Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for bringing this motion forward. Being that I am from the other coast, the east coast, I appreciate his personal insight on this issue.
I also want to thank my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable for his interventions. We are suffering the consequences of these blockades in eastern Canada.
I would like to start at a place where it seems we are all in agreement. These rail blockades are affecting the economy of Canada and need to be shut down. The blockades are illegal. The Prime Minister acknowledged that yesterday in some of his answers during question period. The blockades are affecting the lives of Canadians.
I have no problem with peaceful protests, but they should be done with respect and without hurting anyone. Many times as a provincial MLA we saw people protesting in front of our legislature, asking for representation, asking for changes to laws and fighting for their families, so I understand the representation that it does give to us. So far, on that we can agree.
I have no ill will for the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in B.C. or the Mohawk in Ontario. They have their convictions. They believe in something and are standing up for it. However, I do have a problem with activists who have no connection to these nations and are using this situation to benefit their cause.
If this had been one protest in one area, I think it might have been resolved in the two weeks that it has been going on. It would have been de-escalated, to use a word that I have heard many times this morning. However, because this has never been truly taken on, other protests have sprung up in support of others. In our area the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island has been shut down. Recently there was the blockage of train tracks in Alberta and the blockage of train tracks in parts of Quebec. All this is occurring because the main problem was not dealt with in a quick fashion, by having a discussion up front and stopping us from getting to this situation. Letting things go before any dialogue began has emboldened others to civil disobedience.
What I find troubling about the situation is that the Liberals have branded themselves as friends of our indigenous peoples. However, where they thought they were doing well, they have obviously failed dramatically and quite honestly have no idea what to do next. This is undermining the process as people are getting frustrated.
Since the government has created the “us against them” narrative dividing our country, let me talk about the effects on Nova Scotia, and more specifically the effects on the beautiful riding of West Nova that I have the honour of representing.
Yesterday, I got to talk about how the blockades are affecting Acadian Seaplants. This company was founded in 1981 by Louis Deveau, a leader in Nova Scotia's Acadian community. The company processes raw seaweed into food products for human and animal consumption. The company has grown since it was first founded. It now has 400 employees and exports to 80 countries.
Louis' son and now CEO, J.P. Deveau, has expressed his concerns on the blockade, due to the fact that Acadian Seaplants is one of the province's largest consumers of propane. They have orders to fill, and in order to do that, they need to convert their 115,000 square foot operation in the small community of Cornwallis to be able to use light oil, or furnace oil, which is a more environmentally sensitive product adding an extra 63% to their fuel bill compared to propane.
Beyond this challenge, Mr. Deveau has concerns about being able to ship his product, as it is normally containerized and shipped around the world. Cargo ships are being diverted from the port of Halifax, causing an interruption in Nova Scotia's connection to the world and its export strength.
When I talked to Mr. Deveau, he was very worried about how long it will take for the industry to get back to normal once the blockades come down.
Also in my riding of West Nova, Royal Propane is a wonderful small business. As a matter of fact, it installed the propane fireplace in my mother-in-law's house. It redistributes propane from the same supplier that Acadian Seaplants uses, Wilson Fuels, which is trying its best to get product trucked from somewhere else. Normally, that would come from Montreal, but as we heard from my colleagues, it probably does not exist there either.
I was talking to the manager of Royal Propane earlier this week. She is concerned for the employees she would have to lay off the next day if nothing changed. Forty employees will have to be laid off because there is no propane to provide. She is also concerned about her clients who use propane as a method of heating their homes.
This causes further problems for small businesses in my region, as we do not have natural gas running under our streets. Local restaurants and other businesses will start to run out soon, cascading the problem even worse.
The Eden Valley Poultry plant in Berwick employs 430 people. It processes birds from all over the Atlantic provinces. It is currently still in production, but will run out of propane and oxygen sooner than later. Not only does this directly affect jobs at the plant, but it also affects hundreds of jobs on the farms raising chickens and turkeys for market.
The secondary concern that Eden Valley has is that protests, like the one on the Confederation Bridge, stop and delay the trucks that have live birds inside from crossing over, causing an animal welfare issue.
Speaking of the animal welfare issue, a large amount of feed comes from western Canada for our agricultural sector. Companies like Clarence Farm Services in Truro are trying to get product trucked from Quebec and Ontario, but this will increase the cost, causing financial hardship for our producers and a complete lack of product causing other animal welfare issues.
I would like to read part of the letter that was provided to me from Clarence Farm Services. It states:
We have had some ingredients arrive before CN shut down the national rail service, and others that were shipped from east of Belleville that have made it to Truro. However, CN's space in their Truro yard is now filling and they will not pull empties from our siding to place other full cars that are in Truro—so basically our rail service is ended. As a result of the situation we have been scrambling to bring ingredients in via truck (both sourced locally and from Ont./PQ).
Finally, my friend, Dan Mullen, is a farmer who was hit by market forces in the past few years when the mink industry was decimated. Being a great farmer, he adapted his infrastructure into greenhouses, producing greens and other products for local markets. He heats with propane and either has wrapped up or will be wrapping up his production soon because he can no longer heat those greenhouses.
I know my time is coming to an end, but I thought I would quote a couple of people.
First is the Liberal Premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. He was quoted in aIINovaScotia this morning saying that government needs to do what is necessary to protect Canada's economy as protesters bring rail traffic to a standstill. He said, “The laws of this country need to be enforced. All of us need to abide by the laws of Canada, and we believe it is up to the national government to do what is necessary to ensure the economic future of our country and our province continue to move forward.”
Finally, this discussion is extremely important for Canadians. It is probably one of the toughest discussions we will have in the House of Commons, but as John F. Kennedy stated, “We do not do these things because they are easy, we do these things because they are hard.”