moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to report Bill C-30 back to the House.
The bill addresses the immediate needs of Canadian farmers, bulk shippers, and our overall economy. Our government knows our economy needs a supply chain that works today and tomorrow, with the capacity to move what is produced.
I was proud to speak to the benefits of this bill at the agriculture committee last month. I understand the committee had a very extensive series of meetings, including testimony from over 20 stakeholder groups. The committee heard from the entire supply chain from farm to port, and from a wide range of commodity shippers, from wheat to oats to barley, as well as from fertilizer, mining, and timber groups.
I was pleased to see a strong will around the table to work toward industry-led solutions focused on service and private sector responsibilities.
This is a piece of comprehensive legislation, and opposition and government together appreciate the non-partisan work of the committee to date, along with all of the witnesses that came forward. By working together, we were able to strengthen the bill, which, I would like to note, passed through the committee with unanimous support. I thank the committee members for that.
It was extremely unfortunate that the member for Edmonton-St. Albert turned a deaf ear to those farmers and shippers by attempting to deprive them of meaningful service level agreements, or SLAs. His point of order accomplished nothing but delaying the much-needed measures in the bill.
I want to be clear that these parliamentary games, while unfortunate, will not deter our government and the opposition from amending Bill C-30 to include service level agreements with reciprocal penalties. Testimony shows that the majority of stakeholders support the bill and what it sets out to accomplish.
During the committee's consultations, shippers of all commodities applauded this legislation, but they also asked the government to go further. They asked us to put more teeth into service level agreements to bring day-to-day accountability to the railways. Responding to this feedback, my parliamentary secretary introduced an amendment at committee on behalf of the government.
The first part of the amendment would give the Canadian Transportation Agency the authority to
...order the company to compensate any person adversely affected for any expenses that they incurred as a result of the company's failure to fulfill its service obligations...
By “company”, of course, we mean railways.
The amendment allows shippers who enter into service level agreements to be directly compensated for any expenses they incur as a result of the railways' failure to meet those service obligations. This includes compensation if the shipper is out of pocket for costs such as demurrage, contract defaults, or penalties. It goes further than the reciprocal penalties that many in the industry have requested, because it applies to any level of service complaint under the Canada Transportation Act. This is a market-based solution that would help get all bulk commodities moving and continuing to move.
The second part of the amendment reads:
...or, if the company is a party to a confidential contract with a shipper that requires the company to pay an amount of compensation for expenses incurred by the shipper as a result of the company's failure to fulfill its service obligations, order the company to pay that amount to the shipper
This measure is equally important, because it allows compensation to be paid within a commercial contract. It would encourage the shippers and railways to come to the table and set their own terms and agree on SLAs with reciprocal penalties, should they so desire.
The goal is to level the playing field and provide better tools for shippers when railway companies breach their service obligations.
We are working to continue to improve the efficiency, reliability, and predictability of the entire supply chain. I am pleased to say that strengthening SLAs has the support of industry, the provinces, and the opposition, and I thank them all.
Industry groups that support this needed amendment include, but are not limited to, the Inland Terminal Association of Canada, the Barley Council of Canada, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Cereals Canada, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, and the Freight Management Association of Canada. It covers all of the spectrum.
The importance of the bill cannot be understated. I recently returned from a trade mission to South Korea and Japan, where, alongside Canadian industry, I spoke directly with international buyers of Canadian grains about problems incurred in our immediate past. I assured these buyers that our government was not taking this situation lightly and explained the details of Bill C-30 to directly address their concerns. These buyers were pleased to hear that our government was taking this needed action to ensure Canada's reputation as a reliable grain shipper, and they thanked our government for acting quickly.
Farmers and all shippers need our government to pass the bill, as amended, as expeditiously as possible. Our economy and Canadian jobs are relying on us to act.
Crop yields show every sign of continuing to grow through better technology, higher yielding, more disease-resistant varieties and better agronomic practices.
Shippers of all bulk commodities that rely on rail are growing their businesses exponentially and are demanding increased capacity to get those products to a burgeoning marketplace. That is why we must move forward to strengthen the supply chain now for the next crop year and beyond.
Bill C-30 holds solutions that would benefit the entire supply chain. I urge everyone in the House to work together to pass this important bill, with this needed amendment, as quickly as possible.