Mixed reactions from farm groups to Bill C-49 progress

Commodity News Service Canada – Western Canadian producer groups support changes to rail transportation in Canada but vary on support of the latest legislation, Bill C-49.

Bill C-49 passed its third reading in the House of Commons Nov. 1 and is now off to the Senate for review. The bill is meant to amend the Canada Transportation Act, which includes rail transportation.

The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) was vocal in its pleasure to see the bill pass its third reading, stating in a news release, “The legislation marks a milestone for the agriculture industry, paving the way for mechanisms that will result in a more efficient and accountable rail transportation system that meets the need of Canada’s growing grains sector.”

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AWC is particularly happy to see reciprocal penalties introduced, as the organization has asked for them in the past.

“It brings back a measure of accountability to both sides of the ship or railroad transaction. Not only is the shipper responsible to load the cars on time, now the railroad is contractually obligated with penalties to pick up those cars and deliver them on time as well,” said Kevin Auch, chair of AWC, in a phone interview.

AWC is concerned about interswitching, which is where traffic is transferred from the lines of one railway company to another. The new bill sets the distance for it to happen at 30 kilometres, a previous bill had increased the distance to 160 km from 30 km.

“(The interswitching provisions) didn’t make it. But hopefully the government will monitor how the legislation’s working in the future and if there’s things that need to be changed they will be responsive to that as well,” Auch said.

The Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) in Manitoba are concerned about interswitching as well.

“I’m worried that there’s going to be certain shippers, especially the short-lines, that will fall through the cracks on this,” said Dan Mazier, president of KAP.

While Mazier said KAP is pleased to see the bill making it to this part of the process, the group is concerned and will be reaching out to the Senate.

“We want it passed so we can get some legislation in front of it and start dealing with the regulations. But on the other hand there is some things that are happening in the industry we’re already seeing that aren’t boding very well for the movement of grain,” Mazier said.

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) are happy to see the bill moving forward.

“There was a period of time here between the combination of the last bill and the measures that were put forward that we’ve had a bit of a gap so we’re glad this has been passed,” said Todd Lewis, president of APAS.

Lewis is hopeful if the bill does get passed it will help. He said currently there are concerns with rail movement for this year’s crop which he thinks would be less likely under Bill C-49.

It was reported CN is delivering cars at 51 per cent, which is causing clogs for grain movement.

“We’re already behind this year so hopefully anything we can do to get better service and continue to get service that’s what we need to see happen,” Lewis said.

When contacted for the story CN did not have a comment about the bill passing its third reading in the House of Commons. A spokesperson stating only that CN is paying attention to the progress.

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