Canada truckers protest hits auto industry

Major carmakers say production is being affected by border closures

The world’s biggest car manufacturers, Ford and Toyota, said on Wednesday they were halting production at their Canada plants due to trucker protests. The drivers are demonstrating against the Covid-19 vaccination requirements for crossing the US-Canadian border.

Toyota said output had paused at three factories in Ontario, adding that no more vehicles will be produced there this week. Manufacturing has also ceased at a Ford engine factory, while Chrysler-maker Stellantis said parts shortages had affected shifts at its plant in the Canadian province.

The so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’ demonstrations have been going on for two weeks and have turned into a broader protest against coronavirus restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

The protests began late last month in central Ottawa, where about 400 trucks remain. Since Monday, drivers have shut inbound Canada traffic at the Ambassador Bridge. The largest international suspension bridge at a border crossing accounts for about a quarter of US-Canada trade.

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File photo: A protester shovels snow from around a police car and a 'Freedom Convoy' truck in Ottawa, Canada, February 3, 2022
Police threaten to arrest protesting truckers

Canada’s transport minister, Omar Alghabra, has called it an illegal economic blockade against all Canadians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slammed the movement as “unacceptable,” saying it was damaging the recovery of the country’s economy.

“Blockades, illegal demonstrations are unacceptable, and are negatively impacting businesses and manufacturers,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons, adding, “We must do everything to bring them to an end.”

Addressing the protesters, he said, “You can’t end a pandemic with blockades… You need to end it with science. You need to end it with public health measures.”

The auto plants’ shutdowns come as another blow to the global car industry, which was already struggling with a shortage of semiconductor chips, industry experts say. It could lead to further price increases for consumers, they warn.

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