restrict some powers under the act, with respect to access to information among other things.
However, even if the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, stipulates that its authority is exclusive, it is important that such authority be maintained. In February 2006, Transport Canada published a policy statement that among other things restricted part of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. Transport Canada must understand that the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act still prevails over Bill . Transportation of dangerous goods is an activity that must be regulated. That is why Parliament passed a law to that effect in 1992.
That is what I had to add, Mr. Chairman. I maintain the amendment moved, BQ-6.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
With regard to the last part of the discussion and access to information, my colleague Mr. Laframboise might have an answer when we come to section 43 and to proposed amendment LIB-8. If the amendment is passed, it will change the scope of exceptions put forward by the government in Bill .
To come back to amendments BQ-6, LIB-2 and NDP-3, I have a question on a somewhat different issue. I will put the question to our researchers and legal advisor, and it concerns departmental officials, or the people moving the amendment that refers to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, and the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act.
Are the people who drafted those amendments for my colleagues aware of all provisions in those two statutes and the regulations flowing from them? Are they satisfied with those statutes? That is homework I have not done, Mr. Chairman. Can the researchers tell us whether there could be unforeseen obstacles we should know about in the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992, or in the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act? Here, we are including references to statutes I have not read, and I certainly don't know all the existing regulations that flow from those statutes.
I would therefore like to know if there could be unforeseen obstacles or conflicts arising from there.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
We're here to respond to the committee's interest in exploring the subject of railway safety in Canada.
I will take some time to provide you with a description of the general foundation for railway safety in Canada, and then take you through the actions that Transport Canada has taken to respond to the more recent safety issues culminating in the minister's decision to launch an independent review of the key legislation governing railway safety in Canada.
Today I am joined by Mr. Luc Bourdon, Director General, Rail Safety. Luc has a considerable amount of experience in the rail sector. After working for 19 years in the industry, he joined Transport Canada, first in the Quebec City region and then here.
It is important to note that, as with companies in other modes of the transportation industry, railway companies are responsible for making the appropriate decisions to ensure that operations are safe and that they are in compliance with federal regulations, standards, and rules including requirements for infrastructure, equipment, operations and employee qualifications.
The railway safety management system regulations came into force on March 31, 2001. They require all federally regulated railway companies to document, implement and maintain a formal framework integrating safety into day-to-day operations, including safety and performance targets, risk assessments and maintaining and evaluating processes.
The implementation of a safety management system enables a railway company to demonstrate their commitment to safety by ensuring that it is a priority throughout the organization. This provides an additional level of safety to enhance Transport Canada's oversight program.
Transport Canada actively monitors the railways, and when railway safety inspectors discover an immediate threat to safe railway operations they have the legal responsibility and the authority to issue safety orders restricting the operation of railway companies. They may also place restrictions on the use of roadway crossings if they find a safety problem.
With the committee's interest in the more recent derailments of CN, I'd like to highlight the government's immediate safety action following an increase in CN's mainline track derailments in 2005. Transport Canada performed expensive targeted inspections and a company-wide audit of CN's safety management system.
To give you a sense of the scope, the inspections covered CN Rail operations across the country, examining 230 locomotives, 3,000 freight cars, 1,900 miles of track--or 3,040 kilometres, if you want--over 900 grade crossings, and 160 warning systems. The four-week audit of CN's safety management system from November 14 to December 10, 2005, focused on assessing CN safety management practices throughout the company.
Following this initial focused surveillance, the minister met with the president and chief executive officer of CN regarding safety issues on two separate occasions in 2006, and Transport Canada performed an additional series of targeted inspections on CN's property during the week of July 17, 2006. The results confirmed the need for immediate corrections to CN's safety management systems.
The department also took direct enforcement action, issuing 54 enforcement actions in fiscal year 2005-06 and 75 in 2006-07. These include 24 orders regarding CN operations and 52 notices on a wide variety of safety issues.
