Senators agree to vaccine mandate to participate in-person
OTTAWA -- If Senators want to participate in Senate proceedings in-person in the new Parliament, they must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or take a rapid test if they have a medical exemption.
The agreement was announced on Thursday after Senate Speaker George Furey consulted with the leaders and facilitators of all recognized parties and groups within the Senate.
Effective Nov. 22, the first day of the 44th Parliament, all senators must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Those who have a medical exemption will have the option of providing proof of a recent negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test result," Furey said in a statement. "As has been the case since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health, safety and well-being of all parliamentary personnel remains of paramount importance to the Senate."
This policy echoes the Board of Internal Economy deciding earlier this month to implement a vaccine mandate requiring anyone entering any buildings in the House of Commons precinct, including the Chamber, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Nov. 22.
These policies follow the federal government announcing on Oct. 6 that “core” federal public servants will have to attest to being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or face being put on leave without pay.
While the House of Commons and Senate were not part of that mandate, they were among the federal employers asked to mirror the government’s vaccine policy in developing their own approaches.
As of Thursday, a decision had not been made when it comes to a Senate staff vaccination policy, though the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (CIBA) will be "meeting soon to discuss the implementation of a vaccine policy for all staff."
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has taken issue with the way the House policy was decided, telling reporters on Wednesday that while his caucus will “respect and abide by” the ruling, at the “earliest opportunity” his party will be challenging the policy. He continues to refuse to say how many of his MPs are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to Conservative Sen. Don Plett’s office, Plett, who is the leader of the opposition in the Senate, took part in the discussion and agreement, but declined to comment on whether he was aware of how many Conservative senators are fully vaccinated.