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Propane shortage caused by CN Rail strike hitting Ontario farmers
ELGIN COUNTY, Ont. -- In northern Elgin County, Jeff Ferguson has a corn crop still sitting in the fields, and that's where it's likely to stay if he can't get propane to fuel his dryers.
Only two-thirds of his crops has been harvested and dried in his massive propane-fuelled dryers. The rest, it appears, will sit in the fields for the foreseeable future.
The problem is the CN Rail strike, which has cut off his supply of fuel to power his machines.
"The propane supplier yesterday, called and said, at this point the agricultural supply of propane is shut off, so we're done until we get a new supply of propane in harvesting."
Suppliers say their hands are tied.
Dowler-Karn operates a propane rail terminal in St. Thomas, Ont. where propane cars sit idle.
The firm's Dan Kelly says all but two are now completely empty and that's forced some tough decisions.
"We’re prioritizing our propane to critical operations. That is home heat, hospitals, daycare centres. We're looking at emergency services as being the critical pieces."
And switching over to tractor trailers isn’t really an option, Kelly says.
In Sarnia, he says a massive eastern Canada propane storage area is overrun with transport trucks trying to get propane to their regions of Canada and the U.S., since rail isn’t an option.
“The issue is, because the rail terminals are shut down, everybody is going to Sarnia. And we have trucks that are heading to Sarnia from Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Northeastern U.S. and now you are facing wait times of six to eight hours, just to get a load of propane."
It’s an unsustainable situation according to Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MP Karen Vecchio.
She's pleased to hear Kelly, and others, have the ear of federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, but she’s concerned any action may come too late.
“We need to be able to get back to parliament, and bring this up immediately. We don't convene for almost two weeks. This is an urgent message, and we need to get back to work."