Federal trade minister Ed Fast weighs in on container trucker dispute

Canada’s International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the No. 1 priority in the ongoing labour dispute between truckers and Port Metro Vancouver is keeping the port open.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast

Canada’s International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the No. 1 priority in the ongoing labour dispute between truckers and Port Metro Vancouver is keeping the port open.

More than 1,600 truckers that service Port Metro Vancouver container terminals ended a 28-day work stoppage at the end of March after negotiating an action plan that promised improved job conditions. But representatives of unionized truckers now say nothing has changed since then.

Fast, who spoke to the Surrey Board of Trade on Thursday (August 7), did not want to speculate on another potential port truckers’ strike.

“Listen, I’m not going to pre-judge what the truckers are going to do. We have made it very clear that our ports are a critical driver of economic prosperity in Canada. And we will address situations as they develop. In the meantime, the port is open and continues to drive economic prosperity.”

Gavin McGarrigle, the B.C. director for Unifor, the union that represents approximately 25% of the truckers who service the port, said private companies aren’t adhering to the 15-point action plan aimed at addressing trucker wage concerns and port terminal congestion.

“We all want to keep the port open, but there was a deal that we struck,” he said Thursday via phone. “And they haven’t done that. A deal is a deal, and [government] needs to live up to its end of the bargain.”

Fast touched on a number of trade issues during his speech to the SBOT, including the status of Port Metro, Canada’s largest port and North America’s fifth largest container port.

“Our ports in Canada are absolutely critical to Canada’s economic prosperity, and we want to make sure that those ports stay open. And that Canadian business and Canadian exporters can benefit from that.”

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