Canada's NDP

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March 3rd, 2021

Liberals are failing passengers and workers on rail safety: NDP

SMITHERS – An Auditor General's report last week is raising serious concerns about Transport Canada’s oversight of rail safety. The report found that concerns raised in a 2013 audit had not been fully implemented and that Transport Canada was not doing enough to confirm that rail companies' Safety Management Systems (SMS) are effective in keeping railways safe.

“This report should be deeply concerning to Canadians who rightly expect their railways to be safe – particularly rail workers and residents of communities along rail corridors,” said NDP Transport Critic Taylor Bachrach (Skeena–Bulkley Valley). “When lives are on the line, it shouldn’t take eight years to fix the problems that were identified. We’ve seen the number of derailments increasing in recent years, even following the disaster at Lac Megantic. In 2019 alone, 72 people died from rail accidents. This report clearly shows that the government isn’t going far enough to protect Canadians.”

The report takes issue with Transport Canada not adequately evaluating rail companies' safety policies -- a lack of oversight Bachrach said amounts to self-regulation.

“The kind of self-regulation we’re seeing here is deeply problematic," said Bachrach. "There needs to be accountability for public safety, and ultimately that responsibility rests with the Minister of Transport. Instead, we've seen the Liberal government repeatedly fail to stand up to corporate interests like the rail companies.”

“The report makes it clear that there needs to be a thorough review of the way companies' Safety Management Systems are handled. The government could have addressed these shortcomings a long time ago. Now that the Auditor General has highlighted the need for improvements, Canadians expect an immediate, effective response.”