Railways take heat for poor boxcar service

The Western Producer takes a weekly look at some of the stories that made headlines in issues of the paper from 75, 50, 25 and 10 years ago.

75 years ago: Feb. 6, 1941

The Western Producer dedicated an entire page to publish the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s memorandum to the federal government. The document pledged agriculture’s support for the war effort and then pointed out problems facing the dairy, livestock and wheat sectors. Recommendations included establishing a proper relationship between the prices of agricultural commodities and the goods and services that farmers must buy, and the development of a wartime strategy for agriculture.

There was no shortage of ideas for what to do with the money collected in Saskatchewan in horned cattle penalties. The Saskatchewan Cattle Breeders’ Association suggested lending $30,000 a year to the federal government for the duration of the war, while the Sheep Breeders’ Association wanted to spend $5,000 on a bounty for coyote pup pelts.

J.H. Evans, Manitoba’s deputy agriculture minister, predicted the development of two types of agriculture in Western Canada in the future: mechanized or “factory farms” that would grow products for manufacturing synthetic materials, and self-contained farms that would be an attempt to escape the state of peasant agriculture.

50 years ago: Feb. 3, 1966

The CFA blasted the Canadian Pacific Railway at its annual meeting for poor grain boxcar service and called for nationalization of the system. The newspaper pointed out the irony of the CFA meeting being held in the Royal York in Toronto, the biggest hotel in CPR’s hotel chain.

Delegates to a Saskatchewan turkey conference in Yorkton, Sask., set up a committee to plan a turkey marketing board for the province that could eventually lead to a national producers marketing plan.

25 years ago: Feb. 7, 1991

Delegates from the three prairie wheat pools met the first time in their history to form policy for Prairie Pools Inc. The key issue was their own future as a united farm lobby, and many delegates openly expressed their fear that the meeting’s hidden agenda was formal amalgamation of the three pools. “How can the members be brought along with PPI policy?” said Sask-atchewan Wheat Pool delegate John Clair. “I’m sure most of my members feel I’m down here discussing amalgamation.”

Federal agriculture minister Don Mazankowski was trying not to sound too harsh, but his frustration was clearly showing as he responded to Manitoba’s refusal to fully participate in the new farm safety net programs. The province had said it couldn’t afford its $12 million share of the Net Income Stabilization Account and planned to independently manage the Gross Revenue Insurance Plan to reduce the risk of deficits after five years. Mazankowski said the province had agreed to a common approach to deliver the safety nets during a January meeting called by Manitoba premier Glen Findlay. “Now we have Mr. Findlay — and I don’t want to be critical, he probably has his reasons — but we have Mr. Findlay wanting to design a program that is at variance to the program designed in Alberta and Saskatchewan and the program design we agreed to.”

10 years ago: Feb. 2, 2006

Canada’s two major railways signed an agreement to ease traffic jams at the port in Vancouver. Under the agreement, all trains destined for the north shore of Burrard Inlet would travel on Canadian National Railway’s tracks and be under the direction of CN crews, and trains destined for the south shore would travel on CP tracks.

Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers supported calls for a pilot project for a voluntary canola contract through the Canadian Wheat Board. “I guess it’s a sign of the times,” said KAP president David Rolfe. “Something has to change, something has to happen for producers to recover their incomes from the marketplace. Right now, it’s just not achievable given the current system so guys are looking for alternatives.”

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