Legislation containing solutions to the current grain backlog has been passed by the Senate, but there are still a couple steps before it becomes law.

A total of 19 amendments were made to Bill C-49, and after sending it back to the Senate for further debate, it was passed on Thursday, March 29.

Foothills M.P. and Associate Agriculture Critic, John Barlow, says three amendments will have a direct impact on agriculture.

"The three are changes to the long haul interswitching provisions, which is to make more accessible to shippers around movement and direction of good rail service, especially in the Maritimes. The other one is adding soybeans to the schedule of crops under the maximum revenue entitlement. They were excluded previously. The other one is some actions on the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which gives them the authority to act on it's own motion."

This means the CTA would have the authority to proactively monitor the transportation system, identify and investigate problems, and take necessary action without the Government having the step in.

The ammended legislation still needs to pass the House of Commons before it becomes law, which will resume for it's next sitting on April 16.

Barlow also expressed concern that it may be too late for an Order in Council to fix the current grain backlog, and producers have come to terms that this is a lost season.

"I think we are almost too late now that an Order in Council would really have the impact to turn things around. It may, but this is something that the Liberal government should have done weeks ago, if not months ago to address this crisis."

An Order in Council would be a temporary measure while the grain industry waits for Bill C-49 to become law.

Barlow says, the Conservatives saw grain transportation was going to be an issue back in October, but the Liberals didn't take any action.

He adds last week, Federal Ag Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, said he can't force the rail companies to move grain.

"But that's not the case, he can. If they would've implemented an Order in Council, they would've put minimum grain volumes and financial penalties if they (rail companies) didn't meet those requirements, so he could've done that, and the fact that he doesn't seem to understand that is a concern for farmers."

He says, the backlog has tarnished Canada's global reputation as a reliable supplier.

 

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