Grain growers will hold a press conference in Ottawa to outline how the CN Rail shutdown is impacting their industry. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Grain growers set to make case in Ottawa for urgent end to CN strike

OTTAWA — Canadian farmers and producers are descending on Ottawa to press the case for urgent action to end the Canadian National Railway Co. rail strike now entering its second week.

This afternoon, grain growers will hold a press conference in the national capital to outline how the shutdown is impacting their industry, which is already struggling with a tough harvest.

“Farmers are on the front lines of this strike, relying on rail to move goods to markets all over the world,” the Grain Growers of Canada said in a statement.

“This disruption, coupled with a universally disastrous harvest could have an impact from which some farmers never recover. The time for government action is now.”

Tomorrow, members of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture are expected on Parliament Hill to do the same.

About 3,200 CN workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, walked off the job last Tuesday over concerns about long hours, fatigue and dangerous working conditions.

CN estimates the company is now operating at 10 per cent of normal service along its 22,000 kilometre Canadian network.

The impact of the work stoppage is beginning to be felt across the agriculture industry. Yesterday, fertilizer company Nutrien announced a two-week shutdown of its largest potash mine east of Regina because of the strike.

Agriculture groups and the Opposition Conservatives have been among those demanding that the Liberal government call the House of Commons back sooner than its Dec. 5 start date to legislate the employees back to work.

Three Maritime senators also signed a letter, dated yesterday, asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the same.

The senators from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island say propane reserves in the region are depleting and that the strike is disrupting supply chains and impacting trade at ports.

“Ideally, CN and its employees will reach an agreement soon. However, there must be a backup plan in the event that they do not,” the letter reads.

“Truck shipments from central Canada will be insufficient if demand for propane exceeds domestic Maritime production capacity.”

The Liberals have demurred, saying they want the two sides to reach an agreement.

“This would be the best for every party and the fastest solution,” Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau said yesterday in Regina.

A Quebec farmers’ union protested outside of Trudeau’s Montreal office yesterday; the city is also home to CN’s headquarters where they protested over the weekend.

In that province, there are concerns the strike is leading to a propane shortage, affecting, among other things, farmers’ abilities to dry their crops.

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