Manufacturing plants at the heart of the North American auto industry face shortages, closures, layoffs and multi-million dollar losses as ‘freedom convoy’ protesters continue to block traffic on the busiest border crossing between Canada and the United States.
The Ambassador Bridge, between the automaking cities of Detroit and Windsor, remained largely blocked on Wednesday, as trade associations warned that manufacturers in the region risked losing $50 million a day due to delays.
Vehicles are Canada’s second largest export, with the United States buying more than 90% of this offer.
David Adams, president of auto industry group Global Automakers of Canada, told the Guardian that between 5,000 and 7,000 trucks use the Ambassador Bridge daily to deliver auto parts. The bridge is responsible for 27% of all trade between Canada and the United States.
“It’s an essential border crossing,” he said. “Some factories are at risk of being closed.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US government is closely monitoring the protests. “The blockade represents a risk for supply chains, for the automotive industry,” she said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters remain camped out in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and others have blocked a second international bridge in Alberta that also remained.
Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association of Canada – said the blockades, organized on behalf of Canadian truckers who oppose mandatory mask mandates – could result in layoffs for the very people the protests are meant to represent.
Volpe described the blockade as a “brain-dead move.”
“By allowing the protests to continue, we’re making it look like you can take over the country with a few Hyundai Tucsons and a flimsy cover that you represent a group that has made it clear you don’t,” Volpe told the Guardian. . .
He said the blockade could ultimately lead to the closure of auto parts makers on both sides of the border.
“It’s literally the dumbest thing you can do,” he continued.
Between 50 and 75 vehicles and 100 people were involved in the blockade, Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno said Wednesday.
At the same press conference, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the protest had so far been “peaceful and uneventful”, but added that local authorities had asked for additional support.
He also said he didn’t want to “risk further conflict” by expelling protesters.
Police have been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to brazen breaking of the law as protests proliferate across the country.
The protest movement was initially spurred by a federal vaccination mandate for truckers crossing the Canada-US border, but evolved into a mix of anti-vaccination, anti-warrant and anti-government complaints.
In Ottawa, 23 arrests were made and hundreds of tickets were issued by local police. But the city center remains paralyzed by rows of trucks and other vehicles, some of which are parked directly in front of the Canadian Parliament.
Police say considerable financial support has come from the United States, which has kept protesters in place.
Dozens of small businesses and their employees have been hit by the lockdowns, with some having to close for the duration of the protests to avoid clashes with protesters – many of whom are unvaccinated and who refuse to wear face masks. inside.
Representatives of the convoy said they had no intention of leaving until their demands had been met. Late on Tuesday, an organizer raised concerns by commenting that the protest convoy would be heading for Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, but later said he was just ‘playing a game’ with police .
But on chains of protesters online there have been calls to block further border crossings between Canada and the United States, further threatening a trade relationship valued at more than US$700 billion.
Meanwhile, anti-vaccine protesters in France launched their own “freedom convoy”, many of which carried Canadian flags. Some 200 protesters gathered in a parking lot in Nice, on the French Mediterranean coast, saying they planned to travel first to Paris and then to Brussels to demand the removal of rules barring people from public places if they don’t have a Covid-19 vaccination.