Mr. Jim Fulton (Skeena):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter into the debate on our motion which I believe all Members of the House should support if they closely review
Western Grain Transportation Act the economics of our reasoning. Motion No. 34 specifically seeks to strike from the Bill Clause 17(4), which is a provision to facilitate branch line abandonment, the closing of country elevators and the development of a system of inland terminals through a diversion of a portion of funds available for transportation subsidies to trucking.
I understand that this measure evolved from the proposals put forward by the Tory Transport critic, the Hon. Member for Vegreville (Mr. Mazankowski), in some ways supported by the Deputy Minister of Transport, to get back in the Bill a means of providing subsidies to the various trucking companies that would ordinarily be going to the railways.
I believe that most people who have followed the debate closely know that the general impact of the Crow changes on the Prairies will mean a loss of 30,000 or 40,000 of the smaller rural farms, particularly in northern and more rural areas. In some cases, these areas are not even served by branch lines but are basically being served presently by some form of trucking into the rural elevators, on to the branch lines and on into the central pools to the eventual destination of Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Churchill or the Lakehead.
I believe all Members need to be reminded from time to time of what is happening in terms of the consolidation of certain trucking interests who are very clearly interested in seeing this kind of Crow Bill go through unchanged. Clearly, they would not want to see the NDP amendment accepted and would prefer to see the special deal that has been made between the Tories and the Liberals go through.
I believe it is worth reflecting on the announcement which was made in March of this year and was noted in a story by Albert Sigurdson in a story in The Globe and Mail. The headline was "Trucking: CN Now Runs the Nation's Biggest Trucking Network". All that delayed CN from getting that trucking network up to that point was obtaining the missing link operating licences it needed in Quebec . What CN is now operating in Canada is some 3,000 pieces of highway equipment. They claim this is the most efficient and effective marketing operation for trucking in the country.
There are three key areas we have to look at if we are going to pass this part of the Crow Bill unamended. I believe, and my colleagues from the Prairies also believe, that we need to have Clause 34 changed in the way that we have proposed to take away the possibility of trucking companies picking up the freight subsidies. In our estimation, three key things will occur if the trucking companies can dig in, whether it is CN, which is now the largest trucking network in the country, CP or any other operation. These three things are branch line abandonment, elevator abandonment and the massive development of inland terminals.
Let me deal first with branch line abandonment, something that has been occurring at a great rate for many years. Branch line abandonment would be compounded by allowing federal funds, particularly federal subsidies, to go to trucking companies, which in some cases may be more efficient. I am certainly
October 13, 1983
Western Grain Transportation Act
not arguing that we for some strange, unknown reason go to some less efficient mode of transportation. My colleague the Hon. Member for Cowichan-Malahat-The Islands (Mr. Manly) made the point quite correctly. Anyone who has studied the costs per unit of moving heavy commodities, whether wood, grain, iron ore or coal, knows it is more cost efficient, almost regardless of what quality of highway is constructed, to move by rail instead of by road. You simply shift very extensive costs to municipalities and provinces if you move very heavy axle weights at certain times of the year either on gravel or on paved highways.
Branch line abandonment would be compounded, certainly in a lot of rural and northern areas of the Prairies, for a very simple and obvious reason. If the subsidy would make the trucking even marginally more competitive and the Administrator had the power or the authority to say "Okay, we are going to have trucking firms bringing all of the grain from the north Peace down into the main line areas," the smaller elevators would have to consolidate.
The ones who would lose in this operation, as most Members know, are the existing country elevator systems which are really the three prairie Wheat Pools. And getting the gravy on the other side will be the private grain trade. One does not have to go too far to find a political connection between the private grain trade and the two larger Parties in this House.
Subtopic: WESTERN GRAIN TRANSPORTATION ACT