Archive for August, 2014

Deadly Denial by Harper Government RE: Canadian Rail Safety

August 21, 2014

(This post has been updated on Jan 24, 2015 to include a letter from Denis Lebel.)

Hi folks,

Prime Minister Stephen  Harper

Stephen Harper

Jack here again. Just wanted to share some communications I had with the Prime Minister’s office in 2012 regarding rail safety. Their stubborn, deadly denial of dysfunction at Transport Canada has caused sorrow and grief for many Canadians. Denis Lebel, Transport Minister during the Lac Megantic tragedy, should resign his post in government. Here are some emails I shared with the Prime Minister’s office and Denis Lebel:

From: Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities / Ministre des Transports, de l’infrastructure et des Collectivités <MINTC@tc.gc.ca>
Date: Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 2:09 PM
Subject: Railway safety in Canada.
To: “jjlocke1957@gmail.com” <jjlocke1957@gmail.com>
Cc: “CIMS_OPER@PC.GC.CA” <CIMS_OPER@pc.gc.ca>

Mr. Jack Locke

Dear Mr. Locke:

The Prime Minister’s Office has provided me with a copy of your correspondence of March 1, 2012, in which you requested a broad investigation into railway safety in Canada.

The safety and security of Canadians are top priorities for our Government, and the safety of the railway system is of the utmost importance to Transport Canada.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is the lead agency that investigates rail transportation incidents involving federally regulated railways.  As you are aware, the TSB is currently investigating the VIA Rail derailment in Burlington, and it would therefore be inappropriate for Transport Canada to conduct any inquiries until the TSB has completed its investigation.  Please be assured that Transport Canada will take immediate action should any railway safety deficiencies be identified as a result of the TSB’s investigation.

I deeply regret the loss of life resulting from the Burlington derailment, as well as the tragedy that occurred in the Turcot Tunnel on October 31, 2010.  The Turcot Tunnel incident is an unfortunate example of unauthorized access to a railway right-of-way.  Transport Canada cannot stress enough that the Turcot Tunnel is private property, and that unauthorized access is unlawful and dangerous.

The Department remains committed to the prevention of trespassing accidents.  To that end, Transport Canada has renewed its agreement with respect to Operation Lifesaver, and increased its annual financial contribution toward the program from $250,000 in 2005 to $300,000 in 2010.  Operation Lifesaver is a joint Transport Canada and Railway Association of Canada initiative to educate Canadians about the hazards surrounding rail property and trains in an effort to prevent trespassing incidents that lead to serious injury or death.  Over 2,000 presentations per year are made by volunteers to schools, youth clubs, driver associations, snowmobile clubs and other community groups.  Operation Lifesaver also works with the rail industry, government, police, unions, the media, other organizations and the public to spread rail safety awareness.

Concerning your request for a broad investigation into railway safety in Canada, our Government asked an independent panel to conduct a comprehensive national review of the Railway Safety Act (RSA) and related issues in 2007.  The findings of the review panel, entitled Stronger Ties: A Shared Commitment to Railway Safety, were published in 2008 and are available online at www.tc.gc.ca/5akaj.

To ensure that Canada maintains one of the safest rail systems in the world, our Government has already addressed many of the recommendations of this review.

On December 8, 2011, our Government tabled amendments to the RSA, contained Bill S-4, in the House of Commons following its successful passage in the Senate.  In keeping with the recommendations of the RSA, the proposed amendments will:

  • strengthen Transport Canada’s oversight capacity by requiring all railway companies to obtain a safety-based Railway Operating Certificate after meeting regulated requirements;
  • strengthen the Department’s enforcement powers by introducing administrative monetary penalties and increasing existing judicial penalties;
  • reflect the central importance of establishing safety management systems, including provisions for an “accountable executive” for safety and non-punitive reporting by railway employees;
  • clarify the authority and responsibilities of the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities with respect to railway matters; and
  • expand regulation-making authorities in general, as well as in areas such as environmental protection.

I look forward to the passage of this important legislation by the House of Commons this year.  In addition to these legislative amendments, in Budget 2009, our Government affirmed its commitment to a safe, reliable transportation system by earmarking $72 million over five years and $15 million ongoing to reinforce oversight of railways and support new safety initiatives, including 25 additional rail safety inspectors on the ground and better safety technologies.

Following the release of the RSA review report, the Government created the Advisory Council on Railway Safety (ACRS) to revitalize the consultative process and to address future directions in rail safety, rulemaking, regulation, policy and other issues of concern.  The ACRS comprises representatives from key stakeholder groups, including Transport Canada, railway companies (Canadian National, Canadian Pacific Railway, VIA Rail, as well as short lines and commuter railways), the Railway Association of Canada, shippers, suppliers, and other levels of government and labour.  The ACRS has met three or four times per year since its inception to collaboratively address rail safety strategic issues raised in the report.

