Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the bill before us, the . The bill would fulfill this title by strengthening safety in our efforts to further improve safety management systems in the rail transportation industry. This is especially vital for addressing safety risks before they become bigger problems and before accidents occur.
Railways are a vital part of Canada's transportation system and keeping them safe is everyone's concern. The railway industry and the government need to work together to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to secure the conditions for a prosperous economy.
In the past, railways and many other safety-critical industries pursued safety through compliance with prescriptive rules and regulations. As safety research progressed during the 1990s, however, it became clear that compliance with rules and regulations alone was insufficient to ensure the highest possible levels of safety. What companies needed for a truly effective safety regime was a proactive system approach to safety that allowed them to identify hazards and to mitigate risks in order to prevent accidents. This approach also allowed lessons learned from minor incidents and day-to-day operations to be included in the system, thereby creating a sea of continuous safety improvement with more likelihood of avoiding accidents.
When the railway safety management system regulations first came into force in March 2001, they were the first of their kind in the federal transportation sector. They were created with significant industry input and emphasized the railways' responsibilities for safe operations. The regulations were established to encourage the development of a safety culture throughout all levels of an organization and to ensure that safety is considered as a factor in all decisions.
The safety management system helps organizations better comply with regulatory requirements and demonstrate their commitment to the safety of their employees. Key elements of safety management systems include, for instance, the development of safety goals and performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, processes and procedures, and monitoring and evaluating. Achieving an effective safety culture is the ultimate goal of safety management systems. An effective safety culture in a company can contribute to reducing public and employee fatalities and injuries, property damage resulting from railway accidents, and the impact of accidents on the environment.
Since the introduction of the railway safety management system regulations in 2001, a lot has been done and much has changed. Our railway network is characterized and challenged by a growing user base, vast distances, new and aging infrastructure, and a significant rise in oil on rail. Regulated safety management systems have come a long way since their beginnings. They have now been implemented in rail, marine and aviation transportation modes in Canada, and have become an international standard for managing safety.
The importance of safety management systems and their implementation in Canadian railway systems was one of the most significant issues researched during the last Railway Safety Act review and a simultaneous study of rail safety in Canada undertaken by the Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. While safety management systems were generally supported, both reviews concluded that implementation among the companies was uneven and that more needed to be done by the companies and the regulator to ensure full implementation throughout the industry. As a result, Transport Canada made several amendments to the Railway Safety Act in May 2013, to increase rail safety by strengthening its oversight and enforcement capacity, and expanding safety management systems for railways. Following these amendments, Transport Canada accelerated the development of the new railway safety management system regulations, 2015, which came into force on April 1.
The new regulations improve the implementation of safety management systems by incorporating more detailed requirements to clarify expectations from both industry and the department. The new regulations also improve the overall consistency and quality of railway safety management systems by adding consistent terminology, provisions requiring evidence of implementation, requirements for the identification of an accountable executive and the creation of a policy protecting employees from reprisal for reporting contraventions, and by expanding application to local railway companies.
However, our government is not stopping there. This bill introduces an amendment that would not only make sure that railway safety measurement systems exist, but that they are also working and are effective. Under the current Railway Safety Act, the can take enforcement actions, including prosecution, for any non-compliance with the railway safety management system regulations.
The minister can even order a railway company to take corrective measures, should the minister be of the opinion that the company's safety management system presents deficiencies that risk compromising safe railway operations. However, the current Railway Safety Act lacks the authority to address issues with the way the rail companies implement their safety management systems. This bill would fill that gap by introducing a new power for the minister to order a company to take corrective measures should a company's implementation of its safety management system risk compromising safety.
This new power would also allow the minister to order corrective action if a company is not following its safety management system procedures and policies to the extent of risking safe railway operations.
Fairness is also paramount to this proposed amendment, to further strengthen railway safety management systems. Similar to the current safety management systems power related to deficiencies in a company's system, an order made under this new power would be subject to review by the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada; this at the request of the company.
Together, the rail industry and government have accomplished tremendous work toward enhancing the safety of our railway network in the last decade and continuously improving company safety culture, but we still have more to do to make our railway system safer. Transportation safety is crucial, not only for the welfare of families and communities in Canada but to support Canada's long-term economic growth. We need to continue to work together to achieve our goal of giving all Canadians a safer and more responsible railway system and to assure global markets that our transportation systems are not only efficient but also safe and secure.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I note that the bill would adopt one of the things that the NDP has been calling for, which is the polluter pay principle, so that at any time there is damage to our environment caused by industry, or in this case by railroads and industry, there would be recognition on the part of governments everywhere that the polluter should be responsible for the cleanup and pay for the cost of the cleanup. The bill before us goes a small way toward ensuring that would take place.
Of course, we know the history of where the bill originated, and we have been talking about rail safety since the disaster at Lac-Mégantic. This was a tragedy that killed 47 people, wrecked the town and cost half a billion in cleanup. However, the rail system, as we have it now in Canada, has not been sufficient to protect towns, villages and cities along the way, and the people who reside in them, from the consequences of the enormous increase in the transportation of dangerous goods by rail.
Up until 2009, there were maybe 500 railcars transporting dangerous oil by rail. Since that time, the level of this material has gone up by something like 400-fold, so that we are now seeing 200,000 barrels a day travelling through our communities.
Originally, people thought those barrels of oil were fairly benign. Crude oil is a heavy, massive weight substance that does not catch fire very easily. However, little did we know, with the advent of fracking and diluted bitumen, we now have transportation of goods that are explosive, not just flammable. As a result, we are now transporting what people have referred to as “bomb trains” through our cities and countryside, and throughout the entire country.
The notion of bomb trains is not lost on the people of Canada, and when it happens, we need to have a regimen that actually keeps them safe. It is one thing to suggest, as some on the opposite side have suggested, that if we do not put it in trains, we could put it in pipelines and that we cannot have it both ways: we cannot be opposed to transporting it via pipelines and trains. However, in fact, this material is so dangerous, it is not allowed to be in pipelines. It has too much gas in it, which provides too much pressure. Therefore, the only way it can be transported is by truck and by train.
It is up to the Government of Canada to ensure that, if this is how we are going to transport our natural resources, the transportation is done in a way that is safe and in a way that protects the citizens of the country.
In my riding of York South—Weston, there are three separate rail corridors. Two are on the edges of the riding and one goes right through the centre of the riding. The one that goes through the centre and the one at the bottom edge are both CP main lines. Those corridors carry tremendous quantities of this crude oil in these big black tanker cars, which everybody learned the name of after Lac-Mégantic: DOT-111s.
The minister, shortly after the Lac-Mégantic disaster, announced new emergency directives where the rail companies were not allowed to have single-person crews, have these trains unattended or transport dangerous goods without having two people on the crew. She also announced that they would be eliminating the use of the DOT-111s within three years.
In what universe does that make us safer? For three years then we have to live with the reality that these bomb trains are going past communities, including my community of York South—Weston. Therefore, these bomb trains are still a feature of the urban landscape and something we have to be extremely vigilant about, and I do not believe that the current Conservative government has been vigilant enough.
The bill would do two things.
It would create a regimen whereby the rail company shares the liability with the shippers in terms of dangerous goods. Ultimately, the rail companies would theoretically be responsible for the entire cost in conjunction with the shippers. However, in regards to the cost at Lac-Mégantic, the government has made it very clear that the Province of Quebec will continue to be on the hook for that cleanup, because there was not enough insurance in the system before Lac-Mégantic took place. MMA, the railroad that was involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster, had $25 million of insurance which was quickly exhausted, and the governments then took up the rest of it, not shippers and not the rest of the railroads.
In terms of the dangers of these rail cars going past our communities, there have been some good moves by the government, but there clearly is not enough. Since Lac-Mégantic, there have been at least seven other massive explosions and collisions of these bomb trains in Canada and the United States. There has been Aliceville, Alabama; Casselton, North Dakota; New Brunswick; West Virginia; Saskatchewan; Gogama; and, more recently, Heimdal, North Dakota.
In some of those occurrences, the cars were not DOT-111s. They were the newer cars, the CPC-1232s. Apparently those newer cars, when they break in a collision, blow up just like the DOT-111s. That is what has been happening all across North America.
What is the solution? The minister has said we are going to replace these with the DOT-117 cars, in 10 years. We have now gone from a 3-year window, which is quickly running down, to a 10-year window before our communities will start to feel safe. We do not even know what is safe about these new DOT-117 cars.
The minister has also lowered the speeds through urban centres to 40 miles an hour, or about 62 kilometres an hour. All of the collisions in recent memory, including one of the two at Gogama, have been at speeds that were less than the speed the minister says is safe in urban areas. How is that to make us feel safe? It does not. The residents of York South—Weston do not feel safe and are demanding that the government do something more.
The government did ask the railroads last year to provide them with route analyses and risk assessments. The route analyses are because we are aware that in the United States, governments there have directed railroads to steer clear of major urban centres like Washington, D.C. They are not allowed to travel through that community.
However, here in Canada, the railroads were given the option to come up with a route analysis and decide for themselves whether it is too risky to go through towns. We asked to see those risk assessments that were done by the railroads for the ministry. Transport Canada said that they were the private property of the railroads. We asked the railroads to give us a copy of the risk assessment, and the railroad said that Transport Canada was free to give us a copy. Then the minister came to the committee and said that they are not. We are still no clearer.
I was at a meeting last week of emergency services on rail safety in the city of Toronto, called because the city has determined it would like to know what Toronto emergency services need. Toronto emergency services confirmed that they do not know what the railroads' risk assessments are. They do not know how risky it is, and where the hot spots are likely to be if there is a problem in a rail corridor running through the city of Toronto. They still do not know, except on an annual basis, at the end of a year, what dangerous goods are going through the city.
It seems ludicrous to consider that information to be private and confidential to the railroads when it is the life and limb of the residents of the city of Toronto, and other cities across this fair land of ours, that is at risk should something happen.
If the railroads have produced a risk assessment that says they should be going slower, then let us make them go slower. If the risk assessment says there are particular spots where they should not travel at all, that they should go around, then let us make them do that.
As far as we know, there has been zero action by the minister, by Transport Canada, by the Transportation Safety Board, or any of the agencies dealing with transportation in this country, to deal with the fact that when one of these tank cars breaks in a collision, and they break at speeds as low as 30 miles an hour, maybe even 25 miles an hour, they explode.
We have yet to hear the minister say that she will find a speed that they are safe to travel at. Until she does, the speed that these trains are travelling at through my community, through the rest of the city of Toronto, is too fast.
We are not going to create a system that is 100% safe. CN admitted that at the transport committee, after Gogama, when it said it could not make it 100% safe and can only do the best it can. We need it to be certain that these things are not going to explode in my community.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill . The bill is returning to us from committee where we heard testimony from witnesses, representatives like Safe Rail Communities in the Toronto area, who share the NDP's view that “Although it has some promising elements...Bill C-52 could go further to ensure safety and accountability”.
Opportunities were missed here, but nevertheless I stand in support of the bill in light of the need for an immediate response to rail safety issues in Canada.
As I have mentioned in the House before, the growing frequency of train derailments since the disaster in Lac-Mégantic has led to many Conservative promises to rectify shortcomings with safety inspections and rail safety compliance measures. The Conservatives have yet to honour that commitment, and the bill goes nowhere near what they need to do to honour those commitments.
With three train derailments occurring in the span of a month last year, this is a pressing issue. It is one that the government has been scrambling to catch up with and has still not caught up.
