June 16th, 2024

Blockades creating major economic impact for Lethbridge and area

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 4, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The economy of Lethbridge and southern Alberta has been greatly impacted by the illegal blockade of the border crossing at Coutts.
NDP finance critic and MLA for Lethbridge-West Shannon Phillips, joined CEO of Economic Development Lethbridge Trevor Lewington on Thursday to discuss the issue during a virtual press conference.
“As a province we are an export-oriented economy, we export billions of dollars by truck to the United States every year the majority of it through the Coutts border crossing,” said Phillips.
The Coutts border crossing is the only 24/7 international port of entry in Alberta, where people are allowed to transport live animals and the heaviest truckloads through.
“Our city and our region rely heavily on the transportation of the goods we produce here, and being able to get our products across the border into the American market where our biggest customers are,” said Phillips.
To provide some context on the matter Lewington said the blockade of the only 24/7 commercial land crossing in Alberta is a direct threat to the economic well-being of growers, producers, manufacturers, and many other businesses that rely on the movement of both raw materials in and finished goods out along the CANAMEX corridor.
“Make no mistake that Lethbridge manufacturing plants will be forced to throttle back or cancel production as their supplies run out, and frontline workers will lose paid hours and shifts as a direct result,” said Lewington.
He said many businesses are only just now recovering from the supply chain destruction that occurred with unprecedented weather events in BC just before Christmas, and other global events that snarled the movement of supplies around the world.
“A border blockade simply adds one more pain point to the mix. This is not a political issue, this is an economic issue,” said Lewington.
He said the Lethbridge census metropolitan area or CMA, exported almost $1.4 billion worth of goods in 2020 with about 80 per cent of that estimated to move to or through the United States, and the vast majority of that moving through the Coutts-Sweetgrass border crossing.
Lewington said that means for the city of Lethbridge alone roughly $3 million per day in economic impact, based on the road and rail traffic that must move through that port of entry.
“The impact is of course four or five times larger than that, if you consider the movement of other Alberta goods in and out through that same North-South corridor,” said Lewington.
He said the transportation warehousing and logistics sector in Lethbridge creates roughly $310 million in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year and employs nearly 3000 people in the community.
“Those are people who depend on their free movement of their equipment, their goods and their services in and through that corridor,” said Lewington.
He said many of those businesses are incurring significant incremental costs as perishable loads are spoiled, drivers are re-routed many kilometres off-course into BC, which is the next major commercial port of entry, and border paperwork and customs details have to be re-written.
“It’s a challenging time for all of us and I would ask that we all come together to focus on what matters and that’s jobs, that’s getting people back to work, and that’s keeping the flow of goods moving,” said Lewington.
Phillips agreed with that, noting the fact that keeping the border crossing open is absolutely essential to our economy and with the blockade people’s jobs and livelihoods are at stake.
“We cannot have our original economy held hostage any longer, so it needs to be reopened immediately. We cannot continue with this uncertainty,” said Phillips.
She said that for the good of our economy and the people of Alberta, the border needs to be open, and it needs to stay open.
Phillips added that the official opposition has called on the government to seek a court injunction and give the RCMP every tool they need to clear this blockade.
“We’ve also called for the provincial government to compensate Albertans for any uninsurable losses they’ve incurred as a result of this illegal blockade,” said Phillips.

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