Trudeau says post-election priority is vaccine mandate for public servants, travellers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out five post-election priorities for his government Tuesday — all of them focused on the continued fight against the pandemic as COVID-19 case counts rise sharply in some parts of the country.

Speaking to reporters outside of a vaccination clinic in suburban Ottawa, Trudeau said the government’s energies will be directed first at standing up a vaccine mandate, which will force federal public servants and travellers to get their shots before going to work or boarding a train, plane or ship.

Trudeau said the details of the mandate have yet to be finalized because the government is still locked in negotiations with the public sector unions that represent tens of thousands of federal bureaucrats.

“We will have more to say when we make the announcement in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said of the new mandate, a program that could have major consequences for all those who work for the federal government, the country’s largest single employer.

He also issued a warning to anyone planning to travel in the coming weeks: get vaccinated or risk being denied permission to board.

“I was very clear on that and I have for weeks and weeks now,” Trudeau said. “Make sure that you and all members of your family over 12 years old have gotten vaccinated and are getting your second shot if you haven’t already, because you will not be able to travel on a plane or a train in Canada if you are not fully vaccinated.”

As the U.S. and other countries demand that all incoming travellers be vaccinated against the virus, Trudeau said his government is putting the final touches on a vaccine passport for international travel — a program designed to ease border crossings for Canadians.

The U.S. still hasn’t said which vaccine products it will recognize. That’s an ongoing source of concern for the two million Canadians who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the early days of the immunization campaign — a product that has not been approved for use in the American marketplace.

According to Health Canada, more than 3.8 million Canadians received some combination of vaccine products as part of the push to get people fully vaccinated faster — a pandemic policy that hasn’t been widely followed in the U.S.

Speaking to reporters last week, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Canada has been sharing data with U.S. officials about the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca product and the “mix and match” regimen of two different mRNA shots, like those offered by Pfizer and Moderna.

“We’ve been providing some technical supports to help them make a decision on the mixed dose, particularly AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine. I understand they are still in their process of deliberation,” she said.

Trudeau also said Tuesday that Chrystia Freeland will continue to serve as both deputy prime minister and finance minister in his post-election cabinet. He also announced that his new cabinet will be sworn in sometime in October and Parliament will return “before the end of fall.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will stay in her role as the Liberal government begins its third term in office. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

He outlined two other priorities that may require parliamentary approval: a new $1 billion fund to help pay for provincial proof-of-vaccination programs and legislation to criminalize some of the disruptive demonstrations that have been staged by anti-vaccine groups and others outside of hospitals in recent weeks.

During the recent election campaign, Trudeau promised to send money to the provinces that create their own vaccine passports — credentials people vaccinated against COVID-19 can show to businesses to make everyday activities safer.

If a province requires that everyone at a local restaurant, gym or other non-essential business location be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination, Trudeau said, Ottawa would pay for the development and the rollout of that program.

“We’re going to foot the bill because we know that encouraging people to get vaccinated, and protecting those that have already gotten vaccinated, is the key way through this pandemic and out of it,” Trudeau said.

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