Pressure mounting on Federal government to pass transportation bill

By Nigel Maxwell
April 27, 2018 - 8:00am

The recently-amended Bill C-49 has been referred back to the House of Commons from the Senate, and both the Member of Parliament for Prince Albert and a national group representing producers said they want no more delays.

"The question now is whether the Liberals in the house will accept those amendments and allow it to go through," MP Randy Hoback said.

The amendments give the Canadian Transportation Agency more authority to investigate and proactively seek solutions that can prevent bottlenecks. They also allow access to "interswitching," which provides grain companies with more competitive shipping options, leading to efficiencies intended to benefit the entire supply chain. While Hoback said he is hopeful for a quick passing of the amended bill, he worries it's already too late.

"We've got a situation now where farmers can only haul reduced loads or no loads off the farm to fill the elevators, to fill the grain cars," Hoback said. "The Liberals waited too long and we have a situation where guys are going to be seeding and spraying and hauling grain and doing everything at the same time."

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and its members representing prairie farmers sent an open letter to members of Parliament asking them to pass the newly amended bill quickly.

"Together with our members we maintain contact with federal departments and parliamentarians, providing insight into how complex policies can affect farmers," CFA President Ron Bonnett said in a statement. "Seeding season has already started, and producers need certainty to plan for delivering next year's crop. We are hopeful that the amended bill will be passed into law without further delay. "

According to Bonnett, more than 45,000 grain producers in Canada have been affected by shipping delays in the last year, either directly or indirectly. The CFA said the rail backlog in 2013-2014 cost western grain farmers and the rural economy more than $6.5 billion.

"It cannot continue," he said. "How can Canada possibly build on its success as a world-class grain supplier, and meet the government's target of $75 billion in exports by 2025, when its rail transportation systems are repeatedly unreliable?"

Before the bill can be granted Royal Assent and turned into law, both the House and Senate must agree to the same version of the legislation.

On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell

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