PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – July 2023
If there is one thing official Ottawa loves more than anything else, it’s a summer cabinet shuffle. Last week, the Prime Minister delivered a substantial one.
Seven ministers are out, seven rookies are in. Eight ministers kept their previous roles. And 31 moved or had their titles tweaked. (We have a full list below.)
Not since Trudeau Senior has more than 80 per cent of Cabinet changed in one shot. The implications for railways and their customers are potentially large and important. While most observers don’t believe the changes made will mean big changes in the government’s fiscal track or signature policies, new ministers are usually keen to put their stamp on things. And shuffles typically slow decision-making to some degree. The size and scope of this one will certainly have machinery of government implications.
In Ottawa and across the country, this summer has been anything but slow.
Canada Day marked the start of a 14-day strike by dockworkers that paralyzed our Western ports. This created major backlogs across supply chains that could take several months to fully recover. Canada also took another reputational hit; the lingering effects of that could be longer lasting.
We have already begun our advocacy for long-term solutions to avoid future disruptions, including legislative change that would give the governor-in-council recourse to order binding arbitration. That’s a power that exists elsewhere, but not yet in Canada.
There also has been some wild weather to contend with; unusually hot and dry conditions have led to a very active forest fire season across the country. And when it has rained, storms have been severe. (Hat tip to CN engineering and construction teams for repairing a washed-out bridge on its mainline near Truro, Nova Scotia in a matter of days.) We talk about some of those climate change impacts, and how members like QNS&L are responding in this month’s member profile.
Weather conditions are already playing into crop forecasting and agricultural projections for the year – on the Prairies and elsewhere. I heard a lot of concern about this at the CFA’s summer meetings in Fredericton, New Brunswick, at mid-month. The need for a long-term sustainable agriculture strategy was front center throughout the 3-day meetings. CN and CPKC have delivered their annual grain plans to TC. We’ve linked to that below and some data that reinforces the high prices farmers pay to big grain conglomerates vs. the value they receive from railways. We will be referencing value, reliability and safety in our conversations with new ministers and other government contacts in our advocacy meetings, which continue throughout the summer months. .
One thing’s for sure: there’s no summer slowdown in sight. And, like you, your RAC team in Ottawa wouldn’t have it any other way.
GRAINS ON TRAINS
Canada exports more than $82 billion worth of agriculture and agri-food products each year. Half of all Canadian exports move by rail, whether that’s across the U.S. border or to Canadian ports.
Over the pandemic, when ports and marine carriers experienced huge slowdowns globally, Canadian rail shipment times remained consistent. In the case of grain shipments, transit times improved. This past season, Class 1 railways moved record amounts thanks to a combined $1 billion investment in new high-capacity hopper cars built in Hamilton, Ontario.
The RAC helps educate policy- and decision-makers about the railways’ role in getting grain to market. This year, we’re emphasizing the reliability and the value with facts like these: