By: Gregory Staley
Written On: 2022-04-24
Mr. Bob Masterson is the President of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada. Recently, Mr. Masterson spoke at a Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and he didn’t hold back or mince words when addressing the problems he sees in Canada’s rail networks. You can listen to his speech here.
Mr. Masterson began his speech to the committee by stating that “Canada’s chemistry industry is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the country and the second-largest rail shipper.” He noted that every day the industry ships 550 railcars – that’s over 4,000 cars a week—and they do that 52 weeks a year. The Canadian rail industry as a whole is a revenue behemoth for the government of Canada and in 2019 had a total operating revenue of over $15 billion dollars.
Mr. Masterson pointed out that if Canada is to reach the objective of having 100 million people by the end of the century – a staggering 500,000 new Canadians must join Canada every year. The President of the Chemistry Association of Canada noted that “the rail and transportation infrastructure we have today is already constrained” and that there is an “enormous job” ahead of the committee to convince the “government and Canadians of what needs to be done to fundamentally allow our critical infrastructure to grow and meet the needs of this growing economy.”
The effects of labour disputes on the rail industry were pointed out by Mr. Masterson as another huge point of contention going forward for the industry. Mr. Masterson told the committee that 55% of their members have lost sales in Canada and abroad due to the disruptions in the rail transportation service.
Mr. Masterson also told the committee that over the last decade, there have been “severe rail network disruptions on a nearly annual basis” and that they’re “too numerous to mention.” Many of these disruptions have been tied to labour disputes according to Mr. Masterson.
The concern over labour disputes when it comes to Canada’s rail networks is not to be understated. As Mr. Masterson told the committee, one week of rail disruption leads to a staggering loss of $532 million in missed or delayed sales.
It’s also not as simple as just starting things up at the end of a strike either. After a strike it can take weeks to return the system to normal fluidity according to Mr. Masterson. “These disruptions are important. They cost billions in lost sales and have tarnished our reputation as a reliable supplier” Mr. Masterson told the committee.
“The most important recommendation we would make to you is to look at finding a way to ensure that we can avoid rail labour disputes. Every week we’re disrupted means $532 million in delayed or missed sales. I’ll point out that in the United States, they have not had such a disruption for a hundred years. Their Railway Labor Act ensures better outcomes for everyone.” – Bob Masterson, President of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
If Canada is to continue growing its economy it must have a stable and reliable transportation sector. Labour disruptions can’t happen to an industry that is critical to Canada’s economy and overall well-being. Whether it’s rail blockades or labour disputes – Canada’s rail networks have a history of disruption and it needs to stop.
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