Canada’s rail system was under stress Tuesday as Via Rail cancelled passenger service on key routes and Canadian National Railway Co. warned it will be forced to close “significant” parts of its freight network unless blockades impeding its lines are removed.
Via Rail cancelled service on its Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes because of a blockade near Belleville, Ont., in support of opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that crosses the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northwestern B.C.
“Although we remain hopeful that a resolution will be reached, in view of the current uncertainty, VIA Rail is cancelling all departures until Thursday end of day on the Montreal-Toronto and Toronto-Ottawa routes, in both directions,” Via spokeswoman Marie-Anna Murat said in an email.
A blockade near New Hazelton, B.C., means normal rail activities are also being interrupted between Prince Rupert and Prince George, she said.
Via Rail’s announcement followed the warning from CN, which has halted more than 150 freight trains since Thursday evening, when demonstrators set up the blockades in B.C. and Ontario.
The Montreal-based railway said Monday that long-distance freight shipments in Central and Eastern Canada were already at a virtual standstill.
Chief executive JJ Ruest stressed the limited parking space in its network, with traffic backed up from Halifax to Windsor, Ont., and in parts of B.C. approaching Prince Rupert.
“CN will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in key corridors unless the blockades come to an end,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
“The impact is also being felt beyond Canada’s borders and is harming the country’s reputation as a stable and viable supply chain partner.”
The ongoing blockades are near Belleville, Ont., and New Hazleton in B.C.’s northern interior, while demonstrations cropped up Tuesday in locations ranging from the Halifax port to the B.C. legislature.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce called on all levels of government and police to work together to bring an immediate end to the blockades and to restore all rail service.
“From propane to grain and food and consumer items, Canada’s supply chains are being severely damaged by the continuing interruptions to Canada’s rail services by protesters,” the chamber said on Twitter.
“The rail system affects the entire Canadian economy and Canadians everywhere, including people trying to get to and from work. They must be allowed to continue to serve the thousands of businesses that depend on them.”
Industry groups expressed concern about the shutdown as shipments to and from the U.S. and China are delayed or cancelled.
“It’s a real crisis,” said Joel Neuheimer, head of international trade with the Forest Products Association of Canada.
Wood, pulp and paper producers have lost tens of millions of dollars so far, he said.
“We ship massive amounts of pulp to the United States and to places like Asia, so big negative impacts there,” Neuheimer said in a phone interview.
“We have members whose customers aren’t placing orders right now in the U.S. because they know that it’s not going to get there as soon as it needs to get there.”
Olin Corp., a Missouri-based chemical maker with a facility near Trois-Rivieres, Que., cautioned Ottawa that its tight distribution schedule means the 50-odd Canadian companies it serves will soon stop receiving chlorine — used in part to treat drinking water — which it says is only shipped by rail.
“Olin is alarmed by the current freight rail situation in Canada, and we are concerned that customers and municipalities will not receive shipments of vital chemicals including chlorine within one week,” chairman and CEO John Fischer said in a letter to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau on Tuesday.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association, whose members typically load about 4,500 rail cars a day, is urging government officials to work with police to restore service on the tracks.
“In Canada there’s not really other alternatives to move stuff around. The highways and trucks — especially in Quebec and southern Ontario — are already at a very, very high utilization of available capacity,” association president Dennis Darby said in a phone interview.
Stakeholders from chemical companies to Dannon Yogurt called this week to raise concerns, he said. “They can’t get their stuff out.”
Garneau said he is working with the railways and his Ontario counterpart Caroline Mulroney to find a solution, and that blockage of tracks is “dangerous and illegal.”
Despite the countrywide impact, he underscored that responsibility for enforcing court injunctions against the anti-pipeline protesters lies with provincial politicians and police.
“Obviously we hope it’s going to be resolved, but it is up to the provinces to make those injunctions effective by taking action,” Garneau told reporters in Calgary. “It’s having an important impact on the economy of the country.”
Earlier Tuesday, Via Rail said 157 passenger trains have also been cancelled, affecting 24,500 travellers on its Montreal-Toronto, Ottawa-Toronto and Kingston-Toronto routes.
Ontario Provincial Police said officers are in talks with protesters behind a blockade that sits metres from the tracks, though not across them.
