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Rail Blockades Could Affect Food Stocks & Raise Prices In Quebec Grocery Stores Next Week

We spoke with the Retail Council of Canada about the ongoing pipeline resistance action.
Staff Writer
Rail Blockades Could Affect Food Stocks & Raise Prices In Quebec Grocery Stores Next Week
  • Rail blockades could visibly affect food stocks and prices in Quebec grocery stores as early as next week, the president of the Retail Council of Canada tells MTL Blog.
  • The blockades are part of the action land defenders across Canada are taking in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people, who are resisting the construction of a pipeline through their unceded land.

Ongoing railway blockades across Canada could affect food stocks in Quebec grocery stores as early as next week. Though some consumers might've already noticed declining stocks on grocery shelves across the province, the pressure will be most felt in the coming weeks. Wet'suwet'en solidarity events have paralyzed rail traffic nationwide in protest of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which would run through the traditional, unceded land of the First Nation in B.C.

The Journal de Montreal reports that grocery shortages are already visible in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. 

Marc Fortin, president of the Retail Council of Canada in Quebec, spoke with MTL Blog about the situation and its effect on supplies.

"For now, the in-store grocery stock is looking good but we're starting to see shortages in warehouses across the province," said Fortin. 

"The first thing we'll see is a lack of fresh produce in grocery stores. And if the railway blockades continue, we will definitely see a rise in costs."

Raw materials and industrial products such as propane and chlorine are also at risk of running out because a large volume of those products come into Quebec by railway from Western Canada or the U.S., according to Fortin. 

"Where we see real difficulties is in the stock of raw materials that come from Western Canada. So much of it comes to Quebec by train and we're lacking trucks and truck drivers to ship the material," said Fortin. 

Fortin tells us that while there is still enough stock in grocery warehouses, the longer the railway blockades go on, the worse the situation will get for retailers and consumers. 

Relying on the local Quebec farming network also presents its own challenges, as many local producers require materials that aren't readily available in the province. 

"Local producers rely on materials from Western Canada such as propane, grain, and canola oil to keep their livestock and products healthy during wintertime," said Fortin.

However, he assures MTL Blog that "there are means to get these products from Massachusetts or New York but almost all of it in Quebec comes by railway from the West."

READ ALSO: Another Exo Commuter Train Line To Montreal Has Just Been Blocked By Protestors

Should the blockades continue, Quebec consumers might not only feel the pinch at the grocery store but at home, too. 

It might not be evident to most people, but industrial products such as chlorine for water treatment plants are shipped to Quebec almost exclusively by railroad. 

"You have to realize that water treatment plants will also be affected because there will soon be a shortage of chlorine if the blockades continue," said Fortin. 

"The plants won't be able to properly clean the water without chlorine." 

The Retail Council of Canada, however, assures consumers that they are evaluating every measure possible to prevent food and product shortages in the province should the railway blockades continue. 

"We have lots of work to do. Consumers in Quebec can be secure in knowing that retailers and grocery stores are doing everything they can to make sure there won't be a lack of food or products," said Fortin.

"The railway blockades have to stop. The Government of Canada and Quebec need to negotiate with these groups and come up with a solution to this situation as soon as possible," said Fortin. 

"People's livelihood and health are being held hostage by these protests."

Wet'suwet'en solidarity action continues across the country, blocking both commuter and industrial railway tracks.

These land defenders are committed to protecting the rights of indigenous people in Canada.

"And while the inconvenience of the blockades is being felt by many Canadians," wrote MTL Blog writer Lena Slanisky upon her visit to a demonstration site in Mohawk territory on the South Shore, "the sentiment here in Kahnawake is that the inconvenience of a pipeline will be even worse if it's allowed to happen."

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