For the past 40 years, western Canadian farmers, first reluctantly but now with great enthusiasm, have accepted the ‘fact’ that if they want to get their grain transported to market, they have to do what Canadian Pacific and Canadian National want. Over the years, the two national railways have said they wanted rail line abandonment, grain shipping point consolidation (abandoning the old wooden grain elevators every 15 or so kilometers apart for a handful of concrete terminals), abandoning the Crowsnest freight rate structure and the Canadian Wheat Board in order to provide a grain shipping Nirvana.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall on Wednesday called on all those involved in shipping grain to do everything they can to move more of it.
Wall called a media scrum in Regina to “urge anything that can possibly be done” given the backlog in the system.
“I think it’s very important for Western Canadians to be taking every chance we can to raise the issue of grain transportation right now,” the premier told reporters. “The situation is increasingly serious.”
Western Canadian farmers have traded any bargaining chip they had in the grain transportation system for … what? Nothing, because the same grain shipping problem exists today that existed when the Hall Commission started its hearings, or, going back even further, when W.R. Motherwell helped organize the first farmers’ grain handling co-operative. As long as the railways can make more money hauling something else, hauling grain will go to the back of the line. Or as my father, a decade retired from farming, told me, “The wolves have convinced the sheep they don’t need a shepherd.’