Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I just wanted to double-check because I believe there was still some time on the clock for the hon. member for . I thought I saw him here a moment ago, but if that is not the case, I am more than prepared to proceed.
I rise to speak today on a bill that is important and has my support, but it opens up an area of public policy that really bears fuller examination. This bill gives us a chance to discuss that. I speak of Bill , a bill for rail safety. As we all know, the issues of rail safety have become increasingly of concern to Canadians.
The title of Bill C-52 is the safe and accountable rail act, but I think it needs to be acknowledged that, while the bill is certainly welcome and is a step in the right direction, it actually only speaks to the accountability side of safe and accountable. It speaks to what we do in the event of accidents, such as who is responsible, how much insurance they must carry, and who can sue after the fact under the polluter pays principle. It does provide a number of important improvements, particularly for municipalities and others affected by rail accidents. It does create a minimum insurance requirement of $1 billion. These things are welcome.
However, the issue of rail safety continues to be one of deep concern. So many of the witnesses before committee spoke to the fact that Bill , while welcome, does not go nearly far enough, and the steps that have been taken so far by Transport Canada to improve rail safety in the wake of the disaster at Lac-Mégantic also are moving too slowly and, even if fully implemented, do not go far enough.
I would like to take a moment to point out that, if we look at Lac-Mégantic as an example—and this was an example put forward by witnesses at committee—a $1 billion minimum insurance requirement for class 1 railways is something that was legislated mandate. The class 1 railways have already been carrying it. Certainly we never wanted to see the Lac-Mégantic disaster. May we never again see a disaster of that scale. However, now that we know it is possible, it behooves us to put in place the insurance requirements that would meet a disaster of that scale, which would, according to witnesses, be closer to six times that amount, or $6 billion.
Looking at the issue of rail safety, over the last number of years we have had what I would almost put forward as a perfect storm of changes in the private sector, in government, and in the types of goods we are shipping. They come together in ways that leave us less safe than we have been before, even with the improvements Transport Canada and the minister have made. For instance, as recently as 2009, only 500 cars a year were carrying highly flammable fossil fuels, the flammable crudes that take up most of our discussion these days. We know the number has gone up in the last two years, but in 2013 we were up to 160,000 car loads. This is a phenomenal increase in hazardous goods moving on our rails, and that leaves out other types of hazardous goods, whether chlorine or other hazardous substances.
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs took this statistic and converted it into millions of barrels and said that, as of now, we have a million barrels of crude oil, flammable class 3 liquids, per day moving on our rails. It also pointed out that in 2013, the last year for which I have statistics, which I found through the witnesses, there were 144 accidents that involved dangerous goods, 7 of which resulted in dangerous goods being released.
We have seen steps taken. I referred to them briefly before. The transportation safety boards in Canada and the U.S. make findings about safety but do not have the regulatory power to implement them.
The transportation safety boards on both sides of our border found some time ago that the DOT-111 railcars constituted an unsafe way to transport such hazardous and flammable materials.
We have taken some steps, as has the U.S., but there is a long lead time for the implementation, so now we are taking class 1232 trains and retrofitting them for crude oil. That must be done by 2020 and for less flammable materials by 2025. Still, until 2017—so we have 2 more years to go—the unsafe DOT-111 cars will still be rolling through our communities; 80,000 DOT-111 railcars will be still in service in the U.S. and Canada until 2017.
Why did I speak of the trends? We have essentially less safety and more hazardous goods. The rail industry, in theory, whether moving passengers or goods, is one of the safest and most environmentally appropriate way to move people and goods. This needs to be reiterated because it is an essential part of our infrastructure, and one of our arguments as Greens is that it is an essential part of our infrastructure that we have been ignoring too long.
We need to upgrade in the passenger context, and we need to invest in more modern trains and better rail beds. We need to continually upgrade the access to passenger rail and invest in VIA Rail for Canadians from coast to coast—and ultimately to coast, at least insofar as the Hudson Bay train would get there. Coast to coast to coast rail service makes sense, and modernizing it to bring it into the 21st century is an important investment for Canadians. It is an important part of our transportation infrastructure.
