An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property)

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

Sponsor

Joyce Bateman  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

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 Railway Safety Act to improve public safety by providing authority to issue orders if a railway work or a railway operation poses a threat to the safety of persons or property.

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.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

May 7th, 2015 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely honoured to open this third and final hour on my private member's bill, Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act regarding safety of persons and property.

I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak today to my bill, Bill C-627, and of course to answer any questions my colleagues may have.

As everyone knows, our government's priorities include transportation safety in general and rail transportation in particular.

My bill proposes amendments to the Railway Safety Act that would help ensure the safety and security of all Canadians. I am very grateful to all the members who have spoken to my private member's bill in the House and to all the members of the transport committee who have not only asked me all kinds of questions but have also gone through this bill clause by clause, line by line, word by word, and have sent it back to the House for this third and final reading.

I have heard loud and clear from my constituents that rail safety is an issue that matters to them, and as a servant of Winnipeg South Centre, I chose to use my private member's bill to achieve greater rail safety in my constituency. Although my focus was on my constituency, the happy consequence is that it would impact the entire country, and rail crossings would be safer and more secure because of this bill.

This is exactly the reason I am asking all of my colleagues in this House of Commons to support my bill. I see my colleagues from every party, representing every Canadian, and from each and every one, I seek their support.

The amendments I propose to the Railway Safety Act would give additional powers to the Minister of Transport to intervene, when required, to better ensure the safety of Canadian citizens, their property, and our communities. My proposed legislation seeks to empower railway safety inspectors so that they may quickly intervene to restrict the use of unsafe works and equipment and to forbid or restrict unsafe crossings and road crossings.

This is a very important issue to me, because in my riding, I have been receiving a number of calls from constituents about the condition of some rail crossings. This led me to take action.

I want our crossings to be safe for a child riding a bike, to be safe for a senior on a motorized wheelchair, and to be safe for a family out for a stroll or a bike ride together. I want our crossings to be safe for vehicles and not have, as has recently been the case, wood planks flying up and hitting vehicles as they drive by, even at low speeds.

Rail crossings crisscross my riding, and the safety of them can be enhanced. This bill is about prevention. The essence of the bill is to solve problems before they occur.

My private member's bill is designed to assist in expediting the quick resolution of safety issues encountered at crossings, all to ensure the safety of the public. This is always a number one priority, and it is certainly my number one priority: prevention.

I am very proud to be part of this government and to contribute to the service of this nation. I am equally proud of the work that has already been done by my government on rail safety, and I am happy to present this private member's bill to further enhance the safety of people in our communities.

I am asking my colleagues on all sides of this House for their support of my private member's bill, Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act for the safety of persons and property.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

May 7th, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for introducing Bill C-627, which I will be talking about. This bill is a step in the right direction, but it underscores the gaps in existing regulations.

The NDP has long criticized the fact that companies are allowed to self-regulate and self-inspect. The objective is to provide powers to the minister and inspectors so they can intervene if there is a problem.

However, there are not enough inspectors. We have been looking at this issue for a long time in committee, and the problem has not necessarily been solved. Yes, we can grant more powers, but if there is nobody on the ground to ensure that rails and crossings are safe, that does not solve the problem. The Conservatives have cut the budget for rail inspection by 20% since 2010. The government is not investing in inspections.

I support the bill since it is a step in the right direction, even though it is a private member's bill and it conflicts somewhat with Bill C-52, which I talked about earlier. The fact that members have to fix government rail safety regulations shows that there are problems.

What is funny is that in committee, we examined Bill C-627, a private member's bill, before we examined Bill C-52, but we debated Bill C-52 first. Bill C-52 really should have contained mechanisms that referenced Bill C-627. It is a bit complicated and it shows that the government did not do its homework with regard to rail regulations. The government is rushing to fix things after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, and it is improvising quite a bit.

In short, I will support the bill because it is a step in the right direction. However, the government could do more in terms of rail safety.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

January 27th, 2015 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill brought forward by the member for Winnipeg South Centre, who has done an outstanding job in her first term, the first of many terms in Parliament.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about our government's efforts to improve the safety of Canada's national rail system through current regulatory action and, more specifically, through Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act to further enhance the protection of Canadians, property and the environment.

I believe we all would agree that rail transportation is one of the utmost important modes of mobility in our country. Canada's railways are vitally important to our national economy. They are the most fuel efficient form of transportation in the movement of goods in interdependent transportation systems.

Although Canada's railway system is one of the safest, railways are not without risk. Increased rail traffic means increased chances for rail accidents, which disrupt freight, commuter and passenger services. This leads to lost revenue, increased public costs, reduced productivity for customers and in some cases terrible fatalities.

Canada has a robust rail safety program with strong federal rail safety rules and regulations in place to ensure that the safety and the protection of the public is a top priority.

The Railway Safety Act is the cornerstone of the federal rail safety regime in Canada. It provides Transport Canada with the responsibilities to oversee railway safety through inspectors and audits, supported by strong safety education and awareness.

Under the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada's rail safety program is responsible for developing, implementing and promoting safety policies, regulation standards and research.

Transport Canada's oversight role includes monitoring railway companies for compliance with rules, regulations and standards, as well as for the overall safety of railway operations through audits, inspections and investigations. It will take appropriate action when required.

Transport Canada monitors and inspects the operation of 31 federally regulated railway companies and approximately 40 local railway companies. Railway safety inspectors located in five regions across the country are key in maintaining and improving the safety of our national rail industry. They inspect railway tracks and equipment and monitor operations on a regular basis.

Following the tragic events in Lac-Mégantic, Transport Canada took decisive action to improve railway safety and the transportation of dangerous goods by requiring that any person who imported or offered the transport of crude oil conduct classification testing, ensure that railway companies shared information with municipalities, which would further support municipal emergency planners and first responders, and that the least crash resistant DOT-111 tank cars be removed from dangerous goods service.

