Quebec farmers protest propane shortage with rolling convoy from MP's office to Montreal
MONTREAL -- Dozens of farmers rode tractors to the offices of their local MP on Friday to protest the ongoing CN Rail strike, then continued rolling along Highway 132 and into Montreal.
The strike has created a shortage of propane in Quebec, and the provincial government has begun rationing the fuel, which farmers say is affecting their businesses.
Christian Kaiser, a grain and dairy farmer, co-owner of Imperiale Farms in Noyan, Quebec, said he and his colleagues want the federal government to pass legislation to end the strike.
He warned that without it, he and other farmers were going to lose huge portions of their crops.
"We had a real late spring already, we had a real bad year, we had a lot of rain and then a drought in the summer, now the harvest is later and later. Conditions are not getting better. There's a lot of corn under the snow," said Kaiser.
Businesses in Quebec normally use about 6,000,000 litres of propane each day, with retirement homes and some health centres using it for drying clothes, while farms rely on propane to dry grain, as well as heating barns.
Drying grain after it's harvested and before it's stored is essential, said Kaiser.
"If we combine and don't dry it right away, it's going to rot in the silos and freeze in the silos so if we don't get propane soon we might lose everything that's left in the fields," he said.
"From what we've heard there's some companies that have four-five days left of propane. And the farms maybe have a day or two of reserve after that. So it's real close to getting critical."
Federal government working on propane
With dozens of protesters outside her office, Chateauguay-Lacolle MP Brenda Shanahan said she heard the message from the farmers.
Shanahan said that the federal transportation minister and the agriculture minister were aware of the necessity of having propane, and were working on solutions.
However she added that the federal government was not yet ready to interfere with the ongoing negotiations between CN Rail and its unionized employees.
Quebec's Natural Resources Minister, Jonatan Julien, said the province had enough propane to last another week.
"We are looking at any solution that can provide us propane and what we are able to see now is that for the next week, with our actions, we are going to be okay, but after that it will be much more complicated," said Julien.
Meanwhile the union representing the 3,200 railway employees that walked off the job earlier this week said it believed the propane shortage was being fabricated by the employer.
The Teamsters said that CN had "more than 1,800 locomotive engineers and over 600 supervisors" operating trains, and said there is no reason for CN not to be carrying propane.
CFTC President Lyndon Isaak said there are enough trains to supply propane to Quebec and Ontario.
Most of the propane used in Quebec is shipped by rail from Sarnia, Ontario.
Trucks deliveries insufficient
The Quebec government on Friday provided an update on the situation of propane in the province.
Truck deliveries of propane are insufficient to meet Quebec demand, the government noted in a press release.
One traincar carries the same amount of propane as three freight trucks, the press release stated.
This time of year, Quebec normally consumes about 6 million litres of propane a day. Consumption, however, has been rationed to 2.5 million litres per day, because of the shortage, according to the Ministry of Energy.
With notes from The Canadian Press