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Crossing into Canada this summer? A possible border agent strike could disrupt your plans

U.S. and Canadian flags fly in the border town of Roseau, Minn.
U.S. and Canadian flags fly in the border town of Roseau, Minn. Travel and commerce between the two countries could slow to a gridlock if Canadian border agents strike this summer.
John Enger | MPR News

Some 9,000 Canadian border agents are poised to strike if disagreements on their union contract can not be resolved. And that could have implications for Minnesota travelers and businesses, including agriculture.

Paul Vieira covers Canadian affairs for the Wall Street Journal and said many of the workers are considered essential by the Canadian government and will have to work. But they could start a work-to-rule campaign, in which they’d adhere strictly to their existing union contract.

“The union members would basically take their time processing, they will take their time dealing with travelers coming across the border,” Vieira said. “So basically, the cross-border traffic will come to a gridlock.”

Nearly $2.6 billion in goods and services cross the United States-Canada border every day, according to the Canadian government. And according to the Business Council of Canada, about one-fifth of Minnesota’s exports are sent to Canada, while Minnesota imports billions of dollars-worth of goods annually, primarily in crude energy.

The agents have been without a new contract for two years and are asking for increased salary and retirement benefits that align with other law enforcement agencies across Canada.

When asked how likely a strike is, Vieira wasn’t optimistic they’d reach a deal.

“Given how far apart they are on pay, I would say it may be 50/50.”

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