O’Toole promises health minister would be vaccinated despite no rule for candidates

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Published September 7, 2021 at 2:31 pm

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OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he would appoint a health minister who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if his party forms government.

O’Toole is an outlier among major federal leaders in that he isn’t requiring his candidates to have both doses of a vaccine in order to hit the doorsteps.

Despite that, he promises a Conservative government would try to boost the country’s vaccination rates to 90 per cent.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has criticized O’Toole for not requiring his candidates to be vaccinated and accused the Tory leader of siding with anti-vaxxers.

O’Toole hasn’t specified how many of his 337 candidates are immunized, but has instructed those who are not to take daily rapid tests, along with campaign workers who are unvaccinated.

“I’ve been advocating for vaccines for over a year,” he said from the empty stage of his party’s broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa on Tuesday.

“It’s been very, very disappointing to see every week in this campaign Mr. Trudeau misleading people, and saying whatever he wants to say to try and get re-elected.”

The Liberals have hurled the same attack at the Conservative leader over his change in stance on issues, including whether doctors should be required to refer patients for services such as abortions if they object to performing those procedures themselves, and most recently, gun policies.

O’Toole spent the past several days dogged by questions about his policy on prohibited firearms after a French-language debate last week where he said a Conservative government would maintain the federal ban on so-called “assault” weapons.

Questions and confusion emerged because O’Toole’s election platform states he would repeal the Liberal government’s prohibition of what it called “assault-style weapons,” introduced in May 2020 after the deadly mass shooting in Nova Scotia.

O’Toole later clarified he would keep that prohibition in place, inking a footnote in his platform to say, “All firearms that are currently banned will remain banned,” and promised to conduct a review of the classification system.

The Conservative leader has refused to say whether that ban will be temporary or permanent, leaving the door open to making the 1,500 or so firearm models like the AR-15 rifle legal again following the review.

“I want all Canadians to know public safety is a priority for me,” he said, saying a government led by him would focus on illegal firearms coming across Canada’s borders, which are responsible for an increase in violence.

“We are going to have an independent and a public review of our classification because, sadly, it has been used to divide Canadians.”

On Tuesday, the Conservative leader also announced a promise to lower Canadians’ cellphone and internet bills by allowing international telecommunications companies into the country to create a more competitive market.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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