Public Hearing on Wheat Board Complaint to Begin March 30

OTTAWA -- OCTOBER 6, 1997 -- The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) has rescheduled a public hearing into the complaint by the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) against the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP).

The hearing, originally scheduled for August 1997, will now begin March 30, 1998. A legal challenge, the need for the CWB to retain new counsel, and the unavailability of key railway personnel during winter months has left the Agency with no choice but to postpone the hearing to March 30 when all parties will be available.

The August hearing date was cancelled as a result of allegations by CP that CWB's legal counsel was in a conflict of interest. The Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench upheld CP's motion and the CWB's counsel withdrew from the case. In mid-September, the CWB's newly-retained legal counsel informed the Agency that there was not enough time to properly prepare and represent his client at a proposed November hearing.

At a meeting in Ottawa on October 2, 1997, CN and CP explained their opposition to a January hearing date proposed by the Agency. CN said that during the winter months, their operational managers were needed in their jobs running the railway and not tied up preparing for and attending a lengthy public hearing. CP said it was planning to call approximately 24 operational managers as witnesses and agreed with CN that operational employees are required in their positions during the winter period. CWB counsel agreed that the CWB would not want a January hearing if it would contribute to unsafe and unreliable rail operations.

Although the Agency would prefer a hearing at an earlier date, it has determined that proceeding in either November or January would prejudice either the CWB or the railways. Consequently, the Agency has determined that the hearing will begin March 30 in Saskatoon. It has also lifted the stay of proceedings that has been in place since June and has asked CN, CP and the CWB to begin the production of documents.

In its complaint filed with the Agency in April 1997, the CWB says that the railways failed to meet their service obligations for the transport of grain this past winter. This complaint was filed pursuant to sections 26, 37 and sections 113 to 116 of the Canada Transportation Act.

The Agency is a federal, quasi-judicial tribunal. Its procedures are governed by the rules of natural justice which ensure that all parties in a complaint are dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.





For more information: Charles Mojsej, CTA Spokesperson (819) 953-9961

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