Toyota says trucker protests are disrupting Canadian car production

Supply chain issues as well as severe weather and Covid-related challenges are affecting Toyota’s production across North America

David Shepardson,Ismail Shakil
Thursday 10 February 2022 16:42
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Protests over Covid vaccine mandate continue across Canada

Protests that began as a ‘Freedom Convoy’ are disrupting production at Toyota and Ford plants in Ontario as truckers block a vital U.S.-Canada trade route.

Demonstrations against Canada’s pandemic measures have been causing gridlock in downtown Ottawa since late January. Since Monday, truckers have shut inbound Canada traffic at the Ambassador Bridge, a supply route for Detroit’s carmakers and agricultural products.

The protesters opposing a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border truckers mirrored by the U.S. government but have also aired grievances about a carbon tax and other legislation.

More than two-thirds of the $511 billion in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States is transported by road.

The closure of the bridge, one of the busiest border crossings on the continent, has caused a shortage of parts at carmaker Stellantis’ assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario. Production has also been affected at Ford and Toyota.

Toyota says it does not expect its auto plants in Ontario to produce vehicles for the rest of the week, because of supply problems stemming from the protests.

“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.

It builds the RAV4 model and its hybrid version as well as the Lexus RX 350 and the RX 450h at its Ontario plants.

General Motors, joining the list of impacted automakers, said on Thursday it was forced to cancel two production shifts at a plant in Michigan.

“Although the Ambassador Bridge is not closed U.S. bound, the presence of demonstrators is making it difficult to access the bridge,” local police said on Thursday, urging motorists to avoid access points to the bridge.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, “It’s important for everyone in Canada and the United States to understand what the impact of this blockage is - potential impact - on workers, on the supply chain, and that is where we’re most focused.”

Police in Ottawa are promising stricter action to end the protests that occupied the main street in downtown, home to main government buildings, the parliament house and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s residence.

Ottawa police on Wednesday laid out threats, ranging from arrests without warrants to seizure of vehicles, to truck drivers gridlocking the city’s core. Despite their warnings to enforce existing laws for days now, only 23 arrests have been made.

“The unlawful act of blocking streets in the downtown core is resulting in people being denied the lawful use, enjoyment and operation of their property,” police said.

Canadian federal ministers have called the blockade illegal and asked protesters to return home.

“Those participating in the convoy are hurting Canadians. They pose serious dangers for the economy and they are breaking the law,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters on Wednesday.

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