I'll call the sixth meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities together. Welcome, everybody.
Mr. Godin, welcome on your side.
Ms. Dabrusin, thank you for filling in today.
We have our parliamentary secretary, Ms. Kate Young, who is attending the meeting as well today.
I'm going to turn it over to our representatives from the Department of Transport. We're doing a very important study, and I'll look at exactly what's been done since the last time you were before the committee.
We have Laureen Kinney, the assistant deputy minister, safety and security; Brigitte Diogo, director general, rail safety; and Nicole Girard, director general, transportation of dangerous goods.
Welcome. We're glad to have you here.
Ms. Kinney, or whoever would like to go forward, go ahead, please.
Good afternoon, and thank you, Madam Chair. I would like to begin by thanking the committee for the opportunity to speak today about the work we are doing to continuously improve railroad safety for all Canadians.
Rail safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail is a priority for Transport Canada. The department has a rigorous and robust oversight regime in place to monitor compliance with rules, regulations, and standards through audits and inspections, and to manage safety issues on an ongoing basis. The department does not hesitate to take enforcement measures when required.
The Transport Canada rail safety oversight program includes conducting audits and inspections. These oversight activities are planned annually, reviewed regularly, and revised as required using evidence-based risk indicators. Common risk indicators include accident investigations, safety records, results of previous inspections, and safety studies. The department is on track to complete approximately 33,400 rail oversight activities in 2015-16, which represent a 4% increase compared with 2014-15. The year is not yet complete.
Overall, Madam Chair, in addition to the oversight activities conducted by Transport Canada every year, the rail safety regime has at its core a requirement that railway companies have a safety management system in place for integrating safety into day-to-day railway operations.
An SMS requires railways to take responsibility for managing the safety of their operations by identifying safety concerns, assessing the level of risk they represent, and taking measures to mitigate those risks, where required, while building a safety consciousness into their day-to-day operations at all levels of the company. This is also achieved by involving company employees in all the processes of the system, either by consulting with them, communicating to them, or keeping them informed on risks found and how they have been dealt with, and by allowing employees to report safety issues to the company.
A safety management system does not replace the rail safety regulatory regime. It is supplementary and complementary to it. Companies must continue to meet the requirements set out in the Railway Safety Act, as well as all the other associated regulations, rules, and engineering standards. The regulations do not replace, suppress, or precede the act or its other instruments. Safety management systems are intended to enhance safety by having companies put formal systems in place to proactively identify and address safety concerns, measure the risks they represent, and implement remedial action to mitigate those risks. Companies are expected to identify and manage their safety risks before Transport Canada's intervention and before major railway safety issues arise. Transport Canada remains committed to continually improving the rail safety regime in Canada and the safe and secure transportation of dangerous goods. In this context we welcome the committee's motion to begin a study on rail safety.
At this time I'd like to give you an update on our responses to the recommendations made in the report titled “Review of the Canadian Transportation Safety Regime: Transportation of Dangerous Goods, and Safety Management Systems”, which was tabled in March 2015. In the report, in addition to recommendations where action was already under way, there were three specific recommendations related to rail safety ongoing.
The first was for Transport Canada to ensure it has an adequate number of transportation of dangerous goods and rail safety inspectors to fulfill its oversight requirements. Transport Canada continuously analyzes its workforce and focuses on recruitment and retention of staff to ensure it has the necessary number of oversight personnel with the required skills and competencies to plan and conduct oversight activities. As of December 2015 we had 137 oversight personnel in rail safety and 122 in the transportation of dangerous goods directorate. As in any workplace, the total workforce can fluctuate at any given time due to changing demographics, promotions, retirements, and other factors.
The second recommendation was for Transport Canada to implement all of the recommendations in chapter 7 of the Auditor General's 2013 fall report regarding oversight in rail safety.
As you are aware, Transport Canada developed an ambitious and comprehensive action plan to address the recommendations in the Auditor General's fall 2013 report. Implementing the plan has been a departmental priority.
In particular, over the last two years, the department has accelerated and implemented a suite of regulations to respond to the Auditor General's fall 2013 recommendations for Transport Canada to address outstanding items of the Railway Safety Act review and the rail safety study conducted by this very committee in 2008. I am pleased to say that as of April 1, 2015, the grade crossing regulations, the railway operating certificate regulations, the railway safety administrative monetary penalties regulations, the railway safety management systems regulations of 2015, and the transportation information regulations have all come into effect.