So far, these accidents have occurred in rural areas. As the critic for urban affairs, I would note that the bill would do little to alleviate the costs and the human tragedy inevitably associated with a derailment in one of our big cities, one of our dense urban communities in this country.
Starting with the Liberal government, in 1999, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have let companies self-regulate and self-inspect their equipment and railway lines. This approach is clearly not working.
The bill put forward by the minister is an effort to address some of the liability and accountability issues associated with rail safety. It proposes several necessary fixes, but it is just a start.
It appears to me that the government is in no hurry to catch up on rail safety issues. We heard the member across the aisle today talking about the need for more study, while communities across this country are anxious about dangerous goods being transported by rail quite literally through their backyards.
The bill sets out to provide some compensation for victims of derailments after the fact. It is as if the government has accepted the inevitability of train derailments in this country. We not only need stronger laws, but we need stronger enforcement of laws and regulations, and we need penalties on those who break them.
It is clear to us and to experts such as the Transportation Safety Board that the government has very serious problems in terms of oversight inspections and audits. Nevertheless, the proposed changes in the bill remain necessary, and while not fully or nearly adequate, they have the support of this side of the House.
Bill sets out to do three main things. It requires minimum insurance levels for railways transporting dangerous goods. It establishes a disaster relief fund paid for by crude oil shippers to compensate victims of derailments, provinces, and municipalities, and it gives more authority to the minister, cabinet, and railway safety inspectors.
With respect to minimum insurance levels, the bill provides for a legislated minimum insurance coverage of $25 million for railway companies transporting minimal quantities of dangerous goods, and up to a maximum of $1 billion for railways that are transporting substantial quantities of dangerous goods. Railway companies will be liable for losses, damages, costs, and expenses resulting from a railway accident involving crude oil or other designated goods, up to the level of the company's minimum liability insurance coverage.
Based on the costs of train derailments like that in Lac-Mégantic, these measures appear to be justified.
After that disaster, the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway exhausted its insurance coverage of only $25 million and went bankrupt. Yet damages paid by taxpayers with respect to that derailment have been to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Quebec government has estimated that the total cost will be well over $400 million.
The second thing the bill sets out to do is establish a pooled disaster relief fund to be made available if the minimum insurance levels are insufficient or exceeded. While this is a step forward, there are outstanding concerns that this also may not be sufficient in the event that another major disaster, particularly in an urban area.
When it comes to disaster relief, the first responders on the scene will inevitably be firefighters and sometimes the police. For that reason, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs asked that the committee consider a mechanism to fund training, such as through a small allocation of the disaster relief fund, since the bill did not address the serious firefighter training gap that currently existed in Canada. Indeed, equipping and supporting municipal first responders to rail emergencies is of the utmost importance, yet this important aspect is not addressed by the bill and there is no ability to fund training out of this pooled fund.
When my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie followed up at committee on the recommendation from the fire chiefs to use this relief fund to pay for this training, representatives from Transport Canada admitted that the resources had not been a key focus at this point of this bill, but that those questions would come up as they “work through the ways in which we can improve the system as a set of jurisdictions and responsible authorities”.
This is evidence of the government being excessively casual on this pressing issue of public safety. It reveals a lack of urgency from the government. It is a case of the Conservatives making promises but not following up with the necessary resources to back those promises up. It was the same lack of urgency exhibited by the minister in her recent announcement that Canadians would have to wait a full 10 years for the phase out of the dangerous railcars. That is far too long.
On the issue of authority to the minister, cabinet and railway safety inspectors, the bill implements a number of changes to the Railway Safety Act that would give more authority to the minister. As my colleague from York South—Weston has pointed out in practical terms, these are not real. However, railway safety inspectors would be authorized to order a person or company to take any measure they deemed necessary to mitigate a threat to the safety or security of railway operations. Therefore, providing extra authority to railway safety inspectors is a positive and gets us back to where authority ought to lie for safety, with the government and the inspectors it hires rather than safety management systems.
The amendments would also authorize the minister to order a company that was implementing its safety management system in a manner that risked compromising railway safety to take the necessary corrective measures. However, as my colleague has pointed out, it is not clear how the minister will understand or come to know what is in those safety management systems to act on those. Clearly, the missed opportunity here is that of increasing the number of inspectors. Since 2013, Transport Canada has hired just one additional rail safety inspector even though the amount of oil by rail has more than doubled in the last two years.
While the government has a responsibility to ensure that tragedies like Lac-Mégantic never happen again, we do want to ensure that railways have enough insurance to cover all costs in the event of a disaster, and the bill would do that.
Clearly, there is more to do. One of the things that is missing from the bill is defining “fatigue science” in the Railway Safety Act. It is our worry that its absence will not ensure that fatigue management is based on science. Fatigue has been said to be one of the contributing factors for train derailments. Therefore, the fact that the Conservatives refuse to do something about this issue is quite puzzling and disturbing.
On the environmental side, we want to see the polluter pays principle applied to ensure that the total environmental and cleanup costs of rail accidents are borne by the industry and not downloaded onto the taxpayers.
The most important thing, however, is that we pass this bill before the next election to ensure we take at least a small step forward, even though that step is inadequate.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in support of Bill . Many members of the House have already expressed their sound support for the safe and accountable railway act. Members opposite who have just spoken have said they are in support of the bill, so I will not repeat many of the areas that they have addressed.
Principally, the bill deals with base insurance amounts and a pooled fund to deal with disasters and ensures a structure to deal with that.
I will turn my attention today to another point of significant importance to all Canadians. That is safe grade crossings.
