Following a five-year gap, the federal government reintroduced extended interswitching to the rail system with its 2023 budget. The action was taken at the recommendation of the government’s National Supply Chain Task Force report released in October 2022. Western Grain Elevator Association (WGEA) executive director Wade Sobkowich believes interswitching legislation must go further to make rail freight shipment more competitive.
At its Stettler station, as many as 24,000 passengers per year board Alberta Prairie Railway train excursions powered by its vintage diesel and steam locomotives. Winter and summer, trips include a stop at Big Valley or the line’s Country Hideaway, an old-time amusement park and meal facility. Not so long ago, the line transported grain as the Central Western Railway.
The Port of Prince Rupert is a remote but critical link in the Canadian crop export chain. Located in Prince Rupert Harbour just south of the Alaska Panhandle on British Columbia’s rugged Pacific coastline, its facilities are strung along a 20-kilometre stretch of Kaien Island, adjacent to the Prince Rupert townsite.
There are two variables that dictate prices and are out of farmers’ control. First, governments everywhere have long meddled with agriculture and trade policy. The net impact has been to create enormous externalities—barriers that inhibit the laws of supply and demand from dictating prices. Canada, a large net exporter, has often struggled for market access and suffered diminished competitiveness against subsidized farmers. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. as well as the EU continue to restrict market access and some also offer farmer supports that distort the market. There is no indication this will fade.