The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is warning the Federal Government that the vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the border could greatly impact small businesses. It's calling for a reversal of the mandate, for concern that potential supply shortages and price increases will drive more businesses to the brink.
"Small businesses were already facing a major supply chain crunch and cost increases on everything from fuel to building materials," said CFIB President Dan Kelly, in a statement. "This border policy threatens to exacerbate those issues at a time when small businesses can’t handle any additional costs or uncertainty."
The CFIB has 95,000 members across all industries. It's Canada's largest association of small and medium-sized businesses, and it's worried the vaccine mandate will put more pressure on an already strained system.
"Supply chain and inflation are the biggest issues that small businesses are facing as we start 2022," said Jasmin Guenette, the CFIB's Vice President of National Affairs. "80 per cent of small businesses say rising prices are an issue, and 70 per cent say supply chain challenges."
The transportation industry has been hard hit by labour shortages, among other issues throughout 2021, such as a strike at the Port of Montreal and flooding on British Columbia highways. According to a CFIB report, published in December, 68 per cent of businesses in the transportation sector are unable to find enough staff for current operations or to expand.
Guenette told Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke on CityNews 570 that having less trucks crossing the border with goods risks an increase in delays and costs, and it's well advised the government change its policy to make sure it's easier for businesses to get the products they need.
"It's creating unnecessary roadblocks for small business recovery," added Guenette. "Instead of implementing a vaccine policy for truckers, the government should focus on establishing ways for small businesses to recover faster."
He said some industries are affected more than others, such as construction, retail, and wholesale. The latest results on the CFIB's Small Business Recovery Dashboard show that only 30 per cent are making normal sales (down 6 per cent from November), 42 per cent are fully staffed (down 3 per cent from November), and 65 per cent are fully open (down 13 per cent from November).
A mandate reversal would only work if both Canada and the United States are in agreement. Guenette wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden to make a sound decision. He said having the mandate won't increase trade or make the supply chain work any better.
"After two years of the pandemic, creating additional roadblocks will not do the trick," said Guenette. "There's a reason why truckers were considered essential workers, and it's because we need the supply chain to be working as well as it can."
Guenette noted the consumer will end up paying higher prices as well.
As for Ontario, specifically, Guenette said it's crucial the Ford Government allow businesses to operate at 100 per cent capacity as soon as possible. Currently, the planned date for allowing most businesses to return to full capacity is February 21, but Guenette said the CFIB has asked the provincial government to lift the capacity restrictions sooner.