Ted About Town
The number of railroad cars carrying crude oil through Kingston has increased immensely in the last few years. Because rail and the transportation of dangerous goods are federally regulated, I invited experts to talk with the community at a town hall meeting on March 4.
They included two retired Transport Canada officials specializing in dangerous goods transport, the Chief of Kingston Fire and Rescue, the Director of Engineering for the City of Kingston, and Councilors Laura Turner and Lisa Osanic.
For those of you who couldn’t make it, here is a report.
- Our experts first gave a history of rail safety in Canada and an overview of rail safety procedures today. They touched on crucial factors such as the design of tanker cars, track and rolling-stock maintenance, and the number of personnel operating the trains.
- Our speakers agreed that progress has been made on rail operating rules since the horrific disaster at Lac Mégantic in July 2013. These improvements cover the number of hand brakes required to be set, mandating that two engineers — instead of one — operate a train carrying dangerous goods, not leaving a train carrying dangerous goods unattended, training for train crews and emergency responders, and the speed of trains.
- After years of federal government funding cuts, the response to Lac Mégantic and political pressure has resulted in an uptick in the hiring and training of inspectors. However, many experienced staff and much institutional memory have been lost.
More needs to be done.
- Rail companies manage compliance with rail safety regulations through Safety Management Systems (SMS) supplemented by Transport Canada inspectors. To avoid the pitfalls when an SMS is allowed to slide towards self-regulation, rail companies need to be engaged and prompted to push a safety culture and be proactive in monitoring compliance. They should, for example, monitor and perform track repairs without inspectors having to ask for that.
- The federal government needs to engage with the U.S. government because so many freight trains run in and out of Canada along the border. Rules need to be harmonized — for example the requirement that trains carrying dangerous goods be operated by two engineers instead of one.
- Kingston Fire and Rescue Chief Rhéaume Chaput expressed concerns about being able to quickly find out the contents of rail cars in the case of an accident. He is only given a top-25 list of possible dangerous goods that pass through Kingston, not lists of cargo by train. He also emphasized the need for resources to teach volunteer first responders in rural areas to deal with dangerous goods, and proposed that a small fee be imposed on the transport of dangerous goods to help pay for that.
Those who attended our information session had many great questions and comments. Some of the concerns/questions we heard from community members:
- Are city planners taking into account rail lines when planning locations of schools or nursing homes? Expert: there are established setbacks and the City works closely with Fire and Rescue to develop emergency response plans.
- Are even two engineers enough? Expert: with modern automation, going from one engineer to two is enough.
- How quickly does the rail company know that a derailment has occurred in a remote area? Expert: immediately.
- Are cars with dangerous goods spaced out or arranged with non-dangerous cars in-between? Expert: yes.
With the significantly increased transport of petroleum products by rail in recent years, do you have concerns about rail safety for Kingston and the Islands?
Come out on Wednesday, March 4th, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm to our forum on rail safety at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 631 (4034 Bath Road, Kingston).
The event will begin with our guest speakers, two former Senior Advisors from Transport Canada, who specialized in the transport of dangerous materials, and be followed by a discussion with our panel of safety experts and community leaders. The evening will be a forum for residents to speak to experts and decision makers and to create a dialog on rail safety in our community.
I hope to see you there!
I look forward to the the Santa Claus Parade every year. It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season!
MP Ted Hsu presents Battle of Normandy 70th Anniversary medallion to Kingston WWII Veteran Mr. William Webb
August 13, 2014
Kingston and the Islands MP Ted Hsu issues the following statement:
“I invite you to join me as I present Kingston resident and WWII veteran Mr. William Webb, with a Battle of Normandy 70th anniversary medallion in commemoration of his service to Canada in the Battle of Normandy. The ceremony will take place at the Waterford Retirement Residence at 11:30am on Saturday, August 16, 2014 in the St. Lawrence Lounge.
It is with great honour that I present Mr. Webb with this medallion as he was unable to attend the presentation ceremony in France on June 7 of this year. Veterans Affairs Canada has made special arrangements with the Regional Council of Basse-Normandie and the Normandie Mémoire association to ensure Canadian veterans receive the medallion. Initially, Mr. Webb wasn’t aware of his eligibility to receive the medallion until his daughter learned about it and advocated on his behalf. I am pleased that my constituency office was able to assist.
Mr. Webb arrived at Juno Beach on June 6th, 1944, and was wounded in his left arm from a mortar bomb while riding in a mortar carrier on June 7th. When doctors advised amputation, Mr. Webb refused. In the confusion of battle, Mr. Webb’s chart was incorrectly marked ‘Patient refuses treatment,’ despite only having rejected amputation. As a result, Mr. Webb suffered from gangrene.
