Canadians should expect fewer choices in grocery stores in coming months

Politics Insider for Jan. 24: B.C. truckers organize a ‘freedom convoy’; predictions on Ontario’s election are mixed; and Quebec applies more pressure on the unvaccinated

Vegetable products are shown at a grocery store in Montreal, Jan. 13, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Vegetable products are shown at a grocery store in Montreal, Jan. 13, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

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Broken chains: Consumers should expect fewer choices on grocery-store shelves in the coming months, industry experts tell the Globe.

The United States began barring unvaccinated truck drivers on Saturday, a week after Canada implemented the same rule intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Ottawa has also said it will require freight haulers who work domestically to be inoculated against the virus, just as airline and railway employees are, but has not announced a date. Trucking-industry lobby groups say the border requirement will worsen the shortage of available drivers, sending up food prices and slowing deliveries.

Do something: The Conservatives have written to the government demanding it make supply chains more resilient, CBC reports. The CPC letter warns of “shortages of basics like meats, fruits, and vegetables, your government’s policy will undoubtedly cause unnecessary harm and food insecurity,” although an industry spokesman observed that the opposition seemed to be “hyping” the issue.  And on Twitter, sharp-eyed observers noted that an image CPC MP Melissa Lantsman tweeted showed empty shelves in the U.K., not Canada.

Freedom! B.C. truckers took to the road Sunday in a “freedom convoy” to Ottawa to protest the  vaccine mandate , Global reports. An online fundraising campaign in support of the convoy has raised $2.7 million as of Sunday night. The leader of the fundraiser is a former official with the separatist Wexit party, according to Truck News, which points out there is no way of knowing where that money will end up.

A disapproving view: The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents truckers across Canada, has denounced the whole thing, CP reports: “The Canadian Trucking Alliance does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges. CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed.”

How does that happen? In the Star on Saturday, Althia Raj noted that the cross-border mandate was muddied when Ottawa reversed itself on the issue twice as the deadline loomed, which was apparently the result of a bureaucratic error.

Not a fan: Jason Kenney says Steven Guilbeault is an “extremist,” but says his relationship with Justin Trudeau is “professional,” Global reports.

Muddy portents: In Maclean’s, Philippe J. Fournier slices and dices five polls published last week on Ontario vote intentions, and concludes that it is hard to conclude much from them just now, because the results are all over the place.

The Quebec media and Twittersphere were set ablaze last week by a five-point disagreement between polls from Léger and Mainstreet Research: While Léger had Québec solidaire at 14 per cent, Mainstreet measured QS support at 19 per cent, tied with the Quebec Liberals for second place. Mere days later Angus Reid split it down the middle with 16 per cent. I hardly can imagine the reaction a 17-point spread would have created in media and partisan circles.

Broader mandate: Speaking of Quebec, on Sunday night, the government there published a decree requiring that patrons of big box stories show vaccine passports to get in, Radio Canada reports (translation).

Generation gap: In the Star, Chantal Hebert has an interesting column on evolving opinions in Quebec about Bill 21, the law that forced a hijab-wearing teacher from a Chelsea classroom this winter. A majority of Quebecers believes that was the right call, but opinion is shifting.

Legault may want to take note of the fact that for the second time in less than a year, a call to rally around a flag of his choosing has fallen somewhat flat. On the way to the federal polling stations last summer, many Quebec voters ignored his appeal to steer clear of Trudeau’s Liberals. At least some of those who kept their own counsel support the CAQ at the provincial level.

Also, the future of the issue is not clear, because younger voters are less likely to agree with this kind of policy.

While the restrictions imposed on teachers by Bill 21 enjoy the support of three out of four baby-boomers, only one in four among the 18-to-24 age cohort agrees with the measure. After the 1995 referendum, support for sovereignty increasingly exhibited a similar intergenerational gap. A majority of older voters remained committed to achieving the province’s independence but support for the project dropped precipitously among younger voters. The failure of the sovereignty project to thrive among younger Quebecers accounts for the marginal place the Parti Québécois has been relegated to on the political landscape.

New party: In the Post, former La Presse editor André Pratte has an informative column about the rise of a new Conservative party in Quebec, led by former radio poubelle star Éric Duhaime, who might win a few seats in the next election by stealing votes from Legault.

What’s the holdup? Robin Sears, writing in the Star, wants to know why it is taking the government so long to keep its promise to settle Afghan refugees.

It is especially embarrassing that we promised safe havens to 40,000 Afghans and have admitted fewer than 7,000. The United States, who have not outranked us in our welcome for immigrants and refugees for many, many years, have admitted over 10 times as many. At this rate of foot-dragging — fewer than 50 refugees per day — we will be approaching the end of 2023 before we have kept our promise. By then, many of these desperate families will have been tortured and killed. Are we really willing to risk the humiliation and international opprobrium of having their blood on our hands?

He has our backs: Susan Delacourt, writing in the Star, wonders if Justin Trudeau is in a rut because Liberal communications are so stilted.  It led to a thought-provoking Twitter thread on the thoroughly stilted world of Canadian political comms.

Travelling again: After a year in which they stayed home, many Canadians are travelling internationally again this year, CBC reports.

Statistics Canada tallied 742,417 Canadian air-passenger arrivals returning home from abroad in December. When adjusted to account for recent changes in tracking air travel, that total is almost six times the number of arrivals for the same month in 2020, and more than half the total for pre-pandemic December 2019. The increase in international travel is likely to continue: there were 216,752 Canadian air-passenger arrivals to Canada during the week of Jan. 3 to Jan. 9, according to the latest data posted by the Canada Border Services Agency.

— Stephen Maher