Rail safety was one of the topics of discussion at the Prince Rupert City Council meeting on May 10th with councillors urging for local input and Northern voices to be heard at the recently announced federal hearings.
“I do think that it’s a fairly rare opportunity and needs to be taken advantage of if there are sufficient perspectives that people want to express about rail safety, as we witness the expansion we’re anticipating,” Nick Adey city councillor said, opening the rail safety conversation during the evening meeting.
The May 5th announcement by Skeena Bulkley Valley M.P. Taylor Bachrach, that the House of Commons committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Communities has agreed to hold hearings on rail safety, came with the M.P.’s commitment to “be pushing to have voices from our region included in the hearings.”
Mayor Lee Brain said he has been in regular contact with Bachrach about the issue and earlier in the year they even discussed a virtual town hall meeting. However there are challenges, Brain said.
“Many people come to us [the municipality] for issues around rail safety, and as most people know, we have zero jurisdiction or authority over the railway,” the mayor said.
“In fact, even the federal government has their own tough hard time with CN Rail and some of the jurisdictional issues,” he said.
Even though rail safety is a federal matter, Brain said that there is a role to play in advocating for resident’s concerns. He has spoken with other community leaders in the region and “up the line” and the same issues are being voiced in every community.
When it comes to the hearings themselves, a bigger broader coalition of communities working together on common issues is required, Brian said.
“So, this is a cross-Canada issue. It’s not just about us, ” Brain said. “However, we will be seeing a lot more [rail] volume coming through Prince Rupert.”
Brain said that working with other communities and encouraging people to attend a town hall with the M.P. are the most appropriate courses of action. With Bachrach in the lead position by taking the collective voice to the federal government, it will ensure that the local government perspective, provincial concerns, as well as community groups on the ground, residential, business, and industrial concerns are all heard, the Prince Rupert mayor said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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