Safe and Accountable Rail Act

An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Lisa Raitt  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Transportation Act to strengthen the liability and compensation regime for federally regulated railway companies by establishing minimum insurance levels for railway companies and a supplementary, shipper-financed compensation fund to cover damages resulting from railway accidents involving the transportation of certain dangerous goods.

Among other things, the amendments

(a) establish minimum insurance levels for freight railway operations based on the type and volume of goods that are transported;

(b) require the holder of a certificate of fitness to maintain the liability insurance coverage required by that Act, and to notify the Canadian Transportation Agency without delay if its insurance coverage is affected;

(c) establish that a railway company is liable, without proof of fault or negligence, subject to certain defences, for losses, damages, costs and expenses resulting from a railway accident involving crude oil or other designated goods, up to the level of the company’s minimum liability insurance coverage; and

(d) establish a compensation fund in the Accounts of Canada, financed by levies on shippers, to cover the losses, damages, costs and expenses resulting from a railway accident involving crude oil or other designated goods that exceed the minimum liability insurance coverage.

The enactment also amends the Railway Safety Act to, among other things,

(a) allow a province or municipality that incurs costs in responding to a fire that it is of the opinion was the result of a railway company’s railway operations to apply to the Canada Transportation Agency to have those costs reimbursed by the railway company;

(b) clarify the Governor in Council’s power to make regulations respecting the restriction and prevention of access to land on which a line of railway is situated, including by means of fences or signs on that land or on land adjoining it;

(c) authorize a railway safety inspector who is satisfied that there is an immediate threat to the safety or security of railway operations to order a person or company to take any measure that the inspector specifies to mitigate the threat;

(d) authorize the Minister to require, by order, a company, road authority or municipality to follow the procedures or take the corrective measures that the Minister specifies if the Minister considers it necessary in the interests of safe railway operations;

(e) provide the Governor in Council with a regulation-making power regarding the submission of information that is relevant to the safety of railway operations by any person, other than the Minister to any person;

(f) authorize the Minister to order a company that is implementing its safety management system in a manner that risks compromising railway safety to take the necessary corrective measures; and

(g) declare that certain regulations and orders that were made under the Railway Act are deemed to have had effect from the day on which they were made under that Act and that those regulations and orders continue to have effect from that day as if they were made under the Railway Safety Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:25 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the bill before us, the safe and accountable rail act. The bill would fulfill this title by strengthening safety in our efforts to further improve safety management systems in the rail transportation industry. This is especially vital for addressing safety risks before they become bigger problems and before accidents occur.

Railways are a vital part of Canada's transportation system and keeping them safe is everyone's concern. The railway industry and the government need to work together to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to secure the conditions for a prosperous economy.

In the past, railways and many other safety-critical industries pursued safety through compliance with prescriptive rules and regulations. As safety research progressed during the 1990s, however, it became clear that compliance with rules and regulations alone was insufficient to ensure the highest possible levels of safety. What companies needed for a truly effective safety regime was a proactive system approach to safety that allowed them to identify hazards and to mitigate risks in order to prevent accidents. This approach also allowed lessons learned from minor incidents and day-to-day operations to be included in the system, thereby creating a sea of continuous safety improvement with more likelihood of avoiding accidents.

When the railway safety management system regulations first came into force in March 2001, they were the first of their kind in the federal transportation sector. They were created with significant industry input and emphasized the railways' responsibilities for safe operations. The regulations were established to encourage the development of a safety culture throughout all levels of an organization and to ensure that safety is considered as a factor in all decisions.

The safety management system helps organizations better comply with regulatory requirements and demonstrate their commitment to the safety of their employees. Key elements of safety management systems include, for instance, the development of safety goals and performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, processes and procedures, and monitoring and evaluating. Achieving an effective safety culture is the ultimate goal of safety management systems. An effective safety culture in a company can contribute to reducing public and employee fatalities and injuries, property damage resulting from railway accidents, and the impact of accidents on the environment.

Since the introduction of the railway safety management system regulations in 2001, a lot has been done and much has changed. Our railway network is characterized and challenged by a growing user base, vast distances, new and aging infrastructure, and a significant rise in oil on rail. Regulated safety management systems have come a long way since their beginnings. They have now been implemented in rail, marine and aviation transportation modes in Canada, and have become an international standard for managing safety.

