Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers to be in effect; Ottawa calls reversal ‘error’

A truck crosses the Bluewater Bridge border between Sarnia, Ont. and Port Huron, Mich., on August 16, 2020.Geoff Robbins / The Canadian Press

The upcoming vaccine mandate for truck drivers arriving from the United States would not go into effect this week, the Canadian Border Services Agency said after the federal government said it was all a mistake.

CBSA’s remarks to the Canadian press, which caused much confusion within the trucking industry, were “provided in error,” said a joint statement released Thursday afternoon by three federal cabinet ministers.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabara and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino offered no explanation as to how the mistake occurred.

On Wednesday evening, a CBSA spokesperson said Canadian truck drivers would not have to be quarantined if they did not get vaccinated or only received a single dose.

But ministers said from Saturday Canadian truck drivers should be vaccinated if they want to avoid quarantine and molecular tests. Unvaccinated American big-riggers will be turned back at the border.

US-Canada supply chain may still face disruptions due to vaccine mandate

Ottawa drops vaccine mandate for its truck drivers after industry pressure

The United States is preparing to impose a similar ban on Canadian truckers, which is expected to take effect on January 22.

“Our team is in contact with industry representatives to ensure they have accurate information,” the ministers’ statement said.

Business groups have spent months vocalizing concerns about the need for the vaccine for truck drivers, noting that it could slow cross-border trade and drive up freight costs.

Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said in an interview that the coalition was made aware of CBSA’s comments Wednesday, which caused confusion because the position was a “fundamental deviation” from what the alliance had previously reported.

The coalition has warned of a significant driver shortage, with a survey suggesting that 10 percent to 15 percent of 120,000 Canadian drivers crossing the border could leave the industry if the vaccine mandate is introduced.

Mr Laskowski said the coalition was not opposed to a vaccine mandate, but added that it was a question of timing and the need to allow a smooth transition. He said there is no sector of the economy that does not depend on trucking for cross-border trade.

“At this point in time, we need more drivers, not less,” he said.

The trucking industry has long been grappling with labor shortages, and the problem has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Statistics Canada reported that there were 17,210 unfinished trucking jobs in the third quarter of 2021, the most since it began collecting data in 2015. The number of vacancies has gone up to 22,900, the CTA said.

Conservative transportation critic Melissa Lantsman said on Thursday that the new rules would raise the cost of living for Canadians, pushing up the price of essential items, including groceries.

“At a time when inflation is already at record highs, Canadians will be paying the price for the Trudeau government’s poor policy decisions,” she said on Thursday. She also asked Ottawa to consider rapid testing as an option.

Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said driver shortages could exacerbate existing supply chain problems related to COVID-19 and various natural disasters.

“Even if it is 10 or 15 per cent drivers, it means there is going to be some delay in the system. And this means that companies will either have to slow down production or shut down production lines, as they did during the integrated circuit shortage,” Mr. Darby said.

Officials are encouraging truck drivers to use the government’s Arivacan app to store their vaccine passports. The CTA said after a meeting with officials on Wednesday that drivers would be allowed to use paper documents at the border, but only “for a limited time”.

Canadian and US drivers with medical exemptions will still be allowed to cross the border.

The United States also requires full vaccinations for foreigners entering the country, “whether for essential or non-essential reasons.” The US Department of Homeland Security said in October that the rule would go into effect in January, although it did not specify a date.

The US proposal has been criticized by trade unions and politicians. In December, 14 Republican senators wrote to President Joe Biden objecting to the cross-border vaccine mandate.

“Despite the good intentions that underlie this action, we fear that enforcing vaccination mandates as a requirement for land border crossings will exacerbate the current challenges facing our freight networks and supply chains, and further exacerbate inflation and rising prices.” Could increase. Americans are already watching,” the senators wrote.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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