House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was railway.

Topics

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member made a great deal of reference to communities. Because of many things that could happen as a direct result of the presence of rail lines, some of the most significant vested interest groups are the communities built around these lines.

We would argue ultimately that we have to ensure all stakeholders are involved, including the different levels of government, as well as industry as a whole in order to protect those industries.

Does the hon. member see anything in future legislation of this nature that would enable some sort of structured system that would allow for that consultation in the name of protecting our communities?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the discussion leading up to this amendment to the Railway Safety Act, there were a lot of consultations with a lot of stakeholders, including community groups, transport activists, unions and other interested stakeholders, including the railroads.

That is a good sign for the government. In the minority Parliament that preceded this one there was a sense of collaboration that was necessary in order to make the bill into the best bill it could be at the time.

These bills generally get reviewed every five years; it has been six years since this review was started, so we really should have been starting the review of the bill last year. I do not know when a review will be started, but there are always improvements that can be made to safety.

There is a need for voice recorders in the cabs of all the locomotives and a need for positive train control. Those things should be a part of the government's agenda; they are not; currently, but we can certainly hope that we and the communities we are talking about will put enough pressure on the government to make this part of its agenda going forward.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, because of its shortsighted vision of northern Ontario, the Liberal Party in Ontario is cutting back the Ontario Northland Railway, which connects a lot of northern Ontario regions to southern Ontario. It will be dismantling that railway. It will cut it off and put more buses and more transport trucks on the road.

Could the hon. member tell us how this will affect not only the communities but also the people who are using the highways in northern Ontario?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the demise of the Ontario Northland is something that should be prevented. The Ontario Northland is a vital part of the north's transportation infrastructure.

Northern Ontario is subject to bad weather for nine months of the year, maybe ten, and highways are just not safe. They are not the safe way to get around in northern Ontario. By getting rid of the Ontario Northland, we are removing a safe option for the transportation of people and potentially of goods. It should not close.

The Conservative government should be looking at rescuing the Ontario Northland from the ravages of the Ontario Liberal government.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the fabulous member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

I am happy to participate in the debate on Bill S-4. I would like to congratulate a couple of my colleagues. The first is my colleague from Western Arctic. He prefers to be called the member from the Northwest Territories rather than Western Arctic, but indeed his riding is in the western Arctic. I would also like to congratulate the member for Trinity—Spadina, who has been working on this transport file for quite some time, along with the member from the Northwest Territories. In the last Parliament she was very adroit in making sure that many of the suggestions that ended up in the bill were amendments to previous legislation to make sure we actually came forward with a transport bill that addressed the safety concerns of the passengers on VIA and the workers who have to travel on those trains. They are the locomotive engineers, the brakemen, et cetera, who deserve, especially today on International Workers' Day, the safest place to work we can make for them. It is an obligation that I think we all share.

We are pleased to see that the bill contains slightly over 80% of the things we would have like to have seen, although obviously there are a few other things that we would like to see in it.

It strikes me as ironic as I look through the history of where things were at over a number of years. A report that was called the advisory panel's final report was published. The actual title of the report was “Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety”. I thought it was quite striking to use that title of “Stronger Ties”. I was a train spotter growing up in Glasgow, and we knew more about trains than we knew about anything else. The ties lying on the railbed keep the rails firm and make sure that those rails do not come apart. It is the ties, as they call them, that hold the rails at an exact space apart and prevent the rails from being flimsy and coming apart, or the spikes from leaving and so forth. I thought this report in 2007, “Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety” was rather ironic in that it took almost five years to get us to where we needed to be in 2007.

We are looking at what has been requested from workers and from passengers, which is a safe railway system. The railway system in our country is indeed a safe system; however, as in every system, there are always things we can do to make it safer. That is what New Democrats have been pushing for, not only in this Parliament but in past Parliaments. They have been pushing to ensure that those who travel by rail have safe passage and that those who work on the rail will go to work and come home safely. As we know, there have been episodes when that did not happen.

