Hunter Harrison, leader of the Canadian Pacific Railway, published a full page explanation of his company’s service problems in the Globe and Mail and the National Post last week.
It probably cost him a pretty penny, not that that matters. With the amount of money CP (and Canadian National Railway), are raking in, the cost of a full page ad or two equals a drop in the bucket.
Clearly he was trying to soothe the feelings of investors on Bay Street, where the Globe and Post are in sufficient supply. It’s a little harder getting a copy on Main Street, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
So far, I haven’t seen the ad published in The Western Producer or the Manitoba Co-operator.
It’s a matter of choosing your audience. Who is more important? The suit on Bay Street or a prairie farmer trying to get his grain to port? To Mr. Harrison, the answer seems obvious. He would rather preach to the choir.
Here’s an open invitation for Mr. Harrison to submit his explanation to this newspaper. Ads are nice, but if he would like to send me a letter, I will publish it, for free, so farmers can see it.
He does make something of a point about the weather. Certainly it has been the coldest winter in parts of the Prairies in either 30 or 50 years, depending on how you interpret weather records.
Cold weather absolutely brings challenges, and some of the railway staff must have been cursing every minute they were out in the – 30 C temperatures.
Additionally, the entire system is a mess. Someone has to hire a quarterback to sort out the logistics from farmgate to tidewater, or we will see this disorganization over and over again.
But Harrison disingenuously says it’s too late to add more rail cars and locomotives now that the system is seriously backlogged. He should have thought of that four months ago, when it was clear that a disaster was looming.
Indeed, many farmers would likely put a big part of the blame for this year’s rail-to-port situation on Mr. Harrison. This is largely fair. He was the author of change at CN in the past, and CP in the present. This means fewer locomotives, fewer jobs and less service in a bumper crop environment.
Farmers deserve much better than that.