Propane shortages in Quebec sparked by rail blockades is forcing companies to ration supplies to hospitals, farms and buildings, according to local businesses.
Jean-François Bergeron, general manager of Quebec City propane supplier Capital Propane, said the company is left with a seven-day propane supply, and it’s running out of solutions. “There are none, there are no other options for us,” he said.
Capital Propane provides the fuel for hospitals, agriculture and residential areas, and right now it’s rationing supplies and is prioritizing propane supplies to farms, Bergeron said.
Its last shipment of propane came in on Monday by truck from Sarnia, Ont., but Bergeron said there aren’t enough trucks left for their next shipment. Compared to the Canadian National Railway Co. workers’ strikes in November, which resulted in rail transport being suspended for a week, Bergeron said this situation is “much worse.
“Back in November, there were still some trains on the tracks, but now there are none and now there’s a cold period as well.”
Superior Propane, another Canadian propane supplier, predicted “critical” supply shortages of propane in Quebec, Ontario and Eastern Canada. “With the suspension of all rail service east of Toronto, we will soon not be able to keep up with capacity,” said Greg McCamus, president of Superior Propane. “There are simply not enough propane hauling vehicles or loading and supply points to compensate for the loss of rail capacity at this time of year.”
The Canadian Propane Association has called for the federal and provincial governments to lift all blockades in order to resume rail service. “While contingency plans are in place and the propane industry is implementing alternative transportation methods such as trucking, these plans will not be able to address the losses caused as a result of the blockades,” they wrote in a statement last week.
Canadian manufacturers and small businesses have warned of looming layoffs and revenue losses as Indigenous groups and activists have blocked rail traffic in parts of Canada in solidarity with the Wet’su’wetan hereditary chiefs who are opposed to a natural gas pipeline being built on their unceded territory.
These (contingency) plans will not be able to address the losses caused as a result of the blockades
Canadian Propane Association
On Thursday, CN said it has received a court injunction to end a rail blockade in a suburb south of Montreal. A company spokesman Olivier Quenneville confirmed the railway received the court order.
Quebec Premier François Legault said earlier in the day police would dismantle the blockade in St-Lambert as soon as an injunction was granted. The premier told reporters that because the blockade is not on First Nations land, it is easier for the government to take action.
The blockade erected Wednesday “is on Quebec territory. It’s not on the territory of a First Nation,” Legault said.
The blockade has also disrupted rail service for suburban commuters and for Via Rail travellers between Montreal and Quebec City.
Via Rail said the blockades have had an “unprecedented” affect on its operations, disrupting travel plans for more than 111,000 passengers thus far.
As of Wednesday, Via Rail had cancelled 599 trains and sent temporary layoff notices to about 1,000 staff members, nearly one third of its 3,115 employees.
Via Rail had planned to resume service between Montreal and Quebec City on Thursday, but cancelled the trains due to the new blockade near St-Lambert.
It did, however, partially resume service between Montreal and Ottawa and in Southwestern Ontario on routes connecting Toronto to London, Windsor, Sarnia and Niagara Falls.
“We remain hopeful for an end to the situation as soon as possible and encourage all relevant parties to continue their efforts towards a peaceful resolution,” Via Rail said in a statement late Wednesday.
With files from The Canadian Press and Emily Jackson