FTLComm - Tisdale - December 21, 1999
By: Timothy W. Shire
The announcement Monday that Canadian National was to merge with Northern Burlington and Santa Fe is one of the most distasteful situations that we Canadians have had to experience since being drawn into World War I by England without any meaningful discussion by we as a people. No doubt you might consider my statement a bit alarmist but this is a serious and irreversible blow to Canadian sovereignty as we see the formation of the North American Railway (NAR).

Railways were the basic building blocks that went into confederation. At the end of the last century we had people along the St. Lawrence valley, some in the Maritimes and a few perched on the West coast cut off from the rest of British North America by the Rockies. BC agreed to join the country if the was a transportation link to the rest of what was to become the country. In 1885 the CP line was completed forming that link but that left a vast empty region North of the CP line and to make the area economically viable a railroad was to be constructed from Winnipeg to Edmonton and then to the coast that would have people living along that line and they would support the growth of the new nation.

The Great Northern Railway was soon in financial trouble as were several others and the Federal government decided that it was in the best interests of all people to have this second rail line and formed the Canadian National Railway. This crown corporation was to serve the country, it was not to produce profits but provide service to Canadians and knit the country hither and yon together. It was successful.

The voters of Canada elected a Quebec lawyer to the office of Prime Minister, a man who had made it his goal in life to serve and make everything Canadian American and under his regime the National railroad company was essentially given away. The main stock holders were to quickly become American and it acquired lines running all the way to the Mississippi delta.

Now that same company which was intended to build the country has entered into a merger with North Burlington and Santa Fe to form the largest railroad in North American with enough trackage to circle the globe twice. The president of CN reported in a press conference last night that it was necessary for CN to remain viable.

But the reality of this merger is not attractive. Northern Burlington and Santa Fe enjoy far higher rail shipping rates then does CN and once a merger takes place freight rates on CN will definitely rise more then 20% to equal those in the US. After all the right of way and trackage of CN was built and maintained by the people of Canada and CN's cost of operation with Canadian dollars is significantly lower.

Northern Burlington and Santa Fe have massive grain handling facilities at Seattle and Oakland and it is unlikely that they will continue to bother with Canadian seaports. Western wheat will find its way onto the system and routed through the US to US ports at US freight rates and the already stressed Canadian agricultural economy will see even more destruction.

As far as Eastern Canada goes this is a great deal because Northern Burlington and Santa Fe does not have an East coast destination and now Montreal and Halifax become American ports. You will notice that Canada's Eastern dominated news services think that this merger is a great deal and well they should as revenues will flow in their direction at about the same rate as they will see economic ruin West of Winnipeg.

The way this deal goes it will require approval by a number of American transportation agencies and will be given a brief review by Ottawa but it will be approved. No serious opposition will be voiced to the merger and you the people of Western Canada and taxpayers of Canada will be able to sleep a little less soundly knowing that what once was a completely viable and Canadian institution and servant of the country is now an American conglomerate.

This event with its favourable contribution to Upper Canada and disfavourable affect in Western Canada is yet another example of the loss of our country and what we have always considered it to be. Not only did Mulroney give us Free Trade and NAFTA but the sale of CN and Air Canada further illustrate the end of Canadian sovereignty With Canada being less and less it seems obvious that we have little choice but to consider what we must do if we are to preserve those elements of what our society could be.