07.24.2014 07:42 PM

In Friday’s Sun: spare a thought for Moose Jaw

MOOSE JAW, SASK. – As you head into town here, there’s bright yellow canola sprouting on one side of the highway, and bluish flax to be seen on the other side. There’s winter wheat, too, but it’s a bit harder to spot at this time of year.

The Saskatchewan sky goes on forever and ever, and it’s frankly more simply beautiful than anything you’ll see almost anywhere else. Our pilot, Dane, takes a hand off the wheel and waves in the direction of the canola and the flax and the wheat.

“Five bucks a bushel,” says Dane Friese, who pronounces his first name as Dean. Dane has lived in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and a few other places besides, and finally came home to Moose Jaw, flat broke, a few years ago. He now ferries folks between Regina’s airport and Moose Jaw. He points again at the crop.

“Saskatchewan is an agricultural province,” he says, while acknowledging the significance of potash. “And the farmers can’t even get their crop to market.”

The reason why is surprising – or, at least it was to his eastern visitors. All of the trains are ferrying oil to refineries, he says. Hardly anything else. So the crops stay warehoused in Saskatchewan grain elevators, and farmers can’t find an economical way to get it out.

Welcome to the Keystone XL/Northern Gateway paradox: in their (efficient and effective) campaign to demonize pipelines for Alberta oil, some environmentalists – aided and abetted by a lazy U.S. Congress, and the glamour of Hollywood stars – are hurting the environment-loving people who are closest to the land. Here, Saskatchewan farm families.

If the oil patch can’t ship their product via a pipeline, they find other ways. Oil’s like water; it always finds a way out.

So they send it east and west via rail. And, accordingly, there are no rail cars to carry Saskatchewan canola, wheat or flax to market.

Around here, all of this has resulted in a massive backlog of undelivered grain. The situation has grown so grave, Premier Brad Wall has demanded the federal government intervene. Saskatchewan farmers, he simply says, “would like to get paid for their hard work.”

Outside the Prairies, many Canadians and Americans are candid about all of this: they simply don’t care. They object to the existence of the tar sands, and wish to stop a pipeline at all costs. In Maine, just this week, city councillors in South Portland took steps to stop Alberta oil from being shipped through the state’s largest port.

They may not care about the implications for the families who live in or around Moose Jaw. But they should care, perhaps, about the possible consequences of oil being shipped by rail through the neighbourhoods where they live, and work, and raise their children.

The catastrophe that befell faraway Lac-Megantic provides the most powerful cautionary tale about allowing millions of barrels of oil to be shipped via rail car. People should know, by now, the dangers that are associated with the status quo.

A pipeline like Keystone would move enough oil, in a single day, to avoid having to make use of 4,200 railway cars to move the same amount. Lac-Megantic provides a compelling argument for finally doing so.

If that is not enough, those railway cars could also be to finally transport landlocked Saskatchewan grain to market, too.

That may not be as powerful a reason as Lac-Megantic. But the folks around here, like Dane, would appreciate it if you gave it some thought.


  1. smelter rat says:

    The dissolution of the CWB is also a factor, as there is no longer a hammer to hold over the rail companies heads. As for shipping tar by rail vs pipeline, that truth of the matter is that neither method is safe. The billions spent subsidizing the tar sands would be far better spent developing alternatives. The oil will run out eventually, and we’ll be well and truly fucked at that point if we don’t get off that crap.

  2. Arnold Murphy says:

    All part of the Conservative Plan, Warren. It goes hand in hand with Brad Wall removing the limitation on the acreage limit corporate farms could buy. The small family farm is the target, and a lot of farmers realize that. I even hear it parroted by some of the implement dealers in their radio ads, not catering to corporate farms but the family farm. If a family farm cannot get it’s grain to market, they should just sell out to one of Randy Hobacks old lobby friends in the Wheat Board deregulation fiasco. After all the corporate farms, may syndicates of Conservative friends will always be able to weather the short term storm, that is the intent. Bankrupt the family farm, make them beholden to a litany of desks that eventually will fix the price of their commodity somewhere near break even, because that is how corporations work. Just like Walmart they will guarantee the lowest price, not the fairest price and be sure it will the the family farmer and the small Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta Farmers and Towns that will take the hit. It’s about control, the monopoly of the farmer representative Wheat Board was not the monopoly they wanted, the want a big business model, under an Umbrella of corporates all answering to shareholders or should I say Oligarchs.

