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.

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