Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood says the federal government needs to put an end to railway strikes.
“I honestly think the federal government should deem our railroads an essential service because of the importance to our country and the importance of keeping our products moving,” Wood said.
Wood, a farmer and vocal agriculture advocate, said rails don’t just keep Canadian grain moving to international destinations. Canadians rely on railways to bring products to them, too.
Last week, unionized Canadian National Railway Co. workers hit the picket lines, halting freight trains across the country. On Tuesday, Teamsters Canada announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the railway.
Workers were expected to head back to their jobs Wednesday.
Central Alberta farmers shipping grain through the Paterson Grain elevator were spared delays this month caused by the CN Rail strike.
The region has elevators along CP Rail and other elevators on CN Rail. Paterson Grain’s Foothills Terminal near Bowden runs on CP Rail tracks.
Ken Rollheiser, Foothills Terminal general manager, said on Monday that his elevator was not impacted by the strike, and had yet to see farmers switch elevators.
“If the strike carries on, producers will definitely be looking for an out for their grain,” said Rollheiser prior to the Teamster’s announcement.
“Cash flow is king. Guys have to pay their bills. In order to pay their bills, they have to get their grain moved.”
Wood said farmers may not be able to switch if they have a contract with an elevator.
“Farmers build relationships with grain elevators. They may give a commitment to that elevator that they’re going to sell them all of their grain in order to get the best deal possible,” said Wood, who uses elevators on both rail lines because he has land nearby.
He said even if they can switch, extra costs to move grain to another elevator reduce farmers’ profits, and when enough farmers switch due to a lengthy strike, it will ultimately slow down the movement of grain.