Blog: The Wheat Sheaf

Letter to Minster Hajdu re: Potential CP Rail Strike




May 28, 2018


Honorable Patricia A. Hajdu                                                        
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0A6    
Dear Minister Hajdu,

The Alberta Wheat (AWC) and Alberta Barley (ABC) Commissions are aware that the unions:  Teamsters Canada Rail Conference representing 3,000 conductors and locomotive engineers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) representing 360 signals and communications employees at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) have served notice of intent to strike as early as tomorrow, May 29, 2018.  On behalf of our 14, 000 farmer members, we implore you to lead the Government’s efforts to, again, enforce the necessary interventions to ensure that a strike at CP cannot further disrupt rail service this year. 

Our farmers, along with other producers of Canada’s commodities, are dependent on the freight rail system to get goods to markets across Canada and around the world. All too often our shippers are at the mercy of the railways, with frequent service failures and actual or threated rail labour disruptions occurring on an almost annual basis. Presently, the grain sector in Western Canada is only now beginning to recover from a severe rail backlog which left many farmers unable to deliver and get paid for their grain on pre-established contracts with shippers. Farmers are often left with no alternative to get their grain to market, being captive to only one railway.  Further disruption to grain rail shipping would be devastating for our sector.

We are very pleased with the initiative that this government has taken in proposing and passing Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act; which introduces provisions aimed at providing accountability and improving the predictability of rail service over the long term. Conversely, there are no permanent measures in place to prohibit rail employees from taking strike action and causing critical disruptions to rail service. We have seen a cyclical pattern of a threat of rail strikes and corresponding government intervention, a process that only leads to further instability and uncertainty in the system. 
Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier of quality grain is at jeopardy when we can’t fulfil our commitments. A rail strike could have devastating and lasting effects on our producers, domestic supply chain partners, international buyers and the national economy. As such, we are urging you to take action now to minimize the impact on Canada’s economy. Canadian farmers, exporters and our international reputation are depending upon your action.




Kevin Bender, Chair

Alberta Wheat Commission                                                 




Jason Lenz, Chair
Alberta Barley Commission
CC:        Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister
              Hon. Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
              Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transportation

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