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Timmins MPP says premier playing politics with issue of vaccination passports

MPP Bisson believes the idea of vaccine passports should at least be explored further
gilles-bisson 2017
File photo of Gilles Bisson

TIMMINS — The MPP for Timmins believes Premier Doug Ford is putting politics ahead of science by dismissing the need for vaccination passports in Ontario.

While not coming out and saying he is in favour of using proof of vaccination to allow greater freedom of movement by residents, MPP Gilles Bisson said it should be explored further rather than dismissed outright.

“The science community is suggesting that there should be some sort of passport or control to allow people who are vaccinated to have dinner or have access to events,” Bisson said. “I sympathize because that’s a tough call to make. The Conservatives, their support base has really been made at them for the way they have handled this pandemic and some of the things such as lockdowns.

“So, I think this is more of a political decision than a scientific one. I think he’s thinking we’re 10 months before the next election, so I don’t need to make my base any madder. The reality is their base is going to vote for him anyway, so I’m not quite sure why take that position.”

Meanwhile, Ontario’s neighbouring provinces have announced plans for vaccination passports or similar documents.

Manitoba has started providing proof-of-immunization cards, allowing residents to skip quarantine when returning from travel and easier access to visit those in hospital and long-term care facilities.

Quebec’s government has said it will go with a vaccine passport this fall if a fourth wave of COVID-19 hits. It would be used to access activities such as gyms, concerts, sport events, festivals, bars and other activities thought to have a high risk of spreading the virus.

Internationally, several jurisdictions, such as France, has announced plans for a vaccination passport.

The federal government is looking to provide a Canadian proof of vaccination by December to allow residents to travel abroad to nations requiring such documentation. Residents would provide their provincial proof of vaccination to get the travel ID.

Bisson said some kind of plan is needed by provincial leaders.

“The difficulty with him not doing anything, and that’s the point I really want to make here, is that it’s leaving it up to individual businesses and institutions to come up with their own policies to deal with it,” he explained. “If we have one of the gyms in town that says you don’t come into here unless you’re vaccinated. It puts them in a bit of an awkward position in order to do that, but they’re making sure their customers are safe and their staff is safe.

“In the absence of having the province establish some kind of policy, and dismiss it offhand and not have any policy, it’s difficult for small businesses and organizations who have to deal with this.”

He said planning is vital to avoid more drastic measures, like another lockdown, if COVID-19 numbers significantly increase in Ontario.

“Should it be done? I think that needs to be fleshed out,” he said. “The scientific community is saying yes. The medical association, the nurses’ association and others are saying there needs to be something like that done.

“It’s a tough call for any government. In the end, we’ll see what happens. If we get a fourth wave, maybe we’re going to have to do this.”

He said it is unfair to put the burden of such an important decision on the shoulders of the business community

“The premier should provide some sort of direction on it because he is leaving everybody, small businesses and others, to do it on their own,” Bisson said. “That’s not leadership. That’s not why we have a premier and a cabinet.

“A premier and a cabinet are there to make decisions, and sometimes they’re the tough ones.”