Click the audio link above to hear the full interview with Transport Critic Melissa Lantsman. Below is the transcript of the interview.
RWN: We’re talking with Melissa Landsman, Member of Parliament and Critic for Transportation in Canada’s federal government. Melissa made the news today writing an excellent letter to the Federal Minister of Transport to complain about or to call his attention to Canada’s plan to vaccinate truck drivers or make truck drivers show proof of vaccination on January the 15th. Melissa, do you want to tell us a little bit about this letter and what you’re hoping to accomplish with it? Well, look,
Melissa Lantsman: We’re calling on the government to pay attention to what is a crisis that already exists being, and is being made worse, by the mandate that’s about to come into an effect.
And I should say that we are monitoring the COVID-19 situation, with particular attention to two updates on the new variants. But we’ve been in this for two years. I think that this necessitates a different response. The virus evolves, and so should government policy.
We’ve got big concerns that this government has no plan to avoid a much worse disruption of supply chains, and hasn’t taken the steps to ensure that things like food and critical building supplies get where they need to go so Canadians can get what they need, during a crisis, which I should add, has been two years in two years.
RWN: Truck drivers have been exempted as essential workers for two years, they’ve been crossing the border, they did not need to show proof of vaccine going into the United States, and they did not need to show proof of vaccine coming back into Canada. Canada is actually getting ahead of the United States. Truckers are alone in their trucks about 100 per cent of the time, let’s say, 95 per cent of the time They’re not waiting on people, they’re not nurses looking after patients, they have not been identified as any form of a problem in transmitting COVID, for the two years that they’ve been driving. Now, this seems sort of arbitrary, the idea that we now need to vaccinate truckers.
Melissa Lantsman: I look, I strongly support vaccination to curb the spread of COVID 19. But our trucking industry, like you said, as a sector that has shown very little to no transmission within the workplace, and I think we’re calling on the government now to urge them to accommodate the industries so Canadians don’t suffer. So grocery warehouses can have their shelves stocked; or people who are continuing to build our economy up, building homes, building critical infrastructure can have the supplies that they need.
There is about to be a ton of truckers taken off the road, and all we want is the government to give us some indication what they are planning for this. Because for too long, Canadians have done everything right; I think it’s time that the pep talk stops, and it’s time that we stop started paying attention to the critical parts of our economy and critical industries, like trucking.
RWN: What kind of solutions might be on the table? Could there be a delay in the requirement for vaccinations or, I was actually reminded yesterday, that there is a national exemption there were for professional athletes coming to play hockey and basketball in Canada. An Exemption in the National Interest. Is there any chance that the Minister of Transportation might consider trucking “in the national interest”?
Melissa Lantsman: Well, that’s certainly one of them. But my letter asked some very simple questions of this government: What are they going to do in order to support truckers to continue to allow them to work?
Will the government support protect particularly rapid testing as an alternative?
What actions might they take to support supply chains in the in the face of all of it? I think a good first step would be if the Liberals are answering these questions, and not just putting them aside.
RWN: Melissa, would you come back and talk to us if you get an answer to your questions?
Melissa Lantsman: Absolutely.
RWN: Awesome. Thank you so much. We’re talking to Melissa Lantsman, Member of Parliament for Thornhill and Canada’s opposition critic for Transportation. Thank you so much, Melissa.
Melissa Lantsman: Thank you.