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Blockades disrupting Sask. trucking companies

Some Saskatchewan truckers have sat idle on the side of the road as they figure out where they can access the nearest border.

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With blockades across the country disrupting the movement of goods, some truckers in Saskatchewan have sat idle on the side of the road as they figure out where they can access the nearest border.

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In some cases truckers have driven an extra 400 to 500 kilometers to access an open entry point, which has caused frustration, according to Reg Quiring, a co-founder of Saskatoon-based trucking company Q-Line.

“The truck drivers just want to move and they don’t like waiting for many reasons, and this is just another kind of disruption,” said Quiring, who added he has no drivers participating in the blockades.

Blockades at various borders in Canada have been set up as part of protests against COVID-19 mandates.

At the border in Coutts, Alta., vehicles have been blocking access for more than a week. RCMP have tried to persuade protesters to move to another location.

This week protesters have blocked the Ambassador Bridge, a vital border crossing between Windsor and Detroit that sees US$323 million worth of goods transported each day.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said Thursday the blockades are costing shippers and retailers significant losses, as well as impairing the drivers who deliver those goods.

It said many of the vehicles and people involved in the protests aren’t operating heavy trucks or associated with the industry.

“The patience of drivers and the vast majority of the trucking industry regarding these blockades has long-since expired,” said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, in a news release. “Their actions simply hurt Canadians and they have shown a blatant disregard for all the lives they are impacting.”

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While the CTA has previously called on the government to not enforce vaccination mandates for truckers crossing the border, it has said it disapproves of the protests.

A general view shows truckers and their supporters blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, in protest against COVID-19 mandates.
A general view shows truckers and their supporters blocking access to the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, in protest against COVID-19 mandates. Photo by CARLOS OSORIO /REUTERS

The ramifications of the blockades are being felt in Saskatchewan, according to some companies.

Quiring said it has caused logistical challenges where drivers are being sent to routes that are less efficient.

“The impact is to the customer,” said Quiring, whose company delivers equipment and machinery for various industries. “As for the driver, they have to plan a pretty tight week with tight hours and these delays don’t help.”

Rob Ruiters, who works with Bison Transport in the province and is the second vice-chair of the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, said the blockades have caused delays, affecting the supply chain.

“There is a sense of frustration within the whole industry,” Ruiters said. “It’s very frustrating and somewhat a feeling of senseless frustration because we’re just hurting ourselves.

“We’re certainly not helping the industry and certainly not helping you or I as consumers, regardless of what side of the fence you’re sitting on.”

From a business standpoint, he would like truckers to have easy access to the border.

“This is a very divisive topic, obviously, but regardless on which side you fall on this issue, from an operational and economic standpoint, this is certainly impactful,” Ruiters said.

Premier Scott Moe said in a statement Thursday he supports peaceful protests but not unlawful activity.

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“The right to peaceful protest should not be impeding others’ right to access public transportation routes and border crossings,” Moe said. “I would call on all the protesters to continue to advance their valid concerns about the federal vaccine mandates without engaging in unlawful activity and obstructing the rights of their fellow Canadians.”

Moe’s stance on the issue appears to have changed after he said on CBC Power & Politics Wednesday the blockades will make governments pay attention.

“It isn’t for me to judge ultimately whether they should or not. There’s obviously laws in place that they may be liable for,” he said. “I’m going to stay out of telling them what to do.”

Moe’s position on blockades was more firm in February 2020 when protesters had blocked rail lines in protest of the Costal GasLink project in BC

At the time, Moe had demanded they end.

“The fact of the matter is, when it comes to blocking our rail lines, really what you are trying to do is hamstring the Canadian economy,” Moe had told reporters in February 2020.

Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Thursday Moe’s remarks suggest he agrees with the methods and message by protesters, adding that the blockades are costing the economy and putting jobs at risk.

“This is someone who once upon a time would speak up against blockades, and it’s this kind of moment where Scott Moe can’t go any lower, and here he did,” Meili said.

The NDP’s economy and jobs critic Aleana Young said the last thing Saskatchewan’s economy needs is more uncertainty, adding there is already a shortage of truckers.

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“What we are seeing is disruption to that already incredibly uncertain and fragile economy,” she said. “The occupation the premier is encouraging is eliminating revenue and tarnishing relationships with trading partners.”

Meili has said Moe is caving into the demands by protesters and putting politics over science.

Moe has called on the federal government to outline a plan to end COVID-19 mandates.

jsimes@postmedia.com

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