Alberta border blockade drags on for a week as manufacturers seek government intervention

The RCMP says it continues to see progress with traffic conditions at the Coutts border crossing as the blockade in Alberta dragged on for the seventh day.

“Traffic continues to flow on Hwy 4 at Hwy 501 for the border and residents of Coutts. Motorists are still being asked to avoid the area as it remains congested,” the Mounties tweeted.

(Photo: iStock)

According to news reports, an RCMP spokesman said it was not possible to predict when the protest near the U.S. border crossing will end. A convoy of semi-trucks, four-wheelers and farm equipment was parked on the highway south of Lethbridge in support of the convoy to Ottawa with a goal to repeal a federal vaccination mandate for truckers, among other demands.

A second blockade on the highway cropped up about 18 kilometers north of Coutts on Thursday.

There was a breakthrough on Wednesday to resolve the blockade that has been in place since last Saturday, with protesters agreeing to open one lane on each side of the highway near the U.S. border. Trucks and other vehicles had begun clearing two lanes — one going north and one going south.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is calling for the government to bring an immediate end to blockade. The blockade is affecting about $44 million in trade between Canada and the U.S. every day, a press release said.

The Coutts-Sweet Grass crossing operates 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week with between 800 and 1,200 trucks moving goods across the border daily.

It is estimated that about $15.9 billion a year in two-way trade goes through this single crossing every year with almost as many goods being exported as imported. Now, the snarled traffic and bottlenecks are further disrupting the supply chain and are being felt by industries including manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, and retail.

“We were already in a supply chain crisis brought on by floods and pandemic related shortages, but this blockade is making a bad situation worse,” said David MacLean, vice-president of CME’s Alberta and Saskatchewan division. “We need this situation to end so we can keep manufacturers working.”

MacLean said that costs and delays increase every additional day the blockade is in place. Even if the blockade is lifted today, it could take as long as a week or two to clear the backlogs, further putting manufacturers on the backfoot and affecting the supply chain.

Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at leo@newcom.ca