Canadian Shipper


Grain rail backlogs ‘unfortunate’ issue: federal agriculture minister

Calgary, AB — Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay says he has no immediate solution for getting Canadian grain moving again as farmers begin planning for spring seeding.

“It’s been an ongoing and unfortunate issue,” MacAulay said at an event in Calgary on Monday.

“I’ve been in contact with the railways a number of times. They are in contact with me quite regularly. Is everything fixed? No.”

Canadian National and Canadian Pacific have said they have faced challenges due to a larger-than-expected grain crop and extreme winter weather.

A source of frustration for MacAulay and many producers is Bill C-49, which would amend the Canada Transportation Act to improve public reporting by railways and to allow for financial penalties if they failed to deliver rail cars on time. It’s been stalled in the Senate since last fall.

“We want to get the bill passed through the Senate, and that the government of Canada and the railways invest in the transportation system.”

Earlier this month, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe called it mind-boggling that grain shipments have been delayed again by rail backlogs for the second time in four years.

“Our reputation, Saskatchewan’s reputation and Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier of commodities, as a trustworthy business partner is being damaged,” Moe said.

He said all the federal government has done is ask rail companies for their plan to deal with the backlog and the response has been underwhelming.

MacAulay didn’t answer when asked why Ottawa has not imposed an order in council as a stopgap measure until the legislation passes.

The government is aware of the financial hardships agricultural producers could face with spring seeding coming soon, he said.

“I do understand that the farmers can have a difficulty in the financial area, too, and we’re doing everything with Farm Credit (Corp.) to make sure that this will not be a problem, that they’re able to evaluate the situation and have the funding available if it should be needed,” he said.

“We want to make sure that … the farmers that are coming close to seeding time … are comfortable and are going to be able to put the crop in.”

MacAulay said grain transportation needs to be fixed now because Canada will be exporting $75 billion worth of product by 2025.

“That has to move. We have to put the system in place.”