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Results: 1 - 13 of 13
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2014-03-27 15:04 [p.3959]
Mr. Speaker, last year was a record year on the prairies for the harvest, almost 50% higher than the average, which was amazing. Grain prices internationally were also very high, which meant the commodity price was high, so it should have been wonderful news for the prairie farmers. Unfortunately, we have a bottleneck with the railways. The minister actually briefed the opposition on what the Conservatives are going to do to fix it and next time I am going to ask him to use bigger pictures and less print so that they can really get it.
I would ask the parliamentary secretary if he would stand and explain one more time to the opposition in the House exactly what we are going to do for prairie farmers.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 19:33 [p.17281]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague on the other side just asked about the introduction of this piece of legislation. It actually started in 2008, with the rail freight service review. It was a two-year process. It was quite extensive and exhaustive, and there was enough guilt on the railway side as well as on the shippers' side when it comes to numbers to make it clear that something had to be done.
This measure was first introduced—in fact, I introduced it—in March in 2012, prior to the election, and then was picked up after the election, in December. This is a piece of legislation that has come a long way and has had lots of consultation.
My question for my hon. colleague is this. When the railway companies looked at this legislation initially, they fought against it, said they did not need it and said they would arrive at their service arrangements themselves. They said that it would drive negotiation away from the table. What I believe will happen is that it will drive both parties to the table, and if they cannot negotiate, it would be an arbitrated settlement. I wonder if my colleague would agree with me.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 21:55 [p.17299]
Mr. Speaker, I take great interest in the debate this evening, as well as a bit of pride, because this legislation is very close to me. I was in charge of the railways at the time when the rail freight service review was happening and on behalf of the government, I was able to introduce the announcement to initiate this legislation.
Here we are going into third reading, which is great not only for the House but for the country because all parties are indicating their support for the legislation. It is a great legislation for a lot of reasons.
I will start with why it is here and why we need the legislation. I would like to go back a bit and explain to the House and Canadians what the problem really was.
At the time when I was put in charge of railways, in western Canada the on-time delivery for CN's cars was about 52% to 55% for grain shipments. That is not a good performance. How could western Canadian farmers get their products from the combine to the port and off to international markets when they could only rely on the cars being there at the proper time 55% of the time?
As my hon. colleague from Wascana mentioned, during the review CN upped its game considerably. New management came into CN and really concentrated on trying to up its game at the time, and it did. It went from 55% to over 90% within about a year to a year and a half period. That was strictly because the spotlight was on it and it put full attention toward upping its service because the service review was taking place.
A lot of the shippers came to us and asked that we keep the review going and keep the spotlight on the industries and the railways so they would up the game. We encouraged them to continue to have service agreements with all their shippers. They committed to doing that and signed as many shipping service agreements as they possibly could. In fact, I know there were some in some of the industries, perhaps the coal industry, for over a decade, so there were some long-term agreements that were signed at that time.
This legislation does not really speak to the agreements. That is intentional because they are so diverse. Producers cars would have a completely different need and service agreement than would shipping of a coal, potash or forest industries. However, they all want service. Under this legislation, those agreements would be totally flexible because they could contain all kinds of penalties. We are not privy to what the agreements are. We do not need to know what they are. However, when the two parties come to an agreement, they need to have some kind of mechanism to do things.
The first is to ensure that whatever agreement they do reach is complied with. That is what this legislation does. It has penalties that would go to either a shipper or a railway depending on which one breaches the agreement.
The second is there for when an agreement cannot be reached. If negotiations between the shipper, the railway, and so forth are done to the best of their ability, whether in the forest, egg, coal or potash industry, whatever the commodity, yet they cannot come to an agreement, then they are really stuck. This legislation is a way for them to reach a final arbitrated settlement that would give them clarity as to what was fair in an agreement. That is what the industry and the shippers have asked for.
Instead of being held ransom and saying they cannot come up with an agreement because no one wants to negotiate, they are saying, with this legislation, that if they cannot come to an agreement, there will be an arbitrated settlement. It does not say who is going to win or lose in that arbitration. Rather it calls for that to happen. Because of that, there will be a better system all the way around. If we go through the rail service review data carefully, as did the committee and the government, there was a lot of blame on both the shipper and the railway sides.
Let us not pick winners or losers. Let us just fix it in the best interests of this country. That is what this House is all about. It is about designing a piece of legislation that will move the country along. We do not really care who wins or loses. We want it to be fair so that both win. Canada wins because we move product to shore and on to international markets, where the real win is for the railways, the shippers and the country. That is why this should be supported.
