Canadian Trucker Protests Could Spread
February 22, 2000
Canadian owner-operators defied a court order in Nova Scotia and slowed traffic in Quebec as they protested high fuel prices for a second day yesterday, and the protest could spread to Alberta.
At last 400 18-wheelers lined the Trans-Canada Highway Monday at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border in a partial blockade. Passenger cars were allowed through, but not commercial vehicles. Yesterday, despite a court injunction obtained by the Nova Scotia government, truckers continued the blockade.
Trucker spokesman Earl Germaine told the Calgary Herald that the injunction, which remains in force until Friday morning, is "just another piece of paper," and that it would be impossible for the police to enforce it. The threat of fines doesn't work on these truckers, he says, who have nothing left to lose.
The main reasons for the protest are rising fuel prices, toll highways and declining rates.
Hugh Fraser, spokesman for the Transportation Department, said they would "not negotiate with bullies," according to the Herald.
In the Toronto area, several hundred drivers parked their rigs and refused to work Monday, protesting high diesel costs and low rates. Peaceful protests were held at truckstops in Toronto, London, and Bloomfield, Ontario.
Some truckers tried to slow traffic on Ontario roads and highways. There were at least six convoys of 50 trucks or more, including one headed to Windsor to try to block the Detroit-Windsor border crossing Monday night. The 200-truck convoy slowed traffic on Highway 401 through southwestern Ontario. It was stopped by police just east of Woodstock, and the lead truckers were fined over $1,000.
Canadian Junior Finance Minister Jim Peterson said there's not much the government can do about fuel prices; only a very small portion of recent increases relate to the federal fuel tax.
Ontario Premier Mike Harris said truckers should turn to their employers for relief from high fuel prices, not the province, according to the Edmonton Sun.
The unrest shows signs of spreading. In Newfoundland, about a dozen trucks parked their rigs Monday at a weigh station. And the head of the Alberta Trucking Assn. is warning that if diesel prices keep going up, truckers could start shutting down there, as well. Al Smythe, head of the Alberta Trucking Assn., told the Calgary Sun that the government should use some of its budgetary surplus to slash or eliminate the fuel tax.