To address the Transportation Safety Board's recommendations in its final report on the Lac-Mégantic derailment, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive that required railway companies to meet standardized minimum requirements for handbrake applications and implement additional physical securement measures. Moreover, Transport Canada is recruiting additional staff to carry out more frequent audits.

Recruiting additional staff with engineering and scientific expertise for oversight of transportation of dangerous goods is another important component of the reforms.

Transport Canada, in response, is also creating a process for increased information sharing with municipalities, and also researching the properties and behaviour of hazardous materials and Canadian crude oil.

To reiterate, in its commitment to a safe rail transportation system, not only for communities across the country but also for Canada's economic well-being and further strengthening of the federal railway safety regulatory regime, Transport Canada has accelerated the development of several key recommendations. To be more precise, the department accelerated the development of five regulatory packages to address the recommendations of the Rail Safety Act review panel on rail safety; to respond to the recommendations of the Office of the Auditor General's fall 2013 report; and to further improve the railway safety and strengthen the department's regulatory oversight and enforcement capacity.

The new railway safety administrative monetary penalties regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, part 2, on October 22, 2014, with a coming into force date of April 1, 2015. The regulations introduced a new tool in the rail safety program's enforcement regime that could be used to ensure compliance with the Rail Safety Act, as well as regulations, rules, orders, and emergency directives made under it.

Amendments to the transportation information regulation would improve data reporting requirements to better identify and address safety risks before accidents happen. This would improve safety by supporting better planning and performance measurement, allowing for more focused audits and inspections and targeted programs that address specific safety issues.

New railway safety management systems regulations are being developed to replace the existing regulations that came into force on March 31, 2001. They were the first of their kind in the federal transportation sector and introduced a formal framework that helps railway companies integrate safety into their day-to-day operations.

Besides increasing our level of protection from accidents and negligence, these new regulations would further advance a strong and enduring safety culture in the railway industry for years to come.

In addition to these regulatory actions stemming from the review, Transport Canada is also developing grade crossings regulations to efficiently manage and enable safer grade crossings. This would lead to reductions in collisions, fatalities, injuries, and property damage, and the potential for environmental disasters resulting from a spill of dangerous commodities. All individuals who use grade crossings, whether they are walking, driving a car, or a passenger on a train, would benefit from improved safety.

All these regulations are ·expected to come into force within the next year to build upon the existing strong rail safety program and federal railway safety rules and regulations in place to ensure the safety and protection of the public. They all complement Bill C-627 to provide Canadians with the safest railway system possible.

Furthermore, the Government made a commitment in the 2013 Speech from the Throne to ensure that adequate resources will be available to hold federally regulated railways accountable in the event of an incident.

The Railway Safety Act provides the department with the power to protect people, property, and the environment from potential harm by ensuring that railways operate safely within a national framework.

Under the Railway Safety Act, Transport Canada has a variety of tools available to enforce compliance and to respond to safety concerns or threats to safe railway operations, such as a notice and order to respond to threats to safe railway operations, a ministerial order to inform a regulated party of a particular rail safety problem and ordering them to address that problem, and prosecution.

There are many efforts to make our national railway system safer. Our nation was built on the railway and we will grow stronger with a safer railway as we move forward into the 21st century.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

January 27th, 2015 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of the residents of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert on a matter as important as railway safety. I have met with them on numerous occasions to hear what they had to say about this issue. I can say that they are very worried and they are calling for more stringent regulations to be put in place and, most importantly, to be enforced.

It is true that additional safety measures have been taken since the terrible accident in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013 in relation to the transportation of dangerous goods, but we can do more and we have to do better.

Bill C-627, which we are debating today, would give the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors the power to order a railway company or the owners of a crossing to do certain work, not only where railway safety is threatened, but also where the safety of persons and property is threatened. For example, the bill would allow the minister to issue an order requiring that a company take corrective measures in a case where barriers continued to malfunction on a track.

As a result, if I am interpreting this bill correctly, this implies that the minister is going to have each section of track inspected and that she could require the companies to take measures to improve safety.

On paper, this bill would meet the expectations of the people calling for more pedestrian crossings and more investment in making those crossings safe. However, it does not answer all the essential questions, such as how frequently these inspections will be done, and with what resources.

The railway safety budget was cut by $5 million between 2012 and last year. This means that every year, there is a reduction in the railway safety budget. In addition, this bill talks about level crossings. The government already has a program for level crossings, but the money allocated to it is not being spent. There is apparently $3 million intended for improving level crossings left over.

My colleague from Brossard—La Prairie went to meet with the people of Verchères, next to my riding. The municipal councillors told him about something interesting. The municipality of Verchères applied for a grant from the grade crossing improvement program in 2010, to put up a safety barrier. Well, to date, it is still on a waiting list.

Now, they would have us believe that this bill will change things, and starting today, the Conservative government is going to listen to Canadians and provide them with safe level crossings? The government had money to invest in level crossings, but it has still done nothing. They must think we are fools.

The second clause of the bill caught my attention. The bill would give railway inspectors the power to forbid the use of railway works or equipment if it poses a threat to the safety of persons or property.

The Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have clearly said that the department does not have enough resources. The department itself is refusing to say how many qualified inspectors can conduct these audits.

We know that Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Directorate is underfunded. It does not have enough staff and the employees it does have do not have enough training.

According to the Auditor General's fall 2013 report, Transport Canada needs about 20 system inspectors to audit each of the federal railway companies every three years. Right now, the department does not have that many qualified inspectors to conduct those audits. That is not very reassuring in terms of enforcing this bill.

There are still too many deaths and serious accidents at level crossings. Protecting the public and the environment basic government responsibilities. Self-regulation and self-inspection are not working. The government must address the lack of oversight and inadequate audits. In 2009, there were 19 deaths related to level crossing accidents. In 2013, that number rose to 31.

In my riding, there was a serious accident in 2013 because there was no pedestrian crossing. How many similar cases are there in other ridings?