International trade is really our stimulus for the future. We just came through a tremendous economic recession that has challenged the world. It challenged North America. It challenged the United States, our largest trading partner. Last year we had $528 billion in trade. Three-way trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States is almost $1 trillion per year. That is a large number, when we start talking about trillions of dollars.
About 40 million jobs have been created in our country because of NAFTA. I love the map at the Canadian embassy in the United States. The map shows for each state the number of dollars traded with Canada and the number of jobs created in that state because of that trade. It is very effective information that our American cousins need to understand more directly. Canadians also need to understand it. The number of dollars traded and the number of jobs created in each province is also on that map. I would recommend it to anyone.
Why do I mention that? It is because one of every five jobs in Canada is created because of trade, because of exports. Sixty per cent of our GDP is from that trade. Is it growing or is it shrinking? The last statistics I saw show a 73% increase in trade internationally between now and 2025. That is a large number. Those countries that capitalize on that growth in trade are the ones that are going to win. I like the way we are positioned to capitalize on that. We are about to sign a European free trade agreement, which I hope will work. That is 500 million people and $17 trillion in GDP in that market that we will be able to capitalize on. Not only that, but when we go to the west coast, with the trans-Pacific partnership, we will be talking about 110 million people and GDP of $17.6 trillion.
These are tremendous opportunities, not only with respect to China and India but with the trans-Pacific partners. It will depend on what we have to offer those markets. We are also working on a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. We are working on more trade with China. China is a big player, particularly when it comes to railways and moving products to the west coast.
What do they want? They want two things: food security and energy security. Canada can provide both, and railways are a major part of that. Before railways and shippers start saying negative things about each other, why do both groups not look at the opportunity before us? Why do we not look at the opportunity before Canada? Never has the opportunity been greater to create a winning situation for Canadian industries. It might be products manufactured and moved back and forth by rail, as we do with United States when we move automobiles back and forth by rail. We can actually supply for the United States products coming from China through the port of Prince Rupert two and a half days faster than any other port on the west coast. It is two and a half days faster, because it comes through Prince Rupert and goes right down to Chicago to supply the largest economy in the world: the United States. It is because of our railways and our system.
People have been criticizing this piece of legislation and asking why we did not include shipments to the United States in this rail service agreement. I can say that the United States is looking very closely at this piece of legislation. Americans are wondering how it is working, what kind of support it is getting and if it is going to actually do the job. I believe that it will do the job. The Americans are very keen to look at it and perhaps even use it as a model for their country. When that happens, there will be a continuous system between Canada and the United States, which is our largest trading partner and always will be.
This is a great piece of legislation for many reasons. When we look at the international markets, it is indeed amazing.
The railways carry a tremendous amount of freight, about 240 million tonnes of freight. About 70% of the surface freight in this country is moved by rail. That includes the bulk commodities such as grains, minerals, forestry products, energy products and so on.
I was talking to a representative of CN last night. He was telling me that the number of cars they are ordering to supply energy to markets by rail is off the charts. That is happening because of the resistance to pipelines. Whether or not the pipelines come, there is no question that rail will play a big part in moving our energy products to shore and beyond.
It is very important that this piece of legislation work not only for the agriculture sector, for grains and seeds, but for the energy sector, mining, potash and so on. It is a great piece of legislation that would go a long way in making certain that we level the playing field.
My hon. colleague said that CN used to be one of the worst as far as providing service. I would tend to agree with him. Perhaps now the reverse is happening, and CP is having more of a struggle providing service than CN. That is hard to argue with, and it is probably true.
We have heard arguments from the president of CN. He is asking why we are bringing in this legislation. He says that it will halt negotiations and drive people away from the negotiating table. It would do just the opposite. It would drive people to the negotiating table, because if they did not get a service agreement, there would be a very quick arbitration process in place through this legislation that would actually make sure they got a deal. That is what the legislation is designed to do. That is why it would work so well.
Would it be used an awful lot? Probably not. I hope not. I hope it is never used. If we bring it in, the jig is up. There should be an arbitrated settlement. If there is not, somebody will do it for them. They will do it quickly, and it will not cost a lot of money. Once the process has been challenged, a precedent will be set. The rest will fall in line with it, and the service agreements will comply.
I do not believe that this piece of legislation will be used terribly much, but it needs to be there, because the manager of CN or CP may not always be the most friendly guy who always wants to do the right thing. When we bring in legislation, it is for a long period and it is in the best interests of the country. It has nothing to do with the personalities of the people who were there.
I remember the forest industry. We were within hours of finalizing an agreement with the forest sector of this country. We brought them to the table. We did everything we possibly could to get them over the line. We could not quite get there. We would get there now, because we would have a piece of legislation that would arbitrate it. I will not say who would win or lose in that arbitration, because I do not know, but I do know that there would be an arbitrated settlement and they would move on.
It is really important that cars are placed in yards at the appropriate time for product to move from where it is produced to the market. That is the number one thing we can do to create the kind of economy, jobs and prosperity this country needs to move forward.
A lot has been said about the penalties that would go to the government. That is because we do not want winners or losers to use this piece of legislation other than as a tool to make certain that services are provided at the appropriate time.
There could be all kinds of penalties within their service agreements if the parties agreed to them. If the agreements were not recognized and not realized, the penalties would be a tool to make sure the service agreement was complied with.
It is a very great day for me. This has been a long process. It is a process that has had a lot of consultation.
I have quotes here from the agricultural, forestry, coal, potash and mining industries that say that this is a very big step in changing the dynamic between the railways and the shippers. They feel that they have a government that will back them in an arbitrated settlement process that does not play one against the other. It is truly there to try to make certain that an agreement works for both and that the service is provided in an appropriate way. Predictable service is something we cannot talk enough about. Unpredictable service is the number one thing that will retard the opportunity for shippers to be prosperous and get their products to market.
I want to commend the standing committee on transport. It worked very hard over a number of years to make this happen. The Minister of Transport has picked this ball up and has pushed it very hard. He has worked very hard to bring this to where it is tonight.
Tonight is a wonderful evening. Think about it. When was the last time we had a substantive piece of legislation such as this that was agreed upon by everyone in the House? I can think back a long time. I know that there have been frivolous pieces of legislation that perhaps have had unanimous consent, but there have not been major pieces of legislation like this that are paradigm shifters that would change the dynamic. It is probably the most significant piece of legislation to come between shippers and railways in 50 years or more, so this is a very significant evening. It is a significant piece of legislation.
I am very proud to be lending my voice to it, and I look forward to the vote, which I hope will happen tomorrow. We will move it into the Senate and on to royal assent very quickly.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:13 [p.17301]
Mr. Speaker, he is asking if the penalties are large enough to force compliance. It is $100,000 for every car that is not there on time, which is a fairly significant penalty. If it is not, we might have to go back and raise it.
I believe that it is significant enough. There is no one I know in the railway industry who would say that they would just pay the $100,000 and forget to bring the cars. I do not believe the railways will play that card. If that happens, there is an opportunity to go back and address it, but I would not do it at this stage of the game.
What is done for one is the same for the other. The penalty can be for the shipper as well as the railway. It is fair to say that it is a fairly significant penalty for every violation under this act. I do not expect that it is going to happen, but there are all kinds of tools to address it if it does happen.
There is an opening up of the entire railway act coming in 2015-16, so I do not believe that the railways are going to play silly with this piece of legislation. They will try to comply, because it is in their best interests to do so. It is in their best interest to make certain that they have the cars there appropriately and that the service agreements are fair for both. The shippers have to win for the railways to win, and the railways have to win for the shippers to win. If both win—
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:16 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, the bill is not designed to get into the service agreement.
It used to be that when a shipper ordered a car from CN and it did not show up, it was no big deal. There was no penalty, nothing. If a shipper had trouble with weather or unforeseen circumstances and the car could not be loaded fast enough and moved out, then CN or CP could ding the shipper significantly, without any recourse.
This piece of legislation does not talk about what is in the service agreement, so if someone wants compensation for lack of service then it should be put in the agreement. All we are saying is that if the agreement is not complied with, the penalties will apply. There needs to be a tool to make sure that whatever is agreed upon is actually complied with, and that is what this legislation would do. Complying with the agreement should not be a winner or loser within the agreement to use as a tool. If someone wants compensation, it should be put in the agreement.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:18 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, our trade with the United States is a great success story. I always say that we do not really trade with the United States; we build things together with the United States. Our supply chains are intricately linked. It does not matter if it is the forestry sector, the beef sector, the auto sector, or many other sectors, we do things together.
When I talk to my colleagues in the United States Congress, I tell them it does not matter whether they go after international markets and sell products to China or Japan, or that we do. The United States ambassador says that for every dollar that Canada trades with Japan, 25¢ of that goes to America because our supply system is intricately linked. We need to collectively go after those international markets because of the productivity gain that we will create. Both the United States and Canada will capitalize on those growing international markets in a much better way.
By 2050, there are supposed to be an extra three billion people in the world, and two billion of them will move from poverty to middle class during that time period. They will need energy, food and all of the things we produce in Canada and the United States. Those are the markets we need to go after.
Thinning the border, creating the productivity gains by having a good railway system between Canada and the United States, is absolutely essential in ensuring that we capitalize on those markets. We are the most productive in the world. Canada has great systems. We have some of the best food. We produce some of the best things, whether it is our automobiles and so on.
Canada and the United States are great allies and partners. We do a lot of back and forth trade—
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:20 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, if the president of CN, Claude Mongeau, had impact on the minister, the bill would not be here. I have sat down with him a number of times, and he said we should not do it. He gave me all kinds of reasons why it would be a terrible piece of legislation. The railways are not really excited about this.
My argument to him was that if the railways do not want the bill, then they should have service agreements, and if they do not want service agreements, then they need the bill to be able to get them over the line. I would suggest that there is no impact there.
This is not a piece of legislation that either of the railways is excited about or interested in. They see the rationale behind the legislation. They are not supportive of the bill, but they are not saying anything very negative about it either.
Any time that both sides do not agree 100% on a bill, then that bill is usually striking the right note and balance. I think we have that here.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:22 [p.17303]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. The creation of jobs and the growing of our economy is absolutely critical, and the railways play a major role in that.
As a government, we have been able to put a significant number of dollars into infrastructure to make certain that the gateway project on the west coast, the corridor project to the south, and the eastern project corridor to the east capitalize on those international markets. The infrastructure that is built there would not only creates jobs, but it would also create an infrastructure that would create jobs because of the kind of trade we are expecting.
We are a blessed country in so many ways and have so much opportunity, especially as we see this massively growing international trading relationship around the world. Healthy railways lend themselves to the success of our country and the kinds of job opportunities we will have for the future.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 15:54 [p.2295]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat.
This is an important issue that is near and dear to my heart, and the comments I am going to make this afternoon are biased, I admit. I am going to fess up right off the bat that I am a farmer. My son is actually the fourth generation on our farm so agriculture goes back a long way in our family. I have produced wheat and barley every year for the last 30 to 40 years, and my comments are biased because I will do and say anything I possibly can to support the farm family and agriculture in western Canada.
When my son wanted to take over the family farm, I tried to discourage him because I knew how difficult agriculture is. It is a very demanding occupation. So I told him to go and get a business education and I would teach him how to farm. So he got a business education and now he is teaching me how to farm. It is amazing what our young entrepreneurs in agriculture are doing and can accomplish. It is phenomenal to see how the industry has developed and is unbelievably engaging.
It is interesting to look at the trumped-up survey from this summer that the opposition members refer to so often. Believe me, farmers have been voting loud and clear and not just because of the 52 out of 56 seats that were won in the May election. They were voting with their seed drills and they have been doing it for a decade or more every spring when they grow products such as canola that are outside the Wheat Board.
Canola has outstripped wheat as the number one commodity in Canada and that is not an accident but it is because the farmers are getting the world price for their canola. They are not getting the world price for their wheat. Because of canola being outside the Wheat Board, farmers have the flexibility to manage and market and get those dollars into their pocket to handle the farm income in a way that enables them to handle the risks of their business. This is important.
The other thing about the survey and why I say it is trumped up is I have been farming for 40-plus years, all my life, growing barley or wheat every year and I never got a survey. I never had a chance to vote in this trumped-up survey. If farmers are missed like me in this survey and then those numbers are used to wail about what farmers really think, then the opposition has to soberly consider what it is doing and who it is representing.
It is not by accident that in the May election only four out of the fifty six seats in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, provinces controlled by the Wheat Board, did not go to the Conservative government. Where were those four seats? Two of them were in downtown Winnipeg, one in downtown Regina and one in downtown Edmonton. I have not seen a combine or a kernel of wheat or barley in any one of those ridings ever.
So when members look at this piece of legislation, they should put aside ideology and do the right thing for agriculture and for farmers. Let us just for a second assume that the monopoly of the Wheat Board, if it is dual-marketed, is going to compromise the value at the farm gate. Then they would never have to worry about it because every farmer is astute enough to market their grain where they will get the best value for it. If that is the Wheat Board, that is where they will go. If that happens, nothing will change.
However, all this bill would do is allow farmers the opportunity to market their grain where they feel they can get better value for that dollar. If they can get a better value for the bushel of wheat or barley in an independent way by another avenue, then the question has to be asked how that can possibly be when the Wheat Board has a monopoly and has the inside track on getting the best value for farmers.
As I said a few minutes ago, if it were true that farmers were getting the best value for their wheat and barley, American farmers would be bringing their wheat here to capitalize on that marketing opportunity. That is not the case. The opposite is the case and there is a reason for it and it is that farmers are astute enough to understand their business plan and understand what is in their best interests as they move forward.
