Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, a critical North American trade route, reopened on Monday after a weeklong blockade by truckers protesting vaccine mandates ended. But not before the protests likely inflicted hundreds of millions in economic damage.
The so-called Freedom Convoy, which started in Ottawa more than two weeks ago and comprised roughly 8,000 participants at its height, created a blockade of key bridges and crossings between the U.S. and Canada, including the Ambassador Bridge—as well as daily demonstrations in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. The protests largely centered on objections to vaccine requirements for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border, but came to include a protest against COVID regulations writ large.
The bridge is North America’s busiest trade link connecting Detroit to Windsor and a vital artery for the auto industry. About 25% of the trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses this particular bridge—about $360 million in cargo daily, according to Reuters. The seven-day blockage, therefore, had wide-ranging consequences.
The auto industry alone is facing losses as high as $988 million because of the blockades, given that there’s an estimated $141.1 million worth of vehicles and auto parts flowing in and out daily, according to 2021 data from IHS Markit, a research firm.
And even though the bridge has been cleared, it’s going to take several weeks for things to return to normal, Peter Nagle, an IHS Markit research analyst focused on the auto industry, told the New York Times. “It’s not like you can flip a switch and get back to where we were production-wise.” Several auto manufacturers, including Ford and Toyota, have said they’ve been impacted by the blockade.
Yet while the Ambassador Bridge has reopened, traffic still remains choked in Ottawa and border crossings in Emerson, Manitoba, and Coutts, Alberta, continue to face disruptions thanks to the protests.
Costs for increased daily policing in Canada’s capital have hit $800,000 a day, and Ottawa officials tell Global News that the city has spent an additional $1 million in city services as a result of the protests. (On average, the city spends about $620,000 a year on Canada Day safety and police expenses.) And those expenses will likely be ongoing until the protests disappear.
More than half of Canadians, 53%, oppose the protests, and 59% disapprove of the truckers’ tactics. That disapproval has trended higher as the protests have continued, according to polling from Innovative Research Group.
“Canada is [a] nation that believes in the right to freedom of speech and expression, but we are also bound by the rule of law,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said Sunday. “As Canadians, there is more that unites us than divides us, and we must all find the resolve to approach those who hold different views with tolerance and respect.”
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