Conservatives say all 338 members of parliament must be able to vote on whether they must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the House of Commons.
Tory whip Blake Richards on Tuesday asked Commons Speaker Anthony Rota to rule that the nine-member, multi-party body that governs the House does not have the authority to impose a vaccine mandate on all MPs.
The Conservatives’ complaint represents the latest chapter in their three-month battle with compulsory vaccinations in general, which first emerged as a topic during the September election campaign. It has since developed into a leadership challenge for Erin O’Toole, who has faced calls for his term of office to be reassessed after the party’s election loss.
He refuses to say how many of his 118 MPs have been double-vaccinated against COVID-19, or how many have demanded medical exemptions, saying he respects their right to privacy.
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O’Toole is the only federal leader to have taken that stance, which has exposed him to attacks from the Liberals as well as from the New Democrats, who accuse the Conservatives of wanting special treatment.
The other parties say all their MPs are fully vaccinated and support mandatory vaccination for admission into the Commons area.
Since the mandatory vaccination policy was announced last month, some conservatives have strongly opposed vaccination-proof policies to enter companies and workplaces. while others have expressed concern that internal disputes over the matter have become a distraction.
O’Toole tried to find a middle ground by formally agreeing to challenge the vaccine mandate for MPs, while promising that all conservatives would follow the rules in the meantime.
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On Tuesday, Richards stressed that the Conservatives believe in being vaccinated against COVID-19 and that the shots are the best way to end the pandemic.
What he questioned is the way in which the decision to introduce a vaccine mandate was made.
Last month, the Board of Directors of the Internal Economy voted in a policy that requires those who enter all buildings in the House of Commons area to provide proof of vaccination or have a medical exemption.
Richards said he and the other Conservative MP who attended the meeting abstained.
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He argued that the board lacked jurisdiction to make such a decision, which has “far-reaching constitutional consequences” because it affects MPs’ access to parliament.
He raised the issue as a privilege on Tuesday, saying he wants to see all MPs decide on a “vaccination or test mandate” to enter the chamber and other parliamentary buildings.
“This is a balance that we can find and a balance that we can find,” Richards argued in the Commons late Tuesday.
Rota took Richards’ arguments into consideration and will take a position on the matter at a later date.
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While O’Toole for weeks faced questions about how many of his MPs were fully vaccinated, he is now under pressure from the Liberals to say how many have demanded medical exemption.
The head of the Government House, Mark Holland, opened the new parliament on Monday by suggesting that it is statistically unlikely for the conservative caucus to have more members with legitimate medical reasons for not being vaccinated.
An analysis by The Canadian Press showed that at least two of the 119 Conservative MPs have said they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, while 83 others said they have both received their shots. The others have not disclosed their status publicly, and some like Ontario MP Leslyn Lewis say they believe the information is private.
O’Toole did not respond on Tuesday when asked again how many of his members have medical exemptions, but said the Conservatives worked with officials on Parliament Hill to ensure they met public health requirements, expressing disappointment with the Liberals’ proposal. , that these officials did not. perform their work properly.
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