REGINA– Given the disappointing results of the “Dinning process,” the government’s latest attempt to find common ground between railways and shippers, it is even more urgent that the federal government move quickly on legislation that guarantees shippers the right to enforceable Level of Service Agreements (LSAs), said Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale today.
“The railways candidly admit that the rail service review, ongoing since 2008, has prompted them to improve their treatment of their shippers,” said Mr. Goodale. “If that pressure goes away, service levels will not improve and all the chronic deficiencies that led to the review in the first place will return. The fundamental problem is a structural imbalance in market power which is stacked in the railways’ favour and cannot be rectified without a legislative framework.”
A strong coalition of virtually all Canadian rail shippers began to push for such a framework in 2006. After dragging their heels for over five years, the government accepted the findings of an advisory panel and promised legislation. But six months later, in the fall of 2011, the Conservatives asked former Alberta Treasurer Jim Dinning to facilitate another process to find common ground between railways and shippers. His work ended in April with no new solutions. The Conservatives finally tabled his report last Friday, conveniently just after the House of Commons had adjourned for the summer.
“Since the rail service review panel first reported in 2010, I have repeatedly asked the government to get on with the required legislation,” said Mr. Goodale. “Their answers have been slippery to say the least. Obviously, the railways are lobbying furiously to stop any meaningful action. It is time for the Conservatives to stop stalling and deliver the required new law. The shippers are in a captive situation without commercial alternatives and without legal recourse when the railways fail to perform. And that must be fixed.”
Without dividing shippers into different categories or tiers, all shippers should be legally entitled to LSAs that cover six mandatory elements: Services and Obligations, Communications Protocols, Performance Standards, Performance Metrics, Consequences for Non-Performance and a Dispute Settlement Mechanism.