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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Conservatives still considering position on federal vaccine policy, MP says

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OTTAWA — Conservative MP Michael Chong says the party is still studying the government’s new mandatory vaccine policy before taking a position on the issue.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Chong said the measure, announced last week, which requires “core” federal public servants to attest to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29, is vast and requires thorough review.

“It’s a sweeping announcement. It encompasses not just the federal public service but federally regulated workplaces, federally regulated sectors and encompasses travellers both domestic and international. And so we’re still studying the details of that proposal before we come to a conclusion,” he said.

Approximately 267,000 federal workers fall under the new policy announced Wednesday. Separate agencies and Crown corporations like the Canada Revenue Agency are being asked to implement vaccine policies mirroring the requirements.

Employees and passengers in the federally regulated air-, rail- and marine-transportation sectors will also have to be fully vaccinated as of Oct. 30.

Despite the fact that the Conservatives were subject to a series political attacks for not having a clear stance on mandatory vaccinations during the federal election campaign, Chong refuted the premise that the party is still vacillating on the issue.

“The vaccine mandates mean different things to different people, and the government’s announcement this week is all encompassing. It includes even non-citizens in this country who are departing Canada to return from holiday – that never came up during the campaign so it’s a broad announcement that we are taking time to study because it has so many different aspects,” he said.

In the context of the election, Chong refers to this issue – and that of gun control – as a “Liberal trap.”

“Those are issues that we didn’t think through, didn’t anticipate would become an issue when we wrote the [Conservative] platform,” he said.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole didn’t require his candidates to be fully vaccinated, unlike other parties. Questions about why he took that stance followed the leader for the entirety of the 36-day campaign.

Chong said he’s not aware who among his colleagues are vaccinated but that caucus will follow all public health guidelines.

“All Conservative MPs will follow the rules that have been put in place on Parliament Hill, and all the rules have been put in place by provincial and federal authorities when it comes to vaccinations,” he said.

While MPs don’t fall under the new mandate for federal workers, departmental staff do, as do administration staff in the House, Senate, and Library of Parliament.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that while many staff within the parliamentary precinct will be covered, because of parliamentary privilege, MPs will have to “figure out how to move forward,” specifically referencing members of the Conservative caucus.

“We know that all other MPs in this House will be vaccinated, so it is something for Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party to deal with. They will have MPs not able to get on planes to come to Ottawa if they’re unvaccinated. They will have MPs putting their fellow colleagues at risk in a large but closed, windowless room in the House of Commons, who may be sitting beside or near someone who is unvaccinated,” Trudeau said.

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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