The federal agriculture minister says she would like to move ahead on modernizing the Canada Grain Act before the end of the calendar year.
The Act and the role of the Canadian Grain Commission in administering it have been the subject of multiple reviews and rounds of consultations, with no major changes going back to the early 1970s. The latest review has dragged on since early 2019, with little progress since a “What we heard” report was published by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada right before the federal election in 2021.
Multiple mandate letters from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have referred to modernizing the Grain Act, and on Wednesday, the minister told MPs on the House of Commons’ agriculture committee she is hoping to see progress on the file by late December.
“It’s almost there. I hate to give dates — my team wants to kill me when I give dates, but my own personal target is, let’s say, before Christmas, that I want to table it before Christmas,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, responding to a question from NDP agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor.
It’s not yet determined whether the changes would be regulatory, or whether legislation would have to be introduced to amend the Act. Bibeau did not elaborate on what she intends to “table” before Christmas. Any legislative changes would be subject to unpredictable timelines in Parliament.
Mandatory inspection of all grain exports leaving Canada by ship by Canadian Grain Commission inspectors is one of several contentious issues that Bibeau and her office are trying to navigate, as some farm and grain industry groups have called for removal of the mandatory requirement for decades while other farm groups want mandatory CGC inspection to remain in place.
To what extent it could affect the government’s decision on outward inspection is not known, but Bibeau’s office was closely following how grain shipments were affected during the 12-day strike this spring that saw the CGC temporarily allow third party service providers to carry out some of sample collection work normally done by CGC grain inspectors who were on the picket line.
Bibeau will potentially also have a decision to make regarding who should lead the Grain Commission.
The government has been accepting applications for the role of chief commissioner over the last month, as Doug Chorney’s term expires in December. It has become standard practice in the federal government that political appointees must re-apply for their appointments, and as of a few weeks ago, Chorney had not indicated his intent. The job posting said the government would begin reviewing applications for the chief commissioner role on May 17.