Updated Feb 9, 2022 - Economy

Auto plants halt production amid U.S.-Canada vaccine mandate protests

Photo of a line of trucks waiting on a road

Truck wait for the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ontario, to reopen on Feb. 8. Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP via Getty Images

Canada's transport minister said Wednesday that vaccine mandate protests disrupting a key U.S.-Canada border crossing this week are hurting supply chains, as nearby auto factories began halting production.

Why it matters: The Ambassador Bridge, which shut down Tuesday and has now been temporarily closed to commercial traffic due to the protests, is the busiest crossing between Canada and the U.S. and serves as a key link for the auto industry.

  • With long-haul trucks and smaller vehicles blocked in traffic, automakers who are already facing a global chip shortage are struggling to address a shortage in parts.
  • Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra tweeted Wednesday evening: "Occupiers disrupting our supply chain are creating major consequences for Canadians and Canadian workers. They must go home."

State of play: Ford said it "shut down two Canadian plants and reduced production" at another factory on Wednesday, the New York Times notes.

  • International auto maker Stellantis, which owns Chrysler, also temporarily halted production at one factory Wednesday, according to NBC News.
  • Toyota and Honda would also "likely be closing some production lines later on Wednesday because of border closures," Global Automakers of Canada president David Adams, who represents both companies, told the NYT.

What to watch: A Toyota spokesperson said in an emailed statement that due to "a number of supply chain, severe weather and COVID related challenges, Toyota continues to face shortages affecting production at our North American plants, including Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada."

  • "Our teams are working diligently to minimize the impact on production. While the situation is fluid and changes frequently, we do not anticipate any impact to employment at this time," the spokesperson added.
  • "We expect some disruption between now and this weekend, and we'll continue to make adjustments to our production plans."

What they're saying: White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted at a briefing Wednesday that the Ambassador Bridge accounts for about 25% of trade between the U.S. and Canada.

  • "It's important for everyone in Canada and the United States to understand what the potential impact of this blockage is on workers, on the supply chain," she added.

The big picture: Protests over Canada's COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions have continued for nearly two weeks in Ottawa, and have since spread to other provinces.

Go deeper: Canadian police set up hate crime hotline over pandemic protest violence

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Alghabra and Psaki, and with details of the bridge being closed to commercial traffic.

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