House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was general.


Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Minister of Transport

moved that Bill C-58, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Thunder Bay—Atikokan Ontario


Stan Dromisky LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to begin the second reading debate on Bill C-58.

In September 1997, following the train derailment near Biggar, Saskatchewan, the Minister of Transport ensured that a number of immediate safety actions were taken by the railway. Subsequently, the department ensured that a Transportation Safety Board interim recommendation on the derailment was addressed so that travelling Canadians could benefit from the recommended safety enhancements.

Shortly after the derailment the minister announced that he was delaying the reintroduction in the House of Commons of the amendments to the Railway Safety Act. He directed departmental officials to examine other possible improvements to the legislation as well to see whether we could improve the mechanisms for overseeing safety and regulatory compliance.

A rail safety review committee was immediately established and was composed of railway safety, risk management and regulatory experts. The committee was also asked to consult with the rail industry and other stakeholders and to recommend ways to further improve rail safety.

Departmental officials reported back to the minister last January and in March the minister announced that he had accepted the department's rail safety review committee's recommendations. At the same time, he made public the committee's report.

At that time the minister asked his officials to proceed quickly with the committee recommendations that did not require changes to the legislative framework, such as improvements to rail safety practices and rules. This work began in the spring of 1998.

Today I am pleased to inform the House that the legislative changes imposed in this bill include a number of new provisions recommended by the review committee which will further enhance safety in Canada's rail industry.

These new amendments to the Railway Safety Act were prepared in extensive consultation with the railway industry, railway unions, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Safety Council, Transport 2000 and provincial officials.

Consultations were held as late as October of this year to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to reach a consensus on the intent of the proposed amendments in Bill C-58.

These proposed changes are fully modernized and reflect good practices used in safety regimes for other modes of transportation, changes such as: a new policy clarifying the objective of the act as well as the roles and responsibilities of all parties relative to railway safety; authority to require railways to implement safety management systems; authority to require railways to report safety-critical information for the purpose of railway system safety performance monitoring; a new safety compliance order targeted at safety management system deficiencies; increased authority for rail safety inspectors; and an improved consultative process.

The legislative framework will allow the department to require railways under federal jurisdiction to adopt formal safety management systems. The department would have full authority under the legislation to ensure that railways comply with this requirement and to take effective action as required to ensure full compliance.

This will also respond to earlier recommendations of the Transportation Safety Board with respect to more effective means of auditing railway safety.

The inclusion of the safety management systems is expected to improve railway safety by promoting a safety culture within the railroads, enabling railways to demonstrate their commitment to safety and demonstrating that railways are in compliance with regulatory requirements.

In the consultations with stakeholders it was evident that the majority of them wished to have a consultative committee on matters of safety. I am pleased to say, as the minister previously announced in March 1998, that the department is committed to the establishment of a permanent consultative committee of departmental officials and rail safety stakeholders.

The objective of this committee, which will be comprised of all interested parties, is to ensure that decision making on issues of railway safety includes effective consultation. This would involve an active two-way communication to develop a better understanding of issues and solutions. This committee will complement the improved consultative requirements contained in this bill.

It is anticipated that the first meeting will be held early in the new year.

Every year many Canadians lose their lives at crossings or while trespassing on railway property. This is the most significant problem facing rail safety and a major effort has been undertaken to respond to it. The Department of Transport has a program and a number of initiatives in place, and this act also contains provisions to further improve safety at crossings.

The department's program in this regard is covered by the following four Es: elimination, engineering, enforcement and education.

The first E stands for elimination. The objective is to eliminate unnecessary and unsafe crossings so that road users will be using, wherever possible, those with automated warning systems or better physical characteristics.

One amendment for crossings would allow the minister to make a grant as compensation for closures. Another would allow him to control the opening of new crossings on high speed lines.

The second E stands for engineering. As part of the Transport Canada crossing monitoring program, the new bill will provide for safety reviews at crossings in certain circumstances such as serious accidents.

The third E stands for enforcement. The railway safety inspector's overall monitoring for compliance can result in a variety of safety actions being taken for identified deficiencies.

Finally, the fourth E stands for education. Education is vital if we are to obtain the full benefits from the other three Es. For example, the Department of Transport is a full partner in operation lifesaver which educates Canadians on safety issues.

The proposed changes will also support a national program called direction 2006 which aims to reduce by 50% the number of highway/railway grade crossing collisions and trespassing incidents on railway property by that year. This program has the ongoing support of all stakeholders.

The government faces a huge challenge to reduce greenhouse gases and improve the environment. The proposed bill includes an authority to make regulations restricting emissions from the operation of railroad equipment. There is at present no such authority federally and the proposed Canadian Environment Protection Act excludes railway equipment. This proposed power will allow for a cleaner environment and will help Canada meet worldwide quotas for emissions.

