OTTAWA — Furious Quebec farmers dumped bags of corn outside the prime minister’s Montreal constituency office Monday to urge the government to take stronger action to end the ongoing CN Rail strike.
A procession of tractors and approximately 300 protesters, frustrated by the propane shortage caused by the strike, marched to Justin Trudeau’s office in the riding of Papineau. Farmers raised their bags of corn into the air and chanted in French, “We can’t leave our crops to rot.”
The strike problematically coincides with the harvest season for corn and soybeans. Before corn can be stored, it has to be dried. Grain dryers use propane, but the fuel’s transport has been significantly reduced because of the strike.
“A very wet harvest season with early snow and cold means that farmers are even more reliant on propane-powered grain dryers to condition the crop and get it to market,” the Grain Farmers of Ontario explained in a statement last week.
Up to 85 per cent of Quebec’s propane is moved by rail.
It’s been a week since 3,200 CN workers walked off the job over concerns that include long hours and dangerous working conditions.
“We regrettably have been forced to wind down our rail operations as we do not have sufficient qualified Canadian managers to safely maintain freight operations during this strike,” read a statement from CN Rail executives James Cairns and Keith Reardon on Monday.
Farmers across the country are demanding Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu take immediate action to get rail workers back to work.
“We still believe in the negotiation process. They are still around the table, and we are pushing both parties to come to an agreement,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in Regina. “This would be the best for every parties and the fastest solution as well.”
Bibeau delivered remarks at the Canadian Western Agribition where she met with grain farmers and addressed concerns about the strike’s effect on agricultural trade.
Three senators representing Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick sent a letter to the prime minister Monday to reconvene Parliament ahead of the throne speech to debate back-to-work legislation.
“Ideally, CN and its employees will reach an agreement soon. However, there must be a backup plan in the event that they do not,” read the letter signed by Sen. Diane Griffin, Sen. Stephen Greene, and Sen. David Richards.
A new session of Parliament is scheduled to open next Thursday with the throne speech.
With files from The Canadian Press