Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet believes that members of Parliament who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 should not be permitted to sit in the House of Commons.
I would go further. Any member of Parliament who is not vaccinated or who is not taking steps to become vaccinated should resign.
According to party leaders, all Liberal, Bloc and NDP MPs are vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption. But during the election campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole would not say whether all Conservative candidates had received their shots.
There are now 119 duly elected Conservative MPs. Any of them who are unvaccinated should be expelled from caucus. And whoever is the next Speaker of the House of Commons should prohibit such members from being physically present in the House.
Chelsea Tucker, director of communications for Mr. O’Toole, said by e-mail Thursday that “we encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated. Conservatives will continue to respect all public-health guidelines.”
Well, the guidelines are pretty clear. Ottawa Public Health regulations require proof of vaccination for anyone entering “meeting and event spaces, including conference and convention centres.” What possible reason could there be to exempt the House of Commons from that rule?
The Board of Internal Economy, which is chaired by the Speaker, sets the rules for the House of Commons. Once the new Parliament is constituted, the board should impose a vaccination requirement for MPs, staff, journalists and anyone else entering the precinct, unless they have a valid, certified, exemption.
Any parliamentarian who is unvaccinated puts other people at risk. This includes children, for whom there is not yet a vaccine approved, those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and vaccinated people, who can still acquire and transmit the virus, though the symptoms for the vaccinated are generally mild.
The unvaccinated pool of the population affords opportunity for the virus to mutate, perhaps into a form that could resist existing vaccines. Unvaccinated patients with severe COVID-19 infections clog hospitals, forcing the cancellation of elective procedures. Hip-replacement surgery is anything but elective when it’s your hip.
Anyone who is qualified but refuses to take a COVID-19 vaccine is a menace to public health. Such people are not fit for elected office.
There may be MPs who believe that refusing to receive the vaccine is an assertion of liberty. Sure, whatever. But your liberty does not entitle you to put the health of others at risk. That’s why so many employers are demanding that workers be vaccinated before they return to the workplace. You want to be unvaccinated and free? Then go sit in your basement. Stay away from Parliament Hill.
Perhaps you are a member of Parliament who is genuinely vaccine hesitant, who fears the possible side-effects and who would prefer not to expose yourself to such a risk. If you are that MP, get over yourself. Whatever your fears, you have a duty to your constituents, to Parliament, to the country. All political parties represented in the House are urging everyone who can to be vaccinated. How dare you undermine that message. You ran for office because you wanted to serve the people. So serve. Do your duty. Get your shots.
Mr. Blanchet also urged an end to hybrid sittings, in which some MPs sit in the House and others attend virtually. We should think twice about that. It might be desirable for certain MPs, who are far from Ottawa, who may not be feeling well, or who have other pressing issues, to attend virtually in the future. We’re all trying to figure out what the next normal will look like.
But attending the House online should not be a way for MPs who refuse to be vaccinated to avoid their responsibilities. Others should not be forced to work harder because of their truancy.
The Conservative caucus meets in person Oct. 5. At that meeting, Mr. O’Toole should make it clear that anyone who is not vaccinated by the time the 44th Parliament is inaugurated later this fall will be expelled from the Conservative caucus.
And we might ask those MPs one parting question: Why didn’t you think this through before you ran?
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