The safety of grade crossings is a cause championed by the member for , who herself proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act through her bill, Bill . She appeared before the committee to emphasize the importance of protecting people and property from unsafe railway operations. Bill C-627 and Bill have become a coordinated effort to ensure that the and her officials have the mandate and powers to stop the threat to the safety of persons or property from all rail operations. It is a fairly significant addition and piece of legislative work that both the member and this particular bill address. As recognized in both these pieces of legislation, the minister must have the legislative authority to develop, administer, and enforce safety regulations of federally regulated railways.
However, our government's work goes beyond just the legislation before the House. The week of April 27 was Rail Safety Week, and we saw two important announcements that bracketed the range of rail safety challenges from local to international.
At the beginning of the week, the minister announced $9.7 million in new funding to improve safety at more than 600 grade crossings. At the end of the week, the minister and her United States counterpart announced new tank car standards in a joint United States-Canada plan to phase out rail cars that do not meet the new standards. Of course, they will be phased in, because it takes time to replace these cars. These two announcements target both local concerns—the specific places where people and trains intersect daily—and the overall safety of rail operations in Canada and the United States.
It is easy to see why Canadians are concerned about grade crossings. Canadian cities and towns grew up alongside rail lines and continued to spread around them. As subdivision plans are made and the cities continue to grow, obviously those subdivisions and those buildings will be near rail lines. As a result, we have some 37,000 public, private, and pedestrian railway crossings. Although the number of crossing accidents has fallen dramatically since 1980, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says the risk of trains and vehicles colliding at crossings is still too high. Crossing accidents account for nearly 20% of all rail accidents in Canada, with 30% of these accidents resulting in death or serious injury.
In response to the Transportation Safety Board's call for government action on grade crossings, new grade crossing regulations came into force on November 27, 2014. These regulations and the accompanying standards are intended to help prevent accidents and improve the safety of federally regulated grade crossings.
Sometimes some small things can be done to ensure that safety is first and foremost. These include approximately 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings along with more than 42,000 kilometres of federally regulated railway tracks in Canada.
The regulations that came into force on November 27, 2014, will improve safety by establishing comprehensive and enforceable safety standards for grade crossings. They clarify the roles and responsibilities of railway companies and road authorities and ensure the sharing of key safety information between rail companies and road authorities.
This last element is important. Railway companies share responsibility for grade crossing safety with road authorities, which include provinces, municipalities, band councils, and private crossing owners. All of these parties are responsible for managing railway crossing safety in Canada, so effective collaboration is crucial.
The new regulations have a phased-in approach, and railway companies and road authorities must meet all requirements over the next seven years. This phased-in approach requires immediate safety improvements at grade crossings across Canada, while allowing sufficient time to comply with all the requirements and the regulations.
The new funding for grade crossings announced on April 27, 2015, will be available through Transport Canada's grade crossing improvement program. Under this program, eligible railway crossings will be upgraded based on factors such as traffic volume and accident history. The improvements may include flashing lights and bells, gate barriers, linking crossing signals to traffic signals, upgrading to brighter LED lights, or adding new circuits or timing devices.
Transport Canada also encourages the closing of certain grade crossings under federal jurisdiction. The grade crossing closure program provides grants to crossing owners in exchange for closing a crossing. In 2014-15 Transport Canada approved $165,000 in funding to close nine crossings in the interests of public safety.
Other initiatives to improve safety at railway crossings include Operation Lifesaver. This national public education program aims to reduce loss of life, injuries, and damages caused by grade crossing collisions and pedestrian incidents. Transport Canada provides Operation Lifesaver with $300,000 per year for its outreach and education programs.
Improving safety at grade crossings is an important contribution to rail safety. Another is making all rail operations safer, especially in densely populated areas, as was already mentioned. That is why the minister issued an emergency directive this spring that set the speed limit for trains in densely populated urban areas at 64 kilometres per hour. Slower train speeds were among the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's recommendations. The directive also increases inspections and risk assessments along key routes used for the transportation of dangerous goods, include crude oil and ethanol.
The joint United States-Canada announcement on tank car standards in April was the latest step in our government's coordinated effort to improve rail safety following the Lac-Mégantic disaster. These efforts began soon after the accident and the first advisories from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
In July 2013, Transport Canada ordered rail companies to have crews of at least two persons on trains carrying dangerous goods and imposed stricter requirements for securing unattended trains. This was followed in 2014 by a series of measures, including banning the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from carrying dangerous goods and requiring companies to phase out cars not meeting new safety standards by May 1, 2017; the coming into force of a series of new regulations, such as the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015; Railway Safety Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations, Railway Operating Certificate Regulations, and amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations to improve data collection; requiring railways to secure unattended trains with a minimum number of handbrakes and other physical defences to prevent runaways; and tightening railway labelling of hazardous materials.
With the focus on rail safety and the dangers associated with railway operations, we must not lose sight of the important role rail transportation plays and has played in Canada's economy, supporting our exports and bringing goods to Canadians. However, the shadow of Lac-Mégantic looms over anyone living near rail lines, and the daily risk of collisions at grade crossings requires that we do more to ensure rail safety.
Our government takes these potential threats very seriously and is moving to ensure that does not happen again.
I hope that all of my colleagues will join me in recognizing Bill as a key contribution to improving rail safety and will vote in favour of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak today in support of Bill , the safe and accountable rail act.
This bill is an essential milestone in the government's ongoing work to strengthen railway safety. I would like to use my time to demonstrate to this House all the hard work we have collectively accomplished with regard to railway safety.
In November 2013, the public accounts committee tabled its seventh report that contained an examination of railway safety oversight related issues. The report's five recommendations followed similar railway safety oversight themes that were outlined in the 2013 fall report of the Auditor General of Canada.
Similarly, the Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities completed an in-depth review of the Canadian regime for the safe transportation of dangerous goods and the role of safety management systems across all modes of transportation.