The proposed legislative changes will enhance the ability of the railway safety system to give reasonable assurance of the continuing state of railway safety in Canada and to contribute to sustainable transportation.

To conclude, Transport Canada's first priority is and always will be the safety of the transportation system in Canada. I believe these amendments to the Railway Safety Act will strengthen the regulatory framework that governs safety in this critical mode of transportation. I believe they will provide the department with the means to ensure that Canada's railways will continue to improve their safety performance as we head into the 21st century.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to address this bill which I am sure everyone here finds extremely fascinating.

Bill C-58 was introduced on November 5. Now a mere 15 days later, which happens in this case to be only six sitting days, we are debating it at second reading. The Standing Committee on Transport may consider this bill as soon as next Tuesday which is eight sitting days after its first reading. Do I smell a whiff of prorogation in the air?

When I gave a few stakeholders a heads up as to what was happening, they were quite astonished and not at all amused. I understand that some of them are already prepared to appear on short notice and that they have contacted the committee clerk. The minister has been sitting on this legislation for several weeks, like a hen sitting on an egg and now suddenly it is full speed ahead.

This is reminiscent of what went on a year ago with the marine act, Bill C-9, essentially a good piece of legislation that was seriously flawed in a couple of places with regard to financing. There were stakeholders who were extremely upset about it but they were not heard. Now, a year later, the flaws in the bill are already coming back to haunt us, specifically relative to the port of Halifax.

This is a safety bill. Safety is a relative term. It means different things to different people. In the transportation sector the word safety is often used and has been used to promote some dubious proposals, demands and schemes. There are people who do not understand that there is no such thing as absolute safety.

If we wanted absolute transportation safety, I suppose we could all travel by foot, however we would still run the risk of breaking a leg. A less drastic but equally unacceptable measure would be to lower speed limits for all modes of transportation and make such things as airline tickets and automobiles beyond the purchasing power of most people. Certainly we would be safer but modern society with its emphasis on convenience, time and cost effectiveness would never tolerate such restrictions. The question then becomes one of what level of safety we are prepared to accept.

The Railway Safety Act is a relatively new piece of legislation. Bill C-58 seeks to legislate amendments recommended by the statutory five year review committee, as has been explained by the parliamentary secretary.

The review committee's report was tabled in parliament in February 1995. It recommended 69 amendments to streamline railway safety and to reduce the bureaucratic burden. The government introduced Bill C-43 in May 1996 incorporating 60 of the 69 recommendations, but the bill died on the Order Paper when the election was called in April 1997.

The 1995 report described the railway mode as an extremely safe means of moving freight and people in this country. Indeed the report found that Canadian railways have a good safety record when compared with other modes of transportation and when compared to other countries' rail operations. The report also noted that work related safety of railways and the manner in which their operations are carried out have clearly shown improvement. The picture painted by the Transportation Safety Board however is a little murkier.

Main track train derailments increased by 75% over the last nine years, from 101 in 1988 to 177 in 1997. We seem to be running tracks along the right of way instead of on the rails in this country. Occurrences of train collisions on main tracks have increased by 44%.

There is some good news. Accidents at road crossings have decreased by 39% over the same period. More good news is the total personal injury accidents for all types of rail related incidents have decreased by almost 80% since 1988. The number of total fatalities is quite low and it has not changed much in the last nine years.

In response to the 1997 fatal derailment of a VIA passenger train at Biggar, Saskatchewan, the minister announced that he would delay reintroduction of these amendments to the Railway Safety Act in order to further study other possible improvements.

Unlike its predecessor, Bill C-58 will now require railway companies to draw up and implement safety management systems. These systems will have to be vetted and approved by the minister. The minister may also order a railway company to take necessary corrective measures if he believes that the safety management system is deficient.

There is unfortunately no avenue to appeal a ministerial order to an independent tribunal, a tribunal similar perhaps to the Civil Aviation Tribunal. There is a rumour that Transport Canada is planning a Canada transportation tribunal for rail, aviation, marine and pipelines. I sincerely hope that the rumour is true.

One curious change from Bill C-43 was the omission of an amendment which would have explicitly given railways the right of way through road crossings. I am not a rail safety expert but it seems to me to be plain common sense that road crossing users should yield to a train. Trains are bigger.

Bill C-58 goes further than its predecessor in that it increases the powers of railway safety inspectors, particularly over road crossings. This includes broadening the inspectors' access authority and their authority to obtain documents in order to enforce the act. There are concerns again that there is no established independent venue to appeal the decisions of railway safety inspectors.

