Sask. wants stricter rules for railways

Saskatchewan has formally re-quested changes to proposed federal legislation aimed at improving grain movement.

The province sent a letter last week to the House of Commons’ standing committee on agriculture, which is hearing from stakeholders on Bill C-30.

The letter asks for service level agreements between shippers and railways, including reciprocal penalties and an expedited arbitration process, service for all customers and all shippers in all corridors, a minimum of 13,000 grain cars each week from the two major railways, penalties up to $250,000 per day if the railways don’t meet targets and removal of the 2016 sunset clause.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said he would have been happy to present the requests in person, but the committee said there wasn’t enough time to hear from governments.

“I’m fairly confident that at least the vast majority of the stakeholders that will be presenting before that committee will take a position very similar to ours,” he said.

“We’ll see if the committee has the influence that a committee of that sort should have or not.”

Stewart said Western Canada’s economy “rolls on rail wheels,” and better service is required across the board.

“We have to win this,” he said.

Saskatchewan has been adamant about an increase in penalties from $100,000 per day to $250,000. Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz has said the lower figure is standard.

However, Stewart said that amount doesn’t seem to persuade the railways to meet obligations.

“In our meetings with the senior executives of the railways, it became apparent that they planned on carrying out their business as usual with or without $100,000 a day fines,” he said.

“The message was that we’ll pay $100,000 a day until we’re ready to stop.”

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