Canadian Trucker Protests Continue, Aussies Launch 'Convoy to Canberra'

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With supply lines being of particular importance these days, truckers are leveraging their role to encourage government to see things their way. Canada’s Freedom Convoy reached Ottawa on Friday to demand officials end pandemic-related restrictions it believes are wreaking havoc on the economy and the protests have yet to stop.

While this all started with U.S. and Canadian truckers urging the government to abandon border restrictions that forced all drivers to be vaccinated and confirmed as COVID free (starting January 15th) or be forced to quarantine for 14 days, activists are now asking Ottawa to abandon all mandates or prepare itself for worsening disruptions to already ailing supply chains. They’ve since been joined by Australian truckers, who have formed the ‘Convoy to Canberra’ for similar reasons. Future demonstrations are also being prepared for the United States.

Ottawa is now in day three of the Freedom Convoy protest. Demonstrators have been largely peaceful but truck blockades have made navigating parts of the city difficult, with local authorities still asking residents to avoid the downtown area. Ottawa Police have reported the opening of numerous investigations, though none pertain to direct acts of violence. Instead, they’re looking into a video clip of a woman dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial. Probes have also been launched into complaints issued about some of the signage used by demonstrators, citing the use of Nazi iconography. However, these were reportedly used to make direct and unfavorable comparisons between pandemic mandates and rules issued in 1930s Germany that resulted in making Jews second-class citizens shortly before the Holocaust.

Police also said they were looking into social media posts that could be construed as threatening. While Canada does have protections to freedom of expression, Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is less broad than the United States’ First Amendment, as it allows the government to set hard limits in regard to numerous categories — including hate speech, defamation, and general obscenity, among others.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to meet with protestors over the weekend after suggesting they held “unacceptable views” and were a bigoted, fringe minority. He’s doubled down on his assessment of the Freedom Convoy since then, adding that he has also been infected with COVID-19 and would be in isolation all week.

“Freedom of expression, assembly and association are cornerstones of democracy, but Nazi symbolism, racist imagery and desecration of war memorials are not,” Trudeau stated.

“This is not the story of our pandemic, our country, our people,” he continued. “My focus is standing with Canadians and getting through this pandemic.”

But Canadians seem split on the matter. Candice Bergen, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, has publicly said that the trucking protest represented millions of people who “have had enough of lockdowns and broken promises.” But Jagmeet Singh, leader of the progressive New Democrats, said the protests were “completely wrong” on Monday.

In the United States, former President Donald Trump praised the truckers by stating that they are “defending freedom.” It’s also known that President Joe Biden has been urged to suspend the updated border protocols (specifically by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney). But the Biden administration has not made any formal statements about the matter in Ottawa.

Regardless of the alleged popularity or lack thereof, the Freedom Convoy’s GoFundMe page has gone from $5 million to over $9 million (Canadian) in just a few days. Though the organization previously said it would be holding funds, it now appears that truckers can use at least a portion of the money to pay for fuel and travel expenses. Organizers have said they’re well-positioned for now and hinted that protests will not be stopped until all mandates are lifted.

This poses severe logistical problems for North America. Despite the Canadian Trucking Alliance estimating around 80 percent of its drivers as being vaccinated (government estimates are higher at 90 percent), Freedom Convoy organizers have repeatedly suggested that a majority of supportive members fall into that category and simply oppose the formal restrictions being instituted. They’ve also said that the convoy has only grown in strength this month — estimating that Canada is risking losing 20 percent of long-haul drivers, plus a sizable number of vaccinated drivers who support the cause.

Similar protests are rumored to be in the works for the United States, with Canadian truckers again joining with U.S. teamsters to run another convoy between California and Washington D.C.

Australians, who have been protesting some of the strictest lockdown protocols in the English-speaking world, are likewise plotting to demonstrate. Trucks and cars have already started converging on Canberra to call for an end to pandemic-related restrictions, with GoFundMe again freezing $160,000 until organizers can outline exactly how it’ll be spent. Australian media has also described protestors even less favorably than Canadian outlets handled the Freedom Convoy, discouraging businesses from working with demonstrators.

As things currently stand, Australian Federal Police have rallied around the doors of the Parliament House after a group of protestors slit away to demand a dialog with government representatives. Like the Canadian protests, demonstrators carried flags indicating a state of emergency while chanting slogans like “freedom now.”

