Pressure builds for Liberals to address blockades

Pressure on the federal government to address numerous railway blockades in Canada is growing as protesters set up more stoppage points across the country.

A group of activists set up a blockade today west of Edmonton, potentially adding an additional pinch point for Canadian National Railway to ship goods and agricultural products.

The demonstrators have set up the blockade in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who oppose an LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. The pipeline, however, has support from the 20 First Nations band councils that have signed agreements in favour of the project.

CN has said train movements in the Edmonton area were stopped this morning, but added it will be taking necessary legal action to address the circumstances.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer weighed in, tweeting the blockade won’t be tolerated.

“It is my understanding that CN Rail is seeking an emergency injunction this morning, which the Government of Alberta fully supports,” he said on Twitter.

“Albertans will not be economic hostages to law-breaking extremists.”

 

Businesses, agricultural companies and farmers have been urging the federal government to take action on the blockades.

Farm groups have said they harm Canada’s reputation as a reliable shipper and will affect the movement of agricultural goods.

Maple Leaf Foods told media today that millions of dollars worth of meat is stuck in transit, putting its business at risk. Curtis Frank, president of the company, emphasized the products are perishable.

As well, ports across the country are experiencing issues.

The Port of Vancouver has said it is facing a backlog, with more than 40 ships waiting to anchor.

In Halifax, the port is running out of space to stack shipping containers, with concerns that vessels might avoid it altogether.

CN’s volumes in car loads and revenue ton miles are down. The company has attributed the decline to the protests. It announced Tuesday it is laying off 450 workers in Eastern Canada. It said it had to cancel 400 trains in the past week.

While speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for patience. He said this is a critical moment for the country and that people on both sides of the issue are frustrated.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has urged the government to call for an end to the blockades, introducing a number of motions in the House to address the issue.

One motion, in particular, calls for the loss of confidence in the government. If passed, it would push the country into a snap election. It would require the support of other minority parties.

Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan has said there is a lack of federal leadership in addressing the blockades.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said Ottawa needs to set a deadline to end the blockades. He said the blockades are illegal and the economy is suffering.

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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