CIFFA sends open letter to PM re. Vancouver Port strike

TORONTO, Ont. — The following is the text of an open letter about the Vancouver Port strike by Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association Executive Director George Kuhn to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

“Dear Prime Minister,

As a former shipping executive – and a highly successful one at that – you well know the critical interdependence between maximally functioning ports and sea carriers. You are also aware of Canada’s dependency on international trade to fuel its economy; hence the importance of a viable and reliable transport infrastructure to get goods to market.

We are CIFFA – the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association – representing 175 member firms that cater exclusively to importers and exporters. Member firms have developed a skill set that is second to none when it comes to getting goods from point of origin to point of sale. It also makes our members intimately familiar with their clientele’s frustrations when the supply chain is interrupted.

Such is the case at present with the carter strike we are experiencing at the Ports of Vancouver. For a good two weeks an unruly lot of some 1,200 owner/ drivers have somehow managed to band together and table demands that are totally unrealistic and escalating every time a so-called meeting can be arranged by the mediator. The bottom line is that there is no quick solution in sight and we must collectively ask ourselves whether it is right to have our country’s economy hijacked by a small number of people represented by a non-legitimate, non-elected body

Our whole transportation system is heading towards a serious, highly disruptive and costly gridlock situation first affecting importers and exporters in British Columbia, but now gradually and more seriously affecting the eastern part of the country as well.

We will stay away from listing the horror stories that are flooding our office about the effects of these wildcat actions and the already obvious economic losses suffered by many of our member’s customers! All that is required is to reflect on the submissions by the CME, i/e Canada, the Shipping Federation, the BC Chamber of Shipping, the Ports of Vancouver and such multi-nationals or mega stores as Wal-Mart, Sears, Home Depot, the Bay, Canadian Tire et al. You may also want to refer to the most recent press release from ‘Port Vancouver’ at: .

What we need, Prime Minister, is leadership to bring this issue to an end before it seriously impacts the excellent economic dynamics our country enjoys at present. Leadership and good governance go hand in hand and are virtues that you have demonstrated on a multitude of occasions. We trust you will do so again in this particular instance and direct your Ministers to take charge. You have the instrument to do so with Bill C10 – Section 47 – Clause 48. I take the liberty to quote verbatim minutes from the Standing Committee on Transport, Chairman Stan Keyes, of Thursday, October 19, 1995: …

….. Quote: ‘The introduction of Clause 48, extraordinary disruptions, represents a desire by a Minister to intervene when deregulated transportation markets become dysfunctional and, following their own logic, move to self-destruction. When that happens, the Minister of Transport wants to bang heads in a room beyond the reach of the Competition Act in order to fix the problem of destructive competition’. Unquote…..

It is time ‘to bang heads’, Prime Minister, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Please note that this is an open letter with copy to our membership and the press with some 2000 addressees.

Yours respectfully,
CIFFA – Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association
H. 3362;J. George Kuhn, Executive Director”

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