Canada’s labor minister resists calls to force end of CP Rail shutdown

CALGARY, Alta. — Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan insists a mediated settlement is the best way to resolve the Canadian Pacific Railway shutdown.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” O’Regan told POLITICO in an interview from Calgary, where federal mediators have joined negotiations between Canadian Pacific Railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

“At the end of the day, we want some level of certainty and permanence,” O’Regan said. “And this is best achieved by an agreement reached by the parties in the collective bargaining process.”

CP Rail’s Canadian operations ceased on Sunday — the union announced it had been locked out; the company said the union had “withdrawn its services”.

“Our supply chains have taken a real hit,” O’Regan said. “By God, you know, between flooding in the west and recovering from a pandemic and now war in Europe – that’s a lot. … We don’t need anything more.

Canada’s ranchers, grain farmers and fertilizer makers are urging the federal government to step in to end the shutdown.

“We only have a one to two week buffer of feed in the system before we run out of feed for our cattle,” Bob Lowe, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, told reporters Monday after -noon during a briefing on Parliament Hill. .

He said farmers and ranchers are still reeling from last summer’s drought – ‘from the Great Lakes to British Columbia’ – and were relying on cattle feed imported from the United States via CP Rail .

Lowe added that his group is calling for the “immediate introduction of back-to-work legislation.”

Canadian Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Perrin Beatty is also urging the federal government to force an end to the shutdown. “This severe damage to Canadian supply chains at a time of heightened global uncertainty will extend beyond our borders and damage our reputation as a reliable partner in international trade,” he said in a statement. .

O’Regan told POLITICO he understands the urgency. “Every day that passes is one day too long for farmers who have only a very short window to get the feed they need for livestock or for manufacturers to get produce to consumers,” he said. he declares. “All I can say is that I’m here. I heard you loud and clear. I understand. And I want a deal now.

O’Regan said he was keeping U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh updated on the negotiations. Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra is in contact with US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, he added.

The context: Hot, dry conditions in western Canada last summer caused several field crops to experience their largest year-over-year yield declines on record, Statistics Canada reported in late 2021. Ottawa on Monday, James Bekkering, president of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association, explained the link between last year’s drought and this year’s imports.

“In 2021, CP Rail alone imported 8,100 carloads of corn,” he told reporters. “In 2020, only 600 wagonloads of corn were imported. So far in 2022 we have exceeded the number of 2021.”

Clyde Graham, executive vice-president of Fertilizer Canada, took his turn at the briefing to warn that the shutdown threatens the short window during which farmers on both sides of the border fertilize their crops. “Hours matter,” he said. “The agricultural sector is already experiencing supply problems aggravated by the war in Ukraine and cannot withstand any further disruptions.”

On Monday afternoon during Question Period, O’Regan told the House of Commons that the shutdown could not have come at a worse time. “Canada’s supply chains are still reeling from the BC floods, Covid-19 and now a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said. He told lawmakers he had no plans to leave Calgary until a deal was struck.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told reporters on her way to the House on Monday that she made it clear to O’Regan the effects of the shutdown on the agricultural sector. She listed supply chain pressures during an appearance before a House of Commons committee on Monday morning. Bibeau said the transport of fertilizers was interrupted at a critical time, “when global food stability is destabilized by the war in Ukraine”.

Entering the House on Monday, Alghabra took a similar stance to O’Regan, telling reporters that a negotiated settlement would be “the best course of action.”

Erin Gowriluk, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada, told reporters farmers were counting on a rebound season. grain of the year at the market,” she said.

About Dwayne Wakefield

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