The NDP has long called for the federal government to tighten the grade crossing regulations and implement the TSB’s recommendations. The private member’s bill contains some good elements. The government—and I do in fact mean the government—must undertake a complete review of the railway safety regulations and how they are enforced and find ways to improve them, rather than depending on private members’ bills.

Obviously, I intend to vote in favour of measures that can improve level crossing safety or railway safety in general, but the government cannot shirk its duties. It has to take full responsibility for railway safety. A rigorous evaluation of the state of railway safety in the country is needed and we need to make that happen.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

January 27th, 2015 / 5:40 p.m.
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Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario

Conservative

Peter Braid ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise this evening to speak in support of Bill C-627.

I want to begin by congratulating my colleague, the member for Winnipeg South Centre, for putting forward such an excellent bill, for representing the interests and concerns of her constituents so effectively, and for coming to Ottawa to make a positive change. Her constituents should be very proud of her.

Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property), aims to provide greater protection to persons and property from risks inherent in railway operations.

The amendments proposed in this bill would emphasize the authority of the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors to intervene when required in the interests of the safety of Canadians and for the protection of property and the environment. It would be a step forward in supporting a comprehensive railway safety program and strong railway safety rules and regulations already in place to further strengthen the safety and protection of the public.

Before I describe this initiative further, I will highlight some of the important history of Canadian railway safety legislation.

For many years, the safety of Canada's federal railways was regulated under the Railway Act, originating at the turn of the 19th century when Canada's railway system was rapidly expanding. The Railway Act was designed for a bygone era. At that time, much of the national rail system was under construction to open new territory across this great land and to encourage settlement.

Let us fast-forward to 1989 when the Railway Act was replaced by the Railway Safety Act, which was designed to achieve the objectives of national transportation policy relating to the safety of railway operations, and to address the many changes that had taken place in the rail transportation industry in the years leading up to the changes. 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 the flexibility they needed to grow and prosper.

The Railway Safety Act gave direct jurisdiction over safety matters to the Minister of Transport, to be administered by Transport Canada, where responsibility for other federally regulated modes of transportation resides. Today, railway safety regulation continues to be governed by the Railway Safety Act, which was developed in a spirit of co-operation between industry and government. The act moved away from a one-size-fits-all regulatory approach to one that set objectives in rules and encouraged the responsibility of railway companies to target these rules toward their own unique safety and operational conditions.

Transport Canada undertakes its responsibility to maintain a safe national rail system through policy and regulatory development, through outreach and education, and through oversight and enforcement of the rules and regulations it implements under the authority of the Railway Safety Act. As I mentioned, the Railway Safety Act was developed in a spirit of co-operation between industry and government. To facilitate a modern, flexible and efficient regulatory regime that will ensure the continuing enhancement of railway safety, the act provides for detailed safety requirements to be developed either by the government in the form of regulations or developed by industry in the form of rules. The act provides the minister with the ultimate authority to approve or reject industry proposals on the grounds that they are or are not conducive to safe railway operations.

Once approved, all rules have the force of law, and Transport Canada has broad powers to require a rule, a rule change, or development of its own regulation in areas laid out in the act. In the interests of railway and public safety, the Minister of Transport can order a company to formulate or revise a rule. If the industry refuses to comply, the minister can independently establish the rules.

Fundamentally, the legislative framework recognizes the responsibility of railway companies, like any other companies, for the safety of their own operations, and the federal government, through Transport Canada, retains the responsibility and the power to protect people, property, and the environment by ensuring that the railway companies operate safely within the national legislative framework.

There are currently l6 rules and seven engineering standards under the Railway Safety Act. The main rules cover rail operations, freight car safety, and track safety. These distinctions make Canada's railway system strong, and concrete action has been taken throughout the years to make it even stronger.

Since its introduction, the act has been amended twice, the first time in 1999 to fully modernize the legislative and regulatory framework of Canada's rail transportation system and to make railway companies more responsible for managing their operations safely. It also gave the general public and interested parties greater input into issues of rail safety.

On May 1, 2013, the act was amended again to further improve railway safety, reflect changes in the industry, and make the act consistent with legislation for other modes of transport. The amendments increased safety and consistency by strengthening the department's oversight and enforcement capacity, enhancing the implementation of safety management systems, increasing the importance of environmental management, and clarifying the authority and responsibilities of the Minister of Transport with respect to railway matters.

The amendments also clarified that railway safety inspectors exercise their powers under the authority of the minister and that the minister may enter into agreements with provinces on matters relating to railway safety, railway security, and the protection of the environment.

Over the past 20 years, we have seen significant changes in the rail industry, including industry restructuring, the privatization of CN, the proliferation of short lines, and the rapid growth in freight, passenger, and commuter rail services. Rail traffic between Canada and the U.S. has grown, and expanding trade with Asia has increased international container traffic through west coast ports.

As my brief outline illustrates, rail safety legislation has greatly evolved over the years to keep up with the expanding population, economic growth, and emerging technologies. This bill is the next step toward an even stronger legislative framework, putting even more emphasis on protecting the safety of Canada's most important resource, our people.

Bill C-627 proposes to amend the Railway Safety Act to provide the Minister of Transport with the express authority to disregard objections received for proposed railway work if the work is in the public interest; to expand railway safety inspectors' authority to restrict a railway's operations when its operations pose a threat to safety, including when the threat impacts the safety of a person or property; and finally, to add a new ministerial order to allow the Minister of Transport to direct a company to take specified corrective measures if railway operations pose a significant threat to persons, property, or the environment.

To summarize, the proposed amendments in the bill would increase the safety of Canadians, enhance the safety of our communities, and contribute to a stronger economy, a modern infrastructure, and a cleaner environment by providing the Minister of Transport with additional enforcement authority to further protect Canadians' property and the environment.

They align with the objective in the Railway Safety Act to “promote and provide for the safety and security of the public and personnel, and the property and the environment, in railway operations.”

We believe that these proposed amendments are timely. We are once again modernizing the Railway Safety Act to reflect the verifiably increasing requirements for public and railway safety, and these are changes all Canadians can agree upon.

