House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was air.

Topics

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely correct. Canada has lost over 10,000 kilometres of active rail lines since the deregulation of railways in 1987. The money needed to improve our networks is mostly siphoned off by CN and CP. First a Conservative government and then a Liberal government privatized CNR in 1995. It was sold on the stock market. VIA Rail was left holding the bag. Unfortunately, until we change our policies and regulations, or are willing to invest some money into electric trains and repairing the tracks, I am afraid the slow decline is going to continue.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Trinity—Spadina once again on her wonderful speech.

But, why is it important to ensure rail safety? For one thing, we must remember that, historically, the railway united Canada. So it is very important in uniting Canada, from east to west, and in encouraging the economic development of many communities that would really like to have more rail services, particularly from VIA Rail.

In my riding in the Eastern Townships, for instance, Sherbrooke is no longer served by VIA Rail. Although some routes are being used less and less, other sectors want more services—high-quality, safe services.

In my colleague's opinion, for Canada's unity, for the safety and economic development of the regions, why is it so important to emphasize rail development?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, travelling by rail is safe, comfortable, fast, reliable and environmentally sustainable. If we look at all different modes of transportation, rail is by far the best way to go. With modern technology it can be extremely fast.

It is tragic that we see the technology is there, but the government is unwilling to regulate it. For example, in Quebec there was a tragic derailment in 2010. The Transportation Safety Board recently reported that the positive train control system would have made a difference and slowed down the train. The train would not have derailed and people would not have been injured.

That is one of the ways to keep train travel even safer than it is now.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Bourassa and on behalf of my party, I would like to start by commending the work that was done in the other chamber. Obviously, we all remember that this bill is a revival of former Bill C-33 and that a good job was done with the amendments. People did a great job.

At the time, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville was on the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the work done there was quite outstanding. Since the work was well done and everyone decided to work together to ensure everyone's safety, the bill deserves our support today. We most definitely have to send it to committee as soon as possible in order to look into certain aspects and see if we have to make some improvements.

In the other chamber, Senator Mercer, together with the other hon. senators—from both the government side and our side—have already done a thorough job. All players had a chance to speak their minds. We realize that there is already a lot of support and a series of amendments has been moved as a result of the work accomplished on the former bill.

It is only fair to say that we must support this bill and find the proper way to do so. Obviously, pulling on a flower does not make it grow faster. However, we certainly want to make sure that things will be done as quickly as possible. The bill has to be sent to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities so that we can do a proper job and quickly address the issue to determine whether adjustments have to be made. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario will agree with me in saying that Bill S-4 is a good bill and that, as a result, we should support it, given the significant work that was done in the other chamber.

I want to explain to the thousands of television viewers watching us today what Bill S-4 is all about. It is intended, of course, to amend the Railway Safety Act, specifically to improve the oversight capacity of the Department of Transport, to strengthen that department’s enforcement powers by introducing administrative monetary penalties and increasing fines, to enhance the role of safety management systems by including a provision for a railway executive who is accountable for safety—and the word accountable is important here—and to implement a confidential non-punitive reporting system for employees of railway companies. It also seeks to clarify the authority and responsibilities of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities with respect to railway matters.

It is important that, as the representative of the people, the minister have those powers and, clearly, the regulation-making powers must be expanded, including those dealing with environmental management. The process for rule making by railway companies must also be clarified.

What I find interesting about this approach is that, for the most part, all partners support this bill. The unions, as well as the Railway Association of Canada, are generally in favour of this legislation. Naturally, the RAC is not in a position to say at this time if the industry will support the bill without reservation because, after appearing twice before the parliamentary committee that studied Bill S-4 and Bill S-33—the predecessor to the bill we are studying today—the RAC had proposed seven amendments to improve safety, all of which were rejected.

It is fair to say that our system is quite safe, but we need to make the necessary changes to make it safer. Naturally, I acknowledge my colleague from Burlington, who had that tragic accident in his riding. We will let the investigation take its course, but we must ensure that we develop the necessary tools to guarantee safety.

