The Canadian Association of Moldmakers (CAMM) has taken exception with the federal government's decision to grant NHL players travel exemptions due to “national interest” during the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs while employees in the auto industry continue to be deemed non-essential workers and subject to quarantines.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is allowing cross-border travel of NHL players, so long as they abide by a set of restrictions, including travel on private planes, daily COVID-19 testing, quarantines within designated hotels and arenas, and restrictions around who team members can interact with.
“That stuff makes sense to me. And I’m OK with that, because we said the same thing. I’d like the federal government to tell us why hockey players deserve exemptions but our guys don’t,” said Jon Azzopardi, CAMM chair. “All this says to me is that they’re willing to make exceptions…and they can put restrictions in place that make it safe.”
The NHL was required to come up with a plan to protect the teams and public at large and getting approval for it from the Public Health Agency of Canada as well as provincial authorities. It spent weeks putting the plan together. The Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba governments signed off on the protocols and Mendicino eventually granted the exemption.
The Montreal Canadiens await the winner of the series between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.
Mendicino didn’t respond to Automotive News Canada’s request for comment. He previously spoke to The Canadian Press.
“We felt confident we could take this decision, which will allow Canadians to enjoy one of their favourite pastimes, namely playoff hockey, while at the same time keeping everyone healthy and safe," Mendicino told The Canadian Press in an interview.The playoff proposal ... was reviewed with a fine-tooth comb by all public health care officials," Mendicino said. "I really want to emphasize that because they're the experts, and they're the ones in whom we place great faith and confidence before we even take this decision."
Azzopardi has been fighting for months to get the Canadian government to open the land border, which has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020. He said the longest unguarded border in the world has become a trade barrier to the auto sector. He’s described the situation as “crippling” to his members, some of whom export 100 per cent of what they make to the United States.
Employees at moldmakers in Canada need to be able to go to the United States to fulfill contractual obligations of installing the equipment. Likewise, U.S. auto employees usually need to come to Canada to sign off on a mold, before the deal is sealed. But, when American workers come to Canada or Canadians return home, they're subject to 14-day quarantine.
Azzopardi would like to know what makes hockey players and their jobs so much different that they can be afforded nearly unfettered travel between the two countries while his members are not.
“What did the hockey players do to convince the federal government that we didn’t?” Azzopardi asked. “Federal government: What did we do wrong? What boxes did we not check, that the hockey players did, so they can get their job done?
“We still have to get our job done, too.
“They basically gave them what we’ve been asking for: Pre-approval to move across the border as long as you agree to these terms and requirements. We would agree to the same thing.”
Azzopardi said his company, Laval Tool in Windsor, Ont., has lost 30 per cent of its business due to the border closure, and that the losses among his members is in the “hundreds of millions.” He said the border restrictions are diving U.S. customers to U.S. moldmakers and suppliers, giving up on Canada because doing business is too difficult with tight border restrictions in place.
Azzopardi said it’s been months since the government has spoken with his association.
While Mendicino praised the NHL's plan, he also said the decision to grant an exemption also reflected rising vaccinations rates across Canada and the United States.
In Canada, 2,994,639 people or 7.9 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. In the United States, about 42 per cent of the population has two doses.
Even with that U.S. rate, Azzopardi said he’s “still fearful” clients coming into Canada will be denied or subject to a quarantine upon arrival.
“That situation that you agreed to for a hockey player, that exact same situation exists for hundreds of people a week in our industry,” Azzopardi said.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.