Canada Trucker Blockade Leads to Auto Plant Shutdowns, Reduced Production

An ongoing blockade by Canadian truckers protesting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate has upended production at auto plants as Ontario's top transportation official has declared an "economic crisis."

For nearly two weeks, truck drivers part of the Freedom Convoy have flooded the streets of the Canadian capital of Ottawa and elsewhere in protest of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's requirement that truckers get vaccinated or possibly submit to testing or quarantine.

The protest has blocked the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, a critical international crossing that each day is used to transport tens of thousands of people and $323 million worth of goods between the countries.

"This blockade is an economic crisis and must end," Caroline Mulroney, minister of transportation for neighboring Ontario, said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday.

Freedom Convoy Protest
Demonstrators against COVID vaccine mandates block the roadway at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ontario, on February 9, 2022. The protesters, who are in support of the truckers' Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, have blocked traffic in the Canada-bound lanes of the bridge since Monday evening. Approximately $323 million worth of goods cross the Windsor-Detroit border each day at the Ambassador Bridge, making it North America's busiest international border crossing. Government officials said Wednesday that the situation has become worse and auto plants have had their operations affected. Geoff Robins/Getty Images

Toyota, which operates three manufacturing facilities in Ontario, expects to have its Canadian plants offline for the remainder of the week, the company told Newsweek in an email.

"Due to a number of supply chain, severe weather and COVID related challenges, Toyota continues to face shortages affecting production at our North American plants, including Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada," the company said in its statement. "Our teams are working diligently to minimize the impact on production. While the situation is fluid and changes frequently, we do not anticipate any impact to employment at this time."

Newsweek has reached out to Ford Motor and General Motors, which have facilities in Ontario, asking how the blockade has affected their operations. Representatives for both companies told The New York Times Tuesday they have not experienced any disruptions getting parts delivered to their factories because of the protests.

General Motors Lansing Delta Township assembly plant canceled its second shift on Wednesday and its first shift on Thursday due to plant shortages, company spokesman Dan Flores told Newsweek in an email. He also said, "We continue to work with our suppliers to mitigate this situation."

Flavio Volpe, of Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, has responded sharply to protesters in a barrage of recent interviews.

"This is beyond cutting off our nose to spite our face," he said during an interview with Windsor's AM800news. "And these are people from the area, who are from Canada's auto capital, who are inflicting this kind of damage to their neighbors and friends. You know, aren't you embarrassed?"

Mulroney, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, said in her statement that she had spoken with federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra about the blockade. She said the two agreed law enforcement agencies should take the lead in responding to the protests.

Alghabra said in a video posted to Twitter Wednesday that the protest is an "illegal economic blockade against the people of Ontario and against all Canadians."

"And to be honest, I find it ironic that the same people who were trying to sell Canadians fake stories about empty shelves are now the ones causing the shelves to go empty," he said.

Alghabra concluded by telling the protesters to "go home."

Newsweek has reached out to the organizers of the Freedom Convoy for comment.

Update (2/10, 4:30 p.m.): This story has been updated to include comment from General Motors.