OTTAWA – After weeks of sidestepping questions about the vaccination status of her MPs, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole now says they are either fully inoculated against COVID-19 or have medical exemptions.
That means the 119-member conservative party caucus will take their seats in the House of Commons on Monday, O’Toole told Radio Canada’s “Les coulisses du pouvoir” in an interview to air Sunday.
“All our parliamentarians will be there”, CBC reported told presenter Daniel Thibeualt when repeatedly asked how many MPs were not fully vaccinated.
When asked if that meant that all Conservative MPs had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or had received a medical exemption to be vaccinated, O’Toole replied, “Exactly.”
But when asked on Friday to confirm his statement, that all Conservative MPs would be in the House of Commons on Monday because they are fully vaccinated or have an exemption, O’Toole’s office did not repeat the leader’s comments.
“As Mr. O’Toole has said on numerous occasions, all Conservative Members of Parliament will respect and abide by the vaccination rules of the House of Commons,” spokesman Mathew Clancy said in an email.
The rules were established by the all-party board of the internal economics committee that oversees the administration and finances of the House of Commons.
They state that as of Monday, all MPs must have proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the Parliament buildings; Members with a “medical contraindication” will be able to provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter.
O’Toole has been repeatedly pressed on the vaccination status of his MPs, dating back to the first days of the election campaign last summer, when he was quick to define a position on mandatory vaccinations.
The conservative position – the party supported and endorsed the use of vaccines, but believed that no one should be required to take them when rapid tests can be used instead – would be used as a political attack by rivals, who insisted in which the mandates were required.
After the elections and the imposition by the Liberals of vaccination mandates for travelers and public servants, the internal parliamentary commission adopted the same rule for Parliament.
When the Conservative MP on that committee objected, O’Toole said his group would respect the rule, but would also challenge the way it was enforced.
At all times, O’Toole has refused to give a clear answer when asked exactly how many Conservative MPs are or are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
At a recent press conference, he told reporters in French that “all” of his MPs would be vaccinated when the House of Commons returned.
But when asked to clarify in English, he said that all of his MPs participating in Parliament would be vaccinated, without specifying whether that also meant that some would not actually be able to participate.
The number of MPs who are not vaccinated or who have a medical exemption has been estimated at fewer than five to a dozen.
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