Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday August 31, 2021
It’s better late than never for vaccine passports
To the long and still growing list of pandemic reversals by the Ontario government, add vaccine passports. Late last week government sources confirmed that after months of what Premier Doug Ford called “a hard no” to passports, public and expert pressure forced the government to change course.
As far as we know now, this is all good. Like it was good when Ford reversed himself on paid sick days. Like it was when he gave police unnecessary new powers to enforce pandemic regulations, and then reversed himself shortly after.
So, better late than never … all’s well that ends well, right? Or maybe this is more like the devil is in the details. At the time of this writing, the premier still had not met with his cabinet to go over the plan for passports, even though it is supposed to be finalized in the next couple of weeks.
And so the pressure continues. On Monday, the mayor of Ottawa wrote a letter calling for passports. Business groups like the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, various municipalities and nearly all public health officials are on board. But the government, and especially Ford himself, remained ideologically opposed, not unlike the conservative government of Jason Kenney in Alberta, which is still steadfast in its opposition in spite of pandemic numbers worse than all other provinces.
British Columbia has them, as does Quebec. Prairie provinces either have or are getting passports or something similar. The United Kingdom. All European nations. The question is not whether Ontario should have a proof of vaccination system, it is what took so long?
For weeks, businesses and organizations have been struggling to come up with their own pandemic regulations. How much money, stress and energy went into that work which could have been saved had the government just done the right thing in the first place?
Vaccine passports are not a panacea. There are challenges. They are not perfect. Some businesses are warning that if passports come into force without a relaxation of other measures, like capacity limits, for example, the real potential won’t be realized. Advocates for poor and vulnerable people worry about those who don’t have permanent addresses or even cellphones to display their certificate of vaccination.
And, maybe the biggest problem: Given that the government is being dragged into this kicking and screaming, will it deliver a partial solution or one with enough loopholes to limit its effectiveness? That would serve no one’s interests, least of all Ford’s.
Unquestionably, any proof of vaccination system is a double-edged sword. Just as passports protect those of us wise enough to get vaccinated, they will take away a lot of choices from people who choose not to get vaccinated. (Those with legitimate reasons for remaining unvaccinated should not be harmed.)
Armed with our passports, we can attend sporting and concert events. We can feel more comfortable going out for dinner in a restaurant filled with other vaccinated people.
No doubt some businesses will try to capitalize on keeping their doors open to unvaccinated consumers. It will be interesting to see how the government deals with that. But provided businesses and organizations clearly indicate they are following — or not following — provincial vaccine passport regulations, consumers can make an informed choice. We can patronize businesses and events where we feel relatively safe and avoid those where we do not.
Passports are just another tool, not unlike vaccination, distancing and masking. We will need all our tools in this fourth wave. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)