(SIDNEY, B.C.) — Residents of B.C.’s Gulf Islands have something in common with Canada’s prairie grain farmers -- growing frustration over the the continuing failure of Canada’s rail freight system to move grain to the coast for export, the Green Party of Canada said today.
For the farmers, the grain backlog means big delays in getting their products to market and a direct hit on their bottom line. For the islanders, those delays mean that their pristine ocean landscape has been turned into a parking lot of container ships waiting for grain to arrive for shipment.
“Gulf Islanders are out of patience with all the container ships using free anchorages in residential and wilderness areas while they await grain at the ports,” said Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “I completely agree with recent public statements from Islands Trust Council Chair, Peter Luckham. These freighters are unwelcome and their presence is simply unacceptable.”
The problem is connected to the current crisis in getting grain to market. “The reality is that prairie grain farmers are allied with Gulf Islanders – whether we know it or not. The abject failure of CN to serve the needs of farmers in getting grain to ports on the BC coast leads to container ships using the Gulf Island anchorages as a parking lot while they await grain at the ports. As each vessel can have multiple holds, the container ships can be in and out of the Port of Vancouver several times to partially load grain shipments,” Ms. May added.
Nationally, concern has grown over the last several years as CN fails to meet market needs to get grain shipped. “A big part of our problem – losing money for everyone concerned, while reducing our local quality of life – is the the large private sector rail company and its habit of laying off hundreds of workers, engineers and conductors, only to have to bring some back on when the situation becomes a crisis,” added Ms. May.
The Green Party has been pressing for a more efficient national rail system, for freight and passengers, for years. In addition, much better regulation is needed for all large container ship traffic around the Gulf Islands, including for gypsum cargo transfers.
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