Another new amendment will insert a policy statement itemizing the objectives of the act directly into the legislation. These objectives include: promotion and provision of safety for the public and employees; protection of property; stakeholder collaboration and participation; the recognition that railway safety is primarily the responsibility of railway companies. Flexibility, efficiency and modernity are the new catch phrases for Canada's rail safety regulatory system.

In its 1995 report the review committee recommended that Canada's rail safety system be made non-prescriptive and industry driven. It advocated improvements to the overall safety framework but recommended leaving the details to the appropriate authorities. Bill C-58 therefore contains a number of technical amendments to streamline the regulatory process and reduce red tape.

The streamlined safety regulatory system proposed by Bill C-58 can be summarized as follows: the government continues to set rail safety standards; the railway companies decide after consulting with other stakeholders what safety rules are necessary and how best to meet those standards; and the government approves the rules, allows for exemptions, monitors for compliance and when necessary, enforces.

The new regime will also provide temporary regulatory exemptions to railway companies for the purpose of conducting tests related to rail transportation. The proposed regulatory regime will also require that the railways consult interested organizations as part of their process for creating operational safety rules and also when applying for exemptions from them.

Bill C-58 seeks to improve the provisions for the security of railway property. It includes a new designation, screening officers to screen persons or goods before they are taken on board a train or into a restricted area such as a freight yard. The terms of reference for screening are very similar to those currently practised by airlines and in airports.

With respect to road crossings, most MPs are probably already very familiar with the whistling issue. Many constituents and municipalities have sought help from their federal representatives to shepherd them through the whistling removal process.

Whistling through road crossings is an important safety tool, but the noise can torment people living close to a railway line. The new legislation is still somewhat convoluted, but any simplification of the removal process will be welcomed by communities requesting the cessation of whistling through residential areas, provided of course that other safety requirements are met.

Bill C-58 will also strengthen and clarify federal regulatory powers over road crossings, including legislating ministerial authority over the construction, alteration and maintenance of such crossings, and making regulations respecting the control of vehicular and pedestrian traffic on road approaches to crossings. Cabinet will have the power to require railway companies, road authorities or persons who have rights to a crossing to conduct a safety review of that crossing following an accident.

One significant change to existing rules is the section of Bill C-58 which will authorize road authorities to enter onto any land in the vicinity of the crossing to cut down overgrown trees or brush perceived to be a hazard to safe railway operations. However, the government has neglected to tie up some loose ends pointed out to it by stakeholders in committee the last time around. Specifically, municipalities expressed concerns over potential liability. They also wanted to know who will pay for brush clearing, the local taxpayers or the railways. Good question.

In conclusion, although Bill C-58 is necessarily limited in scope, in fact most of it, if we cut through all the thickets, seems to apply in one way or another to road crossings and is a step in the right direction toward greater railway safety. Although the proposed amendments appear to be good ones, the bill is highly technical. I want to hear from the stakeholders in committee before passing judgment. I do hope that we will be given the time to do that.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Paul Mercier Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 3, 1997, a train derailment in Saskatchewan led to one fatality. This moved the government to speed up the introduction of a bill to bring up to date and enhance railway safety by amending the legislation dating back to 1989.

A committee of experts was appointed to prepare this new legislative text, and this is what we are now looking at.

Obviously, it is regrettable that it took an accident and a fatality to move the government to speed up introduction of a bill that had been needed for some time. Nevertheless, if it is a good law, one that improves railway safety, who could be against it. There is, however, one point on which we do not agree, and on which we will be introducing an amendment. I will come to that later.

I will start with a brief summary of the objectives of this bill. First of all, to enhance the government's ability to get the railways to remedy nuisances and hazards relating to safety and to the environment.

Second, it also improves collaboration between the various parties involved in railway transportation, namely the companies, the government, the municipal authorities, the railway unions, and those who own or lease railroad stock.

Third, the bill is aimed at reducing harmful emissions from locomotives for the good of the environment.

We fully support the objective of this bill. I am also quite pleased with clause 18, which should address something that bothers people in our region and in many other regions too. I am talking about train whistles. In my region, there is a passenger train that goes by around 6 a.m., and most people do not appreciate being woken up so early in the morning, except of course if it is a matter of safety, which is not always the case, and municipalities are in the best position to determine if it is. Therefore, we fully agree with the proposed clause I am about to read.

It states, and I quote:

No person shall use the whistle on any railway equipment in an area within a municipality if a ) the area meets the requirements prescribed for the purposes of this section; and b ) the government of the municipality—which is the best judge—by resolution declares that it agrees that such whistles should not be used in that area and has, before passing the resolution, (i) consulted the railway company that operates the relevant line of railway, (ii) notified each relevant association or organization, and (iii) given public notice of its intention to pass the resolution.

Notwithstanding this clause, the train conductor may of course use the whistle in an emergency. This way, my fellow citizens will be able to sleep more soundly in the future.

I now come to our concern, which will be addressed in an amendment we will be introducing. The existing legislation states:

24.(1) The governor in council may make regulations f .1) respecting the construction, alteration and maintenance of roads for the purpose of ensuring safe railway operations.

Our amendment will ensure that the costs associated with such alterations imposed on municipalities are borne by the federal government, and not by the municipalities on which these alterations are imposed.

These are my remarks on this bill, which we will support, but only after introducing the amendment I just mentioned.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Peter Mancini NDP Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party I am happy to say a few words on the Bill C-58 to amend the Railway Safety Act. The bill is a complex one and the government has asked that we co-operate with it in moving it quickly through second reading to committee stage.

I know that our transportation spokesperson, the hon. member for Churchill, is very keen to review the bill when it goes to the Standing Committee on Transport and indeed to hear from the various stakeholders and the many witnesses who will appear before that committee to deal with the intricacies of that legislation.

For that reason and because it is important to hear from those stakeholders we will co-operate with the government's request to date. However, government members should not take our congeniality at this stage to mean that we will give them an easy time of the legislation when it goes to committee.

There are some points in the legislation that are positive but important questions remain to be answered. When dealing with bills as intricate and comprehensive as this one, committees have to review them very carefully and systematically to avoid unintended consequences or unforeseen results. That is why the testimony of the witnesses will be particularly important.

The bill does many things. It seeks to update the Railway Safety Act and it includes some positive measures to strengthen enforcement of safety regulations. It also addresses concerns about noise pollution from train whistles which was addressed by the previous speaker from the Bloc Quebecois.

Since passenger rail service was abandoned by first the Conservative government and not reinstated by this government, in the part of the country I come from in Cape Breton we miss the sound of the railway whistle. There are others who may miss it. When I grew up there were those who would complain about the late night whistles, but there was also a rumour that those who lived close to the railway line tended to have more children. Maybe we will hear from witnesses in that regard before the committee.

On a more serious note, one area we will be looking at very carefully is the clause dealing with the medical fitness of railway employees designated as critical to railway safety operation. Admittedly, since these workers are responsible for the lives and safety of Canadians, it is crucial that they be medically fit when on the job.

At the same time, however, there is a careful balancing act here. We must be careful not to go too far to infringe on an individual's right to work. Workers must not be prevented from working to support themselves and their families unless there is good reason. It would be interesting to see—and it could be a very progressive step—if there was some kind of obligation on the part of the corporations to assist the workers in ensuring their fitness for the job.

We know there are problems in terms of fitness. As Canadians work harder and harder, do more and more work and have less and less leisure time, those who are fortunate enough to work, their physical health suffers. It would be an opportunity to see corporations in the railway business take the lead in this area and assist in providing their employees with the time and facilities, with perhaps some financial incentives, to ensure they are medically fit to do the job, especially if that is a requirement.

Another area of particular concern is that the bill in its current form empowers railway companies by requiring the Minister of Transport to consult with them in certain circumstances. At the same time the bill does away with the railway safety consultative committee. This is of particular concern to us.

That committee, composed of representatives from industry, labour and other stakeholders, advises Transport Canada on railway safety issues. Bill C-58 will be replacing that by requiring the Minister of Transport to consult with the corporations. It does not do the same thing for the other stakeholders. That is an important distinction and an important area to explore at the committee level.

The discrepancy perhaps reflects the Liberals' corporatist ideological bias, not to mention the propensity to reward those who support them financially. We are however encouraged that the bill at least recognizes the importance of outside consultation. It recognizes that government bureaucracy is not infallible and that there is a place for outside opinions, but simply consulting with the railway companies alone is not sufficient.

Let us face it. If a railway company is in business its objective is to meet the bottom line. That is not always consistent with the public good. This is something that we understand in the New Democratic Party. The role of government is to ensure, protect and enhance the public good. That is not necessarily the role of a private corporation. Therefore only consulting with railway companies will not give the necessary balanced picture that is required. We believe it is important that other stakeholders be consulted.

I mentioned that we miss the sound of the railway whistle on Cape Breton. We have not given up the fight in that regard. It is my hope that the bill will have some relevance. Indeed there is a private railway company in the part of the country I come from and the riding I represent. It will have significance and impact on my riding. What is lacking is passenger rail service.

I would take every opportunity in the House to encourage the Minister of Transport to re-examine the decision of the government not to reinstate that passenger rail service. At the time that it was dismantled by the Mulroney government it was clear that members of the Liberal Party were opposed to it. I attended the hearings in my own riding and we still await some remedial action in that regard.

However I will not take any more time in the House on this issue because it has to go to committee. I have said that we are complying with the government's request to move the bill to committee as quickly as possible. Therefore I offer our conditional support at this stage.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party to speak to second reading of Bill C-58, an act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make a consequential amendment to another act.

The bill is basically the same as the previous Bill C-43 which was introduced during the last parliament. Unfortunately it died on the order paper at the call of the last election. I would like to point out our disappointment that the bill was not introduced earlier. I hope this does not reveal that safety is not the minister's number one concern.

The bill proposes amendments to the Railway Safety Act which came into effect in January 1988. A statutory review took place after five years and the result was the previous Bill C-43. We are pleased with the exhaustive consultation which took place with the stakeholders involved during the mandatory review and with their valuable input. It should be noted that this is an ongoing process. As the minister has repeatedly stated, safety is his number one concern and we will continue to hold him to that.

The Railway Safety Act which passed in 1988 was a significant change in the way we regulate railways and how railways interact with government. This has proven to be a very good approach, and with the legislation before us today I hope it will become much better.

The railway system makes up an important part of our national fabric and is a great economic engine for the country. This great national work does not come without some unfortunate costs. What I am speaking about is the many lives which have been lost at railway crossings every year. The railway companies work very hard to ensure that we have the most up to date technologies and warning signals available. I would like to thank them for their effort, but I think the federal government must play a much larger role in the safety issue.

At a time when the government is looking at revitalizing our passenger service we should ensure that the railway network is as safe as possible. Where road and rail meet many safety concerns have to be addressed. There are currently too many level crossing accidents in Canada. I am aware that there are some innovative ways to prevent these accidents from occurring. The old mentality of creating more bells and guards may not be the only way to attack the issue.

My hon. colleague from Cumberland—Colchester, who is the official transportation critic for the Progressive Conservative Party, will examine the bill in further detail in committee and if further changes are needed I am sure they will be welcome. As the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester has proven in the House, he is an able defender of the critic portfolio of transportation.

Obviously I speak of his involvement with respect to toll highways in the Atlantic provinces. He has brought that issue to the House and has dealt with it very effectively.

I would like to deal with rail safety. There are a number of very good points that are going to come forward in committee with respect to this piece of legislation. There are a couple of things I must put forward with respect to rail transportation particularly in western Canada.

As I said, rail transportation is a vital economic link particularly in western Canada. In my community of Brandon, Manitoba we are blessed with having two main lines, the CP and the CN. One runs through the city and one runs north of the city. We are pleased to have both main railway lines.

I talked about the economic viability of western Canada with respect to the railroads. I speak obviously of the transportation necessity of moving commodities and products throughout western Canada. The number one commodity without question is grain. We export the major portion of grain that is being produced right now. We get it to ports by rail transportation.

Potash is important to the province of Saskatchewan. It is a commodity that in most instances is transported to international markets. There are a number of industrial now being produced in western Canada that must find their way to globalized markets. Again, rail transportation is that vital link. Also, coal is very important to B.C., requiring rail transportation.

The reason I mention those commodities is that there is substantial traffic on the main lines in western Canada. Unlike the previous speaker, the hon. member from Cape Breton who not longer has the opportunity of listening to train whistles, in my area we hear the whistling of trains on a fairly regular basis. The reason I mention that is there is a section in this bill that speaks to train whistles.

I would like to take minute to explain the situation that I have found myself in with respect to train whistles going through some communities with controlled crossings. Under the current regulations the main line railroad continues to blow whistles at crossings. The municipality has on many occasions tried to curtail some of that whistling in residential areas. It has fallen on deaf ears.

I will read the section in the legislation that says the minister will now have the opportunity of looking at whistling in municipalities. Also, municipalities will now have some input. Section 23(1) says that the government of the municipality by resolution declares that it agrees that such whistles should not be used in that area, and has before passing the resolution consulted the railway company that operates the relevant rail lines, notified each relevant association or organization, and given public notice of its intention to pass the resolution.

What that now does is give the opportunity for some municipalities to improve their quality of life when main lines run through their communities.

In this instance the municipality did pass a resolution. It suggested it would pay any additional insurance costs the railway might incur. It was a controlled railway crossing with not only whistles but arms that came down to protect the travelling public. This legislation would now allow the minister to be involved and to allow those types of changes to be made. That is very positive.

There are a couple of other issues that have to deal with rail transportation that are not dealt with in the safety bill. The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester from the Progressive Conservative Party will bring them forward. It has been mentioned by previous speakers that railroads are doing a reasonable job with respect to safety. In some cases they have also abdicated their responsibility in other areas. I specifically speak of line abandonment and the ability for short line operators to work in rural communities, particularly in western Canada.

This legislation, however, is of safety. I compliment the railroads for attempting to put into place safety measures that are as good as possible. This legislation will help them do that with the assistance of the minister's office.

The minister has said that safety is his number one priority. I accept that. In committee there will be some changes suggested by members of the opposition. Members of the opposition have a lot of experience with respect to railroads and rail safety.

I hope the committee and the minister will listen to those proposals put forward in the form of amendments so that this legislation can be even better than what is being proposed right now.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in a debate on a bill where we seem to have some agreement on all sides of the House. I think it is fundamentally because of the importance of rail safety.

Members opposite may be aware that this is the 20th anniversary of the train derailment in my city of Mississauga which resulted in the largest peace time evacuation in the history of our country. We moved a quarter of a million people out of our city in stages in about four or five days and did it quite successfully actually.

There were no deaths and no serious injuries caused by the train derailment but the actual derailment and subsequent investigation and involvement with CP rail and the hearings that went on really brought out some major improvements led by the municipality.

When that train derailed, I had an almost out of body experience of laying in my bed and seeing the entire sky light up. I thought it was Consumers Gas that had exploded or something like that. I jumped into the car and drove over toward the light, which shows how bright I was. I arrived at the corner of Dundas Street and Mavis Road just in time for the second explosion, an explosion that shot chemicals and chlorine gas into the air.

The proof that was later found, in a somewhat frightening way, was there were hundreds of dead birds around our city because of the chlorine in combination with the explosion.

Chlorine is carried in great abundance across this land on our rail system. A lot of those cars that we see trundling through our residential communities are not carrying milk. They are carrying dangerous chemicals. Chlorine is a low seeking gas that will actually go into the river and sewer systems and wind up in peoples' homes. It is a very serious safety concern.

What I think saved our community from catastrophe was the fact that the explosion went straight up and took the chlorine mushroom cloud straight up into the air. It killed some birds but fortunately no people.

I was actually the acting mayor, which is a hard thing to be when Hazel is the mayor, but she was out of town at the time this accident occurred.

There is apparently no truth to the rumour that Hazel was seen jumping on the car going through Streetsville in an attempt to derail it because, as we all know, she has become extremely famous right across the land.

In all seriousness, that fame is due to the hard nosed efforts that she, the members of council, the staff, the city and the residents put forward in demanding improvements to safety.

One of the issues in safety has to do with labelling of the cars going through. I am sure members would agree that is extremely important for fire departments. One of the real frightening aspects of dealing with that train derailment 20 years ago was that our firefighters had to go into the fire not knowing what was there. They were completely unaware because there was no labelling system. They had no idea whether there was another gas filled car ready to explode as they went in.

Frankly, our firefighters in Mississauga were heroes on that night and the next day as they fought the fire. They had tremendous difficulty in putting it out and they did so in the face of tremendous personal risk.

Rail safety is critical to all of us. We think of it in the terms the former speaker talked about, the two rail lines going through Manitoba. We think of it in terms more today of hauling grain and perhaps freight. But the reality is there is a proposal that is always kicked around, it seems from election to election, to put a high speed train in the Windsor to Quebec City corridor, where we have the population that could justify such a high speed commuter passenger trail, something that would surpass the VIA Rail service.

If we are to go this route then safety is clearly a critical issue and it is the quality of the beds, the quality of the actual infrastructure these trains go across. If members have ever had the experience of travelling on the Shinkansen in Tokyo, they will agree and realize that the nature of the infrastructure has to be at such a high level to accommodate the high speed of trains of that nature that frankly I do not think our infrastructure would suffice today. So we need to address safety from that point of view.

Whistle blowing is interesting. I have heard members talk about that. Anyone who might be familiar with my part of the world would know that the provincial government several years ago built a major highway right through Mississauga and connecting up at the 410 in Brampton. It is called Highway 403.

In the acquisition of land to accommodate the road right of way and all the allowances required, there was one farmer who was a holdout. For years we could never figure out why a train was travelling right through the heart of communities like Erin Mills, Medowvale and Deer Run in my riding. We could never figure out why the train was blowing its whistle at all hours of the night and seemingly with some joy. The conductor would sit right on that horn and the noise of course would result in a number of rather dramatic phone calls to my office, since I was the councillor of the day, people complaining about that.

We found out there was an unprotected crossing as a result of not being able to acquire the land. It was a bit of a lovers lane apparently and that is all it was used for. Know the blowing of the whistle is important for safety.

Railway Safety ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The member still has plenty of time in his speech and will be the first recognized after question period. It being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

National Child DayStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is National Child Day, a day to recognize children and their accomplishments.

Shortly I will have the honour to recognize the accomplishments of 7 year old Ryan Hreljac of Kempville.

Ryan, with the help of his brothers Jordan and Keegan, worked tirelessly to get clean water wells for people in a village in Uganda, Africa. For his efforts Ryan will receive a You Made a Difference Award.

Here in Ottawa the student volunteer program of the Queensway-Carleton Hospital will also receive an award for the work of the 200 grade 10 students who donated over 10,000 hours annually to the hospital.

Mr. Marc Croteau, the mayor of the city of Aylmer, will also receive an award in recognition of his efforts to build respect and confidence among the general population and youth of Aylmer, Quebec.

On behalf of my colleagues I would like to say congratulations to Janis Machin and Bernie Muzeen of Our Kids. I would also like to say congratulations to all individuals involved in improving the lives of others, especially our children. For those who are celebrating their birthday today, happy birthday.

Focus On The FamilyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Reed Elley Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is UN Universal Children's Day. On such a day it is a sad comment that Focus on the Family, an organization devoted to children and Christian family values, was censured earlier this year by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

The CBSC condemned Focus on the Family and has been the witness, prosecutor, judge and jury.

I understood that all Canadians had the right to freedom of religion, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of the press and communications. I ask the government has this changed?

The CBSC listened to one complaint, made no attempt to contact the source of the broadcast and ruled against radio station CKRD.

There was no opportunity for the presentation of supporting documents, opposing views, appeal or even notification of the decision.

Clearly the broadcast industry's self-regulation process leaves much to be desired. This judgment is biased and, contrary to the values of millions of Canadians, this method does not work. Justice has not been served. The CRTC has entrusted the broadcast council with a self-regulating procedure, but the process is flawed.

International Firefighters CompetitionStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am most pleased to rise in the House to congratulate five members of the Crapaud Fire Department who made Canada proud at the recent International Firefighters Competition in Orlando, Florida. The team of Kent Clyke, Mike Craig, Dean Ferguson, Harold Taylor and Sandy MacQuarrie were the first among all Canadian teams and 17th overall at the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

Their success is especially significant because they are strictly a volunteer fire department—real volunteers—from a small rural community of 400 in P.E.I. What these men lacked in training facilities they made up for with commitment, determination and pure heart. The people of Crapaud must also be congratulated for the overwhelming support they gave their firefighters. Without this support their efforts would not have been realized.

Once again, congratulations on a job well done. All of Canada is proud of them.

Education And Advanced ResearchStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the 1998 federal budget, the first no-deficit federal budget in 27 years, was also an education budget. As a consequence of federal investment in education and advanced research, a $450,117 contract has been awarded to the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Education for Applied Research and Evaluation Services. This will support 12 full time and 36 part time academic scientific jobs through to the end of March 2000.

In actively sponsoring education and advanced research the government is building the intellectual infrastructure to lead us successfully into the next millennium.

National Child DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to bring the attention of the House to the annual observance of National Child Day. As a proud mother of four sons I know how important the early years of a child's life are in enabling the child to attain his or her full potential.

National Child Day promotes the awareness of the importance of these early years. Special activities and events are held across the country on November 20 to celebrate National Child Day. Launches of special initiatives, programs to protect children's rights, workshops and public exhibits are being held to promote the day.

Our children are our most precious resource. They will determine the future of this country. The Government of Canada recognizes this and has made children's issues a clear priority. One example is the national child benefit which is part and parcel of a greater effort—

National Child DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville.

Parental RightsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on November 5 Sun Media Corporation published an article entitled “Spank your child, go to jail”. Columnist Michael Coren told the sad story of what happened to Joe Cleary because he spanked his five-year old son for continuing to kick the family cat after being told repeatedly not to do so. A month after he used this totally reasonable measure to correct his son's behaviour, police came to Mr. Cleary's place of work, arrested him, handcuffed him in front of co-workers, put him in jail for two days and charged him with assault.

The Clearys had to go to court seven times and incurred legal bills totalling $10,000. The judge quite correctly dismissed the charges under section 43 of the Criminal Code which protects the fundamental parental right of parents to use reasonable measures to correct their children's behaviour.

The judge got it right, but how did the police and crown prosecutors get it so wrong? On National Child Day can the government please explain how the persecution of good parents by the state is in the best interests of the child?

National Child DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Claudette Bradshaw Liberal Moncton, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to alert the House to the annual celebration of National Child Day.

The aim of this day is to make better known and to understand the factors that contribute to the growth of children, especially very young children, so we may help them realize their full potential.

Several events will take place across Canada to mark National Child Day. Many communities have organized events for children and their families.

Our children are our most valuable resource. They will help determine the future of our country. The government is very committed to helping children.

I have spent over 30 years of my life working with children in poverty. We need to continue to provide support and resources at the community level to ensure that the needs of all children are met.

I invite my colleagues in the House to join me in supporting National Child Day and all the activities that will help Canadian children get a good start in life.

Michel TrudeauStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we continue our work in the House today, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his family along with many friends and Canadians from across the country are gathering at Saint-Viateur d'Outrement church to honour the tragically shortened life and the memory of Michel Trudeau.

His most unfortunate death hit us all as Canadians. We, as members of parliament, have a special place in our thoughts for Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who contributed so much of himself and his talents to parliament and to the country, a country he exemplified for many years.

Words always seem feeble and inadequate comfort in the face of immense tragedies such as the sudden loss of Michel Trudeau. But in the measure in which they can bring solace, I know I am expressing the deep feelings of all parties in offering to Mr. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Mrs. Margaret Kemper and Michel's brothers Justin and Sacha our most profound sympathy.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week I attended the global warming negotiations in Buenos Aires.

Little progress was made toward meeting the goals set down in Kyoto last year and one simply has to ask “Why?”

Could it be that many of the delegates to the Kyoto protocol arrived home in their respective countries last year only to be beat up because of the unrealistic goals they had agreed to?

The distinct lack of agreement in Buenos Aires on key issues such as inclusion of developing countries or emissions trading mechanisms makes it appear that many countries want to push negotiations well into the next century and then use that as the excuse for not meeting the global goals.

Why not have the political backbone and admit it up front. The goals that Canada agreed to in Kyoto are unrealistic and unachievable—

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

Parti QuebecoisStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the PQ has a very unusual conception of the referendum debate. A future referendum would be a winning referendum only for the PQ. This is a strange way to preserve democracy.

The PQ will use public funds to try once again to catch Quebeckers like lobster. This is a dangerous approach that smacks of intellectual fraud, of contempt for Quebeckers.

It is hard to be more biased than the PQ. We are talking here about the future of a society, not a PQ convention.

National Child DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1993, the Canadian government designated November 20 as national child day, to commemorate two major events in the history of the United Nations, namely the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1958, and of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.

On this day, my thoughts are with the children who suffer from hardship, violence and hunger. We do not have the right to betray these fragile human beings, nor do we have the right to betray their distressed parents, who can no longer meet their most basic needs.

Yet, this government continues to turn its back on poverty by contributing, through its political choices, to increasing the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Instead of indexing its tax system, this government prefers to underhandedly take money from the poor.

Let us hope that this child day will arouse the conscience of a government more concerned about its visibility than about putting children and their parents—

National Child DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.

National Child DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, today is national child day and sadly there are still far too many children living in poverty in this country. Despite a unanimous resolution in this House in 1989 to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000, there are 1.5 million children living in poverty.

Each day in Canada millions of children roll out of bed in substandard housing or shelters with empty stomachs and empty hopes.

Yesterday the Minister of Finance had a revelation about child poverty. He finally discovered that there is third world poverty in the country and called child poverty a national disgrace.

Yet it is this government's cuts to social programs that have pushed half a million more children into poverty since the Liberals were elected in 1993. With only 14 months to go until the year 2000, New Democrats call on the finance minister to introduce measures to eliminate child poverty come hell or high water and end the national disgrace of child poverty.

Election Campaign In QuebecStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, another twist from Lucien Bouchard: social union comes first, ahead of the referendum. A bit of an outlandish trick.

I have greater faith in the Quebec Liberal Party's improving the Canadian federation. The winning condition for Quebec's economic growth is a vote for the Liberals.

The Quebec government will be paralyzed for the next four years under the PQ, which wants to hold endless referendums.

Lucien Bouchard does not know what else to do, but hold referendums.

Transition To EmploymentStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of the House an important program in my riding of Kings—Hants. The program is called Transition to Employment.

The goal of the program is to teach computer and literacy programs, financial management and basic life skills development to the aboriginal people in this area. The program is administered by the Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselling Association which is based in Indian Brook at the Eagle's Nest treatment centre. The program requires that all of its members are alcohol and drug free.

The program has been an overwhelming success to date and its program co-ordinator David Paul and instructor Holly McCulloch have played a big part in that success. I congratulate all participants of the Transition to Employment program and I offer my complete support and assistance to their efforts.

I would hope that this program can represent an opportunity for the federal government and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to implement it across Canada to ensure that our native population has an opportunity to participate fully in the type of economic and social opportunities that Canadians deserve.