In our 2013 Speech from the Throne, we included a commitment that the government would take targeted action to increase the safety of the transportation of dangerous goods. The bill is yet another testament that we intend to deliver on the commitment we made to Canadians.

In the interest of all Canadians, I urge all hon. members to give the bill their unanimous support.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

January 27th, 2015 / 6 p.m.
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Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak to private member's Bill C-627. I also want to congratulate the member for Winnipeg South Centre on a bill that really reflects the needs that she saw in her own riding. It is very interesting. As we look at this particular bill and speak to it, we are all looking at our ridings and what the impact might be on them. We heard from different members about having a lot of rail running through their ridings. I myself represent Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, which is 45,000 square kilometres. We have CN, which runs from the Alberta border down through Edmonton to Vancouver, and we have CP, which goes through the Calgary route. When I heard the number of crossings mentioned by the previous member, I was thinking that perhaps the bill would have an extraordinarily higher effect in my riding, because out of those 18,000 or 23,000 crossings, the riding I represent has quite a number of them.

When I was first heading into the election campaign of 2008, I certainly remember going across one of the highways in the region. We were suddenly warned to slow down and go very slowly, because this was a very hazardous crossing. In this way I was first introduced to a very hazardous crossing very early in my election campaign. Of course, I am very pleased to see that there have been improvements.

It is important to reflect that the vast majority of the crossings in our country are well maintained, but there are instances and circumstances that make this particular bill both appropriate and necessary.

As a government, we are committed to the safety and the security of Canadian communities. I think we all agree that ensuring a safe, dependable, and modern transportation system is essential to supporting the continuing advancement and prosperity of this country. It is for that reason that I am very proud, as I mentioned earlier, to support Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property).

Many of us have spoken about the tragedy in Lac-Mégantic. Members will recall that Transport Canada took immediate action to further improve railway safety and transportation of dangerous goods. I want to quickly itemize some of them: classification testing for shipments of crude oil; increased information-sharing with municipalities to facilitate emergency planning; and the removal of the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service.

I have had conversations with a number of the members of the FCM who were at the rail transportation safety committee. They have been very pleased with their conversations with our minister in terms of her responsiveness to the concerns they identified.

To build on these actions, Transport Canada responded to the Transportation Safety Board's recommendations by issuing an emergency directive that requires railway companies to meet standardized minimum requirements for handbrake application and to implement additional securement measures.

Transport Canada is also in the process of recruiting additional staff to carry out more frequent audits, recruiting additional staff with engineering and scientific expertise to oversee the transportation of dangerous goods, creating new processes to increase information-sharing with municipalities, and conducting additional research on the hazards of Canadian crude oil.

In addition to these departmental actions, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has launched a comprehensive review of the state of railway safety in this country. Among other things, this review specifically targets the issues of railway safety, management systems, and the transportation of dangerous goods. It will further increase our understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to rail safety.

Since its introduction, the Railway Safety Act has been amended twice. It was first amended in 1999 in order to provide for a fully modern framework for Canada's rail transportation system. This framework was truly progressive, making railways more responsible for managing their operations safely.

More recently, the act was amended on May 1, 2013, in order to further improve rail safety and to reflect the industry's evolution. To keep pace with industry changes, the amendments further strengthened the department's oversight and enforcement capacity, enhanced the implementation of safety management systems, increased the importance of environmental management, and clarified ministerial authority and responsibilities.

This bill, which would enhance the power of the minister and inspectors to intervene when people and property are at risk, is the next step towards an even stronger piece of legislation and a stronger legislative framework, putting even more emphasis on pre-emptive prevention and the protection of Canada's most important resource: its people.

Approval of this bill would be an important step in supporting a comprehensive railway safety program that would further strengthen the safety and protection of the public. Without a doubt, modernizing the Rail Safety Act to reflect the increasing requirements for public and railway safety is timely.

These are changes that few Canadians can argue about. In listening to the debate so far this evening, it appears that few parliamentarians can argue against them either. Without a doubt, modernizing the Railway Safety Act to reflect the increasing requirements for public and railway safety is timely, and these changes Canadians can agree with.

In closing, many ridings throughout this country have rail lines running through them, and we all recognize the critical importance of the rail system in transportation. I understand that almost 60% of what is transported by rail is destined for export markets, which is a critical part of our economy. Obviously, it is of great importance to match or balance our support for prosperity and jobs with making sure that it is as safe as possible.

I congratulate the member for Winnipeg South Centre on a very positive and important measure.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

January 27th, 2015 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is always a great honour to speak in the House of Commons as a member of Parliament representing Winnipeg South Centre. Today it is a double honour, and indeed a great pleasure, to have the opportunity to thank all of my colleagues on all sides of the House of Commons for their support and interest in my private member's bill, Bill C-627.

My private member's bill proposes amendments to the Railway Safety Act that would help ensure the safety and security of all Canadians. I am thrilled that after I identified a specific legislative gap regarding remediation at rail crossings, which is very helpful for rail safety in urban settings, I have been joined by so many of my colleagues in filling that gap to better protect Canadians.

The amendments I proposed to the Railway Safety Act would give additional powers to the Minister of Transport to intervene when required on an issue of safety and would help ensure the safety of Canadian citizens and our communities. Additionally, this proposed legislation seeks to empower railway safety inspectors so that they may quickly intervene to restrict the use of unsafe work and equipment and to forbid or restrict the use of unsafe crossing work or road crossings. I believe this bill is part of the continuing evolution and improvement of rail safety standards that we all value.

Our government takes the safety of Canadians and the Canadian rail system very seriously. It is committed to ensuring that appropriate levels of safety are always maintained. As members are well aware, our record as a government on rail safety is impressive, and I would really like to single out the hon. Minister of Transport for her leadership as well as her very hard-working parliamentary secretary. This is a vast responsibility that touches the life of every Canadian and the well-being of every Canadian family. I am very grateful to contribute to enhancing our record of rail safety for Canadians with the content of my private member's bill, Bill C-627.

