House of Commons Hansard #193 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was railways.

Topics

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on some of the member's comments.

One of the issues has to be the percentage increase of rail line traffic over the years. The amount of oil, gas and other cargo that is transported all over Canada concerns a great number of Canadians. An alternative to that is pipelines, which is why I was somewhat intrigued when the member said that the NDP opposed Keystone. The NDP opposes all pipelines, it would seem. However, there is some benefit to pipelines to ease the rail line traffic.

Does the member recognize that if we could get that social contract to build pipelines, we could ease the pressure from our rail lines, and all Canadians would benefit by that? Could the member at the very least acknowledge that there is some value to transport some of this product through pipelines? If so, is there a pipeline that the NDP would support?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

March 31st, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

There we go, Mr. Speaker. I rest my case.

Whenever the issue of public safety is raised, and should be addressed first, what do the Liberals do? They say that we have to support pipelines, that their leader supports Keystone XL. Well, the Liberal leader got slapped down by Obama because it was not a smart plan.

I do not know what the problem is with the Liberals if they believe we should just support pipelines. We say that pipelines have to be made safe in the same way that we have to make rail traffic safe.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague this. Has the Liberal leader talked about northern gateway with people in British Columbia? Has he talked with Kinder Morgan?

If we talk to anybody from western Canada coming into the east, they will say that if we build a pipeline, we better assure them that it is safe, as opposed to the Liberal Party position that we have had another rail derailment, therefore is that not good news for the pipeline industry. That is a false argument.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from Timmins—James Bay, whose speeches are always relevant and easy for everyone to understand.

A few days after the tragic events in Lac-Mégantic, I visited the area to get a sense of the scope of the physical damage. I could also see how much the people of Lac-Mégantic were suffering and how resilient they are.

We now know that it will cost around $400 million to rebuild the area.

Did my colleague see an explanation in the bill? We always hear about taking a step in the right direction. That is never enough.

How does the bill set a $250 million limit for the disaster relief fund, when the cost of the most compelling example we have is already well over $250 million?

What mathematical rule did the Conservatives use in deciding to do so little for such a serious problem?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I have a lot of respect for the work he does in the House.

It is clear that this bill is a necessary small step. This government needs to create a plan to protect Canadians. Moreover, we need a long-term vision for the development of natural resources.

This government has refused to discuss our obligation to protect Canadians and communities and to protect the environment. Our economic future will be based on an economy built on security and sustainability.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities.

I am honoured to rise in this debate to outline the measures our government is taking to strengthen rail safety and the transportation of dangerous goods in general and specifically to strengthen the standards of railway tank cars.

It has been said before, and it is worth repeating, that public safety and accident prevention remains this government's priority. It has always been and will continue to be the case. Our government remains committed to the safety of all Canadians and it will take all appropriate actions to ensure their safety during the transportation of flammable liquids, such as crude oil. Incidents, such as the tragedy that occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, to the most recent incidents near Gogama, Ontario, reinforce our resolve to develop an appropriate safety regime that would protect all Canadians.

Our government has taken many actions to strengthen the safety of railway transportation and the transportation of dangerous goods following the tragic events in Lac-Mégantic in July 2013, and to address the recommendations in the fall 2013 report of the Auditor General of Canada. Since the Lac-Mégantic train derailment, we have initiated regulatory measures to strengthen tank car standards.

On April 23, 2014, under the authority of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, Transport Canada issued a protective direction requiring the immediate phase-out of the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tank cars from dangerous goods service. Roughly 5,000 tank cars in North America can no longer be used for dangerous goods service in Canada, but can be repurposed to transport non-dangerous goods.

On July 2, 2014, Transport Canada published regulations updating the legacy of the DOT-111 tank car standards to require thicker steel, half-head shield protection and top-fitting protection. All newly manufactured tank cars built for dangerous goods service, corrosives and flammable liquids must comply with this minimum standard. The tank car may be a jacketed or unjacketed tank car.

Transport Canada also introduced a requirement for proof of classification of dangerous goods.

