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House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consultants.

Topics

Nuclear Non-ProliferationRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nuclear Non-ProliferationRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Nuclear Non-ProliferationRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nuclear Non-ProliferationRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-33, Safer Railways Act, which has been brought forward today by the government. It represents the government's thinking on moving forward with railway safety in this country.

I certainly agree with most of the speakers here that the railway system in this country is one that is under pressure. We need to ensure that it is operated in the safest and most complete fashion for all those who live near it or are involved in it.

There are some deficiencies in the current safety act that are in need of fixing, but I think this bill takes on some elements that are perhaps redundant. These may not move so much forward on safety but rather increase the bureaucracy around the railways.

This bill corrects some minor errors that have been identified in existing acts and creates a certification process for railroads to show that they are safe. Also, it creates a ticketing process for enforcement and tweaks certain elements within the safety management system for railways. That is all good and proper.

However, there are problems, such as using a ticket system of fines for enforcement. The U.S. has a system of tickets but now uses it only in the most serious and egregious violations. The U.S. has learned that tickets do not actually work to improve safety. There are reports throughout the United States that the tickets were sometimes paid by the railways rather than go ahead with required improvements and fix-ups. In some cases, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration prefers to issue compliance orders, special notices for repair, disqualification orders, injunctions, and emergency orders so that things actually are done on the system. If there is a point in the system where problems are occurring, they get fixed with these types of orders.

We can talk about the certification process, but once a railway starts operating, it has already complied with the Railway Safety Act. By starting up it goes through a process of ensuring that its system is well set up and within the rules that it is guided by. Therefore, the extra process of certification is something that we would like to understand better. Perhaps at committee we will see how this certification process would improve safety. That is something we must leave to witnesses and those people who will know about that in committee.

What Bill C-33 does not do is dramatically increase railway safety. According to “Stronger Ties”, the 2007 review of the Railway Safety Act, the major cause of death comes from accidents at level crossings and trespassing.

Since 2001, an average of 84 people have been killed or seriously injured annually as a result of crossing accidents and an average of 79 people have been killed or seriously injured due to trespassing. These are very large numbers. These are real issues of concern when we talk about railway safety. Many Canadians are dying around our railways. In 2006, 142 people were killed or seriously injured as a result of crossing and trespassing accidents. The railway industry considers these collisions to be a major problem. The greater tragedy is that perhaps many of these incidents could have been avoided.

Rail collisions are in fact one of the most predictable of all transportation hazards. Trains and motor vehicles are alike in that both travel on hundreds of thousands of kilometres of rail or highway and urban road networks. Similarly, aircraft have millions of kilometres of airspace in which to fly.

However, a highway railway crossing has a precise location. The intersection of the highway and the railway track is where a collision between a motor vehicle and a train is most likely to occur. We have a very defined area within the rail system where these accidents are occurring.

Investigation reports reveal that in most circumstances motorists are responsible for these collisions. They disregard the horn and bell warnings of approaching trains. They ignore light and bell warnings at crossings and sometimes they even drive around lowered gates. There is nothing in the bill that will decrease those numbers.

How could we do this? Perhaps we could begin a larger, federal, education campaign. Working in partnership with the Railway Association, Transport Canada could lead the effort to bring together people who can deal with the education required for motorists to better deal with rail crossings, to not be impatient when the gates go down, and to be observant.

There are about 43,000 federally and provincially regulated public and private level crossings in Canada, so when the minister talks about the dollars that the government has invested over the past number of years on railways crossings, he is not talking about a huge sum of money in comparison to the issues before us.

In “Stronger Ties”, the railway safety advisory panel recommended the government develop a program to identify which crossings can be closed, limit the number of new crossings, and improve the safety at existing crossings.

Many of the European countries do different things with rail or level crossings that allow high-speed trains to move through rail crossings with a great degree of safety. They have automated systems that detect metal in the level crossing and stop the train on an automatic basis. We have to train Canadians to wait for this to occur, because if we stop a train because somebody is in the level crossing, we have to close the crossing earlier for that to occur.

