People trying to get to Alberta from the United States and vice versa are faced with yet another fork in the road.
The Canadian Border Services Agency temporarily suspended entry at the Coutts border crossing Saturday afternoon.
“However, due to evolving circumstances and until further notice, the CBSA encourages you to refer to the CBSA website for information regarding hours of service and commercial servicing at either site in real time,” a news release stated.
A protest at the Coutts border is now into its 15th day as those present protest a variety of COVID-19 mandates both provincially and federally. Many have said they’re in it for the long haul even as the Alberta government has lifted many of its mandates.
According to the CBSA, nearby ports include North Portal, Sask., Regway, Sask., Rooseville, B.C., and Kingsgate, B.C., for commercial traffic.
The organization said it recognizes border disruptions affect both travellers and industry and it is working to restore normal border operations as quickly as possible.
The border blockade has had its fair share of impacts for businesses in Alberta, including Kolk Farms, a beef production and grain farm north of Lethbridge.
Leighton Kolk, the farm’s co-owner, said the operation has had trouble importing grain and equipment from the U.S., which has also impacted the sale of their cattle.
“Our processors that we deal with have actually been reluctant to buy cattle from us because they say their freezers, their warehouses are backing up,” Kolk said.
“We can’t move our cattle out that are ready to go to processing, and we’re struggling to get some feed in, so it’s been a pain.”
Kolk said he supports the ending of health measures but doesn’t support the blockades, which he hopes end soon.
“Protest is a great democratic opportunity for us all but not when you’re doing harm to people and vital infrastructure,” Kolk said.
CBSA’s suspension of services came on the same day as police in Windsor, Ont., began clearing out protesters that have been blocking the Ambassador Bridge. The protest against health measures entered its fifth straight day on Saturday.
Protesters were given a time limit to clear the area after an injunction was granted by an Ontario court on Friday.
Ontario’s provincial government also declared a state of emergency in response to the growing protest.
Avnish Nanda, a lawyer in Edmonton, said he is surprised the Alberta government has not sought similar action for the blockade in Coutts.
“The Coutts border is so important for our economy. So many people are being impacted, and for the province to not step up and do something, it’s an abdication of its responsibility,” Nanda said.
“They could go to court and get an injunction right away. They have so many legislative tools to stop this, but there seems to be the lack of political will.”
Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said there are key differences between the Ambassador Bridge and Coutts, including their proximities to urban centres, resources for police and their economic impacts on the country.
“Coutts is the most important border crossing in the Prairies. Windsor is the biggest border crossing in Canada; about a quarter of our trade crosses that bridge. So there are some real similarities,” Bratt said.
“What the differences are, I think, is just the absolute economic importance of Windsor, of the Ambassador Bridge. I mean, Coutts is $44-$45 million a day. That’s not chicken feed, but the Ambassador Bridge is $450 million a day… so 10 times the size.”
In a statement to Global News, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office said the provincial government is leaving enforcement and operational decisions to RCMP with regard to the Coutts blockade.