The Crow rate was a hot topic in June 1983. Jean-Luc Pepin, transport minister in the Pierre Trudeau government, had tabled a bill providing for annual payments to offset the money-losing rate, but debate continued on whether the payment should go to the railways (therefore only on grain shipments) or directly to farmers (which meant it would also be paid to livestock producers). Manitoba’s NDP government opposed the changes, evidenced by this full-page ad in our June 16 issue.
The debate was against a background of a difficult time for farm income — we reported that month that an FCC fund of $150 million established for farmers in “grave financial difficulties” that year had been oversubscribed in the first two months.
Meanwhile, despite $850 million available in the Western Grain Stabilization Administration, a payout for 1983 was in question. WGSA payments were triggered when cash flow from grain sales fell below the five-year average, but this remained high because deliveries were much higher than the previous year.
Canadian Wheat Board Advisory Committee chair Roy Atkinson defended the CWB against criticism that it was not making enough use of Churchill. He rejected requests from CWB Minister Hazen Argue that the board guarantee minimum annual shipments before the government spent $50 million on upgrading the rail line. Atkinson said it was “an attempt to transfer responsibility for the port’s welfare to western grain producers, rather than to the country as a whole, where it belongs.”