Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia could face propane shortage as CN strike continues

Propane distributors in Nova Scotia are concerned about supplies in the province as the strike at the Canadian National Railway Co. is about to enter its fourth day. While some propane is trucked into Nova Scotia, the majority enters on the CN rail lines.

'I hope the parties involved in the labour stoppage can come to a swift agreement and get service restored'

A CN locomotive moves in the railway yard in Dartmouth, N.S., in 2015. Canadian National Railways conductors, trainpersons and yardpersons are on strike. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Propane distributors in Nova Scotia are concerned about supplies in the province as the strike at the Canadian National Railway Co. is about to enter its fourth day.

While some propane is trucked into Nova Scotia, the majority enters on CN Rail lines.

That's prompted at least one distributor to take action in case supplies dwindle too low.

"I don't want to cause alarm to people, but at the same time, I want to stress the importance of it," said Ian Wilson, the president of Wilsons Heating.

Smaller deliveries, alternate energy sources

Wilson said the company is prioritizing customers who use propane for heating. It's also asking customers who have an another source of energy available to use that instead of propane.

To make the existing supply stretch as far as possible, Wilsons is making smaller deliveries to customers instead of filling tanks.

The company is exploring other ways of bringing propane into the province, such as trucking it in.

"But it's certainly, you know, for one thing, more expensive, and for another we just don't have the infrastructure to fully replace what's lost by the rail capacity," Wilson said.

Since many people use propane as a source of heat for their homes or businesses, Wilson said it is an essential service.

"I hope the parties involved in the labour stoppage can come to a swift agreement and get service restored. And if not, I'd certainly urge government to intervene," he said.

Concerns mount across Canada

The strike at CN began early Tuesday morning as 3,200 conductors, train and yard workers raised concerns about long hours, fatigue and what they say are dangerous working conditions.

Quebec is already rationing propane, and Premier François Legault warned the province will run out in four days, threatening the heating systems at hospitals and nursing homes.

Grain farmers are also worried, as some rely on propane to operate grain dryers to dehumidify crops so they don't go mouldy or ferment.

The Alberta government has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring Parliament back before its scheduled return on Dec. 5 to legislate an end to the strike.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at frances.willick@cbc.ca

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