O'Toole still won't say if all Conservative MPs are vaccinated, insists those attending Commons will be
Conservative leader says prime minister should be 'ashamed' for 'politicizing vaccines'
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is refusing to say how many of his MPs have been vaccinated against COVID-19 but is promising that all who do attend the House of Commons in person will be fully vaccinated.
"I put forward a plan and the caucus agreed to respect and abide by new rules which require parliamentarians attending the House of Commons ... to be vaccinated," O'Toole said earlier today after meeting with caucus members.
Earlier this month, members of the Board of Internal Economy, the House of Commons' governing body, announced that most MPs — and anyone else entering the House of Commons — will have to be fully vaccinated when the House returns Nov. 22.
The Conservative leader has objected to the process used to establish that new rule, saying the question should be settled by all 338 elected MPs, not by the Commons' governing body.
O'Toole doubled down on that position today, saying that "only the House of Commons itself can determine its composition and its conduct" and that his party would call for a vote on the new rules as soon as possible.
His party is likely to lose that vote. All of the other parties represented in the House of Commons say they support the new rule.
O'Toole was asked several times by journalists today if all Conservative MPs have been vaccinated. He refused to answer, saying only that all Conservative MPs attending the House of Commons will be vaccinated.
O'Toole said that he's fully vaccinated and called on everyone who has not yet received both shots to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
But he also accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of "politicizing" vaccination by pushing for mandatory vaccine rules.
"Justin Trudeau should, frankly, be ashamed of himself for politicizing vaccines and dividing Canadians at a time [when] we need to come together," he said.
O'Toole opposed to virtual House
The Conservative leader also dodged questions about whether Conservative MPs who do not attend the House in person because they are unvaccinated would instead participate in debates virtually.
"I am not in favour of a virtual Parliament. Conservatives want to see a return of Parliament and its committees to normal," O'Toole said, adding that Trudeau has used the virtual Parliament as a tool to avoid scandal.
"We will not allow Mr. Trudeau to hide behind a lack of accountability in the House of Commons and our team, both the Commons and Senate, will respect the rules," he said.
MPs must soon decide whether to continue with the hybrid Parliament model, which sees some MPs participating virtually while others attend in person.
Watch: O'Toole addresses mandatory vaccination policy for MPs in House of Commons:
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said earlier today that he wants the hybrid Parliament to continue — because of the threat still posed by the pandemic and because it provides other benefits.
"I think hybrid Parliament has opened up the door to more participation," he said. "It allows for members of Parliament with maybe young families, people that have other obligations, to be able to participate."
Singh said the internal Conservative debate over vaccination "really shows that the Official Opposition is … focusing on themselves, rather than being there for people and fighting for people."
Conservative MPs entering today's caucus meeting gave varying responses to reporters' questions about mandatory vaccination.
Ontario Conservative MP Scott Aitchison told journalists that he is "double vaxxed and thrilled to be." His caucus colleague Ron Liepert, who represents a Calgary riding, said the issue is distracting the party from its job.
"We don't have the luxury of sitting here as an opposition party arguing about whether we should be vaccinated or not," he said. "We should be doing what constituents ended up sending us here to do, and that's to hold his Liberal government to account."
Liepert also said that MPs have a right to not reveal their vaccination status, although he has no problem with telling people he's fully vaccinated.
Conservative MP Glen Motz, meanwhile, refused to reveal his vaccination status when questioned by reporters and said that imposing vaccine mandates would cost Canadians their jobs.
"It's a broader issue than just one for MPs," he said. "There are Canadians who are risking losing their jobs because of vaccine mandates and I think that's a concern."