I thank all of my colleagues for their support and I truly appreciate the response I have received to the various communications on my bill that I have sent to every member of the House of Commons.

As my colleagues, the hon. member for Kitchener—Waterloo and the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, noted in their remarks, there is no greater privilege than to serve the needs of our constituencies. With this bill, I have enhanced the safety of my constituents in Winnipeg South Centre and, happily, also the safety of every Canadian.

I thank the members of the House of Commons and ask each one of them for their support for Bill C-627.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

moved that Bill C-627, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely honoured to open the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act, regarding safety of persons and property.

The bill proposes amendments to the Railway Safety Act that would help ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.

I have heard loud and clear from my constituents that rail safety is an issue that matters to them. As the servant of Winnipeg South Centre, I chose to use my private member's bill to achieve greater rail safety in the constituency with the happy consequence that all Canadians across this great country would be safer and more secure because of my bill.

This is why I ask all of my colleagues in the House to support my bill. When I say “all of my colleagues”, I mean my colleagues from every party and my colleagues representing every Canadian. It is all of these colleagues from whom I seek support.

The amendments I propose to the Railway Safety Act would give additional powers to the Minister of Transport to intervene, when required, to help better ensure the safety of Canadian citizens, their property and our communities. My proposed legislation seeks to empower railway safety inspectors so that they may quickly intervene to restrict the use of unsafe works and equipment, and to forbid or restrict unsafe crossings and road crossings.

This is a very important issue to me, because in my riding I have been receiving a number of calls from my constituents about the condition of some rail crossings. This led me to take action. I have heard loud and clear from my constituents that rail safety is a vital issue to Winnipeg South Centre and to Canadians everywhere.

I want our crossings to be safe for a child riding a bike, to be safe for a senior on a motorized wheelchair and to be safe for a family out for a stroll or bike ride together. I want our crossings to be safe for vehicles and not, as has recently been the case, have wood planks fly up and hit vehicles as they drive over a crossing area even at very limited speeds.

Rail crossings criss-cross my riding, and the safety of them can be enhanced. This bill is a bill about prevention. The essence of the bill is to solve problems before they occur.

When I was first considering this issue, I approached officials at Transport Canada to find out if such provisions already existed. To my surprise, they did not. When I then approached the minister to seek her support for my bill, she indicated that she always welcomed such measures to improve rail safety in our communities.

My proposed regulation would improve safety at federally regulated grade crossings, including approximately 14,000 public and 9,000 private grade crossings along 42,650 kilometres of federally regulated tracks in Canada.

I think it is important to give a little background on what has already been done to achieve rail safety in Canada by my government.

On October 29, the Minister of Transport announced Transport Canada's response to the final Transportation Safety Board recommendations on rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods.

Transport Canada has taken and continues to take meaningful and timely action to improve railway safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods by rail. Transport Canada is committed to ensuring that the Canadian railway system is safe. Transport Canada continues to work with stakeholders very closely to protect the safety of all Canadians.

Our thoughts and prayers will always remain with those people of Lac-Mégantic who were so affected by last year's tragic accident. Immediately following the derailment, the Government of Canada took very decisive action to enhance the safety and integrity of Canada's rail system. We will continue to implement each and every recommendation made by the TSB in its report on this incident.

Transport Canada has accepted and is committed to implementing all the recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board in its final report. In fact, effective immediately, Transport Canada is requiring railway companies to meet standardized requirements for handbrake application and to put into effect physical defences to secure trains.

It is increasing oversight by recruiting additional staff to carry out more frequent oversight through audits and creating processes for increased information sharing with municipalities. It is conducting further research on crude oil properties, behaviour and hazards, and is launching targeted inspection campaigns to verify the classification of rail shipments. Finally, it is requiring certain railways, including short lines, to submit training plans to Transport Canada for review, and is conducting an audit blitz of short lines to determine specific training gaps.

These measures would further strengthen Canada's railway system and the transportation of dangerous goods by rail.

The department would continue to work with the Transportation Safety Board to do all it can to maintain and enhance the safety of Canada's railways and the railway system. By announcing these measures, Transport Canada is being proactive in developing concrete solutions in a timely manner to further strengthen Canada's railway system and safety.

My proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act seek to give additional powers to the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors so that they may intervene when required in order to better ensure the safety of citizens, property and communities.

Additionally, this proposed legislation seeks to empower railway inspectors so that they may quickly intervene to restrict the use of unsafe works and equipment, and to forbid or restrict the use of unsafe crossing works and road crossings.

Our government takes the safety of Canadians and the Canadian railway system very seriously and is committed to ensuring that appropriate levels of safety are maintained. We have invested $60 million to support response and recovery efforts, and committed $95 million for decontamination and remediation efforts.

Furthermore, our government took very decisive action to address the Transportation Safety Board's recommendations, and this past April, directed Transport Canada to remove the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from service, require the DOT-111 tank cars that do not meet certain safety standards to be phased out within three years, and require emergency response assistance plans for even a single tank car, which is carrying crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel or ethanol.

We created a task force that brings municipalities, first responders, railways and shippers together to strengthen emergency response capacity across the country, and we require railway companies to reduce the speed of trains carrying dangerous goods and implement other key operating practices.

We have issued a protective direction directing rail companies to share information with municipalities. We recognize the responsibilities of all parties involved in maintaining safe railway transportation in Canada, and our government remains committed to two-way dialogue and information exchange with key transportation stakeholders in communities across Canada.

The health and safety of Canadians is a priority for our government. We announced a directive that would ensure that all crude oil being transported is properly tested and classified and that results are sent to Transport Canada. This provides Transport Canada with an additional means to monitor industry compliance and focus our efforts for the greatest safety benefits for all Canadians.

Our government has completed more than 30,000 rail safety inspections in one year alone, invested more than $100 million in our rail safety system, continued to hire more inspectors, increased the fines for companies found to be breaking our regulations, and created whistle-blower protection for employees who raise safety concerns, as well as requiring each railway to have an executive who is legally responsible for safety.

