The Canadian truckers' choice: The easy way or the hard way

Justin Trudeau, current prime minister of Canada, and heir of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, is angry.  There are truckers — lots of them — clogging the streets of Ottawa, honking their horns, and revving their engines.

Raised in privilege as a prime minister's son, Mr. Trudeau doesn't believe that he should have to listen to the people's voices, let alone their engines. 

So he has ordered police to steal the drivers' fuel and even impound their vehicles.  He has ordered banks to confiscate their bank accounts.  He has even decreed a national emergency — which he didn't do for the virus, by the way, only for the truckers' convoy — and in so doing, jeopardized the majority status of his party, since virtually everyone knows that the Emergencies Act was never intended for anything like this.

Yes, this is a big demonstration.  Yes, it's one of the biggest in Canadian history, possibly the biggest (though there are different ways to count such things).  Yes, the closure of a couple of bridges was a noticeable hit to the economy for a few days — though not nearly as severe a hit as two years of mask mandates, social distancing mandates, lockdowns, and shutdowns have been, and we don't see him apologizing for those, do we?

But there is something about this particular demonstration that the extremist pro-max-and-vax fringe crowd might want to consider: that it could be worse.

The Canadian left is horrified that, in some small measure, a group of truckers are creating minor inconveniences at certain choke points across the country — blocking a few border crossings and tying up traffic in the federal capital.

But they conveniently forget that traffic is tied up regularly — outside the Ambassador Bridge closure, this really isn't any more inconvenient than a Toronto rush hour in bad weather, or the street closures of a parade day, and they've survived those inconveniences their whole lives.

As protests go, this is in fact a very measured protest.

How does a normal union protest work in Canada?  They shut down an entire port, or an entire industry, for months at a time.  Those of us with long memories can remember whole seasons when a months-long railroad strike finally gave way, only for a customs agents' strike to begin, and then for a longshoremen's strike to follow that one.  There have been years when labor actions closed the port of Montreal for twice as long as the impenetrable ice of the St. Lawrence ever could. 

Mr. Trudeau's party — even in the elder Trudeau's time — never managed to take such an extreme position against those protests, did they?

And unlike those others, the current protest doesn't really stop commerce.  It slows it down a little, sure...but only some truckers are participating, not all of them.  And consider all the donors — the thousands of Canadian citizens trying desperately to find a courageous enough middleman to collect and distribute their donations to the truckers. 

These donors are still at work.  While supporting the protesting truckers, with cash and picket signs and fuel cans, the vast majority of Canadians are still going to work every day, still doing their best, even in this terribly handicapped environment, to keep the nation's economy moving.

Normally, when formal trade unions protest, they completely shut down a factory, shut down a port, shut down a rail line, shut down an industry. 

But when these drivers protest, they make their opinion known; they make some commuters take a detour here and there, but they don't absolutely shut down commerce. 

Consider how the transportation industry works.  In the trucking business, truck brokers offer loads to available, interested drivers, or companies with fleets assign loads to their active employees.  Instead of ten participating in every such auction, maybe only eight are participating right now, with so many of the drivers participating in the Freedom Convoy.  But there are still plenty of drivers available to move freight.

These convoy participants aren't threatening their fellow drivers to stay off the roads or sending in thugs to kneecap "scabs" who keep driving during the protest, as unions so often have over the years during their "sanctioned" strikes.  No driver still working today has anything to fear from the Convoy or its supporters.  After all, the Convoy believes in freedom.  One wishes one could say the same for its opponents.

The regime is hoping it can force the drivers back to work without giving in, without relaxing the draconian mask and vaccine mandates.  But they forget whom they're dealing with, or perhaps we should say, which industry they're dealing with.

The transportation industry has had a century of experience in running not only formal strikes, but also undeclared "work slowdowns."  The ILWU and ILA — the North American longshoremen's unions — have plagued our seaports with both kinds in recent decades; ask anyone in transportation which kind they prefer, which kind is less disruptive, less costly, less painful.

Force a protester back to work at gunpoint, and you won't get the same kind of work you would get out of him if he were willing.  A seven-hour drive can easily take ten hours.  A one-hour pickup or delivery could easily take four.  It's easy to mix up document packets so cargo gets misplaced if your mind isn't completely on the task at hand.

If you think things are unproductive now, just wait until you use the jackboot of government to force truckers to fall in line.  You'll regret it, Mr. Trudeau.

These are honorable drivers.  They delivered their cargo before they joined the protest, and they showed up at the protest with empty rigs, so they wouldn't really hold up the business of the country.  But if you deny them their intended form of protest...forcing them into another...then there are other forms they'll be tempted to use.

And it will be entirely the fault of a dictatorial regime, one that simply can't bring itself to admit that its policies went too far and obviously need to be relaxed.

Oh, yes.  From the perspective of the country, and the business community, and the consumers...the truckers of the Freedom Convoy have been doing this the easy way, so far.

The Trudeau regime might want to think long and hard before forcing them to do it the hard way.  It just might hurt the Liberal Party and the Trudeau regime a lot more than it hurts the freedom movement.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based international transportation professional.  A onetime Milwaukee County Republican Party chairman, he has been writing a regular column in the Illinois Review since 2009.  His book on vote fraud (The Tales of Little Pavel) and his brand new political satires on the current administration (Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes I and II) are available on Amazon.

Photo credit: YouTube (cropped).

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