Ontario to make some emergency tools permanent to stop illegal blockades – CBC.ca

March 21, 2022 by No Comments

Weeks after protesters disrupted Canada’s trade with the U.S. by blocking the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., the provincial government is introducing new legislation to better protect the flow of traffic and trade across international border crossings from a repeat of what happened in February. 

The proposed Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act, 2022, would give law enforcement more tools at the ready, without needing to invoke a provincial emergency — something the province did last month to respond to the protests.

“We can’t afford the economic impacts that we saw as a result of recent blockades and occupations in Windsor and Ottawa,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “This is why we are taking action to provide new tools to support the important work of police and prosecutors to hold offenders accountable and to ensure your justice is done.”

The legislation, being introduced Monday, would let police officers suspend drivers’ licences and vehicle permits, seize licence plates of those involved in an illegal blockade as well as remove and store other objects contributing to a blockade.

It also includes a nearly $96 million investment to: establish a permanent Emergency Response Team for the Ontario Provincial Police, enhance training at the Ontario Police College with a focus on effective public order policing and to purchase heavy equipment such as tow trucks. 

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the act is narrow in scope and will not impede Ontarians’ ability to peacefully protest.

Economic impacts of illegal protests

Approximately $17 million in goods crosses over the Ambassador Bridge hourly, making up to 25 per cent of all Canada-U.S. trade, Jones said at at a news conference Monday. 

The bill aims to protect  jobs that depend on trade and shield the economy from facility closures and potential supply chain issues in the future, Jones says. When car parts didn’t move across the border, Ontario auto workers lost work because they didn’t have the parts they needed to do their jobs, she adds.

It also eroded trust in Ontario’s reputation as a reliable place to invest, Jones said —  trust the government is now working to rebuild with its largest trading partner, including through Premier Doug Ford’s trip to Washington this week.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is in Washington to re-build trust with U.S. trading partners following border blockades. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Ford mentioned the provincial legislation in a speech to the Canadian American Business Council, saying the U.S. can rely on Ontario despite “upheaval and uncertainty” around the world.

Recent events have proven the need to secure cross-border supply chains, Ford told his audeince. “We will not accept any attempts to block our borders or interrupt our economy.”

Ford also urged the U.S. to “share the same commitment to removing obstacles” to improve the trade relationship, referring to the current push from President Joe Biden to strengthen Buy America Rules.

Communities most affected bear the costs

Opposition leaders say some costs faced by the communities most affected by the recent illegal protests in Windsor and in Ottawa ought to be borne by the province.

Liberal House Leader John Fraser says a trip to Washington won’t rebuild the level of trust lost. He also says acknowledging the high costs of the protests without committing to help communities who shouldered these costs is unfair.

Ottawa faces a $36 million dollar policing …….

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-emergency-tools-blockade-1.6392002

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