With most countries dropping COVID-19 restrictions, and the Canadian province with the harshest pandemic measures removing its mask mandate in the coming days, Conservative MPs maintained pressure on the Liberal government on Wednesday about the federal vaccine mandate in transport.
“Divide and stigmatize, rinse and repeat. Which experts is the prime minister listening to? What is the specific advice? What year is the advice from? And why is the advice different in Canada than the rest of the world? It’s all secrets,” said Conservative MP and transport critic Melissa Lantsman during question period on May 4.
“Canadians want to know: when will this government end the outdated, ineffective, and vindictive mandates?”
“The Conservatives never miss an opportunity to try and pretend that Canadians are divided, when in fact, Canadians were united to 90 degree vaccination rates, to pulling together for their neighbours, to following public health rules, to being there for each other, and that’s why Canada pulled through better than many countries from this pandemic, why our economy is coming back so strongly,” replied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“That’s why we will continue to listen to experts. That’s why we will continue to have Canadians’ backs.”
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said back in March that the government was “shifting the emphasis from requirements to recommendations” with regards to restrictions, but very little has been done since at the federal level to lighten restrictions outside of easing border measures mostly for the vaccinated.
“As you’ve seen across the country right now, the public health strategy is moving away from mandates to recommendations, and to use all manner of other means to increase coverage for the boosters,” Tam said during a virtual COVID-19 update on March 18.
Tam said the vaccine mandates were under review, but there has been no clarity on that front. The vaccine mandate for the federal workforce must be reviewed six months after its imposition on April 6, and Treasury Board spokesperson Martin Potvin told The Epoch Times on May 4 there is “no further update available at this time.”
Meanwhile, Quebec, which had the harshest COVID-19 restrictions in the country, announced on Wednesday that it would lift its mask mandates in most public settings on May 14, while keeping the measure in public transit and health care-related settings.
The province imposed curfews, and the unvaccinated were unable to attend places of worship, purchase alcohol or cannabis in state-owned facilities, or shop in big box stores. A plan to impose a tax on the unvaccinated was announced by the government but later abandoned.
“It’s May 4 in Canada and there are citizens that can’t leave the country, they can’t fly, they can’t take a train, they’ve lost their jobs, been laid off or fired because of a health choice,” said Conservative MP Michael Barrett.
“It’s May 4 in the United Kingdom and citizens have been thriving without mandates for nearly two months because their government followed the science and made the shift from mandates and control to personal responsibility.”
Trudeau repeated that his government follows the advice of experts and scientists, and because of that, the pandemic in Canada was not as bad as in the United States or the United Kingdom.
“Because we’ve been following the science and sticking to it, we will continue to, but it’s interesting the member opposite talks about the freedom of personal choice. I wonder if he’s willing to extend that to the personal choice of women to control their own bodies,” he said.
The prime minister mentioned the argument of bodily autonomy used by some of those who refuse vaccination to raise the issue of abortion, as debate resurfaced this week with the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggesting the 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark decision legalizing abortion at the federal level will be overturned.
According to the draft, the U.S. Supreme Court could be about to return the power to legislate on the issue to state legislatures, some of which would likely follow up by imposing various degrees of restrictions on the procedure.
On May 3, Bloc Québécois MP Christine Normandin attempted to pass a motion in the House of Commons affirming support for abortion, but a number of Conservative MPs opposed it.