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The Toronto Star
February 25, 2014 Tuesday
Saskatchewan wants Ottawa to expedite grain backlog
Saskatchewan wants the federal government to immediately oversee talks between grain companies and railways to set parameters for getting grain to port.
Economy minister Bill Boyd says there need to be service agreements with financial penalties for both grain companies and railways to ensure service levels.
"Both of them were saying, 'Well, we're not sure the other side is willing to negotiate,' so we think that there needs to be someone like the federal government overseeing those negotiations," Boyd said Monday in Regina.
Boyd led a delegation that met with Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway officials last week to talk about ways to get a backlog of grain moving. A record crop is sitting in bins across the Prairies.
He says both CN and CP indicated they're prepared to negotiate and sign level of service agreements with grain shippers with reciprocal penalties.
"I don't think it has to be in the legislation," said Boyd.
"I think that if there's a willingness by all partners, the rail companies and the elevator companies, if there's a willingness to seriously get down to negotiations here, I think that would be all that's necessary."
Federal legislation allows a government arbitrator to decide if a signed service agreement between a shipping company and a railway has been violated, but grain handlers don't have such contracts. That means rail companies determine the level of service they're going to provide to grain companies and there are no provisions for penalties.
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