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Braid: Governments waking up to convoy menace to Canada’s economy


‘The economy that you want to see reopen is hurting,’ said Conservative Party interim Leader Candice Bergen

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The Freedom Convoys are starting to backfire, and we’re not talking about the trucks.

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Faced with economic damage and massive inconvenience to both businesses and individuals, politicians are finally getting worried enough to act.

The federal Conservatives, after encouraging and coddling the convoys, now demand an end to the blockades.

“To all of you who are taking part in the protests, I believe the time has come for you to take down the barricades, stop the disruptive action and come together,” interim Leader Candice Bergen told the House of Commons.

“The economy that you want to see reopen is hurting,” she said. “Farmers, manufacturers, small businesses and families are suffering. I believe this is not what you want to do.”

Only days ago Bergen met with the Ottawa protesters and called them “passionate, patriotic and peaceful.”

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But nothing terrifies federal politicians like big economic trouble in vote-rich southern Ontario. And the blockade at Ambassador Bridge — the Windsor-Detroit crossing — is quickly becoming one monstrous problem.

Even the pathetically passive Trudeau government, which appears to be waiting for the protesters to thoroughly discredit themselves, may be moved to quick action.

On Thursday, the Ford government in Ontario took the first really firm step with a court order freezing all contributions made through the protest campaign pages.

The stakes for this country are enormous.

More than $400 million in goods cross the Ambassador bridge every day. It carries one-quarter of Canada’s trade with the U.S.

The blockade has already forced one Ontario auto plant shutdown and prompted the city of Windsor to demand an injunction.

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Mayor Drew Dilkens calls this blockade “a national crisis” and he’s right, for reasons that go far beyond the immediate events.

Anti-vaccine mandate protesters block an intersection near the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ontario on February 9, 2022 demanding to be let in to the main protest site at the border.
Anti-vaccine mandate protesters block an intersection near the Ambassador Bridge border crossing, in Windsor, Ontario on February 9, 2022 demanding to be let in to the main protest site at the border. Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden was elected on a Buy America platform. The Trudeau government launched frantic lobbying efforts to exempt Canadian industries, especially automaking.

These blockades could give Biden an argument for repatriating all manufacturing by U.S. auto companies, ending the complex cross-border trade that keeps Ontario’s industry thriving.

Even the blockade at Coutts crossing, with its much smaller but still significant trade volumes, could have Americans rethinking where they buy their meat and other supplies. Some U.S. politicians are already calling for economic repatriation.

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“Security of supply” had always been Canada’s best argument for open and highly lucrative trade with the U.S. Every Alberta premier for decades has pitched our completely reliable movement of goods, especially energy.

Now, Canada seems both unreliable and weak as a trading partner, unable to end blockades of vital crossings or even the national capital.

Biden is the most protectionist U.S. president in many years. Our economy simply can’t afford to hand him and the U.S. protectionists more excuses.

That’s what the protests are becoming — ready-made reasons to dismiss our economy as irrelevant and Canada as a comic-opera country, brought to its knees by trucks and honks and street parties.

Protesters listen to Premier Jason Kenney at the roadblock on Highway 4 outside of Milk River heading towards the Coutts border crossing on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.
Protesters listen to Premier Jason Kenney at the roadblock on Highway 4 outside of Milk River heading towards the Coutts border crossing on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

The White House is glad to help in the current crisis, however.

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An official says high-level talks are going on. The Americans urge us to use “federal powers” to end the blockade. They offer support from Homeland Security.

Well, thank you. But let’s remember that the U.S. has often helped other countries with internal troubles, not always with happy results for those countries.

By this stage the protesters themselves are becoming almost irrelevant.

We know their core ideology — rejection of elected government, belief in some overriding “authority of the land”, which only they of course represent, and the conviction that their issue trumps all others.

The very thing they claim to abhor most, vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 measures, are falling all over Canada. But the trucks are not moving out.

This is insurrectionist thinking with a single end point, authoritarianism. Thankfully, more Canadians seem to realize this every day.

The protesters should listen to their pal Candice Bergen and clear out before they do lasting harm to Canada.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

Twitter: @DonBraid

Facebook: Don Braid Politics

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