The importance of safety management systems and their implementation in Canadian railway systems was one of the most significant issues researched during the last Railway Safety Act review and a simultaneous study of rail safety in Canada undertaken by the Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. While safety management systems were generally supported, both reviews concluded that implementation among the companies was uneven and that more needed to be done by the companies and the regulator to ensure full implementation throughout the industry. As a result, Transport Canada made several amendments to the Railway Safety Act in May 2013, to increase rail safety by strengthening its oversight and enforcement capacity, and expanding safety management systems for railways. Following these amendments, Transport Canada accelerated the development of the new railway safety management system regulations, 2015, which came into force on April 1.

The new regulations improve the implementation of safety management systems by incorporating more detailed requirements to clarify expectations from both industry and the department. The new regulations also improve the overall consistency and quality of railway safety management systems by adding consistent terminology, provisions requiring evidence of implementation, requirements for the identification of an accountable executive and the creation of a policy protecting employees from reprisal for reporting contraventions, and by expanding application to local railway companies.

However, our government is not stopping there. This bill introduces an amendment that would not only make sure that railway safety measurement systems exist, but that they are also working and are effective. Under the current Railway Safety Act, the Minister of Transport can take enforcement actions, including prosecution, for any non-compliance with the railway safety management system regulations.

The minister can even order a railway company to take corrective measures, should the minister be of the opinion that the company's safety management system presents deficiencies that risk compromising safe railway operations. However, the current Railway Safety Act lacks the authority to address issues with the way the rail companies implement their safety management systems. This bill would fill that gap by introducing a new power for the minister to order a company to take corrective measures should a company's implementation of its safety management system risk compromising safety.

This new power would also allow the minister to order corrective action if a company is not following its safety management system procedures and policies to the extent of risking safe railway operations.

Fairness is also paramount to this proposed amendment, to further strengthen railway safety management systems. Similar to the current safety management systems power related to deficiencies in a company's system, an order made under this new power would be subject to review by the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada; this at the request of the company.

Together, the rail industry and government have accomplished tremendous work toward enhancing the safety of our railway network in the last decade and continuously improving company safety culture, but we still have more to do to make our railway system safer. Transportation safety is crucial, not only for the welfare of families and communities in Canada but to support Canada's long-term economic growth. We need to continue to work together to achieve our goal of giving all Canadians a safer and more responsible railway system and to assure global markets that our transportation systems are not only efficient but also safe and secure.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from my colleague opposite. One of the things he suggests is that the system would become safer because the minister would have the power to order a railway company to comply if she or he finds that the safety management system is not being properly implemented. However, as we have discovered from the Auditor General's report, Transport Canada has failed miserably at examining the safety management systems of the rail companies, and as a result was given a failing grade by the Auditor General in terms of the audits of those safety management systems.

How can the minister actually make an order if the Transport Canada folks are not even able to look at safety management systems to see if they are actually compliant?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, obviously any direction or order taken by the minister would be contingent upon the minister's departmental staff doing the proper inspections. We all know that we have increased our capacity to make such inspections. We have doubled down on the safety as a result of tragedies that have occurred. Obviously, we are going to put our utmost attention to ensuring that tragedies and accidents in the future are minimized through careful scrutiny of all safety regulations.

The minister would be able to make directions when shortcomings are noticed. Certainly, that is the full intent of this act: to make the railway safer for all Canadians while enhancing Canada's economy.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my hon. colleague's comments. I would like to hear what the position of the government is in terms of its reasoning for deciding to impose the responsibility on the railways only, in terms of liability insurance, and not on shippers as well or some mixture of the two. I am interested in the member's response to this. The railway companies argue that they do not always have control over what is in the cars that they move.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, obviously no system is perfect, but certainly the user-pay principle is one that is tried and true. There have been increased issues with regard to compensation and liability, which this government has put in place to protect the public. We will continue to go in that direction. Obviously, we will continue to strengthen the system as we see fit.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that the title of the bill is “an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act”. I heard the member say in his speech that there is much more to do on the issue of rail safety in Canada. This is a bill, even though we will be supporting it on this side, that is very light in the way of changes to increase rail safety in Canada. The member has acknowledged that there is much more to do. On this pressing issue of public safety for Canadians, why did the Conservatives not take advantage of this opportunity to do more now?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Goguen Conservative Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, perfection should never be the enemy of the good, and yes, there is more to do, but these are complex issues.

