Canada: trucker protest over fuel costs cuts off supply lines : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Nfld. trucker protest cuts off supply lines

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) - Gas stations are running out of fuel, dairies aren't getting fresh milk and the mail isn't getting through.

The truckers' protest in Newfoundland, which gained strength today despite flagging support in the rest of the country, is gnawing at the fringes of the province's economy.

Hundreds of independent truckers, livid over the rising cost of diesel, have choked commercial traffic on the island. Intimidating roadside checkpoints remain in place along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Several drivers from this ragtag coalition, which doesn't have a leader or a clear strategy, met with the province's finance minister late Thursday.

At first, Lloyd Matthews said he wouldn't talk to the truckers until their rigs were pulled off the road. But when the truckers called his bluff and headed for the door, Matthews blinked.

The meeting at the provincial legislature dragged on until 2 a.m. The minister said the talks created the basis for a resolution, but the truckers said that was bunk.

Today, the partial blockades that started Monday have multiplied. There were six locations where truckers were pulling over commercial traffic Thursday. At least two more sprung up today.

The five-day protest has many Newfoundlanders on edge.

Speaking on a radio call-in show, a man from Twillingate said he was worried sick that he would not have enough gas in his car to reach St. John's for a medical appointment Monday.

On the main street in St. John's, the driver of a Central Dairies delivery van said his load would be the last one of the day.

''That's it,'' he said, pulling an armful of milk cartons and bags from the truck. ''There's nothing else left.''

The truckers have been careful to make sure passenger traffic and deliveries for home heating oil and medical supplies are allowed through.

Still, lineups at gas stations were reported in some towns. There were reports that couriers and postal trucks have been stopped on the Trans-Canada.

One man told a call-in show that his Employment Insurance cheque had been held up somewhere in the province.

''I phoned the post office and asked them if the truckers' protest would have any affect on the mail and they said it had everything to do with the mail,'' the caller from Corner Brook, Nfld., told VOCM radio.

''I called the Employment Insurance department and they said they would (have) some kind of announcement today about what they're going to do about cheques that have been held up.''

The transportation snafu in Newfoundland has been exacerbated by the fact there is no rail service on the island.

Matthews has said there was no room for negotiation on truckers' demands for reduced taxes on diesel fuel.

''Taxes are not the issue here,'' Matthews said. ''The price of fuel is the issue, and that is market driven.'' He refused to say what he offered the truckers to settle the dispute.

On the Trans-Canada Highway near Grand Falls-Windsor, more than 100 trucks were lined up on either side of the busy roadway that cuts across the top of central Newfoundland.

The scene was much the same in Foxtrap, a small community west of St. John's. About 60 trucks were parked at the weigh scales there.

Smaller protests were staged outside oil depots in St. John's and in nearby Holyrood. More trucks were parked along the Trans-Canada Highway at the turnoffs to Bay d'Espoir and Lewisporte in central Newfoundland.

-- Carl Jenkins (, February 25, 2000

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