In the case of goods travelling by rail compared to by truck, it is safer in terms of accidents on our highways and, in theory, it reduces greenhouse gases. It is by far the safest way to transport hazardous goods. The difficulty we have is what has been happening in practice. Over the last decade or so—certainly not just in recent years—we saw a change through the smart regulatory regime; we have seen a change through private sector pressures to improve productivity; we have seen a change through government cutbacks; and ultimately we have greater risks because of the change in our industry.
Let us look, in terms of reduced safety, at the first point I wanted to make. The freight industry in Canada is private sector, whereas VIA Rail is a Crown corporation. We are now dealing with the pressure of for-profit companies, and one certainly understands their point of view, but as a result of their pressure to improve the profit bottom line, we heard from the rail sector labour force, and particularly from the unionized members and the union in that rail sector, of a continual cutback in engineers and onboard rail crews that has led to greater safety concerns.
We have also seen a failure to pay sufficient attention to maintenance along tracks. A number of the significant derailments that have occurred recently occurred because of failure to keep tracks and bridges operating properly. We even had a fatality because of the failure to keep a railway trestle in proper repair.
Back in 2005, a CN train derailed at Wabamun Lake in Alberta and resulted in a substantial spill, in which CN Rail was ultimately fined $1.4 million, which was a very modest fine, given the scale of that spill. The inquiry into that found that the rails over which that train was travelling were worn out and they had not been kept in adequate repair.
That was certainly a significant event, but there were a number of derailments right after it in 2005. This started creating more concern about the use of rail for freight that extended right across Canada, asking what more we could do and what the Transportation Safety Board was doing to ensure rail safety.
The second piece that made us less safe has been in the government decision to move to safety management systems. It is essentially a form of deregulation that came into effect some time ago.
I direct the House to a finding in a report released in 2007 by the Canada Safety Council. It reported that the system is one that:
...allows rail companies to regulate themselves, removing the federal government's ability to protect Canadians and their environment, and allowing the industry to hide critical safety information from the public.
One would think that having gone to a system such as this, Transport Canada would have a supervisory authority to review these SMSs, or safety management systems, to ensure their adequacy. However, it does not appear that is the case.
The third part of the less safe system is cutbacks at Transport Canada. We now have fewer engineers than we used to have available in Transport Canada to do the work of reviewing rail safety. According to a number of media reports, Transport Canada currently has, and has had since 2009, 30 critical rail safety positions that have remained vacant. These are for engineers who could do such things as anticipate and organize the removal of DOT-111 cars from the tracks. Missing critical people in rail safety and critical people at Transport Canada who deal with hazardous goods is not a good sign to Canadians. We saw budget cuts at Transport Canada in 2012 that seem to now put in stone the fact that these positions are not likely to be filled again.
We have hazardous goods moving through communities, as the committee was reminded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and citizen groups concerned with hazardous goods rolling through communities, yet we have not filled critical safety positions within Transport Canada.
The third part relies on what is happening in the private sector and why we are seeing more and more freight, and particularly more and more dangerous freight, on our tracks. I am a huge supporter of passenger rail, as members can probably tell by now from my speech. I have travelled Canada's rails, criss-crossing the country as often as I get the chance. Often, I have done it in the context of political campaigns and whistlestop tours, where it really matters to know that we are going to arrive at our destination some time near the scheduled time on the VIA Rail schedule.
As anyone who pays attention to rail in Canada knows, VIA Rail has to rent the tracks from CN and other rail owners. VIA Rail is not in control of the switches or the red, yellow, and green lights. In other words, passenger rail in Canada and on-time arrivals are virtually entirely hostage to freight. When we have increasingly long trains that can no longer pull over onto sidings and VIA Rail passenger rail that is short enough to stay on the sidings, VIA Rail passenger trains often have to wait for hours for the convenience of freight to go by.
We have not given adequate concern or attention as Parliament or Transport Canada's regulators to the length of freight trains and the fact that they are often stacking cars, and then again to the kinds of material that they are shipping. The horrors of Lac-Mégantic woke us up to what they are shipping. I do not think that any of us will ever forget the horror of the morning of July 5, 2013, of the disaster that killed 47 people.
The Transportation Safety Board had already approved what looked like a perfectly satisfactory system of safety on the part of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway. It had provided its safety management system to Transport Canada, and it was entirely legal on July 5, 2013, for an engineer to leave an idling train above a community, having set hand brakes with the assumption that the air brakes would not fail. The engineer actually set seven hand brakes when, in fact, the minimum number of hand brakes on the company chart was nine. The Transportation Safety Board has since found that nine hand brakes would not have held the train if the air brakes had failed.
As we know, the disaster of Lac-Mégantic is one of a train barrelling into a community that lay entirely unaware of the disaster that was about to befall it. Not only did the community not know that it was legal and that Transport Canada had approved a system that allowed an idling train to be left unattended with hand brakes on above a community, but no one really knew what kind of flammable and dangerous materials were on board, because it was reported as crude oil.
It was in fact Bakken shale, which is an entirely different chemical composition, and as we know, to our horror, it formed a fireball that destroyed much of that community, killed 47 people, and injured many more.
As we stand here today on May 12, 2015, are we sure that such a disaster as Lac-Mégantic could not happen in another Canadian community? Despite all the safety measures I mentioned, and in the face of Bill , the safe and accountable rail act, we have to say no.
We know a lot more about Bakken shale, and there is a greater requirement that communities be notified if it is moving through the community, but Bakken shale is not the only unconventional oil. If we mix bitumen with diluent, it also becomes far more flammable than bitumen by itself.
I should mention parenthetically, because I think it is of some interest to people, that if bitumen by itself is heated so that it can be put into a railcar without the presence of diluents, it is virtually not a dangerous material at all. It cannot spill and it does not blow up.
However, we have not taken safety measures to ensure that diluent will not be moved by rail. Diluent is the stuff they mix with bitumen. It was diluent, which is toxic and hazardous, that was being shipped to northern Alberta through the city of Calgary in those railcars that were hanging so precipitously over the Bow River during the flooding when the bridge gave way. The municipal workers of Calgary had to thread cables through those railcars to keep them from falling into the river. The material in those railcars was diluent, and it was headed to northern Alberta to be stirred in with solid bitumen so that it would be capable of being shipped, whether by pipe or by rail, without resorting to steam-liquefied bitumen, which can actually be moved into railcars without adding diluent.
A wide range of toxic and and dangerous substances are being moved by rail, and I want to turn to the evidence of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, as presented by Paul Boissonneault, fire chief of County of Brant Fire Department and current president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. He has pointed out a number of things that we could do to make the situation safer. One would be to divert some funding for firefighter training to assist people in communities and local fire departments to be able to confront threats. Firefighters should never be exposed to something as dreadful as Lac-Mégantic and neither should the community, but we do have a serious gap that the fire chiefs have pointed out in terms of preparation for firefighters.
They are also looking specifically at other hazardous goods. The bill deals with various forms of crude oil and the most flammable and dangerous forms of crude oil, which are not really crude at all, such as Bakken shale or bitumen mixed with diluent. However, the firefighters also point out that the propane and chlorine that move on our rails also need to be brought into the bill for further measures for safety.
We need to have much more information sharing, and the bill makes some good first steps. The bill would allow requirements relating to information sharing between railways and municipalities in response to emergencies, but we do need greater levels of detail in that information, and the communities have a right to know.
We need to do much more in strengthening the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre to be part of current regulatory activities. We need municipalities to be sitting down with Transport Canada and with the shippers to find better and safer ways. There are some that we know about; one is called “positive train control”. It is used in the United States and is in its rail safety act, although it is not fully implemented yet. It constitutes an on-board computerized system that creates very clear advance information and very immediate real-time information about where brakes are weak, where parts of the trains are overheating, whether speed is out of control, and whether there are problems on board. Positive train control is now part of the U.S. rail safety act; it should be part of ours.
We can also take steps to regulate for shorter freight trains. Braking is far more dangerous and difficult when trains are essentially too long to stop.
We have an opportunity to do much more in Canada to create real rail safety. While I will be voting for Bill , I want no Canadian under any illusion that passing the bill will create a safe rail transport system. It will not, and Canadians deserve a real safe rail system in this country.
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in the House representing the people of and to speak to Bill .
Trains play a huge role in the life and the history of our country. For any boy growing up, the thing we all wanted to be was a train. I spent my life on the Ontario Northland as a kid. My great grandfather used to be the conductor on the Sydney Flyer in Nova Scotia. He lived in Iona. a little village in Cape Breton. He used to say that the only two things that we could find in the village of Iona were holy days and MacNeills. My great grandfather was a MacNeill, so John P. MacNeill was the conductor on the Sydney Flyer. John P's great skill was that he could spot bootleggers on the platform. His eye for a bootlegger was never wrong. He always said that a man carrying a bottle of whiskey with his underwear in a bag would put that bag down with just a little more care than if there were no whiskey in the bottle.
My uncles all worked on the Ontario Northland train out of North Bay and Mattawa. In those days people either worked in northern Ontario, underground in the mines, as my grandfather MacNeill and my grandfather Angus did, or on the Northlander, like my uncles did.
I had a famous uncle who apparently used to drink a twenty-sixer every night on the run from North Bay to Timmins. They said that he was never the worst for wear, although some nights after a twenty-sixer, he would say that it was like the same as working 21 straight hours and being very tired. He did not live long enough for me to be around, but he used to tell us stories about being on those trains.
My street address is Mileage 104, which is 104 miles on the Ontario Northland railway track. Every morning there is that beautiful sound of the train whistle, going past my house, shaking everything in the foundation. It used to carry people but not anymore. The provincial Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne decided that people in northern Ontario were truly second-class citizens and did not merit public transit.
Public transit is something that belongs in urban areas and to urban voters, but people in northern Ontario are somehow second class. Therefore, the Liberal government set out to destroy a 100-year-old public institution, which is the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
What passes by my house daily now is the wood going south, the way the wood has always gone south, and tanker cars full of sulphuric acid from the smelter in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. The trains used to carry product from the smelter in Timmins, but the Liberals also allowed that to be killed because of their idiotic hydro pricing. We are used to seeing things being shipped out of our region on the train, but we used to be able to ship our people back and forth
Just this past weekend I had the great honour and great joy of travelling on the VIA train between Toronto and Ottawa. It was just like being a little kid again, getting on the train, the smell of the train, the feel of the train and the conductors. I felt the same excitement, but I felt a real sense of sadness. For so many regions of our country, the idea of a coherent national transit strategy, including trains, is being seen as somehow something that belongs in the 19th century as opposed to a very 21st century method of travel. I hope to us restore proper train transportation into our regions in the near future, when a New Democratic government is elected in Ontario and we get rid of that corrupt Liberal government.
The Ontario Liberals could learn that their right-wing austerity premier will be a footnote in history like Alison Redford, having promised to be a progressive premiere and then turning her back on the people. From our colleagues in Alberta, we can see how we can elect a progressive woman and actually get it.
I want to speak today about the importance of the safety transportation changes that are coming, changes that need to happen. We have seen an enormous shift in the movement of goods. Over the last five years, there has been a 28,000% increase in the transportation of fuels from western Canada, particularly on the rail lines. Trains are carrying fuel from the Bakken fields, which we know is highly combustible. They are also carrying diluted bitumen and heavy crude.
The incredible increase of this transportation on the transit system has raised serious questions about issues of safety, particularly when we saw the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic.
However, warnings about a potential rail tragedy have been discussed in Parliament for many years. I remember being here in 2004 and trying to get the Liberal government of Paul Martin to see some common sense, which it refused to see. The Liberal government believed that privatizing, allowing companies to look after themselves, getting rid of inspectors and saving money for the government would somehow make things better. Therefore, the Liberal government brought in changes to the Railway Safety Act. The Liberals went to the self-management system and told us that was the future.
It was just like the Liberals told us at that that they could do the same thing for the banking rules. The push at that time was to change Canada's banking laws to allow the banks to self-regulate. We were told in the House of Commons that the NDP was somehow the nanny state NDP because we said that we needed rules around banking. However, at the time, my Liberal colleagues thought that the great future was in City Bank and the amalgamation and investment that was happening in the United States. We saw how that ended up.
In good times, it is easy to say that we do not need regulation. In good times it is easy to say that we should let everything happen and things will carry on. We know our role as regulators is to ensure we have basic rules in place to protect people from potential accidents.
After the changes that came in under the Liberals in self-management, we found there was a whole series of increases in accidents, but because the companies were self-managed, they did not bother to report them. The Transportation Safety Board in 2005 became suspicious of CN's accident numbers compared to other operators. All of a sudden there was a large discrepancy of the number of derailments or lack of derailments. It turned out that over 1,800 derailments and accidents were simply not reported, including 44 that happened on key rail arteries. We have oversight because we want to ensure that when companies are self-regulating, they do not do what they did at that time, which was simply not bothering to report. This is a very serious issue, particularly in light of the accidents we have seen recently.
