Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to speak today in support of Bill C-52, 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 Minister of Transport 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 C-52, 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 Minister of Transport 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.