Change on vaccine mandate welcome news for P.E.I. truckers

Good news, but it only ‘buys another week,’ say those in the industry

LATEST: Late Thursday, The Canada Border Services Agency clarified that there has been no policy change and all truck drivers crossing the border must be fully vaccinated as of Saturday. It said the information shared Wednesday was provided in error.

A federal government decision to back down from a vaccine mandate for Canadian truckers just days before it was to take effect is welcome news to those in the industry on P.E.I.

“We did not expect the Canadian government to pull back this decision,” Jonathan Ball, general manager of Seafood Express Transport said. He added that it was great to see the government take the impact on the industry so seriously. 

Ottawa had announced in November that truckers crossing into Canada would need to be fully vaccinated by this Saturday. 

But on Wednesday, the Canada Border Services Agency told the media that would change. 

Jonathan Ball, manager of Seafood Express in Charlottetown, says the trucking industry has really had to hope for the best and prepare for the worst during the pandemic. (Zoom)

Ball said, though, that because the mandate still exists for truckers who are not Canadian, “it really only buys us another week.”  

The U.S. is still going to impose a similar vaccination mandate starting a week from Monday.

Truckers say that could disrupt the supply chain.

“It would be helpful for the industry and both economies if the U.S. did take a similar approach to what our Canadian government has taken,” said Ball. 

“It would definitely have a negative impact on all Canadians as trucking is the backbone of our economy.”

Ball also said the industry is still waiting to find out what it means for an unvaccinated or partially vaccinated truck driver who is on a work visa or not a permanent resident. 

While he said he is in support of vaccinations, he also is concerned about what this will mean for those with medical exemptions. 

The industry has said between 10 and 15 per cent of truckers remain unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.