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MPs defeat Conservative motion calling for federal plan to end vaccine mandates, restrictions

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The Conservative push to have the Liberal government present a plan to end federal vaccine mandates and restrictions by the end of the month was struck down on Monday.

The motion was defeated 185 to 151, with the Liberals, NDP, and Greens, for the most part, voting against the move and the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois voting in favour of it.

Unsurprisingly, Liberal MP Joel Lightbound also supported the motion. The Louis-Hébert, Que. MP publically spoke out against the government’s approach to the pandemic last week.

Federally-imposed vaccine mandates and restrictions have been a source of contention in recent weeks as the Freedom Convoy continues protests and blockades across Canada in pursuit of getting those policies dropped.

Ottawa announced in October that public servants would be required to attest they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of that month. It also required that air and rail employees – and their passengers – be fully vaccinated by the same time period.

A month later, the government announced that starting Jan. 15, unvaccinated truck drivers entering Canada would have to comply with pre-entry, arrival, and day eight testing requirements, as well as quarantine rules.

However, the majority of vaccine mandates and public health restrictions are imposed at the provincial and territorial level.

When introducing the motion last week, interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said that while it’s time for the trucker convoy’s “barricades and disruptive action” to end, it’s also time for the government to present a plan out of the pandemic by Feb. 28.

The text of the motion points to recent comments by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam calling for some public health measures to be re-examined and the need for a more “sustainable” approach in managing the pandemic.

It also alludes to steps being taking by provincial and territorial governments to lift mandates and restrictions.

During Question Period on Monday, Bergen said this should be a time of “optimism and joy” not “division and fear.”

“Two years into this pandemic Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve in this moment some optimism and hope for their future and they deserve leadership from their government. They need to know when the federal mandates and restrictions will be lifted, that is not an unreasonable ask,” she said.

The government reiterated that science will dictate any change in policy.

“The opposition would like someone – perhaps the health minister – to declare that COVID-19 will end on a particular date. Unfortunately, that is not how the virus operates and that is not what science tells us. What science has told us is that we need to be prudent and responsible,” said Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in response.

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