Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Wednesday the next session of Parliament should happen in person with any members who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 staying home.
Questions remain about what the return to Parliament will look like for Canada’s 338 representatives after the recent federal election saw the Liberals re-elected to a minority government.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will name his cabinet next month and Parliament will resume sometime in the fall.
Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, the House of Commons and committees had been functioning with some MPs working from Ottawa, but many others appearing virtually, including to vote, before the election was called.
Blanchet said he wants to see Parliament resume quickly with MPs having to be fully vaccinated in order to be there in person because now vaccines against the novel coronavirus are more widely available.
His party, along with the New Democrats and Liberals, made it a rule that candidates had to be fully vaccinated in order to hit the doorsteps, but the Conservatives did not.
“They get fully vaccinated or they stay home,” Blanchet said of Conservative MPs who may not have had their shots.
“Parliament should not come back under any kind of hybrid formation … now we know that we can go on with the way this building is supposed to work, and we should not refrain from doing so because a few persons don’t believe that the vaccine works. This belongs to another century.”
The Liberals, NDP and Conservatives have yet to respond to requests for comment from The Canadian Press.
The Conservatives saw 119 incumbent MPs and new candidates elected on Sept. 20, after the party spent the race dogged by questions about its opposition to making vaccines mandatory as a tool to defeat COVID-19.
Leader Erin O’Toole refused to say on the campaign trail whether he knew how many of those running for the Tories had been fully vaccinated, saying he told campaign teams that those who are not immunized against COVID-19 should take daily rapid tests.
O’Toole is himself vaccinated and has been encouraging others to get their shot, but the Conservative leader says he also respects the personal health choices of Canadians and attacked Trudeau for using the issue to sow division in the country.
Conservative MPs will make their way to Ottawa next week to have their first caucus meeting since the election, where they will have to decide whether they want to review O’Toole’s leadership.
The call for MPs to be vaccinated comes as Trudeau works on bringing in a mandate requiring the federal civil service, along with those working in its federally regulated industries, to be fully vaccinated.
His government has promised to make it a rule by the end of October that travellers flying or taking a train in Canada have to be immunized in order to board.
Many provinces have already introduced a vaccine passport system requiring consumers to provide proof of immunization to access non-essential businesses like restaurants and sports and entertainment venues.
“For the safety of House of Commons staff, translators, pages, security, other MPs and their staff, all Parliamentarians should show proof that they are fully vaccinated in order to take their seats in the House,” tweeted former Liberal cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, who didn’t seek re-election, but served for six years in government.
As of Friday, Health Canada reported that around 79 per cent of people 12 and older as having being fully vaccinated, with about 85 per cent receiving at least one dose.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press