Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday August 17, 2021
Erin O’Toole opposes mandatory vaccination for federal public servants, travellers
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said late Sunday he is opposed to mandatory vaccinations for federal public servants and instead prefers a regular rapid testing regime to keep workplaces safe from COVID-19.
O’Toole ducked questions for nearly a week about the Liberal government’s plan to implement a vaccine mandate for bureaucrats, transportation workers and most passengers travelling by air and rail, a program Ottawa says will help boost stalled vaccination rates at a time when COVID-19 case counts are on the rise.
O’Toole said the Liberal plan is a divisive one and Canadians instead “want a reasonable and balanced approach that protects their right to make personal health decisions.”
Rather than require public servants and travellers to get a shot, O’Toole said, if elected, he’d demand they pass a rapid test before going to work or boarding a bus, train, plane or ship.
“What they do not want is the politicization of the pandemic. Vaccines are not a political issue. To try and make them one is dangerous and irresponsible,” O’Toole said.
“We should be united on this, not divided, and Conservatives will not engage in this attempt to drive a wedge between Canadians.”
Asked later about the party’s position during a virtual press conference with reporters, O’Toole said that while Conservatives encourage everyone eligible to get a shot, “Canadians have the right to make their own health care decisions.”
“We have a reasonable and effective approach that respects Canadians” who cannot or will not get a shot, O’Toole said.
The Conservatives have been highly critical of the government’s handling of the immunization campaign and the procurement process for COVID-19 shots, suggesting for weeks that Canada was at the “back of the line” on deliveries, that the government “botched” the vaccine rollout and that it may not be “until 2030” that people are vaccinated.
After a slow start in the early months of this year, Canada is now a world leader in immunizations with more than 81 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated with at least one dose. But the pace of administering doses has slowed considerably since a blitz in April and May, with well below 100,000 first shots handed out each day.
Based on a CBC News estimate, more than 5.7 million eligible Canadians have still not received a dose even though there is ample supply in virtually all parts of the country. (CBC)