Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he now expects candidates for his party who choose not to get a vaccine to test themselves daily with rapid kits instead.
Unlike the Liberals and NDP that required candidates to be fully vaccinated with the two doses of protection against COVID-19 before hitting the doorstep, the Tories haven’t made it a rule.
“I’ve said that I expect my team to follow all the public health measures in this Justin Trudeau-fourth wave pandemic that includes expectations with respect to vaccines, or an expectation to daily rapid testing if someone is not vaccinated,” he said at a campaign stop in Quebec City Wednesday.
He repeated he believes in a “reasonable” and “balanced” approach that protects Canadians while also respecting their ability to make personal health decisions.
O’Toole’s comments follow a directive the party sent to all candidates the previous morning that outlined the importance of getting vaccinated and the expectation that anyone campaigning for the Conservatives who is not vaccinated pass a daily rapid test.
The note also provided information about where such tests could be purchased.
Although candidates were informed of what their leader expects, it wasn’t made clear whether the party is in any way checking to ensure those who are unvaccinated are actually testing themselves daily.
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The directive was sent after O’Toole faced questions himself about the vaccination status of his candidates following Sunday’s election call, which was also when he avoided directly answering on whether he supported a mandatory vaccination policy for federal public servants and those in its regulated industries, something he later clarified by saying he favours regular testing for those who remain unvaccinated.
O’Toole’s position is at odds with what Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford recently laid out for his elected members.
A spokeswoman for Ford says it’s the government’s expectation that every single caucus member, and candidates for next year’s Ontario election, be vaccinated, given that their work requires daily interaction with the public.
He warned members will be removed from caucus if they don’t get vaccinated.
O’Toole travelled to Quebec late Tuesday after attending his first in-person rally with Conservative supporters in Richmond Hill in the Greater Toronto Area, where the party hopes for success.
He is set to do so again later today in the Liberal-held riding of Quebec City candidate Joel Lightbound.
Before the election was called, the Tories held 10 seats in Quebec, two fewer than before the last federal election was called in 2019.
O’Toole is hoping to increase its seat count and as part of that Conservatives have promised funding for a tunnel under the St. Lawrence River that would connect Quebec City and Levis, Que., and benefit commuters.
It’s expected that some 50,000 cars would use the link daily.
To court Quebec voters away from federal parties, including the Bloc Quebecois that surged in the 2019 vote, O’Toole promised Conservatives would respect its jurisdiction, boost health transfer money “without conditions” and protect the French language while giving more power over its culture and immigration.
“It was us talking about the decline of French in Montreal, it wasn’t the Bloc Quebecois,” said O’Toole.