Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's comments with interest.
Notably, I listened to the comments of my colleague on the Conservative side.
He seemed to be saying that only Montreal has this problem, but that is not true at all. This is a serious issue in places like Toronto too, and a lot of people have taken an interest. It is also a big deal in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Several organizations in those provinces have expressed support for this bill.
Interestingly, my colleague started off by saying that this is a problem in communities in his riding and that crossings have been closed with no right of appeal and no consultation. My bill can help with situations like that. My colleague said that these situations should be resolved locally. That is the problem.
This has been an issue in Montreal for 25 years, and negotiations have been going on that whole time. My colleague said these decisions should be left to municipal authorities. In Montreal's case, the City has been asking for strategically located crossings for 25 years, but nothing is happening because the company is refusing to co-operate. I think it is the government's job to intervene in situations like this. I am not saying that because we like big government. I am saying it because a government's primary purpose is to keep citizens safe.
There are twice as many accidents at illegal crossings than there are at safe crossings. If the the minister sits down to examine the situation, takes responsibility, takes action if he sees fit, and saves only one life by building crossings in certain locations, then I would feel as though my bill had served a useful purpose. That is one of the minister's key roles.
What is more, it is a simple matter of logic. The minister has the authority to close a level crossing or any other crossing for safety or other reasons. We are talking about level crossings, but sometimes there are bridges or other ways to cross railways. He has the authority to modify them, but he does not have the authority to open a new one grade crossing for safety reasons.
We are not saying that a crossing must be built in a certain location. The bill simply says that the minister should have the same authority to close, modify, or open a crossing.
At one point, the parliamentary secretary indicated that the minister already had the authority to open a crossing. I do not want to question his word, but other government members have had different interpretations of the legislation. We asked for a legal interpretation, and the opinion that we were given is that the existing legislation is unclear. It does not make much reference to the minister's authority.
Why not clarify the act and give the minister equal authority to close, modify, and open level crossings?
I will end there because I can see that I am running out of time. If this bill were to save even one life, I think it would be worth it.