Small business owners say Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades costing them

Nearly a quarter of small business owners across Canada say they’ve been negatively affected by the rail blockades in support of some Wet’suweten hereditary chiefs and almost 50 per cent say they expect to feel impacts soon, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a professional association and lobby group, also says affected owners have lost, on average, $60,000 since the blockades started.

Demonstrators raised blockades across Canada in early February to express solidarity with the hereditary chiefs opposing the construction of the LNG Coastal GasLink pipeline through traditional territory.

Gordon Ashdown, a small business owner in Saskatoon, says the demonstrations are hurting his business.

“I brought in a couple of pallets of product last week and I paid roughly 35-40 per cent more than the previous shipment,” he told Global News.

Ashdown has owned CanWest Wholesale Esthetics, a makeup supply store, for more than 20 years.

He said low oil prices and the carbon tax were already sapping the economy and the blockades, which are delaying trains across the country, are making things worse.

“It’s too early to get a reading on it,” he said, “but prices will have to go up very shortly if we don’t come to a resolution.”

“We’re at a point where it’s becoming a crisis for small business owners,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB vice-president for Western Canada and Agri-business.

She added that 96 per cent of Saskatchewan businesses are worried the blockades and delayed products will hurt investor confidence in the country and that the average for lost income in the province is $78,000.

Ashdown said he broadly agrees with the environmental component of the demonstrations but not with the method.

Erica Violet Lee, an organizer of the Saskatoon demonstration, said the “inconvenience” today is worth a more equitable tomorrow.

“It’s important for small business owners to recognize Indigenous people have been inconvenienced for the last century and a half,” she said.

“I think that people need to take into account that their vision of what is right in terms of economic development is not right for everybody in the country.”

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