More rail safety concerns

The Senate scandal dominated much of what happened in Ottawa again last week, but other events also are worth looking at and taking note of.
One significant event came with the release of the Auditor General’s fall 2013 report, which found that the Harper government is failing Canadians on many important files—from railway safety and food safety to the new $35-billion ship-building contract which already is over budget before even a blueprint has been produced.
Due to space, I will just highlight the Auditor General’s finding on railway safety this week and follow up on the other issues later.
On the railway file, it’s been 12 years since the deregulation of rail safety through the Safety Management Systems (SMS) regime—and the federal government still cannot ensure the safety of Canada’s railways, according to Auditor General Michael Ferguson.
Ferguson said in his report: “Despite the fact that federal railways were required 12 years ago to implement safety management systems for managing their safety risks and complying with safety requirements, Transport Canada has yet to establish an audit approach that provides a minimum level of assurance that federal railways have done so.”
In other words, after 12 years, the new system still isn’t working—and there is no way to tell if rail companies actually are inspecting their trains as they are legally obliged to.
This is a somewhat scary thought given that transportation of hazardous materials by rail is on the rise, and crude oil shipments alone have increased 75 percent over the past four years.
Next week, I will highlight some other findings of the Auditor General, specifically related to the mishandling of food safety measures and the new $35-billion ship-building contract, which should be of concern to the Harper government and Canadians alike.

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