The federal government is backing down from its vaccine mandate for Canadian truckers three days before it was set to take effect.
Ottawa announced in mid-November that truck drivers crossing into Canada would need to be fully vaccinated by this Saturday. But on Wednesday evening transport ministry spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy told The Canadian Press that Canadian big-riggers will not have to quarantine if they are unvaccinated or have received only one dose.
The news came as a surprise to Canadian Trucking Alliance president Stephen Laskowski, who says industry representatives met with government officials as recently as midday and were told the mandate was still on track for Jan. 15.
Trade associations on both sides of the border had been pushing for a delay to the restriction, which they say would put additional strain on supply chains amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe worker shortages.
The policy was announced in November and came with a lot of criticism from the industry. The Federal Transport Minister defended the move. Truckers warned that the initial Saturday deadline requiring them to be vaccinated in order to enter Canada would additional strain on supply chains amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe worker shortages.
Recent flooding in British Columbia and China’s “zero-COVID policy” added to supply-chain bottlenecks, said the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition in a letter signed by 18 industry association heads, who had asked for a delay.
The Petroleum Services Association of Canada said the vaccine mandate would “only aggravate things further.”
“There are many of our members who have already said they will not be dispatching unvaccinated drivers across the border,” Laskowski said.
The new rule will still take effect for American truckers, who will be turned away at the border unless they’ve been inoculated starting this weekend.
About 10 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who traverse the border may not have been able to work those routes because they haven’t been jabbed, according to the trucking alliance.
The transport minister’s office declined to say whether the truck drivers’ exemption is temporary or indefinite.
Nonetheless, trade groups are calling on Ottawa to postpone the Saturday deadline, which was announced in mid-November.