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

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

The inspector acts on behalf of the minister.

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Yes, the authority is delegated to the inspector by the minister.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

And not just for remedial measures, but also for prevention.

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Absolutely.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

If the minister notices something, one can approach him directly and he has the power to act immediately.

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

The bill grants many powers to the minister. No power is granted to the director general. Powers are granted through a delegation instrument.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

However, the minister can delegate his power to you.

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

Yes, as is the case now.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Concretely, does the bill grant the minister all the necessary powers to act and react in matters related to railway safety?

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

I think so.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Is there something else that we need?

10 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

I don't think so. When we worked on this bill, we tried to include everything that was missing. It is a very good bill.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Mr. Holder, your final comments.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Thank you, Chair. This gives me the opportunity, if I may, to welcome Mr. Aubin properly.

I promise that you will always be treated very well by this side of the committee room—always.

You are always welcome.

Mr. Bourdon, I just want to clarify one thing that you said earlier in your testimony. I want to clarify it because it was said at the very beginning, and I'm not sure it's what I think you meant to say.

Several questions came to you about positive train control. My sense was that you indicated you did not feel that the investment was favourable; that is to say, you do not believe it was a good investment. When you were asked about the ratio, you said it was a 21:1 savings—I think you used the word “savings”. I'm not sure you meant that. Could I ask you to clarify? When you said 21:1, what exactly did you mean by that, please, just for the purpose of clarity?

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

The cost-benefit ratio. In other words, it's $21 of investment for $1 of saving.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Would you suggest that that is a good investment?

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

No. I don't think so.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Not at all?

April 24th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

From a financial standpoint, it may not be. From a safety standpoint, it would obviously prevent some of the collisions. I would be lying to say that it wouldn't.

However, at this time, as I've explained, we're looking at what the United States is doing. They're having some serious issues. Once these issues are worked out...and perhaps we're not going to talk about a cost-benefit ratio of 21:1; maybe it will be something a bit more acceptable.

We would also have to measure the impact on the short lines. If you impose that on CN and CP and VIA, what are you going to do with the short lines operating on federal tracks?

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

So to be clear then, you were not saying that the 21:1 ratio was a savings issue. You were talking about the cost-benefit.

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

It's not the savings; it's cost-benefit.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

I appreciate that clarity.

It was interesting to hear Minister Lebel say earlier that the amendments here are intended to establish improved accountability of railways. I was looking at some of the amendment details, and part of the amended act is intended to strengthen the department's enforcement powers, and there are various monetary penalties and judicial penalties for non-compliance.

Do you think the penalties for non-compliance will be sufficient when applied to compel changes of attitudes, if necessary?

10:05 a.m.

Director General, Rail Safety, Department of Transport

Luc Bourdon

I think so. When we looked into it, we looked at other modes, and we had their experience in the application of those administrative monetary penalties. As I explained, it's going to be a maximum of $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a company, so it's kind of large.

And we can always prosecute. If you look at the judicial penalties, for instance, on summary conviction, for a company it goes from $100,000 in the current Railway Safety Act to $500,000 in Bill S-4, and for an individual it goes from $5,000 to $25,000 on summary conviction. On indictment, for an individual it goes from $10,000 to $50,000, and for a company it goes from $200,000 to $1 million. That's per day of non-compliance, so it's pretty significant.