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Vaccines mandate for cross-border truckers stands tall, says Ottawa

OTTAWA – The federal government said Thursday evening that no changes were being made to a new policy requiring unvaccinated Canadian cross-border truckers to self-quarantine once they arrive in the country.

The policy is expected to go into effect on January 15, but on Wednesday evening the government released a statement suggesting it was giving in to immense pressure from opposition politicians, industry and businesses who have been arguing since November that the The quarantine requirement would have serious economic consequences. repercussions.

But in a statement late Thursday afternoon, the government said Wednesday night’s announcement was a mistake.

Starting this weekend, unvaccinated Canadian drivers will be required to take a pre-arrival test, upon arrival eight days after, and self-quarantine for 14 days.

“Let’s be clear: this has not changed. The information shared yesterday was provided in error, ”said the statement, sent by the ministers of Transport, Health and Public Safety.

“Our teams have been in contact with industry representatives to ensure they have the correct information.”

The federal government provided no explanation for the error.

When Canada closed its border in March 2020 to stop the spread of what was then a brand new coronavirus, being in the business of delivering essential goods was one of the few reasons people were even allowed to enter Canada and then later exempt from immediate quarantine and other restrictions.

But in November, the Canadian government decided to remove those exemptions as part of its overall effort to increase vaccination rates, despite giving people some time to get vaccinated.

While from January 15, most unvaccinated foreign nationals will simply be turned away at the border, Canadian citizens cannot be denied the right of entry and Thursday’s statement reiterated this point – the truck drivers Canadians can still enter, they just have to follow the rules for the unvaccinated.

“As immunization levels, number of cases and hospitalization rates evolve, the Government of Canada will continue to consider other targeted border measures – and when to lift or adjust them – to keep people safe. Canadians, ”said Thursday’s press release.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance and American Trucking Associations have said that up to 26,000 of the 160,000 drivers who make regular cross-border trips will be sidelined due to the Canadian mandate, and a similar mandate in America is expected to come into effect on the 1st. January. 22.

Stephen Laskowski, head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, told The Star this week that the issue was not the vaccine’s mandate per se, but the timing.

“Look, we understand why the government is doing this. We are in favor of vaccines. We realize that it is not a question of if, it is a question of when. There are only a handful of countries in the world that don’t have a mandate right now, ”Laskowski said.

But exacerbating the current shortage of truck drivers means that rising product prices, for example, will continue to rise as shipping costs are forced to rise, he and others said.

Some companies have used the new mandate to try to increase vaccination.

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.

The case of truckers was cited by Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole last week as an example of how the government needs to start thinking about ways to accommodate the unvaccinated, rather than allowing them to make them worse. existing socio-economic problems.

With files from Josh Rubin and The Canadian Press.

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