Canadian Manufacturing

PM and trucking alliance not aligned on vaccine mandate

The Canadian Manufacturing Coalition, which represents over 30 manufacturing trade associations, called for a full reversal of the vaccine mandate.

January 25, 2022   The Canadian Press

Business leaders are urging Ottawa to ease vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers to relieve the congested supply chain with the United States, while Liberals and Conservatives sparred over the extent of the problem and how to resolve it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the mandate on Jan. 24 as a necessary step to keep supply chains open, arguing that COVID-19 itself is the biggest risk to Canada’s economy.

The mandate, which came into effect after an exemption ended Jan. 15, means Canadian long-haul truck drivers must now be vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid a two-week quarantine after crossing the border, while unvaccinated non-Canadian truck drivers will be denied entry.

The U.S. brought in its own vaccine mandate for truckers on Jan. 22, which means that unvaccinated Canadian drivers will also be unable to return below the border.

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In separate statements, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition both urged Trudeau to back down.

Perrin Beatty, the president of the chamber, said that while “we strongly favour getting as many people vaccinated as possible,” the government should allow more time before imposing the mandate on truckers.

“Until now, governments have considered truckers to be providing an essential service, which has kept supply chains functioning even during the most serious waves of the pandemic,” Beatty said in a written response to questions.

But Beatty said the government hasn’t produced statistics that show that truckers are a major source of COVID-19 infections in Canada.

The Canadian Manufacturing Coalition, which represents over 30 manufacturing trade associations, called for a full reversal of the vaccine mandate after meeting on Jan. 21 with Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

Dennis Darby, the president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which chairs the coalition, told Champagne that “Canadians are seeing empty shelves” because vaccine mandates are making supply chain bottlenecks worse.

In a statement, Darby said the meeting with Champagne was “a good first step but now we need to see concrete action by the government to start addressing these challenges, starting with reversing the trucker vaccine mandate.”

Supply chains were already struggling from two years of pandemic interruption, workers falling ill with COVID-19, and multiple weather events including snowstorms and last fall’s flooding in British Columbia.

On Jan. 24, Trudeau showed no signs of adjusting the mandate, and said getting vaccinated was the best way to keep Canada’s economy going. He said in French that the Conservatives are heightening fears about empty store shelves.

The prime minister reiterated that the Canadian Trucking Alliance says 90 per cent of truck drivers are already vaccinated.