REGINA, Saskatchewan –  Transporting oil, and doing it safely, has captured national headlines recently, and rightly so.  Pipelines are too leaky, rail cars crash to often, and using Ass is just not practical enough. So with a limited number of transport modes, operators are using up capacity on just about everything they have access to – and therein lies the problem.

In recent months, prairie farmers have been unable to get bumper crops of grains to market due to lack of train space.  Most of the rail capacity is now used to move oil, which leaves a predicament for farmers with crops going rotten in storage.

A concept put forward by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has been gaining traction in Albert a and Manitoba, and might actually fly with British Columbia’s ECO Division.  Assign all rail cars to haul oil, and let them build the Northern Grainway.  In essence, it would use the same route as the much-debated Northern Gateway, but be used to move grains of all sorts from the prairies, to coastal shipping vessels for sale to foreign markets.  Farmers in Saskatchewan are excited at the prospect, but major infrastructure would need to be built to make a project feasible.

Thomas Weinerdoggen

There are more aspects to this than people think – all possible, but still complicated.

We would need to run miles of auguring assemblies through the whole pipeline to make sure the grain keeps moving, and we would also have to build better loading and terminal facilities for farmers to sell and ship their crops.  – Thomas Weinerdoggen, Farmers Assoc. of Swift Current


Proposed path for the Northern Grainway (which is the same path as the proposed Northern Gateway).

While Alberta and Manitoba have claimed to be sure supporters of the project, BC’s Christy Clark is not sure yet, as she sees no revenue yet again for her province.

Premier Christy Clark

We are taking all the risk yet again!  What if the pipeline breaks and then all of a sudden we have crops of Canola growing in place of our beloved, uhm… err…, trees?!  Yes. Trees!  Or a decimation of our flower population by a wired strain of Barley? There is no way in hell that my beautiful province is going to resemble Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and even the east part of Alberta for that matter. We will need to be compensated for such risks, and unless we are, I am not sure we can allow this plan either.  – Clark outside a Surrey massage parlour

The cost of the program is estimated at $500 billion, making it the most expensive farm related project in the history of mankind.  Advocates claim the benefit is worth the cost, but other suggest that a fraction of that money could be paid out to the 11 remaining farmers in Canada’s prairies and not have to worry about it at all.

As it currently stands, neither the Northern Gateway or the Northern Grainway are going to be breaking ground in 2014, or 2015 for that matter.  2P News will stay on top of this story and report back with developments as they become available.



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