Erin O'Toole says COVID-19 vaccine comments by Tory MPs Gladu, Lewis are not helpful

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OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says comments about vaccines by some members of his caucus are not helpful and are spreading uncertainty about immunization against COVID-19.

O'Toole told a news conference in Ottawa today that comments by Tory MP Marilyn Gladu in an interview on CTV's "Question Period" caused confusion with respect to the health and well-being of Canadians.

During the interview that aired Sunday, Gladu compared COVID-19 to polio when it spread during the first half of the 20th century, but claimed the novel coronavirus doesn't pose the same "frequency of risk" in terms of deaths or disabilities.

O'Toole says the remarks were not appropriate at a time when Conservatives should be answering questions about vaccine hesitancy, not creating new questions, but his caucus will deal with it "as a team" because members respect one another.

The leader was also asked about comments by Conservative MPs Leslyn Lewis, who has questioned on social media the efficacy of vaccinating children, and Dean Allison, who has hosted broadcasts comparing natural immunity to vaccinations.

O'Toole says MPs of all stripes should let health professionals answer questions on efficacy of vaccines and he warned that social media has fostered the creation of "instant experts" and it's not helpful to public discourse.

The Conservative leader has refused to say how many of his MPs are vaccinated and today continued to say that all Tory MPs and senators "participating" in Parliament will be vaccinated.

While O'Toole has said he supports a full in-person return to Parliament, the Liberals and NDP have supported a hybrid approach with some virtual participation.

It's possible that some Tory MPs will stay home when the House returns Nov. 22.

An analysis by The Canadian Press shows at least 82 of the Conservatives' 119 elected members, including O'Toole, are double vaccinated against COVID-19. At least two say they can't be vaccinated for medical reasons and several others say they don't disclose their status because it's their private health information. The remainder has yet to respond.

Gladu announced last week she is forming a "mini-caucus" within the Conservative cohort to advocate for those who are losing their jobs because of vaccine mandates. She has said the group isn't intended to challenge O'Toole's leadership and won't contradict his positions.

"There's a big difference between advocating for your constituents who may need reasonable accommodation and creating confusion about public health measures," said O'Toole today.

Gladu, Lewis and Allison did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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