moved for leave to introduce Bill C-281, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (discontinuance of listed sidings).
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce another measure to better preserve producer car loading sites across western Canada. Located along railway sidings, these sites enable prairie grain producers to load their own railcars as an alternative to being forced to go through the grain-handling facilities of private elevator companies.
Down from over 700 such do-it-yourself loading sites some 10 years ago, fewer than 300 of these sites remain in existence today. The grain companies do not want farmers loading their own grain cars because, of course, they do not collect any tariffs on that grain and the railways have been trying to get rid of these sites. However, producers have actually been making greater use of their right to load their own railcars in recent years. The number of producer-loaded cars is up fourfold in the last decade, to nearly 12,000 cars per year.
The vast majority of prairie grain is handled through the conventional system but this is a right that was given to farmers to load their own cars over 100 years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada. It is enshrined in the Canada Grain Act but it is meaningless unless the sites exist for farmers to use. Right now, the railway can abandon those sites on 60 days' notice without any further due process.
This measure proposes to give three years' notice to ensure there will be a proper hearing, to put the onus on the railways to prove what they are doing is in the public interest, to provide other interested parties with an opportunity to buy and operate those sidings and to compensate municipalities when a siding is closed.
This is just decent behaviour in dealing with matters of this kind. I hope the measures contained in this private member's bill will commend themselves to all members of the House.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)