It appears spring has finally sprung! The seven-day forecast is for the high teens and the low 20's and no snow in sight. It's going to be great to finally get the yard dry enough to start working on seeding machinery and cleaning seed. This will be the first crop I've seeded since 2014 so I know there will be some challenges both with the machinery and with the guy running the equipment. I'm sure everything will come back but there will be a few challenging days before the old memories kick back in. Time will tell.
Do you remember when you were a small child and you would have bad nightmares and your parents would do their best to calm your fears and tell you that whatever was waking you up in the middle of the night would fade away as you grew up? Unfortunately when you are involved in agriculture in western Canada, there is a reoccurring nightmare that you don't seem to be able to do anything about no matter how old you get.
That nightmare is the inability of getting the commodities you've worked so hard to grow and produce to their markets around the world and pay your bills. The nightmare is doubly scary because you seem powerless to do anything about it because it keeps happening over and over again. All of Saskatchewan is affected by this nightmare both urban and rural and it seems no matter who we elect, both federally and provincially, they can't stop the nightmare.
Once again, we are facing the probability of a shutdown of one of our two national railways. These railways have a monopoly over hauling all of our products to tide water and to major value-adding facilities. After a long and cold winter where our two national railways once again under-performed and tried to blame their under-performance on the weather, we now have our good weather potentially blocked by a strike of the members of two major unions and their contractual negotiations with CP Rail.
Why couldn't the unions and CP Rail have not settled their labour issues during the cold winter months when they were under-performing as it was? Almost all of our commodities are under stress because of the NAFTA negotiations, the inability to build new pipelines, the unfair tariffs put on our crops by countries like India and the obvious increases in container and other consumer traffic on our railway system.
I have absolutely no problem with workers banding together to negotiate good working conditions and fair wages from their employers. I grew up and went to school with many individuals who have spent their working lives working for CP Rail. My acquaintances tell me that this can be a very demanding and stressful way of making a living and they need to be compensated accordingly. Safe working conditions in the work place should be mandatory. CP Rail has a history of thinking that they own western Canada and everything produced in it because we have had no other option to move our products.
At some point in time, we must have the political leadership in this country to change that attitude and come up with a system that doesn't allow this reoccurring nightmare. I would prefer solutions that are more market-friendly than simply the heavy hand of government. But because these two national railways operate as virtual monopolies, the federal government must regulate them.
During the last provincial election, the PC Party of Saskatchewan promoted the idea of strengthening our short-line rail system and finding ways to connect that system to the Burlington Northern Railway in the United States. We believe this was the right thing to do because it would give our commodities another marketing option to get to tide water.
Those connections and improvements would be paid for by tolling fees that would be charged on the commodities being transported. We also believe that it's time through regulation that we have improved running rights on the rail beds in western Canada. The taxpayers of this province and Canada have paid for those road beds over and over again. I don't think the taxpayers have any interest in running the engines and rolling stock necessary to run railroads. Taxpayers have no interest in the thousands of employees that it takes to run railroads but we do have a strong interest in getting our commodities to market when one or both of our railroads and their employees stop doing the job at hand.
Surely to goodness we could have rail cars full of commodities on one line going to the Port of Vancouver and the empties coming back on another line to be refilled again. In my view, it shouldn't matter whose railway the one-way traffic travels on as long as they get paid for the cargo that originated in their system. Surely we could put an arbitration process in place that allows employees to be fairly treated without the necessity to strike in our most crucial shipping periods.
I thought we elected people to show the necessary leadership to solve these problems and not simply leave them to the vagaries of corporate greed or the agendas of union bosses. When is that old saying of "enough is enough" going to be a reality in western Canada? Every person here and their standard of living depends on the production and movement of our products to the international marketplace. 150 years of railway nonsense has taught us how hurtful this reoccurring nightmare is.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.