In my region of northern Ontario, we have had three serious train derailments on the rural subdivision at Hornepayne and two at Gogama. The last two incidents were February 14 and March 7, with CN freight trains carrying between 94 and 100 cars. The March 7 train was 6,089 feet long. A staggering amount of crude oil was being carried on that track.
They had come on the rural subdivision that exists between Capreol, in the south toward Sudbury and Hornepayne. It is primarily composed of a continuous welded rail and is classified as class 4 track under the transportation safety rules. Class 4 is the second-highest rating and allows trains to travel 60 miles an hour for freight and 80 miles an hour for passenger trains. However, we do not see many passenger trains anymore in the north. There were a number of slow orders given because of problems along that track. We had the accident on February 14 at Gogama and then again on March 7. At the time of the March 7 derailment, the eastbound freight was moving at 43 miles an hour and at 2:40 in the morning, at a temperature of -10C, the train jumped the tracks and cars spilled into the Mattagami River.
What was very disturbing about the 700 feet of track that was destroyed at that junction and the cars going in was that a great deal of work had happened in our region in terms of the Mattagami River, which is one of the great northern river systems feeding into James Bay. A lot of work has been done to secure fisheries and build up spawning grounds. Having heavy crude pouring into and burning across that river system was certainly deeply disturbing for residents of my region. They see that as one of the great river systems of northern Ontario.
The issue of transportation safety, given the huge increase in combustible fuels that are being transported on trains, is very serious because many communities were built on the rail line. Therefore, trains actually travel through the centre of many communities across western Canada and northern Ontario. In Sudbury, cars sit at lights as trains speed by. If the Gogama derailment had happened in an urban area, it could have been a tragedy in the nature of Lac-Mégantic.
What do we do to alleviate this? Whenever we talk about the transportation of dangerous goods, whether it is through a pipeline or by rail, we have to ensure there are rules in place for oversight and public safety. There are some very positive elements in this bill, which the New Democrats will be supporting, such as putting in place minimum insurance levels for railways transporting dangerous goods based on the type and volume of goods being transported and also establishing a disaster relief fund to deal with accidents such as occurred in Lac-Mégantic.
There have also been a number of changes, including increased powers for inspectors. This is important to have. Is this enough? Given the potential damage that could be caused by a catastrophic train derailment, perhaps not. We need to speak to this. The issue of polluter pays is a fundamental principle that Canadians agree with and in improving rail liability and accountability, we do not want the public on the hook for any potentially catastrophic disaster. Therefore, the question is how to establish a regime that is still profitable and able to transport goods by rail. We want to ensure that rail remains a profitable system, while also assuring the public that in cases of liability, there will not be fly-by-nighters, like happened at Lac-Mégantic, saying that they do not have any money and wanting to skip town. That is not good enough, not when lives and the environment are at stake.
Essentially, Bill would require minimum insurance levels for railways transporting dangerous goods and would establish a disaster relief fund paid for by crude shippers. However, regarding the issue of minimum insurance levels from $25 million for companies transporting low-risk goods up to a maximum of $1 billion for railways transporting high-risk goods, the question is at what point we would get to a level within the fund where money would available to offset a potential disaster.
I would like to compare what happened in Gogama with the situation in Kalamazoo. In the Kalamazoo blowout, it was a pipeline and not a rail disaster, but that pipeline was carrying raw bitumen. When the bitumen hit the water, cleaning it up was not so simple. In fact, it has cost over $1 billion to attempt to remediate the bitumen in the Kalamazoo River. Bitumen is a very difficult and dangerous product to deal with, especially when it sinks to the bottom. The chemicals that are involved make it a very different issue.
Whether we are talking about pipelines or rail, we get back to one of the root issues, which is that we need to move toward upgrading at source as much as possible to limit the potential for environmental damage. Also, we need to ensure that we see the benefit of whatever we produce in Canada, in terms of natural raw materials, as much as possible. We need to have discussions in the House of Commons about how to limit the environmental damage from such massive projects, because we are in a world that deals with the potential for catastrophic climate change and the government has literally buried its head in the oil sands, refusing to deal with its international obligations.
