With the deadline for submissions just weeks away, farm groups are making their recommendations to the Canada Transportation Act Review Panel on how the Canadian rail system can be improved.
Although the statutory review of the Canada Transportation Act looks at the legislative and policy environment surrounding the Canadian transportation system as a whole, grain transportation is getting priority consideration due to the challenges moving grain by rail over the past year. It’s a timely opportunity for the grain industry, as the last thorough statutory review of the CTA was held in 2001.
Several Saskatchewan farm organizations, including the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission and the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, submitted a joint set of a recommendations last week (you can read the details in their 39-page submission here).
The Saskatchewan group is making nine recommendations, including enhancing running rights, creating a rail oversight group and maintaining the railway’s per-tonne revenue cap for grain:
a) Costing Review
It is recommended that the CTA Review Panel call for the completion of a formal costing review and adjust the maximum revenue entitlement accordingly.
b) Maximum Grain Revenue Entitlement
It is recommended that in their consideration of the CTA, a commitment is needed from the federal government that the maximum revenue entitlement will stay in place to ensure fair compensation to railways for hauling grain.
c) Information Requirements
It is recommended that the CTA and/or other legislation be amended to provide mandatory information reporting for the grain handling and transportation system to function effectively.
d) Rail Oversight
It is recommended that the CTA create a rail oversight group that includes agricultural producer representation, to assess ongoing operations of the railways.
e) Arbitration Process
It is recommended that the CTA create a responsive and meaningful dispute resolution mechanism that can resolve rate and service issues quickly and efficiently.
f) Running Rights
It is recommended that the CTA Review Panel establish provisions to enhance the use of running right provisions in Section 138 of the CTA.
g) Small Shippers
It is recommended that changes to the Canada Transportation Act support small shipper innovation, diversification and investment.
h) Producer Cars
It is recommended that the CTA Review Panel ensure that the unique requirements of producer car shippers and shortline railways in the transportation system are recognized and accommodated within the legislative framework.
i) Rail Abandonment Process
It is recommended that the Canadian Transportation Agency be empowered to investigate and rule on a railway’s genuine ‘operational interest’ in underserviced and unused rail lines in which other parties have expressed an interest. It is further recommended that if a genuine operational interest is not confirmed, that these lines gothrough the de-commissioning process and be put up for commercial sale.
The Saskatchewan Barley Development Commission also submitted its own recommendations, noting the federal government’s legislation aimed at getting grain moving had unintended consequences that hurt barley producers (read the SaskBarley submission here.)
“Barley was significantly affected by the lack of north/south rail movement during the 2013/2014 crop year, as well as the lack of movement eastward,” said SBDC chair Cam Goff. “As a board we felt we needed to provide direct input into the CTA review and address these barley specific needs.”
Any interested parties can submit their views and recommendations to the CTA Review Panel. The deadline for submissions is December 30th.
The review panel has already held more than 200 consultation meetings, some of which have been with farm groups. After compiling all the information, the panel will submit its recommendations to the Minister of Transport by December 24th, 2015.