The update comes after Global News reported Wednesday that a spokesperson for the party did not answer questions about the vaccination status of the party’s candidates, including whether the party was requiring vaccination or asking about it at all for the hundreds of candidates poised to be door-knocking at millions of residences if an election gets called.
After Global News published the story, a party official said the party is in the process of confirming vaccination status in writing with both nominated and prospective candidates. The official added more updates will come as candidate confirmations proceed, adding that “considerations and processes” around the question of candidate vaccination began weeks ago.
Global News recently reached out to the five main parties to get their stance on the topic as the country continues its fight against the pandemic, and as calls grow to require vaccination for a growing number of non-essential activities and professions.
All parties were sent the same list of questions: are they requiring vaccination for candidates, are they verifying candidates’ vaccination status, how many of their candidates are unvaccinated, and will they advise unvaccinated candidates to avoid certain activities like indoor, unmasked gatherings.
Liberal spokesperson Braeden Caley didn’t initially answer the questions, even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mulls the idea of mandating inoculation for the federal public service and federally regulated workplaces.
“The health and safety of Canadians is always our top priority, and adherence to all COVID-19 public health guidance is taken extremely seriously by the Liberal Party and our candidates,” he wrote.
“Whenever the next election arrives, all aspects of our campaign will strictly adhere to public health guidance in every part of Canada — including our staff, candidates, and everyone who is involved in the campaign’s operations or travel. As we have throughout the pandemic, our team is consulting experts and continuing to review all necessary steps to ensure the safety of everyone we work and engage with.”
Caley added the party’s president, national campaign director and regional leads have also been “leading regular conversations with candidates and their teams on COVID-19 protocols and virtual organizing tools, and those discussions will continue in the weeks and months ahead.”
Last week, Trudeau said he had asked the country’s top bureaucrat to look into mandating COVID-19 vaccination for workers in the public service and federally regulated industries, in an effort to boost vaccination rates across Canada.
Federally regulated workplaces include banks, airlines, Crown corporations, broadcasters and telecommunications companies. They employ roughly one million Canadians across the country. Approximately 300,000 Canadians also work for the federal public service.
Trudeau’s comments came as the country faces the start of a fourth wave driven by the Delta variant, which now makes up the majority of reported cases. He himself is fully inoculated with Moderna and AstraZeneca’s vaccines.
Trudeau’s main rival, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O’Toole, is also fully vaccinated. But the party won’t say if it either requires or is tracking uptake of the shots among its candidates.
“Vaccines are a safe and effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19 and that’s why Conservatives have been fighting hard to ensure Canadians have access to vaccines,” said party spokesperson Cory Hann.
“While we respect Canadians’ right to keep their personal health information private, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole publicly announced that he received his vaccine in April, and has encouraged Canadians, as well as candidates, to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The party will follow all public health measures, and expects candidates to do the same in their respective jurisdictions.”
In contrast, NDP spokesperson George Soule told Global News 100 per cent of its MPs are fully vaccinated.
“We are asking candidates about their vaccination status and asking that they be fully vaccinated before they start campaigning,” Soule said. “Folks should be masked up and vaccinated before going door knocking or to events in the community.”
The Bloc Québécois also said all of its nominated candidates to date are fully inoculated, spokesperson Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous wrote in French.
The Green Party of Canada isn’t requiring candidates to disclose details of their vaccination status, said party spokesperson Rosie Emery.
“We strongly urge them to ensure that they are fully vaccinated before they begin campaigning to safeguard the health of themselves, their campaign teams and members of their communities,” Emery said.
As election rumours continue, Canada’s chief public health officer said last week that she’s confident people will be able to cast ballots safely despite a fourth wave.
Dr. Theresa Tam said safety protocols can be put in place to minimize the risk of voting in person, as has been done in recent provincial elections. She added that Canada’s vaccination rate, which now sits at 82 per cent partially vaccinated and 70 per cent fully vaccinated, offers added protection.
Canada‘s chief electoral officer has also said Elections Canada has a plan to ensure an election can be conducted safely and produce trustworthy results.
Stephane Perrault told The Canadian Press recently that he expects as many as five million mail-in ballots, should an election happen, and that the final outcome might not be known for a few days.
“As much as we like early results, I think Canadians expect that we do it right,” Perrault said.
–With files from The Canadian Press