Pat Martin (photo courtesy Pat Martin Facebook)
Government intervention is needed when it comes to rail costs for shipping grain according to the NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre.
"There's a role for government to intervene and to set fair rates for hauling grain," says Pat Martin. "I think farmers would like to think the government is in their corner and not cowtowing to the robber barons that are gouging hundreds of millions of dollars from the prairie economy."
"It's almost unanimous among agricultural organizations in western Canada that farmers are paying more than their fair share for freight. In other words, they're being gauged....they're now paying two and three times what they should be if the fair rate was still established by the Grain Transportation Act," says Martin, referring to a report released earlier this summer by Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Canadian Wheat Board, Canadian Federation of Agriculture and several other national and provincial farm groups. That report indicated western Canada farmers paid $8.81 per tonne, or $275 million overall, more than what was fair and reasonable under the Western Grain Transportation Act last crop year.
Martin says the rail costs are a major issue, even for his urban constituency, as the rail companies, or "modern day robber barons" as he refers to them, are draining money from the prairie economy. He notes the Canadian Wheat Board, along with the headquarters of several other grain companies, are located in his constituency.
"It mystifies me how some of these Conservative MPs, who are in fact farmers, are not screaming bloody murder. These railways are making out like bandits and somebody's got to speak up. It's bad for the prairies to have all this money sucked out of the economy and down to the Montreal headquarters of the railways."
Martin brought the issue up to former Agriculture Minister, and now Transport Minister, Chuck Strahl in the House of Commons last week. Strahl responded by pointing out the government currently has a rail level-of-service review underway.
"The Conservatives have done nothing and I know why. It's because the senior, most-connected lobbyist in Ottawa is also a senior player in the Conservative Party. Tim Powers is the poster boy, talking head for the party one day and the next day he's in the PMO lobbying on behalf of the railways," says Martin. "I think reason and logic and best interests of farmers are not entering into this. It's the powerful railway lobby that's interfering with what needs to be done."
The transcript for the debate between Martin and Strahl can be found on the House of Commons website.
~ Wednesday, October 6, 2010 ~