We know that trespassing accidents can never be completely eliminated, but what about the requirement for fencing? Where can we do better on that particular requirement so that we reduce the number of incidents of trespassing and reduce the number of deaths that are occurring? These are serious problems with railway safety, problems that need to be addressed, and perhaps as we take this bill forward to committee, we could look at some things there. Once again, the bill is directed in a more bureaucratic fashion to deal with penalties and to deal with other issues, but really we need to look at some of the basic precepts of railway safety.

Another area would be to have regulations that ensure that trains respect signals. In many countries, if there is a red signal, the train automatically slows down or stops. In Canada that is not the case. We do not have those fail-safe systems and that can lead to more accidents. Once again, the issues are sometimes technical in nature, but they are also things that this federal government has a responsibility to legislate.

Actions do not come from nothing. It is not a simple job to improve railway safety. It is an investment. It is regulations. It is certainly enforcement, but it certainly speaks to the need for more than what is in the bill here today. The bill may do something, but we really need to look at the overall picture of railway safety and fix the things that need to be fixed to ensure the Canadian public is protected.

We need to ensure that our standards for some of the problems we have are raised to the point that they match up to other countries and the rest of the world.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, my question for the member for Western Arctic, and through him to the government, is in the context of studying rail safety. Is it not a good time to study the larger issue of rail relocation altogether?

In many cities, especially in western Canada, in the 1880s the rail ran right down the main drag of these cities and, in many cases, like in the city of Winnipeg, it cut the city in half. The great thundering marshalling yards of the CPR created a tale of two cities in terms of north Winnipeg and south Winnipeg. Our whole social development has been affected by that intrusion into the city of Winnipeg.

I raise that in the context of safety because there have been explosions, chemical spills, oil spills and ongoing degradation of the environment by virtue of the rails running through the city.

The Railway Relocation and Crossing Act used to pay for 50% of the rail relocation if a municipality applied to the federal government saying that it did not want the railway in its municipality anymore. Does the member not believe, in the context of rail safety, that the federal government must recommit to the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act?

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, after listening to the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, I do not really want to respond because he raised some excellent points that should be addressed in this particular discussion that we will be having going forward, perhaps in committee where we can see some of these issues brought out. We can bring witnesses forward to talk about this particular aspect of railway safety.

It is commendable that the member has raised this issue now and I will certainly carry that message forward.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have several communities in my riding where there are problems with the length of trains today. The trains are so long that if an accident were to occur in a community it could be landlocked.

I have s a CNR community in my riding called Capreol. If a serious accident were to happen at the right place, this community would be landlocked possibly for days. I am just wondering if this bill, when it goes to committee, would look after a situation like this?

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I would say once again that these issues are part of what will need to be examined at committee. I think the bill opens up a number of doors that people want to see into in terms of railway safety. However, there is not one simple answer.

To understand whether this bill would actually improve railway safety in this country would be to understand how some of those questions will be answered by the regulations and the changes to the safety act that have been put in place.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my friend and colleague from Western Arctic for having defended so well his proposals with respect to railway safety in Canada.

I will be using my speaking time on this matter to say that the City of Montreal is not an exception to the rule described earlier by my colleague, the transportation critic, and by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. The City of Montreal, one of the oldest in Canada, has had the same experience: what was once very important now cuts through the city from one end to the other. We absolutely have to do two things: ensure that there is communication with the various areas of the city that are sometimes in the midst of repair and reconstruction work and also establish communication with the people responsible for the railways to ensure, for example, that there are safe crossings.

In this regard, I would like to point out that Luc Ferrandez, mayor of the borough of Plateau Mont-Royal, Alex Norris, councillor for the Mile End district of the borough, and his colleague Richard Ryan, Mile End councillor, cannot fathom that the City of Montreal to date has not even received a response to a letter sent at their request, because the city and the boroughs obviously must work together. Louis Roquet, as we all know, is the city manager, and he wrote to Denyse Nepveu, Director of Government Affairs for Canadian Pacific Railway, on August 20, 2010, regarding a railway interface and urban redevelopment project for the Saint-Viateur Est and Bellechasse sectors and the construction of a level crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. I will quote a portion of his letter.

