Ontario declared a state of emergency Friday morning to empower law enforcement to end the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge — the busiest commercial border crossing between the U.S. and Canada — and the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa, warning truckers who continue to block the Ambassador Bridge they will be punished if they don't leave. Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters that the federal government is enacting new powers to end the blockade. He said protesters will be slapped with hefty fines (amounting to $78,800) and jail time, according to Bloomberg.
“Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the right of hundreds of thousands of workers to earn their living,” said Ford. “It does not outweigh our right to get food across our borders, your right to make a political statement.”
Ford declared the state of emergency amid growing pressure from multiple industries, including the auto sector, as well as Canada’s federal government and the White House. The bridge’s closure has slowed the movement of freight as drivers reroute to other crossings, including the nearby Blue Water Bridge. Auto plants on both sides of the border have scaled back production because of the slowdown.
“We’re going to move forward as quickly as we can to clear the bridge to get people’s lives back to normal,” he said.
Ford noted that he did not have the power to order the police to take action, but said his government would implement laws and provide resources.
"We will also provide additional authority to consider taking away the personal and commercial licenses of anyone who doesn't comply with these orders," Ford said.
Canadian and U.S. drivers alike are facing lengthy delays and extra time reaching alternate borders including the Port Huron and Peace Bridge crossings.
Ed, an Ohio-based driver who did not give his last name, said he was frustrated because he has had to spend more time driving, without being paid more because of the Ambassador Bridge closure.
“[The detour] is adding to my day, but we get paid by the run not by the hour. So if it takes five hours or 10 hours, we still get the same amount,” he said from a truck stop near the Blue Water Bridge border crossing in Port Huron, Michigan.
The Ambassador Bridge blockade, which started Monday, has been part of a wave of protests against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 measures that are blocking two additional borders, in Alberta and Manitoba, and occupying a large section of Ottawa.
As of Friday, the Ambassador Bridge protest had several commercial trucks among roughly 100 other vehicles. Meanwhile, about 100 trucks remain in Ottawa. On Thursday, Ottawa police said they had persuaded 25 truckers to leave voluntarily but are threatening to tow others who remain.
Erik Mueller, an owner-operator from Alberta, has been in Ottawa for almost two weeks and said he has no intention of leaving but wouldn’t resist the police. He said he won’t leave until all vaccine mandates are lifted and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resigns.
“If somebody breaks the law and tries to seize my vehicle or arrest me, then I go to court,” he said. “I’m not afraid.”
* * *
Earlier, Canada's Toronto Star reported that truckers on the Windsor side of the Ambassador Bridge have "opened one lane of traffic" as police from across southwestern Ontario swoop in to remove protesters blocking the bridge. This comes as Ontario's government declared a state of emergency over the bridge blockade, and an auto group is seeking a court order at noon to remove protesters.
Today in Windsor, ON:— Toronto Star (@TorontoStar) February 11, 2022
* Some protestors indicated they may open one lane of traffic on Windsor side of the Ambassador Bridge
* Police are moving in
* Auto group seeking court order to remove protestors at noon
Live updates from @jacoblorinc https://t.co/9OmYfjkk3o
Multiple journalists confirm truckers have opened one lane of traffic at the Ambassador Bridge entering Canada.
With this vehicle moving, there is now one lane open to traffic at the Ambassador Bridge entering Canada.— Chris Ensing (@ChrisEnsingCBC) February 11, 2022
Unclear how prepared the bridge is for traffic to flow. pic.twitter.com/j1Hh6iTsQ8
At noon, the Ontario Superior Court will hear from the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association to remove protesters from around the bridge as the auto industry in the region has been severely impacted by the five-day blockade. Some automakers have reported plant shuttering or limiting output due to a lack of parts because of the blockade.
Here's Ford, speaking at a press conference and saying, "the eyes of the world are upon us right now." Ford is threatening 'severe' consequences if protesters don't leave.