OPP spokesman Bill Dickson said an officer of the court read an injunction to the protesters Tuesday morning ordering them to abandon the blockade, which bisects Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, about 20 kilometres east of Belleville.
While CN obtained the injunction on Friday, Tuesday marked the first time it was read aloud in accordance with court procedure, Dickson said.
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Chief R. Donald Maracle expressed solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en community in northwestern B.C. and called out actions by the RCMP, which has been enforcing a court injunction on the First Nation’s traditional territory and arresting those attempting to block access to the pipeline route.
“We call on both federal and provincial governments to demand the RCMP immediately reconsider how it addresses peaceful protests and demonstrations, and allow the opportunity for sound discussion with a common sense approach to achieve peaceful outcomes,” Maracle said in a statement.
Brendan Marshall, head of economic and northern affairs at the Mining Association of Canada, said buyers of natural resource products were as vulnerable as producers — some of whom are already curtailing production.
“If you’re a facility that’s reliant on rail service in order to get your product to a site, then it’s kind of like sand through the hourglass — when it runs out, the plant can’t work anymore,” he said.
— With files from Michelle McQuigge
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TSX down amid oil rout while Wall Street inches up in early trading – Global News
Canada’s main stock index was down in early trading on Monday as the price of oil slid to its lowest level since 2002. In the U.S.. however, stocks opened higher on Monday as President Donald Trump followed last week’s massive fiscal stimulus by extending his stay-at-home guidelines, leaving investors guessing at their economic impact.
In Toronto, Canada’s benchmark S&P/TSX composite index was down 56.86 points at 12,630.88.
In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 41.44 points, or 0.19 per cent, at the open to 21,678.22.
Coronavirus outbreak: Kenney calls for coordinated tariffs with U.S. in response to ‘predatory dumping’ of Saudi oil
The S&P 500 opened higher by 17.51 points, or 0.69 per cent, at 2,558.98. The Nasdaq Composite gained 81.08 points, or 1.08 per cent, to 7,583.46 at the opening bell.
On the currency market, the Canadian dollar traded for 70.57 cents US compared with an average of 71.14 cents US on Friday.
The May crude contract was down US$1.37 at US$20.14 per barrel and the May natural gas contract was down 2.3 cents at US$1.65 mmBTU.
The June gold contract was down US$10.80 at US$1,643.30 an ounce and the May copper contract was down 0.65 of a cent at US$2.17 a pound
— With files from the Canadian Press
© 2020 Reuters
Air Canada to temporarily lay off 15000 workers due to COVID-19 fallout – CTV News
Air Canada will temporarily lay off more than 15,000 unionized workers beginning this week as the airline struggles with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The layoffs will continue through April and May amid drastically reduced flight capacity from the Montreal-based airline.
Air Canada says the two-month furloughs will affect about one-third of management and administrative and support staff, including head office employees, in addition to the front-line workers.
The carrier is also cutting between 85 per cent and 90 per cent of its flights, cancelling most of its international and U.S. routes in response to the global shutdown.
Earlier this month Air Canada’s flight attendant union said 5,149 cabin crew would be temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.
Two more Canadian banks cut prime rates by 50 basis points – The Globe and Mail
National Bank of Canada and Laurentian Bank of Canada both announced plans Monday to drop their prime rates by 50 basis points to 2.45 per cent. They join the Big 5 banks in decreasing lending rates to match the Bank of Canada’s unscheduled interest rate announcement on Friday.
The new National Bank and Laurentian Bank rates are effective Tuesday. Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia , Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce all cut their prime rates to 2.45 per cent on Friday, and were effective as of Monday.
The Bank of Canada Friday unexpectedly cut its key interest rate to help the county weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bank of Canada cut its overnight interest rate by 50 basis points to 0.25 per cent, its lowest level since June 2010.
Separately, Canada’s financial regulator eased its capital and liquidity requirements for banks, changed credit loss provisioning and allowed more loans to be securitized.
The pandemic has forced several governments to take actions as businesses grind to a halt and several retailers close stores to curb the spread of the highly-contagious diseases, leaving many people jobless.
This is the third time the big banks have cut prime rates over the past month. The prime rate impacts the cost of borrowing for many financial products, including variable rate mortgages.
Reuters, Globe staff
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