Ambassador Bridge blockades giving ‘ammunition’ to ‘Buy America’ champions

Click to play video: 'Ambassador Bridge protest blockade disrupts car manufacturing sector'
Ambassador Bridge protest blockade disrupts car manufacturing sector
WATCH: Ambassador Bridge protest blockade disrupts car manufacturing sector – Feb 10, 2022

The impact of the ongoing Ambassador Bridge blockades on automotive manufacturing on both sides of the border is stoking the flames of economic nationalism and supply chain concerns in the United States.

Blockades in solidarity with the so-called “Freedom Convoy” at the bridge connecting Windsor, Ont., to Detroit, Mich., are stretching into their fourth day, stymying what’s typically the busiest land border crossing in North America and causing delays at other ports of entry.

The impact has been especially acute on the automotive sector.

Toyota said Thursday that operations are being affected on both sides of the border, with production paused at the carmarker’s three assembly lines in Ontario. Ford and General Motors have also reported slowdowns or cancelled shifts this week and other carmakers say they’re watching the situation carefully and warning of widespread impacts on the auto industry.

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Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Closure of Ambassador Bridge causing major delays at Blue Water Bridge entry point'
Trucker protests: Closure of Ambassador Bridge causing major delays at Blue Water Bridge entry point

Also keeping a keen eye on the blockades are American policymakers.

Elissa Slotkin, a congressperson in Michigan, tweeted a thread late Wednesday arguing that the Ambassador Bridge blockades show why the States “can’t be this reliant on parts coming from foreign countries.”

“The one thing that couldn’t be more clear is that we have to bring American manufacturing back home to states like Michigan,” she wrote.

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Fraser Johnson, an operations management professor at the Ivey Business School in London, Ont., told Global News this week that the supply chain shortages that have dominated much of the global economy this past year were already pushing companies to re-evaluate their business models and think closer to home.
Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Aerial footage of protest causing delays on Ambassador Bridge'
Trucker protests: Aerial footage of protest causing delays on Ambassador Bridge

The latest blockades are again highlighting the risks inherent to cross-border trade, and give economic nationalists in the U.S. “more ammunition to be able to justify why they shouldn’t be sourcing goods and services in Canada,” he said.

“There’s a huge sentiment in the states about ‘Buy America.’”

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Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, says carmakers likely aren’t doubting the quality or long-term stability of supply lines from Canadian plants at this point in the blockades.

But what is being evaluated is the Canadian response, both from political leaders and law enforcement, to the protests.

“The question isn’t whether there is a good infrastructure and great supply on the side of the border. It’s whether law enforcement on this side of the border takes laws that are on the books as seriously as the ones on the other side,” he told Global News this week.

Political pressure ramping up

The White House said Wednesday it was watching the Ambassador Bridge situation “very closely” and Slotkin noted in her tweets that “we are all waiting for Prime Minister Trudeau’s way forward.”

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“It is imperative that Canadian local, provincial and national governments de-escalate this economic blockade,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement Thursday. “They must take all necessary and appropriate steps to immediately and safely reopen traffic so we can continue growing our economy, supporting good-paying jobs and lowering costs for families.”

Windsor officials have requested help from higher levels of government to deal with the blockades and signalled Thursday that they would seek a court injunction to remove the protesters.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino also said Thursday that RCMP reinforcements will be heading to Windsor.

Mendicino, alongside Liberal ministers Bill Blair and Omar Alghabra, also said the border blockades were illegal in a press conference on Wednesday, but insisted that law enforcement have all the tools they need to put an end to the protest.

Candice Bergen, interim leader of the Conservatives, also called for an end to the blockades in the House of Commons on Thursday.

“To all of you who are taking part in the protests, I believe the time has come to take down the barricades, stop the disruptive action, and come together. The economy you want to see reopened is hurting,” she said.

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Bergen had previously indicated support for truckers camped out in Ottawa, a demonstration that is now nearing the two-week mark.

— with files from the Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Frustration rises as Canada-U.S. border blockade in Ontario forces diversions'
Frustration rises as Canada-U.S. border blockade in Ontario forces diversions

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