* * *
Earlier this week, we warned if the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit, were to remain shuttered for more than 48 hours, there would be severe consequences for North America's auto industry. By Thursday morning, automakers, including Toyota, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford, and General Motors, halted or limited production at their Canada/U.S. manufacturing plants due to the lack of parts usually sent via truck across the busiest international land border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. Now, at least one automaker is seeking logistical alternatives to bypass the blocked border crossing to restart its Canadian plants.
Reuters reports Ford is examining air freight as a way to sidestep the logistical nightmare around Ambassador Bridge as demonstrations against pandemic measures and vaccine mandates have chocked a key artery of US-Canada trade. The automaker wants to fly auto parts to a plant in Windsor that produces engines for popular models.
"We are looking at all options to keep our plants running," a spokesperson for Ford's Canadian division told Reuters.
On Wednesday, Ford told AP that it suspended engine production in Windsor.
"We hope this situation is resolved quickly because it could have a widespread impact on all automakers in the U.S. and Canada," the company said.
Ford is not the only auto company experiencing logistical headaches because of the bridge closure. Toyota, Chrysler Pacifica, Ford, and General Motors halted or limited production at various plants in the region. Toyota expects to have three manufacturing facilities in Ontario offline for the rest of the week.
Robert Wildeboer, executive chairman of Martinrea International Inc., told Bloomberg that the auto industry might come to a "screeching halt" due to blockade. Martinrea is a major auto parts manufacturer based in Vaughan, Ontario. It manufactures engine blocks, transmissions, cases, housings, suspensions, chassis components, and body paneling for automotive companies in the region.
The blockade is so concerning that top banking and government officials closely monitor the situation.
The Bank of Canada (BoC) Governor Tiff Macklem warned the extended closure of the bridge is very distressing and could impact the economy. Around $511 billion in goods are traded annually between Canada and the United States via roads and bridges.
There's no timetable on when the disruption will abate. The bridge was forced to close on Monday after truckers protesting against the Canadian vaccine mandate blocked the bridge. On Friday morning, traffic volumes (cars and trucks) remain muted.
Inflows Into The U.S. (as of 0730 ET)
Inflows Into Canada (as of 0730 ET)
Windsor residents told the Epoch Times that they would continue their blockade of the bridge. Average citizens, not just truckers, are showing up in force to protest the government's medical tyranny.
"We just want our freedom, we want nothing else. … That's your God-given rights. That's your health choice. … Enough is enough," said Windsor resident Sue Samir who lost her job and livelihood because didn't want to get a second COVID-19 injection after experiencing adverse reactions to the first.
Fellow protester and Windsor resident Sami Mandalawi said demonstrators would hold the line in their peaceful protest until they get arrested.
"I'm here because I cherish our Charter of human rights and freedoms in Canada, and I want to protect those freedoms.
"We need to stand up for what's right, and we will do what is required, provided that it is peaceful, with a capital P. We are perfectly prepared to leave in handcuffs and without a finger lifted in aggression towards our police officer, whom we love and who tragically are being put in between a rock and a very hard place," Mandalawi said.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has requested Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to use federal powers to unblock the bridge and other emerging protests.
TRUCKER MAP BREAK— Truckistan Amb. Poso 🏁 (@JackPosobiec) February 11, 2022
I have made a rough map of the current flashpoints of the Trucker Uprising in Canada pic.twitter.com/ywxpF4JulM
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged their Canadian counterparts "to use federal powers to resolve this situation at our joint border and offering the full support of our Homeland Security and Transportation departments," according to a White House official who spoke to CNN on Thursday.
President Biden closely monitors the situation and is "being regularly briefed" on the matter.
Automakers and their suppliers are America's largest manufacturing sector, responsible for 3% of total GDP. The industry as a whole employs 2.5 million workers. Any disruption to the industry, like what is emerging on the northern border, could have economic impacts on the U.S. and Canada in future quarters.