Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your welcome.
I'm glad to be here tonight with Mark Eyking and other colleagues, and certainly with these witnesses who are providing us with some very helpful and important information.
I have three basic areas that I'd like to question on. Perhaps I'll ask all three questions at once and then leave the maximum time for the witnesses to answer.
First of all, would it be helpful as we're dealing with Bill C-30 to actually see what the draft regulations might look like? For the most part the act creates the authority to create regulations, but the regulations are not yet in the public domain. I wonder if that would be useful to actually see at an early stage what the government has in mind for the drafting of those regulations.
Second, with respect to the contracts between grain companies and farmers, which are referred to in the legislation, and the possibility of regulations being promulgated under the Canada Grain Act,should those regulations spell out damages or penalties to be paid to farmers if and when specified delivery opportunities are not provided by the grain companies as had been contracted for? Should there be consequences if you can't deliver when your contract says you ought to be able to deliver, and what would those consequences be? As well, should there be regulations that would impose some kind of transparency and potential limits on the calculation of the so-called basis, the deductions that appear, anecdotally at least, to be consuming about 50% of the international price of grain? That's being absorbed before it even gets to the farmer, so how can you bring transparency and some kind of limit on this calculation called basis.
Third, with respect to the other type of contract that's referred to in the legislation, the service level agreements between shippers and railways under the Canada Transportation Act, do regulations there need to be very clear in specifying the service levels that the railways are expected to provide? Do the regulations also need to be clear in specifying the way in which performance is to be measured, have the railways in fact provided it or not, and about the payment of damages to farmers if the service isn't what was specified in the service level agreement?
Should those three things, first, definition of service, second, how do you measure it, and third, what is the consequence if service fails, be in regulations or should they in the act itself?
Finally, with respect to the Canada Transportation Act, beyond this vague phrase that's been there for a hundred years, “adequate and suitable accommodation”, are our witnesses telling us here—and I think this is what I heard—that railway service obligations need to be defined as performing in such a way that the railways actually meet the needs of their customers? In other words, the rules are designed to service customers, not service railways. That would certainly change the paradigm in Canada of the last 143 years.
I wonder if I could just leave those questions, Mr. Chairman, and see what our witnesses have to comment.