Fed up with a trucker protest that is affecting about $44 million in trade between Canada and the U.S. every day, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) wants an immediate end to the week-long blockade of the border crossing at Coutts, Alberta.
“We were already in a supply chain crisis brought on by floods and pandemic related shortages, but this blockade is making a bad situation worse,” said David MacLean, Vice President of CME’s Alberta and Saskatchewan division. “We need this situation to end so we can keep manufacturers working.”
The Coutts-Sweet Grass crossing is Alberta’s most important connection to its largest market – the United States, operating 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week with between 800 and 1,200 trucks moving goods across the border daily.
It’s estimated that about $15.9 billion a year in two-way trade goes through this single crossing every year with almost as many goods being exported as imported. Now, the snarled traffic and bottlenecks are further disrupting the supply chain and are being felt by industries including manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, and retail.
MacLean said that costs and delays increase every additional day the blockade is in place. Even if the blockade is lifted today, it could take as long as a week or two to clear the backlogs, further putting manufacturers on the backfoot and affecting the supply chain.
“Manufacturers use the Coutts border crossing to export their products to the U.S. and beyond and to import critical business inputs,” said MacLean. “This crossing is a critical piece of transportation infrastructure not only for Alberta but the entire country.”
The RCMP on the scene says there’s no way to predict when the protest will end but acknowledges the growing frustration as it drags on.
Protesting truckers began parking their rigs and other vehicles last Saturday near the crossing as a sign of solidarity with the protest in Ottawa and other locations over Covid 19 vaccine mandates. The action left cross-border truckers, the vast majority of which are vaccinated and who did not join the protest, stranded.
An agreement with the protesters did eventually lead to the opening of a single lane in both directions on Highway 4 and truckers hauling cargo are finally able to cross the border into the U.S.
CME’s MacLean, however, points out that even if the blockade is completely lifted today, it could take as long as a week or two to clear the backlogs, further putting manufacturers on the backfoot and affecting the supply chain.