Todd Lewis, the President of the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan (APAS), will travel to Ottawa this week to testify on behalf of producers, who are frustrated with the current service level of grain transportation.
Lewis will appear at a special Senate sub-committee discussing Bill C-49, which will make sweeping changes to sea, air and rail transportation.
"Unfortunately, a lot of parts of Saskatchewan are not having a very good shipping season," he said. "There's lots of cancelled trains, and the trains that are supposed to be getting filled full of canola have to get filled full of durum for the grain companies so they can make their orders."
With respect to railway transportation, Bill C-49 amends the current act to allow shippers and railways to impose reciprocal penalties on the rail companies. The bill would also create a new remedy for shippers who have access to the lines of only one railway company at the point of origin or destination of the movement of traffic in circumstances where inter-switching is not available.
Lewis said a lot of boats are just sitting on the coast, which is why it is important for the Senate to understant how important it is to get rail traffic moving. He said there needs to be better railroad service from the farm gate to the terminals out at the coast.
"Over the last few weeks CP's performance has been dropping off and CN's has been fairly dismal the entire year," he said.
Lewis said 64 per cent of the cancelled railcars had Saskatchewan destinations. He is also concerned with the cold weather experienced on the prairies this winter, combined with the snowfall in the mountains, and what this could mean for producers in the months ahead.
Although he has concerns about the current state of rail transportation, Lewis said the Senate is considering splitting the large bill into several, so the grain portion can be passed more quickly.
"It's an omnibus bill that covers everything from sea transportation to airlines, so it’s a huge bill and there's lots of changes coming forth," Lewis said. "I'd like to see the grain ones get put in place so we can have some better service."
On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell
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