Earlier this year, as part of rail safety week, our government marked the occasion by investing $9.2 million in improvements to over 600 grade crossings across our country. Our government has also proposed new regulations that would improve safety at rail crossings by establishing comprehensive and enforceable safety standards for the grade crossings, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of railway companies and road authorities, and also ensuring safety information is shared between the railway companies and road authorities.

Members might think that with all of those actions taken by this government, a seemingly exhaustive list, we would be done. However, I want to do more to build upon that momentum. They are all positive systemic actions and directives taken to ensure railway operational safety. My bill is really a bill focused on the security and safety of people. I believe it is very complementary to actions already taken by our government to enhance rail safety.

In the course of preparing my bill, I reached out and spoke to many individuals and organizations. They include a great number of constituents in my riding of Winnipeg South Centre who voiced their concerns with safety at rail crossings in our community. I was very proud to bring together the private sector, law enforcement, various levels of government and unions to enhance the safety of all Canadians. It is apparent to me from the conversations I have had that all stakeholders in this industry want to have exceptional safety records.

My private member's bill is designed to assist in expediting the quick resolution of safety issues encountered at crossings, all in order to ensure the safety of the public. This is always our number-one priority, and it is my number-one priority.

I am very proud to be part of this government and contribute to the service of this nation. I am equally proud of the work that has already been done by my government on rail safety, and I am happy to present this private member's bill to further enhance the safety of people, particularly at rail crossings in our communities. I am asking my colleagues on all sides of the House for their support of my private member's bill, Bill C-627, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act, regarding safety of persons and property.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague opposite once more for her speech and for introducing Bill C-627, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property).

As the official opposition critic, I am very pleased to be a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We have had and continue to have the privilege of examining in detail everything to do with rail safety. In the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, this is clearly a very important file for Canadians, especially since they are asking to be better informed and they want to know what the government is doing to ensure their safety.

I will go back to the bill. As I mentioned, the bill amends the Railway Safety Act. As my colleague said, it authorizes the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors to order a railway company or the owner of a crossing—for example, a level crossing—to do certain work, not only when rail safety is threatened, but also when the safety of persons and property is threatened.

I want to say right now that we will support the bill at second reading. At its core, this bill is designed to improve rail safety. I listened to what the member said, but we still have some questions about how the bill will be enforced and what it will do, in particular. One of our questions has to do with why these changes were proposed. That is something I was going to ask the member before my colleague opposite interrupted me.

The member said that the amendments to subsections 31(1) to 31(3) would improve rail safety because it would include the safety of persons or property. However, as I was going to ask her, subsection 4(4) of the Railway Safety Act already provides that in determining whether something constitutes a “threat to safe railway operations”, consideration must be given “not only to the safety of persons and property transported by railways but also to the safety of other persons and other property”.

We will surely have the opportunity to study these issues in committee, but it does not seem as though the bill would change much in the act itself.

I listened closely to the bill sponsor's speech. From what I heard, she spoke more about what the government has or has not done than about the bill. It is relatively straightforward in comparison to the government's omnibus bills. It is about five pages long.

Once again, if the bill is referred to committee after second reading, we should be proposing some changes and asking some questions. It seems as though she chose to use certain terms instead of others, which could have an impact on environmental protection. It does not make much sense.

Getting back to public safety and level crossings, it is true that people's safety is important. During the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, I was the deputy critic of the NDP, the official opposition. After the tragedy, I travelled across Quebec as part of a railway safety consultation to hear what people had to say. We also wanted to hear what mayors and elected municipal officials had to say on the subject. This is a very important issue when we consider all of the communities, even downtown areas, through which trains travel. We need to ask questions, especially when it comes to level crossings.

When I asked the member that question, I briefly mentioned that the government said it was making progress on rail safety and that this is very important, especially in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. However, the fact is that the rail safety budget was cut by $5 million between 2012 and last year. Every year, the rail safety budget shrinks. The most ironic thing is that, in this case, we are talking about level crossings.

The government has a plan for level crossings, but the money allocated to that plan is not being spent. There was $3 million left over that was supposed to have been spent on improving level crossings.

We asked the government about that in the House, and it gave us a number of reasons. When I toured around talking to people about rail safety, elected officials told us that the program existed, but that it was hard to get funding from it. I wonder if the government makes these funding announcements with the full intention of making it very hard for anyone to actually get the money.

When I went to Verchères on Montreal's south shore and to Montreal, I attended a meeting where I talked with various municipal elected officials. My colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie was there too. They told us that the program exists, but that they had a hard time getting information and funding.

One of the problems that keeps coming up again and again inside and outside the House is the government's way of doing things, even though it says that rail safety is very important. I must admit, the government has taken action since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, but could it have taken action sooner? Yes, it could. Can it do more? Yes, it can.

The budget does not seem to contain any measures to ensure that Transport Canada and rail safety organizations have the tools, training and resources needed to ensure public safety. Unfortunately, the budget has been reduced. It is completely incomprehensible and goes against all common sense.

This bill gives the minister the power to intervene should any problems related to level crossings arise. However, the Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board have made it very clear that the department does not have enough resources.

When I asked the parliamentary secretary how many railway safety inspectors there are, he could not answer. We still cannot get those figures. Regulations are being put in place, as is the case here, but no one knows how or if they will be enforced.

Why use a private member's bill to amend something as important as the Railway Safety Act, which has to be reviewed periodically anyway? Why not conduct a full review of the act itself in committee?

We are making a change here. I noticed some irregularities and some confusing passages in this bill. That is why we want to study it in committee. Often, the problem is that we are unaware of the unintended consequences.

Why use a private member's bill? Why is the government doing nothing to ensure that railway safety legislation is solid and much safer?

The government has a tendency to allow companies to self-regulate. That is its approach, which the Liberals support. We often hear the question, “Why is the company not doing anything?” The government allows these companies to do what they want. Sometimes, both the Liberals and the Conservatives wonder why the company did not act on its own initiative.

