Liberal MP Powlowski Calls for Dropping Federal Vaccine Mandates

Liberal MP Powlowski Calls for Dropping Federal Vaccine Mandates
An Air Canada plane takes off from Trudeau Airport in Montreal on Dec. 5, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes)
Noé Chartier

Liberal MP Marcus Powlowski has added his name to the shortlist of members from his party to openly call for the removal of federal vaccine mandates.

Powlowski made his views known in an interview published by The Hill Times on June 9.

“The need for mandates is certainly changed and the calculus is not the same now as it was two months ago, three months, or six months ago,” he told the publication.

The MP represents a northwestern Ontario riding and practised medicine before being first elected to Parliament in 2019.

“I would suggest that the vaccine requirements for being on planes and at workplaces at the moment, I don’t think the benefits of that mandate warrant the cost,” said Powlowski, who has previously done health legislation consulting work with the World Health Organization.

The Hill Times article also quoted anonymous Liberal MPs, one of whom said there is a “massive majority” of party members who want mandates repealed.

It was reported that the Liberal caucus is not being offered more substantive arguments than the general population to justify keeping the mandates in place, with members of the government explaining they are “listening to science and experts.”

A few months ago in January, Powlowski advocated for the unvaccinated to be taxed.

“We ought to be doing it because, really, if you look at the numbers, the majority of people getting admitted to the hospital, the ICUs, are the unvaccinated,” he told CBC.

“So whatever we can do to bring up the number of vaccinated people is certainly, in my mind and I think in the party's mind, desirable.”

At that time, Quebec had announced a plan to introduce such a tax, but the idea was scrapped a few weeks after.

Powlowski said he was in favour of dropping the vaccine mandate for travel but not the obligation to wear a mask.

“If you’re going to put a bunch of people on the plane, some of whom are non-vaccinated and things, then there is increased risk. So I would probably keep the mask mandate, that would be my opinion.”

Despite the reported desire of numerous Liberal MPs to see the end of mandates, they have so far followed their leadership to help defeat recent Conservative Party motions to lift travel restrictions.

Only two have dissented.

Quebec MP Joël Lightbound broke from the party line in supporting Tory MP Melissa Lantsman’s motion on May 30.

Lightbound’s views on COVID-19 restrictions are well-known since his solo press conference during the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa in February, in which he called on his government to establish a plan for the lifting of measures under its purview.

Lightbound's office said he was not available to comment for this story.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith abstained on Lantsman’s motion, but later explained on Twitter his rationale for doing so.

“Nothing about the re-evaluation of travel-related measures has been transparent. It is not clear what [Chief Public Health Officer] Dr. [Theresa] Tam’s recommendations are, and there’s been no adequate justification provided for continuing the exclusive two-dose mandate,” he said.

Inquiries with the offices of Powlowski and Erskine-Smith went unanswered.