I truly believe in rail transportation. We all know that this country has been built on that vision. It is a great way to bridge rural and urban Canada. However, I think we need to provide better tools to make sure that citizens from coast to coast to coast feel that they are first-class citizens with that mode of transportation. Bill S-4 would provide that and some problems would be prevented.

Let us take a look at infrastructure. Certain areas may have some situations, such as the one my colleague for Trinity—Spadina spoke about in eastern Quebec. Of course, we would promote specific programs on infrastructure to make sure that we have the capacity for the track to be accurate. We must make sure we are providing the service which, in certain areas, is an essential service. It is important that we take a look at that.

We would not play with security. At times it might be used in partisan ways, such as on Bill C-10, but for the railway I think it is a non-partisan issue. I think that all sides believe in security.

However, this bill needs to be quickly sent to committee. I think that we need to look further at the bill. My colleague suggested that the Canadian Urban Transit Association, in approaching the committee, was concerned about how the provisions of the bill would affect the operation of light rail transit that operates on federally regulated rail lines. There are only a few examples of this in the country. For example, the Lakeshore line of GO Transit moves an incredibly large number of people each day. Therefore, the committee concerns must be twofold.

First, overly large increases to the administrative burden on authorities like GO Transit would negatively impact ridership and fares. However, considering the volume of riders and the number of level crossings on the Lakeshore line, it is also important that the Government of Canada ensure that these trains operate with the highest level of safety possible.

Second, the Railway Association of Canada made a request that the bill be amended by adding to subclause 24(1) the following:

Respecting notices to be given to railways regarding any proposed local plan of subdivision or zoning by-law or proposed amendment thereof in respect of land that is located within 300 meters of a line of railway or railway yard.

This amendment would require municipalities to notify and consult the railway if they made any zoning amendments on land within 300 metres of a railway or railway yard. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities was understandably concerned about this measure. At the heart of its concern was this requirement for communities to inform railways of changes from adjacent land to proximate land. As it was explained to the committee, municipalities across Canada already inform railways when their zoning plans affect land adjacent to the railway's right of way.

The FCM's objection to this change was twofold. Primarily there is a concern that the 300 metre limit is overly burdensome on municipalities that already inform railways of land use changes on property adjacent to the rail line. There is also a concern about the federal government mandating a provision that directly interferes with how provinces legislate municipal power and zoning laws. As these laws and powers vary drastically across the provinces, it would be inappropriate for the federal government to simply override them all. It could also create needless red tape for the local transit association.

These are just some of the issues that the transport committee could consider taking up at its hearings. However, I think everyone has done a great job in the other chamber.

I believe it is a good idea to pass this bill very quickly in order to provide the minister and the department with the necessary authority to enact regulations, and to ensure better safety and greater consistency of the regulations. Partners must be heard quickly one last time by the Standing Committee on Transport to ensure, as we all wish, better safety for all Canadians.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments on the bill. Members will note that a couple of my colleagues have commended the minister of transport for consulting relevant persons in development of the bill.

One aspect that seems to be lacking in the tabling of the bill is an anticipated regulatory agenda and timeline for the regulations to be implemented, which is merely an enabling statute. Also missing is the tabling of an enforcement and compliance policy. Why do I raise that? As a former environmental enforcer, I know that the proof is in the pudding. What is most important is the commitment of the government to actually enforce these improved safety standards.

Over a 20 year period, the Transportation Safety Board investigation reports have cited serious continuous operating regulatory enforcement deficiencies, overreliance and outdated, ineffective inspection techniques, inadequate emergency response training and supervision.

Would the hon. member support a call for the tabling of a regulatory agenda and timeline, an enforcement and compliance strategy, and a commitment to actually enforce this new law?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question. I was a minister in another government and the important thing is to be pragmatic and find a way to put some teeth in the regulations.

My colleague asked some good questions. They are the types of questions we can ask the minister and all the stakeholders directly in committee in order to make the bill effective. This is not just lip service. We want to reduce the red tape and have the necessary tools to ensure greater safety, including environmental safety.

