House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was registry.

Topics

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my fellow member for his question. We believe that it is possible as long as we designate authorities who are in a position to take action. They must also be given the means to do so or, in other words, they must be given a budget and competent employees. Every report of a potential risk must be looked into.

The people who are in the best position to inform us of potential risks are the employees. When employees report dangerous situations, they are often reprimanded and even punished by the company they work for, which is completely illogical. We have to protect these people and give the authority to a competent organization such as the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I noted what my colleague said about the change in the way that the municipalities have developed around railway lines. I am very interested in his reaction to how those municipalities are dealing with the issues surrounding trespassing and whether there is an effort made through those communities to fence off the railway lines so they are safer for people generally. Is that something that is taking place in the communities that he represents? Is that going ahead in a good fashion?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, the question is extremely relevant. It is very concrete and practical. For example, there are very long fences near the railway tracks in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Saint-Basile-le-Grand and McMasterville. In Mont-Saint-Hilaire in particular, the fence is so long and there are so few places to cross on foot or by bicycle that people have been breaking the fence to get through. Some will say that this is not good and that people should not do such things but, at the same time, it shows that we did not adapt the new reality to the needs of the people living close to railways. Why was construction allowed in these areas?

As soon as the regulations permit, all necessary accommodations must be made so that the trains can run without putting people at risk or making things more complicated for them.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Routine Proceedings

December 7th, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, there have been consultations among all the parties and I believe that if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the House of Commons:

(a) recognize the danger posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to peace and security;

(b) endorse the statement, signed by 500 members, officers and companions of the Order of Canada, underlining the importance of addressing the challenge of more intense nuclear proliferation and the progress of and opportunity for nuclear disarmament;

(c) endorse the 2008 five point plan for nuclear disarmament of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and encourage the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General;

(d) support the initiatives for nuclear disarmament of President Obama of the United States of America;

(e) commend the decision of the Government of Canada to participate in the landmark Nuclear Security Summit and encourage the Government of Canada to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to move the motion?

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-33, Safer Railways Act, which has been brought forward today by the government. It represents the government's thinking on moving forward with railway safety in this country.

I certainly agree with most of the speakers here that the railway system in this country is one that is under pressure. We need to ensure that it is operated in the safest and most complete fashion for all those who live near it or are involved in it.

There are some deficiencies in the current safety act that are in need of fixing, but I think this bill takes on some elements that are perhaps redundant. These may not move so much forward on safety but rather increase the bureaucracy around the railways.

This bill corrects some minor errors that have been identified in existing acts and creates a certification process for railroads to show that they are safe. Also, it creates a ticketing process for enforcement and tweaks certain elements within the safety management system for railways. That is all good and proper.

However, there are problems, such as using a ticket system of fines for enforcement. The U.S. has a system of tickets but now uses it only in the most serious and egregious violations. The U.S. has learned that tickets do not actually work to improve safety. There are reports throughout the United States that the tickets were sometimes paid by the railways rather than go ahead with required improvements and fix-ups. In some cases, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration prefers to issue compliance orders, special notices for repair, disqualification orders, injunctions, and emergency orders so that things actually are done on the system. If there is a point in the system where problems are occurring, they get fixed with these types of orders.

We can talk about the certification process, but once a railway starts operating, it has already complied with the Railway Safety Act. By starting up it goes through a process of ensuring that its system is well set up and within the rules that it is guided by. Therefore, the extra process of certification is something that we would like to understand better. Perhaps at committee we will see how this certification process would improve safety. That is something we must leave to witnesses and those people who will know about that in committee.

What Bill C-33 does not do is dramatically increase railway safety. According to “Stronger Ties”, the 2007 review of the Railway Safety Act, the major cause of death comes from accidents at level crossings and trespassing.

Since 2001, an average of 84 people have been killed or seriously injured annually as a result of crossing accidents and an average of 79 people have been killed or seriously injured due to trespassing. These are very large numbers. These are real issues of concern when we talk about railway safety. Many Canadians are dying around our railways. In 2006, 142 people were killed or seriously injured as a result of crossing and trespassing accidents. The railway industry considers these collisions to be a major problem. The greater tragedy is that perhaps many of these incidents could have been avoided.

Rail collisions are in fact one of the most predictable of all transportation hazards. Trains and motor vehicles are alike in that both travel on hundreds of thousands of kilometres of rail or highway and urban road networks. Similarly, aircraft have millions of kilometres of airspace in which to fly.

