ODTA accuses Ontario government of double standard during protests

The Ontario Dump Truck Association (ODTA) is accusing the provincial government of double standard during protests.

The ODTA released an email sent by the Ministry of Transportation in April 2021, where protesters in dump trucks parked at four Greater Toronto Area MTO inspection sites were asked to leave the properties or face action.

Dump truck drivers during a protest in 2021. (File photo: Jag Gundu/ODTA)

The ODTA claims the Ford government is handling the protesters in Ottawa and those blockading the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor differently.

“We were treated unfairly. It looks like this group is being extended certain ministry favors,” said Bob Punia, advisor to the ODTA.  “Why were we forced to move and threatened with CVOR revocation when these groups in Ottawa and Windsor continue to occupy and cause major disruptions?”

Dump truck operators in 2021 were protesting changes to the province’s weights and dimensions and retrofitting lift axles and equipment that would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

The ODTA provided details of the email sent by Shelley Unterlander, assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Transportation which included a threat of possible commercial vehicle operator registrations being revoked if the protesters did not move their vehicles.

The Ministry of Transportation said past protests involving dump trucks at multiple truck inspection sites constituted a trespass on ministry property.

“These demonstrations jeopardized road safety by interfering with the day-to-day operations at these inspection sites that are intended to support the safe movement of commercial trucks on Ontario roads,” the ministry said in a statement.

“As these protests were held on Ministry of Transportation property, the ministry had an obligation to intervene as the enforcement authority. The ministry did not take this action during several other dump truck protests on non-MTO sites including Queens Park and highways in the GTA as the ministry was not the enforcement authority.”

Punia said the protesters were already in the process of moving and had communicated that to the ministry. “We thought we made our point, and it was the right thing to do. They sent the threat unnecessarily. It was heavy handed,” he said.

“I want Premier Doug Ford and Caroline Mulroney (minister of transportation) to explain why we were treated differently. If you are a part of a group or look like these guys, then you going to be treated differently,” Punia said.

Punia said most people present protesters in Ottawa are not racial minorities. The majority of ODTA members and protesters are from a racial minority, he said.

“They are bullying us and are letting them go free,” Punia added. “They (government) need to be accountable for what they did and how they treated us and how they are treating the people currently in Ottawa.”

Punia said truckers are passionate and are trying to make a change. “We support demonstrations, but don’t hurt your fellow truckers.”

The ODTA is urging the government to work with the truckers and find solutions that work for everyone.

By Leo Barros

This story has been updated.

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