Transportation bill in peril as it stalls in Senate

Western grain shippers are getting nervous as Bill C-49 sits in the Senate with diminishing chances it will receive royal assent before Christmas.

The Transportation Modernization Act received third reading in the House of Commons and moved to the Senate Nov. 2. Since then, it has been stalled at the second reading stage.

Both houses rise for the holiday break Dec. 15 and don’t return until the end of January. That would push passage of the bill to February at the earliest.

Senators contacted on this issue have not yet replied.

Agricultural shippers had urged swift passing of the legislation, and Wade Sobkowich from the Western Grain Elevators Association said they are concerned that it appears “slow tracked.”

“Shippers have been without extended interswitching for over four months and we are anxious to put long haul interswitching to use,” he said. “Shippers are also champing at the bit to establish service level agreements with true reciprocal penalties with the rail carriers.”

Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett said he hasn’t heard why the bill has been held up, but he did note it contains much more than grain transport rules, and that complexity could be a reason.

He said if the bill isn’t going to be passed until next spring, then grain shippers need interim measures.

“What is the hammer to make sure that there’s performance taking place,” he said.

“If there’s going to be a lengthy delay like that, that would be one of the things we would be looking at.”

Bonnett said the simplest way to do that would be to re-instate the former legislation until Bill C-49 can be passed.

The industry does not want a repeat of the 2013-14 winter when a transportation backlog resulted in billions of dollars of losses and caused the federal government to intervene.

The most recent grain monitor report from Quorum Corp. shows year-to-date grain unloads at port to be three percent lower than the same time last year.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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