October 17, 1983

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT


The House resumed from Thursday, October 13, 1983 consideration of Bill C-155, an Act to facilitate the transportation, shipping and handling of western grain and to amend certain Acts in consequence thereof, as reported (with amendments) from the Standing Committee on Transport; and Motion No. 35 (Mr. Benjamin).


NDP

Svend Johannes Robinson

New Democratic Party

Mr. Svend J. Robinson (Burnaby):

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak on this important amendment introduced by my colleague, the Hon. Member for Regina West (Mr. Benjamin) to Clause 17 of Bill C-155. Since I am the first speaker this morning, perhaps I could clarify the purpose of this amendment.

Clause 17 sets out the duties and functions of the Administrator under the Act. He has a number of duties set out in Clause 1 through Clause 4 and Members of the House will recall that an amendment was introduced at committee stage introducing Subclause (4). Motion No. 35 would change Subclause (4). As it now stands. Subclause (4) gives the Administrator certain powers which we in this Party believe to be detrimental to the long-term interests of the farming community in Canada. It reads as follows:

The Administrator, on behalf of the Minister, may enter into agreements to provide for the movement of grain by motor vehicle transport where, in his opinion, such agreements would be in the best interests of the grain producers.

The purpose of our amendment is to ensure that where such agreements are entered into, they are not done so in a way which could lead to the abandonment of rail lines, particularly in rural parts of Canada such as the proposed abandonment of the E & N Railway on Vancouver Island. The amendment would permit this substitution to take place only in certain circumstances. My colleague's amendment would strike out line 25 at page 8 and substitute the following:

[DOT] (mo)

-the grain producers, but such agreements shall not provide for the movement of grain by motor vehicle transport from shipping points on rail lines which have not been abandoned by order of the Canadian Transport Commission.

This amendment is of absolutely fundamental importance, Mr. Speaker. Were it not to be included in the provisions of the legislation, what would happen very quickly is that the rail shippers would argue that the shipment of grain by rail on certain branch lines had become unprofitable because their volumes had gone down. That would have happened because they would have substituted transportation by truck.

Among other things, we are concerned that the trucking companies in question are none other than those owned by the railway companies, whether it be CPR or CNR. They will use the device of transfer to trucking as a means of accelerating the abandonment of these branch lines which are so vital in so many rural communities.

Questions have been raised by some Members of the Official Opposition about the possibility that this could cause hardship in the event a branch line became unserviceable for a period of time through, for example, a bridge washout or if the line was soft and the producer would not have an opportunity to transport grain by rail. The Official Opposition has claimed that this amendment would somehow preclude the producer from shipping in the most efficient manner.

I believe my distinguished colleague, the Hon. Member for Regina West, answered that objection admirably in committee, but since the objection has been raised in the House, I think it is important to deal with it. The Hon. Member for Lethbridge-Foothills (Mr. Thacker) said if there was a washout on the Medicine Hat line, for example, that under the circumstances of the amendment that is before the House it would block the Administrator from paying for that grain to go from the Cardston primary elevator. The Hon. Member for Regina West pointed out that in those circumstances the Canadian Wheat Board will make alternate arrangements and these arrangements will often be for trucking. It has done that on a number of occasions in the past, and certainly if this amendment were to be implemented-as I know the House will see fit to do-there would be no problem whatsoever with the Wheat Board picking up the slack in the event of a bridge washout on one of these lines. What we are attempting to do is to ensure that the branch lines are not abandoned by a mechanism which would accelerate its profit to go to CP.

Some people would ask in whose interest this is, and I will come to that in a moment in terms of the contributions made by CP and CN to the Government and the Official Opposition. I think it is relevant and important that, in examining the purpose of the amendment, we know precisely in whose interests we are dealing.

