Canadian truckers are preparing for another blockade at American border crossings Thursday night unless they get some encouraging news today from federal officials.
As in last month's blockade, they are planning to block only trucks, while leaving lanes open for automobiles.
Wayne Whitney, a trucker from Windsor, Ont., will meet today in Ottawa with federal officials who last month promised the truckers some relief from high taxes, insurance and fuel costs, ending their first blockade.
"We've given them a month, and nothing's happened," said Whitney's wife, Susan.
The proposed blockade would come on the eve of one of the busiest weekends of the year for traffic between the two countries, with Canadians celebrating Canada Day Sunday and Americans preparing for Independence Day celebrations next Wednesday.
In addition, the six-day Friendship Festival begins Friday in Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont.
"If they block more than truck traffic and pedestrian traffic, it's going to cause some problems," said Friendship Festival coordinator Jeff Yates. "But I don't see it as insurmountable."
Contingency plans, he added, will be developed after border-area police agencies have had a chance to meet and discuss the problem.
The Friendship Festival also has been made a target of a planned protest by Fort Erie municipal workers, who have been on strike for five weeks.
"We're going to go down in force to the opening ceremonies," said Jim Johnson, president of Local 714, Canadian Union of Public Employees. In addition to the demonstration, Fort Erie parks and recreational facilities also could be picketed next week.
The union, representing 50 of 71 town workers, has been unable to reach a contract agreement with the town in a dispute over sick time and other issues. A negotiation session last week ended when town management brought four new issues to the table, Johnson said.
Canadian truck drivers last month blockaded some border crossings, including a two-day action at the Peace Bridge and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, to protest taxes and other conditions they say make it difficult for them to compete against U.S. truckers.
The truckers said that in order to compete with American trucking firms, they need lower fuel taxes, subsidies to reduce truck insurance costs, a guaranteed rate of pay per mile for independent truckers and a restructuring of broker practices and rates.
If Whitney does not receive promising news from government officials today, truckers hope to blockade all 35 major border crossings between the United States and Canada, his wife said.
A flier distributed to truckers asks drivers to start the protest at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.