Trudeau ratchets up talk on mandatory vaccinations, says he'll protect businesses, people from lawsuits
O'Toole requires proof of vaccination to travel with his campaign, but opposes same rule for trains, planes
In a move designed to push mandatory vaccination to the front of the election debate, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said today that a re-elected Liberal government would introduce protections for businesses targeted by anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown activists.
"There have been examples in Canada of businesses or individuals who are choosing to display anger and contempt, and look for measures to punish, or to go after in the court, businesses that put forward vaccine certificates or mask mandates," Trudeau said Monday in Welland, Ont.
"We've simply said that we will be there to have those businesses' backs as they do the right thing."
Trudeau also drew attention to his platform promise to establish a $1 billion COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Fund to cover the cost of implementing proof-of-vaccine credentials for non-essential businesses and public spaces at the provincial level.
Trudeau did not provide details of how protections for business would evolve, but he said the Justice Department is looking at ways to protect businesses from being sued for implementing strict public health measures.
Trudeau stressed that this election is a choice between a government that will require mandatory vaccination for people 12 years of age and older travelling on planes, trains and cruise ships, and one led by Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole that would follow a voluntary regimen that relies heavily on testing.
"Erin O'Toole has basically said that any of those anti-vaxxers who are protesting could be sitting across the aisle from your 12-year-old on a flight south in a few months," Trudeau said. "But they'd have gotten tested. That's not good enough."
Trudeau also supports mandatory vaccination for federal public servants, while O'Toole does not.
While O'Toole does not support mandatory vaccinations in any setting, his campaign requires mandatory proof of vaccination for journalists and campaign staff travelling on his chartered campaign plane.
Party spokesman Cory Hann explained to CBC News in an email that the requirement for journalists and campaign staff was made to ensure smooth travel throughout the country.
"In some jurisdictions in Canada, you're required to self-isolate for a prescribed period of time unless you are fully vaccinated," Hann said.
Testing vs. mandatory vaccines
"As the Conservative Party follows all public health measures, all staff and media on Mr. O'Toole's election tour therefore must be vaccinated so scheduled travel can continue uninterrupted and in line with guidelines."
O'Toole has openly criticized Trudeau for calling out the Conservatives on their decision to adopt testing instead of mandatory vaccination, calling it an attempt to politicize vaccination and public health in Canada.
"We're taking all efforts to try and get the right balance," O'Toole said in Ottawa Monday. "And this is yet another example of why we should not be [campaigning] in a pandemic when we're worried about the fourth wave of the spread.
"It's why Mr. Trudeau shouldn't have called it. And he certainly yesterday shouldn't have been campaigning in a hospital where the front lines are fighting COVID 19."
Trudeau was asked why he decided to hold a press event in a medical setting. He responded that all measures were taken to protect health care workers and patients but that he needed to go there to show support for health care workers who have come under attack by activists against vaccines and public health measures taken to fight the pandemic.
The Liberal leader also defended his decision to call an election, saying the choice is now clear: between someone who will stand up for public health and a leader who cannot because he is beholden to parts of his base.
"The far right, anti-vaxx fringe wing won't let him. What Erin O'Toole is doing is not leadership, it's pandering to special interests," he said.