Safer Railways Act
An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
May 2nd, 2013 / 11:45 a.m.
Jody Wilson-Raybould Regional Chief, British Columbia, Assembly of First Nations
Gilakasla. Good morning, members. Thank you for having me here.
My name is Jody Wilson-Raybould. I am the regional chief for British Columbia. I am appearing here today along with Karen Campbell from the Assembly of First Nations and as the portfolio holder for first nation governance.
I want to also acknowledge Chief Louie and my colleagues on the First Nations Lands Advisory Board who are here as well.
Let me turn to Bill S-2.
Canada's intention to enact legislation in the area of matrimonial property is of course not new. I have presented twice at the Senate's committee on human rights, once on Bill S-4 and now on Bill S-2. While Bill S-2 contains positive changes from previous iterations, the overriding concerns that I raised previously remain.
Before I discuss these concerns with the committee, let me first say that Bill S-2 should not be characterized as a bill dealing with women's issues and probably should not be before this committee, with all due respect to the members of this committee. This is because these matters are not simply women's issues. For my husband, who is in this room and who lives on our reserve, it is his issue as well.
It has also been suggested that some of those who have spoken out against the bill or are behind the opposition to it are somehow trying to prop up a system that is unfair and that benefits some at the expense of others. While there may be individuals who are content with the status quo, this is certainly not the case for me nor for the organizations nor for the chiefs I represent. We all appreciate that there is a legal gap in the Indian Act that needs to be filled. We all know that many citizens or their spouses may be left at a disadvantage when it comes to settling a divorce, when their spouse passes away, or when they seek access to the family home.
Our criticism of the federal government's approach in Bill S-2, as in other federal bills, is not of the intent to fix the problem but rather of the government's considering it acceptable to design our post-colonial governance for us. Our contention with Bill S-2 is not about the need to fill a gap in the law but rather about who is filling the gap and with what rules.
Family and divorce law, wills and estates, and land law generally are complex at the best of times. When applied on reserve and governed under the Indian Act, they become even more complex. When considered in the light of indigenous legal traditions and our challenges with decolonization, the issues become even more so. Ideally, matters such as matrimonial property rights and interests should not be considered in isolation from other areas of interrelated law but should rather be addressed comprehensively when our nations are rebuilding comprehensive governance reform and moving away from the Indian Act.
Having said this, I appreciate that the federal government wants to do something about filling the gap with respect to matrimonial property. This is not without risk, as the federal government is walking a legal tightrope by making laws in areas that many people, including legal scholars and our leadership, assume are a part of a nation's inherent right of self-government and are protected in Canada's Constitution. Also, it is doing so without our free, prior, and informed consent as articulated in section 19 of the UN declaration.
In the past, and despite its best intentions, I have called the government's current approach to legislation neo-colonial. I know others do not see it this way. There certainly seemed to be a number of conflicted senators, when I presented on this bill at Senate committee, who on the one hand wanted to fill the gap but on the other hand were concerned about being paternalistic. This work is not easy.
For our part, dating back to 2006 the AFN has coordinated a number of dialogue sessions with our first nation citizens on how to approach the division of matrimonial property. There were three main issues that came forward: one, recognition of first nations' jurisdiction; two, access to justice and dispute resolution and remedies; and three, addressing underlying issues, such as housing shortages and the lack of access to temporary shelters. These have since been reiterated in resolutions from our chiefs in assembly.
With respect to jurisdiction, the promise of rights recognition and reconciliation in section 35(1) of the Constitution should require, for legal certainty, the explicit recognition of first nations' inherent right of self-government as part of any legislative solution in which such powers are not delegated. This should include recognition of the full range of powers necessary to effectively govern matrimonial property. Bill S-2 goes part of the way in this direction by recognizing the jurisdiction of first nations to make laws in the area of matrimonial property. However, the bill is not optional and until such time as first nations exercise their jurisdiction, provisional rules designed by Canada will apply.
Under Bill S-2, one of the most significant changes between Bill S-4 and Bill S-2, and something that we requested, is that the provisional rules will not come into force for one year, giving our nations a chance to develop their own laws before the provisional rules apply. I note we had asked for a longer period of time.
