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Ottawa under pressure as CP Rail stoppage enters second day as talks continue


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Industry groups that rely on Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. for the shipment of goods are pleading with the federal government to take action as the work stoppage at the Calgary-based railway continues into its second day.

Leaders of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association were in Ottawa Monday, urging the government to immediately bring an end to the work stoppage they say could devastate their industry.

“If these trains don’t run, we’ve got maybe two weeks of feed left,” said Cattlemen’s Association president Bob Lowe, explaining that western Canadian cattle producers have been reliant on shipments of feed by rail from the U.S. this year in the wake of last summer’s drought and resultant widespread feed shortage.

“There is no Plan B. We have no other source of feed.”

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Fertilizer Canada chief executive Karen Proud said the work stoppage couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“We are, in Canada, about four to six weeks from seeding season … which means that farmers may not get all the fertilizer they need,” Proud said, adding that’s particularly concerning this year given the war in Ukraine and its impacts on global fertilizer supplies as well as the prices of wheat and other grains.

“The concern for the average consumer is, if we’re not able to maximize our (crop) yields … the prices of food are likely going to go up.”

Industry leaders and politicians are urging Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan to end the labour dispute after 3,000 conductors, engineers and train and yard workers were off the job over the weekend.

The company and union both blamed each other for causing the work stoppage, though both also said they were still talking with federal mediators on Sunday.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty said O’Regan must table back to work legislation immediately. He warned the consequences to the supply chain — already battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty in northern Europe — could be severe.

The House of Commons resumed Monday following a two-week break, so legislation could come immediately if the government so chooses.

O’Regan was in Calgary on Monday and said in an emailed statement he will remain there until the two parties reach an agreement.

“Canadians expect them to do that ASAP,” O’Regan said in the statement.

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