New report chronicles regulatory failures behind Lac-Mégantic

August 18, 2014

OTTAWA—In advance of tomorrow's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) final report into why a train loaded with crude oil crashed and killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Québec just over a year ago, a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) report details eight key ways in which regulatory failure contributed to the disaster.

Willful Blindness? by CCPA Executive Director Bruce Campbell, chronicles how Canada's federal regulatory regime failed – directly and indirectly – to prevent corporate negligence, for which the citizens of Lac-Mégantic paid a terrible price.

"Experts and government officials warned that the railway cars carrying crude oil were unsafe and that they shouldn't be operated by one person only– but they were ignored," says Campbell. "

The eight areas where Canada's federal regulatory system failed Lac-Mégantic are:

  1. Transport Canada's railway operating rules are at times vague and inadequately enforced, giving companies too much latitude and granting too many exemptions.
  2. Senior Transport Canada officials, over objections from its Montreal office and the union, granted permission to Montreal, Maine & Atlantic railway to operate trains carrying massive amounts of crude oil, a dangerous good, with a one-person crew.
  3. Transport Canada, despite multiple warnings, allowed crude oil to be transported in unsafe tank cars.
  4. Transport Canada disregarded concerns about the explosiveness of Bakken crude, had lax testing requirements, and collected insufficient data about the transportation of dangerous goods.
  5. Transport Canada's Safety Management Systems were defective – lacking sufficient oversight and enforcement.
  6. Transport Canada's risk assessment processes and protocols were flawed.
  7. Transport Canada was complacent in light of the oil-by-rail boom, allocating insufficient regulatory resources to cope with the massive surge.
  8. Transport Canada has allowed the industry lobby to become too powerful, compromising public safety.

How far will the TSB report go in highlighting negligence within the industry and failure within government? How far up the pyramid of responsibility will it probe?

The report calls for an independent inquiry. "Lac-Mégantic is the most devastating Canadian rail disaster in a cen­tury. How is it possible that it does not warrant an external, fully independent inquiry? This is a necessary prerequisite to truly understanding what happened and prevent future disasters," Campbell said.


Willful Blindness? Regulatory failures behind the Lac-Mégantic disaster is available on the CCPA website:

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Senior Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.