Assuming the bill becomes law, it is our intention to do whatever we can to assist those nations that want to enact their own laws before the provisional rules apply, and if not by then, as quickly as possible thereafter. Unfortunately, in the absence of comprehensive self-government options, our nations will have the same challenges as Canada had in developing the provisional rules when trying to figure out how to fit the round peg of a matrimonial property law into the square hole of the Indian Act. These challenges include reconciling the system of land tenure under the Indian Act with the extralegal, the informal rules for customary interests in land that exist outside of the Indian Act, the challenges of wills and estates, and trying to harmonize a nation's law with applicable provincial family law that may be at play at the same time.
With respect to recognition of broader jurisdiction and implementing the inherent right of self-government, we will continue to develop and advocate our own comprehensive governance solutions that support our nations in moving beyond the Indian Act, not simply the piecemeal or stovepipe approach the government is currently following. Where our nations have made matrimonial property laws, they have done so either under a land code made in accordance with the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management or under self-government arrangements, where the various aspects of the law can be considered in the broader context of self-government.
With respect to the second point, access to justice, dispute resolution, and remedies, there is no question that figuring out the provisional rules, seeking an order and then enforcing that order, will be a challenge for many of our citizens. Seeking a remedy in court under Bill S-2, will, we believe, be more expensive than for persons living off reserve. Due to significantly lower levels of income on reserves, it will, therefore, be more difficult for many couples to access the new remedies. Legal aid systems across Canada are chronically underfunded and are not meeting current needs, let alone the future demand created by the potential adoption of this legislation.
The remedies with respect to the provisional rules rely on access to provincial courts. The general assumption of access to provincial courts is unfortunately not practical or realistic in many parts of the country. Furthermore, with respect to enforcement, the preliminary research we have uncovered shows a correlation between increased harassment and threats of violence against women who file for protection orders in instances where there are issues with their enforcement. We question the capacity and ability of such orders to be effectively enforced, particularly in remote communities with limited access to police services. A law—any law—is only as good as the ability to enforce it.
The problem of access to courts, and appropriate dispute resolution and enforcement generally, has been one of the impetuses for first nations to develop their own justice systems. It is important to empower our nations in doing this work themselves, particularly given the opportunity for success in enforcing their own laws. While Bill S-2 is explicit on the authority of provincial courts to hear disputes in relation to the provisional rules, it is not as clear with respect to the access to justice for first nations under their own matrimonial property laws, both with respect to the extent of the first nation's jurisdiction and how a first nation could rely on the provincial or federal courts to enforce its laws if it so desires.
The bill would have been stronger had these concerns we raised previously been addressed as previously discussed. At some point, we must tackle this issue. Pushing forward this legislation in absence of a more comprehensive approach—
Fair Rail Freight Service Act
February 4th, 2013 / 4:50 p.m.
Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC
With “on the right track”, I will assume no pun was intended there
I agree with some of the points made by my colleague. I thank him for the question. This is a network and that is why we would like to see, as we are in fact proposing, a Canada-wide strategy that would enable us to make the appropriate investments at all levels, because what he said is entirely true.
The reason why the railway has a positive impact for farmers in my riding is precisely because the service goes to Windsor and farther beyond. That is a fact.
In terms of the fact that CN and CP are private enterprises, that is a difficult question. We agree on that, but when we consider the fact that the infrastructure was built by people from our region and elsewhere and that a lot of money has been invested in it, and also the government’s responsibility to ensure that we have a proper rail network, there is good reason for more dialogue between the government and CN and CP.
With this bill, certain obligations will be instituted, but this is the kind of dialogue that will happen more often. I realize that it is never easy to deal with that reality.
Lastly, with respect to Bill S-4 on railway safety, there were many points on which the parties agreed. I venture to hope this is an indication that we will be able to get along better, because it can only be a positive thing for my region if we continue to do that. I venture to hope.
