Madam Speaker, the Minister of State has given an overview with respect to the relevance of Bill C-33 in terms of railway safety. I would suggest that while he has done a good job of that, he has really only scratched the surface. I mean that as a compliment in the sense that the bill is so compelling against the change that is taking place throughout the country in relation to rail and in relation to transport generally.
The whole issue with respect to competitiveness, the ability to move people and dealing with our environmental issues, health and safety through to pollution, is becoming more and more a fundamental problem that we have to address.
As we think of the changing nature of the forestry industry and the dependence on the movement of goods, as well as the changing nature of urban communities in terms of commuters, we realize more and more that rail is fundamentally positioned to offer a large degree of strategic compensation against the huge indemnity that we might face if it were not for having a rail service from sea to sea to sea that has served us historically.
Reference was made to the Mayor of Pickering in the region of Durham. I would just like to expand a little bit as a case in point that the greater Toronto area is choking on congestion. The ability to move people, and through people, services is being impeded by the fact that road construction has lagged far behind the capacity to meet the needs of transporting people from their origin to their point of destination, from where they live to where they work. Those commuting distances have become longer and longer, and the result is that the pollution created from the congestion is a health and safety issue.
When it comes to the movement of goods, the capacity of the road system to accommodate the trucks that are hauling and distributing goods is becoming more and more impeded. So rail, whether in terms of freight or urban commuting, offers a huge opportunity to make a difference with respect to the strategic response that we in government make to our environmental prerequisites and to our economic prerequisites.
In keeping with that sort of clinical analogy and the analysis that we must continue to use more of our rail capacity comes the prognosis of how to convince people that in those major rail corridors we can do it safely and we can do it in a manner that will not impede their quality of life, particularly those who live close to the rail rights of way.
The bill comes at a time when those questions are being asked. In fact, in the greater Toronto area, members who are on the Georgetown corridor in the Weston subdivision will know that there are huge plans to expand GO Transit to meet the needs of that broadening population and geo-economic area in the GTA, and to also expand service up to Barrie and over to Bradford.
The City of Barrie years ago acquired part of the old VIA right-of-way that would have been abandoned, in order to protect the opportunity to move people up and down that corridor, as is the case with Bradford at this time. As we speak, the city is negotiating with respect to protecting a rail right-of-way.
We know that some of these rail rights of way have gone for short line service, which has served the economy of local communities. Be that as it may, it is to the benefit of our populations that these rights of way are protected.
However, it must be done in a manner wherein the safety, health, responsibility and accountability for operating rail within federal jurisdictions must be absolute. We must absolutely close the loop so there is no question in the minds of the public that we are dedicated to not only using the rights of way, but using them in a sustainable way and in a manner that is going to protect the public.
As my colleague has said, the bill follows up on the Railway Safety Act that was approved in 1989 and updated in 1999. However, against the background of what I have said, the environment has changed immensely.
In 2008 the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made 14 specific recommendations, which, with a bit of editing, provided the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities the necessary tools, as the Minister of State for Transport has said, to regulate railways and ensure their compliance.
The nature of that compliance in monetary terms is considerable. A maximum fine of $50,000 on an individual found to be negligent, as a result of an inquiry or quasi-judicial process, and a fine of $250,000 on a corporation are within very minimal violations of the Canada Transportation Act.
We have heard that for major violations, individual judgments can vary from $1 million to $50 million on a railway that is operated in a manner not in the interest of public safety. These are not minimal parts of the legislation calling for major monetary retribution against railway operators that do not act in the public interest.
The whole notion is the minister is given the authority to review, grant and monitor railway operating certificates and the terms and conditions over which certificates are provided. The minister also has the power to set the conditions by which the railway operates. In my particular area and I am sure in those of my colleagues who also have rail expansion this is something we can take to our constituents. We can say that in keeping with the changes and requests we are making in the interests of the higher community that need to use our rail corridors, this is where safety and health standards are going to be accountably applied through the minister.
I will not get into the question of the administrative monetary policy regime to the extent that the Minister of State for Transport did, but I learned this morning that commensurate with the industry being held accountable, there has to be the ability to inspect and take action on violations and violators.
When people say they have experienced with their departments violations that they are very concerned about, it means protecting the people who are loosely described as whistleblowers. However, they are acting in the public interest. When they come forward, their actions should be taken and responded to in a positive way.
I hope I have given a little clarification and provided some comfort to those who may be watching. With the changes in rail and the projected role of rail, we are bringing in a regime that is going to operate in the higher public interest in terms of air quality, safety and the return that goes back to the public in Canada.