Doug Ford defends delayed Ontario vaccine certificate by blaming 'unnecessary election' called by Justin Trudeau

Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended the delayed rollout of a vaccine certification program by blaming Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for calling an “unnecessary election” during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively ending his three-week silence in the federal campaign.

The comments were made by the premier during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon where he announced a province-wide vaccine certificate program that will require customers to show proof of a double dose prior to entering some indoor establishments such as gyms, restaurants and banquet halls.

“All the premiers, every premier, wanted a vaccine passport and unfortunately, the federal government decided to go into an unnecessary election, which I'm still shaking my head over, in the middle of a fourth wave in a pandemic, then telling us just three weeks ago that they wouldn't be able to get it done till the 24th,” Ford said.

“We either do this, or we risk shutting down the economy, which would even be worse.”

Prior to this week, Ford has consistently said that a vaccine certificate was not necessary in Ontario, arguing that it would create a “split society” and the vaccine receipt provided following a second dose was sufficient for businesses who chose to implement their own policies. At the same time, the premier did support the idea of a federal vaccine passport that would be required of travellers crossing borders.

However on Wednesday Ford appeared to change his tune, saying that a national vaccine passport would be “far better than a patchwork of certificates across every single province and territory,” adding that Trudeau told premiers a passport would not be rolled out while the election is ongoing.

“We can't wait any longer. We must take immediate action.”

The comments also come a week after Trudeau, while campaigning in Mississauga, urged Ford to “step up” when it came to the creation of a proof-of-vaccination program and to listen to public health officials. The Liberal leader also committed to providing provinces that choose to implement a vaccination program with $1 billion in funding.

Ford, who is the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, has been staunchly silent since the writ dropped on Aug. 15. When asked if Wednesday’s repeated comments regarding the “unnecessary election” meant the premier was now getting involved in the campaign, Ford firmly said no.

“I’m not getting involved in the federal election,” he said, adding that he is preoccupied with the pandemic.

“I think I've proved to people around Canada and Ontario … I don't care if it's the Liberals, Conservatives, whoever ends up becoming the prime minister, I’ll be able to work with them.”

Ford’s mention of the federal election prompted Bill Blair, Liberal Candidate for Scarborough Southwest, to release a statement expressing his “disappointment.”

“The premier has been late to announce vaccine passports in Ontario. His comment today that he asked the federal government to bring in a national vaccine passport is untrue,” Blair said.

“Premier Ford, Premier (Jason) Kenney of Alberta, and Erin O'Toole have been the only ones opposing vaccine passports domestically. In fact, Premier Ford asked the federal government to stay out of domestic vaccine passports. Premier Ford has only ever asked for an international version for international travel.”

Canadians go to the polls on Sept. 20.