Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole faces his caucus today to discuss what to do about its position around mandatory vaccinations, and what that means for unvaccinated members.
The issue is top of mind as an all-party committee decided last week that members of Parliament will need to be double vaccinated against COVID-19 or have a medical exemption to take their seat in the House of Commons.
That puts O’Toole in a challenging spot as he refuses to disclose how many of his 118 members are fully vaccinated while he also opposes any return to a hybrid Parliament.
His own caucus members feel differently about the issue, and what Conservatives should do next.
Alberta MP Ron Liepert says he has no problem telling people he’s double vaccinated and believes the issue has become a distraction.
“We don’t have the luxury of sitting here as an opposition party arguing about whether you should be vaccinated or not,” he said before entering Wednesday’s meeting.
“We should be doing what constituents ended up sending us here to do, and that’s to hold this Liberal government to account.”
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British Columbia MP Mark Strahl says Conservatives must be clear like they were during the election campaign when they opposed vaccine mandates and said those who are unvaccinated should have the option to take rapid tests.
“I think we need to be very clear that we are still opposed to Justin Trudeau’s mandate without reasonable accommodations for people who are unable to be vaccinated. That needs to be very clear in everything that we say,” said Strahl, adding he has constituents who risk losing their jobs because of such policies.
Trudeau has said people with legitimate medical reasons for being unvaccinated will be exempt from vaccine mandates for federally regulated workers and air and train travellers.
Alberta MP Glen Motz said Wednesday he doesn’t think it should be up to the party leader to disclose personal health information. An analysis by The Canadian Press shows at least 80 Conservative MPs report being vaccinated against COVID-19, with two saying they can’t because of medical reasons.
Among the Conservatives who believe in keeping their vaccination status private is newly elected Ontario representative and former leadership contender Leslyn Lewis.
Lewis has been an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates and last week also posted on social media about vaccinating children against COVID-19.
She said parents question doing so partly because the shots don’t guarantee against transmission of the virus.
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Public health experts say there is overwhelming evidence the immunizations prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death.
“The media and the power structure expect me to sit in the back of the bus. I won’t!” tweeted Lewis, who is Black, after her message about vaccinating kids against COVID-19.
“They will try to paint me as a reckless lunatic in order to lynch me into silence. I will always tell Canadians the truth, (and) no bully or threats will succeed against us!”
© 2021 The Canadian Press