Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said today the government will demand that virtually all federal public servants get a COVID-19 shot — and warned of workplace repercussions for those who defy the rule.
Speaking at a campaign stop in Markham, Ont., Trudeau pushed back against Conservative claims that the government’s vaccination policy is not all that different from what their leader, Erin O’Toole, has proposed to ensure the safety of federal workplaces.
“We’re unequivocal that civil servants must be vaccinated. If anyone doesn’t have a legitimate medical reason for not getting fully vaccinated — or chooses to not get vaccinated — there will be consequences,” Trudeau said, without explaining what sort of punishment a bureaucrat could face for shunning the vaccine.
The Treasury Board Secretariat — the central government agency that is nominally the employer of all public servants — posted a letter online recently saying public servants who refuse vaccination can instead undergo rapid testing before starting a shift. O’Toole, who is firmly opposed to mandatory vaccination, has proposed a similar policy, saying all Canadians should be allowed to choose whether they get vaccinated.
O’Toole said that, rather than requiring that public servants and travellers get the shot, a government led by him would require them to pass a rapid test before going into work or, in the case of travellers, boarding a bus, train, plane or ship.
The Treasury Board yanked the message from its website late Monday after the Conservatives held it up as evidence that Trudeau’s hard line on vaccinations was all for show, and accused him of trying to mislead Canadians about how the vaccine mandate would be enforced.
Asked Tuesday if he or anyone on his team asked the department to drop the vaccination policy from the website, Trudeau said the message was removed because it was “erroneous” and “didn’t reflect government policy.”
“It was brought down by the public service,” he said. “It would be wonderful if the Conservatives under Erin O’Toole took the same position as us for the public service or anyone taking a train or plane. Unfortunately, that is not their position. They’re not there to defend the safety of Canadians.”
The federal policy — hastily announced Friday only two days before the election campaign launched — would make vaccines mandatory for federal employees and those working in some federally regulated industries (airlines and railways, among others) in an effort to boost stalled vaccination rates.
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While the timeline remains sketchy, the government has said federal public servants have until sometime in September — and transport workers have until some point in October — to get both doses of the vaccine to be in compliance with the new order.
The government said it also “expects” that Crown corporations and other employers in federally regulated sectors — like banking, broadcasting and telecommunications — will require vaccination for their employees. “The government will work with these employers to ensure this result,” the government said in a statement announcing the new mandate.
Beyond the mandatory vaccination requirement for federal employees, the government will impose a similar mandate on certain travellers.
Starting soon, all commercial air travellers and passengers on interprovincial trains and large marine vessels with overnight accommodations (such as cruise ships) will have to be vaccinated.
Trudeau said today the government is negotiating the finer points of this plan with public sector unions. Two of those unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), have said they support the mandate in principle.
“PSAC supports measures to increase vaccination rates, including vaccination requirements for federal public service workers to protect our members, their colleagues and our communities,” said PSAC president Chris Aylward in a statement.
Canada is now a world leader in immunizations, with more than 82 per cent of the eligible population having been vaccinated with at least one dose. But the pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably since a blitz in April and May, with well below 100,000 first shots handed out each day.
With a fourth wave of new infections poised to hit Canada, experts say boosting vaccine coverage will protect the country’s health care system from again being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Trudeau is not alone in proposing penalties for federal workers who refuse a shot. Speaking at an event promoting made-in-Canada personal protective equipment (PPE), NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said today that while public servants have a right to choose not to get vaccinated, “there will be consequences” for those who don’t.
“Our goal is to protect people and to keep people safe,” he said.
Singh said, under his plan, an unvaccinated federal employee who works in a public-facing role could be moved out of their job.
“For employees who still refuse to be vaccinated, without a reason related to health status, we would expect that the collective agreement would be followed. All collective agreements include a process for progressive discipline — up to and including termination. Discipline should always be a last resort, but may be necessary in rare cases to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” he said.
Source From CBC News