Manufacturers report “stark” impact of border closures

Monday, February 1, 2021

Blackburn News/Adelle Loiselle


Calling the results of a recent survey of manufacturers in Ontario “stark” and “sobering,” a group that represents manufacturers in border cities is calling on the federal government to provide a clearer definition of what is an “essential worker.”

The survey by the Canadian Tooling & Machining Association, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Moldmakers, Automate Canada, and the Niagara Industrial Association, asked manufacturers about the impact of border closures on their businesses.

More than half of the 39 respondents were from Windsor-Essex, and three-quarters in total said their workers appear to have the most difficulty crossing the border at the Ambassador Bridge.

Since March 2020 when land border crossings closed between Canada and the U.S. to all but essential travel, 65 per cent of respondents experienced moderate to substantial impacts on their bottom line. More than a third reported the magnitude will be $1-million or more.

A report compiled of the survey’s results said the primary problem appears to be a “lack of understanding among border security officials of what is deemed essential, and what protocols are recommended upon return.”

It suggested border officials question the essential nature of border crossings based on the low frequency of workers passing between the two countries.

The federal government’s guideline of essential services says “workers who support the metals distribution supply chain, including metal manufacturing, metal casting, parts, and machining”, along with industrial automation are considered essential.

Eighty per cent said they required U.S.-based customers or personnel to visit their Canadian operations for inspections, sign-offs, or repairs. Some of those personnel have been denied entry into Canada, while others were forced to quarantine for 14-days. Almost half say they require these cross-border visits between one and five times a month.

Of the other two recommendations provided in the report, the association is asking for more clarification for the rules regarding the re-entry of Canadian workers into Canada, and rapid testing protocols.

While none of those surveyed said the border closure has resulted in a work stoppage, 69 per cent said they have lost contracts. Many said administrative costs have increased, payments have been delayed, and they are postponing investments in new technology.

“Manufacturing is essential,” said Shelley Fellows, the Chair of Automate Canada. “Manufacturers produce food, pharmaceutical goods and common products so important to our daily lives.”

Executive Director of the Canadian Tooling & Machining Assocation added, “to be clear, our association is not asking for the border to reopen, but rather a process to keep everyone safe, and at the same time, be able to operate essential services.”