Earlier I was talking about municipal zoning. We have to respect the jurisdictions. These are the types of questions we can ask in order to assess the feasibility of this bill and ensure that it is not just wishful thinking, that it could indeed work. Given the work that has already been done in the other place and all the amendments that were proposed and approved regarding the previous Bill C-33, this is a good bill, but there is always room for improvement. We will ask questions, but not to the detriment of passing this bill.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member on his excellent speech. I have a question for him. I was under the impression that the minister might accept amendments, but the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina suggested otherwise.

It is true that in the previous parliament, a minority government at the time, the transport committee accepted a number of amendments. Given the diversity of views on the likelihood of the majority government now accepting amendments, is my colleague leaning on the side of optimism or pessimism with respect to the question?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a great existential question. Are we optimists or pessimists? I know the minister well enough to know that he does not play with safety and that he is open-minded. I like trusting people. I do not want to indulge in crass partisanship like certain NDP members who are saying that he is not open-minded and that he will not accept amendments. He has proven in the past that he can listen. This is a truly non-partisan issue. I am going to be fairly optimistic and realistic. I do not see why I would doubt the integrity of one of our colleagues. It would be unparliamentary.

Given that he has already said that he is open to discussion and amendments, we should believe him. The work that has been done, mainly in the other chamber, shows without a shadow of a doubt that they listened to us. At the time of Bill C-33, the Liberal Party and my colleague proposed amendments that were accepted. I do not think that this is a matter of minority or majority, but of doing what is necessary to help Canadians.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but think as we are discussing this today that you were just at the Little Native Hockey League in Sudbury. I am glad that you were there supporting them. I think that it is really important we support them.

There is a train service that goes from Sudbury to Toronto and, eventually, to Ottawa and Montreal. I cannot help but think if it were faster, how much of an imprint that would have on the environment and how much the tourism would mean to our economy. I know that I would the take train more often if it were faster.

As my colleague knows, the bill was actually tabled in the House in the previous Parliament, as Bill C-33. I wonder whether he wants to comment on the amendments which made it possible to have the bill before the House again. I am sure that he would agree with me that my colleague, the member for the Western Arctic, was instrumental in having that amendment tabled.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to go over old territory and say that one member was better than another in the previous Parliament. I am not sure whether the Sudbury team would get ahead faster in a faster train. This is an old issue; it goes back 30 years. A high-speed train was discussed and many studies were done. There are economic considerations. In the Liberal Party, we feel that we should have more of a railway culture. Canada's vision and the connection between the east and the west were possible because of the railway. So we must work accordingly.

Having said that, we want a high-speed train, but do we want this bill to pass at high speed? We have to do things right. We will be here to make sure that the bill works properly.

I said from the outset that I support the work done by the other chamber. Our committee is not too partisan. When they go too far, we call them to order. But I think we have a good transport committee and we can get things done very quickly. Our respective leaders will then be able to work together to ensure we move on to something else, since it is about time to pass this bill.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member makes reference to western Canada. Many individuals in western Canada would welcome the opportunity to be able to ride a train, recognizing that there are many deficiencies in services provided. We like to think that in the future, as the west continues to develop, especially at today's rapid pace, we will eventually see more VIA Rail services so that one could take a train from Winnipeg to Regina, for example.

Would the member comment about whether in the future it would be good to see VIA Rail enhanced to provide more service to areas that do not have as much as service as the Ontario-Quebec region?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very relevant question and I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg North for asking it.

I am one of those people who thinks that we should change the transportation culture in this country and that it should definitely be built around the railway. This is a vast country. Napoleon said that geography dictates politics.

If we want to ensure that all Canadians from coast to coast to coast feel like first-class citizens, we have to provide proper services. Is it an essential service? What is the government's role in that area? I truly believe that we should invest. It is not an expense.

