Major automakers are feeling the strain of the anti-vaccine mandate protests in Canada that have blocked several major bridges on the US-Canada border. Honda, Toyota, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis have all had to cut production in Canada, the US, or both as the anti-mandate protests stretch into their third week.
It is the latest supply chain disruption to affect the auto industry, which is still reeling from the semiconductor chip shortage that has slowed production and led to increased prices of both new and used vehicles.
The convoy protests began in late January, after a loose affiliation of truckers banded together to drive from western Canada to the nation’s capital of Ottawa to voice opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truckers crossing the border into the US. The protests have been embraced by Republican politicians in the US, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The intense focus by the right-wing media on the protest has even led the Canadian government to publicly denounce “foreign interference” from the US.
The protests have snarled traffic on the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Canada, forcing automakers to cut back production. Ford said the bridge protest “hurts customers, auto workers, suppliers, companies and communities on both sides of the border that are already two years into parts shortages resulting from the global semiconductor issue, COVID and more.”
Toyota took two of its plants in Kentucky and Ottawa offline because of supply chain chaos resulting from the bridge protests. Stellantis, the parent company of Dodge, Jeep, and Ram, said it cut one of its shifts from its Windsor facility but that it expects other shifts to proceed as usual. Honda suspended one of its production lines at its facility in Ontario. And General Motors canceled a shift at its plant in Lansing, Michigan.
The protesters, aided by several hundred heavy-duty trucks which they’ve used to block traffic, are demanding an end to all vaccine mandates and COVID-related restrictions that require businesses to check for proof of vaccination. The number of protesters has varied from a few hundred during the week to over a thousand on the weekend.
The protests are unpopular among Canadians, with surveys finding three-quarters of Canadians support vaccine passports for indoor dining and gatherings. The Canadian trucking industry has denounced the movement as well, noting that truckers are among the most vaccinated type of worker.
Still, the anti-vaccine protesters have managed to draw a lot of attention to their cause. One trucker interviewed by the Wall Street Journal explained his reason for joining the protest:
Jake Dyck, a truck driver who makes his living hauling steel coils across the border, said he opposes Canada’s vaccine mandates because governments are marginalizing those who hold different views on vaccination.
“Why is the other side being silenced?” asked Mr. Dyck, who is unvaccinated. He said he has enough fuel in his truck to last a month, and warned that police attempts to remove protesters would backfire. “It will be like throwing gas on a fire,” he said, adding that supporters would flood the scene to stop the police.
Even as the protesters have allowed a slow trickle of traffic across the Ambassador Bridge, Canadian officials are trying to navigate an end to the occupation. Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency on Friday and hinted that protesters who don’t comply with orders to leave could face legal fines or imprisonment.