Here we are in the middle of August, and it increasingly looks like we’re heading into a federal election. Forget the fact that the current government doesn’t have a legitimate reason for the election. Forget the fact that we appear to be in the fourth wave of COVID, according to those who we pay to tell us these things. And forget the fact that Canadians aren’t clamoring for said election. All of that doesn’t seem to matter, as it looks like it’s happening anyway.
If we are heading in that direction, this surely promises to be an election like any other we’ve seen in generations in Canada, as we haven’t held a general election in the middle of such a crisis since… maybe World War II? A global pandemic isn’t the same thing as a world war, but it is something that creates a lot of logistical problems for the parties and for Elections Canada.
Having spent the last 16 months going through this pandemic, with no clear end in sight, people’s nerves are frayed and are on edge. Yeah, things are better today than they were a year ago but we’re not out of this yet and we are all still nervous about certain big things to come. That also means that parties are going to have to face some questions that they never have had to before, with high stakes attached to those answers if they get them wrong. A prime example comes today in this story from Global News, which raises a heck of a lot of questions:
Yep, according to this story both the Liberal and Conservative parties won’t say if they’ve mandated COVID-19 vaccination for their candidates or even whether they’re asking them about their vaccination status. Turns out the Green Party is taking a similar stance, stating that they aren’t requiring candidates to disclose details of their vaccination status. And given Maxime Bernier’s statements about refusing to take a COVID-19 vaccine, we’re know where they stand.
That leaves the NDP as the only party to state publicly that 100% of their MPs are fully vaccinated, along with the only party to state publicly that they are asking their candidates about their vaccination status and asking that they be fully vaccinated before they start campaigning. Given the public numbers on how many Canadians are fully or partially vaccinated, I’m floored that only one party is publicly taking this position.
I’m equally floored that parties like the Liberals didn’t seem to be prepared to be asked that question. You’d think that they would take this chance to publicly crow about this, yet the fact that they haven’t speaks to something that maybe they haven’t considered. Publicly Justin Trudeau has mused about mandatory vaccines for public service workers and today former prominent Liberal strategist Peter Donolo laid out a very good rationale for running a campaign on a national vaccine passport. Even in Nova Scotia, which is in a provincial election, the incumbent Liberals are running on a vaccine passport. Yet when it comes to the federal Liberals, what are we getting? Crickets, not just to the idea of vaccine passports but to even openly stating that your MPs are vaccinated.
It wasn’t a shock to the system when the news broke last week that Conservative MP Ted Falk refused to state his vaccination status, which I assume means he hasn’t done it. Knowing Falk, that fit his MO and given the area that he represents, I get why he might try to duck such a question right before an election (which doesn’t make it right, but I get it). And if we came to learn that other Conservative MPs in Erin O’Toole’s caucus have taken a similar approach to COVID-19 vaccines, that wouldn’t have shocked me either. They’ve long had public messaging about having vaccines available “for those who want them”, the subtext of which is that they didn’t want to call out those who are anti-vax.
Yet with this story, the Liberals have managed to put themselves in the same communications box as the Conservatives on the biggest issue for Canadians right now. We know that vaccines, vaccination rates and public health measures are key to getting back to “normal”, whatever that is after this pandemic. The Federal Liberals have mostly demurred to the provinces and haven’t taken any strong positions where they have direct control. They’ve left it to the provinces when it comes to vaccine passports because it’s most politically convenient to do so, and to Hell with the public health consequences.
What irks me the most about this story though is that this is an area that is completely within the control of the Liberal Party of Canada; if their MPs and candidates are vaccinated. The Liberals haven’t shied away from mandating that their candidates take certain positions or banned candidates for disgusting views of theirs. So how exactly is this any different? It’s not an unreasonable expectation that those who wish to serve in Parliament, especially in government, should be setting the public example when it comes to something so existentially important as ending this global pandemic. Is it acceptable to be an anti-vax candidate in the Liberal party right now? According to the response to these questions from Global News, that was completely skirted, and the Liberals refused to give the correct answer right now: No, it’s not acceptable.
These are the kinds of messages that people are evaluating as they decide who to vote for, if this election comes as it appears it will. This isn’t some peripheral or unimportant topic for most people; this is an issue that comes down to the very role of government. The Ford Government has botched this answer from the start of the crisis, and continued to do so yesterday with his governments insane explanation about why they won’t do a vaccine passport (as if somehow a PDF sent by email is more secure than your health card).
You’d think that would seeing that bad example would push the Liberals to do something close to the opposite, but yeah, nope. The irony is that by refusing to push for vaccine passports or answering simple, straightforward questions about vaccination status for their candidates, it will make it that much harder to believe their sincerity if they change their minds and do the right thing. In the meantime, it’s left to the rest of us to get ready for potentially unvaccinated strangers showing up on our doorsteps, asking for our votes while refusing to do their part to stop this pandemic. Hopefully when those candidates hit those doors, they’ll see a lot of signs like these below and take the hint, finally doing the right thing, despite their parties refusing to mandate that they do.
UPDATE: August 11, 2021 @ 12:40 PM EST: Well, it turns out it didn’t take long for it another Conservative to speak out on this issue, creating more headaches for Erin O’Toole: