P.E.I. prepares for potential ramifications of rail disruptions

P.E.I. Emergency Measures Organization says it's keeping a close watch over rail disruptions across the country. 

Superior Propane and P.E.I. Potato Board concerned over limited rail capacity

The province and local industries are monitoring how rail disruptions could affect the delivery of goods to and from Prince Edward Island. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

P.E.I. Emergency Measures Organization says it's keeping a close watch over rail disruptions across the country. 

In British Columbia some Indigenous protestors and sympathizers have shut down a key rail line in Northern B.C. because they oppose the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on the grounds that it would run through the hereditary land of the Wet'suwet'en people.

Another group has blockaded another key rail line near Belleville, Ont., in solidarity with the B.C. protest.

Those actions have broken the supply chains for manufacturers, who rely on rail service to bring in parts and components but also to ship out finished products to customers.

In a statement emailed to CBC News on Tuesday, the P.E.I. Emergency Measures Organization said it was discussing the situation with provincial departments to understand the degree of potential commodity disruptions including propane. 

Superior Propane CEO Greg McCamus said the company will begin to curtail deliveries to non-essential customers, in a statement emailed to CBC News. 

McCamus said some customers can expect service disruptions in the coming days.

"We are working to increase propane transportation by road in order to continue meeting the needs of our customers but if the rail shutdown continues, Superior and other propane companies will soon be unable to keep up with demand given reduced rail capacity," he said.

The P.E.I. Potato Board is concerned over rail shutdowns and how they could affect the travel of seed potatoes. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

Reliance on rail

Propane is not the only industry experiencing disruptions.

Island exporters are also starting to look at alternative means of distribution should the rail shutdown continue.

Truck transportation can be challenging at best of times.— Greg Donald, P.E.I. Potato Board

P.E.I. Potato Board General Manager Greg Donald said the board is starting to hear concerns from local producers about the movement of seed potatoes between eastern and western Canada.

"That would be really important, that they get to where they're needed in time for planting season," Donald said. 

In addition to the short-term problem of moving seed potatoes and other planting season essentials like fertilizers, he said having to find alternative ways to ship goods across the country could be a long-term obstacle.

"Truck transportation can be challenging at best of times," Donald said. 

The infrastructure shutdowns are a result of some of the many demonstrations occurring across the country backing the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs.

In P.E.I., demonstrations happened at Province House on Saturday and on the P.E.I. side of the Confederation Bridge on Sunday and Monday.

More from CBC P.E.I.


With files from Travis Kingdon