With determination to stay alive, Webb was transported to the Eleventh General Field Hospital in Taplow, England where he received extensive treatment after the head nurse realized Webb’s company commander was her husband. After undergoing 7 operations, his arm was saved. It wasn’t long until he was granted temporary leave, during which he married the love of his life, Peggy. At the ceremony this Saturday, I will present a congratulatory certificate to William and Peggy as they are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this 26th of August. The Webb family includes 4 children, ten grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
Mr. William Webb exemplifies the courage, resilience and strength that Canadian war veterans demonstrated while fighting on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy. I thank him for his service and am honoured to congratulate him on this double anniversary.”
I had a great time this Canada Day!
I started off by joining in the fun at the Red and White Parade:
After the parade, we made our way to Confederation Park:
I also had the chance to join the celebrations at Grass Creek Park:
As well as at Worthington Park:
Thanks to everyone for including me in their Canada Day festivities!
Do you have concerns or ideas on federal issues like pensions, youth employment – whatever is on your mind?
I invite you to join me on Thursday, May 15, 7:00 PM, at Frontenac Secondary School for an open discussion in Kingston’s West End. Hope to see you there!
Travel and tourism are critical to the Kingston and the Islands economy and youth employment. I was pleased to speak at a recent event in Kingston hosted by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). There was a great discussion about the state of tourism, particularly focusing on immigration and visa issues, international trade, Canada’s tourism marketing funding, the aviation cost structure, and other public policy barriers to industry growth.
Tourism is a very competitive industry. We compete with countries around the world. Unfortunately, Canada’s ranking as an international tourism destination has suffered. At the same time, funding for promoting tourism has decreased — the 2013 Conservative budget cut the CTC’s funding by 20% — particularly affecting the promotion of Canada as a tourist destination for Americans. I would like to see a restoration of that funding, perhaps moving over some of the money the Conservative government has spent advertising itself.
Thanks to TIAC and the CTC for the great opportunity to discuss important issues for Kingston and the Islands!
Last week, I was honoured to speak at the Stand Up for Science rally in Kingston, as well as to debate the subject of freedom of speech for government scientists with my Parliamentary colleagues on Power and Politics. I am opposed to how the Conservative government applies its tight communications policy to scientists speaking about their research. I’ve been working on this issue since I was elected in 2011, and it’s great to see it getting more and more attention. This week, even the New York Times criticized the Conservative government.
The Stand Up for Science rallies in defence of science and scientists, which have taken place clear across the country, were also a topic on CBC’s Ottawa Morning. During the show Greg Rickford, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, answered a few questions about muzzling scientists. One part of the interview was particularly troubling for me. Here is the question and Minister Rickford’s answer to the CBC:
CBC Ottawa Morning, Robyn Bresnahan:
“How much are those publications censored by the Government? Before they come out, where the scientists presumably are presenting their research, but then somebody from the Government looks over this research, so it’s not like the scientists are publishing them directly…. Are they [scientists] getting your stamp of approval before they [publications] go out?”
Minister of State for Science and Technology, Greg Rickford:
“Scientists work for government, and for universities, and for private institutions… Would you expect that anything that they did in terms of publications wouldn’t be guided in some way by some overarching policy of their respective employer? That would be true for universities, I would suspect.”
But this is not how universities approach science at all, and it is not how the government should approach science either. In Canada, universities are governed by a Statement on Academic Freedom, which guarantees the freedom to teach and conduct research, regardless of whether a research topic is unpopular and controversial. Academic freedom means that we have Canada’s best minds studying and reporting to the public on topics ranging from climate change, to alternate energy sources, to food regulation. These scholars can study these topics without fear of dismissal. Post-secondary institutions do not dictate how academic researchers determine their research interests, nor does it determine the methodology they use or their publication choices.
Government policy and our Minister of State for Science and Technology should allow the great talent we have working in our federal science labs serve the public interest to the fullest, and let those scientists speak freely about their research. This freedom to communicate will benefit scientific research by expanding its impact and relevance. Freedom to communicate will also help the Canadian public and policy-makers to make informed decisions about policies and government decisions based on this publicly funded research.
What I would like to emphasize today is that freedom to communicate is needed to support the integrity of scientific research. With the kind of deliberate mis-information the public has received in the past about smoking tobacco or climate change, it is important for scientific communications to have integrity. Canadians must be able to trust federal scientific research, and know that the findings are credible and based on evidence. With freedom to communicate, the research results of scientists will be trusted because they will be able to speak to the public, unfiltered by the Government of the day and because they will be able to answer direct questions from the public. We can restore this integrity to our federal science programs, particularly the kinds of science involving basic research relevant to government policy. Opening up these lines of communications and allowing our scientists to speak freely about their research is an important first step.
Ted enjoyed participating in a new event for Kingston: the Ribfest & Craft Beer Show where he was invited to judge in the BBQ ribs and chicken competition.
Princess Street was closed for the Annual Princess Street Promenade on August 3rd as downtown businesses and organizations set up stalls on the street. I set up a stall outside of my Constituency Office on the corner of Bagot and Princess to talk with people about their concerns as they walked along the promenade.