Statements & Speeches

Impact the rail blockades are having on the Port of Montreal (Question Period)

February 20, 2020

Hon. Judith G. Seidman:  Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Earlier this week the Premier of Quebec expressed his concern over the impact the rail blockades are having on the Port of Montreal where containers have been piling up and cannot be transported. Ships may soon have to be turned away from the port.

As a Montrealer, you will recognize the seriousness of that.

Premier Legault’s concerns for the Port of Montreal are not misplaced. Just yesterday an American shipping company said that it would divert its cargo away from the Port of Halifax and into U.S. ports and railways due to the CN Rail service disruption.

Senator Gold, Premier Legault said yesterday that the rail service must be resolved in the next few days. What is your government doing to ensure that we do not see partial or complete shutdowns at the ports across Canada?

Senator Gold: I thank the honourable senator for the question. The government is very concerned about the impact on the economy. It’s not just restricted, in the minds of government, to the individuals and the businesses but includes Canada’s reputation as a whole as a place to do business and a place for goods to be shipped. The government is seized with this issue, as am I. My family and I have a history with the Port of Montreal; thank you for reminding me how important it is to the economy of not only Montreal but of Canada.

Again, at the risk of boring you by repeating myself, the government’s position is that this needs to be solved in a way that makes things better, not worse — better in the sense that blockades are not reintroduced and that violence is not precipitated. Though we would all wish this would be over yesterday, alas, that’s not possible without risking doing more harm than good.

Senator Seidman: Senator Gold, you may remember that during last fall’s strike at CN Rail, propane shortages across Quebec raised concerns for many of the province’s hospitals and seniors’ homes, which rely on the product. The province of Quebec receives about 85% of its propane by rail.

Is your government aware of any propane rationing or shortages impacting Quebec hospitals or seniors’ residences during the current rail service disruption?

Senator Gold: I’m very aware of the importance of propane in Quebec and elsewhere, to the extent it arrives by rail; I’m just not aware that steps have had to be taken to ration. Let us hope that’s not the case.