Gretchen Whitmer Tells Canada Blocked Bridge Hurts Michigan's Economy

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that the blocking of Detroit's Ambassador Bridge by protesters is hurting the state's economy.

"The blockade is having a significant impact on Michigan's working families who are just trying to do their jobs. Our communities and automotive, manufacturing and agriculture businesses are feeling the effects. It's hitting paychecks and production lines. That is unacceptable," she said on Twitter.

Whitmer insisted that the bridge, which is between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, needs to be reopened. "Commercial traffic is at a standstill and heavily backed up at the Blue Water Bridge," she wrote.

The bridge has been closed since Monday evening amid continuing protests from the so-called Freedom Convoy, whose demonstrations have moved from Canada into the U.S. The movement was started by truckers angry over Canada's new COVID-19 vaccine mandate requiring drivers entering the country to be fully vaccinated or face testing and quarantine. Additional people upset over COVID-19 policies have joined the cause.

The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest land border crossing in North America. Nearly 40,000 commuters and truck drivers carrying $323 million worth of goods cross the border via the bridge every day.

"Countless Michiganders rely on this daily flow of foods and people to get things done," Whitmer said in her statement.

As of Wednesday, the city of Windsor in Ontario said, about 100 people were protesting at the bridge. The Freedom Truck Convoy demonstrators have parked trucks to block parts of Ottawa for more than 10 days. Protesters say they will not leave until all vaccine and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, The Detroit News reported.

The protests are obstructing "essential trade arteries" that provide businesses and people with "goods, food, medicine, and critical industrial components that fuel our economy," the Ontario Trucking Association said in a statement Tuesday.

Michigan's economy relies heavily on international trade. In 2019, the state exported $23.1 billion to Canada, 41 percent of the state's total international exports, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Michigan's largest exports to Canada include motor vehicles and parts totaling $12.8 billion.

A spokesperson for automaker Stellantis, which manufactures Chryslers, told the Free Press it cut short its Wednesday morning shifts at the Windsor assembly plant because of a shortage of parts.

"You have 100 people who are holding hostage part of our national economy. That is why this cannot be allowed to be sustained for any length of time," Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said during a Wednesday press briefing. "Action will have to be taken to reopen this bridge so the economy can continue to function."

Whitmer said that it's "imperative" for governments to de-escalate the economic blockade and "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."

Update 02/10/2022, 11:30 a.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Trucker Protest
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday called for the reopening of Detroit's Ambassador Bridge, which has been blocked by protesters. Above, Whitmer introduces presidential candidate Joe Biden before a speech in Southfield, Michigan, on October 16, 2020. Jim Watson/ AFP/Getty Images