In Defense of Rail: Claude Mongeau's Contribution to the Logistics Discussion



An abrupt farewell to the jig-inspiring music and the busy clinks and clangs of dishes filled the silence. The webcast streaming from the Winnipeg Chamber of Congress began and Claude Mongeau was set to hit the stage. Mongeau’s stance on logistics was likely already understood by all in attendance, given his role as CN’s president and CEO; what was striking, however, was the emotion his speech conveyed.

“The government is about to speak, and railroads — and railroads alone  — are about to be regulated in a way that I don’t think is good for the country, and I don’t think is good for the grain trade either,” said Mongeau, who likened himself to a general losing a battle.

2013/2014 Grain Cars Spotted
2013/2014 Grain Cars Spotted from Perspectives on a 100-Year Crop

Besides an obvious distaste for recent government decisions around logistics, Mongeau was quick to address various aspects of the rail system that have been under fire. Acknowledging not enough trains were moved in the winter months, Mongeau explained that the winter saw some of the harshest conditions in decades and counter-argued that elevators should not have over-booked and should have pushed for grain movement earlier.

“This is a complex supply chain — railroads are not alone,” Mongeau insisted.

Regulations will do nothing to deal with supply chain efficiencies, he affirmed and reaffirmed in his speech. They will instead stifle innovation, hurt investments and turn the clock back 50 years. Thus, should Bill C-30 be moved into law, Mongeau fully intends to argue for increased regulation at the elevator-level also.

Overall, the address was an informative and impassioned amalgamation of criticism, suggestions, veiled threats and pleas for collaboration. Mongeau evoked feelings of sympathy and guilt, while also inspiring a certain level of frustration induced by hypocrisy. He may have felt like a sergeant losing a battle, but Mongeau appeared as a cornered politician, begging for a stop to finger-pointing, while his remained outstretched.

Here’s hoping this address signals the end to the entire supply chain’s much-needed vent session. Let’s now move forward with constructive discussions around the suggestions presented along the way.

 Watch Claude Mongeau’s entire Winnipeg address online courtesy of CN.  

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