Rail blockade forces rationing of propane across Atlantic Canada
HALIFAX -- The prime minister's words might not be enough for people who rely on propane to heat their homes or power their businesses.
Without a firm deadline for getting the trains back on track, their tanks are running low -- and suppliers are running out.
At Willman's Fish and Chips, propane is as essential as the haddock.
"Heat the building, run the fryer, and the stove, so all our business depending on the propane," said owner Lucien Nehme.
Nehme is keeping a close eye on his supply after his supplier expressed concern about propane reserves.
He figures he has about 10 days worth of fuel left.
It's the same story at the Steak and Stein, where the sizzle on the steak comes from propane.
"Without it, we simply can't operate," said manager John Scott.
Scott says so far, he has enough propane both for cooking and heating the building, but Scott knows what it's like to run out after his supplies missed a delivery earlier this month.
"Simply what happened is the temperatures dropped and our flame virtually went out," Scott said. "And at that point, we made a quick decision to evacuate the building and close the doors."
For independent propane dealers, especially in rural areas, concern is growing.
"This time of year, we're usually delivering about 30,000 to 60,000 litres a week, and right now we have 10,000," said Colleen Muis of Royal Propane
For Royal Propane, there are residential and commercial customers to worry about, along with the very future of its own operation and its employees.
"Nobody here understands why the east is cut off and left to freeze over a dispute in the west, but you know, that's politics," Muis said.
With the rail shutdown entering a third week, propane companies are trucking in what they can and conserving what they have.
But even when rail resumes, the worry won't end.
"It's going to take a good several weeks for this to get back on track, and if we get lots of cold weather at the wrong time that will really exacerbate the problem," said Superior Propane president Greg McCamus.
There is no easy alternative to propane for many restaurant owners.
Without it, there's only one option
"Hope they can find solution to it, because if not, we have a couple weeks off," Nehme said.
That's time he hopes, he won't have to take.
The concern remains that even with the prime minister saying the barricades must come down, without a plan or a timeline to do that , the uncertainty will linger over how much longer supply services will be disrupted.