Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday October 21, 2021
Vaccine mandate coming to House of Commons, MPs rule
Anyone entering the House of Commons precinct — including MPs — will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Nov. 22, the Board of Internal Economy has ordered.
The new rule starts on the day the 44th Parliament kicks off.
“This requirement will apply to any person who wishes to enter the House of Commons precinct, including members and their staff, political research office employees, administration employees, members of the parliamentary press gallery, parliamentary business visitors, contractors and consultants,” said Speaker Anthony Rota in a statement.
The cross-party committee of MPs that oversees the workings of the House of Commons made this decision following a two-hour closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
“Details with respect to the implementation of the Board’s decision are being developed and will be communicated in due course,” reads the Speaker’s statement. “These decisions were made to meet ongoing recommendations from public health authorities to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the work environment.”
The House is considering people to be fully vaccinated 14 days after they have received the recommended doses of one or a combination of Health Canada-approved vaccines.
The decision to include MPs as part of the vaccination mandate comes amid discussions over parliamentary privilege and whether there would be a different set of rules for elected officials than there would be for those around them.
The Liberals, New Democrats, and Bloc Quebecois have said that all their MPs are fully vaccinated, though the Conservatives have continued to refuse to say how many of their MPs are vaccinated. Given the timing of this order coming into effect, it’s possible unvaccinated Conservatives would not be able to enter the House of Commons next month unless they have a medical exemption.
According to the new policy, in cases of individuals who have a “medical contraindication,” they will have to provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test to be able to enter the buildings that are part of the House precinct. These requirements to get on the Hill will not apply to anyone under the age of 12.
This news follows the federal government announcing on Oct. 6 that “core” federal public servants will have to attest to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29 or face being put on leave without pay by Nov. 15.
While the House of Commons and Senate were not part of that mandate, they were among the federal employers asked to mirror the government’s vaccine policy in developing their own approaches. (CTV)