Just very briefly, Bill C-49 attempts to address several long-standing issues in the rail transportation marketplace. You've heard from grain sector representatives, including grain shippers and farm groups, yesterday and this morning, regarding their perspectives on various commercial and legal aspects of the bill, including around reciprocal penalties, long-haul interswitching, and other elements. You've clearly heard from witnesses in other sectors that Canadian class I railways are in monopoly positions. Most grain shippers are served by only one carrier and are subject to monopolistic pricing and service strategies.
The grain sector, from farm groups through the value chain to exporters, has been consistent in its discussions with government since the 2013-14 transportation crisis, and there's been a consistent message. Canada must address the fundamental problem of railway market power and the resulting lack of competitive forces in the rail marketplace. In our view, the government has a clear role to establish a regulatory structure that strikes a measured and appropriate balance and, to the greatest extent possible, creates the market-like forces that do not exist, which in theory should create more market-responsive behaviours of all participants.
This is the reality, a long-standing fact that has led to over a century of government intervention to varying degrees in this sector. Bill C-49 is the current approach before us to bring a more commercially oriented accountability into this historically imbalanced relationship. Bill C-49 appears to make progress in several areas towards this goal, and does reflect a consideration of what Canadian rail shippers and the grain industry have been telling successive governments for years about the core imbalanced relationship between shipper and railway. For that, we thank you.
In our view, the true impact and success of this bill and the measure of its intended public policy outcomes will only really become apparent and known once the shipping community attempts to access and use the remedies and processes this bill will initiate. As Bill C-49 was designed to balance two competing interests—that of the shipper and that of the rail service provider—a true measure of success will likely take several years to fully gauge and appreciate.
In closing, two areas that CCGA would like to briefly highlight, from a farmer's perspective, are the themes of transparency and long-term investment, specifically as they relate to data disclosure and the economic regulatory environment of grain transport in Canada.
One element of Bill C-49 that is of particular importance to farmers is the issue of transparency.
The publication of new railway service data, received by the minister of transport or the Canadian Transportation Agency, is important not only for stakeholders and analysts monitoring the functioning of the grain handling and transportation system but also for government itself—for the twin functions of on-going monitoring and assessment of the system, and when required, the ability to develop prudent public policy and advice to the minister in times of need.
This new information, in conjunction with the comprehensive reporting of the existing grain monitor program, will provide farmers with valuable insights into the performance of the system. As the bill currently reads, clauses 51.1, 77(5), and 98(7) specify timelines associated with this reporting. CCGA would respectfully submit that these timelines are too lengthy and that consideration should be given to shortening them.
In addition, the new proposed annual railway reports to the minister at the beginning of each crop year, contained in clause 151.01, are very positive. CCGA would respectfully submit that the minister of transport consult with the minister of agriculture as to what those reports could specifically contain to be of greatest utility to both government and grain stakeholders.
Lastly, modernizing the economic regulatory environment to stimulate investment, such as the suite of actions aimed at the maximum revenue entitlement, is well intentioned.
One of these policy objectives is to spur investment in grain hopper car replacement by the railways through the calculation of the annual volume related composite price index, as effected by clause 151(4).
CCGA would submit that consideration should be given to having the Canadian Transportation Agency closely monitor these actions and, during its annual administration of the MRE, include a summary comment within its determination.
We appreciate being here to address the committee this afternoon, and we do look forward to the question period.