We spoke about Quebec-Windsor. I heard we also spoke about Calgary-Edmonton. However, we have to look at all of those communities, including the small communities. We spoke about the Arctic. We spoke about western Canada. It is imperative, if we want to ensure that this country has first-class citizens everywhere, that we provide all the tools to ensure that we can reach them. It is not just a social matter. It is also a matter of economics. The basic economy starts with infrastructure. I believe that through the rail strategy we can ensure that everybody, no matter where in this country, feels at home.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I think it is best to start our remarks in the House of Commons on this or any subject by addressing first principles.

I believe the first principle is the government should only do what only government can do. Public safety is one of those areas that the citizen or the enterprise cannot simply manage all by themselves. As a result, protecting the security and the safety of the individual is a primary responsibility of government. Thus, we have Bill S-4, which deals in particular with railway safety and the statute assigned to that goal.

I will go into the history of this statute and the framework of legislation that has existed and continues to do so. Before I do that though, I will state my full support for the bill. It is a bill to amend the Railway Safety Act. It furthers our government's agenda to ensure a safe, reliable and economically viable freight and passenger railway system.

The amendments proposed in the bill will increase the public safety of Canadians, enhance the safety of our communities, and contribute to a stronger economy, a modern infrastructure and a cleaner environment.

The Railway Safety Act came into force in 1989 during a period of significant transformation in the Canadian rail industry. It was a time of privatization and restructuring, supported by a new federal policy that separated economic and safety legislation to provide the railway companies with flexibility so that they could grow and prosper.

I should mention in passing that Conservative and Liberal governments in the last two and a half decades have moved toward greater privatization and less government control in all areas of transportation, including ports, railways, airports, airlines and a whole series of other specific areas within the country's transportation system. That decision by both Liberals and Conservatives to move toward privatization has been a resounding and unmitigated success for Canada and for Canadians.

Today, economic regulation of the rail industry is guided by the Canada Transportation Act, which provides an overall framework to ensure a national transportation system that is competitive, economic and efficient. The act, which came into effect in 1996, also established the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is responsible for dispute resolution and economic regulation of all modes of transportation under federal jurisdiction, including rail.

Rail safety regulation on the other hand is governed by the Railway Safety Act, which was developed in the spirit of co-operation between industry and government. This act moved away from a fully prescriptive regulatory approach to one that recognized the responsibility of railway companies for the safety of their own operations.

At the same time, the federal government through Transport Canada retained the responsibility and the power to protect people, property and the environment by ensuring that the railway companies operate safely within that national framework. Once again, we liberated the market to find the best ways to achieve safety, but we created a legal framework to ensure that people and property and the environment are protected as the industry does its work.

Transport Canada undertakes its responsibility to maintain a safe national rail system through a policy and regulatory development, through outreach and education, through oversight and enforcement of the rules and regulations it implements under the Railway Safety Act.

Applied in tandem, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Transportation Act have successfully guided the growth of Canada's rail sector since the 1990s, but there are issues and challenges. As it stands today, the interrelationship of these two acts has created a notable gap in railway safety oversight that must be addressed if we are to ensure the continuing safety of our national railway system.

Currently under the Canada Transportation Act a new railway company is allowed to begin operations immediately upon receiving a certificate of fitness from the Canadian Transportation Agency. This certificate indicates that the railway is under federal jurisdiction, has sufficient financial capacity to operate, and has obtained appropriate third party liability insurance coverage. This is in keeping with the economic mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency. It is not, however, fully in keeping with the national safety mandate of the Railway Safety Act.

In accordance with the Railway Safety Act, a new railway must comply with all safety regulations in force at the time it begins operations. It is important to recognize that there are no regulated requirements in the Canada Transportation Act to verify the safety capacity of the company before a certificate of fitness is issued and the company's operations begin.

As the Railway Safety Act does not currently specify minimum baseline safety requirements for a new railway company either, a gap in oversight is created and a new railway could theoretically operate for a year or more before the effectiveness of its safety systems was formally verified. This is an important safety issue which the government is striving to correct through these amendments.

