(May 30, 2014) Last month the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA) provided western farmers with their laugh of the day when they breathlessly opined in a news release that an amendment to the so-called Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act “could open the door to have compensation flow back to farmers from the grain companies, when railway service failure has occurred.”

At the time many thought this simple-minded observation showed that the CCGA was playing its usual role as an apologist for the grain companies – another example of an Astroturf organization with no real connection to the farm community beyond a glitzy annual general meeting in a large city hotel celebrating Board members mainly noted for their deeply conservative pedigrees and idealization of private markets no matter how defective or destructive.

However, the announcement the CCGA would be filing a level of service complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) demonstrates its Board are more than willing to waste farmers’ money on futile and pointless gestures to provide political cover for a Federal Agriculture Minister and the private grain companies who have stripped over five billion dollars from western farmers in less than ten months.

Did the CCGA Board of Directors notice that under the Canada Transportation Act only “shippers” which the Act defines as “a person who sends or receives goods by means of a carrier or intends to do so” may launch level of service complaints?  As has been said by lawyer and independent Alberta Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber and many others, farmers are not shippers.

Perhaps for political reasons the CTA may accept the notion that the CCGA has the intention of actually shipping some canola by rail but otherwise one has to wonder at the CCGA spending farmers’ money for such a faint-hope appeal to the CTA unless its purpose in doing so is political.

If the CTA considers the complaint, farmers’ money will be spent pushing a weak argument which the railways will be happy to refute with reports from Quorum, the Independent Grain Monitor showing overall grain shipments are down only 6% and shipments to Vancouver are down only 2%.  It is hard to make a credible case against the railways when the system to Vancouver is running at 98% capacity and the overall system is running at 94% capacity.

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But it gets worse.  The CTA could appoint a mediator in the dispute and then the CCGA would also be on the hook for half of the mediation costs, which could amount to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per day.  Chump change for the railways, but a lot to farmers who’s hard earned money the CCGA should not be wasting on political smoke screens.

Being successful at the CTA is only the first step however.  To put money back into farmers’ pockets, the CCGA, like the farmer controlled Canadian Wheat Board before it, would have to sue the railways for damages.  The CWB was able to show that as the shipper of all wheat and barley, it had sustained millions in damages which it was successful in getting from the railways and returning to farmers.  However, the CCGA would be hard pressed to show how it sustained any damages since it is, in its own words “an association of associations.

So it would be fair to say this effort by the Canadian Canola Growers Association is likely to only prove useful for providing political cover and some bogus legitimacy for Bill C-30, better named the Fairy Dust for Grain Farmers Act given Royal Assent yesterday (May 29/14).

Perhaps within the Ottawa bubble and amongst the most gullible of the urban based agricultural press this will be seen as a bold move that will put money back into farmers pockets, but the real question is how can a group like the CCGA, which has only the thinnest democratic mandate, use farmers’ money to provide support to a Minister who has no credibility for achieving anything beyond being supremely destructive?

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