Nova Scotia·Nova Scotia Votes

Nova Scotia Liberals promise vaccine passport system if re-elected

The ScotiaPass would be entirely voluntary, but could be made mandatory if COVID-19 infections surge.

ScotiaPass would be voluntary for individuals, businesses and other organizations

A health department worker in Pennslyvania fills out a vaccination record card before administering the Moderna COVID-19 on Dec. 29, 2020. The Nova Scotia Liberals say they would enact a vaccine passport system if re-elected on Aug. 17. (Matt Slocum/The Associated Press)

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin is promising that a re-elected Liberal government would bring in a COVID-19 vaccine passport system.

On Monday, Rankin said individuals could use the proposed ScotiaPass as proof they are fully vaccinated, and businesses and other organizations would also be able to use the system to limit access to their services.

"Similar to Quebec, we're looking at identification for businesses to use, whether it's a restaurant or other high-risk areas of spread, to have this exact same system across the province," Rankin told reporters. 

"We would be looking at putting that in place in a proactive step to prevent a fourth wave." 

Although both a news release and Rankin's remarks talked about exploring "the concept of adopting a provincial vaccine certificate," the Liberal leader was unequivocal when responding to a reporter's question about whether this would happen.

"Yes, we'll have a ScotiaPass in place," he said.

Cost of system not yet known

Rankin said the system would be brought in as a voluntary measure, but the provincial government could make its use mandatory.

"If we see a surge in cases, we'll do whatever we have to do to keep Nova Scotians safe," said Rankin, adding that could mean forcing people to use the ScotiaPass system to access services.

"That would be in consultation with [Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health], looking at our epidemiology."

Sound Off: Election Edition - Episode 3

3 months ago
4:13
Party platforms, planks and political positions are coming into focus. In some cases, there are some interesting role reversals. 4:13

The Liberal platform, released last week, makes no mention of a vaccine passport, nor does it appear in the four-and-a-half page accounting document outlining the cost of their election promises.

Asked if this promise has costs associated with it, Rankin responded, "We're still in the exploratory stages and ensuring we have the right provider and then we'll have costs."

PCs, NDP critical of proposal

NDP Leader Gary Burrill would not commit to unilaterally bringing in a similar system if his party formed government.

"We think we need to first seek and follow the advice of public health," said Burrill. "We need to know what public health has to say about this kind of proposal at this stage of the game."

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston offered a similar response.

"We've been very clear on this. We're going to work with Dr. Strang," said Houston during a media availability. "We're going to listen to public health."

Both Houston and Burrill were critical of Rankin dropping this idea in the midst of an election campaign.

"I don't think it indicates the kind of grasp and soundness that we would look to see from a party that seeks to govern the province," said Burrill.

Houston said: "I'll just speak bluntly, our campaign is going very well and he's concerned heading into the last week of the campaign."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

now