The head of CP Rail is lashing out at Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, accusing her of threatening the company even before completing an investigation into an allegation that a train was parked in the mountains above Revelstoke, B.C., without proper brakes being applied.
"We are concerned about accusations and threats made in the media by the minister of transport during an ongoing investigation where the facts have not yet been established," said Hunter Harrison, CEO of CP Rail in a news release issued late Tuesday night.
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"Furthermore, to suggest that there is any parallel between these allegations and the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic is, at best, unfortunate," Harrison is quoted as saying in the statement.
Harrison was responding to Raitt's comments on Monday about a CBC News report that Transport Canada raided CP's headquarters last month.
According to search warrant documents, that allowed the raid, a CP train conductor alleges she was ordered by a manager to leave 57 rail cars — including dangerous goods — parked on the main track on a heavy grade in the mountains uphill from Revelstoke without applying proper brakes.
Inspectors believe the company, and a manager, violated the Railway Safety Act and emergency measures issued after the deadly crude oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que.
"If it is the case that CP Rail did not adhere to our emergency directive, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Raitt told CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Monday. "And they should be very mindful of the fact that it is the president and the CEO that was charged in the case of [Montreal, Maine & Atlantic involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster]."
"We had 47 people perish in Lac-Mégantic. We had families and communities ripped apart," Raitt said. "If management [at all railways] isn't getting it with all this, maybe they'll get it with charges."
"It's very sad to say... but I'd ask these companies to wake up. This is a very serious matter."
CP calls Raitt's comments "profoundly disappointing."
"Any insinuation that CP doesn't take safety seriously or would tolerate a culture that allows employees to cut corners or break rules is deeply disturbing and inappropriate," CP's CEO is quoted as saying.
Harrison, through a spokesperson, declined a request for an interview by CBC News.
Battle with Ottawa
This isn't the first public feud Harrison has had with the federal government.
He is refusing to pay fines levied against CP Rail for failing to meet mandatory quotas for shipping grain during the winter of 2014. CP Rail is formally appealing the fines.
Harrison, who used to head CN Rail before moving to CP, is a long-time critic of regulators. He told a Calgary shareholders meeting last month that Ottawa should not interfere with his cost-cutting plans to move longer trains, with more weight, at higher speeds.
"I would caution some of the legislators, policy-makers to be careful of foolin' too much with the winning combination," he said.
CP's internal probe
CBC News has learned that following the raid on CP's headquarters, the company began an internal review of the Revelstoke incident and is interviewing employees involved.
"Nobody's lost their jobs. None of the managers involved and none of our members have lost their jobs," said Greg Edwards of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union which represents CP's locomotive engineers and conductors.
"As far as I know, there has been no discipline," he said.
CP Rail has not responded to a series of questions from CBC News about the internal probe and whether anyone has been sanctioned.
- Email tips to CBC investigative reporter Dave Seglins