Toronto Sun: Propane shortage hitting Ontario and Quebec as rail strike goes on

The CN Rail strike is about to make itself felt as a propane shortage grips the country.

This isn’t something that will simply hurt those looking to throw a steak on the BBQ, it will hurt farmers trying to dry crops that have just come off the fields as well as the many people across rural areas who heat their homes with propane.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault warned Thursday that his province has just five days of propane left. Legault told reporters in Quebec City that the strike will hurt his province if it goes on.

“We hope for an agreement between the union and CN, but we can’t rule out the need for a special bill in Ottawa,” Legault said.

Propane from Western Canada is shipped to Sarnia by pipeline and then shipped by truck of rail. In Quebec, where propane is a common heating source in rural areas, 85% of the propane comes by rail.

Trucks are currently lined up outside of the Sarnia pumping station where the pipeline ends, some waiting seven hours or more fill up. The rail strike means some areas, including parts of Atlantic Canada, are already without propane.

Ontario MPP Randy Hillier says some parts of Ontario are down to a single day’s supply.

“This has the potential to have catastrophic effects on the people and businesses in my riding, as well as across Ontario,” Hillier said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday in Ottawa. His office said in a statement that all sides need to find a solution because people are hurting.

“These Ontarians are often in agricultural, rural and northern communities. Farmers are being particularly hit hard in the midst of grain drying season,” Ford’s office said.

The Canadian Propane Association said they will meet with federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau on Friday to call on the Trudeau government to find a solution.

“We’re trying to see if there are emergency measures to move the propane,” said CPA president Nathalie St-Pierre.

St-Pierre said propane supplies will be diverted to the most needed areas, mostly home heating at this point until a solution to the supply problem is found. That means farmers looking to dry their crops are left out in the cold.

“Farmers cannot wait for days for this propane stoppage, we need solutions today — the viability of our crops depend on it,” said Markus Haerle, Chair of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, in a statement.

The Alberta government has already called for a resumption of Parliament to legislate the rail workers back to the job, something the Trudeau government has not agreed to at this point.

On Twitter, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took the reports of Quebec nearly running out of propane to push the issue of Quebec blocking oil pipelines.

“We have technology that could help supply you with more reliable access to propane and other important fuels,” Kenney tweeted.

Quebec has said time and again that oil pipelines are not acceptable in that province. Propane is an oil derivative.

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