It is very important to say that this has to happen in conjunction with what was announced by our government on rail freight and transportation. The success of our country is really going to depend upon how well we can access international markets, how well and how fast we can get our canolas, wheats and barleys, our products and commodities to markets overseas. That is really where the growth lies.
As a government we put $3.6 billion-plus into the Asia-Pacific gateway so that we can streamline that transportation system. We have seen in our a government a change in the way that railways have actually treated agriculture. Their on-car deliveries this last year was up to over 90% compared to the year before, where it was down to about 50%.
Why is that changing? It is because of the rail freight service review. We have actually forced the railways to have a service agreement with those industries and farmers who have producer cars and so on, and who are shipping their products.
It has to go hand in glove because the railways win when shippers win, and when shippers and railways both win then Canada wins. It is very important that we make certain to streamline that system, so that the system will be able to handle the kinds of demands and opportunities that are there.
It is interesting, when we look at agriculture, just how big it is. It has changed so much. Since the 1950s it has gone up 300%, the productivity level in agriculture. That is what we are actually doing on the farm.
Seventy six per cent of those young farmers, in this survey that is being referred to, said that they wanted to break the monopoly. They wanted to have the opportunity to capitalize on markets other than the monopoly of the Wheat Board. Even using this survey, when we start looking into the future of where we are going to go, that is really the question, where do we go from here? What is it going to look like after we have dual marketing?
We have lost productivity or opportunity for our world share in wheat. It has fallen 42% in the last 50 years. We have lost 42% in the ability to capture those markets. When it comes to barley, the numbers are even worse. It is two-thirds, 66% since the 1980s that we have lost in the ability to capitalize on those international markets.
Where does the future lie? The population of the world right now is about 6.9 billion, 7 billion. What is it going to be in 2020? It is expected to be 7.6 billion. That is 68 million more people to feed, every year in this world. Where is agriculture going to be? It is not the same today as it was in the 1930s, when the Wheat Board was first brought in by a Conservative government, and it was voluntary, not forced, not a monopoly.
We are saying we should break the monopoly and allow the opportunity to see if the Wheat Board actually can do the job for the farmers or not.
We are saying that we have grown in opportunity for agricultural exports, but not because of the Wheat Board. It is in spite of the Wheat Board. It was $39 billion that was traded in 2010. We are in the top five agricultural exporters in the world. That is something to be proud of. It is because of the quality of the product that it is in such demand around the world.
The price is not realized. We are not getting world prices for wheat. We are here to protect our farmers. We have to actually ensure we have the farmers' interests in mind as we stand and speak on this piece of legislation. This is a very important piece of legislation that we are committed to for our electorate.
Speaking of that, I get this all the time. The opposition is saying that farmers think this and farmers think that. Well, I happen to be one of those farmers. So I have to ask, is it just me or do I represent my riding? I have yet to have a piece of mail or a phone call from anyone in my riding, although I am sure there are some people out there, that supports the monopoly.
I have yet to have one of those people call my office and say, “Can you phone me back and explain why you are doing what you are doing?” All of them are saying, “We want freedom. We want choice”.
That is where we need to go with this piece of legislation. It is an unbelievable opportunity that we have before us for agriculture in this country, for the family farm in this country, but more than that as we grow this country and capitalize on those international markets that are ripe for the taking.
We look forward to this bill passing. We encourage everyone in this House to consider their support as we come down to the vote on this.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-03-07 15:00 [p.8721]
Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify something for my hon. colleague because he may not understand the prairie farmers. What they really have a problem with is service. That is why we put a professional panel in place to deal with rail service in our country. I have the report. We will be announcing our next steps to that report very soon.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2010-12-13 14:57 [p.7137]
Mr. Speaker, farmers and shippers across this country waited 13 years for the Liberal government to do absolutely nothing for them. We struck a panel and the Liberals should at least wait for that panel to come out with its recommendations before criticizing. We will wait for those recommendations and we will make the best decision in the interests of Canada when it comes to where we go from here.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2010-12-13 15:02 [p.7138]
Mr. Speaker, shippers and farmers waited 13 years of getting nothing from a Liberal government.
I would think that once we had struck a review panel, the Liberals would at least wait for the recommendations of that panel before commenting. Now they are playing politics with farmers and shippers.
We will wait for those recommendations and then we will make our decision based on the best interest of Canada.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2009-03-26 15:03 [p.2006]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that we conducting an intensive study. There is a report we are looking forward to with regard to high speed rail. I can tell the member also and remind everyone in the House that there are $407 million to speed up trains right across this country, specifically between Montreal and Toronto. I believe the member will be very pleased with the result of VIA Rail's announcement.
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