The vast majority of Conservative candidates are not disclosing their vaccination status, even as their party leader has championed vaccinations as key to getting through the pandemic.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said if his party wins government, it would ensure the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rate goes above 90 per cent, but he is the only leader of a major federal party not to disclose the vaccination status of his own candidates.
The NDP and Bloc Québécois both say all of their candidates are vaccinated. The Liberals say all but one of their candidates are vaccinated – the sole exception is someone with a medical exemption.
The Globe and Mail contacted all Conservative candidates who had publicly listed e-mail addresses and asked the party for the vaccination status of the candidates who did not have public e-mail addresses. The party did not respond to the request.
Of the party’s 336 candidates, 49 (15 per cent) said they are fully vaccinated. The remaining did not respond to The Globe.
One Conservative candidate said the central campaign had told candidates not to respond to The Globe’s questions. The Globe is not disclosing the person’s name because they were not permitted to discuss internal party matters.
At a candidates’ forum for Alberta’s Bow River riding on Tuesday, livestreamed on Facebook by the Brooks & District Chamber of Commerce, Conservative candidate Martin Shields told the audience the party has not asked for his vaccination status.
“It isn’t an issue in our party – it’s your choice,” Mr. Shields said. His campaign did not respond to The Globe’s request for comment about his vaccination status.
Mr. Shields, who was first elected in 2015, also told the forum that he disagrees with vaccine passports, comparing them to interprovincial trade barriers. “The problem we’ve got already in this country is we’ve got more barriers between our provinces with trade than we do with other countries in the world. This is not another layer for us to add on,” he said.
Conservative candidate Scott Aitchison, who is running for re-election in Ontario in the riding of Parry Sound–Muskoka, told The Globe he was glad to get his shots, but said he’s concerned that the issue is being “weaponized” by both the Liberals and the People’s Party of Canada, and criticized the media for doing the same.
“I think it’s important for us to be encouraging people to get vaccinated, but the fact that it’s been weaponized the way it has, it’s just ratcheted up the rhetoric and people are getting their backs up,” he said. “I’m double-vaxxed, but I also respect the people that are afraid of it.”
A fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is surging in Canada, and is mostly affecting people who are not vaccinated. The Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Alberta are currently experiencing the worst case rates. Premier Jason Kenney this week urged Albertans to get their shots as the province’s health care system struggles to care for people sick with COVID-19 who are filling up hospitals and ICUs.
Most provinces are implementing some form of a vaccine passport to access non-essential services and businesses. For most of the pandemic, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had rejected the idea of mandatory vaccinations, but reversed course just before the federal election. On Aug. 13, the government said travellers on domestic planes, interprovincial trains and cruise ships would need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The government also said it would make vaccinations mandatory for federal public servants, and it expected the same for federally regulated industries and Crown corporations.
Mr. O’Toole rejects that proposal, and says testing should be an alternative for people who don’t want to get vaccinated. That policy stance has been heavily criticized by the Liberals. As more provinces roll out rules for mandatory vaccinations, Mr. O’Toole has repeatedly defended his position on the campaign trail.
“I think you should get vaccinated. They’re safe and effective for use,” Mr. O’Toole said on Sept. 12. “We have an ambitious plan to get to 90 per cent [vaccination], by working together. Not by causing division, not by trying to scare people, but by answering questions. And what we need to do is respect that people will make their personal health decisions.”
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