Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to address the committee today.
My name is Laureen Kinney. I am the assistant deputy minister for safety and security at Transport Canada. With me today is Luc Bourdon, our director general of rail safety; Nicole Girard, the acting director general of transportation of dangerous goods; and Martin Eley, the director general of civil aviation.
In the context of your study of Canada's transportation system, we are pleased to appear before the committee to discuss measures taken by Transport Canada to improve rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods following the tragic events last July in Lac-Mégantic. In the 11 months since then, rail and transportation of dangerous goods safety has been our top priority. We have received valuable input on this matter from the Office of the Auditor General and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. We also look forward to the first report from this committee's study.
I will focus my remarks today on three areas. The first is the actions that Transport Canada has taken to improve rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods following, as I said, the tragic events last July. The second area is the regulatory and oversight regimes that we continue to develop and strengthen in rail safety and in all modes of transportation. Finally, I will focus on measures that we are considering to ensure that rail companies strengthen their shipping and safety practices through enhanced safety management systems. Taken together, these measures demonstrate Transport Canada's commitment to improve rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods by strengthening regulation and oversight of this sector.
First, with regard to the measures taken since Lac-Mégantic, following that accident Transport Canada issued a series of directives for railway companies and shippers and importers of dangerous goods to follow regarding the safety and security of their operations in the transport of dangerous goods. The first directive, on July 23, outlined a number of requirements related to the operation of trains carrying dangerous goods, train securement, directional controls, and braking procedures.
In subsequent measures, companies importing or transporting crude oil were directed to conduct classification testing of that oil, to make the results available to Transport Canada, and to provide any updated data to the department’s Canadian transport emergency centre, or CANUTEC.
The department also directed railway operators to share data about the dangerous goods they shipped with municipalities so they could properly plan for emergencies and be properly trained to respond in the event of a spill.
On April 23 the minister announced measures to address interim recommendations from the TSB. These include removing up to 5,000 older DOT-111 tank cars immediately from dangerous goods service and announcing the phase-out or refitting of certain cars not meeting these most recent standards. Transport Canada continues to work with industry and with U.S. regulators to develop even further enhancements to DOT-111 tank cars. Canada is committed to meeting or exceeding all new U.S. requirements for those tank cars.
We also required rail shippers to develop emergency response assistance plans to address shipping of higher-risk flammable liquids, and issued an emergency directive requiring railway companies to immediately slow trains transporting dangerous goods and implement other key operating practices.
The minister also announced the creation of an emergency assistance response plan task force, which will look into issues such as roles and responsibilities of all players in the use of incident command systems, and reviewing other flammable liquids to determine if any others require an emergency response assistance plan.
The second area is strengthening the regulatory and oversight regimes. Transport Canada is currently accelerating the development of several regulations to strengthen the rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods federal regulatory regime, in part in response to recommendations from the Transportation Safety Board and the Auditor General, as well as those arising from the Rail Safety Act review and recommendations from this committee.
We have already prepublished four proposed regulations this year in the Canada Gazette, part I.
Those regulations include the proposed new tank car standard requiring DOT-111 tank cars to be built with thicker steel, head-shield protection, and top-fitting protection. Industry is already building tank cars to this new enhanced standard. As well, the grade crossing regulations are to improve safety by helping to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents at federally regulated grade crossings. The railway operating certificate regulations are to ensure that railway companies maintain the highest level of safety. The railway safety administrative monetary penalties regulations, which will introduce fines of up to $250,000, are to strengthen our ability to enforce safety requirements for railway companies that violate the Railway Safety Act.
We are also working to prepublish other related regulations in the Canada Gazette in the near future.
Along with this committee, the Transportation Safety Board, and the Office of the Auditor General's advice, the department continues to work with key stakeholders such as the Advisory Council on Railway Safety, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods General Policy Advisory Council, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, among others, to gain valuable input that informs the measures we're taking. For example, we fully accepted all of the recommendations on rail safety from the 2013 Auditor General's report, and are implementing a detailed action plan to respond to the issues that were raised.
I would also like to take this opportunity to mention the important progress that we have made in implementing the recommendations of the Auditor General in the area of civil aviation, stemming from both their 2008 and 2012 audits. Through our aggressive management action plans, we have been able to address 18 of the 19 recommendations made from these audits, and are on track to finalize the last step on one of those recommendations.
Highlights from our action plans related to these audits include putting in place a process to address complex safety issues faster, standardizing the tools, documentation, and management oversight used to support inspections, and developing a robust human resources strategy.
Finally, moving forward with SMS, safety management systems, ultimately rail and TDG, transportation of dangerous goods, safety will depend on the various rail companies that transport these goods and the people who work for those companies. The best tool we have to help build a culture of safety in these companies is the safety management system, or SMS.
A safety management system is a formal framework to help a company integrate safety into its day-to-day operations. Simply put, it's a series of rules, responsibilities, and procedures that aim to achieve certain goals and performance targets, and which can be monitored and evaluated.
Safety management systems are not deregulation or self-regulation. Companies using them must identify how they will comply with specific regulations and how they would meet these standards. As SMS will play an important role in the future of rail and the transportation of dangerous goods, Transport Canada expects this year to update and clarify how SMS can help accomplish this in railway company operations. Given that the rail industry, the Auditor General, and the Transportation Safety Board have all endorsed or commented favourably on SMS regulations, we also expect to implement more rigorous enforcement provisions, along with the regulations to strengthen the use of SMS in rail safety.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, Transport Canada recognizes that we must continue to improve our safety programs for rail and dangerous goods. Just as Minister Raitt has announced measures to address the TSB's interim recommendations regarding the Lac-Mégantic incident, we will also look forward to the related input from this committee. I'm confident that such information will assist Transport Canada's ongoing risk-based rail safety program, and our efforts to maintain the Canadian railway system as one of the safest in the world.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee. We would be pleased to take your questions.