Report from the Legislature – March 5, 2014

The #1 priority of our government is the backlog of grain transportation.  In fact, it was the subject of an emergency debate when the Spring sitting of the legislature resumed this week.  With unanimous support, our government passed a motion supporting emergency legislation from Ottawa to mandate service agreements between railways and grain companies.

The backlog is hurting prices for producers, causing storage issues and cash flow problems because of producers’ inability to deliver.  After a record harvest in 2013, these delays are also hurting Saskatchewan’s reputation as a reliable supplier of agriculture products throughout the world.  The backlog even extends beyond the agriculture industry as it impacts the transportation of the other products our province produces and sells at a time when our province is breaking its own export records.

We have heard from farmers and met with grain and railway companies, ports, Transport Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  Our Premier has raised the issue directly with the Prime Minister and has met with Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and
the Saskatchewan Conservative Members of Parliament.  Our goals are getting our products to market, ensuring producers get paid and finding long-term solutions to long-standing transportation issues.

We have asked that the federal government oversee negotiations between grain companies and railways to establish specific parameters around getting grain from the farm gate to ships at port.  While it is a last resort for our government to call for additional regulation of any industry, it is clear that we have been left with no choice. To that end, we have called for level of service agreements between grain and rail companies, with reciprocal penalties, along with all other measures necessary to get our
products moving, shipped and delivered to customers.

We support the federal government as it moves to bring more transparency and accountability into the system.  Over the long term, we are looking into the viability of perhaps shipping south into the U.S. and examining the possibility of incentives to other entities and producer-owned groups to increase capacity in the rail system.  The recent record-breaking crop volumes in Saskatchewan will soon be the new norm.  There must be capacity to transport our products in order to maintain our reputation as a reliable supplier of agriculture products.

Many of us in this province, including the 130,000 who trace their heritage back to Ukraine, continue to watch news reports about political upheaval and violent and brutal acts that have claimed the lives of protestors.  Many others, envisioning a brighter future,
have been injured.  There is now more uncertainty as Ukraine is faced with military intervention from Russia.

Our government is providing $60,000 in humanitarian assistance.  This was a decision that came through coordinated efforts with the Ukraine-Canadian community, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Saskatchewan-Ukraine Relations Advisory Committee.  Those who wish to make a donation of their own can contact Saskatoon’s New Community Credit Union.

Upon returning to the Saskatchewan Legislature, we also put forward and passed a motion expressing our support of Ukraine and its people, offering condolences to those who have been hurt and to the families of those killed.  We look forward to continuing our work with Ukrainian community organizations and the federal government in order to provide long-term support to the people of Ukraine.