  3. JH says:

    Interesting poll out today says that Canadians prefer a pipeline option over any other by a margin of 10% or more. It’s also interesting to read in US papers that those opposed to pipelines and claiming to be envoirmentalists are in fact big time owners of the rail cars being used to carry oil. No doubt I’m just obtuse (being a very simple man) but I kind of have to wonder are some of our politicians deliberately putting their best interests against the country’s? If so, given recent polls etc., I have to think the folks are not being fooled as much as some might like to think. My daddy used to say you can’t lose your way by going in a straight line, but sure can lose yourself with a lot of crooked turns. Maybe that’s why he liked PET so much, while not always agreeing with him. He thought he was a shoot straight from the hip kind of guy. Not many like that anymore.

  4. Kelly says:

    This was never a problem before the Wheat board got chopped and CN was privatised and farmers lost control of the grain companies. This was planned. It was orchestrated and the average farmer is getting the shaft. The railways used to handle over 9,000 cars a month and the wheat board was guaranteed an allocation. Now the railways can’t handle 5,000. Sorry Warren, Keystone won’t solve this problem. All that will happen is the railways will re-price and keep the business. Farmers have no political clout anymore.

  5. Steve T says:

    What an excellent and accurate post, Warren. Living in Winnipeg, and working in the agricultural sector, I can attest that your post hits the nail on the head.

    Even if not for the very tangible and negative impact on agriculture, the objections to Keystone XL are still ridiculous. As you point out, this is a campaign largely driven by those who have the least skin in the game. Politicians, celebrities, and well-meaning but misguided environmentalists – all of whom really don’t lose anything if Keystone dies.

    Sadly, as with many other issues of this type, the people who have the most to lose are too busy leading productive lives, so they don’t have the time or resources to promote their cause. Instead, those with a lot of spare time and money jump on the “anti” bandwagon, and politicians are too scared (or too ignorant) to call bullshit on them

    • davidray says:

      Wrong. Those who have most to lose are ten and under and have no voice. yet. but they will.

      mining oil puts poison in the sky.
      let’s call it what it is. Tarcocide.

    • islandcynic says:

      Wrong. The future of Canada has the most to loose with Keystone with all that raw resource exported leaving a huge environmental mess.

      What more do you want anyway? Both Liberals and Cons want Keystone and that’s a lot of politicians.

  6. Christian Giles says:

    Have to disagree Warren. Wheat cannot be shipped in cars that carry oil! Oil is moved in separate rail cars (the infamous DOT 1-11 being the most well known for oil shipments). Rail companies move products by unit train now (meaning they assemble one train with 100 or so cars of the same product). The wheat farmers could organize together to have a unit train(s) assembled. But they would need some form of organizing body say a wheat board. The CWB was dismembered by Harper and the enthusiastic support of some grain farmers. If Brad Wall is crying now he has only his ideological brothers in Ottawa to blame. Don’t help Harper and his oil loving supporters by putting the blame on pipeline opponents (most of whom in the case of Northern Gateway are First Nations).

  7. davie says:

    When Mulcair mentioned ‘dutch disease,; and the conservatives twisted his words completely into what amounted to a flat out lie, I longed for a reporter or journalist, anywhere in our media, to ask the conservative yakking what she or he understood ‘dutch disease’ to refer to in economic terms. No media person asked, so no conservative had to answer, and they tarred Mulcair with sliming oil field workers and the west.

    There really are people who cannot figure out why an increasing number of people regard the mainstream media as irrelevant.

    Any resource industry, or single industry that has all the emphasis, is going to drain resources from other economic activities, and reduce a community to a single economic activity community.

    • davie says:

      Right…that si the kind of thing that was levelled at Mulcair (et moi, aussi, it seems): If you are not wearing your “I support the oil industry board room 100%” tee shirt, then that means you want to completely destroy the oil industry.

