Trucking runs in Mark Sydorchuk’s blood.
His brother is a trucker. His father was a trucker. And ever since his dad let him back up his first big rig in an empty parking lot when he was 13, there was nothing else Sydorchuk wanted to do.
“I couldn’t really reach the pedals,” the 25-year-old recalled. “It was scary but, at the same time, awesome. I was in love after that.”
He’s not exaggerating. Everyone should love their job as much as Mark Sydorchuk. (Just watch the clip below.)
Why trucking desperately needs new blood
Young blood, like Sydorchuk, is something Canada’s trucking industry desperately needs as it faces a serious shortage of qualified drivers that’s only set to get worse.
As of 2018, the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) estimates that shortage could be as high as 22,000 vacant driver positions across the country. Those vacancies are expected to swell to 34,000 by 2024, thanks to an inability to recruit enough young people or women to replace aging drivers.
“It’s been described as a demographic tsunami,” said Jon Blackham, the OTA’s director of policy and public affairs.
“Trucking has one of the oldest workforces in the entire economy and, at the same time, there is a declining share of young people willing to get into the industry.”
Cost, U.S. age restrictions are barriers to young people
That few young people seem to be willing to take up the trade might seem counterintuitive. Not only does trucking pay well — salaries range from $44,000 to $110,000 — it also offers those behind the wheel a life of travel, where they can get paid to see large swaths of North America.
To become a qualified driver, students must complete an eight-week course, which costs about $8,000 and grants them a licence in the province where they’re registered upon graduation.
While it might sound attractive to someone looking to take a few years off between high school and college or university, very few young people ever sign up to take a course, according to Gus Rahim, the president of the Ontario Truck Driving School, based in London, Ont.
“A lot of the people getting into it are looking at a second career. They’re a little older, anywhere from say 40 to 65, and these are the ones who are coming into the industry now.”
Rahim said he believes the reason trucking has problems attracting young blood is partly due to the age restrictions in the United States, where drivers must be at least 21 to haul cargo across state lines. As a precaution, most American shippers want their drivers to be at least 23.
In Canada, where most drivers only have to be 18, that’s a problem. Most truckers who starting their careers cut their teeth on long-haul jobs where crossing the U.S. border is common. It means any Canadian who starts at 18 has to wait at least three years to work in the United States.
That wait is too long for most, Rahim said.
“By the time they go from 18 to 21, a lot of them have already tried careers, they’ve tried something and maybe they’ve stuck with it and it’s very hard to get them to change their mind at that time.”
The other barrier, according to Rahim, is cost. For young people, many of whom work minimum-wage jobs, the $8,000 tuition cost can be hard to come by.
In Ontario, where more than half of Canada’s trucking companies are based, prospective students can’t apply for loans under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to help pay their tuition — something Rahim wants to see the provincial government change.
Why trucking can’t recruit women
The other problem facing trucking is the recruitment of women.
Historically, women have made up only three per cent of all truck drivers, according to the Ontario Trucking Association. More recent estimates put that figure anywhere from five to seven per cent, thanks to OTA networking events aimed at recruiting women and raising their profile within the industry.
Still, the OTA said the number of women behind the wheel isn’t growing as fast as they would like. One reason for that might lie with women themselves, according to Carole Dore, an instructor with the Ontario Truck Driving School.
“I think it’s because they don’t think they can do it,” she said. “Anybody can do this job — it’s not just a man’s world anymore.”
Dore, a mother of three, worked as a truck driver for 11 years; she got her start driving a school bus for a year, then decided to move up to a bigger ride.
She did mostly local jobs, hauling freight between cities, sometimes taking cargo to Grand Rapids, Mich., or Toledo, Ohio. Her longest trips were 10 to 12 hours, leaving her enough time to see her children every day.
“It was important for me to be there for them,” she said. “I made it home every day.”
Trucking is not always an easy life
Yet women like Dore remain more the exception than the rule when it comes to driving trucks, which might be because it’s not a career for everyone, some drivers acknowledge.
Doug Groulx, an Ontario truck driver with 29 years experience on the road, said most people don’t want the job because it takes you away from your family, including during holidays.
“We don’t get Canada Day off if it falls on a Monday. You have to go to work,” he said, citing one example. “Maybe they don’t want to miss out on that.”
For Groulx, that isn’t a problem; he has no children and has never been married. But he said he has plenty of colleagues who are — and they depend on strong relationships with their partners.
