Well-meaning (but poor) decisions don’t fix a bad situation

Have you ever tried to solve a problem and the solution you come up with is actually worse than the original problem?

Sometimes, in our quest to solve an issue, we fail to realize the full ramifications of the potential solutions we come up with. It’s this kind of chain reaction that makes decision making such a hard thing. Perhaps a decision looks good on the surface, and you have people tell you it’s a smart move, but sometimes there are unintended consequences. Less often, you may even have someone point out those consequences and warn you that your great idea to fix one problem really just creates a larger, worse problem.

Have you ever had a friend that’s had marital troubles, and they’re a few years into their marriage and they can’t seem to figure it out? Maybe they dated for years, but then they got married and it just isn’t what they thought it was going to be. Maybe they’ve talked to you about it and have discussed all the different ways to figure out how to fix their marriage, but nothing really seems to work. Then one day, you’re having a barbecue with your buddy, he kind of pulls you aside in the corner of the yard, next to the grill. You’re flipping the burgers and says:

Buddy: We got our marriage figured out! We’ve got a solution. We’ve come up with a great idea. This is going to be marital bliss. This is a must do; this is a no brainer for us. We’re going to be on Easy Street going forward.

Shaun: Really? This sounds amazing. I’m so happy for you. What did you decide?

Friend: We’re gonna have a baby!

Shaun (choking on his beer): Wow, really? Are you sure?

Friend:  Yeah, I’m sure about it. It’s a great idea. Yeah, this is what’s been missing in our marriage. A kid, a baby, will fix everything!

Shaun: But, if it doesn’t, now you have a new human in the mix…

It happens, and at the end of the day, they have the kid. And even though you warned them, they didn’t listen. Predictably, it doesn’t work out, and instead they’ve now added a child to an already poor marriage, delaying the inevitable, and now they’re divorcing. Now, it’s just not two people breaking up and going their separate ways and trying to find a new life with maybe other partners. Now, these two people have to try to coexist as parents to try and raise this kid, they probably should have never had in the first place, knowing they weren’t on stable ground.

This is where we are with trying to manage the pandemic. This is where we are with COVID-19. We’re trying to come up with solutions. They’re not easy. They’re hard. But we continue to make some of the same mistakes over and over and over again. People are saying that’s a bad idea. You shouldn’t do that. Here’s the impacts. Here’s the ramifications of that decision. And we just keep on rolling.

We (the royal we) just keep on going.

We had another example of that this week. This time, it has to do with this mandated vaccine for truck drivers.

Right now, it looks like that as of Saturday, January 15, Canada is moving ahead with implementing their version of the cross-border vaccine requirement for truck drivers. As of  January 22, the U.S. will do the same for Canadian drivers.

By some estimations, 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian cross-border truck drivers are unvaccinated. In the U.S., the number may be as high as 50 per cent.

We know that 70 per cent of trade between Canada and the U.S. actually happens by land. This is a massive scale of movement of goods — food, supplies, everything.

Combined with the possibility of expanding the mandate to all federally-regulated industries, and this vaccine requirement actually impact interprovincial truck drivers at the same time. We heard that from the Canadian Trucking Alliance earlier this week.

So, just like your buddy that decides, I’m gonna save my marriage by having a baby, the government decided that we are going to end this pandemic by mandating that truck drivers be vaccinated.

We may not have the data, but it strikes me that truck drivers are not super spreaders. They spend all their time in their truck by themselves. The industry has adapted to COVID-19 risks and has made trucking even less in-person than it was before, including increasing e-signatures and electronic communication at unload points now. It’s pretty rare that drivers get out of their trucks, and these are the people that we’re worried about?

The estimate is that the trucking population has about an average vaccination rate — for some regions and areas it is much lower than the national average, but in other areas it’s the same. Is it worth the economic cost, and the economic ramifications and the disruption that this potentially will cause because we want to show the rest of Canada and people in the international space that we’re doing things about COVID-19?

I have a hard time understanding the motivation behind this. Besides political grandstanding or being tone deaf to the importance of trade, the importance of commerce, and totally ignoring the impact potentially of this on the ground floor.

On the national news Thursday night, a pundit panel all agreed that this was a great idea, that truck drivers deserve to be safe, too. Were truck drivers raising a big fuss about they didn’t feel safe sitting in their truck by themselves? They’re not interacting with each other. They’re not working in a packing plant. They’re not working at a grocery store, they’re not a pilot on a plane with passengers. These risk levels are not the same.

Now, just because I question the intelligence of this mandate, does not mean I’m antivax. It’s not what this is about. This is about making decisions that have consequences that will be felt widespread. This is not punishing the unvaccinated. This is punishing all Canadians in a time where inflation is very real, and at a time where lower income people are trying to figure out how they can put food on the table, as cost rise and their wages don’t (or have disappeared).

This is a policy that both the Canadian government and the U.S. government needs to reconsider quickly before real consequences are felt throughout the supply chain from a trade perspective and with Canadians at large.

Related: Farm groups react to impending trucker vaccine mandate

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