Leslyn Lewis, an MP who gained a prominent political profile as a contender in last year’s federal Conservative leadership race, is using social media to defend the rights of those who do not declare their vaccination status.
In tweets over the past few days, the MP for the Ontario riding of Haldimand-Norfolk and one of the few Black members of Parliament, also says she will not allow the media and power structure to compel her to “sit in the back of the bus” or “lynch me into silence.”
Instead, Ms. Lewis said, “I will always tell Canadians the truth & no bully or threats will succeed against us.”
The all-party Board of Internal Economy, which is chaired by Speaker Anthony Rota and governs administrative issues related to the House of Commons, has declared individuals must be fully vaccinated to enter the House of Commons precinct as of Nov. 22, when the house resumes sitting after the Sept. 20 election. A Conservative MP on the board, party whip Blake Richards, had suggested the decision was made behind closed doors over his party’s objections.
On Twitter, Ms. Lewis said it is misguided to assume that those who stand up for medical privacy aren’t vaccinated. “Canadian law has long established the importance of medical privacy, and many Canadians, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, are united in the fight to uphold democracy and freedom.”
Ms. Lewis was dismissive of the board in a statement provided on Monday to The Globe and Mail in response to written questions.
“The Liberal-dominated Board of Internal Economy handles the House of Commons’ financial and administrative affairs. They don’t have the authority to bypass the constitution, and overrule the decisions of Canadian voters,” the statement said.
“With most MPs having been vaccinated and the availability of rapid testing for those who are not, the House of Commons can and should operate as normal. This is what we campaigned on as the Conservative Party – that we would respect the medical decisions that Canadians make. I’m glad that our leader has upheld this standard for our caucus.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said last week that his party would respect the vaccination ruling, telling the TVO program The Agenda with Steve Paikin that the Speaker had ruled, “and we will respect that.”
But Mr. O’Toole’s spokesperson Mathew Clancy said in a subsequent statement that while the Conservatives support the board’s jurisdiction to manage the Parliamentary precinct, they do not accept that it can infringe on a member’s right to take their seat in the Commons.
Ms. Lewis, a lawyer, placed third in the Conservative leadership race last year. Before she dropped off the third and final ballot, she had won the popular vote and beat former cabinet minister Peter MacKay and Mr. O’Toole in the four western provinces. She ran with the support of social conservatives and raised $2-million.
After the leadership race, she was acclaimed as the party candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk and won the Conservative stronghold with 47 per cent of the vote, compared with 28 per cent for her nearest rival, a Liberal.
Ms. Lewis also said in her recent tweets that parents are concerned about vaccinating their children against COVID-19 without long-term data. “Never have Canadian children been used as shields for adults,” she wrote, a day after the federal government announced it will have enough Pfizer doses to vaccinate children ages five to 11 soon after approval from Health Canada. Ms. Lewis linked to a news segment about the announcement in her tweet.
Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu retweeted that tweet because, she said, she’s been hearing similar worries from parents about vaccination. “It may have no impact, or it may have an impact, but parents are concerned,” the Sarnia-Lambton member said in an interview with The Globe. “And so our job as MPs is to raise those concerns and make sure that people are aware of them.”
Ms. Gladu had actually retweeted a comment that quoted Ms. Lewis’s original tweet in order to question it. However, Ms. Gladu said that was a mistake and she meant to share just Ms. Lewis’s words.
Ms. Gladu’s tweet has now been deleted.
When asked if she herself is vaccinated, Ms. Gladu said she hasn’t revealed her status publicly.
“I’m standing as well on the principle that we have medical privacy in this country,” she said. “So people will know if I show up in the house on Nov. 22.”
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