On July 18, 2014, a regulatory proposal that would phase out DOT-111 tank cars and mandate an even more robust tank car standard specifically designed for the transfer of flammable liquids to replace the CPC-1232 tank cars was announced. The new class of tank car would include thicker steel and require the tank car to be manufactured as jacketed, thermally-insulated tank cars, with a full head shield, top-fitting protection and a new bottom outlet valve. The proposed requirements would also require the CPC-1232 and the DOT-111 tank cars to be retrofitted to improve their features and crash resistance.

Our government has been working in close collaboration with the U.S. to harmonize the tank car standards and retrofit timelines as much as possible. We are in the final stages of developing standards for the next generation of tank cars for the transportation of flammable liquids. This would further reduce the risk of product leaks in the event of a derailment. We have expeditiously developed this new proposed tank car design, which would phase out the current DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars for the transport of flammable liquids by rail.

The new tank car design would be the most robust tank car for the transportation of flammable liquids. In addition, to support the new tank car design, our government will bring forward retrofit requirements to meet the direction on the phase-out or retrofit schedule for the highest risk legacy DOT-111 tank cars, as announced on April 23, 2014.

The proposed TC-117 tank car, formerly referred to as the TC-140, would be the new standard for tank car manufacturers to use for the transport of flammable liquids in packing group I, II and III, such as crude oil, ethanol, gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. Following publication of a final regulation, the TC-117 would replace the current tank car standard, which was published in the Canada Gazette, part II, on July 2, 2014.

Once published, the TC-117 regulation would provide a prescriptive or performance-based retrofit requirement to which all legacy DOT-111 and CPC-1232/TP 14877 tank cars would be required to meet. The regulation would also provide a risk-based retrofit, timeline schedule, which establishes the type of tank car to be used by certain dates for the transport of certain flammable liquids, either by specific name or by packing group. The TC-117 is part of a holistic risk-based approach to enhancing public safety during the transport of flammable liquids by rail.

Our government has taken a number of other actions on rail safety. We have introduced new train operation requirements, reduced train speeds, proposed new compensation and liability requirements, increased railway inspections, introduced new classification requirements, required the sharing of dangerous goods information with municipalities, expanded emergency response assistance plan program to include flammable liquids, and we have removed the oldest tank cars from dangerous goods service in Canada.

Our Government has been open and transparent in our approach to bringing forward a new tank car standard. As evidence of this, anyone can go on Transport Canada's website and find up-to-date information about tank car standard and timelines associated with retrofitting.

Going forward, our governments remains committed to working with industry; all levels of government, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and its National Municipal Rail Safety Working Group; regulatory officials in the United States; and other key stakeholders, such as the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, to examine means of further improving railway safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods. Thanks in large part to these positive and productive working relationships, we continue to make progress on this important file.

To conclude, while Canada has a strong safety regime for railways and the transportation of dangerous goods, our government continues to take action to improve the safety and accountability of Canada's railways.

We are confident that the actions we have taken, in collaboration with our partners, will set a stronger standard for the next generation of tank cars used to transport flammable liquids and by doing so, will reduce the chance of leaks in the event of a derailment.

The actions our government has taken go well beyond a mere response to recent rail incidents. Rather, we seek to assure Canadians that we are doing what needs to be done to strengthen the safety of our railways and the transportation of dangerous goods. These actions demonstrate our belief in the continued use of railway shipping and the transportation of dangerous goods, and they demonstrate our commitment to the safety and protection of all Canadians.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, rail line safety is an important issue to all Canadians. I represent Winnipeg North and we have the CP yards that go along the southern boundary. It is one of our boundary lines, and we know there is all sorts of cargo that is transported through the heart of Winnipeg.

There is the CN Symington Yards at the other side of the city of Winnipeg. The point is, everything goes through Winnipeg before it starts going out west, or through Winnipeg coming from the west, going out east.

There is no doubt that the residents of Manitoba are very much concerned about rail line safety. There is reason to believe, through a number of steps and initiatives, that this will improve, to a certain degree, the whole issue of rail safety.

Legislation is one thing. Another issue is how government chooses to invest in our rail lines. Would the member talk about the importance of government investing financial resources in particular in the infrastructure of our rail lines?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my speech, rail safety is something that the government is taking very seriously. We have to transport our goods by rail, and rail safety has many components.