The introduction of a railway operating certificate is a key component of this bill, and will continue to resolve this long-standing safety issue in our railway system. The amendment represents an important step in the right direction to strengthen the safety of our vital rail industry. Anyone who likes to eat food, consume retail goods, drive a car, basically perform any function as part of a modern society requires the use of goods that are brought by rail. We cannot underestimate the importance of this industry to the operation of the Canadian economy.

When the Minister of Transport appointed the independent advisory panel to lead the Railway Safety Act review in 2007, he provided them with a clear mandate to identify steps in the Railway Safety Act and make recommendations to strengthen the regulatory regime to ensure the changing nature of the railway industry and its operations were protected.

Following extensive consultation with stakeholders and careful consideration of these consultations during the year-long course of review, the advisory panel specifically recommended in its final report in 2008:

A railway should be required to obtain a Rail Operating Certificate (ROC ) as a precondition to obtaining a Certificate of Fitness (from the Canadian Transportation Agency) and to commencing or continuing operations.

The intent of this recommendation is clear. This government emphatically agrees that the implementation of railway operating certificates is an optimal solution to improve regulatory oversight and ensure that new railways have met clearly defined baseline safety requirements before they begin operations anywhere in the country.

Bill S-4, the safer railways act which we are discussing today, will give the Governor in Council, that is the cabinet, the authority to require railway companies to apply for and receive a railway operating certificate. Bill S-4 will also give Transport Canada the power to establish the baseline safety requirements for the certificate by regulation. Establishing these requirements by regulation will provide Transport Canada with the authority to undertake a comprehensive safety review for every new railway to determine whether it complies with the regulatory framework proposed.

Once the regulator is satisfied that all baseline safety requirements have been met, an operating certificate will be issued. It is important to note that this requirement for railway operating certificates will apply to all railways under federal jurisdiction, including those already in operation, such as CN, CP, VIA Rail and numerous other short lines. It is obviously impractical and economically unviable for these companies to cease operations until a certificate can be issued. As such, existing railways will have a grace period of two years from the coming into force of the new regulations to meet the requirement for the certificate.

Should there be instances where the railway operating certificate is refused, suspended or cancelled, the applicant will have the right to appeal by requesting a review by the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. That being said, it is critical to add that this government is committed to ensuring that the introduction of railway operating certificates will be developed and implemented in the same spirit of co-operation between government and all stakeholders which guided the creation of the Railway Safety Act nearly two decades ago. Once this bill is passed, Transport Canada will consult stakeholders on the development of regulations that relate to this important new initiative to improve railway safety in this country.

In summary, I will say that the safety benefits of this proposal for the introduction of a railway operating certificate are clearly evident. An important regulatory gap will be effectively and efficiently addressed. Transport Canada's railway safety oversight powers will be enhanced to meet the changing nature of the industry over the long term. Canadians from coast to coast will reap the personal and economic advantages of a safer and more secure Canadian rail system.

When the Minister of Transport launched the Railway Safety Act review, Canada had recently suffered a series of devastating train derailments. These derailments caused the death of loved ones, the disruption of businesses and the serious pollution of trackside lakes, rivers and communities. During the course of extensive inspections and audits undertaken by Transport Canada following these incidents, the regulator identified numerous deficiencies that contributed to the decreased safety levels, including non-compliance by the railway companies with various safety requirements.

There was a general concern with the level of the railways' compliance with the regulations. Accordingly, the terms of reference for the Railway Safety Act review specifically directed the independent panel to examine the adequacy of Transport Canada's enforcement powers and to consider whether administrative monetary penalties should be added to the range of enforcement powers available to the department. Upon examination, it became clear that Transport Canada's enforcement powers under the Railway Safety Act needed to be strengthened to encourage better regulatory compliance, increased safety and help to prevent further incidents like those that originally triggered the review.

The independent panel's final recommendation on the issue, as detailed in its report of March 2008, plainly stated that an administrative monetary penalty scheme should be included in the Railway Safety Act as an additional compliance tool to enhance safety in the rail industry. This government fully agrees with the panel's assessment, and the introduction of a scheme for administrative penalties has been included as an important and integral part of this plan.

