When Parliament resumes on November 22, no one will be able to enter the House of Commons compound unless fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
That could present a problem for conservative leader Erin O’Toole, who has declined to say how many of her 118 MPs are fully vaccinated.
O’Toole has personally supported vaccines, but has opposed making them mandatory, arguing that people’s personal health decisions should be respected.
All other parties support mandatory vaccination and say that all of their MPs have received two injections of a Health Canada-approved vaccine.
Spokesman Anthony Rota announced Tuesday night that the all-party internal economics board has decided that only fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to enter the House of Commons compound.
That includes members of Parliament, their staff, employees of political research offices, administration employees, journalists, parliamentary business visitors, contractors and consultants.
The compound includes all the buildings on Parliament Hill that house the House of Commons, as well as the parliamentarians’ offices and the Commons committee rooms.
The venue will be closed to the public and any authorized person must wear a mask, except when in a workplace that allows a physical distance of two meters.
The Senate will make its own decision on whether proof of vaccination will be required for admission to the upper house, its offices and committee rooms.
In the Commons compound, exceptions will be made for people who have a medical exemption from vaccination. They will have the option of providing proof of a recent negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test result.
Children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccinations, will also be exempt.
Only fully vaccinated people can enter the House of Commons compound. #CDNPoli # COVID19
The Conservatives have two representatives on the internal economy board. It was not immediately clear whether they agreed with the decision to admit only fully vaccinated people to the Commons compound.
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebecois bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet agreed during a phone conversation that only fully vaccinated people should be allowed into the Commons.
“My impression is that the internal economy board has so much authority, and my intuition is: let’s go ahead, we are doing it,” Blanchet said in a telephone interview before the board’s decision was announced.
“If there are those who want to challenge him, they will.”
Blanchet had little apparent sympathy for the dilemma the decision presents for O’Toole.
“Conservatives will have to take responsibility,” he said. “We are not going to start solving the problems of the Conservatives for the Conservatives.”
At last count, 79 of the 119 Conservative MPs have confirmed to The Canadian Press that they are fully vaccinated. Of the other 40, two have refused to disclose their status on principle and another 38 have not responded.
Trudeau is scheduled to speak to O’Toole and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh separately on Wednesday. He will also speak with the Parliamentary Leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May.
Among other things, the talks are aimed at finding out if the House of Commons should return on November 22 in the same hybrid format used during the pandemic last year, with few MPs in the House and most participating virtually from their homes. or offices. – or resume normal sessions in person.
A spokesman for the leader of the Government Chamber, Pablo Rodríguez, said Tuesday that the minority liberal government would prefer to continue with hybrid sessions.
“We believe the hybrid House of Commons performed well earlier this year. We support the continuation of hybrid House sessions and the use of technology to ensure that Parliament continues to perform well for all Canadians,” said Simon Ross. .
“Hybrid sessions allow flexibility for MPs to adapt to changing COVID-19 circumstances across the country.”
The new Democrats also favor the resumption of hybrid sessions, but the bloc and the Conservatives have called for a return in person. However, O’Toole may still be forced to accept a hybrid format as the only way to ensure that unvaccinated MPs can participate.
Among the other issues discussed with Trudeau on Tuesday, Blanchet said he suggested that the prime minister expand a promised federal-provincial meeting on health transfers to become a summit on health care financing.
Blanchet is calling for a summit before the end of the year that will bring together all the prime ministers and provincial health ministers, as well as opposition parties.
Trudeau’s reaction to the idea? “He took note of that,” Blanchet said, but the Prime Minister’s Office did not mention it in a reading of the two leaders’ conversation.
The PMO reading said the two discussed the importance of addressing climate change and Blanchet said he thinks they can find common ground on the issue.
“I’m not aware of Mr. Trudeau’s long-term plans, but he may want to have a meaningful mandate on the environment and climate change,” Blanchet said. “If this is really their will, we can talk to each of them.” other.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 19, 2021.