THUNDER BAY – Politics – This week I’d like to let you know about two upcoming town hall meetings that I am co-hosting, and deal with the Conservative bumbling on the economic file which is starting to distort regional economic activity in Canada.
First, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to a pair of town hall meetings that I am co-hosting with my friend and Member of Parliament for Sudbury Glenn Thibeault. Glenn is the New Democrat Critic for Consumer Affairs, Small Business, and Tourism and he is travelling across the country to hear from Canadians about how they are dealing with the increased cost of living and to see what the federal government can do to help make life more affordable. We’re also inviting small business owners and managers to come and share their experiences, good and bad, to help us find ways to promote their interests in Ottawa and help them grow at home.
The dates and times of our town hall meetings are as follows:
Fort Frances Town Hall Meeting
Friday March 21, 2014
Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau – 140 Fourth St. West
3:00pm – 5:00pm
Thunder Bay Town Hall Meeting
Saturday March 22, 2014
Brodie St. Library – 216 Brodie St. South.
3:00pm – 4:30pm
These meetings are free and open to the public, and I encourage everyone who is able to attend.
Moving on the other big news this week we learned that the Conservative government, through their own bumbling or by design, has established a new pecking order in the Canadian economy. The official order would now seem to be 1) Oil and gas, 2) Wheat, 3) other goods and services, and 4) forestry, lumber, and pulp and paper.
If you’ve been able to keep up with the news recently, then you’ve no doubt seen that rail shipments of crude oil are skyrocketing. Oil shipments by rail are up an amazing 83% in just one year, and more than 140,000 rail cars of crude oil were shipped in 2012 compared to just 500 cars in 2009. So much oil is being harvested that our infrastructure (pipelines and railways) are unable to handle the traffic. In fact, so much crude is being harvested and transported by rail that other goods are being pushed aside.
One of the goods that have been pushed aside is Canadian wheat. After years of drought, Canadian wheat farmers harvested a bumper crop in 2013 – about 50% larger than the average. While wheat farmers have access to 5,500 rail cars to move their wheat, they require access to 10,000 cars to ship out last year’s crop before it begins rot in the silo. To remedy the situation the Conservatives passed an order last week that is forcing rail companies to ship more wheat to ensure last year’s crop gets to market.
This was a good result for wheat farmers, but what about others who rely upon rail to get their products to market? Unfortunately, the special order issued last week by the Conservative government has simply passed the pain of the wheat farmers on to other sectors, and most notably the forestry sector. A few days after being told they had to ship more wheat CN rail announced an ‘embargo’ on forest products – lumber and pulp in particular – which means that they will simply stop shipping those goods for the time being. James Gorman, the President and CEO of the Council of Forest Industries, summed this situation best in one short sentence; “We’re sort of strangled here.” With the value of the lost forestry shipments coming in at $885 million per week it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
In closing, I hope you will join me this week at one of our town hall meetings before I head back to Ottawa where I will continue to work to help ALL Canadian industries get their goods to market in a timely, safe, and fair manner.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay – Rainy River