There is “no sign whatsoever” that the volume of transport trucks crossing the Canada-U.S. border has decreased as a result of the vaccine mandate imposed on truck drivers, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Monday.
“It is clear to all of us that this mandate has not had a measurable impact on the volume of traffic crossing our borders,” he said.
“The first week of the mandate, even though there was a massive snowstorm, even though it was a U.S. holiday, we had almost 100,000 truckers cross the border, and this second week we saw a continuation of this trend. So there is no sign whatsoever that the mandate has had an impact on the volume of trucking crossing the borders.”
According to numbers provided to CBC last week by the office of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, 105,100 trucks crossed the border between Jan. 20 and Jan 26, a slight drop from the 105,817 trucks that crossed during the same period in 2019.
The number of trucks that crossed the Canada/U.S. border in that same period was 110,356 in 2020 and 111,287 in 2021.
The federal government announced in mid-November that by Jan. 15, all foreign nationals working as truckers would have to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. Those not fully vaccinated are to be turned back to the U.S.
As of Jan. 15, all Canadian cross-border essential workers — including truckers — must also show proof of vaccination at a port of entry to avoid stringent testing requirements and quarantine.
The United States implemented a similar mandate on Jan. 22 requiring that all U.S.-bound travellers show proof they’ve had the required shots.
New supply chain task force
Truckers travelling within Canada are not affected by these new measures, although the federal government has said it is working on an interprovincial mandate for truckers.
Alghabra spoke after he and other cabinet ministers met with business and industry leaders and associations to discuss Canada’s supply chain woes and come up with potential solutions.
Alghabra announced that, in the coming weeks, federal ministers would be meeting with regional and industry groups to talk about how their supply chains have been affected by the pandemic.
He announced the creation of a supply chain task force that will talk to industry experts about long and short-term solutions, and a new $50 million fund to ease supply chain congestion at Canadian ports. The minister said he’s asking for proposals on how that money can be spent.
Conservatives remain opposed to mandate
Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, the Conservative critic for transport, dismissed Alghabra’s comments as deceptive.
“The Liberals are misleading Canadians when they say there will be no supply chain disruptions as thousands of truckers are being taken off the road,” she said in an email to CBC News.
“The Canadian business community, specifically the CFIB, Canadian Chamber of Commerce as well as the manufacturers and exporters, have all criticized this policy. At a time when inflation is already at a record high, Canadians will be the ones paying the price for the Trudeau government’s policy decisions that further exacerbate the cost of living crisis.”
CFIB president Dan Kelly said the full impact of the vaccine mandate for truckers has yet to be fully felt but his industry group is still opposed to the mandate.
“The mandate for truckers appears to be all pain, no gain for Canada,” Kelly said in an email to CBC News. “With Omicron spreading quickly on both sides of the border, including among the fully vaccinated, it is unclear what this mandate will achieve other than adding another challenge to small firms working hard to survive the next few months.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce agreed it’s still too early to know the impact the mandate will have on border traffic but said trucking companies are doing everything they can to increase vaccination rates among their employees and move unvaccinated drivers onto domestic routes.
“However they felt about sidelining thousands of truckers when supply chains are under serious strain, our members recognize that the mandate is now the law,” said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
“The impact of the mandates has been to add friction to the border. It has made moving goods more difficult and more expensive, but businesses are doing their best to cope,”
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters group has yet to respond to requests for comment.