Rafting tour companies could see their access to the Kicking Horse River Lower Canyon reinstated, if a private member’s bill introduced to Parliament this week is passed.
The CP Rail decision to deny tour companies access to the Lower Canyon hit tour companies hard last year. For more than 40 years, rafting companies had carefully led tourists across railway tracks leading to the Lower Canyon.
The decision, which was prompted by a Transport Canada inspection, led to extensive high-level negotiations last year, including federal and provincial political representatives from the Golden area. It ended in an impasse.
Now, Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski is encouraging MP’s across the country to support a private member’s bill which would give the Minister of Transport the power to end the dispute between the Golden whitewater rafting industry and CP Rail.
Stetski was speaking in support of Bill C-322, introduced into the House of Commons by NDP MP Helene Laverdiere from Laurier-Sainte-Marie in Montreal, that would grant the Minister of Transport the powers to require the construction of a level crossing on a rail line.
“The Government is hiding behind obsolete regulation,” said Stetski. “This bill would give the minister the power to create safe railway crossings, not just in Golden, but everywhere across the country where there is a need. I think it is a no-brainer that all MPs should support this bill.”
If passed, the bill would grant the Minister of Transportation the ability to require the construction of a level crossing on a rail line.
“Canadians, including individuals and businesses, have demonstrated that they sometimes have legitimate requirements to cross railways at locations other than road crossings. But the rail companies refuse to allow the crossings — and they refuse to make them safe,” said Stetski.
Tourism companies in the Golden area lead as many as 40,000 people on rafting tours in the Golden area each summer. Stetski said the sport brings valuable eco-tourism dollars into the community, providing dozens of jobs.
“Bill C-322 will allow the Minister to order CP and other railways to create safe crossings in special situations like this,” said Stetski. “If rail companies are concerned about safety, the solution isn’t to ban crossings; it’s to make them safe.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that MP Wayne Stetski had introduced the private member’s bill. In fact, Stetski was speaking in support of Bill C-322, which was introduced by NDP MP Helene Laverdiere from Laurier-Sainte-Marie in Montreal.