C-49 taking the long route, headed back through the Senate


The grain industry will likely have to wait at least a few more weeks for passage of Bill C-49, the federal legislation containing new rules pertaining to rail transportation.

The House of Commons passed Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s motion to accept only 10 of the Senate’s 19 amendments to the Bill C-49 on Thursday, sending the legislation back to the Senate.

A Conservative motion to accept all the Senate’s amendments, and therefore send the bill for Royal Assent, was defeated.

The Senate has not yet set a date for when it will debate the revised text for C-49. If the Senate accepts Garneau’s changes, the bill could become law, but if Senators choose to to re-introduce the amendments that were rejected or make any other changes, it would have to go back to the House.

It’s been a long time coming for C-49, leading up to this back-and-forth between the House and Senate — here’s a recap of the bill’s timeline (not including all the steps and rail issues that led to the bill being proposed).

The C-49 timeline:

May 16, 2017Bill C-49 is introduced in the House of Commons by Transport Minister Marc Garneau. Farm and grain industry groups welcomed the legislation, as it contained some long-standing requests, such as giving shippers the right to impose reciprocal penalties for poor rail performance and granting increased power to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

May 24, 2017 — Garneau tells RealAgriculture he hopes to have the legislation in place by the end of 2017.

November 1, 2017 — C-49 passes third reading in the House of Commons, sending it to the Senate.

December 8, 2017 — It becomes evident the bill will not be passed before year-end, as the Senate transport committee begins reviewing C-49.

January and February, 2018Railway performance deteriorates, creating a grain backlog in Western Canada. Farm groups ramp up pressure on Parliament to pass C-49, with reciprocal penalty provisions.

March 29, 2018 — The Senate passes C-49, along with 19 amendments. The list of amendments includes several changes that were requested by farm and grain industry groups, such as: giving the Canadian Transportation Agency the ability to investigate rail performance without a formal complaint from a shipper; adjusting the long-haul interswitching provision to give elevators more access; and adding soybeans to the list of grains under the maximum revenue entitlement for railways.

April 27, 2018 — Transport Minister Marc Garneau introduces a motion to accept 10 of the Senate’s 19 amendments, including the main amendments lobbied for by the agriculture groups. The rejected amendments are largely unrelated to grain, pertaining to airline investment, airline passenger rights, and transportation safety.

May 3, 2018 — The House of Commons approves Garneau’s motion, sending C-49 back to the Senate.

TBD — Dates have not yet been set on when the Senate plans to debate the revised bill. If further changes are made, it will have to go back to the House of Commons again.

June 2018 — The dates could change, but the House of Commons is currently scheduled to rise for summer on June 22, with the Senate calendar showing the last sitting day as June 29.

August 1, 2018 — Farm groups are adamant the legislation needs to be in place for the start of the 2018-19 crop year.

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