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Canada's Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole speaks at the Westin hotel after Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an early election, in Ottawa, Aug. 15, 2021.LARS HAGBERG/The Canadian Press

Canada’s political parties are at odds over mandatory vaccination policies, with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau vowing “consequences” if people don’t comply with requirements, while the Conservatives accused the Liberals of a cover-up after a memo about mandatory vaccines was removed from the government’s website.

The issue of mandatory vaccinations has been front and centre during the first days of the election campaign, after Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals promised to bring in a mandate for public servants and domestic travellers, with few details of how it would be enforced.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives asked the interim clerk of the Privy Council for an “immediate investigation” into the removal of an online government memo that seemed to contradict the Liberals’ policy on mandatory vaccinations.

In a letter sent to interim clerk Janice Charette on Tuesday, Conservative MP and candidate Michael Barrett said there has been a “serious breach” of the caretaker convention, which requires a government to “act with restraint during an election period.”

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The Conservative Party is asking for a probe to identify all the individuals involved in the decision to remove the memo to determine if they were members of the bureaucracy or political staff and politicians. In his letter, Mr. Barrett asked that the investigation be conducted right away and that the findings be released before election day, Sept. 20.

Mr. Trudeau has made his party’s proposed vaccine mandate a key issue in the federal election campaign. The policy would apply to federal civil servants, federally regulated industries and travellers on domestic planes, buses, trains and cruise ships. It was announced by the government two days before Mr. Trudeau called a snap election on Sunday.

But in a memo to deputy ministers posted Friday, Christine Donoghue, the chief human resources officer of Canada, said the government would consider alternatives for people who refuse vaccination, “such as testing and screening.”

On Monday, the civil service said the memo was deleted because it was “inaccurate.”

In their letter requesting an investigation, the Conservatives accused the government of asking the bureaucracy “to intervene for partisan political purposes” in the middle of an election campaign.

“Vaccine policies are already a point of discussion within this election. On close inspection, the vaccine policy set by the Liberal government mirrors that of the Conservative Party of Canada, despite the Liberal Party of Canada’s unfounded critiques of our policy,” Mr. Barrett said.

At a Tuesday campaign stop in Markham, Ont., to promote his party’s $10-a-day child care plan, Mr. Trudeau told reporters the memo was taken down because it was erroneous and did not reflect government policy, adding that it was removed by the public service. He did not answer when asked directly whether his team had any role in the decision to take it down.

“The bottom line is, if anyone who doesn’t have a legitimate medical reason for not getting fully vaccinated chooses to not get vaccinated, there will be consequences,” he said, without elaborating. He also said the Liberal policy is not the same as that of the Conservatives.

“It would be great if they had the same position as us. It would be good for Canadians if they did,” he said. “They won’t even say whether or not all their candidates are fully vaccinated in this election.”

After repeatedly dodging questions about vaccines, the Conservatives said late Sunday that they would not implement a mandate but would require unvaccinated civil servants to take daily COVID-19 rapid tests and demand rapid tests or proof of a recent negative test for air and train passengers.

At a campaign stop in a hotel in Toronto on Tuesday, where he was promoting his plan to suspend the GST for purchases in retail stores this December at a cost of $1.5-billion, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole accused Mr. Trudeau of a cover-up.

“Mr. Trudeau needs to come clean with whether the plan that was on the website before he covered it up is actually their plan,” Mr. O’Toole said.

Mr. O’Toole repeated his view that vaccines are a critical tool, but said there are occasions where testing and masking may be a useful tool in dealing with COVID-19. “We need to bring people together, not divide,” he said. “Our plan is balanced, it’s reasonable.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says that any federal civil servants or employees who refuse to get vaccinated should face the possibility of discipline or even firing.

Mr. Singh, speaking Tuesday at a textiles factory in Coquitlam, B.C., to promote made-in-Canada personal protective equipment, said people have a choice not to get vaccinated, “but there will be consequences for those choices.”

“At the end of the day if someone doesn’t get vaccinated in places where we know they can put people at risk ... then they would not be able to continue working in those places,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet campaigned Tuesday in Montmagny, Que., east of Quebec City, in a riding the Conservatives won in 2019. The Bloc Leader criticized the Liberal government for limiting this week’s one-time $500 payment to seniors to those who are 75 and older.

Mr. Blanchet said the payment, which was announced in the April budget as a pandemic relief measure, creates “two classes” of seniors. In a statement, Mr. Blanchet said the timing of the payment, which comes during the first week of a federal election campaign, is “difficult to swallow,” but discriminates against seniors 65 to 74.

Mr. Blanchet also took on Mr. Trudeau’s vaccination plan, saying it appears to be voluntary and not mandatory. “It isn’t clear what he is saying here.”

With reports from Bill Curry and Robert Fife in Ottawa

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