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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Bill reported.)

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberalfor Minister of Justice

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to.)

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberalfor Minister of Justice

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

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read third time and passed.)

Federal Court ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Verchères, the Canadian Centre for Magnetic Fusion in Varennes.

On the Order: Government Orders

May 30, 1996-The Minister of Transport-Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Transport of Bill C-43, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved:

That Bill C-43, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Transport.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Hamilton West Ontario

Liberal

Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for debate on this bill which incorporates amendments to the Railway Safety Act. We on this side of the House believe this will be a very useful piece of legislation and we propose that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Transport before second reading.

The Railway Safety Act is a relatively new piece of legislation which came into effect in January 1988. As is often the case with new legislation, the act required that a statutory review of its provisions be undertaken five years after coming into force. Such a review was carried out in 1994. The report of the committee that reviewed the Railway Safety Act was tabled in this House on February 15, 1995 and the government moved very quickly with a response which was tabled on June 8, 1995.

I am happy to say that the review found Canadian railways to have a good safety record when compared with other modes of transportation and when compared with other countries. On page 16 of its final report, the committee concluded that "railways in Canada operate safely. On the basis of numerous evaluative measurements and comparisons with other nations and modes of transportation, the railway mode is an extremely safe means of moving freight and people in this country". The committee also indicated in its report that the "work related safety of railways and the manner in which their operations are carried out have clearly shown improvement".

The committee looked at the statutory structure and emphasized that the underlying principles of the Railway Safety Act remain valid and these key principles can be summarized as: one, the government sets the standards; two, railway companies decide how to meet these standards; and three, government monitors for compliance and enforces where necessary.

The changes made with the passage of the Railway Safety Act in 1988 were significant in that they marked a deviation from the old command and control approach to railway regulation that had been the norm until that time. I am pleased that the review committee confirmed that this enlightened approach to regulation is very appropriate.

The committee made a number of recommendations for improving the railway safety regime in Canada. The amendments before the House represent the legislative changes that are required to implement many of those recommendations.

Let us address the consultative process. Last summer Transport Canada carried out extensive consultations on the form of the legislative amendments. An industry group was established with representation from the railways, railway labour, the Canada Safety Council and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to review the various proposals.

I am pleased to say that the parties worked diligently and achieved consensus. There was a high degree of unanimity on safety matters and the various views expressed are reflected in these particular amendments. Of course there was not complete unanimity, but this was an excellent opportunity for all points of view to be aired and to resolve many, many of the differences.

Our government has also discussed these amendments with provincial representatives who made a number of suggestions. These suggestions have been incorporated into the amendments.

The amendments to the Railway Safety Act that are being proposed cover the majority of the recommendations put forward by the review committee. One of the key amendments relates to the problem of train whistling in communities. The whistle is an important safety feature but it can be very disruptive for people who live close to a railway line. We are probably all familiar with some of our constituents who have approached us on this issue.

The government's proposal, which was endorsed by municipal representatives from across the country, is as follows: Where a municipality has passed a motion and where the location meets Transport Canada conditions for whistling cessation, the trains would be required to cease whistling. I believe this is a workable solution to what has been a very difficult problem.

Railway highway crossings contribute to the greatest number of rail related accidents, deaths and injuries. The review recommended that Transport Canada prepare a plan aimed at reducing the number of crossing accidents by 50 per cent within 10 years.

There are a number of items that will require additional legislative powers and these are included in the proposed amendments. They include measures to promote crossing closures as well as to control the way in which key crossings are used.

A number of the more technical amendments will streamline the regulatory process and reduce bureaucratic burden. They will reduce government involvement in unproductive areas but will allow government to continue to cover the essential items.

It should be noted that some of the recommendations, such as those relating to branch line abandonment, have already been covered through the Canada Transportation Act, Bill C-14.

A number of the recommendations, particularly those relating to co-ordination with provinces, grade crossing improvements and studying the effects of train whistle cessation at crossings do not require legislation and Transport Canada is already working to find a solution to these.

The Railway Safety Act has fostered consultation between all parties that have an interest in safety. A number of other legislative changes will streamline the regulatory process and provide even greater involvement of railway labour in the development of new rules.

The review committee recommended that the statutory framework be changed so that the railways could propose performance standards and a comprehensive safety plan, both of which would be approved by Transport Canada. Once again these proposals will permit this to take place.