To date, we have invested large sums of money in infrastructure, but I would like to speak about some of the components of the safety of our railways. It includes all of the components. It includes equipment. I was speaking about tankers. Some of the members previously spoke about inspectors and a lack thereof

. There are many technological innovations that have been implemented by the industry. I will mention some. Many members probably remember times when the trains stopped and there was an inspector going and checking the wheels. Now, this can be done automatically by electronic devices that look for information on cracked wheels and send it to the locomotive. It is the same with the rails that need to be ground.

There are many elements. I do not think I will have time to speak about all of them, so I look forward to—

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will take this opportunity to ask a government member a question about the disaster relief fund. I still do not understand what formula the government used to come up with the amount of $250 million.

To be more specific, is it not true that the $250 million will be recovered and go back into the government's general revenues?

If such is the case, that means that this fund could be used the same way the government used employment insurance contributions, that is, for purposes other than what it is intended for.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this question was partially answered by the parliamentary secretary during his questions and answers. He did mention that as far as the liability levels go, it is something that can be adjusted going forward. As the hon. member knows very well, this legislation proposes the establishment of a special fund that would be there to cover the costs associated with train derailments.

This is a work in progress. This is the second reading of a bill. I am looking forward to input from each side of the House, in debate and at the committee. This is something we can work on together and make better. Things can always be made better.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario

Conservative

Peter Braid ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise today to speak at second reading of Bill C-52, the safe and accountable rail act. As we know, this bill would amend two pieces of legislation that are important to the protection of our communities, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Transportation Act.

Canada's economy and the livelihood of people in communities across the country depend on the transportation of goods, including dangerous goods, of course, at times. As the economy grows, so too does the transportation of these dangerous goods.

The bill before us takes important steps to improve the overall safety of the rail system by increasing regulatory oversight, but the reality remains: no matter what actions we take to reduce risks—and we want to take every action we can—we must also be prepared to respond to a catastrophic accident, and this includes being able to pay the costs and compensate for the liabilities that result. This bill would address this element by strengthening accountability.

Municipalities across Canada bear much of the brunt of rail accidents. The bill before us would help respond to those risks. The amendments to the Railway Safety Act contained in this bill would enable municipalities to obtain information to help prepare for effective emergency response. Where there is a serious incident that results in costs for cleanup and repair, the amendments to the Canada Transportation Act contained in this bill would ensure that communities would not bear financial responsibility for such disasters.

Let me first address the matter of emergency response and then move on to the subject of liability and compensation.

Our government has undertaken important measures to improve the ability of first responders and communities to deal with rail emergencies. We need to keep this important dialogue going among shippers, railways, communities, and first responders. Together they can improve planning and operational communications. They can identify best practices for accident protocols in both urban and rural situations.

I commend Transport Canada for establishing an emergency response task force that brings together industry and community stakeholders to examine national needs for emergency response to accidents involving dangerous goods. In this way, we will strengthen the links between communities and industry and identify ways to improve emergency response.

In the consultations on the need for more co-operation and coordination in emergency response, Transport Canada heard from, among others, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada. Each of these organizations expressed concerns about the capacity of our communities to deal with rail incidents involving dangerous goods. Each has called for more effective sharing of information to support first responders.

This bill contains provisions to make that happen. It would authorize regulations to require a railway to provide information to municipalities when significant railway operational changes are occurring at that particular location. The bill would also amend the Railway Safety Act to provide new regulation-making powers with respect to a railway safety management system, or SMS. An SMS includes a risk assessment, a list of mitigation measures, and a plan to monitor the effectiveness of these measures. Regulations under the bill before us can require railways to share summaries of these risk assessments with municipalities. These two measures would help establish better communication between railways and the municipalities and would provide first responders with information they require to be fully prepared for emergencies.

I have been talking about the impact on communities of large catastrophic events, but I would also like to observe that the bill before us would remove from provincial and municipal taxpayers the cost of fighting smaller fires that may result from a company's railway operations.

