Safer Railways Act

An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

John Baird  Conservative

Status

Report stage (House), as of March 11, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

These amendments amend the Railway Safety Act to, among other things,

(a) improve the oversight capacity of the Department of Transport by, for example, requiring railway companies to obtain a safety-based railway operating certificate indicating compliance with regulatory requirements;

(b) strengthen that Department’s enforcement powers by introducing administrative monetary penalties and increasing court-enforced penalties;

(c) enhance the role of safety management systems by including a provision for a railway executive accountable for safety and a non-punitive reporting system for employees of railway companies;

(d) clarify the authority and responsibilities of the Minister of Transport with respect to railway matters; and

(e) expand regulation-making authorities and clarify the process for rule making by railway companies.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Churchill rail transportation is absolutely critical, given we have isolated communities along the Bay line leading up to Gillam and then Churchill that depend entirely on it for access to goods and services. The first nation of Pukatawagan also depends on rail transportation. We recognize that rail safety is absolutely critical.

Could my colleague expand on his views around the importance of the bill and of rail safety, given the history of rail transportation in our country?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member asked an important question. I have taken the train from Thompson to Churchill on several occasions. There is a big problem there. Sometimes the train takes a long time to arrive because of problems with the railbed.

A viewer who was watching yesterday contacted my office regarding some information that I put on the record yesterday. I indicated that the largest train accident involving the loss of life was in Dugald, Manitoba in 1947. He pointed out that on December 8, 1942, in Almonte, Ontario, close to Ottawa, 36 people were killed in a train wreck. One of them was from the member for Churchill's riding, Dorothy Rafter from Gillam, Manitoba. Both of these disasters were equally devastating to the families of the victims.

This points to the fact that this report is long overdue. We have to establish tough rules for safety when it comes to railways, both passenger and freight trains. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out yesterday, when he introduced the bill, the passenger rail system in Canada carries some 72 million passengers a year and two-thirds of Canada's freight is still carried on the railway. With 72 million passengers riding the trains, we have to make certain that we do not have accidents like those that happened in Almonte and Dugald.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act.

Canada's railways are an intrinsic part of our country's history and nation-building experience. They continue to serve as a symbolic reminder of the great geographic distances brought together by Confederation.

In addition to the purely symbolic aspects of Canada's rail network, railways continue to provide a vital connection between the various regions of Canada, both in terms of passenger trips and cargo and freight shipments. Although the advent of modern transportation, such as air travel, have led to a reduction in the number of annual passenger train trips, this does not mean that the industry in Canada has become obsolete. In fact, rural and northern communities remain highly dependent on the availability of rail services.

That is why since my election, as a member of the great riding of Sudbury, I have been a vocal advocate for the expansion of rail lines and the upgrading of rail infrastructure in communities in northern Ontario. Specifically, I have been an ardent supporter of keeping the Huron Central Railway's operations alive and running.

Along with the help of northern Ontarian New Democrat members, including the members for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Nickel Belt, and Sault Ste. Marie, the NDP has successfully lobbied both the federal and provincial governments to infuse $33 million into infrastructure funds devoted to maintaining and improving rail connections in northern Ontario.

In addition to maintaining and upgrading northern and rural access to rail services, ensuring that rail travel is safe is paramount. Whether it is passengers on board trains themselves or pedestrians and motorists at railway crossings, it is crucial that Canada maintains an exemplary record in regard to safety.

Although the numbers of pedestrians and motorists in collisions at railway crossings have marginally declined since the early 1990s, general incidents have actually increased during this period. This does not mean that in implementing more stringent safety practices we should be ignoring crossing accidents. In 2006 crossing accidents accounted for approximately 23% of all railway accidents in Canada. Instead, we need to provide adequate provisions that ensure improved safety for motorists and pedestrians at crossings, while continuing to implement processes that will simultaneously reduce the more general forms of railway accidents, which include both collisions and derailments.

In spite of the marginally decreasing rates of crossing incidents, in 2003, 247 collisions were reported, resulting in deaths of 27 people and more than 50 serious injuries across the country. This rate has remained roughly stagnant over the past seven years, as from January to September 2010, there were 128 officially reported incidents resulting, unfortunately, in 16 fatalities and 15 serious injuries across Canada.

