By Sabrina Almeida

With Quebec all set to implement a proof of vaccination document by September 1, the Ontario government is likely to be under even more pressure to do the same. Some believe that Premier Doug Ford will eventually have to give in. 

With the Ontario’s science advisory table backing officially-issued vaxx certificates, Ford’s motives for rejecting the idea have become questionable. Is he really concerned about it creating a two-tier society or about being re-elected?

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca is not mincing words about Ford’s reluctance, nor is he missing the opportunity to capitalize on it. Last week Del Duca accused the premier of trying to appease anti-vaxxers, which is not entirely unbelievable.  Then on Wednesday he wrote a letter asking for an urgent meeting with the premier and other opposition leaders to discuss the matter.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath was drawn into the controversy when Del Duca claimed she was teaming up with Ford. After initially reiterating her stand on not making vaccines mandatory for frontline health care and education workers, Horwath later back tracked and admitted she was wrong.

“I made a mistake suggesting a mandatory vaccine policy during a global pandemic should take a back seat to charter rights,” Horwath tweeted. “I regret the comment. I was wrong.”

Media reports suggest that some of the harshest criticism came from her own party, with federal NDP MP Charlie Angus tweeting that he’d pushed Horwath to walk back the comments “because the libs will drive a truck over our party for such idiocy.” The tweet, which was later deleted, suggests that the upcoming elections are uppermost in everyone’s mind. Her comment also showed Ford in a bad light.

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying he is considering making vaccinations compulsory for federal workers, and our neighbours south of the border doing the same, Ford’s continued reluctance might not work in his favour either. Ironically he appears to be on the same page as Republican lawmakers in the US who are making vaccine refusal a civil rights issue. It is no secret that they are appeasing their predominantly anti-masker and anti-vaxxer voter base.

But if it’s votes that are determining Ford’s vaccine measures, then he must decide whether the anti-vaxxers are more important than local business owners and working parents looking to send their kids back to school.  After all, a resurgence, which is expected to target the unvaccinated, has the potential for shutdowns as well as school and business closures. How popular will Ford be when that happens?

After proclaiming himself a bleeding heart, Ford may also find it hard to justify his position to businesses that are feeling short sold by his refusal to issue official proof of vaccination or making them mandatory for certain events and places like Quebec and New York have done.  It seems unfair and illogical to push them to implement their own system. Not to mention the chaos it would create as well as the risk of fraud.

Additionally, with vaccinations being the only way to minimize the fourth wave, those unwilling to do so for illogical reasons require a bigger nudge than politicians simply appealing to their sense of reason and civic duty or love for their family. In fact overcoming the current vaccine stalemate might warrant a bit of arm twisting in the form of restricting what the unvaccinated can do. Those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons can get exemption documents. 

With many health care worker groups supporting a mandatory vaccination policy, Ford’s reasoning seems absurd. Given that health care workers must take flu shots, why is mandating COVID-19 vaccination off limits? Or will the flu shot policy change as well?

There are some concerns about frontline workers who work shifts being unable to find the time to get vaccinated. Ford might want to step in here to mandate they be given some time off to get their shots. Or take vaccines to them to resolve the issue!

It’s also time to look at the data to determine who isn’t getting vaccinated and for what reason. This might give local authorities a better shot at reaching eligible populations and addressing vaccine hesitancy.

Perhaps Ford is looking for the federal government and businesses to do what he seems to consider the ‘dirty work’.  With Ottawa announcing it will be issuing vaccine certificates for international travel purposes, he may not have to capitulate after all. 

However his vaccine policies might turn off more voters than he can afford. And the reality is teachers and health care workers might not vote for him irrespective of whether he makes vaccines mandatory or not.

Do the right thing for the right reasons Mr. Ford!!! It may actually work in your favour!

 

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