“If you illegally block international trade, it won’t hold.” That’s what the governor of Michigan says. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerTrucker Blocks Threat to Auto Industry at Border Biden Tells Trudeau US Workers Are Suffering ‘Serious Effects’ from Trucker Protests. This harsh rhetoric is ironic, coming from a leader who has repeatedly tried to block trade and other economic activity in order to fit her political agenda.
The governor made her bold statements during a Feb. 14 virtual presentation at the Detroit Regional Chamber. She was responding to the Freedom Convoy’s blockage of the Ambassador Bridge, spanning the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, which stifled millions of dollars of economic activity by halting traffic at North America’s busiest border crossing. for almost a week.
The convoy of Canadian truckers and the bridge blockade arose out of a protest against Canada‘s strict COVID-19 vaccination mandates, which required commercial truckers to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. Canadian officials helped lift the blockade late last week, and traffic is flowing again.
Despite this momentary easing of tensions, Whitmer felt compelled to caution anyone who might think of establishing a similar blockade in the future. “We cannot leave these events unchallenged,” she said. “We need to make sure people understand that if you’re going to do something and create damage in the economy, we’re not going to let it stand, regardless of the cause or the substance of the ‘debate’.”
But the governor’s own policies would do just that. Whitmer is unilaterally trying to shut down the Line 5 pipeline, which carries 540,000 barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids to area refineries. If successful, his actions would effectively withdraw the United States from the 1977 Transit Pipeline Treaty, which guarantees the uninterrupted transportation of light crude oil and natural gas liquids between Canada and that country.
A study by the Consumer Energy Alliance estimated that closing the pipeline would cost more than “33,000 jobs and a minimum of $20.8 billion in economic losses” in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Ontario government and industry officials testified before the Michigan Legislature in early 2021, noting that the pipeline provided between 40 and 50 percent of fuel demand for the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. ‘Ontario.
There is also a question of whether Whitmer has the legal authority to shut down the pipeline. Interrupting the application of international treaties alone is not a recognized power of state governors. His refusal to back down on the issue forced the Canadian government to invoke Article Six of the treaty, claiming the governor’s actions threatened the energy trade between the two nations. To quote a line from the Governor’s speech, his demand that the pipeline be closed immediately “would cause damage to the economy[ies]of the two nations and could also “unlawfully block international trade”.
The governor’s desire to harm economies does not stop there. Nearly two years ago, Whitmer was busy experimenting with locking down most of Michigan’s economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, it blocked hardware stores, golf courses, bowling alleys, campgrounds, fitness centers and hair salons, even preventing people from boating. She also ordered another lockdown last winter. The economic costs of these actions are so large and complex that they are difficult to estimate.
Nor have the governor’s drastic public health policies been consistent with scientific evidence. Despite record COVID-19 numbers in recent months, Whitmer has abandoned lockdowns and seemingly pivoted to a new concern for uninterrupted economic commerce.
Given the governor’s past actions, it’s hard to take seriously his concern about the Freedom Convoy’s blocking of the Ambassador Bridge. Whitmer has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to negatively impact international trade and regional economies when his political agenda requires it.
Jason Hayes is the director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and education institute based in Midland, Michigan. Michael Van Beek is the center’s director of research.