Thank you for writing and for your interest in railway safety.

Yours sincerely,

Denis Lebel, P.C., M.P.

c.c.       Office of the Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.

Prime Minister

*******************************************************

On Mon, Mar 5, 2012 at 10:56 AM, Prime Minister/Premier ministre <pm@pm.gc.ca> wrote:

Dear Mr. Locke:

I would like to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail addressed to the Prime Minister.

Please be assured that your comments have been noted. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your e-mail to the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, so that he may be made aware of your views.

Thank you for writing.
M. Bourque
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister’s Office
Agent de correspondance de la haute direction
pour le Cabinet du Premier ministre

*******************************************************

>>>   From : Jack J. Locke  jjlocke1957@gmail.com      Received : 01  Mar  2012 03:19:04 PM   >>>

>>>   Subject : Request for a more substantial inquiry, VIA RAIL TRAGEDIES   >>>>

Dear Prime Minister Harper, Transportation Minister Denis Lebel and others,

I was saddened to read here that the recent VIA Rail train accident killing three crew members indicates the train was travelling 4 times the recommended speed limit. This is reminiscent of the Montreal tragedy where 3 boys were killed
on Oct. 31, 2010. In that case there was no admission that the train was travelling too fast. I refer you to my investigation:

https://jjlocke.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/was-deadly-bullet-train-speeding/

In that earlier case, VIA Rail refused to disclose documents to me, upon my request. The Transportation Safety Board refused to conduct a full investigation.

I refer you to my investigation: the Turcot Train Tragedy https://jjlocke.wordpress.com/turcot-train-tragedy I request a broad investigation into railway safety in Canada.

Sincerely,
Jack Locke
Westmount, Quebec. Canada

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Transport Minister Lisa Raitt should resign

August 19, 2014

I have no confidence in: Transport Canada, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the TSB’s Lac Megantic report, and Canadian railway safety.

You will remember when Transport Canada issued a new interpretation following the Lac Megantic rail tragedy. They made the following rule:

“The minimum operating crew requirement for a freight train or transfer carrying one or more loaded tank cars of dangerous goods is two (2) crew members.”

This interpretation was made following the fact that the Montreal Maine and Atlantic train had only one train operator on the night it ran away and exploded in Lac Megantic.

But now, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has concluded that in the Lac Megantic accident that killed 47 people, at p. 118 of their report:

On the whole, it could not be concluded whether SPTO(single-person train operations ) contributed to the incorrect securement of the train or to the decision to leave the locomotive running at Nantes despite its abnormal condition.”

 

So, despite the overseer Transport Canada concluded that a single-person train operation is potentially deadly, the safety board could not conclude that it had any effect in the runaway train that demolished Lac Megantic. Such a non-conclusion makes me think that the TSB would be hard-pressed to conclude that gravity caused the incorrect securement. I am dumbfounded, and disappointed. Canada can do better.

 

 

A Royal Commission into Railway Safety is Needed

August 19, 2014

How deep can you downplay railway safety? Just watch.

Lockeblog

I am told that my Op-Ed piece, A Royal Commission into Railway Safety is Needed, will be printed in tomorrow’s Sherbrooke Record. I will post the piece on Lockeblog tomorrow. It starts this way:

If Canada is to prevent another Lac-Mégantic apocalypse, we had better take note of our federal Auditor General’s latest report….

View original post

Greens and NDP comment on Lac Megantic report

August 19, 2014

I’m sure the Conservatives and Liberals will express opinions soon, but the Green Party and the NDP are first–at least there is some criticism worth reading. And I dare say, Ms. May is two steps ahead of the NDP. Read on:

ELIZABETH MAY REACTS TO TRANSPORT CANADA’S FINAL REPORT ON LAC-MEGANTIC

19 August 2014 – 3:43pm

“I call for a public inquiry to satisfy Canadians that everything is being done to protect them…”

Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May.

(OTTAWA) – Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada issued the following statement regarding the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada release of its final report on the devastating train derailment in Lac-Megantic in 2013.  The tragic events lead to the loss of 47 lives and destroyed a significant portion of the downtown.  Over six million litres of crude oil were discharged into the area.

“I want to first begin by expressing my deepest sympathy to those who lost their loved ones to this terrible and senseless tragedy,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. “My heart goes out to you as you look for a way to cope with this terrible loss.  While nothing can bring them back, I hope we can learn from this to ensure that it never happens again.”

Since 2011, the Green Party has called for a Royal Commission into Railway Safety.

“With the release of the TSB final report, action must be immediately taken to minimize the risk posed to Canadians as transportation by rail of dangerous goods through our cities and towns continues to grow rapidly,” added Deputy Green party Leader Bruce Hyer.  “The fact that very little has been done to improve rail safety following this tragedy, speaks to this Conservative Government’s belief that government should not play a significant role in safety – if it affects the bottom line of private sector companies.”

