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A week of protesting at the Ambassador Bridge has cost the auto industry more than a quarter of a billion dollars, according to an analysis Monday by an East Lansing-based economic research group.
Stemming from opposition to vaccine border mandates by the Canadian government, the Freedom Convoy gained international attention when it moved to the Windsor bridge from Ottawa, effectively interrupting traffic between the United States and Canada. The bridge reopened for travel late Sunday night and a few demonstrators remained at an intersection Monday, with a continued heavy police presence.
In just one week, automakers, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota suffered an estimated $155 million in losses, Anderson Economic Group said in the study released Monday analyzing the impact of the blockades thus far. Within hours, assembly plants were troubled with shortages and slowdowns.
"The border between Michigan and Canada that runs right along the city of Detroit is the site for probably the most important volume of trade between any two countries in the world," said Patrick Anderson, Anderson Economic Group’s principal and CEO. "The auto industry for the last half-century has treated that border as a temporary obstacle, as an obstacle to be traversed quickly and to allow a tremendous set of assembly plant workers and suppliers on in both the United States and Canada to work efficiently together."
Workers, spanning from Ontario to Alabama, were hit by the protest right in their pockets. AEG estimates employees, the majority of whom are in Michigan and Ontario, lost $144.9 million in wages, with Michigan autoworkers alone losing an estimated $51.26 million.
"The losses we've estimated here are real losses that are unlikely to be recouped," Anderson said. "We're already assuming that 90% plus of these parts get used, get to their destination and get put into vehicles, but the opportunity to build these cars in many cases has been lost."
And with the auto industry already strained because of supply chain issues and shortages, the protest has further squelched consumers' ability to hop in and turn the key.
"There are competitors out there that are building vehicles in southern United States right now or building them in the United States and that haven't shut down production, and you've got consumers out there that are discouraged because they can't get cars," he said.
Even with the bridge reopening, the protest could have a continued impact on auto production, Anderson said, much to the fear of automakers and international leaders.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement Monday calling the reopening a "win for Michigan families."
"It’s time to get traffic and trade moving across North America’s busiest land border crossing again. I will always stand with every hardworking Michigander and do whatever it takes to ensure that our businesses can keep humming along," Whitmer said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the Emergencies Act for the first time in the nation's history in response to the Freedom Convoy's protests, he announced Monday. The act allows the federal government to override provinces and authorize temporary security measures. However, Trudeau said the military will not be called to action, and the act will not be used to supersede the charter.
While protests have remained largely peaceful, with demonstrators singing and dancing, some have criticized the leniency of law enforcement. Protesters were gradually pushed back from the site of the Ambassador Bridge and landed in a cleared intersection near the border.
According to Windsor Police, there have been 42 arrests and 37 seized vehicles since the protest began. The large majority of persons arrested have since been released with a future court date and are facing a charge of mischief, police said. Some are also facing a charge of disobeying a court order.
Answers to questions about penalties and arrests often focused on a need to reopen the bridge safely without threatening commerce or public safety. When the Ambassador Bridge reopened, streets intersecting with the road leading to the border, Huron Church Road, were blocked off by police cruisers to ensure traffic on the main road was limited to travelers.
“Local manufacturers and exporters who rely on the Ambassador Bridge know the dramatic and significant impact that the illegal occupation had on operations last week,” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens in a news release Monday afternoon. “To ensure that we can maintain a reliable border crossing for trade and commerce in the immediate near term, we need to ensure Huron Church Road remains cleared. We commit to working closely with businesses along the route who are adversely impacted by these short-term and time-limited measures.”
Police did not respond to Free Press inquiries regarding the timeline of when the main road is expected to open to the general public.
Contact Miriam Marini: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ambassador Bridge blockade caused nearly $300M in losses