National Post (Latest Edition)

Federal vaccine mandate goes into force Oct. 30

Sweeping set of rules targets last holdouts

- RYAN TUMILTY National Post Twitter: RyanTumilt­y rtumilty@postmedia.com

• Unvaccinat­ed travellers have until the end of the month to get vaccinated or they won’t be able to take off, and public servants who don’t get the jab could be suspended or even fired, under new vaccine mandates introduced Wednesday.

The sweeping mandate, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the campaign, require all air travellers, rail passengers and people travelling on cruise ships to be vaccinated as of Oct. 30.

Trudeau insisted this is a necessary step to reach the holdouts who have not been vaccinated and allow Canadians to return to a more normal life.

“When it comes to keeping you and your family safe, when it comes to avoiding lockdowns for everyone.. this is no time for half-measures,” he told a morning news conference.

For the first month travellers will be able to substitute a negative COVID-19 test for proof of vaccinatio­n, but that exemption will end on Nov.

30.

There will continue to be medical exemptions, but Trudeau said those will be rare and anyone who can should get vaccinated.

“Exemptions, whether they’re medical exemptions or otherwise, will be exceedingl­y narrow, specific, and to be honest somewhat onerous to obtain,” he said. “Simply having a personal conviction that vaccines are bad will not be nearly enough to qualify for an exemption.”

Trudeau said the government is working with airlines to streamline the process, but in the beginning gate agents and flight attendants will have to check passengers’ vaccine records. He said the goal is to make the process as seamless as possible.

“The work that we’re doing with major carriers in this country is to integrate the proof of vaccinatio­n digital codes into their online booking process so that when you print out your boarding pass, or at the airport, or in advance, there will be a clearly marked proof of vaccinatio­n,” he said.

The federal government is also working on a vaccine passport for internatio­nal travel, and Trudeau promised more details on it in the coming weeks.

Mike Mcnaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said major carriers like Air Canada and Westjet support the policy, but implementi­ng it won’t be easy. He urged the government to work quickly.

“Timelines are very tight to implement the travel rules. While we are committed to effective implementa­tion it is imperative that the federal government quickly develop a standardiz­ed and digital proof of vaccinatio­n for air travel,” he said in a statement.

Mcnaney said the airlines heard little about the details of the policy during the election, so they need government to work with them now.

Morgan Bell, a spokesman for Westjet, said 98 per cent of the airline’s' staff is vaccinated and they expect to be at 100 per cent by the government’s deadline.

Trudeau said the mandate also targets public servants, even those working from home, who will have to be vaccinated or face suspension.

The policy will initially apply to core public servants working directly for the government, some 250,000 employees, but the government is requiring Crown corporatio­ns such as Canada Post, to follow suit.

Under the rules, public servants will have to sign an attestatio­n stating they have been vaccinated by Oct. 29. If they refuse, they will be suspended without pay until they are vaccinated.

Trudeau said the attestatio­n process allows the government to move quickly and they will be doing thorough audits of the attestatio­ns to ensure public servants aren’t lying.

“The attestatio­n for the public service is the first step. There will be severe consequenc­es for anyone who is found to have been misreprese­nting themselves.”

He said there will be little tolerance for public servants who won’t get the vaccine.

“If you want to continue to work for the public service in Canada, you’re going to need to be fully vaccinated.”

About 82 per cent of eligible Canadians have received a double dose of Health Canada-approved vaccines.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the government’s largest union, does not have a record of how many of its members are vaccinated, but expects the vast majority have had their shots.

There are almost 300,000 federal service workers, plus 955,000 federally regulated workers, representi­ng about eight per cent of the country’s full-time workforce, according to the Treasury Board, which manages the public service.

The union said while it supports a vaccinatio­n policy, this one was rushed.

“The government rushed their vaccinatio­n policy without meaningful consultati­on with the unions representi­ng federal public service workers. Treasury Board gave unions less than a single business day to provide feedback on their policy, and then failed to incorporat­e any of the changes into their final policy,” the union said in a statement.

PSAC said it would continue to advocate for workers who don’t get vaccinated and work to ensure the policy respect its members’ rights.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Trudeau had delayed the actual implementa­tion of the mandate by calling an election in August.

“Justin Trudeau pretends to show leadership, but his selfish decision to call an election has delayed actions to help people get out of the pandemic. If it wasn’t for the weeks spent on an unnecessar­y election campaign, the government could have ensured federal workers were vaccinated right now."

 ?? CARLOS OSORIO / REUTERS ?? Via Rail passengers disembark at Union Station in Toronto on Wednesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new federal mandate
restrictin­g availabili­ty of services for the unvaccinat­ed. Passengers will require COVID-19 shots for air, ship and interprovi­ncial train services.
CARLOS OSORIO / REUTERS Via Rail passengers disembark at Union Station in Toronto on Wednesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new federal mandate restrictin­g availabili­ty of services for the unvaccinat­ed. Passengers will require COVID-19 shots for air, ship and interprovi­ncial train services.

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