Lastly, the report cited a recommendation that Transport Canada require the use by railways of on-board voice and video recordings as part of a company's safety management system, consistent with the Transportation Safety Board's recommendation. A Transport Canada-Transportation Safety Board co-led project was launched in May 2015, which established a working group to examine technical requirements and the potential safety benefits of in-cab locomotive voice and video recorders. The intention is to compile a final report on the safety benefits of this technology by the end of April 2016. At the conclusion of the safety studies, we will be in a position to make a recommendation about whether and how to mandate the use of this technology in Canada.
Madam Chair, we take note of the other issues identified in the March 9 motion to begin a study on railway safety and are happy to answer those questions now or at a later date. I would like to reiterate that the safety and security of Canadians is paramount, and we are continuously looking at ways to improve railway operations and the transportation of dangerous goods by strengthening regulations and rules, based on emerging events and trends.
I thank you for your attention. We are now prepared to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Welcome, Ms. Kinney, Ms. Diogo, and Ms. Girard, and thank you for joining us today. I do look forward to the study. I know that this is not your first time here. Obviously, with all things transport, you may find yourselves in front of this committee on numerous occasions.
I do appreciate the fact that you've referenced the report, which actually is a large part of our committee meetings going forward. I will just note that on page 2, the report states, “Over the last year, the federal government has been very active and has implemented a series of new rules”. This is a report that was tabled in March of last year, so over that previous year the federal government was very active and “implemented a series of new rules, regulations and standards to strengthen the transportation of dangerous goods regime.”
On page 4, it speaks to the point that, “Transport Canada signalled its intention to foster more collaborative rule-making in its response to the interim report on rail safety.” My first question would be this. What examples can you give us of “more collaborative rule-making” implemented by Transport Canada since the parliamentary report was published in March of 2015?
Since the report came out there were three main rules that took effect. The latest one was the rule on the key routes of key trains, which was a follow-up to an emergency directive that was issued following the Lac-Mégantic accident. The rule became effective on February 19, 2016, and made permanent some of the provisions of the emergency directive in terms of the requirement for railways to do risk assessment, so it provided the frequency of risk assessments. It also imposed some speed restrictions.
The rules, as well, included additional inspections that railways or companies are required to do on their infrastructure, in particular on track inspections.
Finally, the rule included a provision on how the railway companies are to work with municipalities and other levels of government on their risk assessment. In that particular example there were several exchanges and discussions between Transport Canada, the Railway Association of Canada, as well as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, in terms of what the mechanisms for consulting municipalities would be and how that relationship would work. That's one area.
Another area would be the train securement rule. That came into effect in October 2015, and again it was a rule to make permanent the provisions of the emergency directive on train securement. That rule included a number of things; namely, the fact that the railway companies must use a standard chart in applying the number of handbrakes on a train left unattended.
There was also a rule on what additional physical securement requirements must be applied to unattended equipment, such as a temporary derailment. That was in direct response to the TSB. As well, the rule made permanent the requirement that once an employee has applied the handbrakes, they must confirm this with another employee, who must be qualified in that area to be able to receive the information and make a decision or follow it up, if required.
I can give you a high-level answer to that, and then if you would like more details we could probably turn to Nicole Girard.
The main thing Transport Canada has done over the last year and a half is that it has brought together the emergency response task force, bringing together all the parties that have a role to play in first response.
Transport Canada obviously has a role to play, but it is not the only player. There are many levels of jurisdiction and many agencies, companies, and other parties that play a role, as well as the first responders themselves.
We brought that group together to identify some of the common issues facing first response, including things like communications, incident command protocols, training standards, training opportunities, and certainly the issue of funding for both training and equipment.
An issue that is of key concern, as we have been hearing from first responders, is the level of training the first responders have in response to a particular type of flammable liquids incidents, in this particular instance. In that case, there is some training provided by industry associations, but Transport Canada, with the emergency response task force, has focused on what the training standards are, what they should be on a common level, and how to do training. For example, there was an exercise a couple of weeks ago to provide hands-on training, and there was a protocol developed on education that was just released.
In terms of additionally working on.... How would the emergency response assistance plans, which require the shipping companies to provide technical assistance on site in the case of an accident, work with the first responders?
Those have been the main areas we have been working on very hard with this broader group, the general areas we have now focused on.
Thank you. It's nice to see you here again. It's nice to see strong women in the civil service.
I have three information requests that I will put right off the top, and then I have some questions about a number of issues that have been raised.
First, will you provide to the committee all the risk assessment reports that were required under the Transport Canada directive issued in October 2014?
Second, as the Transportation Safety Board has reported that there's insufficient action through the safety management systems to ensure reduced risks, will you provide to the committee the safety management systems for CN and CP for Alberta?
