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January 2020

FEDERAL: UPDATE – Rail strike has brought focus on propane industry

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The CN Rail strike in November was unnecessary, costly and stressful for CPA members and the many Canadians who rely on propane for such important applications as home heating, businesses, farms and transportation.

However, among the lessons learned by governments at all levels, was a realization of the scope and importance of Canada’s propane industry.

During the strike, CPA President Nathalie St-Pierre and staff, in coordination with CPA members across Canada, stayed in continued communication with the federal government, primarily through the Minister of Transportation, CN Rail, and the union and provincial governments where the work stoppage was felt the most, such as in Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada.

The increased profile for the propane industry in the aftermath of the strike has resulted in a greater understanding by governments that, despite all the rhetoric and policy prioritizing of “electrification” as seemingly the answer to the nation’s energy needs, low-emission propane remains an important element of Canada’s energy profile.

Since the end of the strike, not only has the CPA engaged in a positive social media campaign (Why propane?) but has continued meetings and conference calls with officials at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and Transport Canada.

For example, on December 18, CPA Board Chair Dan Kelly and Past Chair Guy Marchand were joined by CPA President & CEO Nathalie St-Pierre and Vice-President of Government Relations Allan Murphy in a meeting with senior officials from NRCan.

NRCan Assistant Deputy Minister Jay Koshla and Director General Erin O’Brien expressed their appreciation of the co-operation of the CPA during the strike. NRCan asked for an assessment of the state of the propane industry’s recovery to that point, which Kelly and Marchand provided. 

The meeting also resulted in the decision that the CPA will now be included in a bi-weekly NRCan Rail Working Group call that will provide an opportunity for the CPA to provide perspective on rail transportation performance.

Finally, the meeting has provided the CPA with the opportunity to begin having discussions with officials from NRCan, Transport Canada, and the Canada Energy Regulator (formally known as the National Energy Board) to collect information and fill in the gaps regarding data availability on propane distribution, storage and usage in Canada. It is expected that Statistics Canada will also be part of this working group.

It is understood by all stakeholders that another impactful event (e.g., another rail strike or weather catastrophe) would again affect the transportation of propane by rail, truck etc. The objective of the working group is to collect existing data and develop new data as needed. The first conference call was on January 9. The CPA will update members as this work develops.

With the CN strike demonstrating an increased recognition of the importance of propane to Canadians, the CPA will continue to work with CPA members and stakeholders such as governments, railways and unions, to prioritize the transportation of propane in Canada.

 

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