Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Just by way of opening remarks, I join my colleagues in saying our sympathies remain with the people of Lac-Mégantic. This has been a terrible tragedy and a shocking loss of life. Canadians from coast to coast to coast are shocked, and their hearts and their support are with the people of Lac-Mégantic.
The Transportation Safety Board, the police, and others are still investigating this tragedy, one of the most tragic in Canadian history. In fact, this morning we counted a total of almost nine currently ongoing or prospective investigations, Mr. Chair.
The Transportation Safety Board has 20 people on the ground in Lac-Mégantic full-time and 10 here in Ottawa. There is a criminal inquiry. There is a formal coroner's investigation. Transport Canada is investigating with respect to regulatory compliance. Environment Canada is investigating with respect to spills and tankers. Quebec's ministry of the environment and sustainable development is investigating. A class-action lawsuit has been launched by the people of Lac-Mégantic. The railway's own internal railway investigation is pending, and the Quebec government is possibly going to be pursuing a public inquiry.
I think as we go through this meeting this afternoon we cannot lose sight of the people of Lac-Mégantic. I know there are always procedural difficulties in a committee like this, but I think you have to remain focused on making sure the people of Lac-Mégantic get the support they need now.
I know our colleague from the NDP assures the committee that if we pursue an immediate study there will be no impact on those resources. I wish I could say that with the same absolute certainty.
I think the single next most important thing is that the ongoing investigations be thorough, complete, and professional. I don't think we can be calling witnesses to Ottawa, Mr. Chair, who are needed at the site of the disaster, for example. The residents of Lac-Mégantic and all Canadians deserve no less than to get all the facts and the truth of the matter. That's why we have to ensure that these investigations are unimpeded, that they are resourced properly, and that they are not obstructed, particularly with politics.
We need to make sure that the Transportation Safety Board, the police, the firefighters, the coroner's office, and all first responders have the resources they need. Are those resources sufficient? This committee can't answer that question. Is the federal government providing enough assistance? An announcement was made yesterday. If they have all the necessary resources, we must let them proceed without political intervention or disruption. I don't know if this committee can answer the question of whether the $60 million announced yesterday is sufficient or not for the people of Lac-Mégantic.
Of course we can't prejudge the outcome of the current investigations, and only a fool would attempt to do so. To have hearings before they have completed their investigations may be premature. We have heard many questions raised here today. There are other questions that might be addressed in due course. Is the relief money for the victims and the businesses—the people of Lac-Mégantic—sufficient? I'm not sure we're in a position to answer that question, but it is a very important question that does have to be addressed immediately.
With respect to liability issues, is the $25 million in place sufficient? The common consensus is it's probably not. Is the Canadian taxpayer going to be asked to pay for the cleanup if the company becomes insolvent? Has the government instructed Justice Canada to prepare the necessary and requisite legal opinions and not to wait? I understand. I think all Canadians understand the calls of the population for immediate answers. We cannot prejudge the conclusions.
I have full confidence—and I know everybody here does—in the Transportation Safety Board and the police investigation. Everyone has questions about this event. Once again, it might be premature to put forward any recommendations until the investigation is complete.
Let me also say that, looking forward, when I look at the motion that's here, we should be cognizant of the fact that the Transportation Safety Board has, unusually, written two letters to Transport Canada and the government with respect to unattended trains and trains carrying dangerous goods. This is new for the Transportation Safety Board, as far as I understand it, early in the midst of an incredibly important investigation. This is out of the ordinary. There are no conclusions here, but the question might be, what motivated the Transportation Safety Board to take this unusual step?
There have been recommendations made from other accidents over the past few years, as has been alluded to earlier. An inventory conducted by our analyst and researcher could be compiled this summer and would be helpful to all members of this committee. The question of the status or implementation of those recommendations is something that this committee, I think, has to turn its mind to in due course.
So I think we have to focus on what is emerging from the investigations, for example, the recent TSB statements, the measures that were released an hour-and-a-half or two hours ago. There is nothing wrong with these, in terms of being starting points, but once the investigations are done, or at least in mid-course or further along, we will be able to offer specific regulatory and legal responses. Because these investigations are going to be specific—I think we can anticipate that—we will have to respond to what the government is being called upon to do. That is where I think our role as legislators kicks in and really begins.
That does not mean that each of us cannot go forward and continue with our own internal assessment of what's been happening over the last several years. It does not mean that our analyst cannot be instructed to go forward and work with the Library of Parliament to provide us with a more fulsome picture of where we're coming from, how we arrived at the situation and, hopefully, to inform us of what we're going to learn from this terrible tragedy at Lac-Mégantic.
I think that's where we ought to be focusing, in terms of the motion that's been tabled by our colleagues in the Conservative Party. I don't think any more bickering about procedural rules is going to help the people of Lac-Mégantic. If the government can continue to ensure that all of those on the ground have everything they need to do their job, I think we can have some confidence as legislators that we've done what is immediately the most important thing.