Ottawa

'It has to be resolved': Some farmers, entrepreneurs call for end to rail blockade

Several farmers and entrepreneurs are expressing their concerns about the halting of rail traffic across Canada — particularly when it comes to propane.

Indigenous communities and supporters are protesting the construction of a pipeline in northern B.C.

Marc Bourdon, owner of a farming business in Maxville, fears his propane reserves are getting low. (Radio-Canada)

Several farmers and entrepreneurs from the Ottawa-Gatineau area are concerned that a blockade near Belleville, Ont., that's brought rail service to a standstill could soon harm their bottom line if it's not resolved quickly.

CN Rail trains have not been running since Thursday as Indigenous communities and supporters have been protesting the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern British Columbia.

The pipeline would run through the hereditary land of the Wet'suwet'en people.

Some business owners are afraid the halting of rail traffic could replicate the effects of the CN Rail strike last fall, when they faced a shortage of propane gas, which is necessary to heat their facilities.

Marc Bourdon, the owner of Bourdon Feed and Grain in Maxville, Ont., said a lot of propane is transported by rail. Chicken farms in particular rely almost entirely on propane, he said.

A protester stands between Mohawk Warrior Society flags at a rail blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ont. on Sunday. The protest is in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the pipeline in northern British Columbia. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

Bourdon said while he's not yet experiencing a shortage, his reserves are decreasing and the situation could become worse if the blockades persist. 

It's really worrying, it has to be resolved this week.- Marc Bourdon, owner of Bourdon Feed and Grain

But propane supply isn't the only thing Bourdon is concerned about. 

He said a lot of essential livestock feed, such as soybeans, corn and grains, is also transported by rail. 

"It's really worrying. It has to be resolved this week. And it's not just about farms, it will also affect residences," Bourdon said. 

In the fall of 2019, Bourdon Feed and Grain was negatively affected by the CN Rail strike. Owner Marc Bourdon said he's afraid to relive that experience. (Radio-Canada)

Quick action needed, says association 

In a press release Friday, the Canadian Propane Association called on the federal government and the provinces to act immediately to lift the blockades. 

The association cites a 2008 report which shows that about 60 per cent of all Canadian households that use propane as their primary heating fuel are in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. 

The agriculture industry isn't the only one expressing concerns, however.

According to the National Capital Business Association, several sectors of the economy are likely to be affected if rail traffic remains halted. 

Lise Sarazin, the executive director of the National Capital Business Association, said she believes the blocking of the railways could impact the economy of the region. (Radio-Canada)

Concerns for tourism, hotel industry

Lise Sarazin, executive director of the association, said the blockages also impact passenger transportation in and out of the region. 

She said the association is concerned about how events and business meetings in the Ottawa-Gatineau region are going to be affected. 

"When a person comes from another city, money is invested in catering, hotel, and taxi transportation. That equals thousands of dollars every day," she said. 

Sarazin said companies are starting to mobilize and think about what they're going to do if the blockades don't end soon.

The region's business community is in discussion with the provincial and federal ministers, according to Sarazin, and she's asking that the blockade — which she considers illegal — to be stopped as soon as possible. 

With files from Radio-Canada

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