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All truck drivers crossing the border must be fully vaccinated as of Saturday, regardless of whether they are Canadian citizens or foreign nationals, the federal government said Thursday.
Confusion over the controversial policy has been widespread since the federal government first announced in mid-November that by Jan. 15, all foreign nationals working as truckers would have to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada.
The same announcement said unvaccinated Canadian truckers would be allowed in, but would be subject to quarantine and testing requirements.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency said the federal government was backing down from that commitment and would allow Canadian truckers to enter the country without having to quarantine even if they were unvaccinated or had received only one dose.
Today, the federal government walked back that statement, saying that Wednesday’s statement was “provided in error” and that the regulations outlined in November will stand.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics that while the spokesperson had “incomplete” information, the federal government’s policy has not changed.
“Since November 19 we’ve been consistent in all of our meetings with stakeholders, in all of our interviews with the public,” he said.
WATCH | Transport minister discusses the vaccine policy for truckers on CBC’s Power & Politics
Trade associations on both sides of the border had been pushing for a delay to the restriction, which they say would put additional strain on supply chains amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe worker shortages.
About 10 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who cross the border may not be able to work those routes because they haven’t been vaccinated, according to the trucking alliance.
Cash bonuses to get vaccinated
The vaccine mandate is already starting to affect trucking operations.
“There are many of our members who have already said they will not be dispatching unvaccinated drivers across the border,” said Canadian Trucking Alliance president Stephen Laskowski.
Transport companies never opposed the vaccine mandate, Laskowski said.
“It’s the timing of it,” he added, citing factors putting pressure on supply chains, such as clogged ports and workers off sick.
The new rule could encourage reluctant workers to roll up their sleeves. One Montreal-based logistics company offered a $10,000 bonus last month to all drivers who received their first vaccine dose by mid-January in the hopes of retaining employees and boosting inoculation rates.
The impact on supply chains
Guy Milette, executive vice-president of the Quebec based fruit and vegetable importer Courchesne Larose Ltd., said the mandate will put pressure on prices and the supply of goods, especially given the time of year.
From “January up to April is the worst of the year and [sees] the highest percentage of imported vegetables,” he told CBC News. “So the impact that we’re [talking] about today, it’s coming in the worst portion … of the year.”
Ontario-based Titanium Transportation Group, which boasts a fleet of 800 tractors, says 95 per cent of its drivers are fully vaccinated.
“More than likely there’s no good time, right? They’ve had this exemption for quite a long time. So maybe this is the right time,” CEO Ted Daniel said.
Still, trade groups have been calling on the federal government to postpone the Saturday deadline.
Recent flooding in British Columbia and China’s “zero-COVID policy” have added to supply-chain bottlenecks, the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition said in a letter signed by 18 industry association heads who are asking for a delay.
The Petroleum Services Association of Canada said the vaccine mandate will “only aggravate things further.”
Food and agricultural products could also feel the squeeze.
Nearly two-thirds of the roughly $21 billion in agri-food imports that Canada receives from the United States each year arrive by truck, according to Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy. The reliance on U.S. products is especially high in winter.
Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman said the vaccine mandate for truckers will add to the country’s supply chain woes and drive up prices even further.
“At a time when inflation is already at a record high, Canadians will be the ones paying the price for the Trudeau government’s poor policy decisions. Canada’s Conservatives will be the voice of Canadians who are being priced out of their own lives in Justin Trudeau’s economy,” she said in a media statement.
Alghabra disagreed with that statement, telling Power & Politics guest host David Cochrane that the biggest threat to the supply chain is not a vaccine mandate but the pandemic, and vaccination is the only way to beat it.
“We take our advice from experts, from public health experts, and everybody knows that vaccines are our best way out of this,” he said. “Everybody knows that vaccines are the best way to protect supply chains, and we are proceeding with what we believe is the best thing for Canadians and Canada’s economy.”
‘I won’t comply’
Bridgitte Belton, an unvaccinated truck driver, said she and her husband, who is also a trucker, will not be getting vaccinated despite the trouble the mandate will cause for her financially when it kicks in on Saturday.
“I lose my truck. I lose my house. I lose my car. I basically will have absolutely nothing left,” she told CBC News.
“I won’t comply. I will not get the shot in the arm. Who am I really protecting? I’m protecting somebody that lives in long term care. I don’t go there … I live in my truck. When I go home, I go home to my husband, who’s also a truck driver.”
Luis Franco Robles, a fully vaccinated truck driver from Alberta, told CBC News that he is in favour of the coming regulations, adding that imposing the mandate is the “right thing to do.”
“It’s a matter of public health, period … And so we need to do our part … as citizens, to do what’s right for everybody else,” he told CBC News.
“You cannot put your personal beliefs in front of this because you’re affecting other people. It’s a matter of life and death.”
Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians – Axios
Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year’s midterm elections.
Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index (PVI).
- They stretch across every region of the U.S., from Alabama to Michigan to California.
- While a new generation of hard-right figures like Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has hardened the identity of the Republican Party in recent years, 12 of the 19 districts we’re watching favor Democrats.
What we’re watching: These 19 districts are open seats — with no incumbent running because of retirement, or the incumbent running for another office or district — and with PVI scores of at least +15R or +15D.
Scores reflect redistricting changes where applicable, and the list could change as new maps are finalized.
- That score measures by how many points on average a given congressional district outperformed the national vote — either in favor of Republicans or Democrats — during the two most recent presidential elections.
The big picture: Incumbents start with a huge advantage; 91% of them won re-election in 2018, according to OpenSecrets.