Some steps have been taken informally by various departments of the city and boroughs to inform you of the main development projects on the outskirts of Plateau Mont-Royal and Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie as well as the challenges related to railway crossings. I hereby wish to confirm the importance of these development projects for the City of Montreal and also take the opportunity to continue discussions in order to find innovative solutions that will improve the interface.

They tried to explain to the railway company involved that there were 4,500 people living on one side of the railway tracks with their workplace on the other, as well as the metro station that their tax dollars paid for. These situations are always very complicated. Sometimes land will be freed up. The railways are moved. Outremont's railway yard is a good example. Construction will soon start on a group of buildings for the Université de Montréal's science and biosciences sector on this large site. It is being decontaminated. After a lot of hard work was done to convince the Conservatives that it was their responsibility to subsidize the decontamination because it was a rail site, the money came. Announcements are being made. However, it is an integral part of what is happening in Montreal. Whole sections of the city are working again. Good jobs with innovative businesses are being brought in, and problems from the 19th century are being dealt with.

Those in charge of the railways did not even bother to provide a response when called on by the public, by representatives of the borough and, as I just demonstrated, even by Montreal's city manager. Ms. Nepveu received this letter in August. It is now mid-December and there has still been no response. That is sad. How are these dynamic forces supposed to help their city move forward? If this antiquated equipment is useful for certain sectors of the city, then adaptation is key and the public needs to be given the means to cope with that. That is what today's bill is about.

We are putting certain important aspects of rail safety back on the table. My hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre reminded us that relocating these railways can be good for some cities. His city, Winnipeg, is a little like Montreal. It dates back to another time when the railway was connecting all of Canada. It only made sense to have the railway go right through the middle of town. However, what was once a blessing and a positive thing has in many cases become a nuisance today. Now we must deal with that.

It would be impossible to do the same thing immediately in every city. Yet this issue concerns every one of us here today. I am talking about the level crossing that should be our number one priority in Canada, because it would open up one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Canada: Mile End in Plateau-Mont-Royal, with its industrial park with 4,500 employees on one side and a metro station on the other.

The only thing preventing the 4,500 industrial park employees and the residents of Mile End from enjoying the full benefits of a metro station, which, as I said, was paid for using their tax dollars, is CP's obstinacy. The status quo is not safe. We are talking about safety around railways. The only legal pedestrian walkways available to get from one neighbourhood to the other are unsafe sidewalks that go under the tracks and are poorly lit, too narrow and really unpleasant, where there is excrement, graffiti and so on. Not many people use these walkways, and it is considered unsafe to walk there alone, especially for women.

According to a study carried out by the borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal, several hundred people a day illegally cross the railway between the two boroughs. During a peak period of just two hours, some 400 people were counted illegally crossing the railway between the two boroughs. This is extremely dangerous and these people could receive big fines if they were caught.

The number of these illegal crossings will only increase, because both sides of the railway are currently being redeveloped. In Mile End, 300,000 square metres of industrial space traditionally used by the clothing industry are being replaced by commercial and residential sites.There is a similar development in the Bellechasse de Rosemont sector.

So we can see that the urban fabric—no pun intended, since we are talking about the clothing industry—is starting to change. They want people to come live in the industrial sectors that never used to be attractive. They want to attract interesting businesses that would bring in a clientele that will support restaurants and businesses and that will buy and live in the neighbourhood. If the railway companies do not co-operate to provide safe crossings that can be used correctly by these people, railways will increasingly be seen as a hindrance to the harmonious future development of urban centres.

