Canada Railways Boost Lobbying After Deadly Quebec Crash

Canada’s railway industry has intensified its lobbying efforts following the explosion of a runaway oil train in Quebec last month that killed 47 people.

Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. have both contacted Transport Minister Lisa Raitt since the explosion, and CN has also communicated with opposition leader Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party and Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, according to federal lobbyist registry records. The Railway Association of Canada hired Earnscliffe Strategy Group to discuss the movement of dangerous goods, regulations and safety training, filings show.

Lawmakers on the country’s transportation committee have pledged to review rail safety rules once the Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation into the July 6 explosion of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd. train. The transport department implemented emergency safety regulations last month that require two operators on trains carrying dangerous goods.

“CN representatives regularly speak with elected officials, ministers, and other stakeholders at all levels of government,” Patrick Waldron, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. “Since the tragic events that occurred in Lac-Megantic, CN has also spoken and reached out to local mayors, provincial leaders and officials across Canada with information related to CN’s safety practices and performances.”

Worst Disaster

An unattended train with 72 tanker cars of crude oil rolled downhill into the town of Lac-Megantic early on the morning of June 6, crashing and bursting into flames. About 40 buildings were destroyed in the country’s worst rail disaster in more than a century.

The registry shows six Earnscliffe employees have registered this month to lobby for the rail group on issues including “policies impacting on the movement of dangerous goods, including voluntary and regulatory requirements,” and “policies being developed to ensure regulations governing safety measures.”

Earnscliffe advised Cnooc Ltd. on its $15.1 billion offer last year for Nexen Inc. and Alcan Inc. in 2007 on Rio Tinto Plc’s purchase of the Canadian aluminum maker.

Geoff Norquay, one of the six Earnscliffe lobbyists hired by the railway group, said by telephone he wouldn’t comment about his work.

Since the explosion, Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway has filed for bankruptcy and had its operating certificate suspended because it wasn’t carrying enough liability insurance.

New Minister

Railway association President Michael Bourque and other employees of the group were previously listed in the federal lobbyist registry before the explosion, along with executives from Canadian National and Canadian Pacific.

Paul Goyette, the railway association spokesman, said in an e-mail the group has hired outside lobbyist companies before. He declined to comment on its current work.

Raitt was named Transport Minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s July 15 cabinet shuffle, replacing Denis Lebel.

“For Canadian Pacific, it is good practice to meet a new Minister of Transport and renew our ongoing commitment to work with her and her department on industry issues,” Ed Greenberg, a company spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.