The situation is extremely worrisome and it is urgent the government of Canada settle it. We cannot wait another week.”
Quebec’s Union des municipalités (UMQ) on Friday urged the Trudeau government to quickly end the shutdown of freight and passenger rail service in the province sparked by protests over a pipeline project in British Columbia.
After meeting on Friday with Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez, Trudeau’s Quebec lieutenant, Ste-Julie mayor and UMQ interim-president Suzanne Roy issued a statement saying, “Today we see the strategic importance the rail network has on out economy.
“Certain businesses cannot continue their operations and there is a risk of a shortage of propane, chlorine and food products. The situation is extremely worrisome and it is urgent the government of Canada settle it. We cannot wait another week.”
On Thursday, Canadian National Railways (CN) announced it would be phasing out freight deliveries to eastern Canada because of First Nations protests near their tracks that have lasted much of the week. Via Rail passenger service quickly followed suit, ending its operations nationwide. Commuter rail service on the Candiac commuter line has been suspended until further notice after a blockade erected Monday on Canadian Pacific tracks in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake effectively ended its operations.
Blockade organizers across Canada have said they’re acting in solidarity with those opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation near Houston, B.C.
The UMQ is seeking to be updated daily by Ottawa of the situation created by the blockades, adding its representatives had also met with Canadian National Railways officials earlier in the week to stress the importance of maintaining rail-based supply links with the rest of the country.
Roy’s statement echoes that made by the Association québécoise du propane (AQP), which warned that the pipeline protests that have strangled rail service in eastern Canada as well as a cold snap that swept Quebec on Friday are renewing concerns the province may find itself once again facing a propane shortage.
The AQP worries the decision by CN to shut down operations could lead to a shortage of the fuel in Quebec. While the association acknowledges that the winter in Quebec has been relatively mild thus far, a drop in temperatures could see the scenario quickly change, a possibility illustrated by a cold snap in most of the province that sees many regions reporting temperatures below minus 15 Celsius.
The AQP says a lengthy rail shutdown will exacerbate demand for the fuel, which is used to heat homes, businesses, farms and vehicles.
Last November, 3,000 CN Rail workers went on strike for a week, a work stoppage that created a propane shortage and sent farmers who rely on the fuel out into the streets in protest.
AQP president Raymond Gouron said last Tuesday that a repetition of last November’s propane shortage would recur if rail service continued to be slowed by the blockades.
Meanwhile, groups including Grain Growers of Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters have said rail delays caused by the blockades are hurting their members and the economy.
Teamsters Canada, the country’s largest union in the transportation sector, called on the federal government to intervene.
The union warned the impasse could put up to 6,000 employees at CN and other rail companies out of work.