‘We think we’re in decent shape.’: Sask. Ag minister on passage of bill that may solve grain backlog

‘We think we’re in decent shape.’: Sask. Ag minister on passage of bill that may solve grain backlog - image

The Senate has passed a bill that, among other things, is aimed at preventing rail shipments of grain from getting backlogged again.

The omnibus Transportation Modernization Act had been bouncing back and forth between the two houses of Parliament for the past month after being held up in the Senate, much to the frustration of grain farmers.

It was passed by the House of Commons in November, but the Senate sent it back to the elected chamber last month with 18 amendments.

Saskatchewan’s minister of agriculture, Lyle Stewart, said in order for things to work seamlessly, everybody will need to be engaged and cooperative, but overall, is just happy that there is a good framework in place.

“No bill is ever perfect and this one falls into that category, but we’re satisfied with it from an agricultural perspective,” Stewart said.

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“There’s one addition the potash industry would have liked, and we’re sorry that that didn’t happen, but from an agricultural perspective, this is a good framework in modern legislation.”

Stewart added that although things will need to be refreshed in time, he believes this framework is a good start.

In regards to the penalties in place for the rail industry after the backlog, Stewart believes that once an appropriate penalty has been decided on, it will allow for reciprocal penalties between shippers and railways.

“Penalties should vary with the amount of cost that’s caused other parties, and I can’t put a number on what would be appropriate, but we will likely be asking for increased penalties, and the beauty of this act allows for reciprocal penalties between shippers and railways,” Stewart proclaimed.

“We think we’re in decent shape. Work will begin on developing regulations immediately and that’s good news. We will expect to be engaged in that process over the summer.”

The bill would also create a new air passenger bill of rights, relax international ownership restrictions on Canadian airlines and require railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives.

-With files from Kate Kozar

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