It didn’t take long for the topic of vaccine mandates for travellers and federal workers to become an issue in the Canadian federal election campaign.
“We chose to make sure that federal public servants and everyone boarding a train or a plane be vaccinated. Not everyone agrees. Not every political party agrees,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from the steps of Rideau Hall Sunday, just minutes after asking Governor General Mary Simon Sunday to dissolve Parliament so that an election could be held on September 20.
“Canadians should be able to weigh in on that, and on so much more,” he said.
The following day, his main political rival, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said he opposes the mandate that would require public servants and travellers to be vaccinated and would instead institute rapid testing.
“What (Canadians) 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 told CBC News. “Conservatives will not engage in this attempt to drive a wedge between Canadians.”
The vaccination mandate could be enforced by the end of October.
According to a CBC News report, Liberal and NDP candidates must be fully vaccinated to run for election while the Conservative, Green and Bloc Québécois parties recommend them, but don’t require them, for their candidates.
The ruling Liberal Party has also said that it was working with Canada’s international partners on instituting a vaccine passport for international travellers and is working with the provinces to synchronize such a passport with their own provincial vaccination documentation systems.
Quebec was the first province to announce that it would institute a vaccine passport as an alternative to lockdowns, but many oppose the idea, saying that it will create two classes of people.
“This is a democracy and we need to conduct debates,” said Liberal Opposition Leader Dominique Anglade in the Montreal Gazette Saturday.
“Unfortunately there are a number of debates which we were not able to have in the last few months because the CAQ refused. An example of that is the (vaccine) passport. We should have had the debate months ago. We asked for it in May and they didn’t want to go ahead,” she said.
With the the fourth wave of the pandemic underway and likely to be surging throughout the campaign, it will be interesting to see how the parties’ messages evolve.