Attempts by the Conservative government (and even some Liberals),to deflect blame for the Lac Megantic disaster by attacking the Leader of the Opposition for "exploiting" the tragedy are simply mistaken, in my view, and in the view of many more responsible commentators.
Consider this excerpt from an editorial in the Globe and Mail written by Grant Bishop, a petro-chemical engineer and economist:
"I part company with Thomas Mulcair on many policy issues. But his call to scrutinize the regulation of oil transportation by rail was entirely legitimate. ... The TSB has been on record with safety concerns about the tank cars in which oil can be transported. From Statistics Canada data , shipments of fuel oils and crude petroleum by rail accelerated from 68,000 carloads in 2011 to 113,000 in 2012 and 41,000 in just the first quarter of 2013.There were red flags about this increased volume of oil-by-rail even before the Lac-Mégantic tragedy. With the reality of increasing oil shipments passing through populated centres, the public has every right to know how the risks from these shipments are being managed on its behalf. ...
...The limited liability corporation is an effective mechanism for marshaling capital and efficiently organizing production. However, any belief that “corporate social responsibility” is an adequate substitute for rigorous regulation misapprehends the primacy of profit maximization in corporate decision-making. ...
Other federal parties may deride Mr. Mulcair’s calls for scrutiny of how we are regulating rail transport of oil as mere partisan maneuvers. But such dismissals show blindness to potential risks and, worse, abdicate the urgent responsibility to ensure the public is protected."Or this passage from Elizabeth May's MP Website:
"Media pundits are busy saying what politicians should and shouldn’t say in times of crisis. I have a hard time faulting Tom Mulcair for saying what seems rather obvious. The legality of leaving that train, unattended, engine on, with 74 railcars full of light crude oil, perched in a spot where should brakes fail, gravity and momentum would send the train barrelling into the community below, was specifically approved by Transport Canada. It is far too early to know all the answers, but I think common sense dictates that some observations are obvious. The failure of the federal government under Stephen Harper’s watch is one of them.Or this piece by Montreal journalist Ethan Cox:
"Mulcair drew fire for stating two points of fact. That rail transport of oil is becoming "more and more" common (an understatement if anything, as such shipments have increased by 28,000 per cent since 2009), and that the Harper government "is cutting transport safety in Canada." This latter statement based on the fact that the Harper government has cut the safety budget for railroads from $36.9 million in 2012-13 to $33.8 million in the 2013-14 estimate, a drop of $3.1 million. ...
Mulcair couched his remarks in repeated expressions of compassion for those affected, and insisted that questions needed to be answered, for no one as much as for those same victims and their families.
This was enough for many members of the national media to abandon any question of whether Harper or his cuts could have contributed to the accident, and spend the day waxing eloquent on the inappropriate, crass and politically motivated nature of the NDP leader's comments.
Former Liberal leader Bob Rae took the opportunity to make Mulcair's "politically motivated" questions a politically motivated story, tweeting: 'Tom Mulcair blaming Harper for the tragedy in Lac Megantic is a new low, and as you know, I'm no fan of Mr Harper's politics'."
Right now, I am no fan of Mr. Rae's politics, either. Thomas Mulcair was simply doing his job, and doing it better than either the prime minister or the Liberal leader were. Although I do not necessarily believe that all DOT-111 tankers must be replaced (the cost would be exorbitant for temporary surge in oil traffic) obviating the requirement for second crew could be tied to the acquisition of safer cars or other technologies.