NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says Prime Minister Stephen Harper has let down Prairie farmers who are having trouble moving their grain to market.
Speaking in Winnipeg, Mulcair said "the frustration felt by Manitoba farmers is extraordinary right now."
Farmers harvested a bumper crop last summer but have been unable to deliver it to the elevator. Meanwhile, ships at the West Coast have waited in vain to load up as the grain pipeline has clogged.
Only recently has the Harper government acted by imposing grain shipping performance targets on the two national railways.
Mulcair, speaking at the Manitoba Legislative Building alongside Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, said the federal government has failed to act as a champion for farmers in its responsibility for rail transport.
The failure comes after shutting down the Canadian Wheat Board, which stood up to the railways and gave farmers "a similar weight and strength" in negotiations with CN and CP, he said.
But even with the wheat board’s demise, Ottawa could have still acted to protect farmers, Mulcair said.
"The federal government’s belief that the free market can (solve everything) has simply failed to look at the fact that the railways are in it for a profit, and they’re not going to look at the national interest," Mulcair said.
"It’s the federal government that does that. And the federal government under Stephen Harper is the first government in Canadian history to be unable to move grain to market."
Mulcair said the grain movement problems also have implications for the future, as longtime valued Canadian customers, such as Japan, are already seeking alternative suppliers, such as the United States.