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

The Budget
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, May 1, is International Workers' Day, and I would especially like to focus our attention on the people who have lost their jobs and those affected by the economic downturn. They are going through difficult times, and the government should be paying attention to their concerns.

The government is really not doing anything to improve access to employment insurance, even though many requests to that effect have been made. It still refuses to improve the system, and the program seems to be a burden for it.

Why does it not take the best course of action and transfer the employment insurance program to Quebec, as the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses and the Parti québécois are calling for?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, there is a shortage of workers and skills throughout the country. For that reason it is very important that the unemployed have access to training that will give them the skills needed to apply for jobs.

For six years, we have poured a great deal of money into helping the unemployed find new jobs with skills that are in demand today and will be in the future.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Madeleine Dubé, Minister of Health of New Brunswick.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in light of the answer given by the Prime Minister today to my questions with respect to the testimony in the public accounts committee, I wonder if I could have unanimous consent to read the relevant section of the testimony in that committee into the record.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member for Toronto Centre have unanimous consent?

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

There are five minutes left for the hon. member for York South—Weston. I am sure he would appreciate all his colleagues leaving the chamber if they need to carry on conversations so the House can hear what he has to say.

The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to continue my discourse on Bill S-4.

As I suggested earlier, the new Bill S-4 contains some amendments to the environmental protection portion of the bill which would give more power to the minister to enforce environmental protection. As I started to say earlier, one of the things that gives residents in urban areas, and in particular in Toronto, significant worry is the exhaust from diesel trains.

New York City is 104 years ahead of Canada because it banned fossil fuel-burning trains from Manhattan Island in 1908. Since that time, only electric vehicles have been permitted to operate in Manhattan, to the point where engines actually have to be changed on the way in. That has resulted in a much cleaner and more manageable environment in the city of Manhattan.

The citizens of Toronto would like the same courtesy. As such, they are pushing GO Transit in particular but ultimately all the other train operators, CN, CP and VIA, to use electric vehicles wherever possible.

I note that environmental regulations are currently stronger in the United States than they are here and I hope the minister will make Canadian railroads adopt tier 4 standards for all their engines in 2015, as is the case in the United States.

The other piece of safety worry for residents in the city of Toronto is derailments. One only has to witness the kind of destruction that takes place in adjacent areas when there are derailments.

In the city of Toronto rail corridors traverse significant residential populations. The rail industry requested that this bill be amended to allow it to have some say over how close houses can be built to the rail corridor.

In Toronto the rail corridor is being moved closer to homes by the rail company itself. It beggars belief that it would actually do this, but that is happening. In one case, CP Rail expropriated the backyards of several homes in order to move its rails 20 feet closer to the homes. If a derailment occurs in that piece of my riding, the devastation will be unimaginable.

Therefore, what does the rail company do? It is now building a crash barrier for protection, but it will not protect the homes. The crash barrier will be between two sets of rail corridors so if a crash happens, CP freights will not damage CN and VIA rails, but nothing has been built to protect the homes. The bill should provide the minister with the power to look into this. Why are we protecting against a crash if the crash happens toward the rail corridor rather than toward the homes?

A school is right on that rail corridor. The play yard is literally five feet from the rails. When that was criticized, the rail company said that people should not build schools so close to a rail corridor. The trouble was the school was there first and the rail company just did not know that.

One cannot talk about rail safety without saying something about the deteriorating infrastructure of our railway system. My colleagues in the NDP from coast to coast see rail service being closed for safety reasons as a result of deteriorating tracks and a lack of adequate maintenance. Clearly, track maintenance is an issue in rail safety. Significant investment needs to be made in rail infrastructure across Canada, not only to improve rail safety but to continue to provide, and hopefully expand, rail service both in terms of passenger service as well as freight service.

Passenger and freight services were closed recently in the Gaspé and on Vancouver Island as a result of deteriorating rail infrastructure. These services were handed to the local authorities by the big rail companies in what was almost an unfit state. The local authorities do not have the funds to keep them up the way the rail companies did. Therefore, we need federal action to create rail safety on these and other such rail corridors.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate my colleague’s words. I particularly appreciate the last thing he said, when he spoke about something that is of enormous concern to people in my riding: the fact that the railway has deteriorated to the point that it no longer offers its services. The train no longer goes to Gaspé, and that is of enormous concern to us. The federal government is not stepping up to provide us with the assistance and improvements that are needed to get the railway back in service.

I would like to ask my colleague what the government could do and how the bill that is before us could be improved so there would be significant improvement in terms of the deterioration of railway services everywhere in Canada.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Railway Safety Act on its own would merely determine that a railroad had become unsafe, but that having been determined, I think it is incumbent upon the federal government to determine the best mechanism for reinvigorating it or making that section of rail useful again to the public

. In the case of the Gaspé and in the case of the Vancouver Island passenger rail service, both of those corridors are now owned by small local community groups. They are not owned by the big powerful rail companies, which handed them off knowing that they were in a deteriorating state. The federal government needs to assist with the maintenance of these rail corridors financially. I am not suggesting that it needs to pay all of it, but when a rail corridor is owned by small local municipalities, there needs to be a sharing of that responsibility federally, provincially and locally, and there needs to be some recognition by the government that those infrastructure improvements are for the good of Canada and for the good of those communities.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, in northern Ontario many communities, including the city of Sudbury, were created when the rail line came through back in the 1800s, so rail has been an important economic link for most Canadian communities right across the country from coast to coast to coast. It linked coast to coast to coast for many of us.

Now we have seen the government not investing in the infrastructure to support rail and we have seen the safety of rail service decrease. We have lost rail in northern Ontario, which could be the life hub for many to get from community to community. Passenger service has stopped because rail has become so unsafe. There is not enough infrastructure in place. I know my hon. colleague has spoken to that. I would like to hear his comments and hear what we can do to continue to make rail safe and get people using the trains once again.

Safer Railways Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a very good point that rail actually built this country in large measure and opened up cities like Sudbury. The community that I come from, Weston, owes its size and diversity in large measure to the fact that the rail corridor was encouraged to come through the town back in 1852, with the building of a huge trestle over the Humber River. That trestle is still in existence. The original brick and the original pillars at the bottom of that trestle are still there, exactly as they were placed in 1852. They just do not build them like they used to.

However, the member's point is about what the government needs to do to encourage the use of passenger and freight rail as the medium of choice for travellers. For passenger rail, the service has to be frequent, convenient, on time and reliable. That currently is not always the case.

Certainly in a place like northern Ontario, where it is difficult to get around by any other means, rail is essential. In the case of freight rail, we have to realize that it is the way we have to move. We have an undertaking to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2050; that is not going to happen unless we move a lot of our goods transport away from trucks and onto trains. The only way we are going to manage all of that is if the current government is part of the investment into our rail system in Canada.