      I use the oil industry as an example, because that is where the phrase originated, with Netherland’s experience with offshore oil and gas. I lived over 4 decades in the oil patch, and I saw how difficult it was for enterprise outside of oil and gas to make a go of it. It is a bit more challenging to a ranch or farm family to hang on to an operation when they have to pay oil field prices for everything.
      More widely, over emphasis on a single industry can affect wider aspects of the economy, such as the currency value, which, in turn, adversely affects other sectors of an economy.
      A number of African countries have had this happen with oil, and with other single commodity extraction and export based economies. I suspect Russia is in some trouble, with way too much reliance on the oil and gas extraction and export. It is why North America is making noises about replacing Europe’s reliance on Russian exports with reliance on North American exports.
      I think it useful for us to look at our increasing reliance on this one commodity’s export as the basis for our economy. I think, too, that denying that ‘dutch disease’ might be affecting us is harmful to us.
      In this instance, of grain movement being hobbled by the emphasis on oil movement, we have an example of what I am talking about.
      By the way, what is your definition of the economic phenomenon called ‘dutch disease?’

      ( I am no longer living I the oil patch. I am now living in a more southerly clime, on a retirement pension funded by you fellows who are still working your butts off. Thanks, pal.

  8. Nora Slade says:

    It’s not a shortage of grain carrying rail cars, it’s a shortage of locomotives. Perhaps SK’s Brad Wall could buy locomotives and rent them to the rail companies to move the grain to market.

    Caterpillar/EMD in London ON used to build locomotives until Obama’s “Buy American” legislation enticed them back to the USA and the London plant was shut down. See how the circles come around?!

  9. Joe says:

    Well said Warren. I have a lot of friends still on the farm who echo what you just posted. Oh and BTW the CWB has been a cock up since its inception. I can remember years ago when bumper crops sat in farmer’s bins because the CWB couldn’t be bothered to sell it nor would the railways move it. Then when the CWB did sell it it was purchased with Canadian money ‘loaned’ to foreign countries. One other thing is that most farms are now incorporated as well as being family run. With larger and larger equipment fewer and fewer farmers are needed to bring in the crops. The fact however is that of all the ways to move crude oil train is one of the least safe ways of doing it. The only two less safe ways is by the open bucket or by truck.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Stopped by to compliment your column, Warren. Well said!

      My daughter once upon a time worked for CP Rail, had to deal with the CWB regularly. Bottom line, in short order she came to pretty much despise their dictatorial arrogance. You know, the kind of mentality that is inevitably bred by the power of monopoly, whereby one can declare their s**t doesn’t stink as gospel, and that’s the end of it because what is anyone going to do about it anyway. Socialists certainly love monopolies when they’re the ones in the driver’s seat, don’t they?

      Again, sure would love to see a study done to assess just how many tens, if not hundreds, of billions in lost employment, family incomes and government revenues modern environmentalism has cost Canadians. I’ve no doubt the numbers would be staggering.

      But I’m also sure the usual suspects would declare that the moral superiority invoked was worth every penny…albeit as long as it was someone else’s pennies and not their own, as they naively prefer to think.

      • doconnor says:

        If you think the cost of environmentalism is high, wait until you see the $10s of billions that global warming will cost Canada.

        • Al in Cranbrook says:


          I say this in all seriousness: The only money so-called “AGW” will cost us is the money we waste on it for what boils down to no more good purpose than to stroke incredibly narcissistic egos.

          Suggestion: Before accepting climate change is caused by human activity, take a bit of time to learn how much global climate has changed, whether warming or cooling, since the final stages of the last ice age, circa 8,000 BC. To maintain some semblance of perspective regarding climate change over the next century, one must first be knowledgeable regarding the history of global climate over the preceding millennia(s). Doing so, it will quickly become apparent that whatever change we’ve seen in climate since 1850 (zero for the last 18 years) when this latest warming trend began, absolutely pales in comparison to climatic events over the last 10,000 years.

          • doconnor says:

            Climate does change, but there is always a reason. This time the evidence suggests it is us (there are some sciencists who have suggested some of other climate events in the last 10,000 years was us, too).

