Linda Duncan, the federal NDP transport critic, unveiled plans Wednesday to introduce a bill aimed at improving safety regulations for shipping oil and gas by rail across Canada.
The Edmonton-Strathcona MP said she intends to introduce a private member’s bill when Parliament resumes in September to “require strengthened measures to assess and regulate rail shipping of dangerous cargo.”
“My bill is intended to address the absurdity that while transport of dangerous cargo by pipeline requires an environmental assessment and public notice and engagement, for the most part, rail shipping is exempt from these requirements despite the widely-accepted view that rail transport poses greater risks,” Duncan said.
“Pipelines are subject to environmental impact assessment and public scrutiny but rail transport is not.”
The MP referenced rail disasters like 2013’s deadly train derailment in Lac Mégantic, Que. and the 2005 train derailment in Wabamun Lake, Alta. which resulted in a massive oil spill.
Duncan said she’s been following the issue for some time and said when she was elected, she would try to improve the legislation.
“The previous liberal government actually switched – we used to have a stronger regulatory regime for rail safety and they introduced a self-management system. That is one of the main concerns that people have been raising, both public interest lawyers, rail workers, inspectors, and communities.”
Duncan said there is a “myriad” of changes needed, including rules about community notification, timely response, dangerous rail crossings, fatigue management and remote movement of cargo. She said her bill would just be the first step.
“The federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau keeps saying rail safety is top concern,” Duncan said. “Given that, I think he would be delighted at my recommendation and that he will go to the minister of environment and say: ‘absolutely, this is an excellent proposal and it’s time that the rail sector was included.’
“But it’s not going to be up to me, a member of the opposition. Many communities across Canada are calling out for the government to take stricter action in the regulation of dangerous rail cargo.”
Watch below: Lac-Mégantic residents attend a rally on July 10, 2016 to demand safer railways and a firm commitment from the federal government on a proposed railway bypass project.
Duncan said the government is currently reviewing all the environmental laws so it is the perfect time for her suggested changes to rail safety legislation to be included in that discussion.
“Given the recent monumental increase in the shipping of petroleum products by rail, the federal government should be expediting action to address these regulatory gaps,” Duncan said. “My bill does just that and I hope that the government will support it.”