So there’s your update. Truckers all over the planet are now mobilizing against government mandates in a time when the world absolutely needs them to do their jobs better and more efficiently than ever before.

While the semiconductor shortage gets the most coverage, a severe lack of qualified drivers has contributed immensely to ongoing economic issues. Delivery delays are commonplace and former just-in-time supply chains are in relative shambles. Companies concerned with transport logistics are now desperate for employees and are offering sizable bonuses in North America. Many places will even pay to train applicants so they can be certified for vehicles/payloads that are in the direst need of drivers.

The Biden administration has even pitched a “Trucking Action Plan” that’s aimed at replacing aging truckers with fresh blood. Thus far, the U.S. Department of Transportation has set aside $30 million to help states expedite the issuance of commercial driver’s licenses. Additional initiatives include expanding apprenticeship programs, reaching out to veterans that may want to become truckers, and launching a hiring initiative that prioritizes “underrepresented communities.” But we’re still probably a year away from those plans yielding any useful fruit, which means the truckers we currently have are also all there is.

Considering at least 70 percent of all goods in North America are wholly dependent upon commercial trucking to reach their final destination, truckers have a lot of leverage that nobody seems to be acknowledging with any seriousness. An ongoing protest encompassing even a fraction of the already overtaxed community will not go unnoticed. Demonstrating truckers have already said border restrictions run the risk of spoiling food deliveries and delaying manufacturing, so they see little logistical difference between wasting two weeks quarantined at the border or spending that time protesting on the road.

There’s presently a blockade at the Canada-Montana border (Coutts crossing) with backups being estimated at over two kilometers long over the weekend. While the Canada Border Services Agency announced the border has remained open, they’re telling travelers to expect significant delays and to make their crossing elsewhere if possible. Premier Jason Kenney, who has been supportive of Canadian demonstrations in the past, seemed to suggest that the truckers were taking things too far and were in violation of the Alberta Traffic Safety Act. Meanwhile Coutts Mayor Jim Willett has said he’s heard demonstrators saying they’ve no plan to abandon their post anytime soon.

“I do not believe in the total concept of blocking an international port. I know for a fact we have produce trucks sitting on the other side of the border with the clock ticking on the guys that are driving it. They will start paying penalties because they have to deliver by a certain time,” he told the Canadian press on Sunday.

“You are going to start seeing the shortages that everybody talks about, they will be real. Because you have blocked the main link in the supply chain that comes from the south.”

[Images: Bing Wen/Shutterstock; Michel Elzo/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Macmcmacmac Macmcmacmac on Feb 03, 2022

