CSL and the CP rail yard

Published as a Letter to the Editor in The Suburban, 2022-11-30

Robert Libman, in his excellent opinion piece (Suburban 2022-11-23, p A13) alludes, among other issues, to the health and safety concerns posed to CSL residents living near the CP rail yard. In addition to the illness-promoting effects of noise and vibration, risks due to transport of hazardous materials can never be entirely mitigated. As CP plans to increase its operations, these risks will certainly increase. Never mind the ongoing mental and physical stress suffered by residents dealing with traffic gridlock.

Given his former rôles in both provincial and municipal politics, Mr. Libman is likely very aware that Quebec cities, as creatures of the province, are empowered by Quebec’s “Municipal Powers Act”, enacted in 2005, to enact bylaws affecting safety (para 62, “A local municipality may adopt by-laws in matters of safety.”). Given that CP Rail is federally regulated, one might argue that Côte Saint-Luc has no jurisdiction. Similar arguments were brought forward when the City of Hudson enacted a bylaw banning the cosmetic use of pesticides on its territory (the first city in North America to do so!); a legal challenge by a pesticide spraying company went all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court which upheld the city’s jurisdiction in matters affecting safety and awarded costs in favour of the city.

Suppose CSL did something similar by enacting bylaws regulating train speeds, minimum crew levels, idling of locomotives, and mandatory provision of lading manifests when hazardous goods are being transported? It is a near certainty that CP Rail would challenge such bylaws on grounds of jurisdiction. Would CSL Council have the gumption to stand up for its autonomy? Hudson did and won!

Any politician at any level of government would be foolhardy to take the side of CP Rail in such a dispute. Taxpayers and voters hold the health and safety of their families and communities dear to heart! It might just be that CP Rail, seeing the writing on the wall, would decamp to a more suitable location for its operations. And who knows? Perhaps an example set by CSL would encourage other communities to stand up for themselves. Lac Megantic, please take note!

Henry Olders, P.Eng, MD, FRCPC

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