            You seem to deny there is warming, deny humans are causing the warming and deny anything like a carbon tax will help solve the problem. That suggests you are blinded by your idology and aren’t thinking things through rationally.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:

            AGW is an ideology, no more, no less.

            And Scot, unlike chronic knotheads such as yourself, I’ve studied both sides of the arguments.

            Indeed, if there’s one recurring theme, it is that a great many skeptics were first believers in AGW. I was. It was when it descended into hysterical AGW fundamentalist extremism that I concluded I needed to look into ALL the facts.

            I quickly became convinced it’s pretty much a load of crap.

  10. !o! says:

    This has NOTHING to do with pipelines, and EVERYTHING to do with Harper destroying the CWB monopoly, which previously oversaw logistics, and guaranteed transport to market.

    • !o! says:

      should add, I may live in TO at the moment, but I’m from rural Alberta, and our family have been farming for four generations. The pipeline story has been repeated ad nauseum, but people know what’s going on.

      I could also add, that a large majority of farmers OPPOSED getting rid of the CWB monopoly, which is why there is currently several court cases disputing the legality of legislating away the monopoly without sending it to a general vote for farmers, which was contractually guaranteed. The reason it was so opposed is exactly what we’re seeing now.

      • !o! says:

        A similar situation HAS happened in the past, in 1996, with similarly difficult winter conditions and large amounts of grain competing with fossil fuel transportation, but in that case, the CWB advocated for producers, and CP was found to have been in breach of the agreement that it provide the CWB with a transport quota: http://www.cta.gc.ca/eng/ruling/475-r-1998

        As a policy, weakening the CWB was transparently DESIGNED to allow this kind of thing.

        • Lyndon Dunkley says:

          Ask your four generation farmer family how much flax and canola they sold to CWB. You’ve been in Toronto too long.

          • !o! says:

            Let me break this down for you simply, since I don’t think you’re as obtuse as the comment suggests.

            If all the wheat had shipped via guaranteed capacity thru the wheat board, all that wheat would not be sitting here in silos clogging up (non-guaranteed) rail capacity.

            In other words, if more stuff had shipped, there would now be less stuff to ship. Does that make sense?

          • Joe says:

            Bwahahahaha you’re ignorance is showing again. The CWB did NOT guarantee shipping or selling of product. If as you claim you came from a farming background you would know that the CWB limited how much you could ship and to whom you could sell. You may have had a 30 bushel crop but if the CWB set your quota at 15 bushels you had to keep your wheat in the bin and couldn’t even sell it to a local flour mill. You couldn’t even sell it to you neighbour to feed his pigs. A fellow I went to school with runs a successful mixed farm in east central Alberta and was asked by the PM to advise on the CWB. All the other farmers that I went to school with gave the same advise. Get rid of the CWB posthaste and forthwith. It was a wartime anachronism that needed to be gone.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:


            You have to remember that the CWB only applied to prairie farmers, apparently Ontario and points east didn’t need such conventions.

            You might mention also that one sold his grains for the price the CWB decided to give them, period.

            Forget that anyone daring to sell their grain elsewhere pretty much went to prison, you know, like they were some kind of societal vermin or the like. (Every time this comes up, images of Stalinist Russia come to mind for some reason…not only in Canada, you say?)

          • !o! says:

            Even if you opposed the CWB monopoly, you need to concede that it created a great deal of transportation efficiency for producers. If you look at CNR and CP annual reports, the number of cars of grains is down from 2012, despite the bumper crop year 2013 was.

            You’re essentially arguing semantics when you say that there is no guaranteed capacity. Capacity wasn’t legislated, no, it was and is negotiated year by year with a framework of legal guidelines. (I assume that) you know damn well that the single desk CWB was successful in allocating more cars for producers– this was one of the reasons the CWB was created in the first place.

            At the end of the day, the government broke the system and created the mess we’re looking at now. There are no two ways about it. Their measures to legislate in extra shipments have been woefully inadequate, and nobody can really dispute that it’s a (shitty) band-aid solution at best.

          • Lyndon Dunkley says:

            Two of the three crops mentioned in this article were not marketed by the CWB in any significant volumes so to suggest the situation has everything to do with the CWB shows your ignorance, your tone just shows you’re an asshole.

