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New Brunswick forestry, business leaders warn of ‘crisis’ if rail blockades keep up

Tensions rise at a rail blockade on the outskirts of Edmonton on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Nicole Stillger / Global News

As rail blockades across the country enter their third week, leaders of New Brunswick industry and business are warning of a potential looming crisis.

“The pantry’s getting bare, so to speak,” said Mike Legere, Executive Director of Forest NB.

“We can only stockpile so much product before we run out of room.”

A blockade on a major rail line in Ontario has brought rail travel to a halt, meaning producers in New Brunswick aren’t receiving the raw materials they need and don’t have means to ship finished product out.

READ MORE: Coastal Gaslink says Wet’suwet’en alternative route not ‘feasible’ — here’s why

“Inventories are slowly getting lower and lower,” Legere said, “and at some point in time we will run out.

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“And once we run out, those facilities can’t operate and people can’t work.”

Those behind the blockades say they are acting in solidarity with some of the hereditary chiefs of B.C.’s Wet’suwet’en Nation, who are opposed to the Coastal GasLink natural gas line project.

Legere estimates that the province’s forest industry can go another two weeks before facing “a crisis situation”.

It’s a crisis that would no doubt trickle down to consumers, says David Duplisea, CEO of the Saint John Chamber of Commerce.

“Anytime you interrupt [or] disrupt a national distribution network, there are going to be consequences,” he said.
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So far, no layoffs in the Saint John area have been publicly linked to rail blockades.

However, disruptions have lead Via Rail to shut down passenger service and CN Rail to shut down its own operations. Both have since laid off more than 1,000 total employees as a result.

READ MORE: Via Rail to temporarily lay off 1,000 workers amid rail blockades

To encourage residents to push Ottawa for action, the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce has developed a so-called “online protest.”

Duplisea says a new page on the Chamber website will provide residents with a list of MPs in the province and a prewritten email calling for action.

Duplisea says the emails to MPs will aim “to really urge them to sit down with the first nations people and clome to a safe and peaceful resolution that everyone can live with and get back onto doing the business of the nation.”

He says over 100 people have participated since the webpage went live Wednesday afternoon.

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