My third request is related to enforcement and compliance policies in staffing. This follows from two issues that have been raised, one by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs just this week. They have recommended greater emphasis on proactive safety and enforcement so that we aren't just responding after the fact and leaving it to the first responders. The Auditor General in 2013 raised a number of concerns about the enforcement and compliance approach by Transport Canada, the fact that the audit approach offers minimal assurance of compliance; many inspectors are untrained and given minimal guidance; only a small percentage of audits are completed; there is narrow focus; the level of oversight is insufficient; and Transport Canada fails to systematically collect and use relevant safety performance risk data.
I would appreciate if you could submit to the committee, so that we can assess changes you've made since then, the enforcement compliance policy for rail safety, with a list of enforcement personnel. Could you indicate who is full-time or part-time, their qualifications, job descriptions, and training requirements? Please provide a breakdown of the time dedicated to paper audits versus field inspections.
I now have some questions for you on regulations.
The Canada Safety Council testified at this committee in 2014 that they recommended whistle-blower protections for rail workers to encourage reporting to prevent incidents. Are these in the process of being promulgated?
Thank you, Madam Chair. Greetings to all.
We've had a situation over the last 10 years where there has been at least growing public discomfort, and maybe a lack of confidence, in the regulatory regimes with a feeling they've perhaps been diluted, weakened, or put aside in order to remove red tape and allow private operators to do what they do best, which involves making a profit for their shareholders, among other things.
Excuse me if my questions are a bit loaded, but I would like your thoughts or opinions. Are there regulatory gaps? Are there things that you see while sitting there overlooking that balance between allowing the operators to run successful operations and the interests of Canadians for safety? Are there regulatory gaps you can see that you would want a government to look into?
Madam Chair, I'm not sure how far I can speculate on those kinds of broad questions. I can tell the committee the process of engaging Canadian government agencies, including Transport Canada, on the regulatory side in various initiatives—where we look at reducing red tape and regulatory coordination, and co-operation with the United States for example—is a process that bring us closely into the discussion of safety priorities, and what are the safety priorities. In all cases the safety priorities are our primary consideration. When you look at the mechanism of how things can be done, and when you look with a fresh eye, you do find areas where things can be streamlined or modified. Whether something in a regulation is a core element that speaks to safety, or it's an administrative process that may or may not be burdensome, those are analyses that are useful to do. We take part in that work on a regular basis.
In terms of where any kind of a regulatory safety issue is raised, or an issue that may be best dealt with by a regulation, it may come up through a variety of areas of findings, such as Transportation Safety Board reports, our own analysis, international incidents, work with the U.S., and others.
When such things happen, we look at the safety implications and look at what new regulations should come forward. I would refer to the point that I made a couple of times in my opening comments. These regimes need to be continuously improved, to be continuously monitored for their effectiveness, and to be updated as required.
In an overview, the specific requirements for risk assessments for key routes and trains, which carry certain numbers of dangerous goods, etc., are very detailed and specific in terms of the factors that need to be considered. Those include things like the route, the grade of the slope, and the types of ground area, whether or not, for example, the rail route passes over a body of water, a fragile environmental area, and/or perhaps the source of water for a community.
There are requirements for how municipalities, who may have their own concerns and issues, can feed those into the railway as part of their risk assessment. That's now laid out in the actual requirements for key trains and routes in the rules. That is an important feature of how that part works. Generally, in the same kind of approach, looking under the safety management systems in other areas that are not covered by the key trains and routes, there is a requirement to do risk assessments and the same kinds of factors should be taken into account.
Then it's up to the railway to look at how those work. What are the risks? How would they mitigate those? When we look at them as part of our safety management system audits and our other inspections for the rules, we'd be looking at the sufficiency of those and whether they've been adequately dealt with. If not, there are other tools to be looked at.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for joining us today, Ms. Diogo.
I would like to talk about railway companies' use of remote control technology.
Canadian railways have been using remote control technology in some switching yards since the 1990s to reduce operating costs and increase efficiency. The concerns raised by the use of such technology include inadequate training for users and support employees, as well as the reliability of the equipment.
Given that the three largest importers and exporters in the railway sector are China, the United States and Germany, what steps, if any, have been taken to look into the best practices those countries have adopted in regulating the use of remote control technology and the related training? What steps have been taken to improve the reliability of the equipment?
There are a significant number of issues that are being looked at in terms of the study that's going on right now. Some of those issues address the technical issues; what are the standards? If you're going to mandate a particular type of equipment, what kind of equipment? What kind of reliability? What kind of durability of recordings, etc.? What's the positioning? What's the placement? What is the data that you want to gather? There are a number of areas to be looked at there.