Let me recall a story from my riding of Sudbury as a demonstration of how the issue of rail safety can affect ordinary Canadians and their children.

Just last year a newborn baby was miraculously unharmed following a two-vehicle collision at the CN railway crossing on Maley Drive in Sudbury. The vehicle carrying the child was slowing to a stop for the flashing lights and control arm as the train was approaching the crossing. The vehicle was struck from behind and pushed across the tracks as the train approached. Thankfully, the vehicle cleared the crossing and was not struck by the train or the resulting collision would have caused significant injury, damage and possibly death.

This story demonstrates the necessity of implementing enhanced public awareness campaigns designed to ensure that Canadians are aware of potential dangers that meet them at railway crossings. Moreover, it demonstrates the overarching need for heightened safety standards which will provide protection to passengers, pedestrians, motorists and railway service staff, all of whom deserve to be protected from dangerous incidents, such as crossing accidents, collisions and derailments.

As of 2001, there were approximately 22,500 public railway crossings across Canada, with an equal number of private crossings falling under the jurisdiction of 2,500 different road authorities. In addition, 2001 statistics reveal that 145 of the 278 crossing collisions occurred at public crossings when there were automated flashing lights and warning bells.

This speaks to the fact that many Canadians are not taking the necessary precautions when approaching these crossings. Furthermore, the incident rate at these types of crossings also point to a deficiency in the way public railway crossings are managed. Clearly, the government needs to address the danger which these types of crossings can present by taking a dual approach encompassing more stringent regulations and an enhanced public awareness campaign.

Improving rail safety across Canada is integral for protecting passengers, pedestrians, motorists and railway staff respectively.

Therefore, the New Democratic Party will be supporting Bill C-33 at second reading in order to send it to committee for further debate and discussion.

Although the proposed amendment to the Railway Act is not perfect, the broad goal of improving railway safety is laudable. Our party welcomes the opportunity to discuss this bill at committee in order to improve specific aspects of the legislation which are lacking in its current incarnation.

The New Democratic Party is therefore committed to the goal of improving railway safety in Canada and looks forward to working with all parties to ensure that this bill provides the necessary safety protocols which are needed to protect Canadians across the country.

We also hope that this bill will continue to protect people such as those unfortunate two who were involved in the accident in Sudbury, and all people who have been involved in accidents in the past.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Sudbury on his wonderful speech here in the House today.

I know that there has been a lot of talk in his riding of Sudbury and my riding of Nickel Belt about the railway going right through downtown Sudbury. I would like to know if he thinks that the federal government should get back into assisting municipalities that request to have their railroads removed from downtown where they are causing traffic congestions.

Could the hon. member for Sudbury please give me his opinion on that?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his great work on all issues pertaining to our ridings, as we are neighbours, especially regarding the Huron Central Railway.

When it leads specifically to the railway crossing in downtown Sudbury, there is a line that goes right through Elm Street, which is right in our downtown core. This line not only causes major traffic backups, which have caused accidents, but many times I have seen individuals who try to run across the tracks, and what they do not recognize is that there is one track in front and then another track in between, and then a line behind.

There have been so many instances of people thinking they can beat the first train, but they do not realize that the arms coming down and the lights that are flashing are actually for the third train coming on the far line.

We have had way too many close calls in Sudbury. I agree with my hon. colleague that it would be fantastic if we could get the federal government involved again in supporting federal initiatives with the municipalities when we are looking at removing train lines, and removing tracks and moving them to other locations.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Sudbury is familiar with a community north of Sudbury called Capreol. Bill C-33 is a railway safety bill. Because of the length of the trains today, often if the train stops in a specific area, the community of Capreol is landlocked, so if there were an emergency such as a fire, it would be in trouble.

Does my colleague believe that these trains should be shortened to make it safer for communities like Capreol?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the great town of Capreol. I had the opportunity of spending one summer working on a tie gang, so I know rail safety quite well. I swung a sledge hammer for a summer, hence the large physique.

However, the town of Capreol, as my hon. colleague has mentioned, has been landlocked several times because of trains being so long and not being able to move. It is fearful for us, as residents of those communities. We hope we will never hear a tragic story of someone being rushed to the hospital in Sudbury from Capreol because they cannot get through because of the two kilometre train they cannot get around.

The bill and the legislation we will looking at in committee we hope will address many of these concerns.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague, does he believe that the federal government ought to play a greater role in investing in rail?

