Monday, April 30, 2012

Rail Deal Bad for Canada

From Ralph Goodale...

A commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana

April 30th, 2012


Confronted with seriously deficient rail services to move their products to market, a broad coalition of shippers got together in 2006 to demand government action.

Representing agriculture, forestry, minerals, chemicals, fertilizers, industrial and manufactured goods – just about everything shipped by rail – the coalition shared the common problem of suffering through lousy treatment at the hands of the railways.

The railways got away with it because all these shippers were basically “captives”. There was no competition, no shipping alternative. And no legal recourse against arbitrary railway power.

In 2008, after two years of badgering, the Conservatives finally agreed to hold a "Rail Service Review". But they waited another year before actually appointing the people to do it. And that group took a further year to complete its work. They filed their report in October, 2010 – with compelling proof of railway abuses of power and inferior service.

It’s now 18 months later. The government says they accept the Review’s key recommendation that shippers need the legal right to enforceable “Level of Service” contracts. But after endless rehashing and stalling, no such legislation has yet been introduced.

The time for concrete action is painfully overdue. There can be no excuse for failing to introduce the necessary new law this spring. But it will need to be scrutinized carefully, because the railways will try to water it down, and they have this government under their thumb.

For example, watch out for a scheme that sets up arbitrary categories or "tiers" among shippers that would allow the railways to discriminate against some of their customers. In every case, all Level of Service agreements with all shippers should include six mandatory elements:

1. Services and Obligations;
2. Communications protocols;
3. Performance Standards;
4. Performance Metrics;
5. Consequences for Non-performance; and
6. Dispute resolution mechanisms.

This is just normal, good business behavior. Nothing less is acceptable.


-- Post From My iPhone

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