Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon is not very impressed with the calls from the NDP for a harder look at rail safety in the province.
In an article with the Prince George Citizen, Falcon suggested that NDP transportation critic David Chudnovsky was merely grandstanding, and should be directing his concern towards the federal government.
Falcon went so far as to suggest that without CN's participation in the transportation needs of BC that the Port of Prince Rupert may never have been developed as it has been in the last two years, not to metion the booming times that the rail road apparently is bringing to Prince George.
The issue of rail safety once again jumped to top of the list with the derailment of a CN train in Prince George on August 4th, the latest in a string of high profile problems for the railroad.
And while it perhaps may be that rail safety is a Federal responsibility, it does seem rather unusual that the province doesn't seem to have any inclination in examining safety issues that affect the residents of the province, but instead seem fixated on the financials.
It's a bit of political theatre and some misguided priorities that may come back to haunt them at some future date.
Rail safety up to feds, Liberal minister says
(News) Friday, 17 August 2007, 00:00 PST
by SCOTT STANFIELD Citizen staff
NDP transportation critic David Chudnovsky should be directing his five-point plan on improving CN Rail's safety record in B.C. to the federal government, not the province, says B.C.'s transportation minister.
"It's political grandstanding. Period. Full stop," Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said regarding Chudnovsky's criticism in a Citizen story Thursday.
"He knows full well that the railways, just like the airlines, are totally regulated by the federal government. If he has suggestions on deficiencies in the federal regulatory structure, he should write to the federal government.
"The real issue here is that the NDP are bitter over the fact that we entered into the B.C. Rail/CN Rail long-term lease arrangement," added Falcon, a Liberal MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale. "But the fact of the matter is, accidents come under the jurisdiction of the Transportation Safety Board."
Chudnovsky's plan, which includes whistleblower legislation, comes on the heels of the Aug. 4 derailment when two trains collided on the bank of the Fraser River in Prince George. The safety board has launched an investigation into the accident, which CN has said was a result of human error.
"I actually think the regulator has done exactly what you would expect the regulator to do. They've put some temporary restrictions in place while they undertake the investigation," Falcon said.
"They (NDP) constantly get hysterical every time something happens with a CN train, yet they conveniently ignore accidents on other railways. I'm just as concerned about the CP (Canadian Pacific) derailment that took place in April where they had a conductor that died up in Trail, yet we never heard a peep out of the NDP about that. And that just shows how this is all politically driven, because they've never gotten over the fact that we entered into that deal with CN. But the fact of the matter is that deal, for Prince George in particular, is turning out to be, I believe, absolutely fantastic for the future of Prince George, because, of course, they're investing into turning the whole Prince George area into a major inland distribution centre.
"We could not have had the Port of Prince Rupert go forward without CN. They're absolutely critical because of their contacts with all the major retailers in North America and shippers around the world."