Nova Scotia

CN Rail strike could hurt N.S. Christmas tree growers

Nova Scotia Christmas tree growers may have to pay more to ship their product across the country this season if the strike at CN Rail isn’t resolved soon.

'If we need to use trucks, it will affect the bottom line'

Forty per cent of the 1.3 million Christmas trees exported from Nova Scotia each year are shipped by rail. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Nova Scotia Christmas tree growers worry they'll have to pay more to ship their product across the country this holiday season if the CN Rail strike isn't resolved soon.

The president of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia is adding his voice to Canadians concerned about the impact of the strike, which began on Tuesday.

Roughly 3,200 conductors, yard workers and other staff walked off the job, and the union representing workers said Friday that the two sides are no nearer a resolution.

"If we need to use trucks, it will affect the bottom line of the industry, there's no question," Mike Keddy told CBC's Maritime Noon. 

With just a month until Christmas, it's a busy time of year for Nova Scotia growers. They export 1.3 million trees each season. 

About 40 per cent of those trees are shipped by rail as far away as Alberta and B.C., said Keddy, who owns a Christmas tree lot in New Ross.

He exports about 30,000 trees by rail every year. 

It takes longer than sending trees by truck, but it's much cheaper, especially for shipments destined for the West Coast. 

"The truck is about 30 per cent higher than the rail," Keddy said. "You would be looking at a difference of about a thousand dollars a truckload."

Mike Keddy owns Keddy Christmas Trees in New Ross. (CBC)

Keddy said the strike has only had a minor impact on deliveries so far.

"There does seem to be a bit of a slowdown once the container gets to its destination, getting it delivered to the customer," he said. "There seems to be a bit of a backlog there."

He said he's in daily contact with a representative from CN, who has assured him that freight within Canada shouldn't be as disrupted as freight to the U.S.

Still, Keddy knows that could change, and that's why some buyers are now deciding to get their trees delivered by truck, he said.

"What our larger concern is that it would snowball very quickly. If the terminals stop shoving stuff out, we will feel that effect immediately," he said.

Alberta's government wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring Parliament back before its scheduled return on Dec. 5 to legislate an end to the strike.

About 3,200 conductors, train and yard workers went on strike earlier this week after raising concerns about long hours, fatigue and what they say are dangerous working conditions. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Keddy supports that idea. 

"I would think that that would be a real good idea, and it wouldn't really take a lot of thinking to realize that this is a situation that needs to be dealt with," he said.


With files from CBC's Maritime Noon


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