However, as Canadians, we need to deal with this. Canadians feels very inspired to take action on this. We have seen, with the recent New Democratic Party win in Alberta, that Albertans are deeply concerned about how we make developments that are sustainable, how to limit the impact of greenhouse gases, how to ensure that if we transport our incredible natural resources, which we are blessed with right across the country, we get the maximum benefits, so that Canada is not just a place where the ground is ripped out and products are shipped to refineries in Texas or to China, but we see the benefit from that.
These are all interrelated issues that really need to be discussed in Parliament. We need to have a national conversation about where we are going with this.
The bill, in response to the situation in Lac-Mégantic, is a good first step. As I said, we in the New Democratic Party have many questions about whether this insurance is enough. We certainly question some of the numbers.
For the 200,000 barrels of oil transported daily, Transport Canada estimates that oil levies would contribute about $17 million annually to general revenues. This is a step forward, but there are certainly outstanding concerns. We would need to have the levy in place for about 15 years before we reached the $250-million level where it believes we would be able to respond to any level of crisis. I would again point to Lac-Mégantic. It cost $400 million for the damage done in that one accident. Therefore, this levy would certainly not be enough.
Under the legislated summary we received from the Library of Parliament, the act would amend the Railway Act to allow a province or municipality that incurs costs in responding to a fire that was, in its opinion, the result of a rail company's railway operations to apply to the Canada Transportation Agency to have those costs reimbursed by the rail company. That is an important role, but we also need to work closely with municipalities. They are very concerned about the kinds of dangerous goods being transported through their communities and the need for plans to make sure that if something did blow out, such as in Toronto, where the rail line comes right through parts of the city, we would all be working together on this.
The Canadian Federation of Municipalities certainly supports what the New Democrats have been saying. It is interested in the issues of insurance and liability. Brad Woodside, who is president, called for a “comprehensive approach that makes railways and crude oil shippers pay the full costs of rail disasters, and not leave municipalities and taxpayers footing the bill”.
That is a fundamental principle. It should not be the taxpayers of the country who are subsidizing these operations. These operations need to be profitable in their own right, and they need to carry the cost of the potential damage through proper insurance.
The Railway Association of Canada believes that the compensation fund should cover the cost of not only crude oil but other dangerous goods, such as chlorine, which is a very interesting element. In my region, they are carrying tanker cars full of sulphuric acid on the rail lines. I remember a number of years ago when the ONR line went over just south of Temagami and pretty much destroyed a lake because of the amount of sulphuric acid that entered the water. These rail lines are carrying very dangerous goods at times, and we need to have that overall policy.
The Canadian Transportation Agency has said:
The tragic derailment in Lac-Mégantic has raised important questions regarding the adequacy of third party liability insurance coverage to deal with catastrophic events, especially for smaller railways.
This is another important issue in terms of what we saw at Lac-Mégantic, where we had a small, fly-by-night company that, when the damage was done, simply was not going to be around the next day to deal with it.
In closing, this improvement in rail safety and the creation of a fund is important, but we still need to have that conversation about how to ensure that the industry is covering off its own costs so that municipalities, provinces, and the federal government are not on the hook. We need to make sure that the federal government maintains an active role. After those years when the Liberal government allowed self-regulation and we saw numerous increases in accidents and a decline in safety, we need to make sure that there are independent inspectors and that the companies are accountable.
Finally, we need to continue the national conversation about how we are going to process oil, bitumen, and other natural resources in our country.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today to speak to Bill .
I am pleased to rise in my place to speak in favour of Bill C-52, the Safe and Accountable Rail Act. This is a bill that, among other things, would take accountability and liability for the rail transportation of dangerous goods and share it between railways and shippers. Together they would pay the costs associated with cleanup and compensation in catastrophic rail accidents, such as the one that took place in Lac-Mégantic.
It is great to have the opportunity to participate in this debate today, because railway safety is a top priority in my riding of Brant and in the city of Brantford. I have had regular meetings with city representatives and local officials to hear about their concerns in the wake of the recent disasters, and I am pleased that our continues to take firm action to ensure greater safety and accountability on our railways.
I also appreciate having the opportunity to recognize the hard work and strong advocacy of Brant County Fire Chief Paul Boissonneault, who has shown great leadership on issues related to rail safety in Canadian communities. Paul is Canada's top fire chief, and during his tenure as president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, he has travelled across Canada working to ensure that first responders and Canadian communities are better protected when dangerous goods are being transported. He sat on the Emergency Response Assistance Program Working Group and the transportation of dangerous goods advisory council, and he has also appeared before the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, including as part of its deliberations on this bill, Bill .
