OTTAWA – the federal Conservatives – the only caucus yet to confirm how many of its lawmakers are unaffiliated – have come out in opposition to the new mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy announced by the House of Commons.

- Advertisement -

The decision to implement the vaccine mandate was made on Tuesday by the Board of the Internal Economy, a cross-party committee of nine lawmakers in House leadership roles, including the Conservatives. When the 44th Parliament opens on November 22, anyone entering the House of Commons premises will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Conservatives say they don’t think it should be up to a committee of parliamentarians To decide who can and cannot enter Parliament Hill, although the committee has historically oversaw the functioning of the House of Commons.

advertisement

The Conservatives said, “We encourage everyone who can be vaccinated, but we cannot agree to a meeting in secret for the seven lawmakers who decide whether to be elected by the Canadian people.” Who among the 338 MPs can enter the House of Commons to represent their constituents.” Alert Blake Richards in a statement.

Richards is one of two Conservative members of the board, which held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.

- Advertisement -

While what happens in-camera at parliamentary committee meetings is not meant to be discussed publicly, Richard’s statement shows that the decision was approved by the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebec, whose caucuses Fully vaccinated.

Limited exemptions will be granted to people with medical contraindications to COVID-19 vaccines, which will be required to show evidence of a recent negative antigen test to enter the buildings that make up the House of Commons complex.

Like the party’s position during the federal election campaign, conservatives say that rapid testing should be offered to those who have chosen not to be vaccinated.

“I cannot discuss what happens in camera meetings but I will say that we have always said that vaccines are the most important tool to get us out of this pandemic. As we said during the election, workplace health and safety can be ensured through vaccination or the demonstration of a recent negative rapid test result,” Richards said in his statement.

Given the time this order takes effect, it is possible that unvaccinated Conservatives will not be able to enter the House of Commons next month unless they have a valid exemption.

The details of how this new policy will be implemented are yet to be clarified.

In addition to lawmakers, this policy applies to Ottawa employees of lawmakers, employees of the Office of Political Research, administration staff, members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, parliamentary business visitors, contractors, and consultants who visit any of the many buildings that hold the House. want to come in. Chambers, offices of parliamentarians, press conference space and committee meeting rooms.

Announcing the mandate, House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota said the decision to implement the policy was “in line with ongoing recommendations from public health officials to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the work environment.” for” was taken.

It is not clear what the Conservative Party’s next steps will be in terms of challenging the decision or trying to make the case that the move, while supported by most of their allies, is considered a violation of their personal parliamentary privileges. However, the House does There are also collective rights.

Talks are ongoing about whether a hybrid House of Commons setup – allowing lawmakers to vote virtually and participate from their homes or offices – will be revived for the upcoming session.

The vaccine mandate may now be a deciding factor, although there is already a split between the parties as to whether the hybrid component is still needed.

When the hybrid sitting format was rolled out – before vaccines were approved, let alone widely available – it was designed as a temporary solution, with replacements accommodating essential public health precautions. The meetings were allowed.

Should lawmakers decide to continue allowing a virtual component to House proceedings, which allows unvaccinated lawmakers to participate, a new deal will need to be struck.

The federal government’s vaccine mandate for “core” federal public service, announced earlier this month, applies whether employees work remotely or from office.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks with opposition leaders ahead of the return of parliament.

He spoke with Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchett on Tuesday, and on Wednesday with Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May.