In northern Manitoba, the Liberal government of the time privatized the railway. We face some real challenges. There is deterioration in terms of infrastructure and that has had a real impact on safety. While work is currently being done, we need a great deal more and the federal government is nowhere to be seen.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, we need the federal government to play an active role by investing in rail, especially in northern communities like that of my hon. colleague and my own community.

Unfortunately, if I wanted to take the train right now to Ottawa from Sudbury, which is about 500 kilometres away, it would take me two days because there is no train line between Sudbury and Ottawa.

We need to ensure that northerners can commute to their nation's capital, to other cities, to one another to see family, and the federal government can play an active role in that.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their enthusiastic response as I take this opportunity to share the views of the residents of Winnipeg Centre on a subject that we find very timely, topical and of great import, and that is the review of Bill C-33, the railway safety act.

In the context of speaking to the bill I want to share a little bit about Winnipeg and how the railway has not only affected modern-day Winnipeg but actually almost shaped the way that my city grew and developed into the great metropolis that we know it to be today.

In 1882, when the CPR first laid down the tracks in Winnipeg, it laid them down quite logically and reasonably right from the junction of the two great rivers, the Assiniboine River and Red River, directly west to the Rocky Mountains and the west coast. This was the transcontinental railway.

As such, the marshalling yards were put well outside the developed area of Winnipeg as it stood in 1882, but frankly it was not long. In fact, by the turn of the century, Winnipeg had grown out that far and these great marshalling yards, 40 tracks wide in many places with full shops for upholstery, maintenance and the wheel house, created a great divide for the city of Winnipeg.

It created a tale of two cities because the railway barons lived along Wellington Crescent south of those tracks and the north end of Winnipeg became, as we know it, the low-income working class part of the city. That great divide exists to this day. So it shaped the growth of our city very much.

The reason I want to mention these things in the context of Bill C-33, the railway safety act, is that it has been a huge safety issue, not just a great physical barrier and a great industrial blight in the heart of our city. It has created a safety issue to where there have been explosions, collisions and accidents. There have been vehicle-train mishaps, chemical spills, and 130 years of environmental degradation as the trains just naturally spill diesel and drop materials onto that soil.

It is not a good thing to have a huge marshalling yard in the middle of a major urban centre. Those houses beside the tracks, north and south, are the least desirable neighbourhoods, the least desirable housing. Creating what began as reasonable housing for workers alongside the tracks, it gradually became, over a period of time, some of the roughest and meanest streets in the city of Winnipeg as they were not exactly a person's first choice to move to in terms of raising a family.

I raise this in the context again of Bill C-33 because I believe when it comes to committee, the government will hear from a number of sources that we want another element added to the bill. We want reconsideration of what was called the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act, which has laid dormant, essentially, for almost 15 to 18 years.

The Railway Relocation and Crossing Act was, in fact, a rail safety measure where a municipality, upon application to the federal government, could appeal to have the railways lift up their tracks, whether it was a level crossing or a marshalling yard, and tear up the tracks, move them outside the city to a place where they would not pose a health or contamination hazard, and 50% of that cost would be borne by the federal government.

One would think with all we have given the railways over the years, that they would heed the wishes and will of the residents of the municipality where they reside and we could oblige them to move those tracks somewhere that would be more beneficial to us. They were not all that co-operative. I do not know how this developed, but at a period of time, the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act was the avenue of recourse for municipalities which wanted to get rid of the rails.

It exists today. It is on the books. It exists as legislation. It is inactive and dormant and we believe the government of the day, in the same context of dealing with the Railway Safety Act, should be reviewing the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act .

I could make the argument that it is directly relevant to the safety of citizens to get these tracks out of the yards, but it also helps us to rationalize our rail transportation network in the country. If we are to truly avail ourselves of the new reality that rail is the best way to move freight, the old marshalling yards in the inner city of Winnipeg, in my riding of Winnipeg Centre, in Outremont in Montreal and in other cities around the country are obsolete, outdated and unable to avail themselves of the new intermodal container shipping practices that typify a modern shipping transportation system.