There are also areas to be looked at in terms of the objectives of the safety and fatigue information, and what other kinds of information might come out of this. In general, what is attempted to be achieved with the use of the recorders?
Then there is the issue of how that correlates with the employees who would be subject to the surveillance of those video recorders. There's a good body of work out in the public and from the various privacy commissioners and others as to some of those issues, and they do come under a variety of umbrella legislation in other areas as well that should be looked at.
Finally, there are the regulatory issues and the legislative issues that would be required to put in place an appropriate regulatory regime. There are many questions to be addressed at this stage.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. Kinney, Ms. Diogo and Ms. Girard, thank you for participating in this exercise with the committee members.
As parliamentarians, we have a duty to help our society advance. I will focus on more specific issues. There are regulations, studies and motions. But ordinary people, average Canadians, are a bit lost in all that.
I would like you to give me an idea of the situation as it was prior to July 2013 and the situation as it is today. You probably know that I am referring to the disaster in Lac-Mégantic. I think we can use that incident to move things forward.
What did the situation look like before July 2013 and what does it look like on March 21, 2016?
I can answer that question. We look at the requirement for risk assessment in terms of company rather than type. There are definitions under “key route” and “key train”, in terms of where the corridor or the route risk assessment must be conducted.
When the emergency directive was first issued, there were nine companies that fell under it. Among those, five had to submit risk assessments because of the volumes of dangerous goods they were carrying. Since then, the number of companies has fallen to four. The four companies that currently carry 10,000 or more loaded cars of dangerous goods are required to provide us with risk assessments.
The new rules require that the risk assessment be done, at a minimum, every three years. That is complemented by the requirement of the safety management system. If they are making significant changes to the operations, they are also required to conduct risk assessments, and to make those available upon request.
If I may just briefly outline the way that the railway regime is structured, there are various classes of track. Depending on the speed that is desired to travel, a certain level of maintenance and quality of investment in that track is required to travel at that speed. There is a range across Canada, across various railways and railway tracks, as to what speed is planned and proposed, and therefore what level of maintenance and investment is done on that track. This becomes, to some degree, a business decision of the railway. However, if a railway is operating at any particular class level, there are a very significant set of requirements for what must be done to be able to travel at that speed.
You will see situations where, for example, a temporary repair needs to be made. At that point, it might be that the train could operate at a lower speed, so a lower track speed is applied while the repair is made, because it doesn't meet the requirements for a higher level. Then, once it's repaired, it could go back to the higher level.
In general, it's a business decision.
In terms of research, it is ongoing. We all participate in research with our U.S. counterparts on rail integrity, rail wear, and what standards need to be established in this area. We also continue to take a look at what we can learn from accidents that have occurred, since Lac-Mégantic, that were due to the track. That work is ongoing.
The reference that you have here is about the transportation information regulations that came into force on April 1, 2015, whereby companies were required to submit certain sets of data to Transport Canada starting January 1, 2016.
We have received that information and it will be what we call “leading indicators”, so what is the information we need to review in advance to prevent accidents rather than taking into account...? Before that, we had information post-event, or indicators post-event. So that information is part of what we would analyze and take into account regarding how we set our inspection priorities starting in April and on an ongoing basis. It's a source of information to study and to determine where we need to act.
The way that Transport Canada manages the national oversight plan each year, which is a key part of the work that is done to maintain the oversight of the railway safety regime and other safety regimes, is to do a national oversight plan. That plan looks at what the risk factors are; what is happening with companies; what's been the history, the records, etc; and as we get these new leading indicator data we will be able to incorporate elements like that.
As you look at that you develop a plan for what the risk-based inspection plan is: what our highest risks are, what the intensity is, where the locations are, and where that inspection activity should take place. It includes a variety of types of oversight, including planned inspections and reactive inspections, where you see an incident of some kind occurring or an event that requires more investigation, or simply a company that has had a compliance problem or a safety issue that you're following up on.
There's a wide variety of work. That work is put together each year into a national oversight plan, and then it is applied. That national oversight plan largely gives us the number of inspectors that you need to do that. As that changes over time, you have to review and look at what your requirement is, but generally it stays on a relatively stable basis from a year-to-year requirement.
There are some other requirements that are included in our analysis as well, but those are the main ones.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
When looking at the report we've been discussing this afternoon, starting on page 9, if I may, it states, “During their appearance before the Committee, representatives of CN Railway offered to provide the company’s risk assessment for Ontario to the Committee but ultimately submitted only a description of the risk assessment process.”
Moving forward to the next paragraph, it says that the Auditor General recommended that Transport Canada “obtain better access to the railways’ own risk assessments”. Moving on to the following paragraph, it states, “Transport Canada has also finalized amendments to the Transportation Information Regulations, which were proposed in July 2014, that require the railways to provide more information to the department respecting track and other rail infrastructure.”