Before proceeding, I would like to thank the members of both committees for their thorough exploration of these issues, which serve to further enhance transportation safety for all Canadians. I would also like to thank the witnesses for participating and providing their invaluable knowledge and insight. These railway safety and transportation of dangerous goods studies and recommendations are important considerations to further enhancing the national transportation system. Let me assure the House that the safety of Canadians remains this government's biggest priority.
As such, it is important to review the many activities and measures that our government has taken to strengthen railway safety, transportation and movement of dangerous goods.
Following the tragic derailment in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013, our government took decisive action to ensure the safety and integrity of our railway system. The directed Transport Canada to issue an emergency directive to railway companies. This included requiring a two-person minimum for locomotive crews on trains carrying dangerous goods. We also imposed stricter rules for securing unattended trains, and companies importing or transporting crude oil were also directed to conduct classification testing of that oil.
In January 2014, our government also launched a comprehensive review of the current liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railways. The goal was to ensure that a polluter pays and that there are resources available to compensate potential victims, pay for cleanup costs and ensure that taxpayers are protected. Input received from stakeholders during the review informed the development of the strengthened liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railways included in this bill, Bill , the safe and accountable rail act. The regime includes enhanced insurance requirements for railways and a supplementary shipper-financed fund for incidents involving crude oil or other designated dangerous goods. In addition to addressing liability and compensation, we also introduced strengthened oversight and enforcement under the Railway Safety Act.
Additionally, to provide emergency planners and first responders with information to assess risks in their communities and to plan and train for emergencies, last fall we directed railway companies to share with municipalities and first responders data on dangerous goods being transported. I am happy to report that communities across Canada are now receiving this data from railway companies.
While Canada has one of the safest and most efficient railway systems in the world, we know that we can always do more and we are committed to restoring the public's confidence in our railway system. In addition to the actions I have already noted, we have taken further measures to enhance the safety of railway operations and the movement of dangerous goods, and we will continue to do so.
I can assure members that we are well advanced on implementing each recommendation the Transportation Safety Board has made. As I stated, our government is committed to restoring confidence in our railway system.
We will continue to work closely with stakeholders, including municipalities, provinces and officials in the Unites States to assess what more we can do to enhance safety.
In April 2014, our government announced measures to address initial recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board into the derailment in Lac-Mégantic. First, we ordered the immediate removal of the least safe tank cars from dangerous goods service. We also introduced new safety standards for DOT-111 tank cars and required those that do not meet these new standards to be phased out. I am pleased to say that the new safety standards for DOT-111 tank cars were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, in July 2014. A detailed update was published on March 11, 2015, outlining the new specifications for the TC-117 tank cars that go beyond any requirements proposed for improved TC/DOT-111s. These improved tank cars would be the only option for newly built cars for the transportation of flammable liquids as soon as October 15, 2016. An aggressive phase-out program starts to remove legacy DOT-111s carrying crude oil two years from now and allows only fully retrofitted and TC-117 compliant tank cars 10 years from now.
On train speeds, we require railway companies to slow key trains transporting dangerous goods and introduce other improved operating procedures. For example, we are requiring railways that transport dangerous goods to permanently address route planning and risk analysis.
We also require emergency response assistance plans for tankers, including single tank cars carrying crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and ethanol. These plans have been reviewed and approved. As of September 20, 2014, there are now expert teams ready to respond to any petroleum spill, if needed. A task force has also been created to bring key groups like municipalities, first responders, railways and shippers together to strengthen the emergency response capacity across the country.
As members may recall, the Transportation Safety Board released its final report and recommendations regarding Lac-Mégantic in August 2014. The government officially responded on October 29, 2014.
First, the board recommended that Transport Canada require railway companies to put in place additional physical defences to prevent runaways. To this end, the issued an additional emergency directive and ministerial order to implement significant changes to improve train securement and require railway companies to meet standardized brake requirements. The board's second recommendation emphasized the need for regular and thorough audits of railway safety management systems. In response, Transport Canada has revised its inspection and audit plans to allow for the increased frequency of safety management system audits, and allow for full audits to be completed on a three- to five-year cycle.
In addition to its two recommendations, the Transportation Safety Board also issued two safety advisories on mined gas and flammable liquid classification and on short-line railway employee training. These are being addressed as well.
Following the July 2013 Lac-Mégantic accident, we immediately required classification testing of crude oil. We also required emergency response assistance plans for specific flammable liquids and ethanol.
In July 2014, our government introduced a regulatory amendment that provides authority for our inspectors to conduct a more thorough verification of classification of dangerous goods. This amendment means that industry must now prove the results of its testing.
To wrap up, I will speak about employee training. We are requiring railways to submit training plans to the department for review. In 2015, the department will also carry out targeted audits to determine specific gaps in industry training plans. The results will help us determine what new or improved requirements are required for a strengthened training regime.
Our government remains committed to further strengthening railway safety for all Canadians. We will continue to take concrete action going forward.
I would like to ask all of my colleagues to support this bill and vote for it.
Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to mention that I was interested in the comment by my hon. friend from that when he was a student, he actually worked on steam engine trains. I look forward to hearing his interesting stories about growing up in Poland, where he had that experience as a young person in university at that time. I am sure he must have some interesting stories from that experience that perhaps we will hear in the House some time or that he and I might share on another occasion.
I am happy today to have a chance to participate in the third reading debate of Bill for a number of reasons. As the critic for the Liberal Party on natural resources, I recognize that the amendments to the Canada Transportation Act and the Rail Safety Act will have a profound impact in terms of shipping critical natural resources like oil, as has been discussed here today.
Unfortunately, my view is that this inept Conservative government, this Conservative regime, has completely bungled the Keystone XL project. It has bogged down the energy east pipeline project, and it should never have ignored environmental and aboriginal concerns and rubber-stamped, as it did, the northern gateway project.