I should like to turn to another area now and examine the experience of the State of Iowa which I believe is most relevant. As Hon. Members will know, Iowa is an intensive

COMMONS DEBATES_________________October 17, 1983

Western Grain Transportation Act grain growing area and there has been a transfer from grain movement by rail to road to inland terminals similar to what would be implied by the provisions of Bill C-155 if our amendment were not adopted. The State of Iowa found that its highway system was being worn out by heavy trucks two or three times as fast as the government of Iowa could afford to repair or replace it. As a result, it went back to the old system of subsidizing existing railroad branch lines to keep the grain moving by rail. It found this to be much cheaper than looking after the additional costs of highway maintenance and upgrading.

The only interest which would be served by allowing Subclause (4) of Clause 17 to go through in its present form would be the interests of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. As is documented in the official records of political contributions in Canada, in 1982 the Liberal Party of Canada received some $50,000 from Canadian Pacific and the Conservative Party of Canada received $50,000 from Canadian Pacific. In the three previous years, 1981, 1980 and 1979, $128,000 was given to the Liberals by CP and its 12 affiliates and $134,000 was given to the Conservative Party by CP and its 12 affiliates. So we see in whose interests the proposed Subclause (4) of Clause 17 was written, and it is for that reason that we believe it has to be qualified in the manner suggested here.

I would also like to note that in a submission before the Transport Committee in Regina on August 8, 1983, a Mr. Charles Phelps, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, made this statement with respect to the amendment which is now before the House:

If the Crow rate is abolished the railways will have the flexibility to charge different rates on different lines by charing higher rates on lines that are less profitable, lower rates on lines that are profitable. The railways will have an economic level to persuade farmers to truck their grain to certain points and abandon others. This tactic, coupled with the presence of large inland terminals, will force the farmers to haul to inland terminals or pay higher freight rates to keep their local elevators open. If they are forced by this economic pressure to haul to inland terminals, the local elevator will close and, as recent studies have shown, the local community will decline very quickly after the local elevator has been shut down.

We know the vital importance of keeping the local elevators open in rural Saskatchewan communities.

This will have a serious negative impact on the nature and viability of rural life in small towns.

In terms of the substance of the amendment itself, it is very important to note that this amendment would insist that there be no alternate shipping of grain by truck unless the Canadian Transport Commission ordered the abandonment of the alternate rail line. The reason this provision is so important is to allow people in these rural communities the opportunity to make submissions to the CTC with respect to the importance of a particular rail line.

We are all aware of this Liberal Government's policy on rail line abandonment, including the Esquimalt and Northern rail line on Vancouver Island. The intent of this amendment is to ensure that those people in rural communities who are vitally

affected by the abandonment of a rail line would have an opportunity for input into that decision.

Were this amendment not to be accepted, there is a real possibility that CP Rail could proceed to enter into cozy little arrangements with the Administrator within the provisions of Clause 17(4) so it can move grain by trucks which are owned by a CP subsidiary. Following that, CP would then argue that the traffic on the rail line itself has declined in importance and ultimately suggest that that particular rail line has outlived its usefulness even though it may be the lifeblood of a particular community and the elevator in question may be vitally important to that community. CP would then appear before the CTC to make its appeal, as it has in the past. We know this Government s record and I do not think we can suggest that any other government headed by the Official Opposition would treat the matter any differently. Thus we would see an essential branch line abandoned without any input whatsoever from the citizens in that particular community.

Therefore I believe it is essential that this motion be adopted. I have mentioned the example of the State of Iowa and, in the context of other Provinces and States, the Iowa state transportation agency has given us a clear warning that we should not permit the mistake that was made in Iowa to be repeated in other grain growing jurisdictions.

This motion would prohibit the use of subsidized trucking to compete for traffic with existing branch lines. Certainly where a branch line has been formally abandoned by order of the CTC, we would want to ensure that the grain in question would be effectively and efficiently carried to the nearest rail line. However, when a branch line is still an essential element of a particular community, we certainly would not want to see a callous abandonment of that line as is possible under Clause 17(4) in its existing form. We would also note that Clause 17(4) as it exists could be used to facilitate other undesirable steps, such as making the abandonment of elevators and branch lines more palatable or the establishment of a system of inland terminals as a result of permitting the growth of trucking to them.

I will not go on at great length because I believe I have stated the essential points I wanted to make. I see you are rising, Mr. Speaker. Are you indicating that my time is up?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Yes. Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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NDP

James Ross Fulton

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jim Fulton (Skeena):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter into this debate which, as most Members of this House know, has a great bearing on my constituency because of the construction of the world-class grain elevator system in the Port of Prince Rupert.

Before us now is Motion No. 35, to amend Clause 17(4) which reads as follows:

October 17, 1983

The Administrator, on behalf of the Minister, may enter into agreements to provide for the movement of grain by motor vehicle transport where, in his opinion, such agreements would be in the best interests of the grain producers.

Our amendment adds the following words:

-the grain producers, but such agreements shall not provide for the movement of grain by motor vehicle transport from shipping points on rail lines which have not been abandoned by order of the Canadian Transport Commission.

My colleague, the Hon. Member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson), made it quite clear that simply in terms of process this is a very important route to take to ensure that those residents of small rural communities have an opportunity to appear before the CTC to make their views known in terms of what the impact on their community would be if grain that was traditionally and historically moving from a country elevator on a branch line was to be moved by a different mode of transport, primarily that of rubber.

A point made in committee, one which has been made by my colleagues in the House, that is the money to pay for the rubber hauling of grain as opposed to its movement by rail would not come from the Crow Bill as is proposed before this House. There is a bit of mythology being circulated in this country that the money that would subsidize the movement of grain by rubber would somehow come from the Crow Bill itself. That simply is not true, as is pointed out by Government officials who appeared before the Transport Committee. They pointed out the money would come from the branch line rehabilitation fund which we know is already short about $600 million. We have seen, certainly since the 1977 hearings held by Mr. Justice Emmett Hall, that an awful lot of branch line funds that were supposedly going to be used by CN and CP to bring their branch lines into a reasonable state of quality simply were not used by the rail lines, and now Parliament has already had to introduce special funds in terms of another rehabilitation fund to ensure that those lines are picked up.

What we would see by leaving Clause 17(4) as it now stands is a self-fulfilling prophecy in many ways; for instance, the competition that would be coming from the rubber haul, 1 know Members of the Official Opposition have been saying, and certainly the Hon. Member for Peace River (Mr. Cooper) was saying on Thursday, that what the NDP is trying to do is to stop any kind of subsidy payments going to those commercial haulers and producers who are hauling grain in areas where there are no branch lines. Far be it the position of this Party to say that where there are no branch lines there should not be some kind of compensatory payments to those individuals, farmers and producers who have to haul simply to get to the branch lines.

What we are saying in terms of this amendment specifically is that there should not be abuse of the branch line rehabilitation fund in areas where there is an existing branch line and country elevator to bring rubber hauling into a more competitive position.

My colleague from Burnaby made a very important point that I plead with Government Members to listen and pay some attention to. I refer to the information given to the Transport Committee regarding the difficulties which the State of Iowa

Western Grain Transportation Act

encountered when it made a very unfortunate move and allowed legislation very similar to the existing Clause 17(4) to come into existence, which was to make rubber movement of grain competitive to rail. The State of Iowa discovered that its highway system was being worn out by heavy commercial trucks hauling grain two to three times as fast as the government of Iowa could afford to repair and replace it with its existing system of financing roads. The State of Iowa moved to introduce a system of law similar, if not identical, to what is being proposed by the NDP and should be supported simply for economic and fiscal reasons, above and beyond some other points which I will be raising in a few minutes. What the State of Iowa found after bringing in legislation, similar to Motion No. 35 that we are proposing, was that it was cheaper by an enormous amount to move grain once again by rail. They had gone to rail, then they went to rubber, and now they are back to rail. The Iowa state transportation agency has warned other jurisdictions, in particular Canada, not to permit the mistake of transferring such movement from rail to road.

