CN Rail confirmed our faltering economy — aided by Donald Trump’s trade war with China and China’s hard-nosed approach to Canadian exports over the house arrest of a top Huawei executive at the behest of the U.S. — has begun cutting back freight volumes and laying off upwards of 1,600 workers.
This was seen coming, of course, when CN’s chief financial officer, Jean-Jacques Ruest, put out a public warning in September that some of his company’s rails were a little dodgy.
But the October federal election barely mentioned the fragility of our nation’s economy, or the bad financial news from CN.
The Liberals of Justin Trudeau headlined the “climate crisis” in most of its campaign stops, of course, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was kept busy during the last weeks dodging if he was a fervent anti-abortionist or planning the divorce proceedings of same-sex marriage.
Even the news that Calgary-based Encana, established back in the pioneer days of the railroad, was pulling up stakes for more hospitable investment climes in Denver got little mention beyond the financial media — despite the slap in the face of the company erasing everything from its profile that would link it to Canada.
Unbelievably, Encana CEO Doug Suttles insisted the name and “corporate domicile” changes would not result in any layoffs, even as cabs were lining up outside its Calgary office to take home the newly jobless.
It was this unusual cab lineup that tipped off the media.
Now it’s CN, its situation made worse by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference giving its 72-hour strike warning over the weekend which could see its 3,200 unionized conductors, train crew and yard workers walking off the job as early as Tuesday.
John Moore, industry minister under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, cited the layoffs at CN as proof of Canada’s economic reliance on international markets.
“One in five Canadian jobs is dependent directly on trade,” he told CTV. “And we have a problem of a collapse of market access with the rest of the world, and with the United States.”
But where was this found in the election campaign as Canadian exports of canola, beef and pork were being terminated by China as two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, continued to languish in its jails on trumped-up charges because of the Huawei executive’s house arrest in Vancouver?
The Conservatives are not without their guilt. It is supposed to be a party of solid fiscal management and pocketbook policies, but the best Scheer could come up with was the pie-in-the-sky promise of a dedicated coast-to-coast energy corridor to make Canada energy independent by 2030.
It sounds absolutely wonderful, of course, but it’s wishful thinking and moot considering Scheer is in lowly opposition — and not the PM with a majority that he wanted — and with the roadblocks of Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet doubling-down on his disdain for Alberta’s oil sector.
This is what happens when a separatist party holds the balance of power in the Commons, thanks to the voting wisdom of Quebecers.
Blanchet even tossed out the insult that Wexit is a publicity stunt.
Trudeau has his work cut out for him if he plans to throw a legislated bone to the beleaguered oil and gas sector, Tran Mountain pipeline aside — even as Quebec acknowledges the hypocrisy of getting almost 50% of its oil from Alberta, and by CN Rail’s oil tankers, no less.
So, what if an extended rail strike has no oil tankers rolling to Quebec?
Today’s divisive politics have a way of coming back to bite.