We know that Canada has a vast railway system, and we know the issues will vary from region to region. Obviously, more study and attention to detail and getting it right the first time is what would be paramount in the mind of this government, of course, while ensuring safety of the public in Canada.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beaches—East York.

I note that the bill would adopt one of the things that the NDP has been calling for, which is the polluter pay principle, so that at any time there is damage to our environment caused by industry, or in this case by railroads and industry, there would be recognition on the part of governments everywhere that the polluter should be responsible for the cleanup and pay for the cost of the cleanup. The bill before us goes a small way toward ensuring that would take place.

Of course, we know the history of where the bill originated, and we have been talking about rail safety since the disaster at Lac-Mégantic. This was a tragedy that killed 47 people, wrecked the town and cost half a billion in cleanup. However, the rail system, as we have it now in Canada, has not been sufficient to protect towns, villages and cities along the way, and the people who reside in them, from the consequences of the enormous increase in the transportation of dangerous goods by rail.

Up until 2009, there were maybe 500 railcars transporting dangerous oil by rail. Since that time, the level of this material has gone up by something like 400-fold, so that we are now seeing 200,000 barrels a day travelling through our communities.

Originally, people thought those barrels of oil were fairly benign. Crude oil is a heavy, massive weight substance that does not catch fire very easily. However, little did we know, with the advent of fracking and diluted bitumen, we now have transportation of goods that are explosive, not just flammable. As a result, we are now transporting what people have referred to as “bomb trains” through our cities and countryside, and throughout the entire country.

The notion of bomb trains is not lost on the people of Canada, and when it happens, we need to have a regimen that actually keeps them safe. It is one thing to suggest, as some on the opposite side have suggested, that if we do not put it in trains, we could put it in pipelines and that we cannot have it both ways: we cannot be opposed to transporting it via pipelines and trains. However, in fact, this material is so dangerous, it is not allowed to be in pipelines. It has too much gas in it, which provides too much pressure. Therefore, the only way it can be transported is by truck and by train.

It is up to the Government of Canada to ensure that, if this is how we are going to transport our natural resources, the transportation is done in a way that is safe and in a way that protects the citizens of the country.

In my riding of York South—Weston, there are three separate rail corridors. Two are on the edges of the riding and one goes right through the centre of the riding. The one that goes through the centre and the one at the bottom edge are both CP main lines. Those corridors carry tremendous quantities of this crude oil in these big black tanker cars, which everybody learned the name of after Lac-Mégantic: DOT-111s.

The minister, shortly after the Lac-Mégantic disaster, announced new emergency directives where the rail companies were not allowed to have single-person crews, have these trains unattended or transport dangerous goods without having two people on the crew. She also announced that they would be eliminating the use of the DOT-111s within three years.

In what universe does that make us safer? For three years then we have to live with the reality that these bomb trains are going past communities, including my community of York South—Weston. Therefore, these bomb trains are still a feature of the urban landscape and something we have to be extremely vigilant about, and I do not believe that the current Conservative government has been vigilant enough.

The bill would do two things.

It would create a regimen whereby the rail company shares the liability with the shippers in terms of dangerous goods. Ultimately, the rail companies would theoretically be responsible for the entire cost in conjunction with the shippers. However, in regards to the cost at Lac-Mégantic, the government has made it very clear that the Province of Quebec will continue to be on the hook for that cleanup, because there was not enough insurance in the system before Lac-Mégantic took place. MMA, the railroad that was involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster, had $25 million of insurance which was quickly exhausted, and the governments then took up the rest of it, not shippers and not the rest of the railroads.

In terms of the dangers of these rail cars going past our communities, there have been some good moves by the government, but there clearly is not enough. Since Lac-Mégantic, there have been at least seven other massive explosions and collisions of these bomb trains in Canada and the United States. There has been Aliceville, Alabama; Casselton, North Dakota; New Brunswick; West Virginia; Saskatchewan; Gogama; and, more recently, Heimdal, North Dakota.

In some of those occurrences, the cars were not DOT-111s. They were the newer cars, the CPC-1232s. Apparently those newer cars, when they break in a collision, blow up just like the DOT-111s. That is what has been happening all across North America.

