Harper defends government's rail safety record amid latest burning derailment

Accident rates are very low, says the PM

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is defending his Conservative government’s record on rail safety in light of yet another railway fire fuelled by shipments of crude oil.

What is being called a controlled burn has been raging for more than 18 hours in northwestern New Brunswick after 17 cars on a CN Rail train — including some carrying propane and some with crude oil —derailed late Tuesday.

It’s at least the third such serious incident on North American rails since last July’s deadly derailment in Lac-Megantic, Que., that claimed 47 lives.

Harper, speaking to reporters in Inuvik, N.W.T., says the government has “vastly” increased rail safety and rail inspections.

Critics says the government has been asleep at the switch as rail shipments of crude oil have exponentially increased over the last few years.

The prime minister says the government will look at any recommendations by the Transportation Safety Board related to the latest incident, and “will take whatever further steps are necessary.”

Harper concluded by saying Canadian railway accident rates are very low, in fact at the lowest rate in the history of domestic rail lines.