The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.
The hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie will have six and a half minutes for his speech when the House resumes debate on this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this legislation put forward by my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie. I want to thank him for his excellent work on cycling safety. This is an issue near and dear to my heart.
Bill C-603 would make side guards mandatory for heavy trucks manufactured in Canada or imported into Canada. As my colleague from Guelph has said, it is about encouraging people to cycle and about encouraging better cycling safety.
Canada should be looking at greater cycling infrastructure, so that we are encouraging people to cycle. I put forward a motion calling on the government to have a national strategy to encourage cycling infrastructure in communities across Canada.
People have to know that they can cycle safely, and installing side guards on heavy trucks would make cycling safer. It would save lives. Too many tragic accidents have taken place in communities across the country. In 2011, there was a tragic case in my own community. A mom was on her way to pick up her five-year old son from school. She was expecting a second child. She was making a right hand turn at a corner in our neighbourhood and a truck clipped her as it was turning that same corner. She fell under the back wheels of the truck as it turned right and suffered massive head injuries as a result. Whenever there is a collision between a truck and a cyclist, the cyclist will never win. Jenna Morrison was killed that day. Obviously, it was a terrible tragedy for Jenna's family and for our entire community.
We have been calling for mandatory side guards on heavy trucks for many years now. Our former colleague Olivia Chow from Trinity—Spadina worked tirelessly on this issue. There was a similar case in her riding involving a young cyclist who was making a right hand turn at Dundas and Spadina. She was clipped by a truck and suffered massive injuries as she fell under the rear wheels.
Side guards would push the cyclist away from the truck rather than allowing the individual to fall into the truck and be crushed by the rear wheels. A cyclist might be injured falling on the street, falling on a sidewalk, or falling into a parked car but would not be crushed to death by falling under the rear wheels of a truck.
For years, other countries have heeded the call for mandatory side guards because they have seen the totally unnecessary deaths of cyclists and pedestrians by heavy trucks. A study in the United Kingdom found that side guards reduced the number of deaths in accidents where cyclists were hit by the side of a truck by 61%. Two-thirds of the cycling deaths were reduced.
The Chief Coroner for Ontario has reaffirmed a 1998 recommendation to install side guards on trucks, believing it would have a positive effect on cycling safety. The coroner for Quebec published a report in 2014, which showed that cyclists would be prevented from being killed by rear truck tires. A 2010 report by the National Research Council of Canada called for side guards to be mandatory on trucks. They are already mandatory in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Japan, and they have been adopted by several regions and municipalities throughout Canada.
The question is why this is not done nationally. Why not ensure that Canadians, cyclists and pedestrians right across Canada, are protected?
Why would the government not want to do the best for pedestrians and cyclists everywhere in our country? I have not heard a good argument from the other side.
A ministry of transport report said that it was inconclusive. Yet, surely, when so many jurisdictions have brought in this measure and are saying, demonstrably, that this has reduced cycling and pedestrian deaths, why we would not do that here is frankly unbelievable.
It is the government's responsibility to set safety standards for vehicles manufactured in Canada, but it should also bring in this measure for vehicles that are imported as well.
We know there are many validators of this position for mandatory truck side guards.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has said that FCM would like to reiterate its concern and stress the importance of countermeasures, such as side guards, to improve the safety of vulnerable road users; that would include pedestrians and cyclists.
As I said, the Chief Coroner for Ontario said that side guards should be made mandatory for heavy trucks in Canada. That is pretty clear-cut.
The Quebec coroner said that a lateral safety barrier would have prevented the head of Mathilde Blais, a young cyclist, from coming under the truck's internal tire. The conclusion was that it was a preventable accidental death.
The United States National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that both newly manufactured truck trailers and old trailers be equipped with side under ride protection systems to better protect people from fatalities and serious injuries.
Seriously, I do not understand why the government would not bring this in. It is no cost to the federal government. It is actually a low cost measure that trucking companies could bring in. It is a low cost measure that would practically save lives. It is a basic responsibility of government to ensure that it brings in protective measures to ensure the lives of Canadians are protected.
We have been calling for this for over eight years. In that time, we have seen the lives of far too many cyclists and pedestrians taken. We think that should stop.
We have seen that the number of cyclists is rising across the country. I know in my city the expectation is that the number of people who will bike to work on a daily basis is likely to increase from 1.7% to 5% by 2016. It means a lot more cyclists will be on the roads. We need to have the safest measures possible to ensure they are protected.
When other jurisdictions have already taken this on, as it is a proven measure that saves lives, it frankly is unbelievable that we would not take action here. It is a no-cost measure for the government. We have seen a total of 19% of cycling fatalities across the country involving heavy trucks. We have also seen that a number of cycling deaths, probably 50% or 60%, would be prevented by heavy truck side guards.
I mentioned cost earlier. The cost would be between $1,500 and $3,000 per truck. If we look at the total cost of a truck, it is a pretty small amount of money that would save so many lives. We know that truck guards save lives. I call upon my colleagues to join with us and let us get the bill to committee.
I leave them with a question. How many cyclists and how many pedestrians have to lose their lives before the House is willing to take action?
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House this evening and represent the constituents of my riding of Parkdale—High Park in Toronto on the very important issue of rail safety.
