New rail bill yet to be introduced

Update, May 12: A bill entitled “An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts” was added to the House of Commons notice paper on Friday, May 12, meaning it could be introduced as early as Tuesday, May 16.

A spring rail bill promised by the federal transport minister last fall has yet to be introduced, with interim provisions meant to temporarily address concerns about grain movement set to expire in August.

In November 2016, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced he would be introducing a new rail bill in the spring of 2017 that would establish reciprocal penalties and address several other long-standing concerns of grain shippers.

A spokesperson for Garneau says the minister still plans to table the bill this spring, but the updated legislation has yet to be seen, making it unlikely it will be ratified before the House of Commons rises for summer in June.

The Alberta Wheat Commission sent a letter to the transport minister this week asking the government to introduce the new rail bill as soon as possible, and for another extension of the interim measures under the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act (Bill C-30).

The interim measures, which were extended by one year last summer, include longer interswitching distances and minimum volume requirements for grain movement.

“In the absence of any long-term legislation, these provisions are the only measures we have to ensure that the service required to ship next fall’s harvest is in place,” notes AWC chair Kevin Auch.

“We appreciate the government’s commitment to introduce legislation that will ensure a more responsive, competitive and accountable rail system in Canada,” he says. “But the current railway accountability measures must stay place in the meantime. This will ensure we avoid a repeat of the transportation backlog that cost farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue during the fall and winter of 2013.”

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