He has stated that overall, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs welcomes Bill , because it would define the liability of railways in order to provide claimants with greater certainty of compensation and because it would build upon recent government actions focused on strengthening rail safety. Chief Boissonneault continues to push for further measures to improve safety and accountability, and we look forward to continuing the work we have started with him.
The bill before us today represents another important step in the right direction. Hon. members will recall that the tragedy in July 2013 was caused by the explosion of tank cars carrying crude oil.
There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of crude oil shipped by rail. In 2008, hardly any crude oil moved on Canadian rail lines. By 2013, oil by rail had increased to approximately 10.6 million tonnes per year. By 2017, that number is expected to reach approximately 33.9 million tonnes per year.
The shipment of crude oil by rail will continue to play an important role in moving our resources to market. Even if pipelines in the east, west, and south of the oil fields and oil sands were approved tomorrow, it would be many years before they were operational. Until such time as new pipelines are available, rail remains the only real transportation alternative. Nor do railways have any option but to accept shipments of oil from their customers. The common carrier obligations of the Canada Transportation Act are a hallmark of the railway system that ensures that shippers can get their goods to market. Railways cannot turn down shipments of crude oil just because oil is volatile and is classified as a dangerous good. They are exposed to the liabilities associated with the freight they are required to move.
Railways are responsible for carrying insurance to provide compensation for the liabilities associated with disasters such as Lac-Mégantic. The bill before us would enhance insurance requirements by setting required minimum insurance levels for federally regulated railways that would take into account the potential severity of accidents. These would range from $25 million to $1 billion, based on the type and volume of dangerous goods the railway carried.
To enforce compliance, if a railway failed to notify the Canada Transportation Agency of an operational change that would affect its insurance, it would be subject to an administrative monetary penalty of up to $100,000 per violation.
As the tragic derailment in Lac-Mégantic demonstrates, accidents involving crude oil can be catastrophic in nature. To address such incidents where, despite increased requirements, the amount of railway insurance may be inadequate to pay for all liabilities, a two-tiered approach is proposed in the bill.
First, the bill before us would change the liability regime for rail accidents, including crude oil. In the event of an incident involving crude oil, railways physically or operationally involved in the accident would be held liable up to their insurance without fault or negligence having to be proven. When the cost of a rail accident exceeds a railway's insurance level, the bill provides for a way to cover the cost of such disasters without putting the burden on the shoulders of the taxpayer. This would be accomplished through the establishment of a supplemental shipper-financed fund.
This brings us to the polluter pays principle, which Canada is making a gold standard for nuclear energy and offshore oil production, and other modes of transportation, including pipelines and marine. Hon. members may be aware that Canada was a pioneer in implementing this principle beginning with the liability regime for marine oil spills. Since the 1970s, shipowners have been held strictly liable for costs and damages that result from the discharge of oil. To cover claims in excess of the shipowner's limit of liability, the government created a marine pollution claims fund, which is now known as the ship-source oil pollution fund.
This is the approach that we have applied to marine oil tankers, and it would also apply to the transportation of crude oil by rail as a result of the bill before us. In future years, it could apply as well to the transportation of other dangerous goods by rail.
Any liabilities that result from an accident involving crude oil above the railway's insurance level would be covered by the shipper-financed fund, known as the fund for railway accidents involving designated goods. The two-tiered regime outlined in the bill would share responsibility for damages from rail accidents between railways and shippers and ensure that adequate resources would be available to pay for all liabilities This approach, modelled on the marine mode, would achieve two important goals. First, it would give potential victims more certainty regarding compensation claims. Second, it would relieve taxpayers of excess liabilities that can result from an accident.
In summary, this bill would ensure that railways maintain appropriate insurance coverage. In addition, it would also ensure that their liability is clearly defined to more quickly address claims following rail accidents involving crude oil, and it would ensure that resources are available to pay compensation for all liabilities associated with an accident.
Let me be clear. The government's first priority is the safety of our transportation system, but in the event of a rail accident, the bill would ensure that the polluter will pay. I urge hon. members to adopt this bill.