We are also taking this opportunity to revise and update railway security provisions. Problems can arise from terrorist acts and occurrences such as bomb threats. We do not see these as significant threats to the railway system at present. This therefore is the time when we should take care to ensure that we have the right statutory underpinning should such powers be necessary in the future.

The security provisions in the legislation have been recast using our model, the Marine Transportation Security Act, a most recent piece of security legislation. We hope these provisions will not be necessary, but we are happy we will have them in place as a good basic foundation should such measures become necessary in the future.

Finally let us examine the broader aspects of the legislation. The review of railway safety concluded that our railways have a good safety record and that we have reason for confidence in the regulatory regime. When dealing with a topic such as safety, however, we must be diligent. We must continually be seeking better ways to do things. We should always strive to improve our record.

The government has taken a number of steps to revitalize Canada's rail sector, such as the privatization of the Canadian National last year. These initiatives will go a long way toward strengthening Canada's transportation infrastructure and establishing a sound base to carry our railways well into the next century.

However and in spite of these changes the government will continue to place emphasis on the most important aspect of all: safety. We will continue to be diligent where safety is concerned. The proposed changes before the House today will streamline and improve the legislative base for railway safety in the years to come.

I therefore urge all my hon. colleagues in this place to support the legislation and agree to refer the bill to committee.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-43, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

I would love to share the optimism of the parliamentary secretary. Unfortunately, certain statistics tell me that, while this bill seeks to correct certain significant technical flaws and while the official opposition may help improve it during the review by the committee, some major issues linger with regard to railway safety in Canada.

Let me give you a few figures. In 1994, a total of 1,189 accidents were reported to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. That was 17 per cent more than in 1993. There was a net increase of 8 per cent in the accident rate, which climbed to 14,4 accidents per million of train-miles travelled.

Then there is the fact that most accidents on main lines occur at level crossings. This suggests that improvements could be made, and that human or technical errors are often to blame.

It is also reported that, each year, some 300 accidents involve transporter cars. Worse still is the fact that, in 1994, 114 people died in train accidents. These figures make us realize that the situation is much more worrying than the government would lead us to believe.

Some of the objectives of the bill are to: "provide for greater involvement by interested organizations in making rules about railway operations; provide for the regulation of the use of train whistles in municipalities; strengthen and clarify provisions dealing with railway security". No major initiatives are taken to correct existing problems.

The government's good intention to tackle the issue should be reflected in amendments to the bill that would give it more substance and to face the real issues relating to railway safety.

The bill is silent on a very real problem, particularly in Quebec. They say there are 3 to 10 times as many defects in the tracks located in Quebec, because they are older and less well maintained, a result of the available resources and the fact that rail has long been considered a sort of homespun way of travel and not given the chance to become a tool of development. Today, we are paying the price for this.

To add insult to injury, it has just been announced that the Charny maintenance shop, in the riding of my colleague from Lévis, is to be closed. The job loss is regrettable. True, 90 jobs in such a region is not all that significant, but on top of that there is the significant impact on safety, since now the only track maintenance shop for the whole of eastern Canada will be located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Imagine, then, that on the CN lines in Quebec there are 51 defects per 65 miles, or 100 km of track, and on the CP lines 31 for the same 65 miles or 100 kilometres. Yet these figures are not

likely to improve in future because, as well as not having maintained the track properly, now they are moving the people with responsibility for maintenance further away, and their territory is being increased still further. This is tantamount to abdicating from any responsibility for safety.

The federal government must be judged clearly by the public on this. Yes, it is entitled to want to propose choices, to privatize companies. It is entitled to make those choices. We are entitled to judge the choices, or the way they were made, as the right ones or not, but there is one thing that must not be sloughed off: the responsibility for safety.

In this connection, Bill C-43 really contains no measures for dealing with the situation, or for improving it to any significant extent. A major debate needs to be held. There are, for example, newspaper reports stating that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada contradicts the CN on the number of accidents, yet this is the body responsible for providing a true picture of the situation and it is also less in conflict of interest than the companies operating the railways.

Questions will have to be asked in committee as to why the statistics I have just given you have not been able to be improved, and what should be done in future to remedy the situation. We are told that the number of railway accidents has been constantly on the increase for the past five years. This again comes from the Transportation Safety Board. They arrived in February 1996, when two derailments had just occurred in the Quebec City region within two weeks.