These incidents sometimes happen as a result of railway activities, but because a train moves on before the fire is apparent, it can be difficult to ascribe cause and effect, and hence liability. As a result, the province or the municipality and their taxpayers are sometimes on the hook for the cost of putting out the fire.

This bill would amend the Railway Safety Act to give the Canadian Transportation Agency authority to determine whether a fire was caused by rail operations. If so, the agency could then determine the costs and require the railway to reimburse the province or municipality for these costs. However, despite all these best efforts, railways will never be able to prevent all accidents.

This brings me to a second component of this bill, changes in the liability and compensation regime for rail. Under the current system, a railway company must insure against accidents, but as we have seen with the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic, that insurance coverage was insufficient to cover the resulting liabilities.

In response, the bill before us would legislate the minimum amount of insurance that a railway would be required to hold, depending on the type and volume of dangerous goods the railway carries annually. This approach is objective and would provide greater certainty that there will be sufficient insurance coverage in the event of a railway accident.

Requiring federally regulated railways to carry minimum levels of insurance is a necessary first step for the government to fulfill its promise in the 2013 Speech from the Throne.

The second step is to put in place a regime that shares responsibility between shippers and railways, so that industry is held accountable. Common carrier obligations of the Canada Transportation Act require railways to ship any products offered for transport. This obligation benefits shippers, who can rely on getting their goods to market.

Given this, the bill would clearly establish the roles and responsibilities of shippers and railways in the event of an accident involving crude oil. Railways would be liable without proof of fault or negligence, up to their insurance level, for a crude oil accident.

However, to pay for liabilities that could be in excess of a railway company's mandated insurance level, the bill would require shippers of crude oil to pay into a supplementary compensation fund through a levy. This fund is called the fund for railway accidents involving designated goods. This fund would be used to cover the same liabilities for which railways are held accountable. The fund could later be expanded through regulation to include other dangerous goods.

To finance the fund, these amounts would be collected from shippers for the movement of crude oil and held in a special account in the consolidated revenue fund. Together these measures would ensure adequate resources were available to cover the liabilities associated with a disaster of the magnitude of Lac-Mégantic.

Through this, the bill before us would establish the polluter pays principle for rail transportation. The overall approach is similar to the regime now in place in marine transportation and is in line with actions the government is tabling for the pipeline, offshore drilling, and marine sectors as well.

In this way, we would ensure that victims and taxpayers are not on the hook to pay for the costs of emergency response or other liabilities associated with a tragic accident involving dangerous goods carried by rail. We would be balancing the common carrier obligations with shipper accountability.

These measures would allow liability for potential catastrophic rail accidents to be shared between railways and shippers, and it would result in transportation choices that better reflect true costs and risks.

The bill before us would protect our communities by helping to prevent accidents and by sharing information that improves emergency response, and if there were an incident, this bill would ensure that communities and taxpayers were not the ones who pay for the response, cleanup, and compensation. I truly hope that all members in this House will join me in supporting this bill.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, with Bill C-52, the federal government appears to be suggesting that as it is the regulator it is also the responsible party when it comes to paying for or assuming the responsibility to regulate those who should pay for the result of a disaster or derailment. However, with Lac-Mégantic, the federal government has only paid a small portion of the actual cleanup costs. We are wondering whether this bill will cause the government to rethink its decision not to compensate fully the Government of Quebec for the costs related to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, part of which is because the railroad involved was under-insured.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely crystal clear that Bill C-52 would improve the safety of railways in our country and improve the safety of communities as well. That is our ultimate goal and intention. Should an accident occur, we would ensure that industry is held accountable where that is appropriate and that there is shared responsibility between the railway and the shipper.

Furthermore, with this bill we would ensure that there would be adequate levels of insurance in place, and in addition to that insurance fund, a supplementary fund for any costs over and above those insurance levels.

Clearly, these are measures which would significantly improve the safety of communities and of railways across the country.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party caucus sees merit in the legislation. The member is the parliamentary secretary for infrastructure and I want to ask him a question which I posed just a while ago.

We all talk about the importance of our rail lines and certain things that we can do with legislation such as what we are talking about that would improve upon it. However, there is no doubt there is also a role for the government going beyond legislation and investing in our rail lines. This is a fantastic opportunity for the government to look at using infrastructure dollars to improve the quality of our rail lines.

