Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to continue my discourse on Bill S-4.
As I suggested earlier, the new Bill S-4 contains some amendments to the environmental protection portion of the bill which would give more power to the minister to enforce environmental protection. As I started to say earlier, one of the things that gives residents in urban areas, and in particular in Toronto, significant worry is the exhaust from diesel trains.
New York City is 104 years ahead of Canada because it banned fossil fuel-burning trains from Manhattan Island in 1908. Since that time, only electric vehicles have been permitted to operate in Manhattan, to the point where engines actually have to be changed on the way in. That has resulted in a much cleaner and more manageable environment in the city of Manhattan.
The citizens of Toronto would like the same courtesy. As such, they are pushing GO Transit in particular but ultimately all the other train operators, CN, CP and VIA, to use electric vehicles wherever possible.
I note that environmental regulations are currently stronger in the United States than they are here and I hope the minister will make Canadian railroads adopt tier 4 standards for all their engines in 2015, as is the case in the United States.
The other piece of safety worry for residents in the city of Toronto is derailments. One only has to witness the kind of destruction that takes place in adjacent areas when there are derailments.
In the city of Toronto rail corridors traverse significant residential populations. The rail industry requested that this bill be amended to allow it to have some say over how close houses can be built to the rail corridor.
In Toronto the rail corridor is being moved closer to homes by the rail company itself. It beggars belief that it would actually do this, but that is happening. In one case, CP Rail expropriated the backyards of several homes in order to move its rails 20 feet closer to the homes. If a derailment occurs in that piece of my riding, the devastation will be unimaginable.
Therefore, what does the rail company do? It is now building a crash barrier for protection, but it will not protect the homes. The crash barrier will be between two sets of rail corridors so if a crash happens, CP freights will not damage CN and VIA rails, but nothing has been built to protect the homes. The bill should provide the minister with the power to look into this. Why are we protecting against a crash if the crash happens toward the rail corridor rather than toward the homes?
A school is right on that rail corridor. The play yard is literally five feet from the rails. When that was criticized, the rail company said that people should not build schools so close to a rail corridor. The trouble was the school was there first and the rail company just did not know that.
One cannot talk about rail safety without saying something about the deteriorating infrastructure of our railway system. My colleagues in the NDP from coast to coast see rail service being closed for safety reasons as a result of deteriorating tracks and a lack of adequate maintenance. Clearly, track maintenance is an issue in rail safety. Significant investment needs to be made in rail infrastructure across Canada, not only to improve rail safety but to continue to provide, and hopefully expand, rail service both in terms of passenger service as well as freight service.
Passenger and freight services were closed recently in the Gaspé and on Vancouver Island as a result of deteriorating rail infrastructure. These services were handed to the local authorities by the big rail companies in what was almost an unfit state. The local authorities do not have the funds to keep them up the way the rail companies did. Therefore, we need federal action to create rail safety on these and other such rail corridors.