Funeral services will be held Thursday in Ottawa for Arthur Kroeger, the former federal deputy transport minister whose work on reforming the Crow Rate for Prairie grain freight is credited with setting the subsidy up for its eventual end.
Kroeger died May 9 in Ottawa of cancer at age 75, according to his obituary Monday.
Kroeger worked in the federal civil service from 1958 to 1992, working as a deputy minister in six separate departments over 17 years. He went on to serve as chancellor of Ottawa’s Carleton University (1993-2002) and was named to the Order of Canada in 1989.
During his stint as deputy to Pierre Trudeau’s transport minister Jean-Luc Pepin, Kroeger was instrumental in drafting controversial legislation to replace the Crow Rate with the Western Grain Transportation Act.
While some industry observers said the move may have saved Canada’s railways from losses incurred on Prairie grain freight, others contended that Kroeger and Pepin’s actions led directly to the end of the Crow Rate in 1995 and have since cost farmers a substantial portion of their net income due to rising rail freight costs.
“I must say as an old Alberta boy, I felt some pangs realizing that this Prairie icon will disappear,” said Kroeger , who was born on a farm in southeastern Alberta, in an interview with the Western Producer in 1995.
“At the same time, I feel we played a part in making this possible by taking that first step… We turned it from a debate about the historic hatred of the (Canadian Pacific Railway) to a debate about a government subsidy.”
Kroeger went on to head a 1999 consultation process on how best to implement the recommendations from Willard Estey’s review on grain transportation relating to freight rates, the CWB, rail access and final offer arbitration.
The National Farmers’ Union, among other groups, criticized then-Transport Minister David Collenette for naming Kroeger to that task, noting Kroeger had “worked tirelessly” for three and a half years on Crow subsidy reform during his stint as deputy transport minister in the early 1980s.
“It is clear that Mr. Kroeger failed to understand the huge negative impacts that the changes he championed in 1983 would have on farmers,” then-NFU president Cory Ollikka said in 1999.
In a press release on Saturday, Carleton University president Samy Mahmoud remembered Kroeger as “an exceptional man in terms of his wealth of knowledge, commitment to education and devotion to humanity.”
Kroeger published a memoir, Hard Passage, in 2007, describing his Russian Mennonite family’s hardscrabble life in Alberta during the Depression. According to Carleton, Kroeger’s memoir on federal grain transportation reform is scheduled to be published next year by University of Alberta Press.
Kroeger’s family has requested donations be made to Carleton University. Online donors can specify a donation to the Arthur Kroeger Memorial Award.