Should unvaccinated MPs be allowed in the House of Commons? One prominent Conservative says yes

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OTTAWA – A Conservative MP and former Tory whip says lawmakers should be allowed to serve in the House of Commons even if they do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a position they believe That is in line with his party leader’s opposition to the vaccination mandate. Recent election campaign.

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British Columbia Conservative MP Mark Strahl, who rides Chilliwack-Hope, told the Star Tuesday that he opposes requiring any vaccinations for lawmakers returning to Ottawa after this year’s federal election.

He argued that the safety of MPs and parliament staff could be secured through alternatives such as daily rapid tests, and that vaccination requirements would “violate the principle”.parliamentary privilege“Which guarantees that the members of the House of Commons can perform their duties.


“I know it’s kind of bizarre – archaic, maybe – to talk about parliamentary privilege during a pandemic, but it’s been upheld through many crises … we’d better be very careful Be that we don’t let this be tossed aside, said Strahl, who was first elected in 2011 and served as the Tories’ chief opposition whip from 2017 until last fall.

Strahl said he has been vaccinated against COVID-19, but defended lawmakers who may choose not to get vaccinated, pointing out that there are “a million reasons” for not getting their shots. Why would you choose to take

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“There should be options for people who just feel they can’t get a vaccine,” he said.

Asked whether his position aligns with that of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, Strahl said the leader was “very clear” during the recent election campaign that the party does not support mandatory vaccinations for government employees and plane passengers. Even if it encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

“All I can do is rely on what Mr O’Toole said during the campaigning, not that long ago,” Strahl said. “I think he wouldn’t have changed his mind on that without consulting the caucus.”

Representatives for O’Toole’s office did not respond to Starr’s questions Tuesday about Strahl’s comments.

His statement comes ahead of an expected debate on Parliament Hill over whether to require vaccinations for lawmakers similar to what the federal government is already demanding. about 300,000 employees in public service and about a million Employees in industries regulated by Ottawa, including aviation and telecommunications.

Announcing that requirement last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that parties in the Commons would have to “figure out how to proceed” with their own approach to vaccination in light of parliamentary privileges, and O’Toole Singled out for not taking on the Conservatives. The “unequal” stand to support vaccination requirements during the federal election campaign this summer.

O’Toole also declined to say whether all Conservative lawmakers elected last month have been vaccinated.

The House currently has no policy on COVID-19 vaccination for lawmakers, and any rules will be set by a special all-party committee called the Board of the Internal Economy, according to a statement by House Speaker’s spokesman Heather Bradley.

But Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois have said they want all lawmakers working inside the House of Commons to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a valid medical exemption.

In a statement on Tuesday, Simon Ross, spokesman for Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said the question of vaccination lawmakers would be “an important part of future discussions” ahead of Parliament’s return later this year.

Ross’ statement said, “We believe that MPs who choose to set foot on the floor of the House of Commons and committee rooms should be fully vaccinated, unless there is a valid medical exemption.” ”

Part of that discussion may involve allowing lawmakers to participate virtually, as they did before the election. However, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchett said last week that his party opposes any “hybrid” arrangement and that lawmakers without vaccination should “stay home.”

In an emailed statement to the Star on Tuesday, Blake Richards, the Conservatives’ current whip in parliament, also denied any scenario in which the party would support virtual participation in the House of Commons.

He added that “we will continue to follow all public health guidelines and encourage every Canadian who is able to get vaccinated.”

The NDP, meanwhile, is open to virtual participation, but believes every lawmaker working inside the House of Commons should be vaccinated, spokeswoman Melanie Richter said on Tuesday.

With files from Raisa Patel and The Canadian Press
Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter who covers federal politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga
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