After months of personally resisting the creation of an Ontariowide COVID-19 vaccine passport system, Premier Doug Ford took aim at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his government for not imposing a singular program for all of Canada.
Ford made the remarks at his first press conference in more than a month where he announced that vaccine certificates will be required for many indoor public settings in Ontario starting Sept. 22.
Up until now, Ford has publicly resisted implementing a proof-of-vaccination system for non-essential settings in the province. In mid-July, he said he was opposed to the idea because he didn’t want to have “a split society.”
“There’s no secret that I wasn’t in favour of this,” Ford said Wednesday afternoon.
But Ford also said that he, along with Canada’s other premiers, have been calling on the federal government “for the past three months” to develop a national vaccine passport that could be used domestically — something that the feds say is not true.
“We’ve seen this national leadership in countries around the world who have implemented their own national vaccine certificate programs because it’s clear that a national system is far better than a patchwork of certificates across every single province and territory in the country, especially as more Canadians travel abroad,” Ford said.
“But Justin Trudeau has told us that they will not be rolling out a national vaccine passport while their election is ongoing. We can’t wait any longer. We must take immediate action, and we will.”
Bill Blair, the Liberal candidate for Scarborough Southwest and Canada’s public safety minister, took issue with Ford’s comments. In a statement, he called Ford’s claim of asking the federal government to bring in a national vaccine passport program “untrue.”
“Today’s press conference from Premier Ford was shocking and a disappointment,” Blair said.
“In fact, Premier Ford asked the federal government to stay out of domestic vaccine passports. Premier Ford has only ever asked for an international version for international travel.
“From the very beginning, Premier Ford has made a series of errors in judgment in managing the pandemic, and the people of Ontario have had to pay the price. Ontarians know that.”
Last month, prior to the election being called, the Trudeau government announced Canada would be developing a national COVID-19 vaccine passport for the main purpose of international travel.
The feds also said they would be happy to work with provinces so that the document can be used for domestic purposes as well.
However, the passports are not expected to be ready until the fall.
Trudeau also recently singled out Ford for not mandating vaccines in non-essential settings, and promised $1 billion from a re-elected Liberal government for provinces to implement vaccine passport systems.
In the meantime, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec have also developed provincial vaccine certificate systems.
“All the provinces, all the premiers have requested a national vaccine passport,” Ford said.
But Ford’s announcement on Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccination certificates would soon be required for several indoor public settings such as restaurants, gyms and nightclubs, only came after pressure from advocates and political opposition parties.
The Ford government has also previously said that the current vaccination receipts that Ontarians receive once they get their shots should be sufficient when required to provide proof of vaccination. Now, the province plans to develop a QR code system by October.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford failed to get ahead of the issue of vaccine passports and that it looked like a “pretty hastily slapped together plan.”
“His actions are far too late and they’re of a bare minimum standard,” she said.
— With files from Nick Westoll and Rachel GilmoreView link »