Canadian trucker blockades impact production on both sides of the border

Truckers and protesters blocked a key border crossing between the U.S. and Canada for a fifth straight day. A court injunction issued late Friday ordered an end to that blockade. But for now trucks are blocking three border crossings, stopping commerce and leading to shutdowns of auto plants and production cuts. Paul Solman reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported, truckers and protesters blocked a key border crossing between the U.S. and Canada for a fifth straight day. A court injunction issued late today ordered an end to the blockade. And President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke about trying to stop the disruptions.

    But, for now, the trucks are still blocking three border crossings in Montana, North Dakota, and Michigan. That includes most of a crucial bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. It has led to shutdowns of auto plants and production cuts in Michigan, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Canada.

    Paul Solman has a look at the latest.

  • Paul Solman:

    A normally free-flowing U.S.-Canada trade artery choked to a standstill by protesters, many from the U.S., calling themselves the Freedom Convoy.

    It began in late January, in response to a rule imposed by both countries that truckers be fully vaccinated to cross the border. It's day five of protests at the Ambassador Bridge, the key transit point which connects Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit. Truckers have shut down the road.

  • Protestor:

    We want freedom, freedom of all mandates, and that's what we are fighting for. We are Canadian, and we want to be free Canadians.

  • Paul Solman:

    Canada is our biggest trading partner, bigger than China and the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing, a quarter of all trade between the two countries flowing across this one bridge.

    A key economic problem? Auto parts deliveries stalled, manufacturers Ford, Toyota, GM forced to scale back production or entirely shut down plants.

    Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Autotrader.

  • Michelle Krebs, Autotrader:

    This is very significant because, for one, it comes at a terrible time. We are already short on new vehicle inventory because of the global computer chip shortage that occurred last year.

    We had a lot of plants that were shut down, could not produce vehicles. There's very little inventory to buy. So, for consumers, it may mean that they will have to wait longer for the vehicles that they have ordered. For automakers, it's just shut down their production.

  • Paul Solman:

    What began as defiance of a specific COVID trucking rule has now morphed into a larger protest against how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has been handling the virus.

  • Matt, Protester:

    The first step is to defuse the situation by opening up some good communication and dropping these mandates and resetting life back to normal.

  • Paul Solman:

    The jam got so bad that local officials successfully obtained a court order to stop the protest. Its immediate impact is unclear, but it's set to take effect tonight.

    And, today, Prime Minister Trudeau called for a peaceful resolution of the protests.

  • Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister:

    So, make no mistake, the border cannot and will not remain closed.

  • Paul Solman:

    The Biden administration has also asked Canada to intervene using federal powers. By contrast, the hard right in the U.S. has cheered the movement, words of support coming from the likes of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):

    I think the Canadian truckers are standing up for freedom. I think it is powerful to watch. It is an incredible groundswell.

  • Paul Solman:

    A groundswell happening here in the U.S., too, it seems. The Department of Homeland Security said a convoy could begin in Southern California as early as this weekend and disrupt Super Bowl traffic.

    And truckers elsewhere in the world have been triggered to start protests of their own. Yesterday, in New Zealand, people were arrested in the capital city of Wellington, while police in Paris are deploying thousands of officers this weekend to keep a growing convoy out of that city.

    Now, of course, people have used economic boycotts for political ends going back centuries.

    So what's different is?

    Adam Posen, President, Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics: What's different right now is the willingness to do this to a major choke point.

  • Paul Solman:

    To Adam Posen, President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a traditional boycott is a different animal from this one.

  • Adam Posen:

    It's about commercial power and consumer choice. It's not about physical power, you cannot get access to needed supplies. That's a different level. That's what we're seeing here.

  • Paul Solman:

    Posen also sees a connection to the recent supply chain breakdowns, like the boat that blocked the Suez Canal or the COVID paralysis.

  • Adam Posen:

    That people weren't aware of the power of these choke points prior to recent events, or they weren't thinking about it as a political weapon.

  • Paul Solman:

    Should this protest worry us because it shows just how vulnerable we actually are?

  • Adam Posen:

    Politically, this is a more extreme, aggressive form of protest, a weaponization of protest that's potentially more damaging. And I think the police and the military in our governments have to figure out how to respond to these threats.

  • Paul Solman:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman.

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