Andrew MacDougall: If Erin O’Toole can’t get her caucus to the right place on vaccines, she doesn’t deserve to lead the country
Andrew MacDougall is a director of Trafalgar Strategy and former Chief of Communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper
You have to hand it over to the conservatives. Having just lost in the federal election to Justin Trudeau and his liberals, now they are working overtime to make sure the grains win the next by refusing to tell the truth about vaccines.
It has now been 20 months since the start of this pandemic and seven months since the era of mass vaccination, and Conservatives still won’t say how many of their MPs are vaccinated. Vaccines given are the best way out of our current heavily prreality described is like admitting that you don’t want to drink water after years of wandering in a desert. It’s enough to make the neutral observer wonder if you’re really just messed up in the head.
This is not to say that there are no reasons to evade a vaccination. There are valid medical reasons. There are less valid religious reasons (in terms of public health). But unless clearly stated, people will assume more exotic reasons, namely that some people in the party listen to people who are really messed up in the head about vaccines, claiming that they are a bizarre plot orchestrated by Bill Gates or Big Pharma. More importantly, as long as the party’s policy is to maintain sC.As for vaccinations, ask people to guess the number of vaccine resistant in the caucus. It might just be a handful. On the other hand, it could be dozens. That the party is stubborn in its silence suggests that it is the latter, not the former.
Despite all the back and forth in conservative living rooms about why they lost the last election, not enough time was spent talking about the elephant in the room: a confusing vaccine policy. What shade of blue is Erin O’Toole pales in comparison, in terms of factor in the election loss, to the party’s offside with 80 percent of the opinions of Canadians on vaccinations. Canadians wanted direct speech on vaccines and vaccine policy, and conservatives danced like the first Travolta. It worked as long as the focus was on Justin Trudeau’s pointless election call, but once the conversation turned to COVID bonfires in Alberta and Saskatchewan became a burden around the party’s neck.
The People’s Party voting drivers had a lot to do with vaccination policies and fears of government oversight. If you want to put two fingers on Billy Boy Gates then Maxime Bernier is your man. All the more reason, then, for Conservatives to support vaccines and vaccine mandates before the next election, whenever this should happen.
You’d think the last thing Erin O’Toole would want to tackle in the next campaign was a PPC with a raison d’etre. Overcoming the pandemic is the surest way to inoculate Canada against Bernier and his gang of unmasked bandits and bring the conversation back to where O’Toole was trying to do, about jobs, wages and economic opportunities. So it comes already.
Getting there would also give O’Toole a chance to demonstrate his leadership. Whether vaccines work is out of the question (although we’re still not sure how long they confer protection). It is equally clear that they reduce serious illness and hospital admissions. It is clear that side effects are rare and nothing at all compared to the impacts of COVID-19 infection. The same is true of the fact that we have been using vaccines for decades and have made access to certain places conditional on having them. If O’Toole can’t get his caucus to the right place on vaccines, he doesn’t deserve to lead the country.
Doing things like objecting to the “secret” Board of Internal Economy dictating the House of Commons position on vaccine mandates for Parliament, as the Conservatives did this week, is both scoring a point and missing it outright. Yes, it should have been a full House of Commons vote, but that’s not quite the objection here, is it? The full vote will come soon enough and then the problem will be laid bare for all to see.
But don’t Canadians who have reservations about vaccines deserve a voice in the House of Commons? Sure, but there’s no reason the rumor can’t belong to someone who is fully vaccinated. We already know that vaccine resistant and hesitant are not responding to government demands; watching conservatives dodge the conversation gives them extra coverage. They probably won’t listen to anyone, but it’s definitely best to say you’ve tried, especially when the vast majority of Canadians are watching and wondering where you are.
Like it or not, the only way out of the pandemic hell is maximum vaccination. Indulging those who remain resistant will only prolong the pain and financial damage. More importantly for partisans, accommodating laggards will not increase the share of accessible votes. And with an election coming sooner rather than later, it’s definitely better to fight the next one with no pandemic restrictions in place.