News Release - May 12, 1999
SASKATCHEWAN CALLS FOR CONTINUED STRONG PRODUCER VOICE ON GRAIN HANDLING AND TRANSPORTATION
Highways and Transportation Minister Judy Bradley, Agriculture and
Food Minister Eric Upshall and Intergovernmental and Aboriginal
Affairs Minister Berny Wiens today called on the federal government to
ensure that grain handling and transportation policy changes put money
into farmers pockets, including $200 million annually that farmers are
losing because of the failure of the system to share railway
productivity gains. The federal government is meeting with farm
groups and grain industry representatives in Winnipeg today to discuss
the Estey report on the grain transportation system.
The ministers called on Ottawa to review freight rates, maintain a cap
on rates, open the system to competition and short line railways, and
stop branch line abandonment while policy decisions are being made.
"Under The Western Grain Transportation Act (WGTA), farmers shared in
the gains in railway productivity through an adjustment to the cost
based maximum rate. However, with the demise of the WGTA the railways
no longer have to share productivity gains with producers." Wiens
said. "Saskatchewan is calling on the federal government to initiate
a review of the cost base to ensure that farmers share in the gains
in railway productivity."
Saskatchewan has always recognized that it is farmers who have the
most at stake and insist that they have a major role in designing a
"The major priority is that the process of change must work for the
benefit of farmers. It is farmers, who have borne most of the
costs associated with problems in the grain handling and
transportation system," Bradley said. "Whether we have a system
that serves farmers will depend to a large degree upon who is
leading the process. From our perspective, it is critical that
the process have the support and confidence of farmers."
"An important area for farmers is the future of the maximum rate
cap and how to obtain more competition in the grain handling and
transportation system, particularly in the rail sector," Upshall
said. "Saskatchewan's position is that the regulated rate
structure must remain in place until there is effective
With respect to increasing competition in the rail sector,
Justice Estey proposed that open access to the rail
infrastructure be looked at as a means of creating more
competition in the rail network. Saskatchewan maintains the
position that open access must receive serious consideration.
"Branch line abandonment and the establishment of viable short
lines are also major concerns for Saskatchewan farmers. Many
farmers and local communities have expressed an interest in
establishing short lines, however any successes to date have been
in spite of federal legislation rather than because of it,"
Bradley said. "Justice Estey in his report recognized these
problems and recommended that legislation governing branch line
abandonment and the establishment of short lines needs to be
revised as the current provisions of The Canada Transportation
Act (CTA) are not working."
"While Saskatchewan fully supports amendments to the CTA around
the issue of branchlines/shortlines, we are concerned that by the
time decisions are made, many branchlines will have disappeared,"
said Bradley. It is for this reason that we have previously
called for a standstill' on branch line abandonment until policy
decisions are made. Again today, we are reiterating our call to
the federal government to effect a standstill until the new
policy changes are implemented.
"Maintaining the role of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) in
transportation is also a critical issue for Saskatchewan
farmers," Upshall said. "It is important that the CWB has the
flexibility to use whatever tools are necessary to meet its
mandate of maximising returns to farmers."
- 30 -
For more information, contact:
Bernie Churko Hal Cushon Rob Cunningham
Highways and Agriculture and Intergovernmental and
Transportation Food Aboriginal Affairs
Regina Regina Regina
Phone:787-4866 Phone:787-5961 Phone: 787-8008