Canada's Conservatives face questions over lawmakers' vaccination status

  • World
  • Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021

FILE PHOTO: The House of Commons is seen before the opening of the 44th Parliament on November 22, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada November 19, 2021. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Liberals questioned on Monday whether rival Conservatives - the largest opposition party - were being honest about the vaccination status of its lawmakers as parliament reconvened after the September election.

Parliamentary rules require that all lawmakers be inoculated against COVID-19, a policy supported by every party except the Conservatives.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau narrowly won the September election and ended up with another minority government forcing him to depend on opposition parties to pass legislation.

Over the weekend, Conservative leader Erin O'Toole said all his lawmakers have been vaccinated or had secured a medical exemption.

"Every member is in compliance" with the House rules on vaccination "as far as we know", Jake Enright, a Conservative spokesman, said on Monday. One vaccinated member who recently contracted COVID-19 is in quarantine, he added.

Some Conservative lawmakers will not be present on Monday and "are away due to reasons unrelated to COVID-19 or the House of Commons vaccine mandate", another Conservative spokesperson, Josie Sabatino, said.

"The likelihood that you have a medical exemption from the vaccination is one to five in 100,000," said Mark Holland, the Liberal government leader in the House. "The Conservative caucus is 119 people, (so) statistically the likelihood that they would have multiple people who are extraordinarily low."

The Liberals have one member who was granted a medical exemption, but the House speaker's office did not immediately respond when asked how many total exemptions there had been among the 338 members.

Trudeau has been exploiting divisions in the Conservative over vaccines as O'Toole fends off calls by some for a leadership review given the election loss. Trudeau's government is putting some 13,000 civil servants on unpaid leave because of their refusal to get inoculated, a move supported by 70% of Canadians, according to a recent EKOS Research poll.

Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh also weighed in on Monday, accusing Conservatives of "not wanting to keep their colleagues safe" and showing "their complete lack of understanding what people are going through a complete lack of priorities."

(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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