“I call for a public inquiry to satisfy Canadians that everything is being done to protect them,” concluded Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May. “The recommendations brought forward today by the TSB are a first step. However, despite improvements brought in by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt in removing some of the DOT 111 rail cars, much more needs to be done.  We need to bring in a system that can stop or slow a train before certain accidents occur, such as positive train control technology, which is currently being implemented in the U.S.

“A full public inquiry is needed to demonstrate the weak safety culture that exists in Canada today at the expense of Canadians.”

(See attached backgrounder on findings from the Report)

(more…)

Cannabis kills, speed kills, but trains they just keep a-rollin’

August 13, 2014

by Jack Locke

My most solid memory of Dylan Ford is of time he showed up at my kitchen door when I lived on Grey Ave in Montreal. He was a big-boned kid, at least 6 feet tall, and like most kids of 15, he was polite.That was years before he was killed by a VIA Rail train on Oct. 31, 2010.

Is Nathan in?” He asked.

He is,” I replied.

The train that struck Dylan and two others was reportedly traveling at 70 mph. Of course, the coroner’s report downplayed the speed and said it was moving at 63 mph. The coroner also said the speed limit in that zone of track was 65 mph. The speed of the train mattered little to Dylan, Mitch, and Ricardo, but it does matter to me.

I received documents from Canada’s federal Transportation Safety Board that said the train was hot-rodding down the tracks at 70, but what do they know? A lot. I trust the TSB. Dylan may have been 16 when he showed up at our apartment.

He’s in his bedroom, just down…” I pointed.

“…the hall,” Dylan completed my sentence.

That’s right.” It would be about the last time I ever saw the kid.

Three years after our brief encounter, the VIA Rail train arriving in Montreal at 3 A.M., after having been delayed three hours by another rail fatality in Toronto, would literally slice through three boys. There seems to be a preponderance of threes in this story, I apologize for that. Since three is not a lucky number, lets look at “one.” My request for the locomotive event recorder information from VIA was sent only once, and their refusal came only once.

Dylan was smiling as he passed by me on his way to Nathan’s room. I wasn’t smiling when I received VIA’s refusal to turn over their information to me a few long months after Dylan’s death. VIA is not like most commercial train companies: VIA Rail is a Canadian federal Crown corporation, and as such is owned by the people of Canada, and has a legal duty to provide information to busy-bodies like me. But like most Canadian governments when it comes to protecting one’s ass they adopt a strict policy of “Loose documents sink ships,” or whatever other mode of transportation is involved.

I thought naively, that the death of three boys might cause an inquiry— by the police, by the federal Transportation Safety Board, by VIA, or by Quebec’s coroner. The coroner thought it important to mention that Dylan had the presence of various substances in his blood stream. Oh yes. It is important to note such a detail when trying to deflect responsibility away from one entity and place the responsibility on an innocent kid who made the mistake of walking on train tracks at a time when there was not supposed to be a train passing. The presence of alcohol and cannabis in the victim indicates there is no need to check the toxicology of the train’s engineer, at least the coroner saw no reason to do so.

And so the case is closed. According to the Quebec government, there is no need to review the coroner’s report. No need to ask questions as to why a polite kid was smashed to pieces by a train. After all, the kid had a blood alcohol reading of “85 ml/100 grams et de (présence) de cannabis chez le victime.”

In Harper’s Parcel

August 5, 2014

In Harper’s parcel the gaslights glow
Burning vapours all cowboys know
It leaves young eyes old lungs to burn
One day I pray larks may return
Before storage tanks overflow.

We are Alive. We live with woe
On tractors, from sunrise, we hoe
We pray our fortune may swift turn
For fresh, clean air today we yearn
In Harper’s parcel.

Pitched for battle we jointly go
Defiant we fly like heavenly crow
Against the scourge our eyes shall burn
And though we age our kids shall learn
We must not rest, though roses grow
In Harper’s parcel.

Villanelle for a Violent World

August 3, 2014

When bear and butterfly begin to fight
Over who should control the mountain trail
Never is the victor ever contrite.

The forest audience detests this sight
Watching a bloodbath turns most voyeurs pale
When bear and butterfly begin to fight.

The onslaught continues night after night
With neither side stopping to inhale
Never is the victor ever contrite.

I intervene in the dispute despite
Knowing a referee must not be frail
When bear and butterfly begin to fight.

As butterfly floats like wingèd kite
Bear bears broad benefit from size and scale
Never is the victor ever contrite.

As they approach cliff of substantial height
The pull of gravity never fails to not fail
When bear and butterfly begin to fight
Never is the victor ever contrite.