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Ottawa cancels vaccine mandate for truckers at the last minute

The federal government is withdrawing from its vaccine mandate for Canadian truckers three days before it goes into effect.

Ottawa announced in mid-November that truck drivers entering Canada should be fully vaccinated by this Saturday.

But on Wednesday evening, spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, Rebecca Purdy, told The Canadian Press that Canadian heavy riggers will not have to self-quarantine if they are not vaccinated or have their own health. ‘they only received one dose.

The news surprised Canadian Trucking Alliance President Stephen Laskowski, who said industry officials met with government officials at noon on Wednesday and were told the tenure was still in good standing. way for Saturday.

Business associations on both sides of the border had been pushing for a postponement of the restriction, which they said would put additional strain on supply chains amid the latest wave of COVID-19 and severe worker shortages .

The new rule will still take effect for American truckers, who will be turned back at the border unless they have been vaccinated from this weekend.

According to the Trucking Alliance, about 10 percent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers crossing the border may not have been able to work on these routes because they were not hit.

Not clear if the exemption is temporary

The Canada Border Services Agency declined to say whether the exemption for truckers is temporary or indefinite, or what prompted the change.

The vaccination mandate had already started to impact trucking operations.

“Many of our members have already said that they will not send unvaccinated drivers to the border,” Laskowski said.

The transport companies never opposed the vaccination mandate; “Now is the time,” he said, citing pressure points in the supply chain from clogged ports to sick workers and inflation.

However, the new rule may have encouraged reluctant workers to roll up their sleeves. A Montreal-based logistics company offered a bonus of $ 10,000 last month to all drivers who received their first dose of the vaccine in mid-January in hopes of building employee loyalty and increasing rates of loss. vaccination.

Another Ontario transport group Titanium, which has a fleet of 800 tractors, says 95 percent of its operators are fully vaccinated.

“It’s more than likely that there isn’t a right time, right? They’ve had this exemption for quite a while. So maybe now is the right time,” the CEO said. Ted Daniel.

Nonetheless, a myriad of trade groups have called on Ottawa to extend Saturday’s deadline.

Recent flooding in British Columbia and China’s “zero COVID policy” have deepened supply chain bottlenecks, the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition said in a letter signed by 18 association leaders from the industry, which required a delay. The Petroleum Services Association of Canada has said the vaccine mandate “will only make matters worse.”

Food and agricultural products could also have been affected.

Nearly two-thirds of the roughly $ 21 billion in agrifood imports that Canada receives from the United States each year arrive by truck, according to Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. Dependence on American products is particularly high in winter.