The federal government says the vaccine mandate for truckers crossing into Canada from the United States will come into effect this Saturday as planned, despite a previous statement from the Canada Border Services Agency that said Canadian truck drivers would be exempt.
In a release today, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos along with the transport and public safety ministers say the CBSA statement from Wednesday evening was ``provided in error,'' and that Canadian truckers must be vaccinated if they want to avoid quarantine and a pre-arrival molecular test, starting this weekend.
The cabinet ministers say unvaccinated American big-riggers will be turned back at the border, with the U.S. preparing to impose similar restrictions on Canadian truckers on Jan. 22.
Government representatives offered no explanation for the incorrect information emailed to media more than 20 hours earlier.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Associations say up to 26,000 of the 160,000 drivers who make regular cross-border trips will be sidelined as a result of the mandate, adding further bottlenecks and potential price hikes to the flow of goods ranging from food to medical devices.
The federal Conservatives, as well as trade groups representing oil, manufacturing, and export companies, called on Ottawa this week to postpone the Jan. 15 deadline, which was announced in mid-November
Only days before Canadian truck drivers were required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to get into the country or face quarantine, the federal government is backing away from the vaccine mandate.
The new rule will still take effect for American truckers starting this weekend, with drivers being turned away at the border unless they've been inoculated.
But a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency told The Canadian Press late Wednesday that unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers, or those who have had only one dose, will not have to quarantine.
The head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance says about 10 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian big-riggers who traverse the border have not been fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 infections continue to surge across Canada, the premiers of Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta say they will not follow Quebec's plan to fine those who refuse to get vaccinated against the virus.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Tuesday that he plans to make the unvaccinated pay a "significant'' financial penalty since they occupy a disproportionate number of hospital beds.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he needs more information before he can say whether he supports Quebec's anti-vaccination tax. Trudeau added the province has reassured the federal government that its plan won't violate the principles of the Canada Health Act, which regulates the country's provincially run universal health-care systems.