Perfect Storm Confronts Canadian Farmers

Anti-pipeline blockades have created a perfect storm for Canadian farmers recovering from a winter of rail disruptions that snarled ports and stalled the movement of goods.

Demonstrators have blocked railways in B.C. and Ontario, crippling crucial arteries for industrial supply chains that operate on a just-in-time basis. And as trains ground to a halt, unions were notified by CN, Canada’s biggest cargo railway, to be prepared for potential layoffs.

“Rail is the backbone of infrastructure in this country, critical for industry but also for inter-city movement of goods,” said Brian Kingston, vice president of policy, international and fiscal issues at the business council of Canada. “This is not the kind of thing you can take a wait-and-see approach on for too long because this is potentially a catastrophe for the Canadian economy.”

The crisis in the nation’s rail system is hitting at a particularly difficult time for the economy, already wounded by the coronavirus and still recovering from an eight-day strike that shut down CN’s operations in November. Half of Canadian exports move via rail to ports and then on to global markets, with CN alone moving $250 billion in goods annually, Kingston said.