For example, while the Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the cause of the CN derailment along the Cheakamus River in British Columbia in August 2005, Transport Canada immediately issued an order limiting train lengths on high-degree curvature, steep-gradient trackage in that area. Other actions taken by the department include issuing CN a notice and order imposing immediate operational restrictions on locomotives in the Lillooet subdivision as a result of the derailment near Lillooet, B.C., on June 29, 2006, which resulted, unfortunately, in two crew member fatalities.
On July 24, 2006, the issued CN a ministerial order under section 32 of the Railway Safety Act, ordering the company to take the necessary corrective measures to address the deficiencies in the CN safety management system. While CN initially appealed to the Transportation Appeals Tribunal of Canada for a review of this order, senior management of the railway met with Transport Canada officials and agreed to provide a corrective action plan, which would bring the company into compliance with the ministerial order. CN submitted their action plan to Transport Canada on October 18, 2006, and following a review which confirmed that the requirements stipulated in the order had been met, on November 15, 2006, the minister informed CN in writing that the order is considered spent.
As you may know from recent media coverage and as is normal practice in these types of cases, the department was not able to release documentation related to the order, including the audit and results report, without following the appropriate access to information legislation. This process has now been completed, and the final inspection and audit reports are now available on the department's website.
To set the safety context for our discussion, it's important to know that according to the Transportation Safety Board figures, CN main track derailments decreased by 28% in 2006 over 2005. This number was reduced by a further 4% in the first quarter of 2007 over the same time period in 2006.
Although, as you have seen, Transport Canada has taken significant safety enforcement action across Canada over the past years to address these safety issues, it has become apparent that the current regulatory framework may not provide the full set of tools to effectively deal with them. There's also a view that the current framework needs to be modernized and better aligned with safety legislation in place for other modes of transport in Canada.
Accordingly, in December 2006, the government announced the Railway Safety Act review to improve railway safety in Canada and further promote a safety culture within the railway industry, while preserving and strengthening the vital role this industry plays in the Canadian economy.
More recently, the minister has announced an independent four-member panel that will conduct this important exercise. The panel is consulting a wide range of stakeholders, including the public, railway companies and their industry associations, railway company employees and their unions, railway customers, provinces and territories, municipalities, aboriginal and environmental groups as well as Transport Canada and other federal government departments and agencies. Efforts will also ensure an extensive range of access for input, including a website to accommodate input from the public.
I understand that Doug Lewis, chair, and Tim Meisner, executive director of the panel, met with the committee chair on May 1, and that the panel will provide a brief to study in the near future. The panel will prepare a report for the minister with findings and recommendations to improve railway safety, including possible amendments to the Railway Safety Act. This report is to be submitted by October 2007.
Thank you. It will now be our pleasure to take your questions.
Welcome to our two guests from Transport Canada.
First of all, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to advise the committee that I did attend the panel's hearings in Vancouver. I had an opportunity, at Mr. Lewis's invitation, to explain what I felt the difference was between the work we were doing in this committee and the work the panel was doing, that they were indeed complementary, and the reason this committee had pursued the decision last October to proceed with this review.
To Mr. Grégoire, back in April this committee heard from Gord Rhodes, one of the gentlemen who was on the train that derailed in Lillooet. His two co-workers died in that locomotive. He said that, in his opinion, had Transport Canada's safety audits been released earlier--I'm going to the point you raised, that the information was not released--as had been previously promised by Jean Lapierre, minister at the time, it may have prevented some of these accidents.
When our committee met last November, I asked Deputy Minister Louis Ranger to release the audits. He replied that as a policy it does not disclose the results of these audits because they consist of third party information. I presume that's what you're responding to in your question on page three of the presentation you just made.
Do you think it makes sense that audits paid for by the Canadian taxpayer and conducted for the express purpose of public safety, whether it be for rail, aeronautics, or anything else we're doing as a committee of Parliament, only be made public through an access to information request and not to elected members of government such as are represented on this committee?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
First, I will be referring to your opening remarks as well as comments we heard during previous testimony. What upsets me is that we're dealing with an industry that was subject to a safety management system since 2001. It was the 2005 accidents that ultimately led you to take a closer look at CN's situation. You said yourself that you ordered a more specific investigation in 2005.