  11. Patrice Boivin says:

    Maybe we need more rail infrastructure? Of course most goods want to travel North-South, not East-West or West-East, which probably makes it more unlikely that rail companies will want to go through all the trouble of laying down more rail lines. Maybe they are hoping that eventually pipelines will be built, that this is just temporary; if it is, why invest millions (billions?) in laying down new rail lines which may never be fully used in just a few decades.

    I believe some rail companies in the US tried to get governments to build lines for them with all that frenzied talk of high-speed trains which didn’t make any sense for most travelers. Really though it was about getting taxpayers’ funds to lay down new high-quality rail lines which could be used to move cargo.

    • !o! says:

      Heh… maybe we DO need more rail infrastructure.

      The whole trans-canada trail thing? We used to have a rail line to nearly every community of large enough size, and another east-west rail link. They were all ripped up and converted to walking trails. It’s so shortsighted, it’s not as though the transport demand has diminished, we now just ship more by highway as a result, which costs a hell of a lot more to maintain, and has a much higher per-unit transport cost. Most countries are building larger rail capacity…

  12. Jerry says:

    There are thousands of piple line natuural gas and oil spills across North America every year, big and small that never get reported, the whole industry is a catastrophe, by rail or by pipe. A continuously recurring disaster that only the hegemony of North American media prevents from becoming known, Keith Davies warned there’d be consequences like this from media consolidation, but on that disaster goes too. Welcome to Corporatism.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      You’re right. Indeed, I think we should just shut down everything. No more nuclear plants because of Three Mile Island, no more hydro electric development because we’d have to cut down some trees and move a few people, no more coal fired plants, no more oil sands, no more…???…pretty much anything involving “risk”!

      Yay! Just imagine how happy we’d all be! You know, shivering in the dark waiting for the wind to blow and/or the sun to shine so we could scrape up enough electricity to boil some water for three squares of gruel! Not to mention waiting for our EI and/or welfare cheques, to arrive, presumably, by pony express.

      Yep, my kinda utopian dreamland!

    • Joe says:

      You do realize just how stringent reporting on spills has become don’t you. Some guy doing maintenance on a machine knocks over a jug of oil and it is reported as a pipeline oil spill. So your ‘thousands of oil spills’ doesn’t really mean a whole bunch. On the other hand the people in Lac Megantic have real evidence of the dangers of moving oil by train. Of course the people along Lake Wabamum west of Edmonton have also had the pleasure of dealing with a train derailment oil spill.

  13. Steve T says:

    To those who are blaming this situation on the demise of the CWB, can you please explain how the Wheat Board had the magic power to conjure up railcars out of thin air?

    They didn’t, of course, and as Joe has indicated above, the main issue is locomotives not railcars. As for the CWB’s guaranteed railcar allocation – first, the same thing can (and has) been done through legislation in absence of the CWB. Second, for anyone who really saw and understood how the CWB functioned, it was obvious they embodied everything that goes along with a government-assured monopoly. The inefficiencies and odd behaviour were breathtaking.

    Again, it makes no sense to force oil onto railcars, when a pipeline can be built. If it were possible to build a grain pipeline, would we have all these protests? This anti-Keystone campaign has more to do with dislike of fossil fuels than anything specifically related to the pipeline.

    • !o! says:

      The CWB has an agreement with rail carriers to guarantee capacity, and the CWB advocates in cases of carrier discrimination. There was a case in the past where CP was found to be in breach of their obligations. I linked the findings above (http://www.cta.gc.ca/eng/ruling/475-r-1998). With a diminished CWB, the rail capacity that the CWB is allocated is diminished, and it has less capacity to advocate cases of carrier discrimination. This was the entire cynical point of weakening the CWB.

      • Joe says:

        Fat lot of good any agreements the CWB and the railways have. The grain still isn’t moving. Believe me it isn’t the ‘diminished CWB’ that is at fault. There is only so much rail line capacity which means that shipping goes to the highest bidder. Right now oil can out bid grain on transportation costs so guess which product gets moved. The only way around that is to increase capacity by either building more railways or building pipelines. I suppose we could get a whole bunch of hopper bottom trailers and haul grain by truck but that might not be so good on the environment.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      The anti-Keystone campaign is entirely about encumbering Canada’s oil sands development, end of story! The ecowhackos are against Northern Gateway pipeline, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and any pipeline to the east.

