Green Party of Canada response to Question 8

Question:  Calgary has relied heavily on the Federal Disaster Assistance Initiative to repair and rebuild needed infrastructure after the flood; however, in February 2015, the Federal Government changed the funding formula. What is your position on the changes to the Disaster Assistance Initiative formula?

Question:  Will your party help fund large and small flood mitigation projects in and around Calgary?

Answer:  Canada is already experiencing more frequent extreme weather events, as a consequence of accelerating climate change arising from our dependence on fossil fuels. In the face of increasingly frequent disasters, Canada is unprepared to respond. Cutting federal funding for disaster assistance is not the way to meet this challenge. We need federal leadership and coordination to be able to effectively respond to future disasters. A Council of Canadian Governments will bring all levels of government together to develop a comprehensive National Strategy for Disaster Preparedness, to ensure that Canadian cities and towns are prepared to respond in the future. These life-or-death scenarios cannot be left to a patchwork response system.

Our federal government must ensure an emergency response system that is proactive, comprehensive and long-term, one that efficiently and effectively coordinates key emergency management players at all levels of government with a wide range of stakeholders. The federal government must support collaborative and cost-sharing approaches to ensure adequate funding and strengthen community capacity building and preparedness.

Our federal government must return to the business of supporting comprehensive municipal, territorial, and provincial emergency preparedness plans. Such measures include providing public education and training programs; fast-tracking the seismic upgrading of public buildings such as hospitals, schools, and fire halls; improving local emergency infrastructure, such as adequate tsunami warning systems, civil defence sirens and other communication systems; clear marking of emergency evacuation routes; and ensuring the means to supply essential services such as medical services, energy supplies, food and water. We must also undertake budgetary planning for post-disaster recovery.

The federal government has a responsibility to provide stable and predictable funding, and lead a coordinated response to disaster assistance in Canada.

In addition, all sectors need to be prepared for the impacts of a changing climate. We need, in conjunction with provinces, territories, municipalities, and Indigenous governments, to implement a comprehensive adaptation strategy to prepare our cities, agriculture, forestry, the fishery, our health care systems and all vulnerable aspects of our society to the impacts of climate change we can no longer avoid.

The Green Party will invest in comprehensive response plans for flooding and other extreme weather events to bring Canadian disaster readiness up to world-class standards, so we can more ably respond to the extreme weather events that are becoming more common as the climate changes.

Question:  How will your party improve rail safety in Canada?

Answer:  Rail safety is of utmost importance to Canadians, particularly given the recent dramatic increase in the transport of hazardous materials. Unsafe rail shipments endanger local communities and surrounding ecosystems. We need to reform our rail system to ensure safety is a priority.

There are two major gaps in contemporary rail safety regulation. The first lies in the move to safety management systems, which are essentially a form of deregulation. According to the 2007 report by the Canada Safety Council, the system is one that "allows rail companies to regulate themselves, removing the federal government's ability to protect Canadians and their environment, and allowing the industry to hide critical safety information from the public." The Green Party will implement strict rail safety regulations to shift away from the trend of self-management and deregulation. As well, Transport Canada should have the supervisory authority to review these safety management systems.

The second major threat to rail safety is the government cutbacks to Transport Canada, which have led to fewer engineers doing the crucial work of reviewing rail safety. We need to reinvest in rail safety, and expand our passenger rail system to create thousands of new jobs and increase our economic competitiveness.

To improve rail safety, the Green Party strongly advocates for positive train control. Positive train control involves on-board computer systems to monitor and analyse key information, prevent collisions and control speed. Canada has not yet adopted this approach. It’s time to catch up to the US and implement this safety system immediately. The Green Party also supports strengthening the Canada Transport Emergency Centre to be an active participant in regulatory activities. This, in tandem with positive rail control, will improve the quality of information provided to first responders.

In order to ensure tragedies such as Lac-Mégantic can never occur again, Canada needs clear, strict and world-class rail safety regulations that safeguard our communities and ecosystems. We must do more to address this emerging crisis.

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