Saskatchewan

Moe, Kenney, 16 U.S. governors sign letter calling for Trudeau, Biden to end vaccination mandate for truckers

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe , Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and 16 U.S. Governors have signed a letter to Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden calling on the leaders to exempt truck drivers from vaccination and quarantine polices at the Canada-U.S. border.

Letter does not mention protests or blockades at border crossings

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have signed a letter calling on the Canadian and U.S. governments to exempt truck drivers from vaccination requirements. (Bryan Eneas/CBC; Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and 16 U.S. Governors have signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden calling on the leaders to exempt truck drivers from vaccination and quarantine policies at the Canada-U.S. border.

The letter was sent Wednesday morning.

"We are writing to request that you immediately reinstate the vaccine and quarantine exemptions available to cross-border truck drivers. We understand the vital importance of vaccines in the fight against COVID-19 and continue to encourage eligible individuals to get vaccinated," it said.

The letter was signed by 16 U.S. Republican governors, some from border states like Montana, North Dakota and Alaska, some from southern states like Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama. 

The letter said the decision to end the exemption for truck drivers on Jan. 15 came at the worst time. The policy requires truck drivers to be fully vaccinated or face two-week quarantine and pre-arrival molecular test for COVID-19 before crossing into Canada. The U.S. requires truckers to be vaccinated.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance has said the vast majority of truck drivers are vaccinated and the rate mirrors that of the general public, which Health Canada pegs at 83 per cent.

In the letter, the leaders say the policy has had "demonstrably negative impacts on the North American supply chain, cost of living, and access to essential products."

"Transportation associations have informed us that the lack of exemptions will force thousands of drivers out of the trucking industry, which is already facing a significant workforce shortage," the letter said.

"The trucker vax mandate has no credible public health benefit, but has caused predictable disruption," Kenney wrote on Twitter.

Moe shared the letter on social media.

"With North America facing supply chain constraints, these measures are ultimately unnecessary and will place significant pressure on Canadian and American families," Moe's post said.

The letter did not mention the protest in Ottawa or various border blockades in different provinces, where organizers have highlighted their opposition to vaccination mandates, including the one affecting truck drivers.

This week, border blockades in Windsor, Ont. and Coutts, Alta. were cleared by police. On Wednesday morning police cleared a blockade at Emerson, Man.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has said $48 million in trade was lost each day that the Coutts border was closed. The blockade began on Jan. 29.

The RCMP made 13 arrests in connection with the Coutts blockade, including four people who are charged with conspiring to murder RCMP officers.

More than 25 people were arrested on Sunday in Windsor as police moved in to clear the blockade which brought traffic on the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit to a standstill for nearly a week.

The director of the University of Windsor's Cross Border Institute, Bill Anderson, said between $3 billion and $6 billion in goods didn't cross the border in the last week.

Moe calls Emergencies Act 'overstep' by feds

On Monday, the federal government announced it was implementing the Emergencies Act to bring an end to any illegal protests or blockades. The act applies to the entire country.

Moe said earlier this week the act should only apply in provinces that request it.

On Wednesday morning during a media availability, Moe said the Emergencies Act was "not necessary and an overstep" by Ottawa.

Moe said mandates "are at the core" of protest movements across the country.

He said the federal government should lay out its plans for Canadians on how public health measures would be lifted, doing that would "de-escalate" the situation in Ottawa and elsewhere.

The majority of public health mandates are implemented provincially. Besides the mandate affecting truck drivers, federal government employees were required to be vaccinated, as were passengers on rail and air.

Dozens of vehicles met at the Regway-Raymond border crossing between Canada and the United States about 20 kilometres south of Minton, Sask., to support anti-mandate protests in Ottawa. (Dayne Patterson/CBC News)

Moe said Ottawa police have the necessary tools to deal with the protest in the city and should not require the Emergencies Act.

Police estimated Tuesday there were 360 protest vehicles still in Ottawa, down from about 420 one week before and 400 going into last weekend. Around 150 protesters are staying the night near Wellington Street.

While many protesters have flocked to Ottawa to voice their opposition to vaccine mandates, others have said their goal is to force the dissolution of the elected federal government or to create a logistical nightmare that forces the federal government to repeal all mandates.

Saskatchewan's own State of Emergency has not been lifted. Moe said Wednesday that it is necessary because it allows the Saskatchewan Health Authority to divert resources to respond to COVID-19. Moe said it will be lifted when that is no longer needed.

Moe said he was not sure when asked if protesters in Ottawa would leave once federal mandates were lifted.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

with files from CBC News and Jennifer La Grassa, Joanne Levasseur

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