Administrative monetary penalties are certainly not new in the transportation sector. They were successfully introduced in the air industry back in 1986 and were subsequently introduced in the marine sector in 1991.

Penalties of this nature have been introduced in the transportation industry because they work. In the simplest terms, administrative monetary penalties are similar to traffic tickets for car drivers. When a company or individuals break the rules or do not comply with the regulations, the department can impose a pre-established administrative monetary penalty or fine to help encourage compliance in the future.

Administrative monetary penalties have other safety benefits as well. With these penalties in place, there is a perception of fairness because the operator knows in advance the cost of non-compliance and it is applied uniformly. Penalties can also be applied more uniformly as there is less discretion for giving warnings and therefore less opportunity for inconsistency.

Under the current Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada's options for enforcing non-compliance are very limited. When a violation is found during the course of an inspection or audit, an inspector will normally issue a letter of non-compliance and follow-up in a given time frame to confirm that corrective action has been taken. If the situation has not been corrected, the regulator has only one option, prosecution, which is both costly and time consuming. Therefore, it is ineffective for a large number of violations. This is a significant weakness in the current enforcement scheme of the act.

We believe administrative penalties should be implemented as an additional enforcement tool under the act to provide an efficient, effective and less costly alternative to prosecution, particularly in the cases of persistent non-compliance with the act and its safety requirements. This is consistent with the principle of minimizing the regulatory burden for Canadians, while at the same time promoting regulatory certainty and compliance.

In the interest of fairness for all parties, the proposed administrative penalty scheme will allow for a review of the regulator's penalty decisions by the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. This scheme will also include provisions related to the minister's decision to impose a penalty, the due process to be followed, the review of the decisions by the appeal tribunal and the level of fines to be paid for non-compliance and infractions. Maximum levels for administrative monetary penalties will be $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation.

In addition to the implementation of an administrative penalty to improve railway safety, we propose, through these amendments, to raise existing judicial penalty levels, which were established 20 years ago and are no longer consistent with other modes of transportation. Maximum judicial fines for convictions on indictment for a contravention of the act would increase from $200,000 to $1 million for corporations and $10,000 to $50,000 for individuals. Maximum fines on summary conviction for a contravention will increase from $100,000 to $250,000 for corporations and $5,000 to $25,000 for an individual.

Implementing these penalties, as proposed in the bill, is clearly an important step in the development of an effective railway safety regime with sufficient scope and strength to ensure that our railways are safe and that they remain safe for the long term as the rail industry continues to evolve and to grow.

I began today with basic principles: that government should only do what only government can do. Public safety is an example of one of the things that only government can enforce. That is why we are creating a legislative framework in which free enterprise can operate in a manner that is safe, efficient and fair for the Canadian people.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Nepean--Carleton was not in the House the last time when I spoke about the fact that I worked for the railway for nine years. He talked about the privatization of CNR and the outcomes. One of the outcomes of privatization, when companies start chasing profit, is that safety is pushed aside in many instances. Therefore, I have to commend the government, which is not something I do on very many occasions, for this legislation, primarily because the government took into account labour and the company and the legislative requirements of both. This is an example that could be used in many other areas.

It is crucially important that people understand that rail safety has such a tremendous impact on Canadians. If we think in terms of rail crossings, where pedestrians and vehicles pass in front of trains, if people in charge of those trains are in any way not following the rules, we can imagine the kinds of catastrophes that could happen. Again, I commend the government on this move forward and I hope it will use this template in other places.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much that the New Democrats will be supporting the bill.

We all agree that the bill has undergone enormous consultation and a great deal of study. The review panel has done its homework. Industry, labour and the public have contributed and we now have an excellent product that largely implements the recommendations of the review panel. Everyone wants the bill to happen. The goal should be to pass it as quickly as possible. Let us undertake all the steps that we can, right here right now, to get the bill through the House so it can become law and Canadians can be safer.