In 2010, the Transportation Safety Board made recommendations specifically on crossings. Those recommendations have still not been implemented, despite what the hon. member said. I will quote an excerpt:

Transport Canada must implement new grade crossing regulations, develop enhanced standards or guidelines for certain types of crossing signs, and continue its leadership role in crossing safety assessments.

Regulations should be implemented, but that still has not happened and we do not know why.

Why is the government taking so long to implement the recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board?

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2014 / 7:20 p.m.
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Essex Ontario

Conservative

Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in support of Bill C-627, in the name of the member for Winnipeg South Centre. I would like to commend her initiative. It is proof positive that individual members can take a local issue and have an outcome with national significance and that an individual member can make a difference in national matters. It is proof positive, once again, that individual members of Parliament in the House are engaged in relevant and meaningful matters.

We have just heard that the NDP does not support the bill, but it does support a study of the bill. I find that troubling. It is the same with our Liberal colleagues across the way, who waited until minute nine of 10 to mention the number of the bill.

Let me speak in support of Bill C-627 right off the bat. It is important for a number of reasons. First, it fits with what the government is doing. It is complementary to a number of initiatives it has taken. We heard some of those amendments to the Railway Safety Act in May, 2013, which expanded regulation-making authorities. A number of concrete actions have been taken with respect to the Transportation Safety Board's interim report and final report regarding Lac Mégantic.

There was decisive action on crude classification testing. We heard the Liberal member say that the government did the right thing.

There is railway company information-sharing with municipalities. That was a product of discussions with the FCM, which represents the municipalities, and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, representing firefighters and first responders. Of course, there are our measures to take the least crash resistant DOT-111s out of service entirely.

There have been important actions and an emergency directive, as we heard last week, on having a minimum number of handbrakes to be applied; secondary redundant physical systems to ensure that trains are completely secured; additional staff to improve oversight at Transport Canada, including more specialized auditors to help the inspectors and auditors do their jobs well; in-house scientific capability regarding the properties of crude oil; and testing so that when we have the targeted regime in place, we can verify that what is placarded is, in fact, what is in the car. There are also important improvements related to training employees.

While the proposed amendments in Bill C-627 are focused on protecting people and property from railway accidents that may occur on railway tracks and at grade crossings, they are entirely complementary to the series of actions that were taken both before and after Lac Mégantic. They are helping us achieve our goal of improving the railway safety regime. As we heard from the member herself, they will help plug a gap in the regulatory environment, and that is important for our communities.

We have additional measures we are accelerating in terms of regulations as well. That is important for people to know. They include the work done for a railway safety panel review some years ago, SCOTIC's own review, and the Auditor General's reports more recently.

New railway safety administrative monetary penalties, which have just been added, have a coming into force date of spring 2015. That will help us expand the suite of compliance measures to enforce the compliance of railway companies with the regulatory environment.

We have regulations for the implementation of safety-based railway operating certificates for federally regulated railways. That work is well advanced as well. The certificates will be issued to railways once they meet certain safety conditions. They will significantly strengthen Transport Canada's oversight capacity by giving the department the authority to stop a company from operating altogether in the event of severe safety concerns.

We have grade crossing regulations as well that would improve safety by establishing comprehensive and enforceable safety standards for grade crossings, clarifying the roles and responsibilities, who does what in relation to what the railway companies or road authorities may do at crossings and the approach to crossings. This would assure the sharing of key safety information between railway companies and road authorities. We believe the overall result would be efficiently managed and safer grade crossings.

With respect to Bill C-627, I will provide an explanation for the official opposition critic who does not understand what the bill is about.

One amendment would provide the minister of transport with the new authority to order railways to take corrective measures in the event of a significant threat to persons, property or the environment. The remaining amendments would provide express language to emphasize that certain authorities already in place would also be exercised to protect the safety of persons or property.

The first key amendment proposes to provide the minister with express authority to disregard objections received for suggested railway work if the work is in the public interest. As it stands currently, the Railway Safety Act requires that a notice of proposed construction or alteration of a railway be given to persons whose safety or property may be affected, for example an adjacent landowner or municipality.

If adjacent landowners, for example, think the work would prejudice their safety, or the safety of their property, they can file an objection to the work. If the objection cannot be resolved and the work is to continue, then the minister of transport must approve the work. In his or her assessment, the minister takes into consideration any objection received and has the authority to disregard objections that are frivolous or vexatious, or in other words, not in the interest of safety.

Bill C-627 proposes to expressly allow the minister to also disregard objections when the proposed work is in the public interest as it relates to the safety and the protection of people, property and the environment.

The second major amendment proposes to provide express authority to allow a railway safety inspector to restrict a railway's operations should those operations pose a threat to the safety of persons or property. For example, the amendment would provide the inspector with clear authority to order a company to reduce the speed of trains over a certain grade crossing due to poor sight lines caused by brush or trees in order to mitigate the threat to those crossing that track, until such time as the company comes up with a permanent solution.

The third major amendment proposes to introduce a new ministerial order, which will provide the minister with the authority to require a company to take specific corrective measures if a significant threat is created by railway operations to persons, property or the environment. For example, the amendment would allow the minister to issue an order requiring a company to take corrective measures where crossing signals continued to malfunction on a railway line.

All the initiatives being implemented right now, and specifically the amendments being proposed in Bill C-627, will improve railway safety in Canada in the long term. The bill would provide increased safety for Canadians and Canadian communities; economic benefits to the industry by decreasing the likelihood of costly accidents and delays; a variety of benefits to external stakeholders, including provinces, municipalities, shippers and the travelling public; and last, but not least, it would provide support for a stronger economy, a modern infrastructure and a cleaner environment for all Canadians.

I encourage all members to support the bill on its merits and for what it would do. It is an important step forward.