The result of this ineptitude on behalf of the government in getting any pipeline project through has created a growing reliance on rail lines to get this valuable commodity to market, and hence, of course, related concerns about railway safety. These are concerns, I should add, that are in my view completely justified, given the government's track record on railway safety over the past decade.
I am also pleased to be able to speak today, because as a Nova Scotian, I am concerned about the future of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, which has provided more than 135 years of rail service to Cape Breton Island. It has been very important for many industries in that area. In fact, in many ways, it made those businesses able to continue to succeed and employ people and provide benefits in their communities. It should be a concern to all of us when we see that rail line in deep trouble, because it is very much threatened today.
I know that the , being a transplanted Cape Bretoner, is also concerned about the future of rail service to Cape Breton Island, as are my colleagues from and . I know how critical CN Rail operations are for the Port of Halifax, my home city, when it comes to moving containers, and other goods as well, to destinations throughout North America.
Atlantic Canada has a long-standing and very deep appreciation for our national railways, which have connected us to the rest of Canada for over 100 years. Whether it is VIA Rail passenger service, which has unfortunately been curtailed significantly in recent years, or freight trains rumbling through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, two beautiful provinces, of course, along with all the others, railways are a critical part of our economic infrastructure and are an economic lifeline for my region.
As an aside, I should note that I was happy recently to have the chance to take the VIA Rail train from Halifax, along with a number of MPs, to show our unwavering support for the continuation of strong passenger rail service from Atlantic Canada to Montreal. I am pleased that it appears that we succeeded and that the service will be maintained.
As the member of Parliament for Halifax West, I often get calls about CN's main line, which runs through my riding. It runs through Clayton Park, Rockingham, Birch Cove, and right through the heart of Bedford. In fact, I can hear the train whistle from my backyard and often hear the train rumbling by at different times of the day and night.
When I am canvassing in my riding, which I do regularly, I also hear concerns from constituents about issues like the fact that they do not always know what is being shipped through the community on those railway cars, and that can be of great concern. Perhaps they are worried about the state of the maintenance of the tracks and overpasses that are part of the system.
I had a recent example of a rail safety concern, raised by a constituent, regarding the maintenance of culverts and overpasses. When we think about rail safety, we normally think of what happened in Lac-Mégantic. We think of toxic or explosive materials being carried in railway cars. We do not think of something as simple as a culvert under a railway.
In fact, I had a call from a constituent about the fact that a culvert under the tracks in Bedford was getting clogged with debris and was causing flooding.
In my province of Nova Scotia, we had a rough winter, but we also have the experience normally of temperatures going up and down in the winter. It can be very mild one day and very cold the next. We can imagine that if a culvert backed up, there could be a substantial amount of ice developing on a railway. It is a pretty scary prospect in the middle of a community if there could be a derailment. That is something that was important to deal with. In fact, I worked with Canadian National Railway and with the City of Halifax to get the culverts cleared, which they were. It brought to light a conflict about who was responsible for the maintenance of culverts and overpasses and what impact they can have on rail safety. It is an aspect we would perhaps not think of normally.
Like all Liberal members in this place, I share Canadians' deep concern about rail safety in this country. My friend from spoke earlier to Bill , and he spoke eloquently about the issue of rail safety being paramount in his riding, which has some of the busiest tracks in Canada. He noted the ongoing challenge of trying to moderate the speed of trains in his community, something my hon. colleague from was talking about a few minutes ago, and of trying to get a handle on the dangerous goods that travel through some of the most densely populated areas of this country.
We also know the real safety solution for this is one that pushes the issue into another realm of debate. Solutions include shorter trains, more highly regulated chemicals in those trains, perhaps transporting the diesel and the highly volatile chemicals only in the new and improved rail cars, and until that happens much lower speed limits being imposed.
The member for also commented on the fact that during the recent by-election in his riding, the New Democrats claimed that they did not support any pipelines in Canada and that their preference was to ship everything by rail. I heard earlier today my hon. colleague for suggest that the oil that is being transported by rail could not be transported by pipeline. That is the first I have ever heard that suggestion. As the critic in my party for natural resources, I have been hearing and reading a lot about this subject of oil and gas and so forth for quite a while now, so I would be curious to hear what kind of oil it is he is saying cannot be transported by pipeline.
They do not say to just establish a responsible situation in terms of pipelines, where we have rigorous reviews, proper environmental assessments, community involvement and support, and consultation with first nations and if it passes all that, okay.
We do need pipelines in this country, and we use lots of products that move through pipelines. The NDP's attitude seems to be no pipelines whatsoever under any circumstances.
Of course, then we have the Conservatives, who say that any pipeline in any circumstance is fine. It is an interesting dichotomy.
Let us get back to Bill . This legislation is about two things: first, changing the way we establish minimum insurance levels for railway companies that are regulated by the federal government; second, creating a new compensation fund that would cover damages arising from railway accidents involving the transportation of certain kinds of dangerous goods.
Rail safety has, of course, become a profoundly important issue for Canadians since Lac-Mégantic, and the Conservative government has been slow to react. It has come out with a series of dribs and drabs and a slow release of technical and regulatory amendments in bills like Bill C-52.
The sad truth is that the government's attempts to improve rail safety are in part its reaction to the horrific train explosion at Lac-Mégantic, where so many innocent people lost their lives and so many families were touched by tragedy. I know every member in this House was saddened and horrified by happened in Lac-Mégantic.
This legislation is dubbed the safe and accountable rail act. It is always interesting the names the Conservatives come up with. I think they sometimes spend more time figuring out what attractive names to use for their bills than they do actually thinking about the contents of the legislation.
This bill would amend two other acts, the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. With respect to the Canada Transportation Act, Bill would strengthen the liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railway companies. It would do this by establishing minimum insurance levels for railway companies and a supplementary shipper finance compensation fund. This fund would cover damages resulting from railway accidents involving the transportation of certain dangerous goods.