However, a highway railway crossing has a precise location. The intersection of the highway and the railway track is where a collision between a motor vehicle and a train is most likely to occur. We have a very defined area within the rail system where these accidents are occurring.

Investigation reports reveal that in most circumstances motorists are responsible for these collisions. They disregard the horn and bell warnings of approaching trains. They ignore light and bell warnings at crossings and sometimes they even drive around lowered gates. There is nothing in the bill that will decrease those numbers.

How could we do this? Perhaps we could begin a larger, federal, education campaign. Working in partnership with the Railway Association, Transport Canada could lead the effort to bring together people who can deal with the education required for motorists to better deal with rail crossings, to not be impatient when the gates go down, and to be observant.

There are about 43,000 federally and provincially regulated public and private level crossings in Canada, so when the minister talks about the dollars that the government has invested over the past number of years on railways crossings, he is not talking about a huge sum of money in comparison to the issues before us.

In “Stronger Ties”, the railway safety advisory panel recommended the government develop a program to identify which crossings can be closed, limit the number of new crossings, and improve the safety at existing crossings.

Many of the European countries do different things with rail or level crossings that allow high-speed trains to move through rail crossings with a great degree of safety. They have automated systems that detect metal in the level crossing and stop the train on an automatic basis. We have to train Canadians to wait for this to occur, because if we stop a train because somebody is in the level crossing, we have to close the crossing earlier for that to occur.

We know that trespassing accidents can never be completely eliminated, but what about the requirement for fencing? Where can we do better on that particular requirement so that we reduce the number of incidents of trespassing and reduce the number of deaths that are occurring? These are serious problems with railway safety, problems that need to be addressed, and perhaps as we take this bill forward to committee, we could look at some things there. Once again, the bill is directed in a more bureaucratic fashion to deal with penalties and to deal with other issues, but really we need to look at some of the basic precepts of railway safety.

Another area would be to have regulations that ensure that trains respect signals. In many countries, if there is a red signal, the train automatically slows down or stops. In Canada that is not the case. We do not have those fail-safe systems and that can lead to more accidents. Once again, the issues are sometimes technical in nature, but they are also things that this federal government has a responsibility to legislate.

Actions do not come from nothing. It is not a simple job to improve railway safety. It is an investment. It is regulations. It is certainly enforcement, but it certainly speaks to the need for more than what is in the bill here today. The bill may do something, but we really need to look at the overall picture of railway safety and fix the things that need to be fixed to ensure the Canadian public is protected.

We need to ensure that our standards for some of the problems we have are raised to the point that they match up to other countries and the rest of the world.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, my question for the member for Western Arctic, and through him to the government, is in the context of studying rail safety. Is it not a good time to study the larger issue of rail relocation altogether?

In many cities, especially in western Canada, in the 1880s the rail ran right down the main drag of these cities and, in many cases, like in the city of Winnipeg, it cut the city in half. The great thundering marshalling yards of the CPR created a tale of two cities in terms of north Winnipeg and south Winnipeg. Our whole social development has been affected by that intrusion into the city of Winnipeg.

I raise that in the context of safety because there have been explosions, chemical spills, oil spills and ongoing degradation of the environment by virtue of the rails running through the city.

The Railway Relocation and Crossing Act used to pay for 50% of the rail relocation if a municipality applied to the federal government saying that it did not want the railway in its municipality anymore. Does the member not believe, in the context of rail safety, that the federal government must recommit to the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, after listening to the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, I do not really want to respond because he raised some excellent points that should be addressed in this particular discussion that we will be having going forward, perhaps in committee where we can see some of these issues brought out. We can bring witnesses forward to talk about this particular aspect of railway safety.

It is commendable that the member has raised this issue now and I will certainly carry that message forward.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have several communities in my riding where there are problems with the length of trains today. The trains are so long that if an accident were to occur in a community it could be landlocked.

I have s a CNR community in my riding called Capreol. If a serious accident were to happen at the right place, this community would be landlocked possibly for days. I am just wondering if this bill, when it goes to committee, would look after a situation like this?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would say once again that these issues are part of what will need to be examined at committee. I think the bill opens up a number of doors that people want to see into in terms of railway safety. However, there is not one simple answer.

To understand whether this bill would actually improve railway safety in this country would be to understand how some of those questions will be answered by the regulations and the changes to the safety act that have been put in place.