November 29th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
Denis Lebel Minister of Transport
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the invitation to meet with your committee today to provide an update on the transport, infrastructure, and communities portfolio and to speak to our supplementary estimates.
I'm pleased to be joined by my colleague the Honourable Steven Fletcher.
I am also pleased to introduce Louis Lévesque, the new Deputy Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Also joining us are Anita Biguzs, Associate Deputy Minister for Transport Canada, and Marie Lemay, Associate Deputy Minister for Infrastructure Canada.
I will first address our priorities in transportation and infrastructure, and then Minister Fletcher will speak to two crown corporations in our portfolio.
This has been a busy year for transportation issues and related legislation. I look forward to continuing our work to support Canada's transportation system to ensure our economic prosperity. Transportation is critical to economic growth, job creation, and Canada's competitiveness in the world. The funding we seek through the supplementary estimates will help to achieve those goals.
As you know, the government places great importance on the role that trade plays in fuelling our economy, creating jobs and improving our quality of life. Transportation, in turn, helps to drive trade and requires coordination between many players across all modes so that supply chains can move goods efficiently, safely and securely.
This is why we developed Canada's gateway and trade corridor approach, which established the Asia-Pacific, Continental and Atlantic Gateways as a way to ensure our competitiveness and future prosperity.
A key principle of this approach was partnership. It required that the federal government work with other government and private sector partners to develop projects that would strengthen both our transportation systems and Canada's international trade links.
Supporting our trade and gateway agenda involves many initiatives. One is the need to build bridges, quite literally, to improve our transportation corridors. Accordingly, since 2009, the federal government has invested nearly $380 million to maintain the safety and the structures of the existing Champlain Bridge corridor.
In October 2011, I announced the construction of a new bridge for the St. Lawrence in Montreal to replace the Champlain Bridge. Developing a new crossing in this corridor remains a priority for our government. Not only are these structures vital transportation links for people and goods in the region, but they also provide a valuable trade corridor that is responsible for some $20 billion worth of commerce.
The environmental assessment for the project was launched last January and will be completed by 2014. While the current structures continue to be safe, we are taking action to ensure they remain in safe operating condition. We will continue to work with key stakeholders throughout the duration of this project.
Another project that will greatly contribute to Canada's competitiveness and long-term prosperity is the Detroit River international crossing, which is the new bridge between Windsor and Detroit. This new publicly owned bridge is critical to the economic security of both Canada and the United States. Let me make a few points to put this in better context.
The vast majority of our trade crosses the border by truck, much of it at Windsor-Detroit. With more than 8,000 trucks a day,
—again, that's 8,000 trucks per day—,
it is the busiest Canada-U.S. border crossing. To give you an example, Chrysler alone makes 1,200 crossings a day. In 2011, Canada-U.S. trade reached $689 billion.
This project will advance Canada's economic action plan and will provide much-needed border crossing capacity to handle the anticipated growth in commercial and traveller traffic for many years to come. Not only will it create 10,000 to 15,000 construction jobs in Michigan and Ontario, it will also generate new trade-related jobs and investment opportunities along the Quebec City and Windsor corridor. This, in turn, will make the North American manufacturing sector even more competitive.
Understandably, then, a new bridge is a very high priority for shippers and manufacturers. To expedite construction, we have introduced the Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act to ensure the successful and timely construction of this bridge. Canada will recoup this investment over time from toll revenues; the same in Montreal.
The Windsor-Detroit crossing is only one of many initiatives Transport Canada has pursued with the United States, in support of the economic action plan.
Our two countries also cooperate closely in the marine mode. This past September, we announced that we would join the United States Coast Guard in a new pilot project to inspect vessels in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway. These inspections will focus on improving vessel safety, security and pollution prevention.
In addition, we are aligning Canadian and American regulatory requirements more closely under the Regulatory Cooperation Council. This will make the system more efficient while also reducing impediments to trade for Canadian and American businesses, while also increasing marine safety and security.
Mr. Chair, the Government of Canada is also committed to ensuring that our rail system continues to be safe and secure for Canadians.
