Toronto Mayor John Tory wants rail companies to publicly disclose what hazardous goods are moving through the city and when, with the ultimate goal of banning the transportation of such goods through Toronto.
“I am far from satisfied with the transparency that we don't see today,” said Tory, on the same day the Star revealed that risk assessments prepared by rail companies will only be shared with Transport Canada, and not made public.
“I think it's time to let the sun shine in on this and it's not just a matter of some principle of transparency. It's a matter of people being adequately informed in a big city like this of what is traveling through the city and when and how much. I think it's time we modernized those regulations and got into the 21st century so that people knew about these things.”
A Transport Canada spokeswoman told the Star the risk assessments are reviewed by the federal regulator, but are not made public because the information still belongs to the rail companies and “contain sensitive commercial information.”
Tory has become the latest municipal politician in Canada to call for greater transparency from rail companies in the wake of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster.
Since 2013, rail companies are required to provide historical data on hazardous goods moving through cities to municipal officials, who are forbidden from revealing that information to the public due to confidentiality agreements signed with the companies. And CN and CP, the country’s largest rail carriers, also refuse to share their emergency response plans with the public.
In Toronto, the CP rail line runs through the city along Dupont St., while CN’s line runs across the northern GTA, roughly parallel to Hwy. 407.
Under an April 2014 emergency directive, rail companies must conduct a risk evaluation on every route that carries 10,000 or more tankers bearing dangerous goods per year, along with trains holding 20 or more carloads of dangerous goods.
“I just see no reason at all why we can't have much greater transparency,” said Tory, “and I said during the campaign and I'll repeat it now, that I think we should be moving in the direction in negotiation with the railways and the federal government to stop movement of toxic and dangerous substances through the city at all.”
With files from Jessica McDiarmid