I wonder if the member, given his position, might want to provide some comment regarding the government's attitude toward infrastructure spending on our rail lines.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his support of this important legislation, Bill C-52, and for his interest in the importance of infrastructure across the country.

As the hon. member may be aware, VIA Rail receives a significant taxpayer-supported subsidy to help with its operations. With respect to large railway operations in the country, we certainly expect them to invest in their own operations. That said, under the new building Canada plan, the largest and longest infrastructure investment in the country's history, there are eligible categories for certain short-line rail systems to support, in particular, small communities.

I hope my hon. colleague will help to raise awareness about all the various supports that the federal government provides for the railway system and for infrastructure in our country.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Davenport.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the bill, which is strangely entitled “the safe and accountable rail act”. I would question the safe part of it, but it certainly is a way of making railroads more accountable for their actions.

The parliamentary secretary said a moment ago that the prime purpose of the bill is to make Canadians safer. I wonder how a bill that deals primarily with insurance and liability would actually make Canadians safer, unless of course, we are proposing to give over the regulation of the railroads to the insurance companies and make the insurance companies responsible for making sure the railroads are safe. Maybe that is what it is doing, but that is certainly not something I am in favour of.

It is a core responsibility of government to protect its citizens. That can come in any number of ways, but here we are talking about how to protect the citizenry of Canada from the actions of a federally regulated body, namely the railroads.

Protecting our citizens is not something the government should see as an expense on the expense line of the ledger, and yet that is all too often what we hear about. It is actually a duty and it is not something on which we should be looking to cut our expenses or cut taxes and make Canadians less safe. It is not something it should be seeming to do, but we have seen the Conservative government do it time and time again, in food safety, in airline safety, and now in rail safety, where we have a system that clearly did not protect the 47 residents of Lac-Mégantic nor the centre of that town which was destroyed by the rail system, which the current government and the Liberal government before it helped to create.

The bill is a step in the right direction. Clearly, the government seems to have adopted the NDP principle that the polluter should pay and that the person who is responsible for something like this should pay, but we think that this could go a whole lot further. There are flaws in the bill that need addressing, and we will discuss those in committee.

However, the bill would not really do what the government suggests it would do to make the rail system safer. It would make the rail system more financially reliant on the shippers and rail companies themselves and less so on the federal and provincial governments. It is a shifting of responsibilities. It is not a creation of safety per se, unless, as I said earlier, we are expecting the insurance companies to be the ones to manage the safety systems in Canada.

Why is there all this focus on rail safety suddenly in this country?

The focus is caused in part because of Lac-Mégantic. Lac-Mégantic opened our eyes to a number of other issues that face us in the rail safety world.

One was that there is a 500-fold increase in the amount of crude oil that is being transported across the country, and it's crude oil that we have also discovered is not particularly inert. In fact, it is very explosive. Once this oil reaches its containers, it catches fire almost immediately, in some cases with huge and explosive results, as was the case in Lac-Mégantic and a number of other places across this country.

As a result, we have witnessed, with that 500-fold increase in the transportation of these dangerous goods, an alarming increase in the number of incidents involving these dangerous goods. There were 11 in the past two years alone. They were major accidents involving rail and the transportation of crude oil.

Now, I will hear the Liberals yelling that if we are not going to have it in rail, we are going to have it in pipelines. Some of this oil, in fact most of this oil, cannot be transported in pipelines because it is too dangerous. It is too gaseous. It would create too high a pressure inside a pipe. It does the same thing in rail but in a much smaller container. As a result, while rail containers are apparently safe as long as they are standing still and not moving, those rail containers, once they are moving and break, have disastrous consequences.

We also have discovered that the containers the government has been using for some considerable period of time to transport water, milk, and inert substances, but only in the last few years have we been transporting enormous quantities of dangerous goods in these containers, were known in 1989 to be unsafe. That was over 25 years ago and yet the government did not do anything about this until last year.

