A spokeswoman for New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says all members of the governing Progressive Conservative caucus are fully vaccinated, except for one who is undergoing cancer treatment and had to delay their second shot until later this month.
All but two MLAs in Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government say they’re fully immunized. The two refuse to reveal their vaccination status.
Mandatory vaccination rules have also been announced for admittance to Nova Scotia’s Province House and Quebec’s National Assembly.
A similar policy was unveiled federally this week by the board of internal economy, the multi-party governing body of the House of Commons. It announced a double vaccination requirement for entering buildings in the Commons precinct, including the House of Commons chamber itself.
Nothing has yet been decided for the Senate, which sets its own rules.
The move appears to leave Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole in a predicament: He didn’t make vaccination against COVID-19 a rule to run as a Conservative candidate in the recent federal election and he won’t say now how many of his 118 MPs are fully vaccinated. At the same time, he wants to return to an in-person Parliament when it resumes Nov. 22.
O’Toole, who contracted COVID-19 and personally promotes the value of vaccinations, says he respects an individual’s personal health choices.
The most recent analysis by The Canadian Press found at least 80 Conservative MPs are fully vaccinated, while two said they couldn’t be immunized for medical reasons. Two others refused to disclose their status on principle and the others did not respond.
Some in O’Toole’s caucus champion the need to keep their vaccination status private, like backbench Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer. He wrote a recent op-ed saying he rejects “bully tactics” to cajole people into divulging private medical information, but then later confirmed he is himself vaccinated.
Similarly, Alberta MP Glen Motz posted on his website: “As strongly as I support the use of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19, I am as equally opposed to coerced vaccination.”
Just as the Liberals drove mandatory vaccinations as a wedge during the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has continued criticizing the Conservatives. He suggested this week that his decision to wait another month to recall Parliament was to ensure all of O’Toole’s team had time to get vaccinated.
Conservative spokesman Mathew Clancy said the official Opposition doesn’t believe the nine-member board of internal economy “has the jurisdiction to infringe on a member’s right to take their seat in the House of Commons,” but didn’t elaborate on whether it would challenge the decision.
Carleton University professor Philippe Lagassé, an expert on the Westminster parliamentary system, said the rules weren’t designed to deal with public health, but it’s up to MPs to lay down their own laws in their parliamentary house.
“The fundamental principle remains the same — this is a collective right and if as a collectivity the House determines that its safety and ability to perform its function needs to be protected against some external force — a disease, or a police officer, or a court — well, then that’s the way it is,” he said.
“The reality is we’re not a pure democracy, we’re a parliamentary democracy.”
He said the issue some Conservative MPs may raise is whether the board of internal economy can speak for the entire House of Commons.
However, if they compel the Commons to vote on the issue, it’s clear the mandatory vaccination policy would easily pass, with the support of Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP members.
Federal parties must also decide whether the Commons should resume all normal in-person proceedings or continue with a virtual component, allowing MPs to participate by videoconference.
At B.C.’s legislature, there is a hybrid option for the assembly itself and a rule that all MLAs, staff and guests must show proof of vaccination to gain admittance to the building.
In Saskatchewan and Ontario, visitors must be double vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test result before entry.
In Manitoba, many continue to participate remotely. Speaker Myrna Driedger said in an email that the legislature hasn’t yet dealt with the issue of vaccination requirements for its chambers.
In Alberta, Speaker Nathan Cooper said decisions around whether to exclude an MLA from the assembly must be made by the assembly alone.
“This has been a very complicated and fascinating time to see our democracies wrestle with this very foundational building block of our society in terms of our democracy, and the very real and active concerns around public health,” he said.
The Alberta NDP, which says all of its MLAs are fully vaccinated, has pushed United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney to ensure the same of his caucus. Cooper said it’s been “widely reported” all UCP members are vaccinated, except for one seeking a medical exemption.
Kenney has said he favours making sure all MLAs are either vaccinated, or show a negative result from a COVID-19 test to enter the assembly, which begins sitting Monday.
