What were the impacts of Emerson border blockade on Manitoba’s economy?

An estimated $73 million was lost every day due to the Emerson border blockade. What kind of impact will this have on Manitoba’s economy going forward? Alex Karpa has more.

By Alex Karpa

The blockade at Manitoba’s major border with the United States is now over, but the question remains: how much damage was done to Manitoba’s economy?

According to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, it’s estimated that around $73 million was being lost at the Emerson border every single day – totalling around $438 million throughout the entirety of the blockade.

Trade insiders worry about the long-term impacts on relationships with American companies going forward.

“They look at this and say, is this really worth it? It is a very worrying long-term impact. We are going to have to restore and rebuild our confidence with our customers in the U.S.,” said Ron Koslowsky, the vice-president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) in Manitoba.

“This should never happen again. I don’t care who does it.”

The protest in solidarity with the so-called ‘freedom convoy’ in Ottawa blocked access to the border crossing beginning Feb. 10, when protesters parked farm equipment, semi-trailers and other vehicles about two kilometres north of the border.

RCMP estimate there were about 75 vehicles involved in the blockade this past weekend.

The border opened to traffic again Wednesday after Mounties said they worked out a deal with demonstrators.

Emerson was the last remaining border blockade. Similar ones near Coutts, Alta., Surrey, B.C., and Windsor, Ont., were dismantled in recent days.


Economics professor Dr. Fletcher Baragar says without public data, it’s hard to really tell what the exact impact of the Emerson blockade will have on the provincial economy.

“I think at this stage, it’s relatively minor, partly because there were other options, partly because it didn’t last long, partly because it wasn’t a complete embargo in Canada-U.S. trade. But it shows how important the United States is as a trading partner for both importing and exporting products,” said Baragar of the University of Manitoba.

The U.S. is Canada’s most important trading partner and Baragar says long-term stability between the two countries is vital.

For the trucking industry in Manitoba, the end of the blockade is welcome news. The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) says the impact has been felt across the industry.

“I’ve heard some companies suggest that it has cost them in the neighbourhood of $25,000 a day, just for detour costs,” said Aaron Dolyniuk, the executive director of MTA. “Not to mention the additional time that drivers are not able to utilize to be productive.

“It’s definitely put a lot of strain on our industry and our drivers that continue to move freight.”

Small businesses in Winnipeg and across the province have been hit hard throughout the pandemic. Adding this blockade into the mix, Colin Fast from the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce says businesses are trying to stay afloat.

“There’s broad impact all over the place,” Fast said. “We are a trading province so every time there is an issue with trade between Canada and the U.S., it’s going to have a significant impact on local business.”

Added Koslowsky: “We need to look at the future. We need to look at both the prevention of this going forward and secondly, we need to rebuild our community and our society.”

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