Last year, the minister announced that 5,000 of the 80,000 of these railcars would be taken off the rail immediately and that the rest would be replaced over the course of three years. Then we discovered that the ones that are replacing them are not safe either. Now we have been told that we are going to replace the railcars over a period of 10 years because the DOT-111s and DOT-1232s are not safe for the transportation of oil.

What do we do in those 10 years? What kind of effective safety are we promoting for the people of Canada if the vehicles that are going by their homes, schools, churches and daycare centres are not safe? That is part of what we are hoping the government will actually consider.

We also discovered as a result of this incident, but also as a result of the good work by the Auditor General, that Transport Canada is not doing a good job in particular with regard to managing the safety management system, SMS, with which the Government of Canada has replaced the direct oversight of the rail system. In theory, where before we had random inspections by government inspectors, now we have a system where the government inspects a safety management system put in place by a railroad for compliance and that the inspection of that system is how the government inspects the railroads. The trouble is the inspection of the system did not happen. As the Auditor General discovered, it was not happening, and in something like only 20% of the cases where transport officials intended to audit a railroad did they actually do it.

The Transportation Safety Board also found that Transport Canada had not been doing a good job with regard to its inspections of the safety management systems of the very railroad that failed, MMA, Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway. We examined the results of the Transport Canada investigation. It found 18 separate causes for the incident, although the minister and the parliamentary secretary said it was just one individual. No, it was not one individual. The Transportation Safety Board said very clearly there were 18 separate causes, some of which were with Transport Canada. It did not audit MMA. Despite knowing that it had serious flaws since 2002, it did not audit it. It did not follow up on the safety deficiencies and did not oversee the organizational and operational changes which MMA made, including the one-man crews, which was part of the reason that this all happened.

We have a government that is responsible for Transport Canada, and in turn Transport Canada, with a 20% cut in rail safety over the past few years, does not have the wherewithal to do all of the inspections that it needs to do of the safety management system. We have a system that is falling apart all around us, caused at first by the Liberals and now continued by the Conservatives, a safety management system that is not keeping Canadians safe.

I come back to the title of the bill, the safe and accountable rail act. Yes, it does something about when there is an accident, but we should not be saying “when there is an accident”. We should be saying that there should be no accidents.

Last week at committee, CN admitted freely that there will be accidents, that there will be derailments. If we are going to admit that there are going to be derailments, how are we going to effectively protect Canadians? These railcars are not going to be replaced for 10 years. In the derailments that have taken place, such as in Lynchburg last year, the railcars carrying dangerous oil were the DOT-1232s, the newer more modern ones, and the train was going 24 miles an hour. In Gogama the train was going 38 and 43 miles and hour. In Mount Carbon, West Virginia, the train was going 33 miles an hour. In Galena, Illinois, the train was going 23 miles an hour. They all exploded. They all broke and exploded.

We have been told by the government that it is going to limit the speed of these vehicles in cities to 40 miles an hour. Clearly, even 23 miles an hour is too fast. If we are going to have derailments, we should at least make sure that the oil stays in the car when it derails. The only way to do that is to slow the trains right down, maybe to the speed that was in place after the Mississauga derailment, which was 15 miles an hour.

I welcome the fact that the government is paying attention to rail safety, but I wish the government would actually do something to make Canadians more safe.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting that the member made reference to the fact that it was the moving and braking that had the potential to cause issues. Would the member provide some clarification on the issue that VIA Rail will give priority to transportation of large freight trains that carry many of these dangerous goods to the degree in which VIA Rail trains pull to the side and allow the freight train to go through? My understanding is the New Democrats are advocating that VIA Rail should be given priority. If that is the case, we would see more of these trains carrying oil tanker cars having to do more braking and shifting of speeds and so forth.

Which system would be better for the safety of Canadians? Should VIA Rail continue to allow our freight trains to have the priority of going through? Alternatively, should it be reversed, where VIA Rail is given priority to go through and the freight trains would be expected to pull to the side?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a pretty weak argument in favour of pipelines. If the Liberals are trying to suggest that VIA Rail is the cause of derailments, we are not here to talk about that. We are here to talk about whether the equipment that is being used and the manner in which it is being used is safe for Canadians. It is my belief that currently it is not safe. To throw up smokescreens is not helpful to this debate.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has quite a lot of knowledge and understanding of the whole issue of our rail system in Canada. He represents an area just to the north of my own in the city of Toronto. We are right in the middle of a large transportation hub through which much of the dangerous goods that traverse the country pass.

