Kitchener-Waterloo

Cambridge MPP calls new rule at Queen's Park mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccination 'disgraceful'

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios says a new rule that MPPs must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result before entering Queen’s Park as of Monday is “undemocratic.” But Speaker Ted Arnott, who implemented the rule, says it's his duty to ensure the Legislature is 'safe for all.'

'We will continue to seek to ensure that the Legislature is safe for all,' Speaker Ted Arnott says

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios says a new rule that MPPs must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result before entering Queen’s Park as of Monday is “undemocratic.” But Speaker Ted Arnott, who implemented the rule, says it's his duty to ensure the Legislature is 'safe for all.' (Ed Middleton/CBC)

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios calls a new rule that anyone entering Queen's Park as of Monday must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result "disgraceful" and "undemocratic."

In an open letter on her Facebook page, Karahalios said she questioned whether the rule is legal.

Karahalios is a former Progressive Conservative MPP who was removed from caucus after voting against the party in July 2020. She has since formed the New Blue Party with her husband, Jim Karahalios.

Her statement says the move "eliminates criticism of the ruling PC party by blocking elected representatives from the legislature."

Karahalios has also been a vocal critic of mandatory vaccinations or asking people to disclose proof of vaccination for any situation.

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios is seen here speaking at a panel on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition in June 2019. She has been a vocal opponent of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

In a letter dated Sept. 24, Speaker Ted Arnott wrote to three MPPs who had previously written to him about needing strict rules on proof of vaccination, one of which was Green Party of Ontario Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner.

In the letter, Arnott, who is also the MPP for Wellington-Halton Hills, said it's believed that about 98 per cent of MPPs are fully vaccinated or cannot be for medical reasons.

"This is an appropriate display of leadership during this challenging time," Arnott wrote.

"These new entry requirements will add an additional layer of safety and seek to ensure that the Assembly Precinct is safe for everyone. By allowing entry to the building with a recent, negative COVID test, we endeavour to balance the safety of all building occupants with the parliamentary privilege enjoyed by those elected to serve here."

In an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo, Arnott said he appreciates the feedback of MPPs.

"However, we will continue to seek to ensure that the Legislature is safe for all, and the privileges of Members to participate in the proceedings are upheld," he wrote.

"I have a responsibility for the health and safety of everyone who enters and works in the Assembly. I also have full legal authority to decide on the COVID-19 safety protocols we have adopted, and which take effect next week."

MPPs are set to return to Queen's Park on Monday.

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