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Doug Ford needs to call Trudeau and Freeland, tell them to “back down” on ending COVID exemption for truck drivers: Nicholls

Rick Nicholls’ riding of Chatham-Kent-Leamington is home to dozens of trucking companies which will be faced with losing many drivers, and delays which will disrupt auto manufacturing firms and food deliveries, he tells Road Warrior News. A “National Interest Exemption” as given to Hockey and Basketball players might be a solution, he says. Photo: supplied

“Doug Ford needs to pick up the phone and call his friends Chrystia Freeland and Justin Trudeau. He needs to tell the Trudeau government to back down on eliminating the COVID exemption for truckers crossing the border,” says Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington.

“The Trudeau government is manufacturing another crisis that could mean food shortages for all Canadians…I look forward to seeing stories about Justin Trudeau and his family not getting the food they need. Do you think we will see that happen? I doubt it,” Nicholls says.

“Truck drivers crossing the border have been exempt from COVID requirements for two years now. Arbitrarily removing their exemption on January 15th is going to hurt everyone, and help no one. In my riding alone, the agricultural businesses and greenhouses will be seriously harmed if Trudeau goes ahead with this. Auto parts suppliers using ‘just in time’ delivery will be devastated. Where is Doug Ford? What is he doing to help Ontario businesses?”

Nicholls’ riding is home to dozens of trucking firms. He says ending the exemption designed to ensure a smooth flow of goods back and forth across the Canada/US borders including the Ambassador Bridge and Tunnel in Windsor and the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia will put delivery of goods in jeopardy.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters estimates that approximately 20 per cent of truck drivers have not received the COVID vaccine. It appears they do not plan to receive the inoculation, as Road Warrior News has heard from numerous professional drivers nearing retirement age who say they will park their trucks and stop driving rather than be forced to receive the experimental shot.

Nicholls sees potential for a solution in use of Canada’s National Interest Exemption (NIE) policy, which has been used for two years to allow professional athletes like hockey and basketball players to be exempt from COVID requirements.

“For the hockey players and basketball players and baseball players coming into Canada and playing, that’s recreation. That’s sports, it’s professional, I get it. But the January 15th deadline for truckers is critical: it goes far beyond recreation, and it will affect every Ontarian and every Canadian, not just those interested in sports.

“Doug Ford is not doing enough. With regards to this crisis, he needs to pick up the phone and call Justin Trudeau and tell him that he will be calling the shots for Ontario, and he needs to do it now, before we get into a crisis. He should have done it yesterday,” says Nicholls, who left the Ontario PC caucus rather than comply with its COVID mandate for elected members. He recently joined the Ontario Party to become its first sitting Member of Parliament.

In response to questions from Road Warrior News, Peter Liang of Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship branch provided this response :

“Since the travel restrictions were first imposed in March 2020, the Ministers of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship, Foreign Affairs and Public Safety have had the authority to grant entry and/or quarantine exemptions in the “national interest” (NIE).

“The Orders-in-Council issued under the Quarantine Act provide authority to the Ministers to determine what constitutes the “national interest”. This is based on the individual mandates of each Minister’s department.

“The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship issued NIEs for purposes such as business visitors supporting critical infrastructure and urgent refugee resettlement cases.

“NIEs have also been issued for quarantine exemptions for professional athletes, which are based on the advice of the Minister of Health and require the full support of provincial health authorities and implicated municipalities. Each decision is weighed carefully in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians and to mitigate the importation or spread of COVID‑19.  Professional athletes have been allowed to enter Canada during the pandemic based on the nature of their work in Canada.”

On January 5th, federal Transport critic MP Melissa Lantsman wrote Minister Omar Alghabra and requested that he release Canada’s plan for dealing with the January 15th deadline to end the exemption for truckers crossing the border. At time of posting, Lantsman has not received a reply to her letter.