When watching our elected leaders at work, it’s always interesting to watch when someone decides to take a bold step and try to be the first to do something difficult. The fact is that our politicians simply don’t do that very often, for very good and understandable reasons. But sometimes we are faced with issues that demand it, either because of the severity or the circumstances around it.
In the age that we live in there is a lot of disinformation out there and a lot of flat out conspiracy theories. As we’ve seen all over the globe, the spread of those theories has had serious real world consequences and that’s left our political leaders in a position to try to cope with the fall out. One such issue that has been plagued by conspiracy theories and has had serious consequences surrounds vaccinations. Long story short, there are a growing number of anti-vaccination people out there, to the point where it is putting the public health of all of us at risk. Just yesterday in the United States we saw a chilling declaration from the Center for Disease Control. They said that the US could soon lose its measles elimination status because of this trend.
This is serious stuff and is not a situation that can be dealt with reactively; it will take some serious proactive measures to ensure that public health is not put at risk. Nowhere is this truer than in schools. All parents and teachers know how illness can rush around a classroom of young children and what that looks like. That’s why vaccinations are so crucial to our education system and public health and schools require them. But at present, there is no law that mandates vaccination without any exceptions. Because of the rise of anti-vaccination sentiments, this is now becoming a big problem. So it’s with that in mind that I have been watching an amazing scene play out in New Brunswick this week:
In New Brunswick, we’re seeing Progressive Conservative Education Minister Dominic Cardy bring forward legislation to make the province the first in Canada to make vaccinations mandatory for students, with the only exception being left for medical reasons. It’s the kind of move that Canadians from coast to coast to coast should be applauding, as this government is the first to take this step. This week the committee testimony started, and you might have thought that there would be relatively unanimous support for this kind of measure. But that’s not been the case, and some of the words from one MLA in particular really surprised me:
Green Party MLA Megan Mitton says that she supports vaccinations, yet she’s seemed to be the big dissenter so far in this study. She made her view clear that she felt these shouldn’t be mandatory and even went as far as to say that “it’s feeling a bit premature to bring in a bill like this in response to a problem that hasn’t been clearly defined.” A problem that hasn’t been clearly defined? Are you serious? Try telling that to the parents of kids who have caught measles or other diseases in the past few years thanks to some other parent who refused to have their kid vaccinated.
You’d think the fact that diseases that have been near gone from North America for decades are now coming back because of these conspiracy theories around vaccinations would be a big enough problem to push MLA Mitton into action, but it appears not. I found this amazingly naïve and surprising coming from the Greens in New Brunswick. The Greens tell us all the time that we can’t ignore the science of climate change yet when it comes to vaccinations, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions? Come on, that’s as nonsensical as it comes.
It’s not shocking to see the Greens do this though, because we all remember Elizabeth May’s fights again Wi-Fi back in the day. But this is still amazing to see a progressive party giving comfort to the conspiracy theories of people who are putting the health of the whole public at risk because they refuse to accept science. I’d love to hear what the Federal Greens think of this, especially given that I assume that New Brunswick Green MLA’s will be campaigning for Ms. May and her party in a month.
But beyond that amazing piece, I have to give Dominic Cardy congrats for taking this step. For people who know Dominic, you probably aren’t surprised to see his firm and unwavering movement on this bill. This is a place where those characters are needed and vital to success, and I’m glad that he’s the one taking this step. And remember, being the first to try to break through that wall is never easy. I’ll be watching this bill, not only to see if it succeeds, but also to see who takes this up next. If we believe in the validity of science and the importance of our public health, then we need to trust it when it comes to the health of all of us. It’s time to stop being passive in trying to fight these conspiracy theories that are doing us harm, and I’m glad to see that someone has decided to take up that fight.