What is the solution? The minister has said we are going to replace these with the DOT-117 cars, in 10 years. We have now gone from a 3-year window, which is quickly running down, to a 10-year window before our communities will start to feel safe. We do not even know what is safe about these new DOT-117 cars.

The minister has also lowered the speeds through urban centres to 40 miles an hour, or about 62 kilometres an hour. All of the collisions in recent memory, including one of the two at Gogama, have been at speeds that were less than the speed the minister says is safe in urban areas. How is that to make us feel safe? It does not. The residents of York South—Weston do not feel safe and are demanding that the government do something more.

The government did ask the railroads last year to provide them with route analyses and risk assessments. The route analyses are because we are aware that in the United States, governments there have directed railroads to steer clear of major urban centres like Washington, D.C. They are not allowed to travel through that community.

However, here in Canada, the railroads were given the option to come up with a route analysis and decide for themselves whether it is too risky to go through towns. We asked to see those risk assessments that were done by the railroads for the ministry. Transport Canada said that they were the private property of the railroads. We asked the railroads to give us a copy of the risk assessment, and the railroad said that Transport Canada was free to give us a copy. Then the minister came to the committee and said that they are not. We are still no clearer.

I was at a meeting last week of emergency services on rail safety in the city of Toronto, called because the city has determined it would like to know what Toronto emergency services need. Toronto emergency services confirmed that they do not know what the railroads' risk assessments are. They do not know how risky it is, and where the hot spots are likely to be if there is a problem in a rail corridor running through the city of Toronto. They still do not know, except on an annual basis, at the end of a year, what dangerous goods are going through the city.

It seems ludicrous to consider that information to be private and confidential to the railroads when it is the life and limb of the residents of the city of Toronto, and other cities across this fair land of ours, that is at risk should something happen.

If the railroads have produced a risk assessment that says they should be going slower, then let us make them go slower. If the risk assessment says there are particular spots where they should not travel at all, that they should go around, then let us make them do that.

As far as we know, there has been zero action by the minister, by Transport Canada, by the Transportation Safety Board, or any of the agencies dealing with transportation in this country, to deal with the fact that when one of these tank cars breaks in a collision, and they break at speeds as low as 30 miles an hour, maybe even 25 miles an hour, they explode.

We have yet to hear the minister say that she will find a speed that they are safe to travel at. Until she does, the speed that these trains are travelling at through my community, through the rest of the city of Toronto, is too fast.

We are not going to create a system that is 100% safe. CN admitted that at the transport committee, after Gogama, when it said it could not make it 100% safe and can only do the best it can. We need it to be certain that these things are not going to explode in my community.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I noted in my previous question for the member across the aisle, this is an act that is intended to amend the Railway Safety Act. However, it focuses almost entirely on the issue of compensation, liability, and insurance, which is a very retrospective view on accidents. Part of the issue is that not only is rail safety in Canada a very pressing issue, one of great concern for the public about safety, but it is so in the context of rapidly increasing risk.

In fact, when the minister appeared in committee, she provided information about the transportation of oil by rail. The numbers are increasing at a phenomenal rate as we go through the years. The numbers she provided start at 78 million barrels of crude oil in 2013, and there is projected to be a quarter of a billion barrels of crude oil transported by rail by 2017 and going forward.

I am wondering if my colleague can tell us why he thinks the government has been so light on dealing with rail safety issues as part of this bill.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, he is completely right. The bill is quite light on the whole issue of safety. It gives the minister a few more powers, but those powers require knowledge in the minister's hands. Clearly, Transport Canada is not doing the inspections necessary to determine whether the railroads are keeping the lines safe.

This bill is in fact a gift to the major railroads, CN and CP, which were carrying over $1 billion worth of insurance. They now only have to carry $1 billion, so they have had their insurance costs reduced, and above $1 billion they are not liable. They cannot be liable unless they acted in a way that was deliberately in contravention of safety regulations. It is only if they were deliberate about it.

Therefore, it is essentially a gift to the big railroads. It would fill in a gap for the smaller railroads that now have to carry more than $25 million of insurance, and it would provide for a fund. However, the fund will take 15 years to fill up, and even then we do not know if it will be enough.

