Bill C-49 is a detailed piece of legislation that covers all areas of transportation, including rail.
Farmers hope measures in the bill will improve rail service and prevent future grain backlogs like the one being experienced this winter.
The original piece of legislation passed by Parliament included measures such as reciprocal penalties for poor service by railways.
Farm groups liked the original Bill C-49, but asked the Senate to make a few amendments. One was the implementation of ”own-motions power” which would give the Canadian Transportation Agency the ability to initiate its own investigation into poor rail service.
“That’s where they can go without a formal complaint (by a shipper) and look at the system and analyze things,” says Steve Pratte, manager of policy development with the Canadian Canola Growers Association. “It’s kind of like an early warning system. The sister regulator in the U.S. has that power.”
Another amendment covers soybeans.
“The inclusion of soybeans in the Act’s Schedule 2, which would put soybeans and its products under the rate protection of the Maximum Revenue Entitlement. That’s a major one,” said Pratte.
There was also approval of an amendment regarding interswitching. It removes some of the restrictions on when a grain elevator can access the interswitching provision.
The amended Bill C-49 goes back to Parliament for approval. It’s not known if Transport Minister Marc Garneau and the Liberal government will support the Senate amendments.
The Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) say its imperative that MP’s passed the amended legislation quickly, well in advance of the summer break which begins on June 22.
“With the proposed improvements, Bill C-49 will provide meaningful tools that shippers need to hold railways to account, increase competition and bring better rail service to the grain industry,” said GGC President Jeff Nielsen.