I want to again commend the member for Winnipeg South Centre for her initiative. A local concern exposed that there was a gap in a regulatory environment. She worked to propose a solution that would address the concerns that we are talking about today, a solution that is not only effective but entirely relevant.

When passed and implemented, these measures will provide not only greater safety in her community, but also in communities from one end of the country to the other, including mine. I commend her for her work. I wholeheartedly support it. I look forward, when the time comes, to standing in this place to vote for it, not just to get it to committee but beyond committee and into law in our country.

Railway Safety ActPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House this evening and represent the constituents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park in Toronto on the very important issue of rail safety.

Tonight we are debating Bill C-627, a private member's bill. The focus of this bill is on the issue of railway level crossings. That certainly is a major issue. A number of people are injured or killed every year.

I would first like to salute the hard work of my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie for all his diligent work in holding the government to account on this very important issue of railway safety. Following the disastrous crash in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canadians awoke to the very real concern that perhaps their safety was not being as diligently monitored as it should be by our federal government.

I want to speak a bit about my riding of Parkdale—High Park. The northeastern part of my riding is called the junction because it is an intersection of multiple rail lines that cross and become the northern and eastern boundaries of my riding. The southern part of the riding also has a rail line running through it. We are a riding of railways and the issue of rail safety is important to the people of Parkdale—High Park.

The disaster in Lac-Mégantic got the attention of people because those same runaway tank cars that crashed and exploded went right across the northern boundary of my riding. Our community was horrified to find out about the dramatic increase of tank car traffic in Canada.

In 2009, there were 500 tank cars. In 2013, there were 140,000 tank cars rumbling through our community so quite rightly people are concerned. Some of the people in Parkdale—High Park look out their bedroom window and see hundreds of these tank cars rolling by or children who are playing in a nearby parkette on Vine Avenue. Therefore, it is of great concern to the people in my riding.

We recently had a meeting on this issue of railway safety. We had a huge turnout. Many community members came out to discuss this issue. We were pleased that CP Rail sent a representative. While not everyone who attended the meeting was happy with the answers they received from the representative of CP Rail, they were pleased that a representative attended the meeting.

However, they were frustrated that the Minister of Transport refused to allow any officials from Transport Canada to attend the meeting and answer the questions of the people from my community. We found that shocking.

While I want to acknowledge that the federal government has made some moves forward and some strides on railway safety following the disaster at Lac-Mégantic, let us be clear that there remains a lot of work to do. People have questions and concerns. I find it shocking that the minister would refuse to allow officials from Transport Canada to hear the concerns of the people of my community, so I will bring those concerns here right now.

They want to know what the timetable is for phasing-out the DOT-111 cars. They want to know why the cars that will replace them are not the double-hulled cars, which are the safest, and have gas sensors in them to determine if there is a buildup of gas.

They want to know what the emergency safety procedures are in their community. At this meeting, one woman very poignantly said that her house backs right onto the railway lines. She wanted to know what to do if there was an explosion or a derailment: hide in her house, or run?

We had the head of the fire department for the City of Toronto at this meeting. He advised her to stay in her house, but he said that it depends on what the tank cars are carrying. It could be that there is a gas, and if she goes outside, she could be asphyxiated. However, it could be something very explosive, so staying in her house might be the worst thing to do. He recommended they stay there until they know what it is.

Frankly, we have no idea what the emergency procedures are. I think, most importantly, people have no idea what is being carried in these tank cars.

People wanted to know what is in the cars. They would also like to know if there have been any explorations of alternative routes that do not go through some of the most densely populated neighbourhoods anywhere in this country, because it would make a great deal of sense not to expose this massive number of people to potential tragedy.

It is not that Lac-Mégantic was an isolated example. We had a derailment in the junction a few years ago. Fortunately, the cars were carrying grain, not raw bitumen. That was very fortunate. We also had a huge derailment in Mississauga many years ago that resulted in the evacuation of the entire city of Mississauga.

Disasters happen. We need not only to be prepared; community members also need to know what the risks are and if they are being prepared.

The railway industry has been privatized and deregulated by previous Liberal governments, and then they proceeded, along with the Conservatives, to privatize and deregulate rail safety and rail enforcement. We saw that pointed out in the Lac-Mégantic inquiries as one of the major problems with the railway sector. That was something that was criticized very severely in the inquiry.

What we are debating tonight is a private member's bill that aims to make some improvements to safety at level crossings. My question to the government is this: why a private member's bill? Why is the government bringing this measure in through the back door? Why did it not spend the $3 million on level crossing safety that was in the budget last year? Why is that still sitting on the books? Why has the budget for railway safety been decreased by $5 million?

I see my time is up, but I just want to say this is a critically important issue. It is something that certainly affects the residents of Parkdale—High Park, but it also affects all Canadians.

There are some positive features in this private member's bill, and of course we will support anything that improves railway safety and level crossing safety. However, for goodness' sake, the government cannot shirk its duties. It must take full responsibility for railway safety. We need a thorough assessment of the state of railway safety in this country. We need action. If the government refuses to act, then it should get out of the way and let New Democrats take responsibility for railway safety, which we will do as the next government.

Railway Safety ActRoutine Proceedings

September 23rd, 2014 / 10 a.m.
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Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-627, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act (safety of persons and property).

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to table a bill that would improve rail safety, not only in my constituency of Winnipeg South Centre but in communities all across Canada.

The bill would help protect children, cyclists of all ages, and motorists from treacherous conditions at rail crossings that are in disrepair. The bill would also protect seniors and the disabled from the many risks associated with ill-maintained rail crossings. In fact, one of my constituents, a senior citizen in a motorized wheelchair, became stuck at a poorly maintained crossing. Fortunately, a good Samaritan came to her aid, averting a potentially disastrous situation.

Because of this, I have decided to take action to ensure that a similar circumstance does not take place again. My proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act give additional powers to the Minister of Transport and railway safety inspectors so they may intervene when required to better ensure the safety of Canadian citizens.

I invite all of my colleagues in the House of Commons to join me in making my bill a reality.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)