2 Ontario Tory MPPs given Thursday deadline to get COVID vax or face caucus removal

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TORONTO — Two members of Ontario's Progressive Conservative government have been given a Thursday deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face ejection from caucus, The Canadian Press has learned.

Government whip Lorne Coe has issued a letter saying it was discussed at a caucus meeting that "every member of the Progressive Conservative team" must get vaccinated unless medically unable to do so.

Coe wrote that as elected officials, caucus members have a "responsibility to show leadership" and ensure eligible Ontarians get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"That includes every member of our caucus," he wrote in the letter obtained by The Canadian Press.

A senior government source told The Canadian Press that the letter was sent to two unidentified Tory legislators who are not yet vaccinated against the virus.

The letter said members have until 5 p.m. on Thursday to provide Coe and the government house leader with proof of vaccination or a medical note

The medical note signed by a doctor or registered nurse must state that vaccination would be detrimental to the person's health or is unnecessary because of a past infection "or laboratory evidence of immunity," the letter said.

"The safety and efficacy of vaccines has never been clearer," Coe wrote, directing recipients to seek more information from the health ministry or federal immunization committee.

The directive comes as Premier Doug Ford has refused to mandate vaccinations for frontline health and education workers despite mounting calls to do so.

Ford – who has personally been fully vaccinated and has repeatedly urged residents to get their shots – has said he believes individuals have a constitutional right not to take the vaccine.

On Tuesday the province announced it would require employers in several high-risk sectors, including hospitals and publicly funded schools, to introduce strict COVID-19 vaccination policies.

People in those jobs will need to provide proof of vaccination, a medical exemption or take an education session about COVID-19 vaccination. Those who remain unvaccinated will be subject to regular testing before coming to work.

Critics have raised concerns that the policy, which stops short of mandating the shots, may fail to protect the most vulnerable as a fourth wave of infections spreads in the province.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca called earlier on Tuesday for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all Ontario legislators.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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