Tonight we are debating Bill C-627, a private member's bill. The focus of this bill is on the issue of railway level crossings. That certainly is a major issue. A number of people are injured or killed every year.
I would first like to salute the hard work of my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie for all his diligent work in holding the government to account on this very important issue of railway safety. Following the disastrous crash in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canadians awoke to the very real concern that perhaps their safety was not being as diligently monitored as it should be by our federal government.
I want to speak a bit about my riding of Parkdale—High Park. The northeastern part of my riding is called the junction because it is an intersection of multiple rail lines that cross and become the northern and eastern boundaries of my riding. The southern part of the riding also has a rail line running through it. We are a riding of railways and the issue of rail safety is important to the people of Parkdale—High Park.
The disaster in Lac-Mégantic got the attention of people because those same runaway tank cars that crashed and exploded went right across the northern boundary of my riding. Our community was horrified to find out about the dramatic increase of tank car traffic in Canada.
In 2009, there were 500 tank cars. In 2013, there were 140,000 tank cars rumbling through our community so quite rightly people are concerned. Some of the people in Parkdale—High Park look out their bedroom window and see hundreds of these tank cars rolling by or children who are playing in a nearby parkette on Vine Avenue. Therefore, it is of great concern to the people in my riding.
We recently had a meeting on this issue of railway safety. We had a huge turnout. Many community members came out to discuss this issue. We were pleased that CP Rail sent a representative. While not everyone who attended the meeting was happy with the answers they received from the representative of CP Rail, they were pleased that a representative attended the meeting.
However, they were frustrated that the Minister of Transport refused to allow any officials from Transport Canada to attend the meeting and answer the questions of the people from my community. We found that shocking.
While I want to acknowledge that the federal government has made some moves forward and some strides on railway safety following the disaster at Lac-Mégantic, let us be clear that there remains a lot of work to do. People have questions and concerns. I find it shocking that the minister would refuse to allow officials from Transport Canada to hear the concerns of the people of my community, so I will bring those concerns here right now.
They want to know what the timetable is for phasing-out the DOT-111 cars. They want to know why the cars that will replace them are not the double-hulled cars, which are the safest, and have gas sensors in them to determine if there is a buildup of gas.
They want to know what the emergency safety procedures are in their community. At this meeting, one woman very poignantly said that her house backs right onto the railway lines. She wanted to know what to do if there was an explosion or a derailment: hide in her house, or run?
We had the head of the fire department for the City of Toronto at this meeting. He advised her to stay in her house, but he said that it depends on what the tank cars are carrying. It could be that there is a gas, and if she goes outside, she could be asphyxiated. However, it could be something very explosive, so staying in her house might be the worst thing to do. He recommended they stay there until they know what it is.
Frankly, we have no idea what the emergency procedures are. I think, most importantly, people have no idea what is being carried in these tank cars.
People wanted to know what is in the cars. They would also like to know if there have been any explorations of alternative routes that do not go through some of the most densely populated neighbourhoods anywhere in this country, because it would make a great deal of sense not to expose this massive number of people to potential tragedy.
It is not that Lac-Mégantic was an isolated example. We had a derailment in the junction a few years ago. Fortunately, the cars were carrying grain, not raw bitumen. That was very fortunate. We also had a huge derailment in Mississauga many years ago that resulted in the evacuation of the entire city of Mississauga.
Disasters happen. We need not only to be prepared; community members also need to know what the risks are and if they are being prepared.
The railway industry has been privatized and deregulated by previous Liberal governments, and then they proceeded, along with the Conservatives, to privatize and deregulate rail safety and rail enforcement. We saw that pointed out in the Lac-Mégantic inquiries as one of the major problems with the railway sector. That was something that was criticized very severely in the inquiry.
What we are debating tonight is a private member's bill that aims to make some improvements to safety at level crossings. My question to the government is this: why a private member's bill? Why is the government bringing this measure in through the back door? Why did it not spend the $3 million on level crossing safety that was in the budget last year? Why is that still sitting on the books? Why has the budget for railway safety been decreased by $5 million?
I see my time is up, but I just want to say this is a critically important issue. It is something that certainly affects the residents of Parkdale—High Park, but it also affects all Canadians.
There are some positive features in this private member's bill, and of course we will support anything that improves railway safety and level crossing safety. However, for goodness' sake, the government cannot shirk its duties. It must take full responsibility for railway safety. We need a thorough assessment of the state of railway safety in this country. We need action. If the government refuses to act, then it should get out of the way and let New Democrats take responsibility for railway safety, which we will do as the next government.
I admit I was listening to the question in French and while I am not 100% there, I followed the question and it seems that it will have relevance in respect to the subject area that is proposed by the bill. I will let the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie finish his question and I am sure that it will probably address the issue that is before the House, and then we will ask the hon. member to respond.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.
He referred to the Liberal Party's position a number of times, but he made many mistakes in presenting our position.
The last three or four speeches were made by NDP members, and not two of them said the same thing.
I wonder if the hon. member could explain the NDP's position? I do not think his position reflected that of his colleagues. Could he comment on that?
The electoral district of Brossard--La Prairie (Quebec) has a population of 113,985 with 91,662 registered voters and 246 polling divisions.
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