Madam Speaker, our government understands the challenges faced by our farmers every day. We are committed to ensuring that they have access to freight rail systems that effectively move their goods to market. That is why we introduced Bill C- 49, the transportation modernization act, which would put in place the right conditions, over the long term, for a safe, efficient, effective, and transparent freight rail system, which would benefit all rail users right across the country.
We are delighted that this bill, which both the member opposite and I voted for today, would provide robust, long-term solutions for many of the challenges facing our freight rail transportation system and its users. It would provide for enhanced accountability through reciprocal financial penalties between shippers and railways. It would improve transparency through increased reporting from railways, and it would provide captive shippers with a way of accessing an alternate rail carrier through long-haul interswitching. It would encourage investments in hopper cars through changes to the maximum revenue entitlement process, which would be retained for the benefit of the grain sector. In short, it would help avoid the kind of situation we are witnessing now. It would also provide the Canadian Transportation Agency with the powers it needs to investigate systemic issues of its own motion.
We understand that rail service this year has not lived up to expectations, both for grain and other commodities. That is why our government continues to work with railways to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to improve service and to move grain and other commodities to market. Railways have provided us with their plans for relieving the backlog, and we will continue to keep a watchful eye on their performance to ensure that these plans have the desired effect.
What our government has not done is introduce a short-term approach, like minimum grain volume requirements, which could risk negative consequences for farmers, grain shippers, and shippers of other commodities. Minimum grain volumes could result in preferential treatment of some corridors, even within the grain sector. As a result, they are not a silver bullet. Their benefits are not felt evenly, and they can have real implications for shippers in the grain sector and for other commodities.
As to the particular question the member opposite raised about nationalizing the rail system, I am pretty certain that this is not in our government's forecast in terms of potential legislation that may be introduced. However, I will note that in the city I come from, one of the greatest inhibitors of stronger passenger rail movement is the conflict between rail that is carrying cargo and passenger movement, in particular commuters in the GTA.
There is a missing segment of the rail lines between Sudbury and Ottawa and down towards the east coast, which was given away and abandoned by rail companies. If used properly, it could reroute some of that cargo and free up rail capacity for commuters, which would take cars off the road. Switching away from cargo on the rail and getting passengers is one priority, but the other option is to make sure that other commodities that can move by different methods do not plug up the rail system as well.
Therefore, realigning, reassessing, and recommitting ourselves to a long-term rail strategy in this country is one of our government's priorities. The member can see that in budget 2018, with the significant investment we have made in modernizing VIA to get it back into a position where it can start to grow its customer base and move people more effectively, and in environmentally clever ways, so that we can make our strategic investments in infrastructure and also reduce greenhouse gases.
As for grain, I am glad that the bill has come through the vote today. It is progress. We continue to move forward to make sure that grain shippers get the service they need from this government.