We’re going somewhere in a handbasket

We could take the train to get there, but unfortunately there are no rail cars

We’re going somewhere in a handbasket

The movement and marketing of natural resources vital to western Canadians isn’t that important — oil and grain can wait. Let’s focus on the real priority — getting cannabis into the hands of consumers. And maybe that’s the strategy. Get people high on marijuana and then they won’t really notice that governments aren’t doing anything.

You don’t even have to be kindergarten age to realize history is repeating itself when it comes to a backlog of grain on western Canadian farms. It was only about four years ago when farmers were in the same predicament. The grain is in the bin. There are markets available. But grain companies can’t get the rail cars to move it.

I believe in the previous situation, the railways blamed it on really bad winter conditions, and a very large crop. Well the winter of 2017-18 has been never ending, but from a cold and snow perspective it hasn’t been that severe.

As the Grain Growers of Canada noted in their “myths and realities” column: “The bottom line is that winter 2017-18 has been a pretty typical Canadian winter. It should not be too much to ask that a Canadian railroad be able to operate in a Canadian winter.”

And the Prairie grain crops did come off larger than forecast — about 110 per cent of forecasts. But that should mean rail companies had no problem moving the first 100 per cent of the crop, it is only the remaining 10 per cent that is sitting in bins? Is that correct?

When I hear some of the reasoning about the backlog in shipping grain it is like the rail companies are saying, “We didn’t know farmers were going to grow grains and oilseeds AGAIN in 2017. Nobody sent us a memo, it caught us off guard.”

Again in it’s myth buster column the Grain Growers say the annual reports of both CN and CP have been forecasting increasing demand for rail services for several years, yet in the midst of those forecast the rail companies have also been laying off workers.

“The bottom line is,” says the Grain Growers, “that while layoffs were great for making the railways record profits, it resulted in the railways not being able to fulfill the demand that they knew was coming from the grain sector. Farmers across the country are now suffering because of the management decisions that the railways made.”

The government solution

I believe that’s where this current legislation before the Canadian government comes into play — Bill C-49 is supposed to get grain moving and provide incentives to increase grain shipping and handling capacity. The big question is whether that bill will be passed by the senate and parliament before summer recess in June. Oh well. The grain is pretty dry in the bin, it should be okay.

It’s times like this I wonder if maybe U.S. rail companies like Union Pacific or BNSF should have access to Canadian rail lines. Maybe in a pinch they could help get grain moving.

And then over to B.C. where the provincial government is blocking progress on the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline running from Alberta to the B.C. coast. After extensive hearings with all those affected, this project was approved by the National Energy Board and the federal government. While Alberta premier Rachel Notley is talking about getting tough with B.C., Prime Minister Trudeau is really nowhere to be seen on the issue. That’s probably not quite true. I am sure he is dabbing his eyes and taking some social issue “very, very seriously,” but he doesn’t seem interested in playing hardball with the B.C. government.

I look at this issue and wonder, “Where were all these protestors when the hearings and approval process was underway?” Not only does B.C. have a kowtowing premier, but now every Indigenous tree-hugger within a 1,000-mile radius has come out of the woodwork to claim this pipeline will destroy the world as we know it today.

And while these issues are going on, provincial and municipal governments are working at a fevered pitch to put rules and regulations in place to handle the legalization of marijuana later this year.

Certainly here in Calgary I feel people consider having pot legalized and available for recreational use as a life and death matter. And I suppose in some respects it is. I hate to sound like a prude. For a certain percentage of the population, recreational use of marijuana will be a pleasurable and enjoyable peaceful activity. But I am also quite certain for another percentage of society it will be just one more layer added to an already devastating and costly epidemic of alcohol and drug addiction. If treatment centres, hospitals, courtrooms and jails are busy now, they better ramp up for an increase in business.

Geez, I’m sounding like such a “Donnie-downer” this time. I better grab a six-pack of Diet Coke, not watch the news, and just chill out.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



Stories from our other publications