During the local candidate debate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell on September 8, the candidates were asked to voice their party’s stance on a number of issues. Susan McArthur of the Conservative party,
NDP candidate Konstantine Malakos received the second question of the evening, on how the NDP would ensure more Canadians receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, considering public health officials warn of the risk of another lockdown. He said he supports a vaccine passport, and that federal employees should have to get double-vaccinated. He noted that while the Liberals proposed both these measures, they wouldn’t give a deadline when the NDP pushed for September 1, making the proposal meaningless.
Liberal candidate Francis Drouin argued that while he agrees with both measures, it’s important to discuss with unions how such mandates will be implemented and what will happen to employees who refuse to get double-vaccinated. Vaccination bookings doubled after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the implementation of a vaccine passport, but there are still many people who are worried about what the vaccine entails without being entirely anti-vaccination.
Malakos agreed and added that other barriers to vaccination also need to be considered. Being unable to access vaccine information in their preferred language and having mobility issues related to getting to a vaccination point are both reasons people might not be getting vaccinated, unrelated to being wary of vaccines.
Conservative candidate Susan McArthur affirmed that she and her party agree that vaccines are the best tool available to protect people, and that vaccines and related information should be accessible to everyone, but she also acknowledged they aren’t the only tool. Rapid testing, masking, and social distancing are all measures, she noted, to ensure public health safety, without resorting to dividing people based on vaccination status. Drouin said that the Liberals would be federally mandating being double vaccinated for anyone to use any commercial method of travel, and also to thank essential healthcare workers.
Malakos agreed that essential workers should be thanked but made the point that essential retail workers were being left out of that. The beginning of the pandemic saw some corporations create “hero pay” as a show of goodwill and support, but then took it away almost as soon as it was implemented once they got their positive public relations benefit. Malakos said that hero pay and other support measures should be mandatory, because essential workers are some of the worst-treated workers in the country. He said they live in the worst conditions because they work full time and are still living in poverty because the cost of living is so high. They use 60 per cent of their paycheck for housing, which is double the limit economists recommend. Instead of thanking them with words, Malakos said, the government should be thanking them with action.