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Senate gives final approval to new transportation bill

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Senate gives final approval to new transportation bill

Senate amendments in new transportation bill will help farmers, says Senator Grant Mitchell.

Senate amendments to the federal government’s modernized transportation policies will provide wider access to improved shipping benefits for Western Canadian farmers, under a bill given final Senate approval on Tuesday.

Bill C-49 is designed to modernize the Canada Transportation Act by increasing the rights of air travelers, mandating the use of voice and video recorders in rail locomotives and providing more options for shippers who have access to limited transportation options, among other measures.

The federal government also agreed to several Senate amendments, including allowing soybean farmers to access certain transportation assistance previously unavailable to them and widening the access to a measure that provides shippers with more competitive options for rail service. Soybeans have become an increasingly important crop for Western Canadian farmers, particularly those in Manitoba.

Senator Grant Mitchell, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the amendments will be important for Western farmers as they enter the 2018 crop year.

He added that acceptance of the amendments proves, yet again, that Senate modernization is working.

“This is sober second thought in action,” Sen. Mitchell said. “The Senate is under transformation and I think Canadians can be confident that ongoing modernization will continue to work in their favour.”

He applauded the cooperative effort of all groups in the Senate for working together to improve the bill.

The soybean change was requested by many of the producers and shippers who appeared before the committee studying the bill.

The Senate had originally made 18 amendments to the bill. The House of Commons accepted six, including modifying three. The changes include:

  • Widening access to long haul interswitching, which addresses limited competition in the rail sector.
  • Providing for more certainty about the destruction of data garnered through voice and video recorders, thereby providing for more protection of workers’ privacy.
  • Allowing the Canadian Transportation Agency to approach the government for authorization to launch its own investigations into systemic rail service issues.
  • Adding soybeans to the list of agricultural products covered by the Maximum Revenue Entitlement (MRE). Soybeans produced in Western Canada will now be treated the same way as the region’s wheat, canola, lentils and many other agricultural products.

In the past two years, since a new arm’s-length Senate appointment process was put in place, nine of the 43 bills that have become law have included Senate amendments. Bill C-49 will be the tenth.

So far, 33 independent Senators have been appointed, resulting in a less partisan, and more independent, accountable and transparent upper chamber, which acts as a complementary body to the House of Commons.

Senate gives final approval to new transportation bill

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