In fact, we believe the city of Winnipeg needs to develop what we call a great inland port, in other words, a fully-modern, 21st century intermodal container terminal that is not on an ocean but is in fact at the heart of the continent. It is the heart of a great X from the Asia Pacific trade route, from the St. Lawrence Seaway through the Great Lakes, over the northern Ontario trade route straight up to our only deep sea Arctic port at Churchill and then straight down the Red River corridor to trade into the populated areas of the United States.

We are uniquely located. The city of Winnipeg's best advantage is being at the heart of the continent. Yet it is handicapped and stymied by the outdated, obsolete, polluted marshalling yards that are not only an eyesore and a liability, but are holding us back from developing into the inland port computerized terminal we need.

I have travelled to modern-day container shipping terminals in Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Fuzhou, China. I went to those four terminals and studied the way a modern, computerized shipping terminal worked. It is nothing like the inner city of Winnipeg. It does not even bear a remote resemblance to what we need to develop and we cannot develop that in its existing grounds.

These container terminals work with computerized gantries that can go about half a mile down a line of terminals that are stacked 12 high and find the exact shipping container that it is looking for 80 rows down, 6 rows up and 15 rows over. It can go on this gantry system, pick it up, bring it out and ship it.

That is the kind of speed and just-in-time shipping we need if we are to have a proper distribution network in our country. We also need to consider that it has to be intermodal from air traffic to train traffic to truck traffic, all in the same centre if we are to put more freight on the rails where it belongs and take it off the highways.

In the consideration of Bill C-33, the safer railways act, we are negligent in our duties if we do not consider the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act in the same context at the same time. We do not know when we will be able to raise this issue in Parliament again as part of the legislative framework associated with rail safety. If I had more time, I would also explain that the government needs to revisit the rail freight review for western Canadian grain farmers.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will give the member time to finish his thoughts because this is not the first time he has spoken about the relocation of railway lines in Winnipeg. He has fought this issue for at least a decade.

Where does he see the rail yards being relocated to? Not only are there rail yards in his constituency but there are rail yards in the Transcona area as well. He seems to suggest that they should be around the airport and I agree with him that the transportation hub would have to be concentrated around the new expansion of the airport.

What is his vision on where the rail yards in his area should be relocated to as well as the rail yards in the Elmwood—Transcona, if at all?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona comes from an area that was actually borne of the railway industry. I do not think there is a community in Canada where the railroad is more relevant. However, the member asks an excellent question.

I believe there will be input from the federal government should we avail ourselves of financial support from the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act. We expect the transportation ministry to have some input as to how we reroute the rail yards around the city of Winnipeg and to rationalize the rail so it does not need to be a CN line and a CP line both running through the inner city of Winnipeg. They can share track at least until they get past Winnipeg and even past the province of Manitoba.

If we are trying to view an intermodal consolidation of our transportation system, it is going to be key to having freight arriving by air and rail and put on trucks for further distribution all in the same intermodal network somewhere near the airport.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question that relates to something I think we have in common in terms of our communities. I was asked earlier by my hon. colleague from Nickel Belt about the problem we have with rail lines through our downtown core. It seems the hon. member has talked about a similar problem.

My municipality is talking about the possibility of moving the rail yards. Our downtown business association is talking about turning these rail lines into a park, almost turning the city core into a park.

What does the hon. member think about the role of the federal government in supporting downtown business associations and municipal governments in getting these rail lines out of our communities to ensure we can still have a rail line through our communities, but at the same time have a prosperous downtown core?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

December 8th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Sudbury is absolutely right. The liability also has an opportunity built into it as well. As we tear up the tracks and relocate the rail line somewhere outside of the city, for safety and pollution reasons, it leaves us opportunities for green space within the inner city. I understand Windsor, Ontario has made very good use of the lands it made available.

The Forks in downtown Winnipeg, of which we are very proud, was in fact the old rail yard's maintenance shops. It was terribly contaminated and polluted, but with the co-operation of all three levels of government, we have turned an eyesore liability into one of our best assets.

I like the idea of bicycle paths along the routes where the rail lines used to run. In fact, it is natural to use that whole railway bed for a bicycle path.

We need a recommitment to rail transportation in our country. For years the tracks have been torn up in places we did not want torn up. The tracks should be torn up in our inner cities and urban environments to create more green space and opportunity to social housing. We can put that land to better use.

Safer Railways Act
Routine Proceedings

December 7th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, no member may speak for more than 10 minutes on the second reading motion of Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act.