- When they leave, it levels the playing field for new candidates. And as districts grow more partisan, so, generally, do the candidates who step up.
- “Open seats are the biggest accelerant of extremism” and “breeding grounds for ideological warfare,” Cook’s Dave Wasserman tells Axios.
Yes, but: More intensely partisan players also can get elected without help from open seats.
Why it matters: Congress already finds it difficult to compromise on anything or get things done.
- Tremendous energy’s already devoted to partisan threats from former President Trump.
- There’s also gamesmanship by congressional leaders and messaging to the base by both Democrats and Republicans.
How it works: Our 15-point threshold is an arbitrary one but large enough to make it highly unlikely the district would switch party control regardless of the general election candidates.
- In such cases, primary campaigns all but decide who goes to Congress.
- Structural conditions are in place such that primaries will produce the deepest-red Republican or deepest-blue Democrat, said Ohio State University’s Edward Foley. His recent scholarship has focused on the so-called “primary problem.”
- This is, in part, because primary elections tend to attract fewer voters. They also attract the most active ones, and they, in turn, are likely to be on the political extremes — as highlighted in a recent Pew Research study.
By the numbers: Political extremism has grown acute among Republicans in recent years.
Each of the 15 most politically right-leaning members who served in the last Congress, per GovTrack, entered Congress in 2010 or later.
- Fourteen of the 15 voted against certifying the 2020 election for President Biden; the 15th was a lame-duck leaving Congress. Thirteen of them were elected to open seats.
- The list includes Gaetz and Reps. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).
- By contrast, five of the furthest-left 15 House Democrats date back to 2002 or earlier. Twelve were elected to open seats.
‘OPB Politics Now:’ The problem with Interstate 5 – OPB News
Interstate 5 is a key part of the transportation system that moves both people and goods up and down the West Coast.
But the highway has problems, especially as it winds through Portland into Washington state.
On this week’s show, OPB political reporter Sam Stites and host Tiffany Camhi examine the politics of transportation and two new developments: A setback for state planners hoping to expand I-5 through the Rose Quarter and a positive, and cash-rich, bit of news for local, state and federal leaders working to replace the interstate bridge that connects Oregon and Washington.
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GOLDBERG: How an enduring myth about voter turnout distorts our politics – Toronto Sun
I have long opposed making voting mandatory, an idea that pops up every few years. I still don’t like the idea. But it’s become more attractive, at least as a thought experiment.
The arguments against compelling people to vote – as Australia and a handful of other countries do – run from the constitutional (it’s coerced speech) to the cultural (this is America, dagnabbit) to the practical and the partisan.
Historically, the practical case is that it’s the wrong solution chasing a nonexistent problem. Proponents of mandatory voting think that low voter turnout is a sign of civic decay and democratic entropy. This view, no doubt accurate or at least plausible for some people, misses the fact that for many other Americans not voting is a sign of general satisfaction. We had record-breaking turnout in 2020. Raise your hand if think that was proof that America’s civic and democratic commitments are stronger than ever.
More importantly, if voting is virtuous, its virtue – like all virtue – derives from it being voluntary. Compelled virtue is an oxymoron.
Partisanship enters the equation because both parties subscribe to an enduring myth: that increased voter turnout automatically favors the Democrats. Thus, if everyone were forced to vote – many opponents and proponents believe – some imagined reserve army of leftwing voters would swamp the polls. This belief plays a significant role among those who want to make voting easier and those who want to make it harder.
The problem: It’s not true. Yes, of course, turning out more of your own voters is how you win elections, but if everybody voted it’s unlikely that one party would always benefit more than the other. As Daron Shaw and John R. Petrocik demonstrate in their book “The Turnout Myth,” “there is no systematic or consistent partisan bias to turnout.” The recent Virginia governor’s race saw huge turnout, and the Republicans routed the Democrats.
Partisan Democrats have all sorts of high-minded and sincere reasons for making casting ballots easier for Black voters in particular and disadvantaged communities in general. But on a practical level, the fact that they think these voters will disproportionately vote Democratic drives many of their policy preferences. Partisan Republicans discount the high-minded arguments and focus on the Democratic advantage they see in such efforts. Meanwhile, Democrats assume any concern with fraud or voter integrity is a ruse for disenfranchising voters.
Republicans tend also to suffer from a weird cognitive dissonance. They fear that if everyone voted, the GOP would lose; they’ve also convinced themselves that Democrats only win by “importing” voters (i.e., immigrants) and through fraud.
Each party believes – without evidence – that they have the people on their side and that if elections were run “right,” they’d be the majority party. For Democrats this means curtailing “big money” in elections and, lately, federalizing election rules to combat voter suppression. For Republicans, it means catering to Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories and rantings.
More broadly, both parties ignore the closeness of their victories and act as if they have mandates to behave like they have super-majorities supporting them. They then devote their energies to pandering both rhetorically and in terms of policy to the slender slice of the electorate that is their base.
The incentives for pandering to the hyper-partisans are all too familiar: the pernicious effect of our primary system, self-sorting polarization, an ideologically skewed media ecosystem, and the ease of raising small donations from partisan super-fans.
And that’s what appeals to me about mandatory voting. If everybody voted – even just once – it just might dispel the myth that either party speaks for some untapped silent majority. The incentive to drive up the base turnout would evaporate. Low voter turnout – which benefits incumbents and their special interest allies – would not skew election results. Candidates, elected officials and big donors alike would ignore electoral majorities at their peril.
I still oppose this solution, but at least the case for mandatory voting is no longer a solution in pursuit of a problem. Even as a thought experiment, it helps illuminate the real problems we face.
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