Small-business group calls on Ottawa to lift trucker vaccine mandate

·3 min read
Truck drivers protesting against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates drive in a convoy on the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick provincial boundary in Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia, Canada, January 23, 2022. REUTERS/John Morris
A convoy of truckers and protesters are travelling to Ottawa to protest mandatory vaccinations. REUTERS/John Morris

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), which represents 95,000 small businesses in the country, is calling on the federal government to reverse its vaccine mandate on truck drivers, saying the policy is making supply chain issues worse.

The CFIB issued a press release on Wednesday, saying small businesses are being driven "to the brink" by supply shortages and price increases that have been exacerbated by the government's vaccine mandate.

On Jan. 15, Ottawa implemented a policy requiring unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers to test and quarantine upon entry into Canada. Under the policy, foreign truck drivers who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated are unable to enter Canada.

Unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers are also not permitted to enter the U.S. The United States implemented a policy on Jan. 22, barring unvaccinated individuals travelling for essential or non-essential purposes from entering the country. The U.S. policy was first announced in October.

"Small businesses were already facing a major supply chain crunch and cost increases on everything from fuel to building materials," CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement.

"This border policy threatens to exacerbate those issues at a time when small businesses can't handle any additional costs or uncertainty."

According to a recent CFIB survey, rising prices and supply chain challenges were cited as the biggest issues facing small businesses in 2022. The group also says the transportation sector has been among the hardest hit by an ongoing labour shortage, with 68 per cent of businesses unable to find enough staff for existing or expanding operations. Nearly 500 CFIB members are in the trucking sector.

The statement from the CFIB comes a day after Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said there has been no "measurable impact" on the number of trucks crossing the border since the vaccine mandate went into effect.

Alghabra told The Canadian Press on Tuesday that large grocery store chains and other retailers have assured the government that they have plenty of goods to provide customers, despite labour shortages and supply chain bottlenecks.

Metro president and CEO Eric La Flèche said on a conference call with analysts on Tuesday that vaccine mandates for truckers will raise the cost of merchandise coming from the United States, particularly when it comes to produce. However, he noted that the merchandise is still being delivered. La Flèche also says that a labour shortage made worse by worker absenteeism due to the Omicron variant has been driving sporadic outages of certain products.

A convoy of truckers and protesters is travelling to Ottawa to protest mandatory vaccinations. The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), which has condemned the protest, estimates that about 15 per cent of its members are not vaccinated.

The CTA released a joint statement with Alghabra, Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough on Tuesday, saying they will continue to work together to tackle the two major challenges facing the sector – supply chain constraints and labour shortages.

"These issues are not easy to solve, and they must be addressed by long-term strategies that will achieve real and lasting results," the statement said. "Moving forward, the Government of Canada, the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the industry at large will continue our shared dialogue on the challenges facing this sector. By working together, we are confident we can find solutions that will help Canadians and industry alike."

With files from the Canadian Press

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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