One of the challenges for Erin O’Toole in remaining as Conservative leader will be deciding whether her lawmakers should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the House of Commons.
Compulsory vaccination has been called for by Liberals and Bloc Québécois, and backed by the NDP, as the parties prepare to restart parliament after last month’s federal election.
It is unclear when lawmakers will return, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced a vaccine mandate that will take effect in full on December 1, requiring vaccinations to board air and train passengers.
That policy would involve federal politicians traveling to Ottawa from different parts of the country.
Conservative whip and Alberta MP Blake Richards said talks about returning to the House of Commons have not yet begun and “we will continue to follow all public health guidelines and encourage every Canadian who is able to get vaccinated.” “
“Under no circumstances will the Conservatives support a virtual parliament,” he said, with members participating via videoconference. His office has not yet clarified whether he supports or opposes calls for lawmakers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
During the campaign, O’Toole opposed the Liberal plan to rule out vaccinations for federal public servants, people working in government-regulated industries, and domestic travelers.
But he was silent last week when a re-elected Trudeau unveiled the policy, with British Columbia lawmaker Mark Strahl tweeting that the mandate is “discriminatory, coercive and must be opposed.”
“We must continue to demand reasonable exemptions and accommodations, such as rapid testing, for those who are unable or unwilling to vaccinate.”
O’Toole’s office has yet to comment on whether Conservative leaders are opposed to the federal mandate. There was no response when asked about his message to Conservative lawmakers who cannot be fully vaccinated, as he did not make vaccination a requirement for candidates during the campaign.
An analysis by The Canadian Press shows that at least 77 of the 119 elected Conservative members say they have been fully vaccinated.
The other 37 did not respond by the deadline, with spokesmen for the offices of British Columbia MP Kerry-Lynn Findlay and Manitoba’s Ted Falk saying they declined to comment on their vaccination status.
During a candidate debate last month, Leslie Lewis – a former leadership rival of O’Toole who is heavily supported by the party’s social conservative base – said she is “pro-vaccine”, but her personal position with the public does not share.
A spokesman for Mark Dalton says the BC lawmaker has been partially vaccinated and is planning to get a second shot.
Longtime Ontario MP Dean Ellison is one of two members who say they can’t get a shot for medical reasons.
During the campaign, Allison said she followed rapid testing and had a doctor’s note, but “there hasn’t really been much conversation” about what she should do next.
“All candidates had to support the leader’s message, that we were opposed to mandatory vaccines,” he said, revealing his position to the whip’s office.
Newly elected Conservative MP Clifford Small said he had been fully vaccinated and expected discussions about the new federal mandate “in the very near future”.
—With a file by Katherine Levesque
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