      Some suggest building refinery capacity here in Canada. Ha ha! Good luck with that! They will be against that, too, sure as the sun rises in the east.

      Personally, I want a full scale investigation into EXACTLY who is funding the major eco activist organizations in North America. I will bet dollars to doughnuts that tens of millions are being laundered from middle east oil producing nations looking to protect their own bank accounts. We’ve already heard from a top dog of NATO that Russian money is being funneled into such organizations in order to cripple shale gas development in Europe. Indeed, several nations, including the Czech Republic have already banned fracking.

      Bottom line, IMHO, is that the environmental movement in the west is seen a no more than a collection of useful idiots by said interests. Amen!

      • George T. says:

        Al, you have said a lot in this thread about bogus science, ecowhackos, propaganda and lies. You’ve also said you’ve looked at both sides of the AGW issue. If you don’t mind a personal question, what are your credentials, science-wise? OK, there are lots of people with degrees in this and that who are fools. So then what is your professional experience that qualifies you to make these judgements? Just aakin’ Because floating opinions as facts can’t get you a dime’s worth of attention in, you know, a real scientific debate, which evidently we are not having here, because of a lack of citing sources.

        • Al in Cranbrook says:


          So I gather the operating assumption is, one must have scientific credentials to be skeptical of AGW, but one does not need the same to agree with it? Did I miss something?

          And Al Gore’s scientific credentials are? Daryl Hannah’s? Andrew Coyne’s? Justin Trudeau’s?

          In the recent past I’ve cited all kinds of sources here, pretty much always facts/data from scientific sources, rarely “opinions”. I quickly learned nobody ever follows the links to see for themselves, but nevertheless will still criticize them. Frankly, when one is pumping their ideology/religion du jour, confirmation bias is generally the rule of thumb. I’ve posted a peer reviewed survey of scientists on the subject (97% is pure hogwash!), NASA data, historical and geological references. Pretty much a waste of time. It’s all out there, anyone can look it up themselves in a matter of seconds or minutes…if they actually care to.

          IOW, been there, done that.

          Besides, as Scot pointed out to the forum, there’s not two sides to AGW. Who knew, eh? Silly me!

          • George T. says:

            Al, I don’t mean to be a nit-picker, but credentials matter. If I may indulge you with a personal example: right now I am suffering from a slight hernia acquired on a recent canoe trip. Friends are offering lots of well-intentioned free advice, but the ones I pay the most attention to are those who work in health care Fortunately two of the guys on the canoe trip had the wisdom to marry doctors. These women have offered their counsel and I take them seriously. Why? Because they have serious qualifications. My friend who is a poet and suggested herbal remedies and colour therapy? Not so much.

            As the matter under discussion here (anthro-genic global warming) is just a tad more serious (pro or con) than my tiny hernia, I don’t think I am being an uptight ass in asking for your credentials. I have read that 98% of the world’s climate scientists (with lots of initials after their names) think that the world is warming up too fast and that human activity is the cause. That’s good enough for me. I don’t have any climate science initials after my name. Do you?

          • Domenico says:

            You cannot convince the good professor by explaining where the science and the actual experts converge on the issue. He will believe what he wants and what Fox News tells him to.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:


            97% is absolute crap. Blows my mind that anyone would believe such idiotic drivel!


        • Kaspar Juul says:

          You must be new to the lectures of Professor Cranbrook.

          • Al in Cranbrook says:

            George, meet Kaspar.

            His favorite shtick is to demand proof so that he can then have the pleasure of totally ignoring it.

            He’s much more into ankle biting, but not in as sophisticated a manner as perhaps a chihuahua.

          • Kaspar Juul says:

            Funny Al. You’ve neverroven an argument of yours. Home made charts, articles from alien abduction blogs, opinion columns, hearsay and anecdotes are only proof at the university of Cranbrook. Then there was your hilarious predictions,

            Funny as always, never able to prove himself. Keep is up Professor. Good to know I’m getting under your skin

  14. Lyndon Dunkley says:

    Do we really want all this dirty gluten going through our towns and cities? What if there’s an accident and a Celiac gets a rash?

