NEWS RELEASE · 23rd August 2013
Nathan Cullen lambasted Transport Minister Lisa Raitt today in response to her department’s continued inaction to reduce blockages of public railway crossings by CN, which have become a significant burden to public safety and mobility in communities across the Northwest.
In a letter dated March 6, 2013 (attached) to Raitt’s predecessor, Denis Lebel, Cullen outlined two primary concerns: that CN freight trains were blocking public railway crossings for periods of thirty to 100 minutes, and that these blockages posed not only an inconvenience, but a major public safety hazard in the events of emergencies. He also noted instances of individuals becoming impatient with the waiting, and walking across the crossing in between rail cars.
Cullen also made one request to the Minister: enforce the laws that already exist under the Railway Safety Act to punish commercial rail operators who block public railway crossings. Raitt’s response (attached), however, fell sadly short of the mark, said Cullen. Rather than addressing the issue seriously, Raitt simply summarized sections of the Railway Safety Act.
“Unfortunately, the mere existence of laws does not naturally preclude their violation. Laws need to be enforced, and in this case, that responsibility falls on your office,” Cullen wrote in a letter sent to Raitt today.
“The reluctance of the Conservative government to act on issues of rail safety across the board is astonishing,” said Cullen from Smithers. “We waited six months for a response from the Minister on this issue, and her message to the people of the Northwest who are stuck at crossings blocked by CN rail cars is they’ll just have to wait some more.”
“The Minister may be new to her post, but it’s tough to gather what kind of message she is trying to send to CN when she so brazenly turns a blind eye to this issue. The message she has communicated to CN here is that the watchdog has lost its bark and its bite,” said Cullen. “So let’s try again: will the Minister let this situation drag on until there is a real catastrophe, or will she taken action to enforce the laws, and protect the mobility, the safety and the economic viability of our communities now?”