Source: Alberta Wheat Commission
The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) called for quick passage of Bill C-49 – the Transportation Modernization Act – through testimony before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications Wednesday evening. Once passed, Bill C-49 has the potential to offer long-term solutions to the rail transportation issues that have challenged farmers for decades. Passage of Bill C-49 was delayed prior to Christmas.
AWC highlighted that the bill is imperative in ensuring grain can be shipped to our international customers while ensuring railway accountability – especially in light of the poor rail service that shippers have been experiencing in Western Canada this year. AWC warned of the consequences of rail delays for farmers since they ultimately bear these costs.
“Costs associated with railway delays are ultimately passed down the supply chain to me, the producer,” said Warren Sekulic, grain farmer and AWC director. “As a price taker, I am dependent on the price the market dictates. I cannot adjust the price of my product so ultimately, these increased costs reduce my profitability.”
This year car order fulfillment by CN Rail – one of the major carriers – has been as low as 50 percent and on average just above 60 percent. Since the expiry of Bill C-30 on August 1, 2017 captive shippers have had no ability to seek out competitive options to mitigate poor rail service. Bill C-49 includes measures that AWC has long advocated for such as reciprocal penalties and access to long haul interswitching that would correct this imbalance in market power and hold the railways to account.
“Almost 100 percent of the crops I grow are destined for the export market and dependant on a single railway. This year I contracted 1,000 tonnes of grain from last fall’s harvest. I was able to deliver some of it in January, but due to current delays there is a significant amount that I have been unable to deliver since, putting my farm business at risk. Bill C-49 will help avoid circumstances like this that are caused by railway failures,” said Sekulic.
AWC believes that Bill C-49 is in fact a historic piece of legislation and appreciates the government’s commitment to working toward a more responsive, competitive and accountable transportation system in Canada.