OTTAWA, July 8, 2013 /CNW/ - Today, the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, visited Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, and made the following statement:
"From my heart, as a Canadian and fellow resident of Quebec, I would like to express my sympathies to those who have been affected by these devastating events in Lac-Mégantic.
"I have been deeply moved by what I have seen today, and over the past few days.
"As a former Mayor I know that tragedy brings tears to a community, but with those tears come a generous, neighbourly spirit and a determination to move forward.
"I am impressed by the courage and resilience of the people of this town, and am grateful also to all those who have come here to help.
"Transport Canada officials have been on the ground and in active contact with local authorities and The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway from the time the derailment occurred.
"We are cooperating fully with the Transportation Safety Board's investigation.
"And I have appointed an observer to keep me informed of the progress of the investigation. I will not hesitate to take immediate action should any safety deficiencies be identified.
"Over the past few days, there have been, very understandably, a number of questions about whether we are doing enough to keep our railways safe.
"Since 2007, train accidents in Canada have gone down by 23 percent and train derailments are down by 26 percent.
"But of course we cannot rest on our laurels, especially when we see the devastating effects of this tragedy.
"I can tell you all here today, safety is Transport Canada's top priority.
"Our government has not cut any inspectors.
"We have taken concrete action to increase rail safety.
"In fact, we have invested over $100 million in rail safety since 2009.
"On May 1 of this year, our government toughened penalties for rule breakers.
"Railway companies are required by law to ensure the safe operations of their trains, and the new fines are 400 percent greater than before.
"We do not yet know the cause of this tragic derailment.
"But we do know that a Transport Canada inspector inspected the locomotive involved in this incident just the day before it happened, on July 5, and found no deficiencies.
"If anyone is found to have contravened any federal transportation regulations, we will take immediate steps to enforce those regulations.
"There is nothing more important than the safety and protection of Canadians.
"We will learn from this incident, and we will take action.
"I have directed Transport Canada to examine any other means of improving rail safety over the coming weeks, months and years.
"Again, our thoughts and prayers are with this community.
"I would like to thank the first responders, police force and all those assisting in mitigating the effects of this incident, and protecting the people of Lac-Mégantic."
SOURCE Transport Canada