“I guess you have to work with your partner,” he said. “You have to have that understanding that you’re going to be gone for five days.
“I wouldn’t call it a hard life but you have to put your time in,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets.”
The same rings true for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Mark Sydorchuk. As earnest as he is, even he understands that trucking isn’t always easy.
“It’s demanding. Not many people like that kind of job because you [have] got to sit there for hours and look out the window. It gets boring and lonely at times,” he said. “Some people like the job, some people don’t.”
Yet we all still depend on trucks, with almost everything we own getting shipped by truck — something that could become problematic if the industry doesn’t solve its driver shortage. But it’s a problem that Sydorchuk believes could be solved easily.
“If loads start paying more, they’ll see more drivers,” he said. “While they’re paying really cheap for loads out there, no one’s going to want to do the job.
“They don’t get paid enough.”
Canada weighs tighter rules for grow-your-own pot producers – CTV News
Canada on Monday launched a public consultation seeking to tighten rules for individuals who are allowed to grow their own medical cannabis, in an effort to clamp down on pot seeping into black markets.
In a draft guidance issued for the consultation, Health Canada highlighted recent police raids and arrests at production sites where people were using licenses to “cover and support large-scale illegal production and sale.”
The move comes as Canada tries to fix its ailing pot market, where illegal producers sell more annually than hundreds of licensed cultivators, even over two years after the country became the first major nation to legalize weed in 2018.
Households spent more than $3.1 billion buying non-medical pot from illicit channels last year versus $2.9 billion of legal purchases, according to Statistics Canada data.
“Abuse of the medical purposes framework undermines the integrity of the system that many patients and health care practitioners rely on to access cannabis to address their medical needs,” Health Canada said in the draft document.
Reuters first reported the news earlier on Monday.
The draft guidance for the first time sets out factors that the regulator may consider in refusing or revoking a registration for “personal production.” Factors include authorization of unjustified amounts and “criminal activity and/or diversion of cannabis.”
In January, Ontario Provincial Police seized over 180,000 cannabis plants and numerous vehicles and firearms by raiding illegal cultivation facilities, many of which exploit Health Canada’s personal medical weed cultivation licenses.
Under the rules, people using cannabis for medical purposes must get a daily amount authorized by medical care practitioners – doctors, nurses and social workers – to either be bought from official retailers or grown personally.
Health Canada said in December it was seeing a surge in the amount of pot personal cultivators were being authorized to grow.
The number of patients registered for purchase from federally licensed retailers was 377,024 in September last year, a 24% increase from June. Meanwhile, registrations for personal cultivation grew 29% over the period to 43,211.
Even though personal cultivators remain a small fraction of overall patient registrations, these people are allowed to grow as much as 36 grams per day on average, compared with just two grams authorized for daily purchase from retailers.
As part of its public consultation, Health Canada said it was inviting Canadians to share their views on the factors that should be considered in “refusal or revocation of a registration on public health and public safety ground.”
The consultation will run for 60 days through May 7, the regulator said.
After the end of the two-month period, the regulator plans to finalize the guidance and make it public.
Canada sees 3,069 new coronavirus cases as total infections top 890K – Global News
Canada added 3,069 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, pushing the total number of infections in the country to 890,703.
Health officials also said another 31 people have died after contracting COVID-19, meaning to date, the virus has claimed 22,276 lives in Canada.
However, since the disease was first detected, 838,095 people have recovered after falling ill.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Canada’ top doctor Theresa Tam said Canada continues to “make progress with overall declines in severe illness and deaths.”
“But the decline in case counts has slowed and #VariantsOfConcern are increasing so we need to remain vigilant,” she wrote.
According to Health Canada, as of March 7, a total of 2,039 cases of the variants of concern had been reported across Canada.
Ontario is seeing ‘significant increase’ in number of coronavirus variants
“We’ve got what it takes to keep these variants down — public health measures + individual precautions — and as #COVID19vaccines continue to roll out, our future keeps looking brighter,” Tam wrote.
“Let’s hold on together to not give these variants an inch.”
So far, more than 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada, meaning approximately 3.26 per cent of the country’s population has now been inoculated.
While Canada’s vaccine rollout has been slow, the federal government has repeatedly stated that all Canadians who want a COVID-19 vaccine will have access to one by the end of September.
New cases, deaths
In Ontario, 1,631 new cases and 10 new deaths were reported, while Quebec added 579 new infections and nine more fatalities.