  15. david ray says:

    Warren. Yes Saskatchewan is beautiful but before you go all Oil Can Harry on us please visit Howe Sound during a winter storm or Ucluelet on West Van Island when the Ocean chop is running 30 or 40 feet and tell me again how a tanker carrying bitumen from Keystone won’t sink and will you or any of your readers be there to clean up the mess from the bottom of Douglas Sound when the inevitable happens? Nah, didn’t think so.

  16. jack says:

    The CWB did have clout and those with clout usually use it sometimes. The oil companies are doing that with no doubt right now also. And don’t think this will be solved by Gateway. No railway is building cars or transporting oil without a long term deal. And that gives oil companies clout. And it loads railways for the long term.

    Without the CWB farmers are left on their owns and have no negotiating power as individuals. They are charged way more for transport and they market on their own….their costs are much higher. And their revenue? Also dropped as they deal with huge corporations who are offering less than before.

    The only farmers I have talked to (of many) that are seeing a better deal are those living close to a market…like close to the US border.

    It is a supply and demand thing but has gone from a centralized group that looked after marketing and transport to no coordination and big corporations using oligopolistic power to lower the price and raise their profits. Its not free market, never was and never will be. Just like cell phones, power, etc.

    • Joe says:

      Jack that is the silliest bit of drivel on this whole CWB debate! How stupid to you take farmers to be? The vast majority of farmers wanted the power of the CWB severely trimmed so the farmers could exercise their own power in looking after their own best interest. I was talking to a local baker who is into the latest green causes. He is thrilled that he can now go to a local specially flour mill and buy special flour made from contract grain grown locally. I didn’t get into what made the grain special but I assume it not treated with any chemicals in its planting, growing, harvesting. During the reign of the CWB the baker couldn’t buy the flour because the flour mill didn’t exist because the mill couldn’t buy the grain to make the flour. Now if the mill wanted a million tonnes……. Nobody who is a serious farmer is doing any excessive crying over the curtailing of the CWB’s monopoly. The CWB still exists by the way and any farmer who wants to can sell to it anytime (s)he wants.

      • !o! says:

        “The vast majority of farmers wanted the power of the CWB severely trimmed”

        Well that’s just a lie. That’s not true in any sense of the word.

        64% prefer keeping a single desk system: http://www.producer.com/2005/02/farmers-divided-on-cwb-poll/
        52% strong support vs. 14% strong opposition to single desk system: http://www.swiftcurrentonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1247&Itemid=52
        62% favour keeping single desk: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/prairie-farmers-vote-to-keep-canadian-wheat-board/article556370/

        The only poll (run by BASF no less!) that showed support for an open market only polled producers with over 2000 acres, which is a tiny minority of actual producers.

        This is actually the reason there is currently a 17 billion dollar lawsuit against the feds for eliminating the wheat board without consulting farmers since it arguably constitutes appropriation of assets.

        • Joe says:

          Well if you listen to the CWB they think they are indispensable. I am very well connected to current farmers throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan and I have yet to hear from one suggesting that the CWB with monopoly was a good thing. What has made off board crops so popular was the fact that you can use the markets to your advantage instead of having to supply only the amount allowed at the price offered or go directly to jail for selling your own property. I have talked to a lot of old timers who recount how they used to live in fear of the CWB because they needed money to feed their kids but they couldn’t sell the wheat they had sitting in the bin. Then there was the old initial payment/final payment debacle where you sold your product at a discount only to recoup some money later IF the CWB sold wheat at a profit. You could look at the commodity exchange and see that wheat was selling for $5.00 a bushel but when you hauled the wheat to the elevator you got $2.50 per bushel now and a year later you got another $1.00 per bushel because the CWB averaged the price of wheat and you drew the short straw meaning you lost $1.50 per bushel because you couldn’t sell your own wheat on the open market and the CWB was too busy giving Canadian money to Russia for Russia to use to buy Canadian wheat. You see Russia fit the CWB’s ideal of a huge market and only one buyer. Of course there was the small issue of the buyer not having any money but that little problem was no problem at all if you have the nation’s purse strings at you disposal.