Among other things, the amendments would establish minimum insurance levels for freight railway operations based on the type and volume of goods being transported. They would require the holder of a certificate of fitness to maintain liability insurance coverage as required by the act and to notify the Canadian Transportation Agency without delay if its insurance coverage was affected. Certainly that makes sense.
The amendments would establish that a railway company was liable, without proof of fault or negligence, subject to certain defences, for losses. There would be be absolute liability for losses, damages, costs, and expenses resulting from a railway accident involving crude oil or other designated goods up to the level of the company's minimum liability insurance coverage. The amendments would also establish a compensation fund in the accounts of Canada, financed by levies on shippers, to cover the losses, damages, costs, and expenses resulting from a railway accident involving crude oil or designated goods that exceeded the minimum liability insurance coverage.
This bill would also amend the Railway Safety Act to, among other things, allow a province or municipality that incurred costs in responding to a fire that was the result of a railway company's operations to apply to the Canadian Transportation Agency to have those costs reimbursed by the railway company.
It would clarify the cabinet's power to make regulations regarding the restriction and prevention of access to land on which a line of railway was situated, including by means of fences or signs. In other words, it would make that area safer so that people would not go on the line and perhaps intentionally cause harm or be in a situation where they might be harmed themselves. It would also authorize a railway safety inspector who was satisfied that there was an immediate threat to the safety or security of railway operations to order a person or company to take any measures the inspector specified to mitigate the threat.
It would authorize the minister to require a company, road authority, or municipality to take corrective measures the minister specified were necessary for safe railway operations. It would provide the cabinet with regulation-making power regarding the submission of information that was relevant to the safety of railway operations. Finally, it would authorize the minister to order a company that was implementing its safety management system in a manner that risked compromising railway safety to take necessary corrective measures.
While Bill and other legislation address some of the measures the Liberal Party has been calling for in this area, in my view, they fall short of the Conservative government's promise to ensure the safety and integrity of Canada's railway system.
The facts speak for themselves. We saw three new derailments in February and March in Ontario alone.
Canadians have been duped with a piecemeal approach to rail safety. This latest bill is just the latest example of a government that still fails to take rail safety seriously. How else can we explain the fact that Transport Canada's rail safety division is understaffed, underfunded, and undertrained? It has been the victim of a revolving door of Conservative ministers, with five ministers in nine years.
Transport Canada is filled with very good public servants who are dedicated to ensuring the safety and integrity of our railway system. Make no mistake about that. However, it is too bad the government does not have the same level of integrity and commitment. As my colleague from , the Liberal Party transport critic, has noted in his comments on this bill, rail safety funding is down 20% over the last five years. During this period, when we have had so much more concern about rail safety, the Conservative government has cut funding for rail safety by 20%. How does that match the rhetoric from that side of the House?
Let me quote my hon. colleague from . He said:
What the Conservatives are doing by subterfuge, by stealth, by miscommunicating, by misleading Canadians, frankly, is they are trying to create an impression that they are on top of this profoundly important public safety issue called rail safety. They are not.
I wish the minister would listen to my hon. colleague from on this file, and listen to witnesses who appeared at committee to offer constructive criticism of Bill . A number of key expert witnesses testified that they had never been properly consulted by the government regarding this legislation. At committee, they expressed profound questions about the insurance implications, distributive effects, employment implications, and trade competitiveness implications of this bill. Unfortunately, these concerns seemed to fall on deaf ears.
It is important to note that this comes at a time when Transport Canada has a lot of catching up to do since its budget was slashed by $202 million in the main estimates, which is 11%. These cuts follow a scathing Auditor General's report, which noted among other things that the government only performed 26% of planned audits. It did not audit VIA Rail at all, despite VIA carrying four million passengers per year. Would VIA Rail passengers, as many of us are—and I hope more Canadian will be—not like to know that at least someone once in a while audits to make sure that the required rail safety measures are in fact being followed? The fact that this is not happening with Transport Canada's audits is very disconcerting, but it is no wonder when the government is cutting the funds to do just that.
We need to recognize that there is a capacity deficit, and we need to ask what the government's real priorities are. Let us consider these two facts. On the one hand, the Conservative regime has budgeted $42 million for economic action plan advertising. Everyone has seen these wasteful ads and vanity videos. On the other hand, the funding for rail safety is $34 million. Here we have it: $42 million for partisan self-promotional advertising, and only $34 million for rail safety. How is that for priorities? This sadly indicates the misguided priorities of a failed government corrupted by 10 years in power.
My colleague from said that he asked the minister 10 times in committee why she cut Transport Canada's budget by 11%, and she denied the cuts every time he asked. However, the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that those are the numbers. Therefore, it is clear that the Conservatives have made some very poor choices and have their priorities badly skewed.
The Conservatives' failure is amplified by the fact that the Auditor General's report also revealed that the government does not have enough inspectors and system auditors to carry out critical safety functions. That is extremely alarming: not enough inspectors and not enough system auditors. This is rail safety that we are talking about. It is ironic that at the same time as the government has failed to provide adequate resources to ensure we have the safest rail system in the world, its failed pipeline policies have resulted in more oil being shipped by rail, thus adding to the potential for serious accidents.
Let me wrap up by saying that Canada was unified by our national railway, and many of us in Atlantic Canada and across our great land continue to live near the same rail lines. Many of us live in communities that grew up around rail lines. It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure the safety of people who travel on rails, live adjacent to railway tracks, and operate trains.
