The strike at the port on Canada’s west coast is threatening the country’s reputation Ship’s crew

By Curtis Heinzl (Bloomberg) —

A strike by dockers on Canada’s west coast lasted into the fifth day, prompting business groups to warn of a growing threat to the country’s economy and reputation.

A prolonged strike will primarily affect Canada’s exports of steel coal, copper concentrates and potash, said Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of Canada.

Most of Canada’s steel coal is produced in British Columbia, primarily by Teck Resources Ltd., and shipped to countries like Japan and Korea via Vancouver, Gratton said. Teck said it could reroute shipments through other terminals to mitigate the impact of the strikes, but Gratton said a disruption lasting more than a week would have “serious” consequences for Canada’s economy.

“Our reputation as a reliable trading country is at stake,” said Matthew Holmes, senior vice president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The chamber wants Parliament, which began its summer recess last month, to return and pass legislation bringing workers back, Holmes said.

Labor Secretary Seamus O’Regan said federal mediators are still at work and the government wants to see a negotiated settlement.

About CAD$800 million (US$605 million) in goods – a quarter of Canada’s imports and exports – pass through affected ports every day. A strike means that most of these goods will either have to wait in port or be diverted via the US.

Grain shipments continued during the strike, as required by Canada’s Labor Code.

A slowdown in exports could impact global supply chains, said Karen Proud, chief executive officer of Fertilizer Canada. Canada is the world’s largest producer of potash – a group of potassium compounds used in fertilizers. The war in Ukraine has already hampered the availability of fertilizers from Russia and Belarus — which are also big producers — and a drop in Canadian exports would further strain supplies, Proud said.

Canada’s import and export infrastructure has been hampered several times in recent years, including during a rail strike in 2019, the blocking of a major truck bridge in 2022 and interference by public sector workers at the Port of Montreal earlier this year.

“If these events continue to occur, people will have to think twice about whether Canada is the right place to relocate their product,” said Brian Kingston, CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association.

–Assisted by Jacob Lorinc.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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