CP exec says rail faces discrimination

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway president, Robert Ritchie, blasted the government for discriminating against rail during a presentation in Vancouver Nov. 19.

Speaking at a Western Transportation Advisory Council (WESTAC) event with provincial transportation ministers on-hand, Ritchie said Canada’s economic growth is being hampered by government’s taxation and investment policies which he says discriminate against rail.

Ritchie was particularly adamant the property taxes paid by CP are out of hand and fuel taxes vary wildly as well. He also said it’s unfair companies that ship by truck don’t have to pay property taxes for the use of highways and the fuel tax collected from the trucking industry goes into improving and expanding the highways.

That’s unfair, Ritchie blasts, because none of the fuel tax paid by the railways goes back into the rail network, with some of it actually being spent on highways instead. That’s one of the large reasons shippers tend to choose to ship by road rather than rail, he insists.

Ritchie went on to condemn the provincial transportation ministers on-hand, asking “Do you see yourselves as ministers of transportation or as ministers of highways?” He adds “As matters stand today, it is my distinct impression that public roads and highways are your primary focus.”

He labeled the fuel taxes and property taxes paid by the railway as “pure revenue grabs” since they aren’t put back into the rail network.

“I say, eliminate those rail taxes and let the rail industry put that money back into its infrastructure,” says Ritchie. “The return to governments in the form of economic growth would far exceed the foregone tax revenue.”

He went on to suggest the railways be freed of the tax and regulatory impediments he says are too constraining for the railways and limit the nation’s growth. He also said examining public-private partnerships is key to creating a more level playing field.

“Through such partnerships, we would be able to do more to expand and improve urban and inter-city passenger rail. We would be able to decongest the major arteries of truck traffic and at the same time make trucking more efficient by transporting trailers between terminals in major hubs,” he says. “We would be able to help governments reach their greenhouse gas emissions targets. We would be able to reduce congestion at border crossings and increase the speed of trade flow.”

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