Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise tonight at adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked. I am really pleased to bring it up when not too much time has passed since the question was raised. It was toward the end of March this year, when we were seeing Prairie grain shipments almost at a standstill when the shippers, CN and CP, were unable to bring forward enough railcars to move the grain. It was of crisis proportions, but it was not the first time this had happened.
I will briefly review the question I asked, which was to point out that millions of tons of grain were stuck on Prairie farms and in grain elevators. However, it was connected to a problem we were also experiencing on the coast of British Columbia, where freighters and container ships waiting to pick up that grain in the port of Vancouver were backed up and using the waters of the Salish Sea essentially as a free parking lot. The port of Vancouver was backed up, so as the container ships were waiting to go in and out of the port of Vancouver, which could each have three and four different containers within them, they would go back to collect grain and then go back to sit off Plumper Sound in the Salish Sea in my riding waiting to know if the grain had been delivered.
The knock-on effects of poor service by CN and CP are real pain and economic trouble for the Prairie grain farmers, an inefficient port of Vancouver, and a significant cost in quality of life to people living in Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith, where these container ships were sitting off of Gabriola Island.
Members will be surprised to know that these anchorages for container ships off Saanich—Gulf Islands and Nanaimo—Ladysmith are available legally, but in that sense are largely unregulated, and there are no fees paid for sitting in the waters off Ganges, Plumper Sound, or Pender Island.
These enormous factory ships often have lights on through the night. I have talked to constituents who said that after they turn off all the lights in their house, they can still read a book because of the lights from the ships stuck there waiting.
It is a real cost in quality of life that we do not have an efficient rail service to deliver grain on time. It costs money to the shippers, the farmers, and those buying the grain. There needs to be a whole-of-government approach. A the t least, Transport Canada needs to start figuring out how we make sure we move goods quickly and effectively. Perhaps through a computerized system, the port of Vancouver could tell the grain farmers when to move the grain.
By the way, we used to have a better system when we had the Wheat Board. The Wheat Board did a better job in synchronizing shipments, and this problem did not come up. However, we had a crisis in 2014. On Vancouver Island, we were two days away from livestock operations not being able to get any feed because none of the mills that process the grain into livestock feed had any grain. The farmers had to band together and hire trucks. Again it was a big cost and poor service.
I know that Bill C-49, which we just voted on in the House, would help. There would be penalties for the shippers. From 1918 until 1995, this railway was a crown corporation, and it worked much better. What do we do to get goods moving in this country? Do we need to make it a crown corporation again?