Compulsory vaccination of truckers | “Chaos and confusion” following Ottawa communication error

(Montreal) Mixed messages from the federal government about mandatory vaccinations for truckers are wreaking havoc in the transportation community and could further harm supply chains, says the boss of a Canadian industry organization.

The Canada Border Services Agency announced on Wednesday that mandatory vaccinations for truckers entering Canada from the United States would not come into effect on Saturday as planned, but Ottawa backtracked the next day, saying the rule would be finally in force as of Saturday, as announced in November.

The end of the exemption for these workers means they must be fully vaccinated if they are to avoid a two-week quarantine and testing for COVID-19 before arrival.

However, many drivers — some unvaccinated — were dispatched during the 8 p.m. window when the erroneous ad made its way through the industry, the Canadian Company Trucking Association pointed out.

It created quite a disaster. Governments are supposed to bring clarity and calm, and what happened […] only caused chaos and confusion.

Mike Millian, President of the Canadian Company Trucking Association

For many drivers, who are typically paid by the mile, quarantine will mean losing a paycheck, said Millian, whose board represents companies with in-house fleets like Loblaws and Home Hardware, as well as those who deliver oxygen to Canadian hospitals.

“We are in favor of vaccines. But the problem is that we cannot look at public health orders in isolation,” he argued.

Mr Millian says government officials told industry representatives in a virtual meeting on Friday afternoon that border agents would be encouraged to exercise good judgment in imposing fines on heavy-duty drivers who do not were not able to take a screening test for COVID-19 before their arrival.

Border officials will “flexibly” deal with truckers who have not presented proof of vaccination through the ArriveCan app or web portal, said Alexander Cohen, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino.

But the quarantine rule remains absolute, Millian added.

“Our point of frustration is that you are making drivers and the industry pay for a mistake made by the government,” he argued.

Government officials offered no explanation for incorrect information mistakenly passed to the media on Wednesday night.

The plan to expand compulsory vaccination for truckers and other essential cross-border workers “has not changed”, said Thursday, late afternoon, the Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos in a joint press release with the Ministers of Transport and Public Safety.

“Our teams have contacted industry representatives to ensure they have the correct information,” said Marjolaine Provost, spokesperson for Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.

Unvaccinated U.S. truck drivers will also be turned away at the border starting January 15, with the United States preparing to impose similar restrictions on Canadian truckers on January 22.

Around 26,000 of the 160,000 drivers who regularly make cross-border journeys will be sidelined due to the vaccination requirement, which will add bottlenecks and lead to potential price increases on transported goods, which range from food to medical devices, noted the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Association.

Although returning truckers who have not been vaccinated must quarantine “immediately” after making their delivery, this definition is flexible.

“A driver can deliver their load in Alberta, but live in Ontario, so they can stay in hotels en route as long as they follow local guidelines,” Millian said, citing Friday’s meeting with officials. .

“Officials have clarified that an appropriate quarantine location does not include the cab of a truck and must be done at a verifiable address,” the trucking alliance website notes.

Federal Conservatives and trade groups representing oil, manufacturing and export companies have called for a delay in the mandatory vaccination of truckers, announced Nov. 19.

Health professionals are pushing for mandatory vaccination across all sectors for the long term, as the Omicron variant of the virus continues to fuel a new wave of COVID-19 cases.

“Over the long term, there would be a net benefit to maximizing the vaccination of mobile people. But for the moment, will we see a big measurable difference systematically? Not exactly,” explained the Dre Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta.

Meanwhile, Heidi Boudreault, president of the Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association, says her members are struggling to find alternative sources of supply as backlogs mount and bottlenecks close. accentuate.

“We are also faced with price increases, almost daily from different suppliers,” testified Boudreault, owner of Denca Cabinets, a Calgary-based company founded by his parents in 1977.

The cost of laminates has increased by 10-20% over the past two years, wood products and painting supplies are also more expensive, she observed. Components for kitchen appliances and plumbing fixtures, which his company also sells, are increasingly difficult to find.

“Obviously, supply chain disruptions are becoming increasingly worrisome,” she concluded.

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