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Canada resists pressure to drop vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers

EconomyJan 09, 2022 10:55AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Manitoba-based truckers, transporting goods to and from the United States, are being vaccinated against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as part of a deal between the Canadian province and the state of North Dakota, at a rest stop near Drayton, 2/2

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers despite increasing pressure from critics who say it will exacerbate driver shortages and drive up the price of goods imported from the United States.

Canada will require all truckers entering from the United States to show proof of vaccination starting on Saturday as part of its fight against COVID-19.

That could force some 16,000, or 10%, of cross-border drivers off the roads, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates. The government estimates 5% of drivers will be impacted, according to a government source.

The mandate is the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic. Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains flowing.

"We don't anticipate significant disruptions or shortages for Canadians," the source said.

Trudeau has championed a strict inoculation policy for civil servants and federally regulated workers, and the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to have strengthened his government's resolve to stick with the policy.

Industry groups and opposition parties say it is a bad idea, especially at a time when the Bank of Canada is eyeing its first interest rate increase since October 2018.

Even though the vast majority of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, those who are not "are already starting to quit," said Stephen Laskowski, president and chief executive of the CTA, adding that the industry is already short some 18,000 drivers.

More than two-thirds of the C$650 billion ($511 billion) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travels on roads.

"Everyone has been talking about inflation. And this is just going to continue to fuel that," said Steve Bamford, chief executive of Bamford Produce, an importer and exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables based in Ontario.

The cost of bringing a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California and Arizona doubled during the pandemic due to the existing driver shortage, Bamford said. Fresh foods are sensitive to freight problems because they expire rapidly.

Supply chain disruptions drove Canada's headline inflation rate to an 18-year high in November, and the Bank of Canada has signaled that it could hike it as soon as April.

"We're going to see prices skyrocket for groceries, for everything, if we see tens of thousands of truckers unemployed," Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole said on Thursday, adding there could be "reasonable accommodations" like regular testing.

Interprovincial Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc attacked O'Toole on Friday for a "lack of leadership" on COVID-19 that "would only force more lockdowns and put Canadians at greater risk."

'KEEP ON TRUCKING'

Canada's health ministry did not comment when asked if any accommodations might be made for unvaccinated drivers.

Canada's border agency, in response to a Reuters query, said unvaccinated truck drivers who are not Canadian would be turned back at the border starting on Jan. 15, possibly causing delays at the crossing. Canadian drivers will be allowed back into the country, but will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

Vaccinated drivers will be allowed in and allowed to skip a pre-arrival molecular coronavirus test, the agency said.

The Biden administration wants truck drivers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, a policy that has been challenged to the Supreme Court.

In November, the price of food bought in Canadian stores increased 4.7% from a year earlier, the largest jump in seven years, and fresh vegetable prices rose even more due to higher shipping costs.

"You're going to see some impact on inflation and on the availability of goods on sale," said Jimmy Jean, chief economist at Desjardins Group, adding that the mandate could trigger prices rises that prompt the central bank to raise rates quicker than expected.

Joseph Sbrocchi, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers association, said "this is not the time to create that zero-sum game for Canadians," especially in winter months when so much fresh food is imported.

Derek Holt, vice president of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, disagrees.

"Keep on trucking with the vaccine mandates," he said, warning there was a "bigger price for the economy and for the health system if you don't get more people vaccinated now."

Canada resists pressure to drop vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers
 

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Comments (14)
Tru Gfu
Tru Gfu Jan 09, 2022 10:17PM ET
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if you can make an extra buck, who cares who gets sick or that the plant will die, as long as there is profit in it
Tru Gfu
Tru Gfu Jan 09, 2022 10:16PM ET
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this forum is full of the most selfish obnoxious uneducated and hostile trolls
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Jan 09, 2022 4:13PM ET
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Let this fact sink into every U.S. citizen's mind:  in our 2021 Fall election, the Trudeau Liberals lost even more of the popular vote than the prior election, and they received 32.6% of the total votes.  In other words, 67.4% of Canadians did NOT vote for the Trudeau Liberals.
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Jan 09, 2022 4:04PM ET
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As a Canadian living in Canada for almost 50 years, I can tell you this is the worse time to be a citizen here.  We've been living under the growing tyranny of the current Liberal government who routinely disregards reason, morality, sound economics and its citizen's rights and freedoms.  Read 'Indian in the Cabinet' by Jodi Wilson-Reybould, former attorney general and minister of Justice, who was ejected out of cabinet for her ethical stance on the unethical behaviour of a Canadian company and the current government.
Matt Brackley
Matt Brackley Jan 09, 2022 4:04PM ET
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almost 50 years here as well and I agree. I don't know how far it goes but I think it ends with Canada getting liberated by the US....I hope.
Tru Gfu
Tru Gfu Jan 09, 2022 4:04PM ET
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move to the US you can be part of the attempted tyranny of the US ******party (aka GOP) , I will transfer Canadian liberals for American conservatives any day of the week
Jeremy Johnson
Jeremy Johnson Jan 09, 2022 4:04PM ET
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Tru Gfu  the tolerance of the left never ceases to amaze me.
tim apple
Tim1972 Jan 09, 2022 3:27PM ET
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Communist Canada.
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Jan 09, 2022 3:07PM ET
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MAGA, make it all here like we used to. That’s what made is great, and reversing that is exactly what is creating many of our problems now.
Andrew Ulferts
Andrew Ulferts Jan 09, 2022 3:07PM ET
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*us
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Jan 09, 2022 2:44PM ET
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the vaccine doesn't work against the virus and it doesn't stop the spread
Todd Gray
Todd Gray Jan 09, 2022 2:42PM ET
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Cut off Canada & Trudeau. The government is a freeloading human tick every way its looked at. Then watch their people rise against it. Like many drugs in the past, the covid vaccines could create more serious complications from long term side effects than all other drugs combined (nobody knows!). And, the drug companies can't be sued. Then, liberals would save the environment by killing off hundreds of millions of icky human polluters they profited on when they sold them polluting products.
John Hat
John Hat Jan 09, 2022 2:16PM ET
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Cut Canada off.
Exdol Thomas
Exdol Thomas Jan 09, 2022 1:35PM ET
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why thou??
 
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