OTTAWA — After weeks of ducking questions about the vaccination status of his MPs, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole now says they’re all either fully inoculated against COVID-19 or have medical exemptions.
That means all 119 members of the Conservative party caucus will take their seats in the House of Commons on Monday, O’Toole told Radio Canada’s “Les coulisses du pouvoir” in an interview set to air Sunday.
“All our MPs will be there,” CBC reported he told host Daniel Thibeualt when asked repeatedly how many MPs were not fully vaccinated.
Asked whether that meant all Conservative MPs had either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or had received a medical exemption from being vaccinated, O’Toole replied, “Exactly.”
But when asked Friday to confirm his statement — that all Conservative MPs would be in the House of Commons on Monday because they’re either fully vaccinated or have an exemption — O’Toole’s office wouldn’t repeat the leader’s comments.
“As Mr. O’Toole has stated on numerous occasions, every Conservative member of Parliament will respect and abide by the House of Commons vaccination rules,” spokesman Mathew Clancy said in an email.
The rules were set by the all-party board of internal economy committee that oversees the administration and finances of the House of Commons.
They state that as of Monday, all MPs must have proof they’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the Parliament buildings; members who have a “medical contraindication” will be able to provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter.
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O’Toole has been pressed repeatedly about the vaccination status of his MPs, dating back to the earliest days of last summer’s election campaign, when he scrambled to define a position on mandatory vaccinations.
The Conservative position — the party supported and endorsed the use of vaccines, but believed no one should be required to take them when rapid testing can be used instead — would go on to be used as a political attack by his rivals, who insisted mandates were required.
After the election, and the Liberals’ imposition of vaccination mandates for travellers and public servants, the internal parliamentary committee adopted the same rule for Parliament.
When the Conservative MP on that committee objected, O’Toole said his caucus would respect the rule — but would also challenge the way it was imposed.
Throughout, O’Toole has declined to give a clear answer when he’s been asked exactly how many Conservative MPs are or are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
At a recent news conference, he told reporters in French that “all” of his MPs would be vaccinated when the House of Commons returned.
But when asked to clarify in English, he said all his MPs who were participating in Parliament would be vaccinated, without specifying whether that also meant some would actually not be able to participate.
The number of MPs who are unvaccinated or who have a medical exemption has been estimated at fewer than five to as many as a dozen.
Stephanie Levitz is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @StephanieLevitz
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