Source: Alberta Wheat Commission
With the grain backlog reaching critical levels in parts of Western Canada due to poor rail service, the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) continues to press for quick action in passing Bill C-49 – the Transportation Modernization Act – with amendments to long haul interswitching. In testimony during an emergency meeting of the House of Commons Standing committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food earlier today, AWC said Bill C-49, as amended, will offer a long-term solution to the ongoing rail failures that continue to cause serious implications for farmers.
AWC’s testimony pressed for the bill to be passed with amendments by the Senate and sent back to the House of Commons before its April break. AWC also urged the House of Commons to pass the bill as quickly as possible to ensure the process does not drag into the summer months.
“As farmers start to prepare our operations for seeding, we are feeling the impacts of the current backlog in the system. With my own contracts pushed back, I am several months behind on my deliveries and therefore several months behind on being paid,” said Warren Sekulic, AWC Director. “The resulting challenges in cash flow from these delays will roll into the upcoming growing season.”
Rail car fulfillments recently fell to a new low, with a combined 32 per cent between CN and CP, reaching the critical levels experienced during the backlog in the fall and winter of 2013-14. Country elevator stocks, at 4.4 million tonnes, are higher than in the same period of 2014 and will take months to clear. Amendments to long haul interswitching will allow grain companies the maximum ability to take their business elsewhere if the primary rail carrier cannot provide adequate service.
“We appreciate the commitment of Ministers Garneau and MacAulay in demanding better service from the railways, but we need Bill C-49 in place now since it contains measures such as reciprocal penalties that will hold the railways to account for service failures,” said Sekulic.
AWC appreciates the government’s commitment to legislation that will ensure a more responsive, competitive and accountable rail system in Canada. AWC believes that Bill C-49 is in fact a historic piece of legislation that paves the way for permanent, long-term solutions to the rail transportation challenges that Canadian farmers have faced for decades.