Mr. Gordon Taylor (Bow River):
Mr. Speaker, in dealing with the principle of this bill, I should like to touch on just three points. The first one is that perhaps the word "prevention" deals with every one of those points. It does not matter what is done, because the best way to handle the situation is to prevent such things from ever happening. I think we have spent too much time on regulations and considerations without touching the real cause of many of these accidents.
First I should like to deal with the matter of equipment. The last speaker mentioned that trucks should be considered. For many years truck companies have been required to mark on their vehicles if they are carrying dangerous or explosive materials. This requirement by the provinces has been in existence for quite a number of years. For many years trucks have undergone inspections to make sure that the vehicles are in roadworthy condition. It seems strange that the railways have not kept pace with what provincial governments have required the trucking companies to do. I should like to deal with that particular point because it is very, very important.
If one looks at the routes through a city, trucks are not permitted to go wherever they wish. Even though it costs the trucking companies additional money and it is inconvenient for the drivers, trucks must follow certain routes when they carry explosives. But that is not the case in connection with the railways. Again there has been some carelessness in regard to tackling this problem on the railroads that has not been evident when it comes to the provincial governments in the ten provinces of this country.
In regard to train equipment, I will not deal with every type of equipment. The alleged claim is that the accident at Mississauga happened because of the hot box or the overheating of bearings literally burning a set of wheels from the car. In the case of Mississauga that is exactly what happened. They found a pair of wheels 1.5 miles from the spot where the derailed cars spilled and burned. It has been said that the hot box problem was mainly caused by old-fashioned brass wheel bearings, that all new tank cars must have roller bearings, but that if they had to be installed on all freight cars, it would be an immense expense. When one talks about expense, one cannot value human life in dollar bills. This has been the claim of the railways for a long time.
I realize there is a limit to what the railways can do, but if their competitors, the truckers, were required to mark their vehicles and keep them in a roadworthy condition, why have we been so lax in ensuring that boxcars carrying dangerous goods are marked? That was mentioned by the previous hon. member a few moments ago. We have made strides in this particular area in every other field. People are not permitted to put poisonous substances in bottles without labelling them. Yet here we have the same thing in larger and more dangerous quantities, and we have never required them to be labelled. Consequently we have the situation which exists in this particular case.
November 27, 1979
The safety conference in 1971 found that 60 per cent of Canadian train derailments were caused by the hot box. This was in 1971, eight years ago. If we are even to begin to solve the problem and prevent a terrible tragedy and catastrophe from happening in the future, we will have to take a look at some of the causes of accidents. Certainly equipment is one of the causes. In 1977 or early 1978 there was an event similar to the one at Mississauga near the town of Stirling in southern Alberta. At that time I, along with many other people, made representations to the Canadian Transport Commission to do something to ensure that this would not happen again. The railway was lucky that nobody was killed, just as it was lucky in Mississauga that nobody was killed. One of these days there will be a tragedy and the railways will not be so lucky. The cost will be enormous in dollars, and even then they cannot pay for human life or the destruction of part of the human body.
I am not even asking that the railways be required to move every line out of every populated area, but when a railway is rebuilding or replacing a line and there is an alternative route to the one going through a hamlet, a village, a town or a city, then there is no excuse whatsoever for putting that line right back where it is in a dangerous zone.
We have come a long way in respect of corridors for highways, power and gas lines. I do not think we have gone far enough. We should be extending these corridors so these utility lines do not have to cut over every farmer's yard. We do not have to endanger every human being in our large settled areas because of the movement of explosives. We realize that trains and trucks have to carry explosives because that is the only way of getting them from one place to another. I emphasize again that, when a line is being replaced, the Canadian Transport Commission should not permit the railway to put that line right back where it is going to be a danger should this type of thing happen in a particular settlement. This has not been the attitude of the Canadian Transport Commission and it was not the attitude of the minister in the previous government.
The other day I asked the minister to look over the record of what has happened at Lake Louise. There were three possible routes, one of which was right through the village of Lake Louise where, in the summertime, there are thousands of people. People live in this village all year around. There was an alternative, but it would have been more expensive. It would have destroyed more of the environment. That alternative was not selected. I hope the railway will be lucky and there will never be a tragedy in that village of Lake Louise. If there ever is, it will not be an inexpensive accident equivalent to the difference in cost of putting that rail line in the corridor that was advocated as compared to the floor of that very narrow valley. If such an accident occurs, I am sure the CPR will realize it has made a mistake.
When we made representations to the Canadian Transport Commission advocating that it not permit the railway to put this line right through the heart of Lake Louise, they just
Transportation of Dangerous Goods
laughed us off. We received consideration, but their answer was no. They agreed with the railway. If we are to have that type of procedure, then all these regulations will not help very much. If these accidents occur in built-up areas people will be injured. It has been sheer luck that people have not been killed and injured, and subjected to the suffering that results from the escape of some of these gases.
1 made an appeal to the minister in the Liberal government, outlining a program with which he agreed to some extent, but he said he would not interfere. I suggest he would have had to interfere if there had been an explosion and people were killed at Mississauga. The members of this government expected our Minister of Transport (Mr. Mazankowski) to interfere, and properly so, if the lives of people were at stake, but the minister in the last government would not interfere. Consequently that project to which I have referred has now advanced too far. Thousands of dollars have been spent.
One of the things that amazed me and to which I objected was the fact that even before the Canadian Transport Commission gave its decision on the appeal, the railway had started to build this line. This is disgraceful, but that is what happened and I challenge anyone to produce evidence that this is not so.
How many other places exist where lines are being rebuilt in areas where they represent a danger to life and limb? I suggest that prevention is better than any cure, and prevention is better than any act. We should be making sure that we are carrying out this type of prevention in every way possible.
I know it would be impossible to check every particular item of every boxcar on the line, but surely it is not too much to expect that there will be a general inspection periodically. Provincial governments require truckers to carry out inspections. Truckers cannot operate year after year without checking their vehicles. They must spend money to keep their vehicles roadworthy. This money is added into the cost of operation. As a result there are very few truck accidents. The truckers respect these regulations and live up to their requirements.
I want to also deal specifically with the regulations. If regulations are not set out specifically, with every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed, there will be ways found to get around them. We must take all the precautions necessary because, in the event of another accident, we may not be as lucky. I am thankful we were so lucky in respect of the accident at Mississauga, and I am thankful we were so lucky in respect of the incident that occurred at Stirling. Many people could have been killed there. People were evacuated from that area, but because this was a small town the incident did not get national press coverage and a lot was not made of it. I should have thought, as I said to the CPR at that time, that this example would have been enough to persuade them to correct the situation to the greatest possible degree.
I commend the minister for bringing in this measure so quickly. I hope that at the committee hearings we will have a full discussion of individual items and will be able to put together an act that is as air tight as possible. In addition I hope the government, and the Canadian Transport Commis-
November 27, 1979
Transportation of Dangerous Goods sion, will not permit the railways to put in lines where they are a danger to human life. We are not asking the railways to build complete lines, we are simply suggesting that when a line is being replaced it be relocated in an area where there will be less danger in the event of an explosion or a terrible accident.
Subtopic: TRANSPORTATION OF DANGEROUS GOODS ACT