Ag Policy Connection Ep. 3 — How a massive grain backlog led to new rules for railways (and whether those changes are on track)


The winter of 2013-14 stands out in the minds of many who were involved in growing and marketing grain in Western Canada as the year of the massive grain backlog, as railways struggled to meet demand for moving crops from country elevators to export markets.

With no access to water, like the St. Lawrence or Mississippi Rivers, Prairie grain production depends on the capacity of Canada’s two major railways to move crops to the West Coast and U.S. export markets.

The backlog in 2013-14 ended up being the catalyst for multiple legislative and regulatory changes, both in the short term, in the form of the Harper Conservatives’ “Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act” in 2014, and later in 2018, when the Trudeau Liberals’ passed Bill C-49, the “Transportation Modernization Act.”

The changes to the Canada Transportation Act in 2018 were designed to give shippers, such as grain companies, the right to charge railways with penalties for poor service, to increase the powers of the Canadian Transportation Agency, and to clarify the definition of “adequate and suitable” service by railways — some of the longstanding requests made by farm and grain industry groups. (Read more here.)

This episode of the Ag Policy Connection focuses on grain transportation policy, why and how these changes were made to rail legislation, and whether the changes that politicians made are working as expected.

Our panelists for this episode are:

  • Scott Streiner, former chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency and former assistant deputy minister, policy at Transport Canada;
  • Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corporation, the federally-appointed grain transportation monitor;
  • Greg Northey, vice-president of corporate affairs with Pulse Canada, a member of the Ag Transport Coalition.

What led to the changes to the Canada Transportation Act? What was the lobbying and political process like, as there were some very unique political things that happened between the House of Commons and Senate? Where have the changes meant to give more power to shippers and the Canadian Transportation Agency worked as expected? Where are they failing? Where could legislation around grain transportation be improved?

Listen to this latest episode of the Ag Policy Connection here, or wherever you listen to podcasts. The Ag Policy Connection is a partnership between RealAgriculture and the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.

Past episodes:

Ag Policy Connection Ep. 1 — The origin (and future) of the Ag Policy Framework

Ag Policy Connection Ep. 2 — The Canada-EU trade deal, six years later

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