I have a real problem with a decision Ontario Premier Doug Ford made this past week.
Unlike many of my friends on the left of centre, when it comes to politics I have no problem speaking out when I believe a leader or a political party with whom I might otherwise agree does something I strongly feel to be misguided and unacceptable. In fact, I believe it is important to do so. This is one of those times.
The premier has said that his government will not mandate compulsory double COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline health care workers. He is dead wrong. Pun intended.
Most people who read Listen Up on a regular basis will know that I believe that government’s interference in our personal lives should be tightly controlled and carefully monitored.
It bothers me that we simply shrug our shoulders when legislation such as the federal Bill C-10 – which will allow censorship of our fundamental right to free speech within libel and hate laws – is introduced. And the recent briefing note from the Department of Canadian Heritage which states that regulation of lawful but hurtful tweets is needed for a truly democratic debate, is in reality, when you think it through, very scary in its implication.
I have also long supported the infamous statement of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau when he said that government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.
I simply believe that government cannot and should not be all things to all people, and that individuals should be free to make their own decisions as it relates to their personal lives, for better or for worse.
But government does, of course, have a vital role to play. It does need to ensure equality of opportunity and competent management of our economy. And it has a fundamental and constitutional responsibility for the safety of its people.
It is that fundamental responsibility that dictates the necessity for all frontline health care workers in Ontario to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and, to the extent possible, its variants.
In its Saturday editorial, the Toronto Star states that it is the professional, ethical, and moral duty of health care workers to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. They go on to say, “Health care workers who fail to get their shots are putting their patients and everyone else at risk. Our collective right to safety trumps their right to refuse vaccines. It should be a requirement of their job.”
I agree on all counts and would add that frontline health care workers refusing to be fully vaccinated also put their co-workers at greater risk, and that, too, is totally unacceptable.
It is important, in my view, that we all be fully aware that COVID-19 has not been “cured” and probably never will be. We are able to move forward, open up, and face fewer restrictions related to the pandemic only because as more people become vaccinated the COVID-19 virus and its variants have fewer places they can thrive and less damage they can cause.
In recent days, Canada has surpassed the United States in second dose vaccinations with 44.64 per cent of eligible Canadians falling into that category. In Ontario almost 80 per cent of those eligible have received their first shot and about half of those have received their second shot. When it comes to distribution, Ontario is ahead of many jurisdictions.
All of that is good news. But it is not good enough. Six million people in Canada are not vaccinated. The variants of the COVID-19 virus are more virulent than first thought and this requires a higher threshold to meet “herd immunity” than originally anticipated.
While most of us are feeling much more optimistic these days, the threat of another pandemic resurgence is very real and would have devastating consequences. We cannot allow that to happen.
In my view, full COVID-19 vaccinations for frontline health care workers should be a condition of employment. I am not yet ready to go so far as to suggest mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for everyone. That one, for me, remains difficult to swallow. However, I do believe that those who refuse this protection for themselves and for the benefit of others should recognize that there will be consequences.
Airlines and cruise ships, tourist venues, and recreational facilities should have the right to refuse entry to people who cannot show that they have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. In fact, all businesses and workplaces should be able to do the same. While I deeply honour people’s personal rights, I also believe that no one has the right to infect me or the people I love, without our consent.
This should be good news for lawyers. I can just picture the increased litigation from anti-vaxxers, who will insist that their rights are being violated because their movements are being restricted, but I do believe that our collective safety should be the first priority.
When we get right down to it, the bottom line is this: The only way to effectively control the COVID-19 virus is through vaccination. Those who are frontline health care workers, exposed to those who are ill or vulnerable, must be vaccinated. There should be no choice. Other professionals have restrictions on what they can do, precisely because of what they do. Health care workers should be no different. And those that simply refuse to be vaccinated for COVID-19 on “principle” should also be prepared to accept the consequence for that decision.
It really is a matter of life and death.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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