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Whitmer says protests like Ambassador Bridge shutdown ‘will not stand’ if economy is harmed

MLive
Feb. 14, 2022
Malachi Barrett

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told Michigan business leaders she will protect the state’s economic interests and challenge protests that illegally disrupt the flow of goods.

The governor appeared virtually for a Detroit Regional Chamber forum focused on her 2022-23 budget proposal when she was asked to comment on the impact of a seven-day blockade of the Ambassador Bridge between Michigan and Canada. The international trade route was reopened to traffic Monday after a court ordered the removal of protesters opposed to Canadian vaccine mandates.

“We have to make sure that people understand if you’re going to do something illegal and create damage in the economy we won’t let it stand, no matter what the cause or what the substance of the debate is,” Whitmer said. “If you’re going to unlawfully block international trade, it will not stand.”

The Ambassador Bridge carries roughly 30% of the annual trade between Michigan and Canada and is a key artery for the manufacturing industry. Representatives of nearly every major automotive company asked a Canadian judge to clear protesters from Windsor.

An estimated 10,000 commercial trucks and $325 million in goods cross the bridge every day, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Anderson Economic Group estimated Michigan auto workers lost $51 million in wages due to the bridge shutdown.

The governor was in communication with the White House, Canadian prime minister and other local officials on the other side of the Detroit River last week. Whitmer said the situation was a lesson for some who didn’t realize how serious the economic consequences would be.

Though the blockade is over, protesters have continued demonstrations in Canada. American activists opposed to vaccine mandates have also pledged similar protests in Michigan.

“I remain concerned,” Whitmer said. “We have seen this illegal activity bring our economy to the brink and I think that’s why we can’t make any assumptions. We cannot let these events like this go unchallenged.”

Whitmer said the bottleneck affirms the importance of building a second bridge to Canada. Construction on the Gordie Howe International Bridge is in progress but isn’t expected to be complete until 2024.

“I think it’s an important reminder of how important that Gordie Howe bridge is,” Whitmer said Monday. “It’s really crucial that we have a second span.”

The governor also outlined her budget priorities, calling attention to programs aimed at increasing funding for schools, infrastructure and economic development while cutting taxes for seniors and low-income workers. The $74.1 billion budget proposal is Michigan’s largest ever, bolstered by $7 billion in revenue surplus.

Whitmer touted a $500 million investment in the recently-created state fund used to lure large development projects. Whitmer said the program was instrumental in attracting $7 billion in General Motors electric vehicle projects.

“Now we’re the envy of the nation because we’ve announced this incredible investment from GM,” Whitmer said. “There’s more on the horizon.”

Whitmer released her proposed budget to lawmakers last week, kicking off a months-long process of refining a finalized plan for Michigan’s spending between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30, 2023.

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