Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole should show leadership on mandatory vaccinations and show any of his unvaccinated MPs the door, says former prime minister and Conservative leader Brian Mulroney.
Mulroney said that if he was the leader today, he would require all of his MPs to roll up their sleeves and receive the COVID-19 vaccine, calling it a “no-brainer.”
“Of course. That’s leadership,” he said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period with host Evan Solomon.
“Who am I to argue with tens of thousands of brilliant scientists and doctors who urge the population desperately to get vaccinated? And we’re going to have some members of my caucus, for example, who are going to say ‘I’m not going to do it’? They have to do it.”
After a few weeks of conflicting messaging on the party’s position on the House of Commons’ new rules mandating vaccination, O’Toole said on Wednesday that his caucus has agreed to “respect and abide by” the policy but at the “earliest opportunity” his party will be challenging it.
While O’Toole has said that when the new session begins, only fully-vaccinated Conservatives or those with valid medical exemptions who have been recently rapid-tested will be taking part in the House proceedings in-person next month, he refuses to say how many of his caucus of 118 MPs are unvaccinated.
With the Liberals, New Democrats, and Bloc Quebecois all fully vaccinated and seemingly fully supportive of the Board of Internal Economy’s vaccine mandate, it remains to be seen how far the coming Conservative question of privilege to the Speaker will get.
“Mr. O’Toole has a difficult challenge because of some of the components of his caucus, and I respect that, and I respect what he’s done to try and deal with it. But I’ve encountered situations like that when I was leader of the party, and prime minister. For example there were two members of Parliament who wouldn’t support the GST, out they went. There were others who wouldn’t support language issues, out they went,” Mulroney said.
“Look, you’re not the leader to follow, you are the leader to lead, and if you think this is in the national interest, Canada’s interest, you get your members of Parliament in line, and they have to support what you’re doing.”
Mulroney said that O’Toole shouldn’t let members of his caucus defy his leadership, especially on this policy which he said is showing to be effective in bringing Canada closer to the end of the pandemic.
VACCINE POLICY MAY HAVE COST HIM ELECTION
Mulroney said that O’Toole’s position on mandatory vaccinations may have also played a role in his defeat in the Sept. 20 federal election.
While during the campaign O’Toole had Mulroney’s endorsement—appearing alongside him at a campaign rally five days before the vote—the former prime minister says that the Conservative leader “lost momentum” as a result of their stance on vaccine mandates.
“They were doing very well… for the first couple of weeks, and then they lost momentum simply because … Mr. Trudeau quite brilliantly poked holes in the Conservative positions on exactly what you and I are talking about: Vaccines, and health care and the problems that were going on in Alberta at the time,” Mulroney said.
In the final days of the federal campaign, Alberta rolled out new restrictions in the face of a then-worsening new wave of COVID-19 infections after lifting most public health precautions over the summer. O’Toole was asked repeatedly to comment, specifically on whether he still thought Alberta Premier Jason Kenney handled the pandemic better than the prime minister, and he wouldn’t say.
“This played a major role in the subsequent defeat of the Conservative Party,” Mulroney said.
DIRECTION OF CONSERVATIVE PARTY?
During the campaign, O’Toole – on the same day he campaigned with Mulroney – framed the party he is leading as “not your dad’s Conservative Party.”
Asked what he thinks the Conservative Party today stands for, and what it needs to become, Mulroney said that while it doesn’t need to be the Progressive Conservative party it was under him, it wouldn’t hurt.
“Although, as I remember, Brian Mulroney did pretty well in two general elections as a Progressive Conservative, winning the largest victory in Canadian history. And with his second one, he was the first Conservative leader since Sir John A. Macdonald to win back-to-back majorities in 100 years,” he said.
“You have to be reasonable, and thoughtful and appeal to the broad middle class of Canada. For example on the environment, middle-class Canadians are doing fairly well. They don’t need little tax cuts for hockey sticks and that kind of stuff to appeal to them,” Mulroney said.
In the lead up to and during the campaign, O’Toole pitched a “personal low carbon savings account” that would rebate Canadians directly for what they paid on fuel, allowing them to use the funds for environmentally-friendly purchases.
“They for example, in that case, in my judgment, need and require a policy to ensure that they are able to pass on to their children and grandchildren a pristine environment… If you don’t have a policy that reflects that urge in Canadians, that demand, that need on the environment, you’re not going to win. And so the party has to adjust itself unless it wants to lose a couple more elections.”
Asked what his message is to the Conservatives who disagree with the need for a price on carbon, or refuse to acknowledge that climate change is real, Mulroney said: “Get with the program.”
“My message is it’s inexorable, it’s going to happen, so get with the program. You can’t stop the tides of history from washing over you. And, this is a vital moment in Canadian history and indeed for the planet, and we should be there actively,” he said.