The train that leaves my municipality in Niagara and takes itself through the Niagara Peninsula to Toronto, as was pointed out by my colleague from Trinity—Spadina, derailed just outside of Burlington. It was an absolutely tragic accident, but as my colleague pointed out, one that was preventable. If the 2007 report, “Stronger Ties”, had been implemented with the suggestions that my colleagues from Western Arctic and Trinity—Spadina had suggested, that accident might indeed never have happened. Three men might not have lost their lives and three families might not be suffering the loss of fathers, husbands, sons, uncles and brothers. They might have still been with us. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

Therefore, in memory of those three men who lost their lives in that derailment in Burlington, we need to do everything within our capacity to ensure that it does not happen again.

The trains are perhaps being operated a little faster than they should be, so when they come to a switch and change tracks, it is a dangerous moment. Switching to a different track is hazardous, and speed is a very critical aspect.

However, there are mechanisms. We do not need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. When it comes to health and safety, we can have mechanisms that, if the train is approaching the switch too quickly, it can be automatically slowed down to ensure it makes the switch appropriately and does not come off the rail, as we saw in Burlington.

It is unfortunate that is not part of the bill but it should not stop the bill. In my view, it would not be something that would be an impediment to voting for this but it needs to be thought about in the future. We need to do this in a more comprehensive way. We may never find out what happened in that derailment because those three gentlemen are no longer with us to tell us what happened. The passengers are not sure what happened either, as they were in the carriages behind, not in the locomotive, and no one in the locomotive can tell us exactly what happened.

This is a transport system that carries large numbers of people and, in some cases, carries more people than an airplane might. However, in an airplane we have voice recorders in the cockpit to tell us what the pilot and co-pilot are saying at all times during a flight. In the case of a crash, heaven forbid but there have been some over time, we now have a voice recorder and a data recorder that can actually help us to understand what happened and, just as important, help us understand how to avoid it. That is the crux of it. If we had had a voice recorder in that locomotive in Burlington and in others that have crashed, especially when we saw loss of life and have no independent witnesses who were in control of the locomotive, we could have then pieced together exactly what happened. We would have known what they were saying at that moment or the moments leading up to it? What could they have told us to ensure that the same thing would not happen again?

That is a critically important piece of information that is missing in the safety bill, which is unfortunate. I would look to the government, hopefully, to ensure that gets done in the very near future but we do want to ensure this safety legislation gets passed. Ultimately, it is about taking people on the rail lines. As my colleagues have pointed out, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who travel by rail across this country.

I had the great privilege, when I was younger, of spending some time in the lovely city of Edmonton while at the University of Alberta. I travelled there by train. However, unbeknownst to me, being a young person who had not travelled the breadth of this country, it took 54 hours to get there, which is a remarkably long time. It is two days-plus, but that is the breadth of the country. I must admit that, although I was a student at the time and did not have one of those luxurious cabins people may have today on the train, it was a pleasurable journey travelling across this country by rail, not only because of what I saw of the country but because of the service that was committed to us as passengers on that particular rail passage.

For those of us who enjoy trains, which many of us do, when it comes to travelling by rail we have many lessons to learn from places around the world and in this country where we see light rapid rail systems, whether it is in Vancouver or in downtown Toronto.

In fact, if we look back to Niagara, where I live, in the riding of Welland, it was a number of years ago, before I was born, when people could travel by rail from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. We cannot do that today. One hundred years later and we cannot get from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario by rail. I know members will find this hard to believe but up until about six months ago people could not do it by bus either. I congratulate the Niagara region for implementing a regional bus service but we can just think if it had kept those railbeds. We could actually have taken a train from Port Colborne in my riding all the way to the riding of the hon. member for St. Catharines in the north and get from one lakehead to the other. Would it not be an amazing thing to think that we could do it, not for the first time, but again? We did it over 100 years ago.

Folks went by train to see their families if they were living in the north or the south end of the peninsula, never mind the places that my colleague from Sudbury was talking about. When one is in the north and is isolated, then rail it is. When we think about communities in the north where rail is their mode of transportation, their of getting materials and supplies in and how they move people, we need to continue to support rail, not only from a safety perspective. My friends in the Ontario legislature need to keep the Ontario Northland open because that is a crucial link to the northern part of this province. Therefore, I would send the message to Mr. McGuinty that he should keep the ONR open.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for Welland for his wonderful and eloquent speech on rail and rail safety and the importance of rail to northern Ontario, but most important, to the country.