    Well, I guess I've reached the point where I reluctantly conclude the truth has been rendered unknowable. People will gather facts like Lego and piece together whatever narrative suits their prejudices. I work in Ottawa every day, and lived there for 17 years. I heard absolutely nothing about anyone defecating on the tomb of the unknown soldier. Whenever I hear talk of swastikas I immediately assume agitprop. My rule of thumb, swastikas confederate flags, bullshit level defcon 1. If not, the likelihood of them being used as a form of protest, i.e., comparing government mandates to totalitarian behavior seems to be a far more plausible explanation. Not that it matters since it seems some will take to their fainting couch at the very sight of either. There is a history of undercover cops causing trouble to create the necessary justification to drop the hammer. They did it in Montebello a few years ago when masked "anarchists" started vandalizing stores so the police had to intervene and break up the demonstration. Oddly enough, the anarchists' all had the same police issue boots. I am assuming they have learned from that and mixed it up a bit this time. Maybe I'm just jaded, what with all those babies being pulled from incubators and stuff. People on all sides are far too credulous. "Trust the science!" . Ok, as far as it goes. You would have to ignore the heavy layer of politics layered on top of it though. Don't underestimate the willingness for pols to overlook a lot just to be seen to be doing something. Complete indemnity for the pharmaceutical companies and 75 years before the FDA has to disclose all of the data it relied upon to license Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine? Sure, JUST STICK IT IN MY VEINS! After all, there has never been any drug brought to market that has caused people problems has there? Trust us, or else say goodbye to your job, your pension, your house. Welcome back to the job market in your mid 50s sucker. I guess I'd rather be dead than poor again, so I'll just ignore the heart palpitations and searing chest pains like I had with pericarditis a few years ago. I absolutely DO NOT want the booster, but I'm sure I'll get the same Don Corleone offer I can't refuse in another few months. Mentioning that to friends gets a sarcastic response that "No one cares about your pathetic little protest." Fine man, your opinion hasn't taken on the flavour of religious The booster robo-calls from the Chief Medical Officer are a bit creepy. Here I thought those letters from the regional health authority wanting a stool sample when I tuned 50 were bad... As far as the truckers go, they are sort of like the dog who caught the car. What now? I'm thinking the government has a wee bit greater capacity for holding out. It was a fine gesture. I guess their biggest crime was having a firmly held contrary opinion in Canada. They will succeed in pissing off a lot of people whose daily routine has been completely disrupted, probably not much else. I'm thinking it will end more in a whimper than a bang. Everyone on all sides will be disgusted with the outcome whatever happens. Biggest takeaways, no other profession has fallen as far, as fast, as journalism. Watching the local CBC host implying that Russian influence may be behind these disruptions nearly made me do a spit take. The CBC should be entrusted with broadcasting hockey games and the weather and nothing else. I'd probably still have to keep looking out the window though, just to check the sky. PM Trudeau is unqualified to lead. A name can only take you so far. 1/3 of a trillion dollars has been spent in 2 years. That's going to leave a mark. Trudeau has signaled on several occasions that economic issues are of relatively little importance to him. Should get interesting.

    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Feb 03, 2022

      Interesting rebuttal. Ever think that some protesters who want to cause trouble are going to wear similar or the same garb as police anti-riot squads? There's a reason why some groups call themselves paramilitary. I do agree that the CBC isn't all that good. There are many other sources of news though. I also agree that Performing Arts Pretty Boy is a sh!t Prime Minister. Was your pericarditis vaccine related? I personally don't know of anyone who's had serious side effects.

  • Macmcmacmac Macmcmacmac on Feb 03, 2022

    "As usual for security forces, top SQ officials initially categorically denied that the three men in question were policemen. But after the video was posted to (to see the video, click on Stop SPP Protest - Union Leader stops provocateurs), the SQ was forced to admit that the men are indeed SQ cops." So, yes, they were indeed cops. As far as my symptoms go, I'll freely admit it might be a coincidence, since any condition has to have a beginning. It all might be just unfortunate timing. Maybe I'm just loathe to admit that at 54 the long goodbye may be starting. Still, I have doubts, and being told I must put something in my body or lose everything I have worked 30 years for has firmly underlined where the limit of personal autonomy lies, at least in the government's opinion. I don't like it one bit.

  • 28-Cars-Later Can we end debt slavery next? Its getting to the point where its no longer voluntary.
  • Carson D Honda and Toyota still make the best American cars.
  • Slavuta I just though, with this rate we could make Cinco De Mayo a national holiday as well. Since we have tens of millions of American Mexicans, and probably more than African Americans
  • Wjtinfwb Well, it LOOKS pretty great for 36 years old and 356k miles! I've seen plenty of 2 decade newer trucks that looked like a shrapnel bomb went off inside and and exterior that looked worse. This owner got everything out of that truck it had. Time to let it retire to the farm.
  • Wjtinfwb Stellantis. They've gone from Hero to Zero in 24 months with some really stupid decisions and allowing politicians to influence their business. They also hung onto old products way too long and relied on RAM and Jeep to pull them through. RAM plays in the most competitive market of all, full-size trucks and competition is brutal with Ford and GM keeping their foot to the floor on development and improvement. Chrysler now has one model, a 5 year old van. Dodge made a living off old cars with stupendous power, that's gone with the mothballing of the Hemi. The Hornet is an overpriced joke. Now they have new Durango Pursuit's self-destruction because of a plastic oil cooler that self destructs and dumps oil into the coolant lunching the engine. Grand Cherokee, a staple of Jeep has not been well received and has limited power options due to canning the Hemi. Now they've got to build interest around the Hurricane turbo in-line 6 in trucks, Charger's and Jeeps. If that engine turns out to be problematic its likely lights out in Sterling Heights.