Legislation that would have made vaccinations mandatory for children in New Brunswick was voted down in the legislature on Thursday.
New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy has been pushing to pass Bill 11, which would make vaccinations mandatory for children in schools and daycares unless they have a medical exemption.
On Thursday, the motion was defeated by a close margin of 22-20. Both Liberals and Progressive Conservatives voted against the bill, while the Green caucus abstained from the vote.
Dominic Cardy has said the fight against COVID-19 “is reminding us of the importance of science and evidence as the basis for policy.” But on Thursday, he was left disappointed.
“The rights of vulnerable children and the broader children to be protected from dangerous diseases by safe and effective vaccines versus an embrace of medieval conspiracy theories,” Cardy said following the vote.
The province’s Tory minority government first introduced legislation in June 2019 after a measles outbreak in the Saint John area in the spring.
It was also the subject of a contentious public hearing where anti-vaccination activists vowed to fight the bill should it ever pass.
Those who voted against the bill say the current mandatory vaccine system is already working.
“It is important that every child, where feasible, should be vaccinated,” said Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers, “and the best way to achieve that goal is through education, communication and encouragement, not by mandatory legislation of the state.”
“What (Cardy) failed to do was convince myself, obviously others that voted against the bill, even his own caucus, that there’s a crisis,” said People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin.
But Cardy acknowledged the bill was intended to protect against the possibility of the crisis, not in reaction to one.
“You know (when) the really useful time to install a fire extinguisher in your house is and a fire alarm system? Before the fire,” Cardy said.
Green Leader David Coon said they are in favour of the current mandatory vaccination legislation, but believe the power to remove exemptions should be in the hands of public health.
“It shouldn’t be the Minister of Education making decisions that relate to the public health of students, it should be the chief medical officer of health and her staff,” he said.
Editors note: Global News initially reported the vote was 22-19 when it was 22-20. We regret the error.