As I told my colleague from York South—Weston earlier, rail built this country. I once worked a summer swinging a sledgehammer for one of the large railways. I really learned what manual labour was all about when I did that. I tip my hat to the men and women who do that day in and day out.

Unfortunately, as the member said, we are losing the ONR. It is a provincial decision but we are losing the ONR in northern Ontario. We really hope the government there changes its mind and keeps the ONR open, but we have seen more and more of the small communities that are linked with rail lose that service if a foreign company does not come in and buy that rail to operate it.

We have seen the current government not invest in rail, which means the rail lines have started to deteriorate and we cannot have passenger service. Freight service is starting to disappear. Would it not be a wise idea for the government to start investing again in infrastructure like rail to ensure safety and transportation?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague from Sudbury. It is amazing what happens when we let a rail system go. Once we decommission that particular mode of transportation to that community, it is not much longer after that the rail line is gone.

I can attest to what is happening in Niagara. There is a trail in Niagara that allows people to walk around the entire peninsula. It is a wonderful trail and a deserved trail for the residents but, unfortunately, it is on a vacant railbed. All the tracks have been pulled up and it is now a walkable trail, which is a marvellous activity for folks to do. However, if the company were to decide to reinstall the tracks, it could not as the railbed is now gone and therefore it could not be done.

My colleague talked about this sense of how communities interact and how people get back and forth. When I was in Scotland last year, my cousin asked me why I did not go to downtown Glasgow. I told him that I would drive down but he said that I should not drive but that I should take the train. He lives in East Kilbride, a community outside of Glasgow but not that far. Lo and behold, people can take the train as if it is a bus. It has about five stops along the way and within 25 minutes it arrives in downtown Glasgow. It goes back and forth every 25 minutes and it is packed with commuters. People do not need to go into a big town. That is a convenience for someone who is close to a big town.

We can just imagine what it is like for those who are further away in remote communities whose service is only rail. We need to ensure we enhance the service, not diminish the service. We need to ensure that those residents have the same attributes as those of us who live closer to big cities continue to get. That is why the ONR cannot be lost and we must keep it.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my hon. colleague's comments on the issue of safe rail and the importance of rail. He talked about the Ontario Northland Railway, which is a perfect example of the government ignoring the importance of rail for years, ignoring public safety and ignoring the benefits while the rest of the world is moving ahead and building railways.

I would like to ask the member what he thinks about the fact that in Ontario we have a government that is so blind that it takes a public asset, public transit, and decides that an entire region of the province just does not merit that kind of basic level of service.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague from Timmins—James Bay. The Ontario Northland is a critical link for folks who live in northern Ontario, just like any other rail line is when it comes to folks who live in remote areas. It is not a federal matter but it is absolutely critical that we stand up for the Ontario Northland. I know my friends from Timmins—James Bay and Sudbury will be doing that, as will we who live in the south be doing.

We need to send a message to the Premier of Ontario that he must not close the Ontario Northland. It is a crucial link for those who live in the north. That is what needs to stay and we are committed to ensuring that it does stay.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

May 1st, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take a break from these rather technical discussions to talk a little about philosophy. I would submit that we sometimes have to look to philosophy to light our way and our common future.

We are considering a bill that deals with railway safety. The railways are inextricably connected with the building of this country. They are the key factor in the marriage of diverse regions that we call Canada.

Canadians and members of this chamber will know that any marriage that is successful is based on trust. It is the essential element of any good relationship. When one loses that element of trust, that foundation, no matter what we build on top of it, the relationship will crumble.

Many will say that we are past the days of railways and have moved on to other more flashy, more attractive means of transportation. We must not forget that railways are still a foundation of our nation and of our economy. Canadians need to trust that rail will always be there.

This bill is an important part of building Canadians' trust in our railways. I want to turn to the issue of trust in terms of the presence of rail rather than the security.

Too often, in the past, railway service has been a favourite spot for making cuts. In 1981, Prime Minister Trudeau made cuts to popular VIA Rail lines. His government reduced the operations of VIA Rail, a crown corporation, by 40%. When the Mulroney government came to power it restored the services that had been cut. However, heavy rail traffic resulted in one of the most tragic accidents in Canadian history: the collision of a VIA Rail train with a CN train in Hinton, Alberta. Twenty-three people died. That is one of the reasons behind the bill we are considering today.

