Conservatives say they disagree with a committee of MPs that decides that only fully vaccinated MPs, staff and visitors can enter the House of Commons.
His objection represents the first challenge to Tuesday’s decision by the board of internal economy of all parties, the governing body of the Commons, that only people who are twice vaccinated will be allowed to enter the premises.
Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois agree that members of Parliament must be fully vaccinated to fill their seats, making it a rule for their candidates who ran in recent federal elections.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole did not, saying that while she encourages vaccines, she respects people’s individual health decisions.
In a statement, conservative whip Blake Richards said conservatives believe a negative COVID-19 rapid test result can ensure a workplace is safe.
Richards is one of two Conservative MPs on the nine-member home economics board. He said he could not discuss what happened behind closed doors, but his statement suggested that both Conservative MPs were opposed to the measure.
“While we encourage all who can be vaccinated to get vaccinated, we cannot agree that seven MPs, meeting in secret, decide which of the 338 MPs, newly elected by Canadians, can enter the House of Commons to represent their constituents, “he said. Wednesday.
O’Toole, who is vaccinated, has yet to say how many of his 118 elected members are fully immunized against COVID-19.
An analysis by The Canadian Press shows that at least 79 Conservative MPs are vaccinated, two MPs said they cannot do so for medical reasons, and a third reported being partially vaccinated with the intention of reserving a second vaccine.
Conservative reelected MP Rachael Harder of Alberta posted a photo of the Canadian Parliament building on Instagram Wednesday with a caption that read “freedom is…. the ability to maintain one’s beliefs without condemnation. “
The internal economy board of all parties has the authority to make decisions about the administration of the House of Commons, even when Parliament is not in session, under the Act of Parliament of Canada.
Hybrid Parliament is the safest to prevent MPs from becoming ‘vectors’ of spread of COVID-19: NDP #CDNPoli # COVID19
Heather Bradley, communications director for the Commons Speaker, said the board has “full authority” and “a mandate” to make such decisions.
The issue came to the fore on Wednesday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued to consult with opposition leaders on how the House of Commons should resume work and what the priorities should be once it is back in business.
He spoke separately with O’Toole, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Greens parliamentary leader Elizabeth May after speaking with Quebecois Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet on Tuesday.
In a reading provided by conservatives, O’Toole said he asked Trudeau during his appeal to “stop using vaccines as a gap policy tool and to prioritize addressing the problem of vaccine vacillation in Canada.”
He said he told Trudeau that conservatives would come up with ideas to reduce and address questions about vaccines in the coming weeks.
He asked the prime minister to immediately withdraw Parliament and end Canada’s recovery benefit, created to help people during the pandemic, on November 20. The reading said that Trudeau “did not respond.”
In its own statement on the call, Trudeau’s office said the prime minister emphasized the need for all MPs to be fully vaccinated in the House of Commons.
After his conversation with Trudeau, Singh said there is “no question” that requiring MPs to be fully vaccinated to be in the Commons is “the right decision.”
“It is an important measure to keep everyone safe,” he said at a virtual press conference.
As for Conservative MPs who have not been fully vaccinated or refuse to disclose their vaccination status, Singh said that is why his party supports the continuation of the hybrid format, in which MPs can participate in parliamentary proceedings virtually. from their homes or offices.
“I feel like the hybrid model is a way to ensure that people participate and can voice the concerns of their community without putting people at risk,” he said.
“There really is no question, as elected officials, we must show leadership and getting vaccinated is an important step in fighting this pandemic.”
Liberals also support resuming hybrid sessions, but Conservatives and Bloc oppose it.
Singh said it “doesn’t make a lot of sense” for conservatives to oppose the mandatory vaccination policy for the House of Commons precinct, even when they are pushing for a full return to normal in-person sessions.
But the whip tory Richards said in a statement: “Canadians deserve a government that is accountable to its constituents and that is why under no circumstances will conservatives support virtual parliament.”
During his call with Trudeau, Singh said he laid out the priorities the new Democrats want to see the action on as a sign that Liberals are willing to work with other parties to make minority Parliament work.
Among other things, the NDP wants the government to immediately extend various pandemic support benefits for individuals and businesses, provide funding to bolster the ranks of frontline healthcare workers, and abandon its judicial fight against compensation for Indigenous children. affected by the child welfare system.
The NDP is the minority government’s most likely dance partner to avoid defeat, but Singh cautioned that liberals should not take the support of the new Democrats for granted.
“Absolutely, we are prepared to vote against the government if they make the wrong decision, if they do something that hurts Canadians, and we will also be prepared to retain our support,” he said, adding that he is not resigning “any.” firm lines in the sand. “
“Our goal is to make Parliament work for the people … Our support will be there if it is to help the people.”
Trudeau’s office said it would work with MPs from all parties to ensure Canadians and businesses receive the support they need, in an apparent reference to the emergency benefits of COVID-19.
His office also posted a short reading of his conversation with May, saying that Trudeau emphasized that his priorities include addressing climate change, reducing emissions and protecting Canada’s Arctic.
Next week, the parties will begin formal talks on the shape of the new Parliament and whether MPs will attend in person or continue in a hybrid format, with some participating virtually.
NDP House Leader Peter Julian said conservatives’ concern that ministers were not present in sufficient numbers in the last Parliament was “valid.” But he said this could be resolved in talks, with guarantees from the government that ministers would be present for questioning.
He warned that having the 338 MPs “crammed into a small room” ran the risk of turning MPs into “vectors” of spreading COVID-19 across the country.
“Having 338 MPs in the House of Commons with the fourth wave, with cases on the rise in some parts of the country … you can imagine someone from one of the areas where the cases are on the rise coming to Ottawa and transmitting COVID and then others parliamentarians capture it and take it back to their end of the country where there is a lower transmission rate, ”he said.
Fully vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19 and potentially pass the virus to others, albeit at much lower rates than unvaccinated people.
NDP Deputy House Leader Lindsay Mathyssen said a virtual Parliament would also make the House more “equitable,” allowing parents with young children who may be ill to fully participate in the proceedings.
The decision of the internal economy board to require vaccination applies to all deputies, their staff, the staff of the political research office, employees of the administration, journalists, business visitors, contracts and consultants .
Anyone who has a medically valid reason not to get vaccinated will have the option to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test result.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 20, 2021.
– With files from Joan Bryden