Border enforcement appears to be arbitrary and unpredictable, said Don Rodzik Jr., corporate manager at The Narmco Group, a Windsor supplier of metal stampings and assemblies.
While Narmco has not lost any U.S. business, it faces ongoing inconsistencies at the border, he said. In late November, “we had OEM reps from the U.S. who were denied access to our facility. Another group of [customers] were able to cross at the same time with the same paperwork.”
The uncertainty could jeopardize future production, said Tim Galbraith, sales manager at Cavalier Tool & Manufacturing Ltd., a Windsor-area mold maker. “We’re negotiating some very large contracts for 2021. Invariably, what we’re hearing is, ‘Why should I place it with you when I can’t come and check you out?’ ”
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the union representing border guards both said the guidelines on who is or isn’t exempt from restrictions are clear and are being properly enforced.
“Being considered an essential worker or essential employee does not automatically mean the person is exempt,” Rebecca Purdy, a Border Services Agency spokeswoman, wrote in an email to Automotive News Canada.
“CBSA officers use the information available to them at the time the traveller is seeking entry into Canada to determine if the traveller is eligible to enter the country.”
“I can guarantee you I’m satisfied they’re following all the rules,” said Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the 11,000-member Customs and Immigration Union, whose membership includes border guards.
Multinational automakers said they’re also feeling the impact.
“Absolutely, it’s an issue,” said Brian Kingston, CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which represents General Motors Canada, Ford of Canada and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada. “Whether it’s repairs to an existing piece of equipment or installation of new equipment, there’s no longer any certainty around when you can get that done.”
Canadian automotive suppliers have noticed border restrictions tightened with the second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.
BUSINESSES WANT CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
“What we’re hearing is this is impacting small and medium-size business more than larger industries,” said Marta Leardi-Anderson, executive director of the Cross-Border Institute at the University of Windsor. “Even if there’s a vaccine, it’s going to take time for people to get vaccinated.”
Auto suppliers said they would like to see the government introduce a certification program that identifies companies with safe COVID-19 practices, such as requiring masks and providing separate bathrooms and meeting rooms for visitors.
They also want to see the government create a trusted-traveller program, similar to Nexus, that identifies individuals considered essential to the industry, to remove the current uncertainty about who can cross.