Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who is running for re-election as prime minister, doubled down on Wednesday over questions about his plan to require proof of vaccination for all those looking to travel domestically as soon as this fall, amid a fourth wave primarily driven by unvaccinated people.
Trudeau was asked on the campaign trail specifically whether people without a medical reason for not getting vaccinated will still be allowed to board a plane or train with accommodations.
He said no.
“Canadians know that the way to get through this pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated. So unless people have a medical exception, they will not be able to board a plane or a train in Canada if they are unvaccinated,” he confirmed.
“That is about protecting our young people. It’s about protecting Canadians. We are absolutely unequivocal on that because this is how we get through this pandemic.”
Two days before asking the governor general to dissolve Parliament and call an election, Trudeau’s government unveiled new policies that require vaccination for domestic travellers, require federal workers to be vaccinated, and that set the expectation for federally regulated industries to do the same.
While Trudeau has said there will be “consequences” for federal workers who refuse to get vaccinated without a medical reason, he has not said whether he thinks they should be disciplined or fired.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pushed for as much earlier in the week, saying that collective bargaining agreements between the government and unions include options for discipline and termination.
He defended that stance on Wednesday after one of the major public sector unions pushed back.
“If someone doesn’t get vaccinated and they need to get vaccinated — it’s mandatory — then they’re not able to be in that position,” Singh said. “So that would be one of the potential consequences.”
In a statement issued Tuesday night, the Public Service Alliance of Canada said while it supports requiring vaccination, it doesn’t believe that should be enforced through discipline.
“PSAC supports vaccination requirements for federal workers to ensure the safety of our members in their workplaces, and to protect our communities, but using discipline and termination to enforce them is unacceptable,” said the union, which represents roughly 200,000 public service workers.
“If there are workers who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated, the government must temporarily reassign those employees to other duties where possible or allow for alternate work arrangements such as remote work,” the union continued.
“Where required, other measures should be explored, including regular screening and rapid testing.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has argued against mandatory vaccine requirements, suggesting rapid testing and masking are “reasonable” alternatives.
The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for the majority of cases infecting Canadians.
Several provinces have paused reopening plans as the virus continues to spread rapidly among unvaccinated Canadians and raises concerns about the impact on those such as young children who are not yet eligible for any of the approved vaccines.
In the U.S., hospitals in some states are overflowing with children infected by the virus.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, warned of a “difficult fall and winter” ahead because of the Delta variant and the spread among unvaccinated Canadians.
Breakthrough cases can happen in fully vaccinated people but are rare, and the vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing severe outcomes like hospitalization and death.
As of Aug. 13, the last date for which federal data is available, 71 per cent of the total Canadian population has at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 62 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated.