Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-33 at second reading. The legislation is very important, given the history of accidents and safety concerns over the last large number of years in Canada. In fact, it has not only the support of the government but it also has the support of the Teamsters Canada union, representing workers in the railway industry.
The proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act will encourage the rail companies to create and maintain a culture of safety and penalize rule-breakers by enabling the Government of Canada to do several things. One is to crack down on the rule-breakers with tough new monetary penalties and increased judicial penalties, and those have been indicated by some of the previous speakers. I believe it is a maximum fine of $1 million for a corporation and $500,000 for an individual. Other summary fines are $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a corporation. It is good to see there are some increased and fairly tough penalties.
Also there is a strengthening of the safety requirements for railway companies. I had indicated in the question earlier that there had been 10,000 train collisions and derailments over the last decade, which is an average of 3 a day. I found it astounding that it would be that high, but it has been documented so it must be true. On that basis alone, we need strengthened safety requirements for these railway companies.
It also creates whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety concerns. We are starting to see whistleblower protection emerge in a lot of areas nowadays. It is very important to protect information that should become public. In the past it never became public because employees were afraid to lose their jobs if they gave information out.
In addition, there is a requirement that each railway have an executive who is legally responsible for safety, a position in the railway to deal with safety issues.
The Railway Safety Act came into force in 1989. It gave Transport Canada the responsibility to oversee railway safety in Canada. In addition, it strengthened Transport Canada's regulatory oversight and enforcement capacities. These proposed amendments are consistent with the legislative framework of other transportation modes.
In terms of funding for this, the new amendments are supposed to be funded, for a total of $44 million over 5 years, to cover a national rail safety program based on detailed inspections, safety management system audits and enforcement action in cases of non-compliance.
As I had indicated, Teamsters Canada represents 4,000 rail workers at CP Rail. Those employees are involved in inspecting, monitoring and repairing tracks, bridges and structures on the network. The employees and their union are in support of the legislation. They sent out a press release earlier this year, indicating that it was time to plug the loopholes that allowed railways to put profit ahead of public safety. They are clearly on the side of the legislation, and that is always a good sign.
The proposed legislation calls for a tightening of rules, hiring more safety inspectors at Transport Canada. I also indicated the penalties involved. However, it is always a good sign when the government actually does consult on its legislative initiatives and presents a bill in the House, while taking into account the concerns of the union and of the workers who work at the enterprise. I commend it for doing that.
It has been mentioned that some of the derailments in the railway industry over the last number of years have involved explosions. I pulled information regarding the Mississauga situation a number of years ago, but I was particularly interested in the cases of train railway accidents involving loss of life.
The accident that caused the most loss of life in Canada was in my home province of Manitoba, the Dugald collision of 1947 that killed 35 people. The second biggest railway accident involving loss of life was the Hinton train collision on February 8, 1986, when 23 people were killed. I think many people remember the Hinton situation, which caused a lot of initiative into looking into the problem.
As one of the government members mentioned earlier, subsequent disasters have caused people to start to look at the whole issue of collisions.
It is possible for anyone who knows about railways to have foreseen this happening. In the 1960s, and the member for Winnipeg Centre will know this too, the roadbeds were not up to standard. There was a big push in those days to improve the roadbeds and put in ribbon steel as opposed to the short railway rails that were there before. Coupled with that was faster and longer trains. Then there was the move to take the cabooses from the trains.
We were running trains at much higher speeds through some areas where we had muskeg and so on. It was hard to maintain the roadbed and something had to give at the end of the day.
People in my party are very interested in seeing Canada invest in railways. We look to best practices elsewhere, for example in Japan and Europe, where trains are running at 200 miles an hour, which is a little faster than I would like to ride in a train, but I have ridden in them. They are even looking at 300 miles an hour.
How in the world will we be able to do something like that in Canada when we cannot even keep our trains on the track at the speeds they go right now, not to mention the issue that my friend from Winnipeg Centre has mentioned about relocating railway yards? That causes a lot of problems in his area and in my area of Elmwood—Transcona as well, with traffic being shut down for long periods of time, especially during the rush hour periods.
Before I finish I want to talk about my constituency. While the member for Winnipeg Centre has railway yards in his area, Transcona exists because of the railway industry.
On April 6, 1912, Transcona received its charter. In those days it was a heady period for Winnipeggers because the city had visions that it would become a second Chicago, Chicago of the north. The town of Transcona was named for the Transcontinental Railroad and cona for Lord Strathcona. It is one of the few places in Manitoba that does not owe its origins to agriculture, but to the railway. In 1907, 800 acres were acquired for the railway shops.
I want to mention that 2,000 people found jobs in the facility that planned to employ 5,000 people. There was work for trainmen, machinists, blacksmiths, boilermakers, electricians, pipefitters and upholsters. Over the years Transcona has had its ups and downs. Lately the numbers have fallen, unfortunately, to a low of perhaps only 700 people working in the Transcona area.
It is very shocking but this has all happened just in the last 20 to 30 years. It is a moving—