Although this bill does not go nearly far enough to protect Canadians, it does at least contain measures that Liberals have been calling for. We appreciate that. The Liberal Party will continue to pressure the government to make a greater effort to ensure rail safety is its top priority.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
The entire country was shaken when, on July 6, 2013, a freight train carrying Bakken formation crude oil rolled downhill and derailed. We watched footage of the explosion and the fire with our hearts in our mouths. We mourned, with the families, friends and communities, the 47 people confirmed and presumed dead. We wondered why there were more and more accidents on what was once the safest way to travel. We were shocked when we found out that in this case Maine and Atlantic Railway only carried $25 million in third party liability insurance, which is not nearly enough to cover the incredible magnitude of the resulting damage and loss of both life and property that night.
Currently, estimates of damages in Lac-Mégantic exceed $400 million, and the cost of rebuilding Lac-Mégantic to what it once was will be far higher. Taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup and rebuilding costs, and we cannot put a price on the tragic loss of 47 Canadians.
The rail system in our country has gone through decades of deregulation, underfunding, mismanagement and bad decision making under the present government and the previous government.
The bill does not go far enough to address many of our concerns. I support the bill, but we must do more. The tragic Lac-Mégantic derailment has shown us that our liability and compensation regime for rail must be strengthened. However, it is important to also address the fundamental problems that have led to a dramatic increase in rail accidents.
In 1999, the Liberal government amended the Railway Safety Act to accelerate deregulation, a policy continued by the subsequent federal governments. In 2001, direct federal oversight was replaced by safety management systems, which were drafted by the companies themselves. The federal government's role in rail safety changed profoundly.
Meanwhile during this time, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of rail accidents. These accidents have had increasingly dangerous consequences in our communities. According to the Railway Association of Canada numbers, in 2009, only 500 cars a year were carrying highly flammable fossil fuel. In 2013, 160,000 cars carried flammable fossil fuel. By 2017, our rail system is expected to be transporting 33.9 million tonnes of fossil fuel per year. These numbers do not include other hazardous materials being transported through our communities.
There is absolutely no doubt that protecting the public is our core responsibility and improving liability and accountability measures is long overdue for our railways.
It is sad that it took the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic to get the government to be serious about that responsibility. We have had exponential growth in the transport of hazardous materials. We should have been working on increasing protections ages ago.
In 2013, 144 accidents involved dangerous goods, 7 of which resulted in dangerous goods being released. Many of us have heard of the three derailments in northern Ontario. These derailments happened in the space of less than a month, between February and March of this year. In two of these derailments, tank cars carrying crude oil burst into flames. In both of these incidents of fire, the tank cars involved were upgraded models of the DOT-111s.
The government ordered the phase-out of the DOT-111s over the span of a decade. The Transportation Safety Board, which investigates railway accidents, has flagged the length of the phase-out as a huge concern.
In fact, in February 2014, there was a derailment in my riding on Sewells Road and Reesor Road. According to police, the freight car was empty, and a CN Rail spokesperson confirmed that no dangerous goods were involved and no one was injured. We were very lucky.
My riding is criss-crossed by railway tracks and is home to CN's Toronto east rail yard. The Canadian National line, running near Steeles, transports oil and gas and other flammable materials every day. Most of the tracks run at street level, in many instances, a few metres from homes, from parks where children play or people bike and run.
I am speaking today because I am concerned about the carriage of volatile materials with inadequate regulations in such close proximity to where my community members, my neighbours live.
Aside from discussing liability after an accident, we need immediate measures so we can help prevent and mitigate disasters.
I am not the only one who feels that we need stronger measures for rail safety. On March 31, the mayor of Toronto and 17 councillors from across the municipality wrote to the, asking that Transport Canada establish stronger protections for cities than the ones being implemented right now. A recent report by the Toronto Start found that dangerous goods were often transported through the heart of Toronto.
The city has a set of recommendations, and I am proud to stand with them and demand stronger enforcement of regulations, and the adoption of stronger regulations to keep Canadians safe, Torontonians safe and all Scarborough residents safe.
As I mentioned, the goods transported by our rail system have been increasingly dangerous and our rail safety regimes need an overhaul to keep people safe. This would also mean that we need adequate resources to implement this plan in Bill and to implement additional oversight and regulation called for by our communities.
However, the budget at Transport Canada was cut 11% this year, or by $202 million. The government spent $42 million on economic action plan advertisement last year, yet spent $33 million on rail safety. It is shameful. Year after year, Transport Canada has seen budget cuts.
How can the government talk of meaningful oversight without providing the resources to do so? Oversight clearly requires resources.
As for Bill , essentially, it requires minimum insurance levels for railways transporting dangerous goods and establishes a disaster relief fund paid for by crude oil shippers to compensate victims of derailments, provinces and municipalities.
We are concerned that the minimum insurance levels established in this bill may not be sufficient. Insurance levels should be based on the threat to the public, not just on the type and volume of the goods being transported. Estimates of damages at Lac-Mégantic exceed $400 million, but these new rules do not appear to get us to that level for small companies.
The bill would also establish a pooled disaster relief fund that would be made available if the minimum insurance levels were insufficient. However, is the relief fund going to actually have enough money? That is the question that is on everybody's mind.
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 many outstanding concerns. We would need to have that levy in place for about 15 years before we could actually reach 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 alone. Therefore, this levy would certainly not be enough.
We also want to ensure that the fund being established sufficiently covers all disasters, including unlimited liability for the railway's negligence. The bill would ensure that municipalities and provinces would be better able to be reimbursed by the railway company for the cost of responding to a fire caused by their operations. However, we have a long way to go to ensure accidents are less likely.
We need to figure out how to protect the lives of people living in Canada. We need real plans to manage the risk created by the kinds of dangerous goods being transported through our communities. We need to ensure that the federal government maintains an active role in rail safety regimes. 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 ensure there are independent inspectors and that companies are held 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. We have an opportunity here to do much more in Canada to create real rail safety, and passing this bill will not create a safe rail transport system. Canadians deserve real rail safety measures and safe rail systems. This bill is one step, but it just does not go far enough.