There has been an enormous abandonment of branch lines in Canada already, simply as a result of the legislation passed through the House. The Crow Bill would dramatically exacerbate the abandonment of rail lines because of the self-fulfilling design of Clause 17(4) which indicates that the Administrator, on behalf of the Minister, may enter into agreements that are deemed to be in the best interests of grain producers. We are talking about a Bill which is making use of hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars. We know already from evidence given by farmers that they are worried about losing 30,000 or 40,000 farms because of the impact of Crow changes above and beyond those we are talking about in Clause 17(4). We are talking about losing 30,000 or 40,000 farms in the Peace area and in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The impact of losing that number of farms will be felt by schools, those who pay municipal taxes and small enterprises, whether it be farm implement suppliers, fertilizer suppliers, local butcher stores or hardware stores. We are talking about a very dramatic shift in population on the Prairies as a result of the Crow Bill as a whole.

We are pleading for common sense in terms of economics and that we follow the warning signal of the State of Iowa and not allow a massive shifting over from rail to road. As I said in previous speeches, it might look good for a little while. CP and CN-CN has one of the largest trucking firms in Canada- say that we should look at all the jobs being created for truckers and commercial haulers, that we should look at the tires being sold, the new repair shops coming on line, and so on. It is a myth that those are real jobs. We can only talk about that kind of job creation out of one side of our mouths, because we know at the other end or in other areas of the system that we are losing farms and tens of thousands of jobs as a result of poorly thought out legislation.

As my colleagues and I have said before, the Government of Canada stands indicted for not having brought before the House the proper economic information on the number of

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October 17, 1983

Western Grain Transportation Act farms which will be lost as a result of the Crow Bill as it now stands in comparison with the number of farms that will be lost as a result of the amendments of the New Democratic Party. We should know what will be the impact of going ahead with Clause 17(4) without the kind of process about which we are talking. It would mean a branch line must be abandoned by the Canadian Transport Commission. The butcher, the hardware store owner, the school teacher or persons living in rural Saskatchewan or the Peace area of British Columbia for their whole lives or three or four generations should have the opportunity of not only sending postcards to their Members of Parliament but of appearing before the CTC to indicate what they think the costs will be to their municipalities for moving grain by road and to say: "Sure, we are getting the subsidy from the branch line rehabilitation fund, but by not having money in that fund, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy". As we lose the branch lines by using the money to rubber haul, we lose communities and farmers, and the grain trade in Canada becomes less competitive and less in the interests of Canadians.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The Hon. Member for Regina West (Mr. Benjamin) introduced this motion. He is presumed to have spoken when he introduced it. Is he seeking to be recognized to speak?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the rules. The motion is in my name but the lead-off speaker was my colleague, the Hon. Member for Prince Albert (Mr. Hovdebo). I have not made my ten-minute speech yet. However, if the Chair is to enforce the rule, I would be grateful if it would enforce it with the next series of motions. On Motions Nos. 31 and 32 this occurred. It occurred dozens of times in the committee. I am sure the Chair will appreciate that when you have to file motions in advance with the Chairman and the clerk of the committee, you do not know who will be available to speak one day, two days, or a week later. Similarly at report stage, when motions have to be filed within a certain deadline, you have no way of knowing what Members will be in the House days later. Therefore, you have no choice but to put motions in under one or two names.

I am not quarrelling with the rule. I am just asking if the Chair would be good enough to start applying the rule, if it chooses to do so, with the next series of motions. With the short notice on this one, I would be grateful for the indulgence of the Chair and the House to make my ten-minute speech.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The rule and procedure of the House is clear. When a motion is introduced in a Member's name, he is presumed to have spoken. The Hon. Member would need the unanimous consent of the House to be recognized at this stage. Is there unanimous consent for the Hon. Member for Regina West to'be recognized?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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?

Some Hon. Members:

No.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

There does not appear to be unanimous consent. Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
Permalink
?

Some Hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
Permalink
?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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?

Some Hon. Members:

No.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

All those in favour will please say yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ESTABLISH
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October 17, 1983