--> Getting It Right: Container Trucking Dispute - Should the Feds Step Up to the Plate?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Container Trucking Dispute - Should the Feds Step Up to the Plate?

On the face of it, the container trucking dispute seems like a pretty boring issue – nothing that exciting about big trucks not being able to pick up or drop off their loads at the Port of Vancouver’s shipping terminals.

But just as with any other major public infrastructure, like sewers and power lines, we don’t tend to notice how important they are until they fail.

This dragging dispute, which pits owner-operators on the edge of financial ruin against shipping companies pressured to keep costs down by their big-box customers, has now reached a breaking point.

Tempers have flared throughout the action – bullet hole have shown up in truck doors and there have been scuffles on the picket lines between operators willing to brave the scorn of their fellow drivers to keep the goods moving and those that feel giving up now will mean certain bankruptcy.

And who’s getting hurt? Well, most of all it is smaller importers and exporters who wake every morning knowing that their livelihood is stuck in a steel box instead into their customers’ hands.

One example is the Chinese-Canada Importer and Exporter Association's Helen Zhao. She has a small business tied completely to imports from China – imports that are sitting on the docks baking in the hot sun, forcing her to lay off staff.

How about the independent grocers? They know that within days their customers are going to be out of luck when they stop by their corner store to pick up certain products. Again, wholesalers and retailers have inventory tied up that they can’t access – some of which will be expired or rotten by the time they get it.

There are hundreds of individual stories about goods waiting to be sent to customers, household effects of new Canadians not being delivered, owner-operators who operate their rigs on a money losing basis, and shipping companies who fear losing customers to Seattle or Los Angeles.

There are no winners in this situation. And letting it drag on isn’t going to make it better for anyone.

So, being the good Canadian that I am, I’m going to ask where the heck is the Federal Government – because unlike the Province’s Transportation Minister, Kevin Falcon, they’ve been a little tough to track down.

The Feds, which have the sole authority to bring the two sides to the table, has been missing in action on this file – only this week has it even appeared on the radar screens of Martin’s Emerson and Dosanjh dream team . After letting it drag on for weeks, David Emerson finally emerged briefly yesterday waving his hands and vaguely stating that the two sides should try to sit down over the next 36 to 48 hours, or the Federal Government would…study the problem again.

Great. Leadership like this is not going to restore the desperately needed movement of goods in B.C.

John Cummins, the Delta Conservative MP is so frustrated by the lack of Federal action that he’s decided to speak out and shame them into some kind of response. He feels that it has dragged on long enough and that too many people and their livelihoods have been placed in jeopardy.

Sometimes we can wait for a market to correct itself, and sometimes, especially when the Federal Government’s fuel taxes are such a big part of the problem, we need the Government step up to the plate and be leaders.

Batter up!

(As seen today in 24 Hours Daily)

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