Deadly Denial by Harper Government RE: Canadian Rail Safety

(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 <>
Date: Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 2:09 PM
Subject: Railway safety in Canada.
To: “” <>

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

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 <> 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      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:

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 I request a broad investigation into railway safety in Canada.

Jack Locke
Westmount, Quebec. Canada


One Response to “Deadly Denial by Harper Government RE: Canadian Rail Safety”

  1. Denis Lebel Own Up | Lockeblog Says:

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