I am proud to note that, on May 17, 2012, Bill S-4, the Safer Railways Act, received royal assent. Bill S-4 significantly modernizes the current Railway Safety Act, in order to reflect changes in the industry and to strengthen Transport Canada's oversight and enforcement capacity in Canada.
According to the transport safety board, train accidents have decreased by 23%, and passenger train accidents have decreased by 19%, since we launched the Railway Safety Act review in 2007.
On the topic of rail transport, Mr. Chair, I shall note that we are also taking steps to make the rail-freight supply chain more efficient and reliable. Earlier this year, we completed a facilitation process with shippers and railways to develop a template service agreement and a dispute resolution process. This past June we released the facilitator's final report of his findings. The process will provide useful tools for both shippers and railways to use in their commercial negotiations.
I remain firmly committed to tabling legislation this fall to amend the Canada Transportation Act, and our government is committed. These amendments will give shippers the right to service agreements with the railways. They will also provide a process to establish such agreements should commercial negotiations fail.
Mr. Chair, from rail safety and efficiency, I now turn to other actions taken by the Government of Canada to maintain an efficient and safe transportation system.
The purpose of the Navigable Waters Protection Act is to balance the efficient movement of marine traffic with the need to construct works that might interfere with navigation.
This has been the case for more than 130 years and will not change. However, over time, the scope and application of this law has expanded to the point where it now applies to brooks, streams
and culverts. These are very, very small waterways.
The time spent on navigation assessments for works that have little or no impact on navigation has created huge backlogs for important projects, such as bridges and other works that might interfere with navigation.
In fact, 80 separate navigation assessments were done for ducks on a single lake near Edmonton. These applications took as long as a year and a half to approve, even though each one was essentially the same. It was a waste of time and tax dollars. That is why we're essentially proposing amendments aimed at refocusing the act on its original intent to protect navigation while supporting economic development.
These proposed amendments introduce a streamlined approach to balance the need to ensure safe and efficient navigation with the need to construct projects that support economic growth.
They also focus on the regulating works of the busiest waterways and relying on common law to protect navigation in other navigable waters.
And I would like to add that all environmental protection processes will continue to be enforced. Nothing in this Act in any way compromises either federal or provincial environmental laws. This includes the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
Mr. Chair, investing in Canada's infrastructure is a key element of the Government of Canada's plan to create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for Canadians.
Our government is strengthening the economy by investing in infrastructure projects that help to support both trade and the safe, secure, and efficient movement of goods and people while sustaining our environment.
These investments involve partnerships. So, over the past year, we have worked with provinces, territories, municipalities and other stakeholders to develop a new long-term plan for public infrastructure.
During the summer, we held 14 round tables across the country, meeting with more than 200 stakeholders. They reinforced both the need for strong and sustained federal support for infrastructure and the practice of building partnerships to develop these projects.
We will take this input into consideration and, looking ahead, will establish a new long-term infrastructure plan to build on our successes and contribute to provide lasting benefits for Canadians. This plan will help to leverage new investments in infrastructure, while continuing to respect the capacity of Canadian taxpayers.
Mr. Chair, I am proud of the government's actions to strengthen Canada's transportation systems, support our commitment to trade and fuel the future prosperity of our country.
I can speak for hours about what we have done, Mr. Chair, with all this marvellous team behind me.
June 12th, 2012 / 9:25 a.m.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Railway Association of Canada
The specific example here is that during the passing of Bill S-4, the Railway Safety Act, we asked for the exemption to be 12 months instead of six months. That's simply because we operate in four seasons, and in order to introduce a new technology, we need to test it in all of those seasons before we can be certain it's going to be effective. We thought that was a relatively simple request to understand and implement, and it is important to our industry, yet we still are faced with the six-month exemption. That means it adds complexity and difficulty to anything we introduce if there's going to be a significant difference between the way that piece of equipment operates in the heat of the summer versus the cold of the winter.
May 28th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.
May 17th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin
I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
The Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor
May 17, 2012
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 17th day of May, 2012, at 9:30 a.m.
