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Federal government must be prepared to prevent CN rail strike says the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions


November 18, 2019
By Top Crop Manager


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With the threat of a CN rail strike that could happen as early as November 19, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions are urging the federal government to be prepared to intervene. Many farmers are still facing devastating harvest conditions and poor prices. A disruption in service would compound an already difficult situation causing severe economic consequences for farmers.

On Saturday, November 16, 2019, the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference, which represents approximately 3,200 CN employees, issued a 72-hour notice of its intention to strike.

CN delivers up to 5,650 hopper cars per week to Canadian elevators, representing over half a million tonnes of grain. If those cars are not supplied, farmers can’t deliver and are not paid. Even a disruption of a few days will cause a massive backlog and economic losses that are ultimately borne by farmers.

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“There are a lot of farmers who already have a significant amount of their income trapped under snow. Now adding insult to injury, we’re looking at possible CN rail strike action too. That means that for the grain we did manage to harvest, we won’t be paid at least until service resumes,” said Gary Stanford, Alberta Wheat Commission chair.

The commissions urge the current Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu and current Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to take whatever steps are necessary to avert a strike.

A new federal cabinet will be sworn in on Wednesday, November 20, 2019. The commissions say the cabinet’s first order of business should be to avert a crisis in Canada’s transportation system. The commissions say that rail delays will ultimately delay exports to Canada’s global markets, causing further market uncertainty for farmers and damaging Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier of grain.