Quebec farmers have taken to the streets in Montreal again on Monday as the Canadian National Railway (CN) strike continues its seventh day across the country.
The Union des Producteurs Agricoles du Québec (UPA) is calling on officials to intervene as a propane shortage strikes the province. Farmers argue the situation is critical and that there needs to be a way for propane delivery to resume.
The convoy of tractors made its way to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s riding office in Montreal, where farmers dumped corn on the ground. The protest comes after farmers visited CN headquarters on Friday last week.
Farmers claim their crops and livelihood are being held hostage as negotiations stall between railway workers and management. John McCart, president of a local UPA in Argenteuil, told Global News that farmers desperately need the propane to harvest vegetables like corn.
“We can’t do anything — we wait,” he said. “We wait. Hopefully, today will stir up a lot more interest in the cause.”
Last week, Quebec Premier François Legault warned the province was running out of propane. He pointed to a potential “emergency” that could wreak havoc at hospitals, nursing homes and farms.
The province has had to ration propane since 3,200 CN employees hit the picket lines last week. As negotiations drag on, the premier has called on Trudeau and opposition parties to pass back-to-work legislation if necessary to avoid a crisis.
Pascal Leduc, a corn producer in Mirabel, said that without propane, half of his harvest remains in the field.
“I have never experienced such a situation,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, Quebec Energy Minister Jonatan Julien gave an update on the situation.
He agreed with farmers, saying that there is cause for worry.
“For the six million litres that we normally need, we are rationing at 2.5 million litres.”
This time of year, he explained, the agricultural sector usually needs approximately 3.5 million litres.
Julien added the province was looking to Maine as a potential source of propane if the situation doesn’t normalize soon.
He also mentioned the possibility of a second train leaving Edmonton, carrying around 100 cars of propane.
“That would bring us to Saturday, Sunday. We would gain a few days,” he said, referring to the province’s reserves.
Teamsters Canada, the union representing striking yard workers and conductors, said Monday it has not made progress at the bargaining table with CN. The railway workers have been without a collective agreement since July 23.
The main sticking points are improved working conditions and long hours. Wages are not part of the dispute.
— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier, Brayden Jagger Haines, Reuters and the Canadian Press