“It’s not perfect, but it is better than we expected.”

The new rail legislation introduced by the federal government checks off most of the boxes on the list for grain shippers, says Wade Sobkowich, who represents major grain companies as executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association.

Bill C-49 would give shippers the right to charge reciprocal penalties against railways for poor service, clarify the definition of “adequate and suitable” service, and expand the authority of the Canadian Transportation Agency (as noted in earlier coverage here and here) .

“I would say we are surprised. We’ve been after these types of provisions in law for over a decade and we’ve tried to convince the powers that be that they’re necessary changes. It’s true what they say – big wheels turn slowly,” notes Sobkowich in the interview below. “We’re looking forward to taking this bill out for a test drive.”

One of the main concerns from grain companies and farm groups is that Transport Minister Marc Garneau plans to allow the temporary provisions in Bill C-30 meant to protect grain shippers, including extended interswitching, to expire on August 1. With the House of Commons rising for summer in June, the new legislation won’t be passed before fall.

“We will be between bases here for a period of time here,” he notes. “We would have like to see extended interswitching stay in place… I guess it’s a price we have to pay. The minister has made that decision and we’re going to have to live with it.”

Sobkowich discusses CN and CP’s performance so far in 2016-17, what’s in Bill C-49, and whether the proposed legislation could prevent a repeat of the massive backlog experienced in 2013-14:


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