When I asked the Transportation Safety Board if the safety management systems had improved safety in the railway sector they could not confirm this. I can understand that—in 2005 fatal accidents occurred. If I look at the facts objectively, I can see that there was one accident in Montmagny, Quebec, in 2002 or 2003, and another in 2007, that is, after you had conducted your analysis at CN, after you had gone through the whole process.
I'm trying to understand. Surely something, somewhere, is not being done properly. You'll probably say that it's not you, but something's going on. From what I can see, there have been just as many accidents. Your numbers have barely changed. There may have been a small improvement.
What can we do to discipline this industry?
Mr. Chair, Mr. Fast has relinquished his time to me. Thank you.
I want to carry on with the line of questioning of my friend Mr. Julian across the way, and that is in relation to accidents and statistics. I did some investigation of this. As most of the committee members are aware, the U.S. has much different reporting standards from Canada. In fact, if you look at them, we have heard time after time in this committee that Canada has the safest system in the world for rail, but when you look at the U.S., their accident rate dropped almost 20% from 1989, from 4.7 accidents per million train miles down to 3.5 in 2006—and that's from 1989 to 2006. In Canada it went from 12.4 to 11.9, or barely a 5% decrease in the same time.
I'm wondering, first, why we have not done the same, and if there have been any studies or initiatives towards having an international standard for reporting of accidents. I know that the U.S. standard is monetary; I think it's $8,700, and it's covered by regulations. Why don't we adopt a similar standard, so we can compare apples with apples and see how our industry—which, quite frankly, for the most part, is a duopoly, with two major train operators—compares? Why don't we adopt an international standard, including Australia and the U.K. and most of Europe and the United States, so we can see apples with apples and actually be able to decide what's going on?
I will start, and Luc will complete.
Your first question is whether it is possible to eliminate all accidents. No, it's not possible to do that in any of the modes that we supervise. It's not possible in aviation, on the roads, in the water, or on the rail.
Are there standards, or best practices, if you want? That's done by sharing best practices across different countries. We like to think we have pretty good standards here in Canada. In fact, before 2002 when the accidents started to increase year after year until they peaked in 2005, we had a very good story to tell in rail, but the situation degraded somewhat. Unlike aviation--and that will address also your previous question--and marine, where we have international bodies under the UN--ICAO for aviation and IMO for marine--there are no ways to share best practices on a formal basis.
We have a similar situation on the road, I should add, because for the roads there isn't a similar body either. There is talk about creating one.
Maybe Luc can respond further.
Indeed, I've heard the issues many people around the table have brought up. I think Mr. Bélanger is asking for something reasonable, but I would suggest it should be done the other way. Indeed, the minister did not say, first of all, that he was going to do a review. He said “a possible review”, and that's reflected there, so it's speculation.
But we don't need the authority of the minister or anything else to provide terms of reference that we believe would be appropriate. We could, as a committee--because we are masters of our own destiny--come forward with terms of reference that we think would be appropriate for the minister to at least address in any review, if the review takes place.
But what I'm concerned with, and I think most members around the table are concerned with, is the possibility of a delay as a result of this motion. That's why I would suggest that it could be finessed a little bit.
The first thing is remailers. We already have an action there, and we need to take action there. The next one is rural mail delivery and rural post offices. We have issues that are taking place across the country on that, as we speak. My concern is that if indeed we passed a motion like this, a time delay would take place--and I do believe it would take place as a result of the bureaucracy--to have the minister do particular things with particular parts of that Canada Post file.
My recommendation would be to change the wording so that we would do a review some time before the end of December. We could have one or two meetings and set them aside and provide the minister with what we believe could be the terms of reference that he would deal with. I think that would be a more appropriate way to deal with it, especially because it's a possible review, as you've said. It's not a real review. And that, indeed, might even spur the minister to act on reviewing Canada Post, if he had an idea that this committee would work with him to get the job done.