Farmers in western Canada are voicing their concerns over the delay of the passage of bill C-49. It is hoped the passage of the bill, which is currently before the Senate, will help alleviate a grain backlog which is growing.
Darryl Fransoo is the Saskatchewan director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers. Farming near Meota, he has been advocating on social media for pressure to be applied to Members of Parliament to get the bill passed. He explained the bill will allow for pressure to be applied to the railways to keep up their end.
“C-49 kind of gives a little more power back to the grain shippers and the elevators, which in turn helps the farmers out,” Fransoo explained. “Currently there’s no reciprocal penalties that can be enforced on the railways for poor levels of service, and that’s kind of one of the big things in bill C-49 that can help us out.”
Part of the issue, Fransoo added, is the lack of railcars being provided. He stated, according to recent numbers, CN Rail is only giving 17 percent of the cars which were ordered, which is an all-time low. Combined with CP Rail, the two major rail companies in Canada have fulfilled less than 50 per cent of the rail cars ordered. Fransoo said the backlog is around 15,000 rail cars.
The situation is becoming similar to the grain backlog of the winter of 2013-14, where farmers lost an estimated $8 billion due to the lack of grain movement. At the time, it was noted in many instances the rail companies, despite saying the conditions were too cold to facilitate transport of anything by rail, were reducing the number of grain cars being used on their railways, and were transporting more oil.
The financial impact is being felt by many producers across Saskatchewan, Fransoo said.
“Grain elevators are full, we can’t deliver, we can’t get money, we can’t pay bills, and that’s becoming a real big threat right now,” Fransoo related. This has meant many people he knows having to take out loans in order to cover their cash advances, putting them further in debt because of the inability to move grain to the elevators, to be moved to market.
Ralph Goodale, whos is the Public Safety Minister, is also the only member of the federal government caucus from Saskatchewan. He has voiced his concerns about the passage of the bill as well.
"Parliament took quite a while to deal with this legislation," Goodale said. "The government advanced it early, Minister Garneau proposed it many, many months ago, and the political process in the house of commons took to long as did the Senate take to long. There was a pretty broad consensus behind this legislature, so we are anxious to get in place quickly."
Goodale has said he agrees with farmers who want to see the railways get things sorted out.
The federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, has sent a letter to the presidents of CP Rail and CN Rail asking them to do everything in their power to ensure the timely and efficient movement of grain during the winter.