“I don’t agree with the petition that was introduced,” O’Toole said, speaking to reporters on Monday.
He added that he has “very great confidence” in the vaccination process.
O’Toole’s comment comes as Conservative MP Derek Sloan decided to sponsor an e-petition in early November that raises concerns about the safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine. The petition also states that “bypassing proper safety protocols means COVID-19 vaccination is effectively human experimentation.”
The petition comes at a time when both public health and government officials have provided repeated assurances that Health Canada will only approve a vaccine that is rigorously tested and safe to use.
Sloan has not said whether he agrees with the contents of the petition — but his leader clarified his own stance on Monday.
“Let me be perfectly clear: the vaccine is critical, it’s a critical tool, I trust our health-care system to make sure it’s effective and safe for use,” O’Toole said.
He added that he and his family also intend to receive the coronavirus jab as soon as it’s their turn to do so.
“I’ve said many times that I intend to get the vaccine, and my family as well, in the priority indicated by a national plan. I got the flu vaccination, our family did this fall, that was important,” O’Toole said.
The Conservative leader said he’d be “happy” to talk to Canadians about “the importance of a vaccine, why it’s important to get vaccinated, how our clinical, peer-reviewed process for testing can give them certainty in the process.”
O’Toole has been asked whether he intends to take any action against Sloan, such as booting him from caucus, but so far has not provided any answers. He has said, however, that he regularly speaks to his caucus.
E-petitions cannot be tabled without the sponsorship of an elected member of Parliament. Because of this reality, quite a few parliamentarians sponsor e-petitions they disagree with so they can give their constituents a voice.
While the sponsor of this particular e-petition is not from Sloan’s riding, the MP did say in a statement on Wednesday that he generally sponsors any e-petition that he feels reflects concerns his constituents have.
“My office did not draft the petition, but I do believe that citizens have a right to raise any questions they feel are important to public health and safety,” Sloan said.
When Global News explicitly asked Sloan whether or not he personally supports the contents of the petition, he wouldn’t say – but he noted that by answering questions raised in the petition, the government can “increase public trust.”
“I do not agree that by asking relevant, timely questions about various COVID-19 vaccine candidates that a person is therefore somehow fuelling ‘anti-vaccine sentiment,’ as you have characterized it,” he added, responding to Global News’ question about whether he is concerned that the petition could boost anti-vaccine sentiment.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said on Friday that it’s “unfortunate” that Sloan opted to support a petition that she said is “full of misinformation” regarding a coronavirus vaccine.
“It’s unfortunate to see politicians utilize their power to provide misinformation to Canadians when what Canadians need is clear, concise, science-based evidence,” said Hajdu, speaking to reporters.
“The government of Canada continually works against misinformation, from the beginning of COVID-19.”
Trudeau was also pressed on the issue on Friday. While he did not directly address Sloan’s decision, he said it “behooves every parliamentarian to stand up for science” and “to support the work of our experts.”
“The work that Health Canada is doing to ensure that this vaccine — that every vaccine that is approved — is safe for Canadians is uncompromising. There are no corners cut,” Trudeau said.
Meanwhile, the e-petition already has more than 25,000 signatures — meaning the government will eventually be forced to issue a response.
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