Windsor, Ontario — It’s been a year since the U.S.-Canada land border closed and yet reports from the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association (APMA) show that there is still little sign of a working routine for essential workers travelling back and forth across the border via Windsor, Ontario.
Since the second wave of COVID-19 hit North America in the fall, numerous reports have come out from drivers and essential workers, often part of the automotive supply chain, being turned away by border agents for allegedly inconsistent reasoning.
“The last four months or so, since the second wave hit, we’ve seen a lot of them playing a little bit of a roulette game where you end up on your return back, the border guard says, ‘that’s not essential. You could have zoomed that,’” said Flavio Volpe, president of the APMA.
“I don’t know how you zoom a production line.”
Volpe says that with the roughly 100,000 Canadians employed in the auto industry, they only ask that the 1,000 that have been deemed essential maintain their ability to cross the border with some consistency.
President of Laval Tool and Mould, Jonothan Azzopardi, says that the disruptions occurring at the border are affecting the give-and-take required for international trade.
“They did not take into consideration that the movement of goods necessitates the movement of people. And one cannot live without the other,” said Azzopardi.
“If we cannot get those people to cross the border, those opportunities are going to start to dry up, and they’re going to dry up quick.”
Azzopardi noted the potential effects on industry competition when Canadian workers are forced to isolate in the U.S. for extended periods of time.
“Right now, Volkswagen is saying we can’t get over to see our suppliers in Canada, so let’s not source our work from over there,” said Azzopardi.
“How do you run that business from your desk in Canada only and expect to be competitive with businesses in Michigan, Indiana or Alabama or Tennessee,” said Volpe.
“You can’t. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to confidently run a cross border business.”