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Bachrach pushing for local rail safety

Plans to re-initiate study and bring a report to Parliament
MP Taylor Bachrach intends to re-initiate Parliamentary work on rail safety in the Skeena-Bulkley Valley region. (File photo/Black Press)

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, met with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) board of directors on Jan. 27 to discuss the some of the work he’s doing federally for the region.

One of his points of emphasis is rail safety.

“In the last parliament, I was able to get a study by the standing committee on transport infrastructure and community. on rail safety cross canada. When an election gets called it essentially hits the stop button on all of the parliamentary work, so that parliamentary study and those hearings got cut short before we were able to table a report in Parliament,” Bachrach said to the RDBN board.

Gerry Thiessen, RDBN Chair of the board was one of the the individuals who presented during the initial hearings as one of the witnesses.

“About 10 per cent of the box cars that go through out communities have hazardous material on it. We don’t have the equipment needed. We were told that should something happen, we have to somehow get close enough to the derailment to check the bar code on the side of the train and that if we provided that information to CN they would be able to tell us what was in that derailed car. That’s not a viable solution when you’re working with volunteers,” he said in his testimony

That report is now being brought back.

“Now that we’re back, I’ve brought forth the motion to re-table the report, to bring back all the evidence from the previous parliament, and to finish off the hearings, which has all been approved by the committee. We’ve also added two more days of hearings,” Bachrach told Houston Today.

According to Bachrach, the main concern with rail safety involves adequate training and equipment for local fire departments.

“What we’ve seen in the Northwest is a dramatic increase of dangerous goods, particularly liquid propane, coming through our community. It raises concern when it comes to emergency response. Currently the responsibility to responding to emergencies falls to municipal fire departments, many of which are run by volunteers. There’s just way to much inconsistency within the region in terms of preparedness yet the risk is present in every community,” said Bachrach.

“CN and some of its partners offer training but there’s no obligation on the part of fire departments to take part, and it’s unfair to ask volunteer fire departments to serve as the front line of defence without being adequately trained to do so. My feeling is that these companies that are transporting dangerous goods should be responsible for supplying and funding this training to every fire department in along the railroad corridor, and that the training should be mandated by the federal government,” he continued.

Bachrach went on to tell Houston Today that he believes it’s the government’s responsibility to not only ensure that every fire department receives adequate training, and that residents have protection against potentially catastrophic industrial fires.

Houston Today reached out to District of Houston Fire Chief Jim Daigneault to see what kind of training has been provided to the local fire department.

“We have not had any training from CN or any other company. We have had some Hazmat training that the department has put on ourselves this training, was two and a half days long it covered a broad spectrum of hazard conditions,” he said.

“I think the report will be a good thing not too sure much will happen from it though, as for all departments being mandated to have this training, it would be a good idea. At least it would give everyone a basic awareness of the hazards involved,” Daigneault continued.

In terms of next steps in the process, Bachrach says the added hearings and testimonies should be completed in short order as the committee meets twice per week, After which a report will be created for the committee to review, which will then be tabled to Parliament for the government to respond within a given time period.

“I expect a report to be tabled in Parliament some time this spring,” Bachrach said.

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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