Could the member speak a bit to the issue of emerging and growing cities and communities around rail corridors, and what particular issues occur when we have more and more people living right next to rail corridors?

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly my riding is one of those, like that of the member for Davenport, that has a very busy rail corridor running through it. That corridor is carrying DOT-111 and DOT-1232 cars full of very dangerous oil at reasonably high speeds. The residents in my riding and those in Davenport are all worried that the greater increase in numbers of these vehicles is exposing them to a greater risk.

The minister demanded that these rail companies investigate the possibility of diverting these cars around major cities as is done in the U.S. Unfortunately, Transport Canada refused to share those risk assessments with either the public or the parliamentary committee. Therefore, we are in the dark as to what risk these railroads and these speeds pose to the individuals who live along rail corridors and who live in my riding of York South—Weston and in the member's riding of Davenport.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the state of the tracks throughout the railway system.

Last summer I was at a railway crossing along the trans-Canada railway between La Tuque and Senneterre in the town of Parent. Every time an axle passed over a particular spot, the rails bent about an inch. Then, the train passed over a wooden bridge that is about 75 years old.

If our tracks are maintained according to the same standards used in Siberia, I am wondering whether we actually have any kind of safety in transportation.

Safe and Accountable Rail ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the system in Canada of railroads being allowed to let their rails deteriorate as long as they go slower along those rails. In those circumstances, individuals who live nearby are subjected to much slower trains taking much longer to go through and, therefore, making the rail crossings more dangerous. Those individuals are also subject to the notion that these rails are not particularly safe.

It all comes back to the notion of how Transport Canada is inspecting and managing the safety of the rail system in Canada.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, today, March 31, is the deadline for those nations that are ready to do so to table climate commitments with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in advance of COP 21. Yesterday in question period the minister confirmed that Canada was not ready and would miss this deadline. The excuse that was offered was that we were a federation and we were checking with the provinces and territories.

Of the 33 nations that, as of today, have met this and have filed their intended nationally determined contributions with the UN, the European Union had 28 separate nation states with which to consult, confer and develop a plan, and it met the deadline.

The minister said yesterday that we had until December. That is not correct. By October, the UN system will have calculated the cumulative total of all commitments to see if it is sufficient to avoid 2°C.

At this point, we are missing our obligations to the world, to Canadians and to our children.

Canada-India RelationsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the co-chair of the Canada-India Parliamentary Friendship Group, I am very pleased to see the excitement in our Indo-Canadian community on the upcoming visit of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the first bilateral visit by India's Prime Minister in 42 years. It bodes well for continued Canada-India relations, both great Commonwealth democracies, as we move forward in the 21st century world. I commend our Prime Minister for his leadership in Canada's growing relationship with India, and I anticipate positive outcomes from this visit.

To welcome Mr. Modi, the Indo-Canadian community is organizing a huge event in Toronto. I want to thank the chairman, Dr. Azad Kaushik, the co-chairs, Ramesh Chotai and Deepak Ruparel, and their entire team for organizing an outstanding event.

Finally, I would like to wish all Indo-Canadians and those who are celebrating a very happy Vaisakhi 2015.

Trois-Rivières Book FairStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, last weekend marked the 27th Salon du livre de Trois-Rivières.

Over 12,000 visitors of all ages attended this event to browse the books, meet authors, attend workshops, participate in discussions and, of course, plan their summer reading or find a new bedside book.

Most of them left with one or more books. At a time when electronic devices seem to be everywhere, I must admit that a dinosaur like me was thrilled to see so many people of all generations sharing this passion not just for printed books but also, and especially, for reading. Sources of discovery, learning, entertainment, beauty and a thousand interests, reading and books are an essential and integral part of life.

I would like to congratulate and thank Ms. Brosseau, the head of the book fair, and all those who make the Salon du livre de Trois-Rivières possible year after year. Their dedication and involvement allow our culture to continue to blossom and grow. Reading puts the world at our fingertips.