Sask. premier slams vaccine mandate for truck drivers
On the same day protest convoys rolled through the province's two largest cities, Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe came out against the federal government's new cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truck drivers.
"We view this as being an unnecessary vaccine mandate for this particular industry," Moe said when asked about the mandate during a press conference in Regina.
The semi convoys that passed through the province on Monday are in reaction to the recent introduction of COVID-19 vaccine requirements for cross-border commercial truck drivers.
"The vast majority of our truckers, our transport guys are vaccinated like the vast majority of the general population."
Moe pointed to a deal Saskatchewan and Manitoba inked with North Dakota last year that helped Prairie truck drivers access vaccines on the U.S. side of the border when doses were more scarce.
"Our truckers were going back and forth throughout this pandemic, they've done so I think largely in a very safe manner," Moe said.
The Saskatchewan premier said the widespread availability of rapid COVID-19 tests has also changed the equation for the industry.
"They didn't have these tools available to them a year ago," Moe said.
The fact that transport trucks deliver food and other necessities is also of particular concern for Moe.
"It's an unnecessary policy, and it's one that's going to have, unfortunately, potentially some significant impacts on us accessing essential services, including food and that we need in our communities," Moe said.
In a Jan. 13 news release announcing the measure, the federal government said it will continue to consider "further targeted measures" at Canada's borders "to keep Canadians safe."
Under the new federal rules, unvaccinated drivers who are Canadian citizens, registered under the Indian Act or are permanent residents can not be turned back at the border — but will need to quarantine and undergo testing.
However, unvaccinated "foreign national" drivers will be turned back at the border, according to the federal government.
Additionally, under a new Department of Homeland Security rule which came into effect on Jan. 22, any non-citizen entering the U.S. — including those travelling for essential reasons — must be fully vaccinated.
In a news release, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) said it "strongly disapproves" of the protests against the mandate.
CTA president Stephen Laskowski is instead encouraging unvaccinated drivers to "adapt."
“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing," Laskowski said.
“The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”
Like Moe, the CTA also said the "vast majority" of truck drivers are already fully vaccinated.
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