The bill does not contain a whole lot to make us feel safer in this town of ours.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, where I agree with the member is on the ever-growing demand and expansion of the transportation of crude oil. His colleague made reference to how profound it is going to be on our rail lines in terms of more than doubling over the next number of years. We in the Liberal Party feel it is absolutely critical that we have a safe rail line system to protect the interests of all Canadians, no matter what region they live in and wherever the line goes through with the crude.

However, there is another side to this, which the member made reference to, and that is the issue of pipelines. In listening to what they were saying, it seems that New Democrats have excluded the potential benefits of expanding pipelines in order to alleviate some of the pressure of transporting crude oil on the rail lines.

I am wondering if he could comment on whether he believes there should be more pipelines in order to alleviate some of the pressures of transporting oil in communities in Canada.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Of course, Mr. Speaker, it was the Liberal government that brought in the Railway Safety Act, which in fact took away the responsibility of direct oversight from the federal government and turned it over to the railroads themselves.

However, in terms of pipelines, it is my clear understanding that crude oil has too much gas in it to be transported in any pipeline. It cannot be transported in a pipeline and has to be transported by rail. The maximum pressure that is allowed inside a pipeline to prevent a pipeline from bursting is 19.7 kilopascals, and this stuff generates greater pressure than that. As a result, the only option, without pre-treating all of the oil at great expense to the oil companies, is to transport it by rail.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-52, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act. The bill is returning to us from committee where we heard testimony from witnesses, representatives like Safe Rail Communities in the Toronto area, who share the NDP's view that “Although it has some promising elements...Bill C-52 could go further to ensure safety and accountability”.

Opportunities were missed here, but nevertheless I stand in support of the bill in light of the need for an immediate response to rail safety issues in Canada.

As I have mentioned in the House before, the growing frequency of train derailments since the disaster in Lac-Mégantic has led to many Conservative promises to rectify shortcomings with safety inspections and rail safety compliance measures. The Conservatives have yet to honour that commitment, and the bill goes nowhere near what they need to do to honour those commitments.

With three train derailments occurring in the span of a month last year, this is a pressing issue. It is one that the government has been scrambling to catch up with and has still not caught up.

So far, these accidents have occurred in rural areas. As the critic for urban affairs, I would note that the bill would do little to alleviate the costs and the human tragedy inevitably associated with a derailment in one of our big cities, one of our dense urban communities in this country.

Starting with the Liberal government, in 1999, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have let companies self-regulate and self-inspect their equipment and railway lines. This approach is clearly not working.

The bill put forward by the minister is an effort to address some of the liability and accountability issues associated with rail safety. It proposes several necessary fixes, but it is just a start.

It appears to me that the government is in no hurry to catch up on rail safety issues. We heard the member across the aisle today talking about the need for more study, while communities across this country are anxious about dangerous goods being transported by rail quite literally through their backyards.

The bill sets out to provide some compensation for victims of derailments after the fact. It is as if the government has accepted the inevitability of train derailments in this country. We not only need stronger laws, but we need stronger enforcement of laws and regulations, and we need penalties on those who break them.

It is clear to us and to experts such as the Transportation Safety Board that the government has very serious problems in terms of oversight inspections and audits. Nevertheless, the proposed changes in the bill remain necessary, and while not fully or nearly adequate, they have the support of this side of the House.

Bill C-52 sets out to do three main things. It requires minimum insurance levels for railways transporting dangerous goods. It establishes a disaster relief fund paid for by crude oil shippers to compensate victims of derailments, provinces, and municipalities, and it gives more authority to the minister, cabinet, and railway safety inspectors.

With respect to minimum insurance levels, the bill provides for a legislated minimum insurance coverage of $25 million for railway companies transporting minimal quantities of dangerous goods, and up to a maximum of $1 billion for railways that are transporting substantial quantities of dangerous goods. Railway companies will be liable for losses, damages, costs, and expenses resulting from a railway accident involving crude oil or other designated goods, up to the level of the company's minimum liability insurance coverage.

Based on the costs of train derailments like that in Lac-Mégantic, these measures appear to be justified.

After that disaster, the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway exhausted its insurance coverage of only $25 million and went bankrupt. Yet damages paid by taxpayers with respect to that derailment have been to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Quebec government has estimated that the total cost will be well over $400 million.

The second thing the bill sets out to do is establish a pooled disaster relief fund to be made available if the minimum insurance levels are insufficient or exceeded. While this is a step forward, there are outstanding concerns that this also may not be sufficient in the event that another major disaster, particularly in an urban area.

