Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says he wants the Commons agriculture committee to investigate CN’s decision to stop serving 52 Prairie sidings where farmers load grain into producer cars.
“Farmers know that this Conser vat ive government has always defended producers’ access to hopper cars,” the minister said. “We know that producers are concerned about transport costs so we are going to bring CN to the Agriculture Committee so that we can find a solution that works best for farmers.”
Parliament resumed Sept. 14 but committees aren’t expected to resume sittings until the week of Sept. 28. If all parties agree, a hearing could be held quickly after that, a committee spokesman said.
Keystone Agricultural Producers, the NFU and NDP farm spokesman Alex Atamanenko have criticized the CN action implemented with little notice during the summer. It involves closing nine producer car loading sites in Manitoba, 24 sites in Saskatchewan and 19 in Alberta.
“As transportation costs rise, we are seeing a movement toward shipping more and more producer cars and we need rail access,” said Robert McLean, KAP vice-president and Transportation Committee chair.
A 60-day notice period for delisting the sidings passed Sept. 6. McLean said the limited notice regarding sidings and producer cars is in stark contrast with the legislated three-year discontinuance process involved if a railway wishes to discontinue service on a grain-dependent branch line.