Source: Alberta Wheat Commission
The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) and Alberta Barley are disappointed to learn that Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, was not passed this week. Further delays run the risk that farmers could see another crop year with no mechanisms in place to hold the railways accountable. The commissions continue to urge quick passage in the House of Commons and the Senate.
The Commissions say it’s unfortunate that political maneuvering has stalled the legislation and note that May 22 is now the earliest it could pass, saying there’s an increasing risk the bill won’t become law before the House rises on June 22. The opposition parties and Senate have done good work in advancing the amendments but it’s becoming increasingly critical that the process continue to move forward.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Kevin Bender, AWC Chair. “We’ve been pressing for transportation reform for years, and it’s growing increasingly possible that we’ll see another crop year go by without any mechanisms in place that demand accountability from the railways. That means we’re running the risk of seeing another backlog before we can recover from the millions of tonnes still left in the system from this year’s delays.”
With the continuing hold up in Parliament, the Commissions point out that even when the Bill is passed, there is still a lag time of several months before certain provisions can be enacted. This process adds even greater risk of not having competitive measures in place prior to the new crop year.
“When grain gets backed up in the system, it can cost billions of dollars in lost revenue with farmers bearing the brunt of those costs,” said Jason Lenz, Alberta Barley Chair. “We can’t afford to see another crop year with farmers exposed to the risks of a rail transportation system that has no accountability. Farmers are getting caught in political maneuvering that could seriously hurt our businesses and the rural economy for another year. We need to see Bill C-49 passed now.”
Once passed with amendments, Bill C-49 contains mechanisms including reciprocal penalties and improvements to long haul interswitching that the Commissions have pressed hard to see implemented for several years. The legislation as amended will provide long-term solutions to accountability and competitive issues within Canada’s freight rail system.