As blockades along the Canada-U.S. border protesting COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates have come to an end over the last few days, the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, along with governors from 16 U.S. states are urging their national leaders to drop vaccination mandates for cross-border truck drivers.
“We are writing to request that you immediately reinstate the vaccine and quarantine exemptions available to cross border truck drivers,” says a February 16 letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden. The letter is signed by the two prairie premiers and 16 Republican governors from across the U.S., including border states like North Dakota and Montana.
“We understand the vital importance of vaccines in the fight against COVID-19 and continue to encourage eligible individuals to get vaccinated. However, we are deeply concerned that terminating these exemptions has had demonstrably negative impacts on the North American supply chain, the cost of living, and access to essential products for people in both of our countries,” note the premiers and governors.
“The timing of your decision to terminate the vaccine and quarantine exemptions could not have been worse, as North America already faces grave supply chain constraints. These constraints, combined with increasing inflation, place significant burdens on the residents of Canada and the United States.”
The Canadian government’s mandate, which applies to everyone entering the country, took effect January 15, while the U.S. vaccination mandate, which only applies to non-Americans, was implemented a week later on January 22. The cross-border mandates were initially a primary reason for the many protests and blockades across Canada over the past few weeks, from downtown Ottawa to border crossings at Windsor, Ont., Emerson, Man., and Coutts, Alta., and many provincial capitals.
Industry and farm groups, such as Grain Farmers of Ontario, Alberta Cattle Feeders Association, Alberta’s wheat and barley commissions, and the Manitoba Pork Council, have raised concerns about the mandate reducing the availability of drivers who can cross the border with agricultural commodities — feed ingredients and live animals, in particular.
The Canadian government has announced it no longer require a molecular/PCR COVID-19 test from vaccinated people entering the country starting February 28, allowing them to opt for a cheaper and easier-to-access rapid test instead. However, the government said unvaccinated travellers will still be required to take a molecular test on arrival and again eight days after arrival, and isolate for 14 days.
In addition to Premiers Kenney and Moe, the letter to the prime minister and president was signed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Idaho Governor Brad Little, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon.