Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said there is no timeline on whether or not Ottawa will intervene in the Canadian National Railway strike, but all options, including back to work legislation, remain on the table.
“Every option is always on the table, but for the time being we hope that both parties will get to an agreement and that would be the fastest way as well,” Bibeau said in Regina.
A spokesperson with Teamsters Canada, the union representing 3,200 CN workers, told Reuters they are no closer to reaching a deal than when the strike began. The strike is in its seventh day.
The striking workers are calling for improved working conditions and rest breaks.
Bibeau said she is in regular contact with Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, updating them on how the strike is affecting the agriculture sector.
“It has an impact on the wellbeing and even survival of animals. It’s also a matter of Canadian reputation and reliability on our agricultural products, so I’m making sure my colleagues understand that as well,” Bibeau said.
The strike is resulting in different regional hardships, including difficulty getting grain to market in the Prairies and a shortfall of propane in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
The federal agriculture minister met with her provincial counterpart, David Marit, on Monday afternoon to talk about the urgency to find a solution so Saskatchewan grain can reach market.
“In our discussions with CN up until Friday, we were hoping we would have seen the parties get back together over the weekend. We haven’t seen that,” Marit said.
Potential farm carbon tax relief
In addition to the strike, Marit discuss a potential solution to farmers paying high carbon tax bills for using propane and/or natural gas to dry their grain.
On the carbon tax issue, Bibeau said she believes agricultural producers deserve recognition for what they do to reduce environmental impacts. The federal government is exploring what options may exist to provide some relief to high grain drying bills.
“Quite frankly, I think a lot of people don’t see that impact until they see a farmer’s bill,” Marit said.
“I think there’s a lot of decision makers that don’t know what the impact is.”
Members of the provincial government and opposition have both called for some kind of federal relief on this file, like a rebate or carbon tax exemption for grain drying.
Premier Scott Moe recently tweeted a photo of a farmer’s SaskEnergy bill carrying a nearly $5,500 “federal carbon tax” charge. The reported reason for the high gas usage was drying grain.