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Clark wants feds to end truckers' strike

Premier Christy Clark is calling on federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to get on a plane right away to resolve a truckers strike that is slowing exports out of Vancouver's port.

"Minister Raitt needs to come to Vancouver, sit down with the truckers and contribute to solving the issue" Clark said Thursday.

"This is an issue of national significance. If we could settle ourselves as a province, we would. We don't have the jurisdiction here. We have to rely on the federal government to do their bit and we urgently, urgently need them to step up and make sure that we get this port open again."

Earlier this week, unionized truckers parked their rigs to back pay demands and joined non-union truckers who walked off the job last month.

Agri-food industry groups say they are worried the dispute could spoil some shipments and hurt Canada's reputation as a reliable exporter.

Clark said federal and B.C. government officials met Wednesday night to come up with a set of proposals to present to the truckers.

She was adamant that most of the proposals deal with issues that are federal responsibilities since the port is federally regulated.

"We are strongly urging the truckers to sit down and look at the proposals and find a way to accept them."

Raitt responded late Thursday in an email statement, saying jobs and the economy were a priority for her government.

"While the labour dispute at the heart of this issue remains a matter of provincial jurisdiction, we are prepared to play a constructive role if it will help ensure that the port of Vancouver is able to resume normal operations."

Raitt appointed well-know mediator Vince Ready last week to look at the dispute and report back by the end of May.

But Raitt said they now have his recommendations, which the government believes will provide all parties with a basis for a path forward.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone warned that unless there is a quick resolution, the dispute will drive important business away from B.C. to the United States.

"The port is on its knees. We received word this morning that within 24 hours ships will begin to be diverted from the port of Vancouver and will be diverted to Seattle," Stone said in Victoria.

"This is going to strike a very significant blow to not just British Columbia's economy but the Canadian economy."

Gavin McGarrigle of Unifor, which represents the unionized workers, said the province, the federal government, the employers and the port should all be sitting down with the truckers to figure out a way to address the their concerns.

"Every time we've been trying to address this issue, there's finger pointing that goes on between the port saying it's not their issue, the federal government, the provincial government — it's a Canadian issue," said McGarrigle.

"We'd like this finger pointing to stop and get all parties around the table."

Meanwhile, CN Rail has filed an application in BC Supreme Court for an injunction against striking truckers, who the company says are blocking access to a CN container yard in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver.

The company has filed a notice of claim that says striking truckers have blocked or slowed traffic to the C-N facility and in at least one instance intimidated a truck driver. CN points out the dispute has nothing to do with the company.

A spokesmen for the United Truckers Association of B.C., which represents non-unionized truckers, and Unifor each deny their members have done anything wrong.

"We believe we have been acting legally and lawfully and we have been obeying the wishes of the police," said McGarrigle, the Unifor spokesman.

It wasn't clear when the court will rule on CN's application.

 

The Canadian Press

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