Meanwhile, health officials in Saskatchewan said 97 more people have contracted the illness and one more person has died.
In Manitoba, 63 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, while also reporting one additional death.
Coronavirus: Manitoba’s top doctor says positive tests being screened for variants
In Atlantic Canada 10 more people have tested positive for COVID-19.
Five new infections were reported in New Brunswick, while health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador said three more people have fallen ill.
Prince Edward Island officials said two new cases were detected in the province.
None of the Maritime provinces or Newfoundland and Labrador reported any more fatalities on Monday.
In western Canada, hundreds of new cases were detected.
British Columbia added 385 new infections and four new fatalities, while health officials in Alberta said 304 more people have fallen ill. Six more deaths have occurred since Saturday in Alberta as well.
No new cases or deaths were reported in any of Canada’s northern territories.
Global cases top 117 million
The total number of COVID-19 cases around the world topped 117 million on Monday.
According to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University, a total of 117,055,507 people have been infected with the virus globally.
The United States has reported the highest number of cases at 29,030,476. The country has also seen the most fatalities associated with COVID-19, with 525,541 to date.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
U.S. issues advice to those fully vaccinated, but no shift in Canada yet – CTV News
New U.S. guidelines say people fully inoculated against COVID-19 can drop some precautions when gathering with others, but at least two provincial health ministers say existing public health advice holds for now.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that Americans who have waited two weeks since their second required shot can spend time with other immunized people indoors without masks or social distancing.
The same applies to gatherings by those at low-risk of severe disease, such as fully vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy grandchildren.
The U.S. guidelines recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks, avoid large gatherings and physically distance when in public.
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday that physical distancing and other public health guidelines will be around for some time.
He said about 15 per cent of B.C.’s eligible residents are expected to be immunized by the end of the month, which is “nothing like herd immunity.”
“The future is bright, but we can’t live the future right now. We’ve got to live the now right now.”
Dix does expect visiting restrictions to be loosened in B.C.’s long-term care homes this month as about 90 per cent of residents and staff have been vaccinated.
University of Alberta infectious diseases specialist Dr. Lynora Saxinger said evidence on which the U.S. health agency based its advice is “very much in evolution” and such recommendations might not work everywhere.
Virus variants with the potential to break through vaccine protection are also a “wild card,” she said.
But Saxinger said the principles underlying the U.S. guidance make sense, especially since the initial vaccine rollout has targeted older individuals, many of whom have been kept away from their grandchildren for almost a year.
“They’re basically taking a balance-of-probabilities approach to say that if you’ve received vaccine, you should be highly protected against severe disease. Therefore this should be hopefully OK.”
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said her province is still recommending people take precautions with gatherings and will take its cues from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Ontario reported 1,631 new cases in its latest update, but said the higher-than-expected count was due to a system “data catch-up.” The seven-day average for new cases was at 1,155.
There were also 10 more deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
Ontario lifted stay-at-home orders in Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay on Monday — the last three regions subject to the government’s strictest measures introduced two months ago.
Alberta also loosened some rules for banquet halls, community halls, conference centres, hotels, retail shops, performances and post-secondary sports, as hospitalizations stayed well below the provincial target of 450.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he believes it is safe enough to immediately ease more restrictions
The province reported 278 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths. Six cases of the more contagious variant were also detected, bringing that total to 659. There were 254 people in hospital.
And residents in five regions of Quebec, including the capital, were again able to eat in restaurants and work out in gyms.
Restrictions remain in place in the Montreal area due to fear that variant cases will cause a spike in infections and hospitalizations.
Quebec reported 579 new cases in its update. New daily infections had been above 700 for the five previous days. The province also recorded nine more deaths.
All of New Brunswick shifted to a lower pandemic response level Monday. That means a circle of 15 regular contacts can socialize, up from 10. The Atlantic province had five new cases and 36 active ones.
Saxinger said a “judicious and slow” reopening is the safest approach.
She noted that many countries have seen their case counts come down, but the proportion of more contagious variants is higher, planting the seeds for a spike.
“We know that it’s possible that the variants can be responsible for another surge, that a variant surge is harder to contain and you need longer and more stringent restrictions to contain them.”
Also Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Thursday will be a “national day of observance” to commemorate the 22,000 people in Canada who have died from COVID-19 and to acknowledge all the ways the virus has changed our lives in the last year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2021
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