Federal action on grain backlog to be announced today
The question of what Ottawa is prepared to do about the huge backlog of Prairie grain could be answered later this morning.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz are set to make an announcement at 10:30 CT in Winnipeg "to address challenges in Canada's grain transportation," a news release from the federal government said.
Many Prairie farmers had a bumper crop last year, but there's a shortage of rail cars and a lot of that grain is still in the bins and hasn't been shipped to port.
The railways say the cold weather has been a factor, affecting how train brakes work, and has forced them to use shorter trains.
But some farmers say Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National are simply opting to make grain transportation a lower priority than other types of cargo. It's a huge issue for farmers, because if their grain doesn't move, they don't get paid.
In Parliament on Thursday, a fired-up Saskatchewan MP, Liberal Ralph Goodale, asked when the Conservative government would do something about the backlog.
"We're concerned about empty rail cars, empty ships, empty grain terminals, and empty bank accounts for farmers," Goodale said. "There's a $5 billion hole in farmers' bank accounts this winter."
Raitt said the government would act.
"We are at a point where we understand action must be taken and that's what we'll do," she said.
Meanwhile, Goodale also got some attention for a comment he made before he asked his question about grain transportation.
"It is good to see the Minister of Transport has finally doffed her muzzle," he said.
"I'm sure that the honourable member did not try to call me a dog in the House of Commons," Raitt replied.
Goodale later apologized.