Like my colleague from Western Arctic who spoke earlier, I would very much be in favour of studying this bill for a number of reasons, and the main one is the ability to hear from Ms. Nepveu from Canadian Pacific Railway and from other officials. They do not even respond when they are questioned by cities like the city of Montreal.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Outremont for being generous in his treatment of this bill by recognizing the challenges that my city shares with his city of Montreal in terms of rail safety. In both of our cases, the railway was put through the very heart of our cities back when it was a logical and reasonable thing to do in 1882 or 1885. Now, in the context of rail safety, a real safety liability exists in both of our cities.

I note that many American cities are taking proactive steps to get the rail marshalling yards well out of the city for two reasons. First, as the freight has been forced from the rail onto trucks, often the most dangerous freight is still on the rails, that is chemicals, oil, et cetera. Spills do happen in the inner city of Montreal and the inner city of Winnipeg. Explosions do occur in both cities.

Would my colleague encourage the government to consider revitalizing the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act, which exists as legislation but which has been dormant for 15 or 20 years. The federal government used to pay 50% of the cost of rail relocation if a municipality applied to the federal government for assistance.

Would the member agree that we need to tear up the tracks in inner cities? Does he agree that the federal government should revitalize the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act?

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, one need only look at the problem that I have just explained with regard to the city of Montreal to understand that the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act is a good idea. It should be revitalized and made a factor to which we can actually refer. As my colleague has explained, it is relatively dormant right now.

What is not dormant are the problems that are caused by the current situation of the tracks in a city like Montreal. Unfortunately, it often leads to people being killed. There was another case very recently of three young people killed on the tracks in the heart of Montreal. We have to deal with this.

A lot of companies are being served within the limits of that city right now that are having very toxic products brought to them through the centre of town. I hate the expression, but it seems to be applicable in this case. It is an accident looking for a place to happen. That place should be somewhere else other than in the centre of the most populous neighbourhoods.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Outremont.

My riding of Nickel Belt is mainly a rural area and, since the railway line crosses roads that do not have barriers, accidents occur frequently. I use the term “accidents” because these incidents are exactly that—accidents.

Does my colleague agree that, when a railway line crosses a road, lights and rail barriers should be mandatory at the level crossing?

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, throughout Canada, there are some railway crossings in rural areas that are not marked at all. This is not safe. This is exactly the type of situation that could be covered by the legislation we are discussing. I completely agree with my friend and colleague from Nickel Belt. This type of situation should not be allowed to continue.

This is of concern to us as legislators because, even though it has become common to congratulate ourselves on the role the railway played in the establishment of Canada, we must understand that most of the communities were there well before the railway. It is therefore our responsibility to ensure that the railway companies implement the necessary resources. They will not do so unless we make them.

A fellow member recently tabled a bill for repairing the Quebec Bridge, a bridge that carries the railway. At one time, an agreement was reached with CN, which was supposed to be responsible for repairing the bridge; however CN did not respect the contract. I find this regrettable. This is not the first time we have witnessed such behaviour by the railway companies. If no one makes them take action, they will continue to get away with doing nothing.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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—

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will have to stop the hon. member there. I think we can accommodate a very brief question or comment and similarly timed response.

The hon. member for Nickel Belt.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that the hon. member from Winnipeg's community is cut in half by railway tracks just like my community of Sudbury.

So, I would ask the hon. member if he believes that the government should help fund the removal of those tracks from downtown municipalities that want to have them moved.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, of course every situation is different. In the case of the member for Winnipeg Centre, it certainly seems like a very positive thing to do. I know he has talked about it before. This is not the first day that he came up with this idea. He has talked about it for many years now and has received a lot of support within the city of Winnipeg for it.

However, relocating the railway lines has to be done in conjunction with a lot of different things; that is, the construction of new types of roadbeds, faster trains, maybe electric-type trains and high-speed transportation, all the things that the transportation committee has been looking at for the last number of years and should continue—

The House resumed from December 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures, be read the third time and passed.

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, December 2, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-47.

Call in the members.

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

Vote #138

Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from December 2 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—West Coast Oil Tanker TrafficBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the New Democratic Party motion.