Cuts were made to VIA Rail in 1989, 1994 and 2003.

Canadians love the train, but they think service is not as reliable as it should be. To restore confidence, there have to be investments and improvements in terms of administration.

I return here to the analogy of a marriage in the specifics of the bill before us. In any marriage, people make vows, usually with the intention of creating a bond that will last a lifetime. In the day to day, people make negotiations and compromises. Now the vows, negotiations and compromises do not mean very much if one of the parties does not intend on enforcing or following the rules.

That is why those provisions in Bill S-4, which touch upon enforcement, are important. Time will tell if the judicial penalties are effective. I believe it is important to pass this bill as soon as possible but I must admit to a bit of skepticism that it will solve all railway safety problems.

I believe the government's work in this area is not over and we will see in the years to come what other measures will be necessary. There are many tools in building trust so that Canadians feel safe about their railways. Mandatory voice recorders in locomotives, for instance, would be a beginning.

Another thing that would be helpful is separating out elements of budget bills so that proper debate and discussion could take place about security. Instead, the government goes on with its infantile method of putting everything into a omnibus bill and then claiming that we vote against particular provisions.

I will return once again to the marriage analogy. It is like the government is a cheating spouse and we, the opposition, who want to make this work, just want to search through the credit card records to find the hotel where our partner made a dalliance. Instead, we get flooded with all the household bills and office papers and are told that we are never supportive. It is bad faith.

The government should accept criticism where criticism is due instead of using this infantile “You voted against it” line. Canadians are intelligent. They see through this kind of politics.

As well, we have heard rumours that VIA Rail is going to be privatized. We often hear this government, and in particular the minister, proclaim that they do not interfere in the affairs of a private company. We can therefore expect this legislation to be meaningless, since it is coupled with that ideology of non-intervention in regulation of the private sector.

I am still skeptical about the effectiveness of enforcing a law like this. The government has already shown that it is powerless against the private sector. We hope it will change its mind in the case of railway safety. I would remind the minister that it is the job of government to provide services to the public, for the public welfare, and that this must be done responsibly. Sometimes the government does not believe in its own laws, as was the case with the 1988 Public Participation Act.

The minister has said before:

Railways are the backbone of our economy. As such, they are an important part of our history and our future. It is our shared responsibility to ensure they remain safe.

We in the NDP certainly agree.

I would like to conclude by talking about something important to many people in my home town of Saint-Lazare. It touches regulation directly.

Presently we do not have a mechanism which would get municipalities and rail companies to sit together and discuss issues such as vibrations caused by the speed of trains as well as a panoply of other issues. I have spoken with citizens and with rail company officials. They both tell me that they would like to see a mechanism through which dialogue could take place and that the federal government could play a role in this process. Bill S-4 does not have this provision.

These issues, the relationships between the municipalities and rail companies, directly affect the ridings of Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Glengarry—Prescott—Russell. The head of operations at VIA Rail, Mr. Marginson, indicated that there are 98 level crossings between Coteau and Ottawa.

Currently, companies are forced to contact private landowners if they wish to close a level crossing. The government must play a role to avoid the kind of conflicts and economic repercussions that are often the result of these disputes.

We all have the tools we need, but what is lacking is the political will to use them, because of this government's ideology and its belief that the state should not intervene.

I quote Mr. Cliff Mackay from the Railway Association of Canada, who said this about Bill C-33, the earlier bill:

Increased proximity between rail operations and everyday life in our communities across Canada is a risk factor that must be addressed to improve rail safety. We believe that Bill C-33 can be strengthened in this area. At the centre of these concerns involving proximity between railway lands and municipal development is the wide variation that exists across Canada with respect to land use planning regulations....Bill C-33 is silent on this issue at this time.

Unfortunately Bill S-4 remains silent on this issue as well.

We will support the bill but, as I said before, there are places where it could be improved.

Recommendation 34 that was made would require a process of consultation, which would have been an effective tool in reducing use conflicts and in turn increasing safety. Education campaigns are fine, but they rarely do the whole job.

