As a potential strike looms in the west coast with British Columbia cargo workers threatening to walk off the job as early as July 1, experts are warning that such a strike could cause “major damage” to the Canadian economy, fuel a rise in inflation, and compromise a supply chain still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ports are critical infrastructure in Canada. It is estimated that the ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert alone account for the movement of about $800 million of merchandise per day.

With no one to offload shipping containers, goods can pile up in ports and result in a supply chain bottleneck, which can drive the prices of goods higher.

Businesses that rely on those goods will be unable to carry out their operations as usual, and will have to either quickly pivot to source goods from other suppliers or reroute their existing shipments through other ports via truck or rail, which could result in higher green house gas emissions.

Any prolonged delays or stoppages would also affect the flow of trade goods that flow from Canada into the United States.

Manufacturing businesses, the auto sector, and retail are likely to see the biggest impacts due to their reliance on imports. Even though most will likely have a buffer in terms of existing inventory, in the event of a more prolonged strike they would start to experience shortages.

Agriculture, critical minerals, energy industries, trucking and warehousing could also be impacted.

While a strike would obviously impact jobs directly related to the ports, support workers in adjacent industries, such as logistics and transportation, would also be affected.

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