Weeklong dock strike on Canada’s west coast is starting to pinch small businesses, experts say

Striking International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada workers march to a rally Thursday in Vancouver. (Darryl Dyck /The Canadian Press via AP)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canadian consumers aren’t yet feeling the impact of the weekold port strike in British Columbia, but businesses are beginning to be pinched by the shutdown of docks that handle 25% of the country’s foreign trade, experts said Friday.

The strike by 7,400 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada began July 1 and shut down more than 30 west coast ports.


Robin Guy, vice president and deputy leader of government relations at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the affected ports handle cargo worth over 800 million Canadian dollars ($600 million) every day.

“It affects us, it affects people internationally who are relying on Canadian goods to be delivered,” Guy said.

Greg Wilson, director of government relations for the Retail Council of Canada, said he didn’t expect Canadian consumers to “really see significant impacts for weeks.”

It’s a different story, he said, for small businesses that operate on slim margins and are still recovering from the pandemic.

“If you’re a small retailer, if your goods are stuck, wow are you annoyed,” Wilson said. Large retailers have more flexibility, he added: “They have supply chain professionals (who) can work to divert containers” to other ports

Robert Kavcic, a senior economist with the Bank of Montreal, said businesses that export products like potash, fertilizer or forest goods are being squeezed.

The British Columbia Council of Forest Industries issued a statement Friday urging the parties to resolve the walkout. It said the shutdown ports handle forest products exports worth about 15 billion Canadian dollars ($11 billion) annually.

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