CALGARY, AB: The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association remains hopeful the passage of Bill C-52, the Fair Rail Freight Service Act, will lead to necessary improvements in rail service in western Canada.
The Bill requires the railways to provide service agreements to all shippers. While the Wheat Growers support and applaud this measure, it remains to be seen whether the negotiated service agreements will include sufficient performance provisions.
“The legislation is a move in the right direction,” says Levi Wood, President of the Wheat Growers. “However, we’ll have to see whether the service agreements provided to shippers will have enough teeth to be effective in improving rail service.”
The Wheat Growers note that while the legislation mandates service agreements, it does not allow shippers to seek arbitration in the establishment of performance penalties, if for example, cars are not spotted or picked up at elevators within reasonable time frames.
The Wheat Growers are a member of the Coalition of Rail Shippers which had proposed six amendments to improve the effectiveness of Bill C-52. None of the amendments were accepted.
“The proposed amendments would have provided clarity, and lessened the likelihood of costly and lengthy litigation,” says Wood. “As it stands, it is not yet known whether shippers will be able to achieve adequate and enforceable service commitments from the railways. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
The Wheat Growers note the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) is subject to a statutory review starting by June 2015. The Wheat Growers will be looking for further improvements to the legislation following that review if the amendments to the CTA incorporated in Bill C-52 do not lead to the necessary improvements in rail service.
About the Wheat Growers:
Founded in 1970, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is a voluntary farmer-run advocacy organization dedicated to developing public policy solutions that strengthen the profitability and sustainability of farming, and the agricultural industry as a whole. For more information, please visit wheatgrowers.ca.