Cliff Mackay also said:

We believe that one of the most efficient ways of improving railway safety in this area is to give the Governor in Council the power to make regulations respecting notices that should be given to railways regarding the establishment of a local plan of subdivision, or zoning by-law, or proposed amendments thereto, where the subject land is within 300 metres of a railway line or railway yard. We believe the 300 metres is a distance that makes sense from a safety point of view.

In terms of jurisdictional questions of this quote, they do it already in the air, not exact, for air infrastructure. Why not for rail? I admit maybe 300 metres is excessive. It could be less, but it was not really even discussed in a serious way, either as Bill C-33 or in its present incarnation, as Bill S-4.

For Pete's sake, all the companies were asking was that municipalities send a notice of when they were going to make changes that would fall within the area of this rail corridor. They were not even asking for any sort of decision on these questions. Those companies are forced to go to 10 provinces and 3 territories to negotiate an agreement with each one. It could be so much more simple and effective. That is what good governance means. It means the federal government takes its role seriously in bringing the country together.

In the future I hope the government will move from merely being a force for awareness of these issues to being a responsible public administrator that ensures that marriage between Canadians and their railway lines remains healthy for generations to come.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on one of the points the member made on communities. Individuals also have a role to play in the issue.

The member has made reference to the vibrations trains cause quite often in communities that, at times, can lead to foundation issues and so forth. I had the opportunity to work with residents who had contacted me when I was an MLA. Citizens can contact their elected officials and the rail lines if they feel there is an issue that is important for the community to deal with. Generally speaking, and in particular case, CP was very accommodating in listening. We responded and were able to fix the problem by putting in a buffer wall of sorts.

Therefore, citizens have a role to play in this. Would the member care to comment on that?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too have had similar instances where citizens have approached me, particularly about the vibration issue. I admit that we do have recourse. I have spoken to CP several times and we have had a response.

However, I have to admit that this process for all parties, the citizen, municipality, myself and the railway company, appears to be ad hoc. There is no formal process for these claims. The railway company has its process, the municipality has its process and when we are contacted by our citizens, we have a process too. Each member in the House will have a different process.

I am talking about finding a mechanism, a formal process, where we can deal with these issues in a more efficient way rather than the ad hoc way it is done now. We do that through regulation, the idea of good governance and being a responsible public administrator.

I believe that in the future we will probably need a formalization of this process so every citizen can feel satisfied that there is a process in place that they can go through to have their concerns addressed.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, in general the NDP supports the bill because it would improve the oversight capacity of the Department of Transport. It would strengthen the department's enforcement powers, enhance the role of safety management systems, clarify the authority and responsibility for the Minister of Transport, expand the regulation-making authority and clarify the process for the rule making by railroad companies. These are good reasons to support the bill.

If there were ways to improve the bill, could the member tell me what would they be?

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to give the impression that I do not support the bill. It has been in the House for a long period of time. I believe other members have mentioned that the review process for a bill is about five years and this bill has been before the House in different incarnations for more than five years.

One of the things that was brought up at committee when the bill was known as Bill C-33, as I had mentioned to the member for Winnipeg North, was asking municipalities to give a formal notice to railway companies of any changes in land use planning in a set corridor. This would avoid a lot of the problems that are created when developments happen next to railway lines.

My area is primarily agricultural. In the process of change, certain areas go through rezoning and where farms were next to the railway, condo developments sometimes get built. However, the people who move into these condos all of a sudden complain about train noise and things like that. This could be nipped in the bud if there were a formalization of the process where a municipality would give notice to railway companies to say that it intended to make changes in land use.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.

I am pleased to rise in the House to share my support, along with so many of my colleagues in the NDP, for Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act.

This bill seeks to amend the Railway Safety Act in order to improve the Department of Transport's oversight capacity by requiring that railway companies obtain a safety–based railway operating certificate indicating compliance with regulatory requirements.

The bill strengthens the department's enforcement powers by introducing administrative monetary penalties and increasing fines.

The bill also enhances the role of safety management systems by providing for the identification of an executive who is legally responsible for safety and for protecting railway company employees who voice serious safety concerns against reprisals.

The bill also clarifies the authority and responsibilities of the Department of Transport with respect to railway matters, expands regulation-making powers, and clarifies the process for rule making by railway companies.

