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Minnesota officials on alert as Canadian border patrol agents prepare to strike

How the Canadian border agent strike could impact Minnesota
How the Canadian border agent strike could impact Minnesota 02:05

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota officials are keeping a close eye on an important dispute to our north as Canadian border agents are preparing to go on strike.

"Our members gave us a mandate to strike," said Mark Weber, the president of Canada's Customs and Immigration Union. "They voted 96% in favor."

Weber says the union is fighting for salaries and rights that most other law enforcement already have.

Minnesota's leaders aren't sitting idly by.

"Our administration, the Walz administration, we meet regularly with the Canadian government to talk about this," said Thom Petersen, Minnesota's agriculture commissioner.

Petersen says his panic meter about a possible strike at the border is at a six or seven out of 10.

"In any given year, Canada is one of our, if not our top, trading partner, along with Mexico and China," he said.

Border agents play an important role in that trade.

"We do a lot of commercial," Weber said. "We're vital to the economic aspect of that. Land borders, there's trucks going through. Marine, we do a lot of cargo with ships and such."

Data from the federal government shows Minnesota exported $7 billion worth of goods to Canada last year, the state's largest export destination.

Agricultural trade makes up a significant portion of that.

"A lot of times we export feed, corn and different beans and things like that to Canada," Petersen said. "That can be a really big issue as well as seed and equipment."

In a statement to WCCO, the Canadian government said in part, "The government is fully committed to reaching a fair and reasonable agreement for border services employees...Employees have the right to strike, but at this time it is unnecessary. We are ready and willing to return to the bargaining table at any time."

"Our members are very proud of the work that they do," Weber said. "They love serving Americans as they come through and protecting Canadians. We want to keep doing that. We don't want to strike."

A strike could begin in early to mid-June. If it does happen, Weber says crossing through could take more than 10 hours. Petersen says the state government is working with Canada to prepare for that possibility.

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