NDP demands customer protection for freight rail service
Rail Customer Protection Act would circumvent Conservative inaction.
by Samantha Bayard, Straight Goods News staff
OTTAWA, ON, June 24, 2012: Rail customers in Canada have suffered losses for years due to unreliable freight services — which also cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The Conservatives haven't fulfilled their promises to enact legislation so the New Democrats are moving forward with the Rail Customer Protection Act to create a more balanced playing field for shippers across industries. "More than 80 percent of all service commitments for agricultural rail customers are not met by the rail companies. This is intolerable," said Olivia Chow, NDP Transport Critic. "Rail customers should not be bullied by big rail companies. Canadians deserve fair and predictable service."
The NDP private member's bill will grant all rail customers the right to negotiate service level agreements with rail companies. Instead of starting with a blank sheet of paper, every negotiation will begin with core components aimed to protect rail customers. This would include performance standards and penalties for non-performance, which will go a long way to addressing the concerns of shippers.
"Canadian farmers were paying hundreds of millions of dollars in excess of a fair mark-up to have their grain moved to market."
"Enough talk; action is now. Rail customers will finally get a reliable and predictable rail freight service that provides quality products on time," said Chow. She also describes how the Conservatives have held off on legislation due to "the relentless lobbying of CN and CP". She feels CP and CN must be held accountable. "This bill will mandate and say to CN and CP that they must, they shall, they have to have a service agreement with their customers."
Olivia Chow moves forward with the Rail Customer Protection Act.
Pat Martin, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, highlighted how especially the grain industry has been unfairly treated by being charged two to three times more than what is considered a fair margin of profitability, 20 percent. "Canadian farmers were paying hundreds of millions of dollars in excess of a fair mark-up to have their grain moved to market," said Martin. "The era of the robber baron with a monocle surely is over. Members of Parliament have a vital role to play to ensure that our rail transportation system is robust and fair."