Oakville auto workers affected by bridge blockades


Published February 9, 2022 at 10:30 pm

Auto workers at the Oakville Assembly Plant will apparently have lighter paycheques as a result of the bridge blockades in southwestern Ontario.

Thousands of trucks carry automotive parts and finished vehicles travel from Michigan to Ontario every day over the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, as well as Blue Water bridge in Sarnia. Demonstrators at both locations are acting in solidarity with the Freedom Convoy, an anti-public health/anti-vaccine protest that has kept Ottawa under siege for nearly two weeks. Demonstrators started blocking provincially and municipally maintained roads leading from the bridges on Monday, tying up truck drivers who are not part of the protests being held up for hours.

As a result, the Ford Motor Company has reduced production at plants in Windsor and Oakville. Media reports on Wednesday indicated that production in Oakville was reduced by 50 per cent, with staff hours being cut from eight to four hours per day.

Late Wednesday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford discusssed the Ottawa siege and the Sarnia/Windsor blockades. Ford’s government might have the most administrative power to curb the convoys.

“The blockades in Windsor and Ottawa are endangering jobs, impeding trade, threatening the economy, and obstructing our communities,” Trudeau stated. “They must stop. I spoke about that with (Premier Ford) tonight — our teams will keep working to support Ontarians and get the situation under control.”

“We will continue working together to support our police forces as they manage these situations,” Ford stated. “We both agreed this must come to an end.”

About 20 per cent of all U.S.-Canadian trade crosses over the Ambassador Bridge, according to a report from NBC News. A A large percentage of the produce that comes to the Ontario Food Terminal for inspection before going to grocery stores also comes over the Ambassador Bridge.

Toyota Canada’s three Ontario plants (two in Cambridge, one in Woodstock) are also shutting down for the rest of the week, according to multiple media reports.

Province most powerful?

It is not clear how the three levels of government — the federal Liberals, the Ontario PC Party provincial government, and municipal government and police services in the cities where demonstrators are hunkering down — plan to act to restore stability.

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, the Liberal member of Parliament for Mississauga Centre, has called the demonstration an “illegal blockade.” In a TV appearance on Tuesday, he proposed that his Ontario counterpart, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney of imposing regulatory fines on drivers of commercial vehicles involved in the pandemic protests.

For his part, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens has cautioned about taking actions that would “inflame the situation” around the Ambassador Bridge.

The province, through Ford’s Ontario PC Party government and Attorney General Douglas Downey, would appear to have the most power to end the blockade. While Ford and Trudeau talked on Wednesday, neither Ford or any provincial cabinet minister has reportedly not attended two tri-lateral meetings to discuss solutions in Ottawa. Nor has Ford visited the area.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca and some of his party’s members of provincial Parliament went to downtown Ottawa on Wednesday. Del Duca will also reportedly visit Windsor on Thursday (Feb. 10).

On Tuesday, Ford called the Ambassador Bridge a “vital trade artery between Canada and the U.S. Many essential workers, including frontline health care workers, rely on it to get to work.”

On Jan. 28, the premier’s anti-vaccine daughter, Krista Haynes, shared posts on Instagram proclaiming her support for the convoy. Haynes, whose spouse lost his job as a Toronto police officer after declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, held a “F*ck Trudeau” flag in one of the pictures she shared.

Stephanie Carvin, an international relations professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, affirmed on Wednesday that the province can suspend the trucking licences of anyone who is involved in a convoy. Carvin, a former national security analyst, also pointed out that New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government has added convoy-specific language to its COVID-19 mandatory orders.

“Presumably this could be ended if Ontario declared that anyone in a Convoy will have their license suspended in the next 12 hours?” wrote Carvin, who is a native of the Oshawa area, where the auto industry is also a major employer. “Administrative law the crap out of this!”

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also said that the province has the power to revoke trucking licences.

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