Transport Canada launching consultations on rail policies, including MRE for grain shippers

Transport Canada is launching consultations regarding some of its rail policies, including the maximum revenue entitlement for grain shipments, extended interswitching, shortlines, and other regulations that fundamentally affect grain transportation.

Separate in-person consultations with shippers and railways are scheduled to be held at Ottawa, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg starting this coming week and wrapping up by November 1. Other stakeholders, including provincial governments, have until November 15 to submit comments online.

“It’s a broad consultation,” explains Steve Pratte, senior manager of transportation and biofuel policy for the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA), noting the review stems from the final report of the National Supply Chain Task Force published in November 2022.

According to a discussion document shared with stakeholders, Transport Canada will be consulting on the following eight issues:

  • Administrative Monetary Penalties (or AMPs)
  • Contracting practices
  • Final Offer Arbitration (FOA)
  • Grain and winter contingency plans
  • Extended interswitching
  • Maximum Revenue Entitlement (MRE)
  • Canadian Transportation Agency’s Own-Motion Powers
  • Shortlines

“There are things they’re looking at here that are foundational and fundamental, and there are things that I would call kind of trivial and minor points in the grand scheme of things. So it really runs the gamut,” says Pratte, in the interview below (which is also featured on the latest episode of RealAg Politics).

CCGA and other grain shipper organizations will be working with the Crop Logistics Working Group to come up with key messages to share with Transport Canada, he says.

The grain sector will be paying close attention to the discussion about the maximum revenue entitlement, which regulates the amount of revenue railways can earn from shipments of western grain, expects Pratte.

“You can read between the lines in the discussion document, how the effectiveness of the railway lobby around regulatory protection of certain movements of grain and certain commodities has kind of infiltrated into this document,” he says. “And we saw a lot of that with the [2023] budget implementation and extended interswitching debate in the House and the Senate committee study of that.”

Transport Canada has not indicated what its action plan is following the consultations. Pratte says they’ve been told Transport Canada will consider the feedback over the winter and then report back with a “framework.” There hasn’t been any commitment to publishing a “What We Heard” report, and there’s no statutory obligation to conduct the review.

“This is Transport Canada kicking their tires and just testing some ideas around some of these issues, some of the concepts, and things within those issues,” says Pratte.

Check out the interview below for more on Transport Canada’s upcoming rail consultations with CCGA’s Steve Pratte:

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