Evidence of meeting #32 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was s-4.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Luc Bourdon  Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Alexandre Roger

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

GO Transit, where they own the tracks themselves, would not require it.

9:20 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

No, because they would not be under federal jurisdiction. We have no authority over them when they are—

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

But CN and CP operate on those lines.

9:20 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Where CN and CP operate on those lines, CN and CP will require a railway operating certificate. Therefore, they are going to operate on what we call a host railway. Therefore, we are going to look for evidence that they are doing it together.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Only portions of GO Transit will be required to have a certificate. How does that work? For those lines they operate on their own, they don't have to have a certificate. How is that going to work?

9:20 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

We don't have authority to force them to obtain a certificate, but I don't think they will carry two sets of books, a safety program for their own track and a different one for CN and CP. We have been talking extensively with GO Transit. As a matter of fact, we have put a working group together to work on the railway operating certificate, and someone from GO Transit is a member.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

I have to stop you there. I am sorry.

Mr. Adler.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Minister, thank you for being here today to talk about Bill S-4. As you know, this is a very timely, necessary, and important act. I'm glad you are here.

I just want to ask you a couple of questions. In terms of the lead-up to the act, could you talk a bit about the consultation process and just how thorough it has been?

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Yes. It started in 2006, when our Conservative government launched a review of the Railway Safety Act. This review was led by an independent panel of experts who commissioned research and held extensive public consultations across the country.

At the same time, this committee launched its own review of rail safety. The review involved consultations with all interested parties, including railway companies, associations, labour organizations, municipalities, members of the public, and other levels of government.

When combined, the two reviews made 70 recommendations, as we said before. Our government has already addressed and implemented many of them.

Did you say 47 of them, Luc?

9:20 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Yes, there were 47 of them.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

In 2010 our government tabled Bill C-33, which is virtually the same bill we're discussing today. Since Bill C-33 was tabled, our government has continued to discuss the proposed amendments with stakeholders. Further consultation will occur as part of the regulation-making process. Going forward, many members have congratulated our government on the extensive consultation on that one draft before the drafting of this bill.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Thank you.

You had indicated earlier that in the economic action plan, which was not supported by the opposition, there was a $923 million proposed investment in rail safety. Could you highlight some of the actions that were being proposed within that $923 million that the NDP chose not to support?

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Since 2007 we have invested in VIA. We have provided VIA with $923 million to modernize its services. This investment includes various initiatives to improve safety, such as installing signals to control train movements and upgrading highway crossing protection. Our efforts are no thanks to the opposition. They voted against it, but the chair and the CEO said it was very important for them, and they did a good job in the busiest corridor in the country. We'll continue to support them in that way.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Thank you.

I'll defer to Mr. Holder.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Mr. Holder.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Thank you, Chair, and I thank my colleague for sharing his time.

Minister and Monsieur Bourdon, thank you very much for being a part of today's meeting.

As I try to understand more fully the various amendments that are in place, first I'd like to say that it's important to hear that some members opposite are supporting this. Hopefully when this is done we'll have all members opposite supporting it. This has gone through a process more than once, whereby even with the minority government we got the support of all parties. If we could do it then, I sincerely believe we can do it now. With the good work of all members of the Senate, I would say this has gone very much the right way.

One of the amendments that I've seen, Minister, is on the issue of expanding regulation-making authorities, particularly around the areas of environmental protection. Would you help me understand a little more what that means? Perhaps Mr. Bourdon could expand on why that matters.

9:25 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

The panel felt, especially in yards when there were some spills...it's a confined area, and nobody knew exactly what would happen after these spills and all the cleanup that would occur. They thought it would be appropriate to require the railway to file environmental plans to let us know, first of all, what they would put in place to prevent these spills from occurring, and once they happen, how they were going to recover. They would file these plans with Transport Canada; they would demonstrate to us how they would measure compliance and allow our own inspector to audit them to make sure they're in full compliance with their own plan. That would go beyond the yards as well to rights of way.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

One of the other issues is that these amendments are intended to clarify the authority and responsibilities of the minister. From a change standpoint, what would those authorities and responsibilities look like?

April 24th, 2012 / 9:25 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

They were more to clarify the role of the minister in some areas in which we were already doing some things. For instance, in research and development and evaluation of new technology, we've been handling projects for years, but it's never been clear in the act that we had authority to do it. We've put that into the act, to allow the minister to do some investigation and to allow the minister to launch some studies and some analysis. Most of them are just to make this act in perfect harmony with civil aviation and marine transportation.

9:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

I have to stop you there. We're going to take a brief recess.

Thank you, Minister, for attending today. Monsieur Bourdon, you're going to stay with us. You're scheduled for one hour, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

We'll take a two-minute recess and reset the clocks.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you. Welcome back for the second hour. We'll continue with the order of questioning we were following.

Ms. Morin.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good day, Mr. Bourdon. I thank you for being here.

I would like to talk about railway crossing regulations. Mr. Coderre talked about it briefly earlier. You said there would be new regulation. I am wondering if the provisions of the bill on this matter are sufficient. The minister said that there were accidents, that young people crossed fences, etc. Should we not focus on the most dangerous crossings, where there are accidents, where there are more young people and no surveillance? In the cities, should we not build tunnels or trenches to make sure that things are as safe as possible?

9:35 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

We do not have the authority to require tunnels over or under railways. As far as we are concerned, the regulation will increase the protection at railway crossings. However, if we see that the situation is not under control, we will take measures like reducing the speed of trains, or require them to whistle. In some cases, we can even compel them to stop at grade crossings so that an employee steps out to protect the train and the people while the train crosses the crossing. These are the kinds of measures that we suggest.

As for tunnels, I have once or twice seen situations where people were complaining that it was dangerous to use them at night. When I was working in the Quebec region, people contacted me. In the area of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, people even wanted that a tunnel be closed because they considered it dangerous for the population.

In general, we try to work with the railway people in imposing measures that will make the situation safer. On the other hand, the regulations will impose new standards.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you.

Under the new legislation, employers will have to report security problems to Transport Canada.

Why have you decided that the Transportation Safety Board would no longer receive such reports?

9:35 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Because the Transportation Safety Board already uses the Securitas system, which goes a bit further than ours. These people also receive complaints from the public, whereas we only deal with internal reports. This enhancement was brought to the safety management systems. This is for employees who witness unsafe acts, and addresses situations where such acts could occur due to lack of training.