POLITICS
11/26/2019 09:02 EST | Updated 11/26/2019 12:54 EST

Frustrated Farmers Converge On Ottawa To Demand CN Rail Strike Action

There are concerns some growers may "never recover" from the disruption.

OTTAWA — Canadian farmers and producers are descending on Ottawa to press the case for urgent action to end the Canadian National Railway Co. rail strike now entering its second week.

On Tuesday afternoon, grain growers will hold a news conference in the nation’s capital to outline how the shutdown is impacting their industry, which is already struggling with a tough harvest.

“Farmers are on the front lines of this strike, relying on rail to move goods to markets all over the world,” the Grain Growers of Canada said in a statement.

“This disruption, coupled with a universally disastrous harvest could have an impact from which some farmers never recover. The time for government action is now.”

On Wednesday, members of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture are expected on Parliament Hill to do the same.

About 3,200 CN workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, walked off the job last Tuesday over concerns about long hours, fatigue and dangerous working conditions. CN estimates the company is now operating at 10 per cent of normal service along its 22,000 kilometre Canadian network.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
Farmers protest the ongoing CN Rail strike in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's riding office in Montreal on Monday.

The impact of the work stoppage is beginning to be felt across the agriculture industry. On Monday, fertilizer company Nutrien announced a two-week shutdown of its largest potash mine east of Regina because of the strike.

Agriculture groups and the Opposition Conservatives have been among those demanding that the Liberal government call the House of Commons back sooner than its Dec. 5 start date to legislate the employees back to work.

Three Maritime senators also signed a letter, dated yesterday, asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the same.

The senators from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island say propane reserves in the region are depleting and that the strike is disrupting supply chains and impacting trade at ports.

“Ideally, CN and its employees will reach an agreement soon. However, there must be a backup plan in the event that they do not,” the letter reads.

“Truck shipments from central Canada will be insufficient if demand for propane exceeds domestic Maritime production capacity.”

The Liberals have demurred, saying they want the two sides to reach an agreement.

“This would be the best for every party and the fastest solution,” Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau said Monday in Regina.

A Quebec farmers’ union protested outside of Trudeau’s Montreal office on Monday. The city is also home to CN’s headquarters where they protested over the weekend.

In Quebec, there are concerns the strike is leading to a propane shortage, affecting, among other things, farmers’ abilities to dry their crops.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Nov. 26, 2019.