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Small businesses in Western Canada hit hard by rail blockades with thousands of dollars in losses reported

Last Updated Feb 25, 2020 at 7:16 am PST

FILE - Supporters stand with protesters during a rail blockade in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ont. on Monday, Feb.17, 2020, in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs opposed to the LNG pipeline in northern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

'Continued disruption of rail service is quickly becoming a crisis for small businesses,' CFIB says

Small businesses in Western Canada have apparently been hit hardest by rail blockades

Many business owners across Canada said continued disruptions have forced them to suspend operation, lay off staff

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We are starting to get a picture of just who and what has been impacted by the last three weeks of rail blockades across Canada.

Activists promised to “shut-down-Canada” in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline, and the demonstrations definitely made a dent.

Many business owners are breathing a sigh of relief now that some blockades are down in Ontario and B.C., but there are still nearly 60 ships waiting to get into Vancouver-area ports.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has surveyed nearly 7,000 small businesses since Feb. 21.

“The continued disruption of rail service is quickly becoming a crisis for small businesses,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a release.

The CFIB’s report also found many small businesses claim to be “in danger of losing important contracts to other international competitors,” and also cited concerns about their reputation with clients.

“While there are no easy answers to this complex issue, the risks of inaction are significant too,” Kelly said.

One business involved in importing and exporting goods claims to have lose $80,000 and laid off all its staff as overseas shipping rates tripled in price.

The CFIB explained many small businesses rely on rail to ship their products and receive supplies. “They typically have limited resources and cash reserves to weather a prolonged service interruption,” it added.

Small businesses in the western provinces have been the hardest hit, according to the CFIB, with businesses in the agriculture sector the most impacted, followed by those in wholesale, natural resources, transportation, and manufacturing.

“But all sectors and all provinces report significant negative impacts, including 23 per cent of retailers affected by the blockade,” the CFIB said.

Many business owners across the country have said the continued disruptions have even forced them to suspend operations, or even lay off staff.

Ninety-per-cent of small business owners surveyed said the federal government needs to make resuming rail service a priority.

On Monday, police and protesters clashed in Ontario and several people were arrested where a blockade was taken down on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory that had been disrupting a major rail line near Belleville. Officers had moved in after a midnight deadline for protesters to clear out had expired.

Meanwhile, reports suggested demonstrators faced off with police at a blockade in northwestern B.C. Monday night, resulting in a number of arrests.

Tuesday morning, new blockades continued in Toronto, blocking commuter trains while in Sumas a new demonstration blocked trains there.