Politics

Tories to form ‘mini-caucus’ on vaccine mandates; MP says it’s not about O’Toole

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OTTAWA — Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu says she and other colleagues are forming what she calls a “mini-caucus” within the existing Tory caucus to advocate for Canadians concerned about the impacts of vaccine mandates.

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She estimates between 15 to 30 fellow Conservatives, including senators, could join and imagines it could function like a parliamentary committee, which would call legal or medical experts to speak and allow the public to watch.

“We have had a few meetings, and we’re planning to keep meeting, but we haven’t officially kicked off the caucus as a caucus. We’ve just been saying that that’s sort of seeming what it is turning into,” she said in an interview Thursday evening.

Gladu, who has represented the Ontario riding of Sarnia-Lambton since 2015, says the idea came about after she and her colleagues shared concerns they were hearing from constituents, decided to invite others and kept talking.

“Look, if people are losing their jobs right now, we really need to understand, you know, how can we get to a place where there’s reasonable accommodation?” she said.

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“Other places like Quebec and Ontario … in the U.S., we’ve seen where people are providing rapid testing as a reasonable accommodation for people and I think that that is something that should have been considered.”

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She said what format the mini-caucus will take depends on what resources they find available, adding that logistics are still being worked out.

However, she emphasized the group’s formation is “not about Erin O’Toole’s leadership.”

“It’s really hearing from our constituents and trying to figure out what we can do to bring those questions forward, get some answers, raise attention and awareness.”

There’s a good chance though that it could still be perceived as a challenge to O’Toole’s leadership, given his recent federal election loss and internal divisions over what to do about vaccine mandates, including for MPs.

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He has said all Conservative MPs will abide by a decision of the governing body of the House of Commons requiring anyone entering the Commons precinct to be fully vaccinated. But the party will also challenge that decision once the House resumes on Nov. 22.

The Conservatives are the only federal party that has refused to disclose the vaccination status of its MPs. All the others say their MPs are fully vaccinated, save for one Liberal MP who has a medical exemption.

The most recent analysis by The Canadian Press shows at least 81 out of 119 Conservative MPs say they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with a handful of others saying they won’t disclose such information because it’s private. The rest simply didn’t respond when asked directly.

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