  17. mrburnsns says:

    The worst enemy of Keystone XL is TransCanada itself. If the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan are looking for someone to blame, they should look no further than the company that has done its best to be nasty, confrontational and obnoxious in getting this project built. That does not fly south of the 49th and they are an easy target for a diverse range of groups to smack around as a result. Will it get built? Maybe. Does the average American care about the danger of oilcars moving through Lac Megantic or South Portland or the bad neighbourhood in the next town over? Nope. Does the average state or federal politician care about towns like South Portland or Lac Megantic? Definitely not. Unless it’s going to result in cheaper oil, and it’s not clear that it would for some regions of the U.S., then no one is going to go out on a limb politically to save TransCanada from its own mess.

    Sincerely, a former TransCanada shareholder.

  18. ottlib says:

    First, the opponents to the dismantling of the CWM did warn that one of the impact of its dismantling would be increased difficulty in getting grain to market. So, the current problems should not be a surprise. I am assuming that the voters in rural Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta were paying attention to all sides of the argument about the CWM so they probably heard that warning. Yet, they kept sending politicians who promised to dismantle the CWM, namely Conservative politicians, to Ottawa and if the polls are to be believed they are probably going to do it again in 2015. They were warned, they chose to ignore the warning so I find it very difficult to find any kind of sympathy for their situation.

    Second, the Harper government has completely dropped the ball on the pipeline issue. With Keystone they took the same approach to its US opponents as they to towards domestic opponents. What might work with the Liberals and NDP will not work with senior Obama officials and senior Democrats in Congress. For the pipelines to the West coast, they were non-starters from the beginning and it was going to take alot of subtlety, tact and diplomacy to change minds. As we all know this government does none of those.

    • Joe says:

      Well ottlib the CWB warned it would be the end of Canada, the end of the world, the beginning of Armageddon, that the sun wouldn’t rise and great wooly mammoths would trample the crops in Western Canada. Put another way “even a blind squirrel finds an occasional acorn”.

  19. Choosetheright says:

    I think sometimes well meaning people like these environmentalist thought some how they would stop oil production by stopping pipelines being built

    Unfortunately the result was oil was just shipped by another means which kills people and results in more spills than pipelines

    Obviously people around the world need a energy source and at this time oil is what is in demand

    Environmentalists need to pick a mode of transportation for oil that is he safest

    In my mind as a environmentalist we should lobby that more pipelines are built to reduce the number of spills as pipelines are by far the safest and cleanest way to move hydrocarbons

    Being against everything isn’t a solution

    • doconnor says:

      The environmentalists should have focused on sigificantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Achieving that and the problems with the tar sands and the pipelines would solve themselves because the most expensive sources of oil would be the first to get shutdown.

    • Steve T says:

      “Being against everything isn’t a solution”

      Excellent phrase. I may borrow it.

  20. Bill MacLeod says:

    Hi Warren:

    You’re a smart fellow — if only because you ask questions and listen to wise fellows. 😉

    Your taxi-driver friend is correct about the rail cars. I worked until very recently in downtown Winnipeg and went to the Forks for lunch and coffee every day for over a decade, a trek that took me alongside the CN mainline for about 400 metres. I can tell you this.

    #1. Rail traffic has increased significantly in the past few years.
    #2.Whereas most of the cars going by in the early 2000s were grain cars, followed by lumber flat-beds and general freight, they are now oil tankers and general freight cars.
    #3. I believe most of the rail cars carrying crude petroleum are from the Bakken in North Dakota. That certainly was the route taken by the ill-fated Lac Megantic shipment. (If only that train were filled with oil sands crude.)

    People can spin this situation however they want, but the fact remains that the oil is going to reach an eager market one way or another.

    A government gets to help decide the “how” but if it interferes to the point of impacting the “when” or (God forbid) the “if” — then woe betide it. The consumers of petroleum get very grumpy if their supply is disrupted or gets more expensive.

    But of course, you know all that.

    Regards, and congratulations to your daughter!


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