When you move on to page 25, the top paragraph states, “The Auditor General recommended that Transport Canada better define the SMS audit methodology and undertake analysis to gain a better understanding of its resource requirements to provide adequate rail safety oversight.”
With respect to delegation versus taking it on yourself as Transport Canada, ladies, who ultimately is accountable for ensuring that the March 2015 recommendations as well as the regulations are both not only understood but implemented and enforced?
The second question to that is: who is accountable then to measure the performance on a continual basis moving forward as the Auditor General recommended with ongoing audits ensuring the performance is consistent as well as the expectations as outlined in the recommendations and your own regulations are actually once again both implemented, and of course, enforced?
Perhaps I can give a summary of that, and there might be more detailed questions.
In general, as with any regulatory requirement, under the safety management system regulations the companies are obliged to follow the regulations and to put in place systems that allow them to meet the requirements of any regulation or rule or engineering standard, so they are accountable for doing that.
Transport Canada is accountable for maintaining the oversight systems and does do that. As part of the implementation of the new safety management system regulations, Transport Canada did go through a very large review of just how we were applying safety management systems.
The results of the Auditor General's recommendations, and some of that input, and the comments that were made were all fed into the new requirements in terms of the legislative and the regulatory requirements. It was fed into the requirements for what documents and proof is needed to be provided by the companies, and our inspectors were provided with new training and new requirements on how to apply these requirements.
Guidelines were also then provided to the industry on how to do this in terms of meetings that were held and guidance that was provided to the industry. Through this first year of transition, as we've mentioned previously, the initial stages of doing inspections against the SMS requirements have been taking place. Starting in this new fiscal year, audits and evaluations will continue to be made of the new use of the safety management system, and we will be beginning to look at the actual performance effectiveness of the safety management system again on an ongoing, continuous basis.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ms. Girard, earlier, you started providing the breakdown of figures regarding DOT-111. You also talked about new safer cars. You talked about 105,000 cars across North America and said that 5,000 of them have been removed from service in Canada. You also mentioned 7,500 cars.
I would like to know how the train registry—including the information on the number of trains and the description of each train for each company—is established by Transport Canada.
Do you have access to that information? What does the registration procedure involve?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I'm a bit puzzled about the responses on the remote control devices. We've had some really serious accidents in the Edmonton area. One of the incidents using the remote control spilled almost 100,000 litres of styrene, and it involved a staff member who had only been employed for a month. That doesn't sound to me like somebody who is well trained. We've certainly been hearing concerns from the locomotive engineers about this practice. We have heard that it's being moved outside the yards and that CP in particular is pursuing the use of these devices to cut down on the costs of using locomotive engineers.
I've reviewed these new railway safety management system regulations. They require, when there is such an anticipated change in the use of technology, that they do an environmental management plan. Have the rail companies submitted environmental management plans on their proposal to expand the use of remote control devices, and if so, could we see them?
I would make just a general comment first and then a more specific one.
In general, the requirements for the use of the remote operation equipment has not changed. Should any occurrences arise...and certainly in any of those that did come up, immediate steps were taken to investigate, to find out what was going on, and to take necessary action. Every year our inspectors take a variety of actions in terms of notices and orders. Where there's a threat, they will take that action.
In terms of changes to the operation, I do not believe any of the railways have come forward with any changes to these proposals to change their use of the equipment, but perhaps Madam Diogo could clarify.
I may have slightly confused issues in my remarks, so let me clarify.
CANUTEC, which provides response immediately to first responders on information about chemicals and potential spills, is continuing. It is fully supported and will continue in the future. There is no change proposed there. The emergency task force, which was put together for a one-year mandate and then was extended to more than a year and a half plus, is coming to the conclusion of its work. It has made its recommendations and is finalizing its reports.
I should note, which I hadn't previously, that their work will be continuing through a new subcommittee under the minister's policy advisory committee for the transportation of dangerous goods. So there will be a committee continuing the very good work that has been done by the emergency task force.
I want to thank our witnesses very much for your patience today as well. The committee has a lot of interest in many of these issues.
You were asked to supply a variety of reports. I don't know if it was the intent of the committee members to have you provide 3,000 pages in both official languages, but I think you got the points that were being asked. If you could do the best you can to supply that information, again in both official languages, there may be some follow-up to that, but if you could supply that to the clerk so that all members of the committee would have that information we would appreciate it very much.
Thank you all very much. We look forward to having you back possibly another afternoon, a pleasant afternoon with your committee.