The schedule indicates that the bills assented to on Thursday, May 17, 2012, were Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act—Chapter 7, and Bill S-1003, An Act to authorize Industrial Alliance Pacific Insurance and Financial Services Inc. to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec.
May 10th, 2012 / 10:35 a.m.
Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Has the motion been circulated? Okay, then I move:
That, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities immediately commence a study on the subject matter of the sections of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, which directly fall within the mandate of this committee, namely Part 4, Division 31, Railway Safety Act; Part 4, Division 45, Canada Marine Act, and Part 4, Division 48, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act.
If the committee would allow me a few minutes, I will talk a bit about these three sections because just recently we dealt with Bill S-4, Safer Railways Act. This committee just spent at least one meeting on that. We've had many meetings prior to this session of Parliament studying and improving the Railway Safety Act. It just passed the House two weeks ago after it had gone through the Senate, and it has been studied at least twice. All of that was occurring while this was being drafted, which is bizarre. To not have this section of the Railway Safety Act in front of us for discussion doesn't make any sense at all.
Let me address this more precisely. I'll talk briefly about the Canada Marine Act and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act. The government is proposing that section 16 of the Railway Safety Act be amended following subsection 4 by adding:
However, if a grant has been made under section 12 in respect of the railway work, and the proponent of the railway work, or any beneficiary of it, is a road authority, the maximum amount of the construction and alteration costs of the railway work that the Agency may, under subsection (4), apportion to the road authority is 12.5% of those costs or, if a higher percentage is prescribed, that higher percentage.
Precisely what does that mean? If there is a road authority, then the construction work would be 12.5%. Why 12.5% and not 15%, or why not 50%? It's not clear.
Then section 16 of the act would be amended by adding the following after section 5:
The Governor in Council may make regulations exempting any railway work, or any person or railway company, from the application of subsection (4.1).
So the government could choose, if it wants, to exempt any part of this percentage. Then, there is a clarification in proposed subsection 5.2:
A regulation made under subsection (5.1) may exempt a group or class of persons or railway companies, or a kind of railway work.
It's not very transparent why this is proposed. Having this debate at the finance committee makes no sense; it should be in front of this committee.
I then looked at section 16 of the Railway Safety Act. What does it talk about? Well, let me tell you what it talks about:
That the proponent of a railway work, and each beneficiary of the work, may refer the apportionment of liability for the construction, alteration, operation or maintenance costs of the work to the Agency for a determination if they cannot agree on the apportionment and if no recourse is available under Part III of the Canada Transportation Act or the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act. The referral may be made either before or after construction or alteration of the work begins.
We're just trying to understand what this is all about, and so I went back to look at part III of the Canada Transportation Act and realized that this section 16 and the Marine Act and the Air Transport Security Authority Act—which I am going to get into—are really complex.
What we've noticed is the centralization of power in the ministers and the cabinet, that is, in the order in council.
Do we believe in that direction? Why are we doing this with the ports? Why are we doing it with air transport?
Safer Railways Act
May 1st, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.
Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC
Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of Bill S-4. This is no surprise, I agree. We have before us what I would call an apple pie bill, meaning that it is good and that everybody likes apple pie. Nobody is against motherhood and apple pie. So, obviously, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of rail safety.
Bill S–4 amends the Railway Safety Act in order to encourage rail companies to create and maintain a culture of safety, particularly—and I come back to the specific areas in the bill—by strengthening rail company safety; by protecting employees who raise safety concerns and by requiring that an executive from each rail company be legally accountable for safety.
The bill also enables the government to penalize offenders with tough new monetary penalties and enhanced legal penalties.
The amendments also seek to improve the oversight capacity of the Department of Transport by, for example, requiring companies to obtain a safety–based railway operating certificate indicating compliance with regulatory requirements. The amendments also clarify the authority and responsibilities of the Minister of Transport with respect to railway matters.
Why would anyone be against that? Still, it is easy to tell rail companies to be safe, but if the government does not help them, if it just stands by watching important branch lines deteriorate over time and complaining about the resulting danger, then it is not part of the solution; it is part of the problem.
