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Manitoba ministers to monitor measures aimed at easing grain bottleneck

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government has tasked four cabinet ministers to monitor federal measures aimed at easing a rail transportation bottleneck that has left piles of grain sitting in bins across the Prairies.

The province says the ministers are to make sure the province's farmers get access to rail cars as they become available.

The four are also to make sure farmers in flood-prone areas get their grain moved and to help others in finding alternate storage for grain that might be at risk.

Meanwhile, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt told delegates at a rural municipality conference in Regina on Wednesday that the railways will be hard-pressed to meet the federal targets.

Last week, the federal government said it was forcing Canada's two main railway companies to double the amount of grain they ship in a week.

If CP and CN Rail don't meet that target, they face fines of up to $100,000 a day.

"It actually pushes them to their limit," said Raitt. "It's the highest amount that they've ever moved in terms of grain. They have not achieved this on a continuous basis so we are pushing them. (But) there's a certain point where if you push too hard the chain will break down."

Raitt promised the government will monitor the situation carefully.

"If we think they can push more cars, then I'm sure we'll go back and talk .. about pushing more cars through," she said.

Delegate Arlynn Kurtz suggested any fines imposed on the railways should go to farmers and not the federal government.

Another farmer, Louie McCaffrey, suggested the potential fine of $100,000 a day is not enough.

"It should be millions," he said, referring to the rail companies as "big super corporations."

"The farmer is always at the end of the line and getting a screw job."

Rail companies have said moving the biggest grain crop in history has been hampered by extreme cold.

(The Canadian Press, CKRM)

The Canadian Press

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