In his new role as the NDP’s transport critic for the federal government, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach has three priorities.
“I’m honoured to take on these additional responsibilities in Parliament,” said Bachrach. “The pandemic has posed massive challenges for the transportation sector, particularly airlines. My focus in Ottawa will be advocating for ordinary Canadians – from the workers whose jobs are threatened to the air passengers still awaiting refunds.”
In a telescrum with local media via Zoom Jan. 20, Bachrach noted even with people flying less there are a number of essential reasons, particularly medical reasons, why people in the Northwest rely on air service. He said he is working with the airlines, federal government and local officials to keep disruption in service to a minimum.
The airlines, for their part, have been lobbying for a bailout, something Bachrach said was included in the new minister of transport’s mandate letter.
“First of all, we need to make sure those federal funds, those public dollars, go toward workers in the sector, not CEOs bonuses or dividends for shareholders,” he said.
“Secondly, we need to make sure the airlines refund those air passengers who had their flights cancelled. There are thousands and thousands of Canadians who are still owed money by the major airlines.”
The MPs second priority is to ensure a private member’s bill from Edmonton-Centre Conservative MP James Cumming to ease restrictions on oil tanker shipments on the North Coast is defeated in the House of Commons.
Bachrach said he is confident the bill will die, but sees the raising of the issue as an opportunity to reinforce the importance of the moratorium, particularly to transport minister Omar Alghabra, who was not the minister when the ban was put in place in 2019.
“There is an opportunity here, I believe, to help people understand what the moratorium is, and what it isn’t, to help people understand what the values we are trying to protect are and, really, what’s at stake if there were to be a major oil spill on our coast,” Bachrach said.
“This is a region that is unique in the world and the values we’re trying to safeguard here when it comes to wild salmon and the coastal economy, communities that have depended on the marine environment for thousands of years, those are really important things to people in this region.”
The MP said he will be holding a virtual town hall on the issue so constituents can weigh in.
Finally, Bachrach is prioritizing rail safety.
“The biggest thing is, everybody recognizes the value of the railroad, it’s a big employer, it’s important to our economy, but there’s no reason why we should be seeing derailments, we should be seeing these safety concerns,” he said.
“We need some assurance and some assessment that tells us that the regulations are in place and the safety systems are adequate and, perhaps most importantly, if there ever were to be an industrial incident, or an industrial disaster like a major fire involving hazardous goods, that we have the response capacity to deal with it.”
Bachrach also took a few moments to address the inauguration of the new administration in the United States with respect to the Canada-U.S. relationship.
“I believe it’s going to have positive implications for Canada’s relationship with the United States,” he said. “Watching from the sidelines, somewhat, it did look like Canada’s relationship with the Trump administration was quite strained, that he was a difficult president to deal with on files that affected our country, issues like softwood lumber, issues like the aluminum tarifs, which of course affects Kitimat.”
He also weighed in on President Joe Biden’s executive order revoking the permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which was intended to transport Alberta crude oil to refineries in Texas.
“I don’t think anybody should be surprised he has cancelled the completion of Keystone XL,” Bachrach said. “Obviously, Joe Biden served alongside Barack Obama who was opposed to the project and throughout the recent campaign [Biden] indicated that this would be one of the first things he did.”
In any event, Bachrach believes it’s all part of a global shift in energy priorities.
“When it comes to the bigger question of Canada’s exports there remain a lot of unanswered aspects there, but I would point to a recent report by the Canada energy regulator, which looked at Canada’s oil export capacity and it also looked at the Liberal Government’s stated climate targets. Their finding was that if Canada intends to meet its stated targets for 2030 and 2050 then the export capacity of Keystone XL and of the Trans Mountain pipeline are not going to be necessary.
“If we’re serious about moving away from oil, then we need to look to the future and be realistic about what’s going to be required in terms of infrastructure.”