This government and its predecessors are to blame for the appalling state of our rail network—particularly in Quebec. For example, on Wednesday, January 18, 2012, there was an article by Radio-Canada—which will no longer be able to question the authority of the Cartman government if the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages's new code of conduct comes into force.
The title of the Radio-Canada article was “The Gaspé needs $95 million to save its railway”.
I will read this very short article:
Residents and elected officials are rallying to maintain the Gaspé's railway network, particularly the Matapédia-Gaspé line.
A series of actions, which will be put in motion over the coming weeks, were announced on Tuesday at a press conference in New Carlisle.
Members of the Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie or SCFG, which is owned by municipalities in the region, need an investment of $19 million a year to repair the rail line and improve safety.
A study conducted by the SCFG...that was released in December found that an investment of between $93 million and $100 million is needed to maintain and repair the 320 km of track between Matapédia and Gaspé.
During the protest that was held at the New Carlisle station...SCFG management gave [the governments in] Quebec City and Ottawa an ultimatum.
Without a commitment from the governments, the Matapédia-Gaspé line could be shut down completely by March 31 . Already, VIA Rail passenger trains have not been travelling on this line since December 21. For safety reasons, VIA Rail is transporting its passengers by bus to Gaspé.
The president of the SCFG and mayor of Gaspé, François Roussy, is aware that a request for $95 million in funding is significant; however, the funding is vital to the survival of the railway. “We must use every means available to us to mobilize our governments,” he told a group of residents and elected officials...
[Meetings have been held.] Members of the SCFG want to meet with Premier Jean Charest and with the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec as soon as possible...to let them know how difficult it will be to encourage private investment in the region without a railway that is in good repair.
[The minister], who is also the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, responded to the needs of the SCFG on Tuesday. He indicated that he could not commit to granting the request at the moment, but he promised to look into the matter.
It took VIA Rail ending service to the people in the Gaspé to get even that wishy-washy answer from the minister.
How can the government justify the fact that it is dragging its feet when it comes to assuring the safety of VIA Rail passengers, yet it is threatening the workers at that company with special legislation, because a strike could hurt the economy?
The closure of a section, the dilapidated state of the network, believe me, that is what is really hurting the economy. It is easier for this government to abandon workers than to help railroad users.
We will vote in favour of the bill, because we believe that the rail network is essential to the Quebec economy. Furthermore, if the Conservatives were to propose bringing in a high-speed train between Quebec City and New York, the Bloc Québécois would support it.
However, the fact that we are voting in favour of this bill does not mean that we necessarily support the Conservatives' way of doing things, which involves forcing others to pick up the tab for its own failings. That is typical. They ignore rail safety for years and then threaten to fine any businesses that use these unsafe networks.
Thus, the federal government needs to follow through on its desire to tighten safety rules and make available the funds that railway companies so desperately need in order to maintain the railway network, particularly in the Gaspé.
I would like to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois will support the bill. Thank you for the time given to me here today.
Safer Railways Act
May 1st, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.
Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC
Mr. Speaker, thank you for your intervention, which I found very fair.
With respect to Bill S-4 and rail safety in Canada, this bill is certainly of interest to my constituents. We have a railway that is over 100 years old. It has an unusual history that I will share with my colleagues in a moment or two.
On the one hand, the government says that it wants to improve rail safety in Canada, but on the other, it wants to privatize Canadian railways. I do not know how the government can square those two objectives without considering the fact that Canadians railways have been neglected and have deteriorated to the point that rail service to some of the regions has been cancelled.
We have been waiting quite some time for a bill of this scope that can improve rail safety. However, we must also work together to ensure that our railways do not deteriorate. A railway's safety cannot be assured if the rail line itself has deteriorated to the point where trains can no longer travel on it.
In Canada, for instance, two railways have deteriorated to such an extent that trains no longer use them. I am referring to the Malahat railway on Vancouver Island and the Baie-des-Chaleurs railway, which no longer travel on the rail lines. This is precisely because the railways were left to deteriorate to the point where passenger safety could no longer be guaranteed and commercial goods could no longer be transported on these rail lines.
