Whitmer: Take ‘necessary and appropriate’ steps to reopen Ambassador Bridge

By: - February 10, 2022 12:41 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference, Sept. 21, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Updated, 6:16 a.m., 2/11/22, with comments from Rep. Martin

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday released a statement calling on Canadian authorities to resolve the Ambassador Bridge closure, noting that the key international trade route is having an impact on sectors including autos, agriculture, manufacturing and more.

“My message is simple: reopen traffic on the bridge,” Whitmer said in a statement.

More than a quarter of trade between the United States and Canada relies on the privately owned Ambassador Bridge.

The bridge has been closed since Monday due to a group of right-wing Canadian protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest land border crossing in North America, used by tens of thousands of commuters and truck drivers carrying hundreds of millions of dollars of goods every day. Countless Michiganders rely on this daily flow of goods and people to get things done,” Whitmer said. “It is imperative that Canadian local, provincial, and national governments de-escalate this economic blockade. They must take all necessary and appropriate steps to immediately and safely reopen traffic so we can continue growing our economy, supporting good-paying jobs, and lowering costs for families.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recommended that individual motorists use the tunnel to Windsor rather than the Ambassador Bridge.

Commercial vehicles are being redirected to use the Blue Water Bridge running from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario.

The Ambassador Bridge is owned by the Moroun family and the state does not control it, but MDOT closed the I-75/M-10 and I-96 ramps to the bridge Monday afternoon to stop traffic from entering it due to the protestors on the other side.

Ambassador Bridge | Ken Coleman

“In Michigan, our economy continues to grow because of our hardworking people and innovative small businesses. Now, that momentum is at risk. Commercial traffic is at a standstill at the Ambassador Bridge and heavily backed up at the Blue Water Bridge,” Whitmer said. “The blockade is having a significant impact on Michigan’s working families who are just trying to do their jobs. Our communities and automotive, manufacturing, and agriculture businesses are feeling the effects. It’s hitting paychecks and production lines. That is unacceptable.”

On Thursday afternoon, a GOP state representative threw his support behind the right-wing protesters, demanding for Whitmer to “work with her partners in the U.S. and Canada to end the vaccine policies.” Rep. David Martin (R-Davison) said more economic shutdowns will follow if she doesn’t take action.

“In the last 24 hours, we have watched with consternation as automotive plants began to cancel shifts and cut hours due to reduced trucking shipments arriving at their destination. We are confident that more shutdowns will take place if you do not work with your federal and Canadian partners to end vaccine mandates at the border,” Martin wrote in a letter.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino previously denounced foreign officials weighing in on the protests after former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the protestors.

Mendicino responded that “it is certainly not the concern of the Texas attorney general as to how we in Canada go about our daily lives in accordance with the rule of law,” Time reported.

“We need to be vigilant about potential foreign interference,” Mendicino said. “Whatever statements may have been made by some foreign official are neither here nor there. We’re Canadian. We have our own set of laws. We will follow them.”

Demonstrations first began more than a week ago by truckers who oppose a mandate requiring drivers entering Canada to either be fully vaccinated or face a testing and quarantine requirement.

Protests have also broken out around Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario – the seat of Canada’s federal government – with some of the protestors reportedly waving Confederate and Nazi flags and saying they want to dissolve Canada’s government.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency on Sunday to help deal with the protestors, though he did not give details of what measures might be imposed, Reuters reported.

Watson said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that “what was initially described as a peaceful protest has now turned into a siege of our downtown area.”

Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told CBC over the weekend that “we put the question of the vaccines and vaccine mandates on the ballot … and we’re simply carrying out the promise that we made with the support of the vast majority of Canadians.”

Reuters reported that police are investigating threats against public figures jointly with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and have charged four people with hate crimes.

Some Conservative lawmakers in Canada have met with and taken selfies with the protestors, and the party recently ousted Erin O’Toole as their leader, which Reuters reported was in part because he wasn’t initially supportive enough of the protesters.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.