Politics

Minimal hit to economic growth from rail blockades, PBO says in new report

Parliament's spending watchdog says a series of rail blockades last month will leave a minimal dent in the pace of economic growth.
Rail blockades like this one on CN's main rail line in west Edmonton that were erected in support of the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in opposition to a natural gas pipeline project in British Columbia did not significantly impact the Canadian economy according to a new PBO report. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Parliament's spending watchdog says a series of rail blockades last month will leave a minimal dent in the pace of economic growth.

The report today estimates the blockades will shave two-tenths of a percentage point off economic growth for the first quarter, with the effects dissipating through the rest of 2020.

The rail blockades sprung up in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in B.C. who oppose a natural-gas pipeline through their traditional territory.

Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux says COVID-19 will likely have a larger effect on the economy than the blockades, warning the novel coronavirus has made the short-term economic picture far bleaker than it was just a few weeks ago.

His comments comes as private-sector economists warn that Canada is heading into a recession because of the economic shock of COVID-19, which may only be avoided with hefty stimulus spending from the federal government — as much as $20 billion.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau addressed reporters this afternoon, one day after he tried to reassure volatile markets that continued to fall over COVID-19 concerns.

The Liberals had promised to deliver a budget on March 30, but that is delayed after the House of Commons agreed not to sit until late April to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

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