Canada Grain Act review delayed by COVID-19

The federal government says it’s still committed to completing its review of the legislation that applies to Canada’s grain industry, but the timeline is now unknown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada launched the latest review of the Canada Grain Act in March 2019. Together with the Canadian Grain Commission, AAFC started seeking feedback from grain industry stakeholders on ways to potentially update the legislation, which has largely been unchanged since the early 1970s.

A paper summarizing the consultations with the grain sector was supposed to be published in March 2020, but it’s been delayed indefinitely, according to a spokesperson for AAFC.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the timelines for this consultation process have not been finalized,” says the spokesperson in an email to RealAgriculture.

“The Government of Canada remains fully committed to working with Canada’s grain sector to complete this review process, and AAFC will be providing updates on next steps in the consultation process when available, and will ensure industry has sufficient time to engage fully in the process.”

The role of the CGC in administering the Canada Grain Act has been under review multiple times over the past decade. There have also been several attempts to update the Canada Grain Act, including Bill C-48, which was tabled by the Conservative government in late 2014, but died on the Order Table when the 2015 election was called.

Grain companies have been pushing to make outward inspection of grain shipments by the CGC optional, preferring to hire private inspectors. Producer payment security is an issue that could see changes through any new legislation. The review could also result in changes being proposed to the role and structure of the CGC itself — changes which some farm groups say are necessary citing the large surplus the CGC accumulated through user fees charged for grain inspection and other services.

While the review process has been delayed by COVID-19, there will be changes to the CGC’s leadership next month, as chief commissioner Patti Miller will be stepping down. Miller said legislative change to the Grain Act was one thing she wished she could have accomplished during her time at the CGC. A replacement for Miller has not been named.

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