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Port 'on its knees' as new offer waits on Ottawa

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone - Black Press
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone
— image credit: Black Press

The B.C. government has signed off on a new offer for striking truckers at Port Metro Vancouver, and provincial officials are pleading with federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt to authorize it so it can be presented.

B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Thursday the port of Vancouver is "down on its knees" due to the dispute, with mills and plants closing and ships preparing to reroute to Seattle as early as Friday.

Federal mediator Vince Ready presented the parties with a 14-point proposal late Wednesday that Stone said is aimed to solve the main complaints of truckers. Stone and Premier Christy Clark both called on Raitt to sign off on the new proposal, and to come to B.C. personally to help settle the complex dispute.

Stone wouldn't disclose the terms before they are presented to truckers, but he said they address the three key issues in the dispute. Those are pay rates and undercutting by some trucking companies, the "proliferation" of licences for truckers and the congestion and wait times that are costing truckers time and money, Stone said.

Clark discussed the issue in a conference call with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall Thursday, and both urged the federal government to find a solution to the dispute that is backing up container freight at Canada's largest seaport.

Stone said employees at pulp mills, sawmills and other shipping-dependent are starting to be laid off because their goods can't be shipped. There are 90,000 people whose job depends on the port, and 60,000 of them are in B.C., he said.

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