Canada to Require Vaccines for Air Travelers, Federal Staff
(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said it will make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for airline and rail passengers, transportation workers and federal employees, in one of its final announcements before the start of a Canadian election campaign.
Government officials said Friday the plan is to require government staff to be inoculated by early fall. Workers and passengers on airlines, railways and cruise ships will need to have proof of vaccination by the end of October.
It’s the most dramatic step Trudeau has taken to date to speed up a vaccine drive that is losing some momentum. The move also illustrates how Liberal Party strategists are going to try frame the election around public health and management of the pandemic -- issues where they believe they have an advantage.
“We need to regain public confidence in travel. Such confidence will give a boost to our industry,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said at a press conference with other ministers.
Canada’s two largest airlines said they support mandatory vaccines for employees. Air Canada said the move “is a welcome step forward in the evolving measures to protect the health and safety of airline employees, customers and all Canadians.”
WestJet Airlines Ltd. said it “will adhere to the requirement for domestic travelers to be fully vaccinated or tested prior to departure. The airline group is advocating that rapid-antigen testing is an acceptable, accessible and affordable alternative for unvaccinated travelers.”
70% Vaccination Rate
But both companies and the unions that represent their workers said they were awaiting more details from the government. “We will wait until we know how today’s announcement applies to our members before commenting, but CUPE is encouraging all its members to get vaccinated,” Karine Fortin, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said by email.
“Vaccination requirements are an issue that must be bargained and ultimately agreed to,” the Air Line Pilots Association said.
The vaccination requirement applies to railways that travel between provinces but not urban commuter railways, which aren’t regulated by the federal government.
According to a poll by Nanon Research Group for Bloomberg News, 50% of Canadians believe Trudeau’s government has done a good job of managing the crisis, with 23% saying he’s done poorly. An election is expected to be called for Sept. 20.
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