***Individuals wishing to donate to the Red Cross can call 1-800-418-1111 or go to the Red Cross website at www.redcross.ca or text REDCROSSQC to 30333 to make a $5 donation.***

As the tragedy in the Quebec community of Lac Megantic continues to unfold, our thoughts continue to be with all those affected by this horrific incident – the families and friends of the victims and the many still missing. The train derailment and resulting explosion and fire was a catastrophic event that has torn the heart out of an entire town and left many searching for answers.

While many details are not yet known what we do know is that the Federal government has ignored repeated safety warnings from it’s own advisors and has not been doing its job when it comes to protecting our communities and the environment from the known risks of moving oil by rail.

The Federal government’s own safety officials told them nine years ago that 80 percent of the rail tanker fleet in Canada is unsafe for carrying oil. The general type of rail car used to move oil in Canada was flagged by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as having a “high incidence of tank failures during accidents” and by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board as prone “to release product at derailment and impact.”  

Despite these warnings the Harper government has done nothing to fix the problem. Instead they are allowing oil companies to dramatically expand the amount of crude going through the hearts of our communities and simply ignored the ongoing recommendations.

Whether its pipelines or rail, we have a growing safety problem in this country as the Federal government continues to put oil profits ahead of public safety.

The Lac Megantic tragedy shows the dangers of transporting hydrocarbons by rail but we know, all too well, that the answer isn’t more pipelines. The history of pipeline spills from Arkansas and Kalamazoo to Little Buffalo and Zama City shows that pipelines create their own disasters. Alberta averages more than 2 oil spills a day.

The real solution to reducing the risk to the public from oil disasters is in transitioning away from oil; not building new, unneeded infrastructure; and in ensuring that the fossil fuel transportation system we do have is as safe as possible. The federal government is not doing that now, and their inaction is putting all our communities at risk.

A first and important step in improving the safety of our current system would be an immediate ban on shipping oil in older, type 111A tanker cars.

The second step should be a comprehensive, independent safety review of all hydrocarbon transportation – pipelines, rail and truck to show where the holes are and propose solution on how we can fix them.

Tell Harper it’s time we need to put people ahead of oil company profits. The safety of our communities and our environment can’t wait.

*If you would like to help the victims of the Lac Megantic tragedy, relief efforts are being coordinated by the Canadian Red Cross. To make a donation please go to: http://www.redcross.ca/donate/donate-online/quebec-disaster-relief-fund.