Navigating the politics of Canada’s rail blockades

With protesting blocking major Canadian rail arteries now entering their third week, pressure is mounting for a solution.

Despite restarting service on some routes yesterday, VIA Rail temporarily laid off 1,000 of its employees.

Those lay-offs are on top of the 450 announced by CN earlier this week.

Job losses and other economic costs mount by the day as the protests idle $425 million worth of manufactured goods.

Provincial premiers are pressing the federal government for action.

And frustrations threaten to boil over into vigilanteism as everyday Canadians, too, begin to say enough is enough.

The federal government has pleaded for patience as it has tried to find a way forward.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of so-called progressive opposition party leaders to ask them to support his approach and continued “dialogue.”

But with pressure mounting and polls showing a majority of voters opposed to the blockades, the government may be forced to change course.

One thing is clear: the politics of the blockades are as volatile as the situation itself.

The government is seeking a solution that maintains its tenuous electoral coalition and preserves its fledgling Parliamentary minority.

The opposition Conservatives, embroiled in a leadership race, have (rightly) called the blockades illegal and urged decisive action, without offering very many concrete ideas about ‘action’ actually means and what happens longer-term.

The Conservatives are virtually isolated as the Bloc Québecois, the NDP and the Greens have all essentially endorsed the government’s approach for now.

But with looming shortages of propane (used for heating and cooking) and chlorine (used to treat drinking water) threatening to impact people and communities across the countries, that support could easily shift.

All of this underscores the very fluid nature of Parliament Hill politics on matters critical to the national interest.

For now, it’s rail (and related issues surrounding the environment, economy, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples). It will surely be another issue once this situation is resolved. Will you be ready?

When politics and public policy collide, effective advocacy becomes more critical than ever. We can help you and your organization navigate through the most challenging of public affairs environments.

We’ve got your back to stay on track and moving forward. Get in touch today.

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