Playing with trains.

Is Gillian Steward, formerly with the Toronto Star, now working for Jason Kenney’s pipeline and bitumen propaganda war room in Calgary? In an opinion piece labelled “Shipping oil by train is too dangerous.” Steward seems to be framing the argument for the Trudeau cabinet to move ahead on the Trans Mountain pipeline despite the new $12.6 billion price tag for twinning the line. That approval will then trigger approval of the massive Teck Resources Frontier open pit tar sands mine in North-Eastern Alberta to feed bitumen to the pipeline.

But in the meantime, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways have procured thousands of tanker cars to meet the needs of the landlocked industry. The province even stimulated that tanker car acquisition by buying 4000 of them.

Having some of those tanker cars getting derailed is not good advertising for the railways. Two of those derailments near Guernsey, Saskatchewan are being touted as clear evidence that rail transport is not safe. Maybe there would be some believers if we just knew exactly what was in those rail cars and what caused those derailments.

First of all, diluted bitumen is not all that flammable. A lot depends on what material has been used to dilute it. And why would transport minister Marc Garneau tell the railways to slow down rather than getting them to inspect their tracks more frequently?

Raising the spectre of Lac Mégantic in 2013 has nothing to do with the transport today of bitumen. In that disastrous incident, highly flammable crude oil from the Bakken fracking operations in North Dakota was mislabelled and carelessly handled. It was a disaster just waiting to happen.

And, for another matter, not all tanker cars are carrying crude oil. Many materials can be carried in these cars. These materials need to be properly identified and precautions taken when necessary. I always assumed mislabelling is a criminal offence.

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