Associations oppose calls for Liberals to help ease grain backlog
OTTAWA A coalition of business associations is urging the federal government not to intervene in a months-long backlog of grain shipments, saying the move would only cause widespread delays for other commodity shippers on Canada’s highly integrated rail system.
In a letter obtained by the Financial Post, the seven business associations urge Transportation Minister Marc Garneau to instead focus on Bill C-49, the sweeping Transportation Modernization Act making its way through the Senate.
“A singular emphasis on grain has the unintended but inevitable consequence of exacerbating rail service issues for other commodity sectors, skewing the railways’ allocation of scarce capacity resources towards the movement of grain,” the coalition said in the March 9 letter.
The letter is a rebuttal against a push by Canadian grain shippers and farmers, who have called on the federal government to issue an orderin-council to ease a persistent bottleneck in rail deliveries. After a season of higher-than-expected grain production in the Prairies, farmers are now faced with the most severe backlog in years, with many deliveries lagging months behind schedule.
Opposition MPs have been calling on the Liberals to step in immediately to alleviate delays, but the government has been hesitant to compel rail companies to move mandatory volumes of grain. However, last week, it gave the companies until March 15 to respond with plans to address the backlogs.
The coalition is pushing for amendments to Bill C-49 they argue will better tackle what it considers systemic shortcomings in Canada’s rail system.
“It gets the farmers off their backs, but it’s bad policy,” said Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, which is part of the coalition. Mining firms form about 48 per cent of total shipper volumes on Canada’s rail system, the group said, while grain suppliers comprise about 13 per cent.
The coalition also includes the Western Canadian Shippers’ Coalition, Forest Products Association of Canada, Pulse Canada, Fertilizer Canada, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, and the Freight Management Association of Canada.