Some communities are now in a precarious situation because they depended on the railway, the tourism it created and the goods it transported. These communities no longer have access to the railway because the government drags its heels when it comes time to ensure the safety of the railway. The communities affected by these deteriorations are now in dire straits. They are no longer able to do what the Conservative government is proposing that they do and that is to take over. Remote communities are told not to worry because they can restore the railway themselves. There are also told that legislation will be passed once they have finished restoring the railway.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I forgot to mention at the beginning of my speech that I would be sharing my time with the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, if I may.
The bill the Senate is proposing today on improving the safety of our railway is meaningless if the railway has deteriorated and the means are not in place to restore it. By the way, I am a little disappointed in everything the Senate proposes, regardless of the bill, but that is another issue.
The Conservatives would have us believe that privatization is the answer to just about all Canada's problems, but this privatization will not work.
In the Gaspé, a consulting firm was hired to assess the condition of our railway and to determine what it would take to restore it. The cost of upgrading our railway was estimated to be $93 million. The government is saying that the municipalities in the Gaspé are supposed to find $93 million to repair their railway. That does not work. They cannot do it.
Furthermore, the government sold them on a project in 2006 when it told them that their section of the railway would be privatized, the ownership transferred to the municipalities and a co-operative of municipalities would be created and would be responsible for the work to be done. At the time, CN and its allies did not conduct a real assessment of the government's needs and trotted out any old figure.
They said it would cost $19 million to restore our railway. That was not the case. Today, five years later, we see that $93 million is required. There is a $73 million deficit to make up in order to restore our railway. We asked the Conservatives whether they were prepared to help us improve our railway, and the answer we got was total silence. We got no answer.
The communities in the Gaspé, and it is apparently the same on Vancouver Island, depend on their railway. It is a job creator and a wealth generator. It is worth a lot more than the $93 million that has to be found in order to restore it. It creates jobs and it means that tourists can come to our region and spend money. It makes it possible for new businesses to set up and have a safe and effective shipping service. But we do not have the money to restore it.
We want to get serious and enact a bill that says safety is the primary concern. Safety is important, but people still have to be able to use the railway. But it has closed down. I am very happy for this bill to be passed, but the railways outside the major centres are going to be left behind, and that is not going to change. They are going to continue to deteriorate. The government has privatized them. It no longer believes in railways for remote regions and it is abandoning them.
Now it is deciding to focus only on railways in urban areas. I am very happy about that, but even there, the Conservative government is abandoning us. Certainly there is no money in places outside urban areas. The Conservatives are not prepared to give us a hand. We do not have the money to hire people ourselves and buy the resources that are needed to improve our railway.
I would like to give the House an idea of how the railway stands in the Gaspé. The railway network in the Gaspé is a section that is unique in Canada. It is 202 miles long, and it is probably the section with the most bridges anywhere in Canada over the same distance. There are 93 bridges in 202 miles. That is why our railway is so expensive. It has been let go and our bridges have been allowed to deteriorate. That is why we have no VIA Rail service today. We have a “VIA Bus”.
The railway in the Gaspé is supposed to be class 3 track. Trains are not supposed to exceed 45 mph, which is about 70 km/h. At present, trains go over some bridges at 5 mph. That is why VIA Rail no longer wants to go there, because it has become ridiculous. Not only do the trains travel at 5 mph, but they cannot brake on the bridges. If they do, even at 5 mph, the bridge could collapse. This is really very disturbing. It is very important that money be invested so the railway is brought up to standard.
It is all well and good to pass legislation that is, in theory, very useful to Canadians, but if the Conservatives are not prepared to allocate the appropriate resources, at the end of the day, this bill is worthless. This bill is more theoretical than anything else. It needs to go much further than what the Conservatives are proposing. We need a real national transportation plan, a plan that improves transportation for Canadians and that sees it as a given that the environment must be protected, in short, a green plan. That is what we need, a cost-effective plan that generates jobs and wealth.
For the time being, I do see that happening. I am waiting for the Conservatives to propose something appropriate.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, be read the third time and passed.