There was an expression often used when I was growing up to describe an individual who seemed to have all the power in the world but couldn't keep their eye on the ball. That expression was "Roman Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome was burning". This, of course, was referring to the great fire which consumed Rome in the First Century AD and was subsequently blamed on the new Christian religion. The Emperor Nero probably could have marshalled his forces and done something about this horrific fire but he chose instead to sit back and blame someone else because he needed a scapegoat for his own bad policies and laziness.
Last week, the Federal grain monitor reported that only 49% of the hopper car orders were delivered across western Canada for the transportation of our grains and oilseeds. Many delivery points are no longer taking grain from farmers as there is no room left in their elevators. Companies in the oil sector are reporting the same thing for the transportation of oil across North America by rail.
It appears the railways have a more lucrative business hauling containers of consumer goods from China and frac sand for a rejuvenated drilling program by oil companies in tight oil formations. This transportation crisis did not start last week. It did not start last month. It started in the fall of last year and unfortunately, has been a reoccurring problem for decades.
Never once during the recent Sask Party leadership race did I hear transportation talked about in any meaningful way. During the current NDP leadership race, I have not heard it mentioned at all. Our recently departed Sask Party Premier who is supposed to be such a champion of all things "western Canadian" was too busy squabbling with NDP Premier Notley about Alberta license plates on Saskatchewan P3 job sites because of issues in the craft brewing industry than he was about the real issues facing Saskatchewan. Brad Wall knows that the majority of the commodities that pay the bills for the province of Saskatchewan and its producers were being tied up by our two national railways and he was doing nothing about it.
The legislation in the Parliament of Canada that would put significant financial penalties on the railroads for not performing has not been passed. You would think our Sask Party government would have been in Ottawa beating on the doors of the House of Commons because the railways are not delivering our products to the ports on time which means we will be losing sales and paying demerge which on a single ship can be as much as $10,000.00 a day. This cost comes directly out of the pocket of each and every farmer in Saskatchewan.
So along with a lot of other things that you've heard me mention in this commentary, it seems that our emperor Mr. Wall had more interest in fiddling with his NDP adversaries in Alberta for his own ego and political gain than he did for trying to put out the transportation fire which is rapidly consuming Saskatchewan and western Canadian farmers and our oil patch.
Most of the farm and commodity groups have put forth very knowledgeable and valid solutions to this reoccurring problem. The federal Liberal government and particularly Minister Garneau seemed to get it but obviously the railway lobby in Ottawa is as strong as it ever was because the legislation has not moved ahead. We constantly need political champions in western Canada to fight this battle on our behalf. We need our politicians to be united against the powers that be in Ottawa that hold back our economic well being.
People like Premiers Lougheed and Blakeney were able to put their ideological differences aside in order to fight for our place in Confederation. We live and die by the export of our commodities and it is hard to believe in 2018 that we are still fighting this battle over issues that have been so well defined in previous decades.
We face the prospect of Donald Trump tearing up the NAFTA Agreement. We must be able to get our commodities to tide water in a timely fashion to meet the expectations of our customers. Taxpayer dollars built Canada's two national railroads. Taxpayer dollars are always needed to clean up the mess when they don't deliver the goods because of the income short fall all across our economy.
Where was Brad Wall and our Sask Party government and our federal MPs as this crisis was building again because we all know it will take many months to unclog the system, the missed sales will not come back and our international reputation will once again be tarnished.
Saskatchewan is doubly punished because instead of hauling our products on frozen roads in the winter time, the catch up will occur after the frost goes out and our highways and grid roads will be pounded to pieces as thousands of trucks take to the road to try and play catch up. Saskatchewan taxpayers will have to pay for the fix because our railroads are not forced to live up to their mandate.
There is another old saying about the Emperor having no clothes when referring to all of the unfulfilled promises and illusions created by that Emperor. On this issue of rail transportation, our Emperor has been naked for the last ten years with no vision for the future or we would not be once again staring this economic disaster in the eye.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.