Lagassé said when it comes to introducing any new set of rules for Parliament, an important question is how long they will last, particularly when it impacts the abilities of the public and parliamentarians to access these spaces.
“We’ve got to be careful with it, but you almost have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
— with files from Steve Lambert and Dirk Meissner
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2021
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
U.S. Senate passes bill to avert government shutdown, sends to Biden for signature
The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill to fund the government through mid-February, averting the risk of a shutdown after overcoming a bid by some Republicans to delay the vote in a protest against vaccine mandates.
The 69-28 vote leaves government funding at current levels through Feb. 18, and gives Democratic President Joe Biden plenty of time to sign the measure before funding was set to run out at midnight on Friday.
The Senate acted just hours after the House of Representatives approved the measure, by a vote of 221-212, with the support of only one Republican.
Congress faces another urgent deadline right on the heels of this one. The federal government is approaching its $28.9 trillion borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has estimated it could reach by Dec. 15. Failure to extend or lift the limit in time could trigger an economically catastrophic default.
“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink from an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on nailing down a deal with Republicans to clear the way for passing the bill.
The vote ended weeks of suspense over whether Washington might be plunged into a government shutdown at a time when officials worry that the potentially dangerous Omicron variant of COVID-19 could take hold in the United States after being discovered in South Africa.
Such a shutdown could have forced layoffs of some U.S. government medical and research personnel.
Senate Democrats defeated an attempt by a handful of conservative Republicans to attach an amendment that would have prevented enforcement of Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for many U.S. workers.
Republican Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Roger Marshall had earlier raised the possibility that the government could partially shut down over the weekend while the Senate moves slowly toward eventual passage.
“It’s not government’s job, it’s not within government’s authority to tell people that they must be vaccinated and if they don’t get vaccinated, they get fired. It’s wrong. It’s immoral,” Lee said before the defeat of the amendment.
Over the past few days, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted there would be no government shutdown from congressional inaction. But he had to work through the day on Thursday to get his Republican lawmakers in line on a deal allowing quick passage of the funding bill.
The emergency legislation is needed because Congress has not yet passed the 12 annual appropriations bills funding government activities for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.
A partial government shutdown https://www.reuters.com/world/us/what-happens-when-us-federal-government-shuts-down-2021-09-27 would have created a political embarrassment for both parties, but especially for Biden’s Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress.
The fact the temporary spending bill extends funding into February suggested a victory for Republicans in closed-door negotiations. Democrats had pushed for a measure that would run into late January, while Republicans demanded a longer timeline leaving spending at levels agreed to when Republican Donald Trump was president.
“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement announcing the agreement.
But she said Democrats prevailed in including a $7 billion provision for Afghanistan evacuees.
Once enacted, the stopgap funding measure would give Democrats and Republicans nearly 12 weeks to resolve their differences over the annual appropriations bills totaling around $1.5 trillion that fund “discretionary” federal programs for this fiscal year. Those bills do not include mandatory funding for programs such as the Social Security retirement plan that are renewed automatically.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton, Doina Chiacu, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)
Austria's Ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to Quit Politics Amid Corruption Probe – Bloomberg
Austria was thrust into political turmoil after former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz quit his party and politics, prompting his hand-picked successor and finance minister to also resign.
The day of commotion in Vienna started with Kurz’s decision on Thursday to leave his most recent role as leader of the People’s Party amid a corruption probe.
Canada joins U.S, EU and Britain in imposing new Belarus sanctions
Canada imposed new sanctions on Belarusian officials and entities in coordination with international partners on Thursday to protest against what it called attacks on human rights and acts of repression, Ottawa said.
A foreign ministry statement said Canada was acting together with the United States, the European Union and Britain. Separately, the U.S. Treasury imposed restrictions on dealings in new issuances of Belarusian sovereign debt and expanded sanctions, targeting 20 individuals and 12 entities.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren)
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