Truckers, airlines push back on Trudeau government’s new border rules

Click to play video: 'Ottawa under fire for changes to COVID-19 border rules'
Ottawa under fire for changes to COVID-19 border rules
WATCH: Starting Nov. 30, Canadians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and take short trips to the U.S. will no longer need to present a negative PCR test when they return home – Nov 20, 2021

Truck drivers and the country’s major airlines joined with the official Opposition Saturday to criticize the Trudeau’s government’s new public health rules that will apply to international travellers, rules that were announced Friday.

One of the new rule changes would eliminate the requirement for a molecular test for COVID-19 for fully vaccinated Canadians returning from a stay of three days or less but keeps the test requirement in place for Canadians returning from longer stays and for all foreign nationals, including Americans, arriving in Canada.

Read more: Canada to drop negative PCR test requirement for shorter cross-border trips

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“By only focussing on short trips and Canadian travellers, government has taken a piecemeal approach that is not justified or based on science,” Canadian Airlines Council of Canada CEO Peter McNaney said in a statement. “To our knowledge, no other country in the world has adopted such a narrow approach.”

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Airlines, as well as other industry lobby groups such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, believe the requirement for a molecular test should be eliminated for all fully vaccinated travellers. On that point, those industry groups will have an ally in the official Opposition which is expected to press the government on the new rules when the new Parliament opens next week.

Click to play video: 'Canada dropping negative PCR test requirement for short trips'
Canada dropping negative PCR test requirement for short trips

“This is a half measure, and I think it’s confusing, and I think that the prime minister ought to start listening to his own expert advisory panel. Scrapping the PCR test specifically for vaccinated travellers, it’s not something that the panel ever required,” said Melissa Lantsman, the Conservative MP for Thornhill, Ont., and her party’s transport critic.

“Scrapping the PCR test is where we need to go. We need to do it for our economy. We need to do it to get in line with with our allies.”

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While Canadians travelling to the United States must be fully vaccinated they do not require a molecular test. Americans coming to Canada, however, do require that test. When American legislators met in Washington, D.C., last week with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet, the Americans pressed for changes to the border rules which would facilitate easier cross-border travel to help revive economies in border towns in both Canada and the U.S.

Click to play video: 'Expected flood of Canadians using land crossing into U.S. border towns failed to materialize'
Expected flood of Canadians using land crossing into U.S. border towns failed to materialize

Another rule change, set to come into place on Jan. 15 would require all those now exempt from many border rule requirements, to be fully vaccinated. That group includes, for example, professional athletes but would also include essential workers like truck drivers.

Stephen Laskowski, the CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, said if Ottawa insists on bringing in a vaccine mandate early in the new year, as many as 20 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truck drivers who run international routes would quit.

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The industry is already short 18,000 drivers, Laskowski said, and anything, such as a vaccine mandate, that worsens the labour situation will only further snarl supply chains and drive up consumer prices.

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Moreover, Laskowski argues that truck drivers represent a relatively low public health threat given that the occupation is one characterized by solitary work.

“What we found over the last two years is that truck driving as an occupation is well below the national or local rate of contracting COVID-19,” Laskowski said.  “So the risks are low among truck drivers.”

On Friday, as he announced the new rules, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos promised the government would monitor the rule changes on Canada’s COVID-19 infection rates and would be prepared to adjust if necessary.


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