Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole wouldn’t say Monday how many of his candidates are vaccinated, leaving his party the only one not to disclose the information even as it pledges to get more than 90 per cent of eligible Canadians vaccinated if elected.
The NDP and Bloc Québécois both say all of their candidates are vaccinated. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Monday all but one of his candidates is vaccinated, the sole exception is someone with a medical exemption. On Monday, Mr. O’Toole said he will leave the choice to get vaccinated up to individual candidates.
“Our approach with respect to vaccinations is we try to encourage and inform and work with people, but we will respect their personal health decisions,” the Conservative Leader said during an announcement in Ottawa.
”So that’s why mandatory, daily rapid-testing is also a critical part of our national campaign.”
Mr. Trudeau, whose public events have been besieged by anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters throughout the election campaign, accused the Conservative Leader of pandering to the “the far-right, anti-vaxx wing of his party.”
“He’s still trying to pretend that testing is as good as vaccines, which is ridiculous,” the Liberal Leader said Monday at a campaign event in Welland, Ont., in Niagara Region.
During a brief visit to a restaurant patio in Newmarket in the Greater Toronto Area on Sunday, Mr. Trudeau was met by a group of angry protesters, who were screaming and chanting obscenities, with some holding signs for the anti-vaccination, anti-establishment People’s Party of Canada.
He also faced protests outside of his Welland, Brantford and London Ont., events on Monday. As he left a small brewery in London, protesters lobbed small rocks from a gravel driveway at him and his detail, striking a news photographer. Mr. Trudeau later said a small amount of gravel might have struck him but he didn’t feel it.
Earlier, Mr. Trudeau called the protesters a “small fringe element” and said he won’t back down from his positions.
“I will not allow those voices … I don’t even want to call them protesters. Those anti-vaxxer mobs, to dictate how this country gets through this pandemic,” he said.
On Saturday, Mr. O’Toole said if elected his government would hit more than 90-per-cent vaccination coverage across Canada within two months in order to tackle COVID-19 and better protect Canadians against a surging fourth wave.
The Conservative Party pointed reporters to comments from renowned American Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House, who said 90-per-cent coverage would be needed. So far 77 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, according to the COVID-19 Tracker cited by the Public Health Agency of Canada on Friday.
The party said it would hit the higher vaccination target with a national marketing campaign and mailers (both of which have already been done by the federal government). The Conservatives also said they would address vaccine hesitancy among groups that have been disenfranchised by the health care system because of a history of mistreatment, and provide paid time off and free transportation to vaccine clinics.
Mr. O’Toole was asked by a reporter on Monday how his candidates, who are hoping to represent Canadians in the House of Commons, have explained their decision not to accept the COVID-19 shots.
“I think the big difference between Justin Trudeau and myself is I respect people, even if we may differ on something and that means respecting personal decisions and personal approach to finding out about vaccines and to having any hesitancy or questions answered,” Mr. O’Toole said in response.
He also said it was “troubling” to see Mr. Trudeau campaigning at a downtown Toronto hospital in the middle of a pandemic on Sunday, saying it was “completely disconnected from the needs of Canadians.”
The University Health Network’s visitation policy during the pandemic excludes members of the public and says only patients with appointments and essential care partners, such as a family member and friend, can attend the hospital.
Mr. Trudeau on Monday said his team worked with the hospital to ensure public-health measures were followed. He said he wanted to pay tribute to front-line health care workers “who are doing unbelievably hard work to continue to keep Canadians safe even in this fourth wave of the unvaccinated.”
Kevin Smith, President and CEO of UHN, told The Globe and Mail on Sunday that the hospital’s policy during the election is to welcome any political leader who wants to come and discuss health care issues.
Labour Day marked exactly two weeks until election day and all three major party leaders spent Monday highlighting their policies targeted at workers.
Mr. O’Toole said a Conservative government would double the Canada Workers Benefit up to a maximum of $2,800 for individuals or $5,000 for families and would pay the benefit quarterly rather than annually through a tax refund. He said his party would also double the disability supplement from $713 to $1,500.
Mr. Trudeau spoke in Welland, which is home to some of Ontario’s steel industry, where he touted his government’s record of retaliating against former U.S. president Donald Trump’s 2017 steel tariffs against Canada.
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appeared in Hamilton, Ont., where he took aim at Mr. Trudeau over the Liberal campaign promise to implement 10 paid sick days for federal workers, despite declining to do so while in government.
“That is cynical politics. That shows entirely that Mr. Trudeau’s all for show,” Mr. Singh said.
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