Anti-vaccine protestors greeted Justin Trudeau during a campaign stop in Aurora, Ontario, Tuesday after the Liberal leader became a lightning rod over his position on mandatory vaccinations for federal workers.
Last week, the government announced it would require federal employees, workers in federally regulated industries and many travellers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, marking a shift in the federal government’s position on vaccine mandates. There is no set deadline for when the new rules will come into effect.
The move will affect roughly 1.5 million workers and those who opt to travel by air, interprovincial train and cruise.
“The bottom line is; if anyone who doesn’t have a legitimate, medical, reason for not getting fully vaccinated choses to not get vaccinated, there will be consequences,” Trudeau said Tuesday morning.
The president of the largest public sector union in Canada representing 180,000 federal workers, Chris Ayles, responded with a statement.
“The Public Service Alliance of Canada is consulting with the federal government on its vaccination proposal,” said Ayles. “Our position is clear; employees with a valid medical reason for being unvaccinated, or for reasons protected by human rights legislation must be offered a formal accommodation under the law.”
It may be too early to determine if a mandatory vaccination policy will benefit the Liberals, but a new poll indicates most vaccinated Canadians “don’t have a lot of sympathy” for unvaccinated Canadians.
Shachi Kurl, the president of the Angus Reid Institute, said it isn’t yet clear how much of an election issue mandatory vaccinations for federal workers will be.
“It’s very early days in the campaign, so we have to look at what extent Canadians are galvanized by this issue. What is their emotional response to it. Or are they more focused on other elements that are happening in the country today?”
An employment lawyer, Lior Samfiru, said federal workers will be at risk if they refuse vaccinations.
“Those individuals who choose not to get vaccinated in the public sector will face financial ruin. There is really no other way to put it.”
The reaction is mixed from travellers at Victoria’s International Airport.
“I am just about to travel on a plane, and yeah, again I feel it’s good for people to be double vaccinated,” said on traveller.
“It’s like heavy-handed, it’s society in a way that you’ll get retaliation and more problems than solve them. Education I guess is the best way to go,” said another.
Private companies like Goodlife Fitness want assistance from the government before they require a vaccine mandate.
President Jane Riddell said the company is looking for a mechanism that will make it very easy for people to show proof of vaccination.
“We want legislative protection from legal action,” she said.
For now the private sector is proceeding with mandates on its own.