November 27, 1979 (31st Parliament, 1st Session)


William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Arnold Peters (Timiskaming):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words on this bill. I had been interested in the previous bill to this one when it was going through the Elouse because of a number of complaints that were being made in northern Ontario regarding the movement from Manitoba to the town of Cobalt, in Ontario, of a large quantity of arsenic ore. At that time the argument was made by the then government that if the Efazardous Products Act had been passed, something could be done about the problem. There were numerous complaints in northern Ontario about the transportation of that arsenic ore, because it is a fairly lethal substance, and a sufficient amount was being moved to endanger most of the communities through which that product was moved if an accident were to occur.
I studied the act and I found at that time that it did not do a damn thing to solve the problems we were encountering and that it would not really make any difference whether or not the act was passed because so many agencies were involved, as well as three governments and the environmental people in those governments. Thus passage of the act would mean nothing at all.
It was for that reason that I was hopeful that when Bill C-25 was introduced in the House, the minister would look not only at the problem with which we had been faced recently in Mississauga where all the potential of a major disaster existed and only good luck and considerably good management had enabled the people in the area to escape death or injury, but would look at the total problem of the transportation of hazardous goods.
In my view, as I read this bill, I do not think it will do anything to solve that whole problem. Hon. members have mentioned what we should be doing. The minister should be looking at some emergency legislation which would require proper spacing of cars, something which the CTC has done now'. I presume the minister has twisted their arms because they did not appear to be the least bit interested in doing that a couple of days ago when they were before the standing committee. At that time they said it would cost too much. If the minister did twist their arms, I hope he will keep on twisting it because this is the only way in which we will get any action from them.
This legislation should contain a requirement that hazardous products be marked, that the cars, the trucks and the containers, no matter whether they are on piggy-back, on the highway, in the marine service, or in whatever form, or mode of transportation is being used, be clearly marked so that people would know exactly what is being transported in the container and what to do about it in case of an accident. It is all well and good to know that a car has gone off the track. It may have oil in it, it may have gas in it, it may have propane in
Transportation of Dangerous Goods
it, or any other chemical that might be highly toxic, highly dangerous or highly explosive.
Also, it seems to me that the designation we put on the cars, trucks or containers in which dangerous and hazardous products are moved should be internationally recognized. We are moving Canadian cars into the United States and the United States is moving its cars with such products into Canada, and in that interchange it would not be wise if Ontario marked propane with a red circle, New York state marked it with a blue square, Manitoba used another designation, and so on. Surely we should arrive at some internationally recognized designation of such products. Yet it is stated in the bill that the designation will not be an international designation but that we are merely going to enforce some safety markings of these products.
I think it is absolutely essential that people know exactly what kind of product is being transported. I understand that in Mississauga officials who were present at the time of the accident were told first that PCBs were being transported. Then they were told that it was chlorine, and finally it turned out to be another substance. I think it makes a great deal of difference what kind of product is in a car when choosing the correct method of control in case of an accident. Yet this is not what this legislation specifies.
The minister has inherited this act from the Liberals. If they put environmental provisions in there, I do not think it was intentional because they did not really intend to pass the bill. At first it was kicked around in the early 1970s, and then it was reintroduced in 1978. Now in 1979 the minister is introducing the same act or a similar act. Frankly, I think that every time the government talks to industry, the legislation is watered down some more, to the point that we might as well throw it all out.
I urge the minister, who is very knowledgeable and certainly very concerned with this, to look at some of the recommendations that will be made by the committee members. He should be willing to amend this bill. This is not his bill. It is one he purloined from the previous government, and I presume he would not be averse to improving it. I believe that the small improvements he has made are bad ones.
The previous speaker mentioned the two-year provision. I do not see any reason why it should not be possible to go beyond two years. I remember a particular accident which had occurred in the rural town of Gogama. A certain substance was dumped in that community and no one was told what it was. It polluted the wells. It was agreed that the wells were poisoned and that no one was to drink water from them. On one side of the street there might have been four houses to which fresh water was supplied, but the fifth house might not have obtained fresh water and another street might have been missed altogether. They never told many of the people what the poisonous chemical was. Last year some officials came along and told the people in that community that all the poison had dissipated, that there was no more poisonous chemical in the water, and that people could go back to using their own source of water.

November 27, 1979
Transportation of Dangerous Goods
I am sure the minister will be able to make a number of improvements to this bill and I am sure members will be interested in making them. I would like to make one last plea. The movement of hazardous goods by way of rail transportation is the responsibility of the federal government. But one of these days there is going to be an accident on the highway which might involve the same kind of chemical as was involved in Mississauga, under similar circumstances. Will we say, in setting up a hazardous products act, that it is the responsibility of the provinces; if a truck is not going from one province to another in interprovincial trade, it will be provincial responsibility?
It would seem to me that the federal government will have to assume the responsibility for the standards, the symbols or the marks on the containers which indicate what the product is. We will have to assume some responsibility for the jurisdiction which is partly shared by the provinces. It would be wise to give consideration to a hazardous products act on the highways, no matter whether they are interprovincial or totally within the provincial field. Surely to God we are trying to protect the general public. The problem on highways will be about as strong as it is in the field of railway transportation.
I would like to think the committee will make a decision for the upgrading of railway cars using the type of journals which overheat. We have been able to overcome that problem with bearings which run on oil. The other type of bearings are obsolete. It seems to me on cars which will carry dangerous products that we should insist on the new, up to date, much safer type of bearings than we are using on the other cars. It is all right to say that we will instal hot boxes. That will be an advantage, but the problem will not be eliminated until we get around to putting in oil bearings which are not subject to the same heat condition as the old friction bearings were.
I should like the minister to give some consideration to giving the committee the regulations before we pass this bill. Frankly, I do not think the bill is of any value unless there are regulations which enforce it. I am aware that we are not able to put on enough inspectors, to have an inspector travelling on every train. We will not be able to have inspectors sitting there nursing the industry. The fines will have to be high enough for infractions that it will be necessary for them to do some of the policing themselves. I suggest the committee should be entitled to the regulations.
When the minister considers the regulations, how about considering referring the red book on regulations, on which we are now operating, to the committee? I imagine there are regulations which governed members of Parliament who used to take their horses with them when they travelled on trains. That is probably still in the regulations, but I imagine it is so archaic that it does not have any relationship to modern transportation on an efficient railway system. Regulations are absolutely essential to any decision made by members as to whether they believe this bill will serve the needs of today.

Those regulations must be brought to the attention of the committee before the bill receives third reading.

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