When it comes to disaster relief, the first responders on the scene will inevitably be firefighters and sometimes the police. For that reason, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs asked that the committee consider a mechanism to fund training, such as through a small allocation of the disaster relief fund, since the bill did not address the serious firefighter training gap that currently existed in Canada. Indeed, equipping and supporting municipal first responders to rail emergencies is of the utmost importance, yet this important aspect is not addressed by the bill and there is no ability to fund training out of this pooled fund.

When my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie followed up at committee on the recommendation from the fire chiefs to use this relief fund to pay for this training, representatives from Transport Canada admitted that the resources had not been a key focus at this point of this bill, but that those questions would come up as they “work through the ways in which we can improve the system as a set of jurisdictions and responsible authorities”.

This is evidence of the government being excessively casual on this pressing issue of public safety. It reveals a lack of urgency from the government. It is a case of the Conservatives making promises but not following up with the necessary resources to back those promises up. It was the same lack of urgency exhibited by the minister in her recent announcement that Canadians would have to wait a full 10 years for the phase out of the dangerous railcars. That is far too long.

On the issue of authority to the minister, cabinet and railway safety inspectors, the bill implements a number of changes to the Railway Safety Act that would give more authority to the minister. As my colleague from York South—Weston has pointed out in practical terms, these are not real. However, railway safety inspectors would be authorized to order a person or company to take any measure they deemed necessary to mitigate a threat to the safety or security of railway operations. Therefore, providing extra authority to railway safety inspectors is a positive and gets us back to where authority ought to lie for safety, with the government and the inspectors it hires rather than safety management systems.

The amendments would also authorize the minister to order a company that was implementing its safety management system in a manner that risked compromising railway safety to take the necessary corrective measures. However, as my colleague has pointed out, it is not clear how the minister will understand or come to know what is in those safety management systems to act on those. Clearly, the missed opportunity here is that of increasing the number of inspectors. Since 2013, Transport Canada has hired just one additional rail safety inspector even though the amount of oil by rail has more than doubled in the last two years.

While the government has a responsibility to ensure that tragedies like Lac-Mégantic never happen again, we do want to ensure that railways have enough insurance to cover all costs in the event of a disaster, and the bill would do that.

Clearly, there is more to do. One of the things that is missing from the bill is defining “fatigue science” in the Railway Safety Act. It is our worry that its absence will not ensure that fatigue management is based on science. Fatigue has been said to be one of the contributing factors for train derailments. Therefore, the fact that the Conservatives refuse to do something about this issue is quite puzzling and disturbing.

On the environmental side, we want to see the polluter pays principle applied to ensure that the total environmental and cleanup costs of rail accidents are borne by the industry and not downloaded onto the taxpayers.

The most important thing, however, is that we pass this bill before the next election to ensure we take at least a small step forward, even though that step is inadequate.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member indicated that a good portion of this bill related to basic insurance requirements and a pooled fund to take care of a disaster that might happen.

First, would he agree that the pooled fund, although it is at $250,000, can pay-out a larger claim, which is backstopped by the consolidated revenue fund, and then, if it is paid out, further and subsequent assessments can be made to ensure the polluter pays?

Second, what is his opinion with respect to having pipelines transport some of this crude oil as opposed to rail? Is he aware that there are plans to potentially take some of that oil through a pipeline to join it to the energy east pipeline as opposed to rail? Could he comment on that as well?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2015 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am aware that costs in excess of the pooled disaster relief fund would be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund.

It is worth noting the costs that flowed from Lac-Mégantic. The Quebec government has put at well over $400 million. Other estimates are much higher. I guess it depends on how one accounts for these matters. It should also be noted that those costs were mitigated by the particular geology of that area, a layer of clay not allowing the oil to seep down causing greater environmental damage than it did.

It is in light of those costs that one can anticipate a train derailment in the context of a dense urban area. It is not to be missed that hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil are being transported by rail through dense urban areas. A derailment there would have costs well in excess of those in Lac-Mégantic, and those costs would be environmental and, most tragically, human costs. There are communities of thousands of people in my city of Toronto within a stone's throw of railway tracks that are transporting thousands of barrels of oil a day in very dangerous railcars.