MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Addressing Rail Safety

Hansard – Rail Safety
March 23, 2008
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, safety management systems are very important to this bill, and one of the things that has happened is that the deregulation of the actual railroad industry has allowed safety management systems to be implemented. There has been a rail traffic study that recently came back which talked about the culture of intimidation and fear that was felt by railroad workers who are supposed to report to the system, so deregulation is very important to this aspect because the components connect together.
The Conservatives are arguing that they are doing this for public safety on one side, but let me give a specific example of what they are doing with deregulation on the other side and the consequences.
CP Rail has filed to fire and move 25 safety inspector officers in Windsor and relocate them elsewhere. There will not be an evaluation of rail transportation support from Chicago to Toronto and to Montreal. In between will be left vacant now and the minister has yet to respond to this actual issue to protect those jobs.
There has been a refilling request, requested from CP Rail, but the reality is that there could be the potential withdrawal in the upcoming weeks of these workers, so I would ask my colleague about that. How can we be saying to the United States that we want to do this, and at the same time, take away inspection for all of southern Ontario?
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for putting this forward and trying to reach some consensus with this issue. We all want to improve our rail safety.
However, I think it is important to provide a couple of examples to make sure that people understand the context of what can happen. On the border in my region, with 40% of Canada's daily trade, we often have people who are caught within legislation with unintended consequences. I do worry about the powers of the minister with regard to the screening process. Even now, we are seeing some extreme behaviour by current ministers who are denying a British MP into Canada and other types of behaviours that have not really been effective in terms of the original intent of their discretionary power.
In Windsor, we often get caught with the issue of one having a marijuana charge from back in their teens. We have people who are driving trucks in transport for just-in-time delivery for the auto industry who 25 or 30 years ago committed an offence that prohibits them from having access to different programs and screening. Not only that, it depends upon the interpretation and discretionary power of the people they run into on the U.S. border.
I will give a particular example. One major auto company had a worker there for 25 years with an outstanding record of employment. This worker, who had no problems after this one charge as a teenager of having a marijuana cigarette, was detained at the border for two to four hours every time they went over the process. We had to work that through to stop that from happening. I commend the member for it and making sure that these types of situations could maybe be resolved before they create a drag on the economy.