After tabling back-to-work legislation in the House of Commons, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says she wants to see Canadian Pacific Railway trains moving again by Thursday.
But transportation and commodity experts say it could take quite a while for CP’s rail service to get back to normal once the strike is brought to an end.
Barry Prentice, a business professor at the University of Manitoba, says that in the past only a handful of commodities were transported by train. But today “everything is moving in containers” that are often sent at least partway by rail.
As a result, the effect of the strike is “much more widespread than would have been the case in the past across the economy,” he said.
It could take more than a month for CP to clear bottlenecks along its rail lines, he said.
“When you start up a railway, you can’t just again say ‘OK everybody, get back to the trains and go,’” Prentice said. “They start to bring up one segment at a time.”
For days now, business groups have been complaining that the weeklong strike by thousands of CP workers is costing them dearly.
Grain elevators are filled with wheat while half a dozen cargo ships are waiting in Vancouver’s port to carry it abroad, the head of the Canadian Wheat Board said.
At the same time, thousands of tonnes of potash are sitting idle instead of making their way to market, according to Richard Downey of Agrium Inc. a fertilizer supplier that owns part of Saskatchewan potash exporter Canpotex.
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