Alberta politicians urge PM to intervene in rail strike

Alberta politicians urge PM to intervene in rail strike

Rail strike will hurt agriculture and energy industries already facing tough times: politicians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should step in and end a rail strike before Alberta’s hard-hit agricultural and energy industries are further damaged, said Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood.

In Alberta, oil and gas and agriculture are akin to “essential services,” and railways are vital to their success, said Wood on Tuesday.

About 3,200 Canadian National Railway Co. employees went on strike Tuesday after the union and rail company failed to reach a deal by a midnight deadline.

Conductors, trainpersons and yard workers hit the picket lines, halting freight trains across the country.

“For farmers, it’s huge,” said Wood, who farms in the Delburne area. Agriculture producers rely on trains to move their grain to market.

Besides lost sales for farmers, the reputation of the industry as a whole takes a beating if contracts can’t be fulfilled for customers, affecting relationships that took years to develop.

Anything that ties up grain in elevators hurts producers’ cash flows, which depend on them selling their products when they want to sell them, he said.

The energy sector will also be hit hard by any disruption.

“So much of our oil and gas is transported by rail due to the lack of pipelines,” he said.

The strike could not be coming at a worse time. The oil and gas industry’s struggles have been ongoing for years, and agriculture is coming off a tough harvest cut short by an early winter, which meant a lot of crop has been left on the fields.

Much of the canola crop harvested has high moisture levels, which means it cannot be left in elevators for too long before it must be moved to preserve quality.

Wood said the prime minister should order workers back to work and make the two sides sit down to resolve their differences without stopping rail traffic.

“Any stoppage just takes away the mood to invest in Alberta. It’s just one more thing that puts another nail in the coffin.”

Alberta energy and agriculture ministers asked the prime minister to recall Parliament ahead of its scheduled return Dec. 5 and enact emergency back-to-work legislation.

“Any disruption in shipments would have serious consequences for an economy that is already dealing with severe bottlenecks due to cancelled and delayed pipelines,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a release.

Said Agriculture Minister and Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen: “We have seen the severe consequences of rail backlogs before. Farmers don’t need the added pain from compounding rail delays, especially after this difficult harvest. Now is the time to act.”

Recent wet Prairie weather has produced a crop with more mildew, sprout damage and frost, which will fetch lower prices and affect all players along the supply chain, said Wade Sobkowich of the grain elevator association.

Canola exports have also slumped following China’s ban on the product.

The threat of a strike has already had an impact, as grain companies and foreign importers cut back on orders to avoid paying contract extension fees, demurrage charges, “or, God forbid, defaulting on a contract,” Sobkowich said.

CN services about half the elevators in Western Canada, on top of exclusive access to the grain terminal on Vancouver’s North Shore and the port in Prince Rupert, B.C.

“This strike comes at a terrible time for agriculture,” said Jeff Nielsen, head of the Grain Growers of Canada.

With files from The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Remand Centre
Red Deer Remand Centre up to 22 COVID cases

Eighteen inmates and four remand centre staff areactive COVID cases

Christine Cornelius, department manager at Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, prepares seed racks at the Red Deer County shop. (By SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Central Alberta gardeners already buying seeds to prepare for spring

Potatoes and carrots popular choices for backyard gardens

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Red Deer’s newest Waskasoo Park trail offers some bird’s-eye views of the city. It runs along the Highland Green escarpment, between Howarth Street Close and 60th Street. More information is available on reddeer.ca. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
PHOTO: New Red Deer trail offers hikers a bird’s-eye view

It links Howarth Street Close with 60th Street

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is resigning. The news comes as… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

A man works in the broadcast centre at the TMX Group Ltd. in Toronto, on May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
S&P/TSX composite down on broad-based decline led by energy; loonie rises again

S&P/TSX composite down on broad-based decline led by energy; loonie rises again

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.'s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta's Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry's presence in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

Children walk back to their classroom while physical distancing at St. Barnabas Catholic School during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. Experts at a leading children's hospital say schools need to ramp up COVID-19 testing and masking in order to have all kids safely return to the classroom as soon as possible. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Medical experts urge more masking, distancing for schools planning to reopen

Medical experts urge more masking, distancing for schools planning to reopen

Rode
University of Saskatchewan Huskies recognize DeMale’s talent

Joel DeMale has the resume to be one of the top linebackers… Continue reading

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

Francesca Paceri, a registered pharmacist technician, carefully fills a needle with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something most jurisdictions have yet to do. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Some provinces yet to say when jail inmates to be vaccinated against COVID-19

A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set… Continue reading

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta. Central Alberta counties are struggling to cover millions in unpaid taxes from oil and gas companies. (File photo by The Canadian Press)
Premier Scott Moe warns Regina city council about anti-energy company motion

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is warning Regina city council there… Continue reading

(Black Press media file photo)
Manitoba government not collecting overpayments to doctors, auditor general says

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s auditor general says the provincial government is not retrieving… Continue reading

Most Read