WASHINGTON CHIMES IN
The U.S. government addressed the issue Wednesday, warning that the blockade risks hurting the auto industry, which is already dealing with a global shortage of semiconductors.
"I think it's important for everyone in Canada and the United States to understand what the impact of this blockage is — potential impact — on workers, on the supply chain, and that is where we're most focused," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. "We're also looking to tracking potential disruptions to U.S. agricultural exports from Michigan into Canada."
The Ambassador Bridge is Canada’s busiest link to the United States and accounts for about 25 percent of trade between the two countries.
“So the blockade poses a risk to supply chains for the auto industry because the bridge is a key conduit for motor vehicles, components and parts, and delays risk disrupting auto production," Psaki said.
Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem called for a swift resolution.
"If there were to be prolonged blockages at key entry points into Canada that could start to have a measurable impact on economic activity in Canada," he said.
"We've already got a strained global supply chain. We don't need this."
The protests were disrupting jobs and the economy's supply chain and "must end before further damage occurs," Canada's Emergency Preparedness Minister, Bill Blair, told reporters in a press briefing.
'ONGOING ILLEGAL OCCUPATION'
Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a statement late Wednesday.
"The ongoing illegal occupation and blockade happening in Ontario must stop. The Ambassador Bridge is one of the most vital trade corridors in our country. The damage this is causing to our economy, to people’s jobs and their livelihoods is totally unacceptable. We cannot let this continue," he said. "I have spoken to both Mayor Drew Dilkens and Mayor Mike Bradley and told them the province is ready to provide any support we can offer.
"Protecting the cross-border movement of essential goods across our highly integrated Canada-U.S. supply chains is vitally important, especially as trade and the free movement of goods will play a crucial role in our economic recovery," she added in a statement to Automotive News Canada.
‘WILLING TO DIE’
At a press conference earlier Wednesday, both Windsor police and city officials said they were seeking a peaceful resolution.
“We have heard from countless residents for police just to go in there and remove everybody,” said Mayor Drew Dilkens. “But we have heard from one woman involved [in the protest] who outwardly stated she was so passionate about her cause she was willing to die for it.
“It is that type of sentiment we are dealing with,” said Dilkens. “We don’t want things to escalate where it is dangerous for members of police, the community or protesters themselves.”
Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno said the force has requested additional officers, vehicles and intelligence support from the provincial and federal governments.
The mayor also expressed concern about the “lasting and permanent impact” the protest will have on the region’s competitiveness. He noted that Windsor and Essex County is home to one of the largest automotive clusters in Canada. “Business requires certainty,” he said.
Only passenger vehicles can access the bridge through an entrance off a more residential street. And commercial trucks are also banned from using the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel which connects the downtown cores of each city. As the demonstrators occupy the road leading to the bridge, the CBSA is encouraging truck traffic to use the Bluewater Bridge in Sarnia, Ont., about 90 minutes north of the Windsor crossing.
The Michigan Department of Transportation said the Ambassador Bridge remained closed on the U.S. side. It also advised those headed to Canada to use the Port Huron, Mich., crossing, which connects that American city with Sarnia.
‘MOLDMAKERS ‘UP IN ARMS’
The mold making industry was watching the bridge closure and protests with increasing concern.
The Canadian Association of Moldmakers and Automate Canada said they were sending a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for stronger action to resolve the crisis.
Jeanine Lassaline-Berglund, president of both organizations, said some member companies are “up in arms” about the business disruptions. She said one company noted it sends C$4.5 million (US$3.5 million) in tooling across the border each month.
She said the Canadian firms are worried the shutdown will make U.S. customers more reluctant to source in Canada, on top of the struggles with border trade during the two years of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This has the potential for devastating effect,” she said. “In our opinion, we have U.S. customers and the U.S. public at large, if you will, that are watching what is going on here and saying, ‘This is just one more reason not to do business in Canada.’”
She said the two groups, which are based in Windsor, were encouraging the government to talk with protestors.
“We need resolution,” she said. “However you can come to a resolution, we need it. We’re here to support.”
Industry consultant Laurie Harbour said the bridge shutdown could have significant impact, noting that many mold builders in Canada buy steel and components from the United States.
“This could delay builds and deliveries to customers which will cause a ripple effect to molders that won’t be able to make parts for new vehicle launches,” said Harbour, who is president and CEO of Harbour Results in Southfield, Mich. “I don’t have hard data but this could have a significant impact if it goes on too long.”
With files from Bloomberg News, Reuters, Plastics News and Grace Macaluso and Rob Bostelaar of Automotive News Canada.