The path out of the pandemic: COVID-19 exit strategies for the GTA at the ballot box

As Election Day nears, CTV News Toronto is taking a deeper look into the issues that matter most to local voters, breaking down the party promises as they apply to battleground: GTA.

THE ISSUE

Amid the hum of the Union Station concourse, Ryan Thornton snaps a photo of the paper vaccination receipt on his lap—the ink, still fresh.

The 33-year-old utility worker has just received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, waiting out the required 15 minutes in the aftercare area.

“I’m just doing it so I can try to continue a normal life,” Thornton says of the shot. “Go to my kids’ sports, go to hockey arenas.”

He’s not sure yet whether he’ll be required to show his proof of vaccination to his own employer, but is vexed that some workers will be required to get immunized to keep their careers.

“There’s a lot of people who are going to lose their jobs if they are not vaccinated, how do you support a family?” Thornton says. “I feel like it should be everyone’s choice.”

THE BACKGROUND

As various COVID-19 vaccination requirements come into effect across the country, the federal political parties are pitching their own versions of what Canada’s path out of the pandemic will look like. Proof of immunization for federally regulated workers and industries is part of the plan for some; for others, the focus has shifted to border control, research and investment, and emergency preparedness.

THE LIBERAL PROMISE

“Canadians need to keep getting vaccinated,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau maintained along the campaign trail, pledging to implement mandatory COVID-19 immunization for travellers on planes, trains, and cruise ships—as well as for federal public servants.

A re-elected Liberal government would also provide $1 billion to support provincial vaccine certificates for use in non-essential businesses and public spaces and would table legislation to protect businesses and organizations requiring vaccination from lawsuits.

The federal Liberals would also invest $100 million to study the long-term health impacts of COVID-19, and $9-billion to train and better pay thousands of new personal support workers.

THE CONSERVATIVE PROMISE

Unlike the Liberals, the federal Tories insist vaccines should not be required for travellers and federal civil servants—maintaining that rapid COVID-19 testing should be offered as an alternative.

“It’s about having an approach of respect, and having to work with people to overcome any concerns about vaccination,” leader Erin O’Toole said Sept. 6 on the campaign trail.

The Conservatives would require rapid testing at all border entry points and close the border to travellers from hotspots where new variants are detected. The party would also accelerate Health Canada approvals for rapid tests, make at-home rapid tests readily available to Canadians and implement a national rapid screening program for businesses and public institutions.

O’Toole is also promising to ramp up Canadian vaccine research and production, increase domestic production of critical supplies and personal protective equipment and implement an emergency preparedness plan to prevent future pandemics.

THE NDP PROMISE

“We want to make it easier to get vaccinated by providing more awareness and promoting folks to get vaccinated,” New Democrat Party leader Jagmeet Singh explained Sept. 5.

Singh’s party would require mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for federal workers and support discipline, including termination, for those who refused.

The NDP would also support an international travel-focused vaccine passport that could also be used domestically, expand domestic manufacturing capacity for vaccines and personal protective equipment, establish a Crown corporation in charge of vaccine production and support the lifting of COVID-19 vaccine patents.

THE GREEN PROMISE

If elected the federal Green Party would require COVID-19 vaccines for federally regulated workers and would implement a Canada-wide vaccine passport system. It would also build a publicly-owned vaccine production facility in Canada.