As my NDP colleagues have said, it is clearly a positive and long-awaited bill. I know that in the last Parliament, my NDP colleagues, the critics and those who are very familiar with the railway industry file fought hard not only to improve safety, but to urge the government to act in order to develop a safer rail transportation system for all Canadians.

As I noted, we in the NDP support the bill, but we also wish these changes had been implemented before and that there was a real understanding of the sense of urgency to ensure rail safety in our country.

In discussing the well-being of rail transport, the safety aspect is critical and we must act on it, but that is only one side of the coin. While we have seen the government hesitate and delay when it comes to making these critical implementations, it has actually acted in a way that serves to weaken our rail system.

VIA Rail funding is being cut by almost $200 million, as indicated in the last budget, something that I and my colleagues in the NDP believe is a crying shame. We all know how critical rail transport is to our country, to ensure our urban areas and our rural communities stay connected. We know how critical the maintenance of the rail line is when it comes to not just transporting people but also goods across our country. As we see VIA Rail, an institution that belong to Canadians, an institution we are proud of, receive such major cuts in funding, the only thing we can conclude is there will be a reduction in both services and quality of services.

This is not the first time this has happened. Unfortunately, in recent decades federal governments, the Liberal government previously, and now the Conservative government, have turned a blind eye to rail service in Canada. I know this well from the region of the country that I come from, having been born and raised in Thompson, Manitoba. Many people notice that on VIA Rail map the only line that goes straight north in the west is the one that reaches up to Churchill, and it goes through my hometown of Thompson.

We know that years ago, when the Liberals privatized the line, it had already needed repair for some time. Of course, we were hoping the government would do the right thing and invest our own taxpayers' money to fix such a critical link between our communities. In fact, it chose to privatize it, sell it out to an American company, a company that has taken far too long to make the kinds of commitments to maintenance required on the track.

There have been some signs of hope with respect to the work of this company. Federal and provincial partnerships have supported the work along the way. At the end of the day, the fact that the government privatized this line leaves it out of our hands. What that essentially means is a reduction in the quality and dependability of service for people in a part of the country who do not have more choices than to use the rail service.

I am honoured to represent people who live and work on the bay line in communities like Ilford, Thicket Portage, Pikwitonei, War Lake First Nation, which are between Thompson and Gillam, and on to Churchill, and actually have no all-weather roads. People in these four communities I just mentioned depend entirely on the rail service for getting back and forth to medical appointments, making sure they have foods coming into their communities and making sure they can bring in materials to build homes and infrastructure in their communities.

This is no small issue. This is the only link for these communities. It is deeply disturbing to see the way in which the government has turned its attention away from communities, not just in my riding but in rural Canada in general, when it comes to rail service.

I would like to note there are a number of other communities I represent in northern Manitoba that are also isolated. I have heard from many people, whether they are in Oxford House, Garden Hill or Berens River. I have heard from elders who know what it was like for communities that were isolated to receive the rail line. These communities that are still isolated are asking what some of the options are, so they can have year-round sustainable transportation, something like a rail service.

I have to say that in many cases they have lost hope, given the government's reluctance to come to a solution with respect to the needs they have for transportation. Fortunately, we have a provincial government that has stepped in and made a real commitment in partnering, especially with the southern first nations for the time being, in building an all-weather road. However, the same cannot be said for the federal government in building sustainable transportation. Fundamentally, as the federal Conservative government pulls away from rail transportation in rural Canada, it is pulling away from the quality of life rural Canadians ought to have.

When we speak of something like VIA, community owned railways or producer cars that communities may own as well, these are things that belong to all of us. What we are saying is the federal government should be there to work with communities, our urban centres and everybody around the table to ensure we have a dependable rail service, quality rail service and safe rail service.

I would like to point out that whether it is on its actions on the Wheat Board or its continued effort to cut away from the basic services rural Canadians need, the government is turning its back on rural Canadians, many Canadians who see rail as the way to the future.

I would say in closing that I am proud of the work our party does to stand up for not just rail safety but rail service in general. I hope we can send the message loud and clear that when it comes to representing rural Canada and Canadians who believe in rail service, we in the NDP are the ones doing it.