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The federal government is pushing ahead with its plan to enforce testing and quarantine requirements for Canadian truck drivers at the international border starting January 15, despite reversing its position on the matter just two days prior to the mandate coming into effect.  

 Ottawa had announced in mid-November that truck drivers crossing into Canada would have to be fully vaccinated by January 15. National trucking associations, which strongly opposed the timing of enforcement, had met with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials as late as Wednesday and were told the plan was going into effect. Yet Wednesday night CBSA spokesperson Rebecca Purdy told the Canadian Press that unvaccinated and partially vaccinated Canadian truck drivers would not have to quarantine when crossing back into Canada.

But within 24 hours of that surprising development came a joint announcement, this time from the Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, and the Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino:

“Let us be clear: This has not changed,” the announcement said of the government’s vaccination mandate for truck drivers at the border. “The information shared yesterday was provided in error. Our teams have been in touch with industry representatives to ensure they have the correct information.”

The government announcement also noted that a Canadian truck driver who is not fully vaccinated can't be denied entry into Canada but any truck driver who is  symptomatic upon arrival will be directed to isolate for 10 days from the time symptoms first occurred.

Understandably trucking industry officials are incensed with the confusing messages. Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, told the media that numerous drivers - some unvaccinated - were dispatched during the 20-hour window between the initial announcement that the mandate was on hold and the clarification that it wasn’t.

Up to this point drivers had been considered essential workers and were exempt from such requirements.

The confusion in messaging did not have any impact on American truckers crossing into Canada. The new rule was always to take effect on January 15 for American truckers, who will be turned away at the border unless they've been vaccinated for Covid 19.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is expecting a loss of 12,000 to 16,000 (10-15 per cent) cross-border commercial drivers if the mandate took effect. The federal government’s  estimate was more modest with an expectation that  five per cent of drivers would be impacted.

Both motor carrier and shipper groups in Canada anticipate the mandate would cause severe disruptions to the cross-border supply chains handling the more than $650 billion in trade between the two countries. Those supply chains are already struggling to get back to normal capacity due to the global impact of the pandemic as well as infrastructure-related issues.

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