There is regularly talk about accidents, every month, as I mentioned in talking about level crossings earlier, for example. So clearly we have to look a lot deeper at the Railway Safety Act than the government is doing. At the moment, we could say it is doing nothing more than fulfilling its obligation to review the Act every five years. Review does not just mean simply making technical changes. The point of the review is to ensure that our railway system is the best it can be. If we have in fact under-used and under-maintained the rail systems in Quebec and Canada, we must ensure today, with the vision we want for our system, that we take every means possible to remedy the situation.

Railway transportation was declining 10 or 15 years ago. Today, it is on the rise with the use of containers. Furthermore, VIA Rail for one is trying to revitalize operations and must therefore break the vicious circle in which rail transportation is not used because it is inefficient and because it is inefficient less money is allocated to its operation and maintenance. The end result is poor service that fails to meet the needs of the people.

It will therefore be important, when this bill is being studied in committee-because the government has decided to go directly to committee rather than do an in-depth analysis at second reading-to study it thoroughly. There will be experts of different sorts, no

doubt employees who know something about such things. I think they should enjoy a certain impunity in committee, so that we get at the truth, can see things as they are, can propose amendments and make relevant changes.

This way, when the law is next reviewed, perhaps in five years, we will be able to say results were achieved and the statistics, instead of increasing by 17 per cent, will be stable at least. We will have made it so that the cause of accidents will only be unexplained human error, and not the system, poor operation or an insufficient investment in prevention.

In conclusion, the official opposition intends to be very vigilant and to ensure that our rail service operates totally safely for the welfare of individuals and for an improved economy.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I realize there is very little time before we vote. However I think it will be quite sufficient for what I have to say today.

I listened to my colleague who just spoke. I am not in disagreement with the basic concepts he has raised. I look forward to the matter going to committee so that we can study it in depth.

I find it very interesting that major rail bills like the privatization of CN Rail, a very big and very controversial bill, was not debated in the House at second reading. Instead it was forced by the Liberal government into committee before the debate took place.

I objected to that at the time. I objected to it after the fact. All the rationales used by the government regarding why it should be rushed into committee fell by the wayside.

Today we have something that does not have the impact of something like the privatization of half of Canada's national rail system. We find ourselves debating it in the House of Commons in the last week of Parliament, in the dying hours. We are even using extended hours to debate the bill.

Why is the government trying to tie up the House of Commons and members of Parliament? House employees and staff are working overtime, costing something in the range of $50,000 an hour. That amount is charged to the taxpayers so that we can debate sending legislation to a committee before Parliament rises for the summer, and the committee the bill will go to is not meeting until next fall.

It is a horrendous waste of the taxpayers' money. Why is the government wasting the time of the House debating bills like this one instead of getting on with important bills, if it has any to bring forward? Is the government simply stalling until its absolutely

unconstitutional Bill C-28 comes once again back from the Senate? Is it just trying to find excuses to hang on until then?

There are problems with the bill that we can deal with in committee. I will recommend to our party that we give tentative support to the bill going to committee, at which time we will see what concerns are brought forward by the public, the users, the rail companies and those involved with them; what amendments are offered both by the government and by opposition; and what is done with them. Then we will make our final decision to support or not support the bill when it comes back to the House and will have a purpose for being before the House.

I hope the government will move on if it has something substantial. If it is worth paying $50,000 an hour in taxpayers' money to keep the House running in overtime, the government should bring it forward. If it does not have anything it should have the decency to say so and to adjourn the House.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There is every indication there are other members who wish to participate in the debate. I am somewhat reluctant to give the floor to someone to speak for all of one minute.

Therefore I ask the House for unanimous consent to call it 5.30 p.m. and we will resume debate following the votes and private members' hour. Does the House give its consent to calling it 5.30 p.m.?

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, an act respecting regulations and other documents, including the review, registration publication and parliamentary scrutiny of regulations and other documents, and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Regulations ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-25.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Regulations ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think you would find unanimous consent that the House now proceed with the other bills which have been deferred and that we deal with the two private members ballot items, M-166 and M-116, after we terminate voting on the government bills.

Regulations ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Regulations ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division at second reading of Bill C-45.

The House resumed from June 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code (judicial review of parole ineligibility) and another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

June 18th, 1996 / 6 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find unanimous consent to record the members who have voted on the previous motion as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.