Food retail industry calling on government to relax trucker vaccine mandate

Click to play video: 'Truck driver vaccine mandate causing food shortages and empty shelves at grocery stores'
Truck driver vaccine mandate causing food shortages and empty shelves at grocery stores
With the federal government’s new mandatory vaccine policy for truck drivers crossing the border into Canada, grocery stores have been dealing with more and more empty shelves. As Matthew Conrod reports, some members of the grocery industry are calling on the government to temporarily pause the policy to help deal with food shortages – Jan 23, 2022

As most Canadians have likely noticed by now, a trip to the grocery store isn’t as affordable as it once was.

While food prices usually fluctuate year-over-year, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a myriad of issues that has meant shoppers need to dig a little deeper into their wallets.

Read more: Truckers opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates launch convoy from B.C. to Ottawa

One of the primary issues facing grocery stores and shoppers right now is the federal government’s vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the Canada-US border.

The mandate has added to an already problematic supply chain, meaning certain food deliveries have slowed, or been prevented entirely.

Freestone Produce in northeast Calgary says it’s been a challenge recently to keep their shelves stocked – particularly when it comes to fresh produce.

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“It’s hard when we have our loyal customers come in and ask us for stuff we usually have year-round, and we can’t provide it for them” said Ali Soufan, whose family owns and operates Freestone.

Soufan thinks the mandate should be lifted as it presents an impediment to what he sees as a vital part of the food retail industry.

“[Truck drivers] are an essential service” Soufan said. “They keep the wheels running for food.”

Read more: COVID-19 supply chain woes extend to medical supplies, blood collection tubes

The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) estimates that there are approximately 26,000 truckers who cross the Canada-US border that are affected by the vaccine policy.

Gary Sands is a senior vice-president with CFIG and said the organization understands the importance of getting vaccinated and encouraging as many people to do so, but has concerns around the timing of the government’s policy.

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“Given the challenges that we’re facing… we urge the government to push back the date of implementation for the mandate by at least by 2-3, 3-4 weeks” said Sands.

Those closely monitoring the food security situation say Canadians should expect to keep paying more at the check-outs.

“What’s really concerning to me is the cost is food affordability…. I do believe that prices will continue to rise” said Sylvain Charlebois, a director in Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab.

Charlebois admits that food shortages and ongoing supply chain disruptions will likely remain until sometime in the spring, but he doesn’t think Canadians need to panic buy in the interim.

“Canadians will continue to find what they need” he said. “They may not find what they want…but if you go back a few days later, you will likely find what you were looking for.”

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