Party leaders touch on mandatory jabs, employee benefits in heated debate

The heated election debate shed light on many HR issues

Party leaders touch on mandatory jabs, employee benefits in heated debate

Canada's party leaders faced off on Thursday in a heated French-language debate for the lead-in to the country's snap election on September 20.  Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, Conservatives' Erin O'Toole, Bloc Quebecois' Yves-Francois Blanchet, and National Democratic Party's Jagmeet Singh debated over various issues, such as mandatory vaccinations and the effect of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), as they tried to rally more supporters to their side.

Mandatory vaccines

Mandating vaccines for Canadians has been a heated topic for the past few weeks - as the Delta variant continues to rage on. Various provinces have begun announcing the implementation of vaccine passports to encourage more people to get the jabs. Trudeau's government even made the shots compulsory for federal public servants and travelling public.

However, as the fourth wave of the pandemic closes in, is it high time the government mandated vaccines for everyone? Trudeau replied that his government will not force people to be vaccinated, but authorities will "limit the privileges" of those who will refuse the jabs. O'Toole also opposed mandated jabs for the public, saying: "We shouldn't force Canadians. It's a decision for individual Canadians on a health matter," he said in French as quoted and translated by CBC. The Conservative leader added that unvaccinated people should also get "reasonable accommodations" like frequent testing, a move that he said his party uses.

Read more: Can you fire a worker for refusing the vaccine?

Workers in various sectors have been on the frontlines providing goods and services to the public amid the pandemic. While federal workers have now been ordered to get the jab, some private businesses are still at loss over whether they should follow suit. Singh agreed that vaccinations should be mandated in the federal civil service, The Montreal Gazette reported, but he is not in favour of firing people who will refuse the jabs. O'Toole, meanwhile, reiterated his call for reasonable accommodations for unvaccinated individuals.

"We cannot create divisions over vaccines," he said.

CRB and shortages

CERB was also touched on – with the benefits program and public debt coming under speculation.

A lot of small-business owners blamed the financial support from the government from preventing them from finding enough workers. NDP's Singh, however, rejected this claim in the debate, and instead attributed the lack of workers to a "wage problem" in Canada. Trudeau, on the other hand, said Canada was already under a labour shortage even before the pandemic began. The two-party leaders later contended on who should get credit over CRB. Singh said NDP had a hand in Trudeau's generous pandemic benefits, while Trudeau accused the NDP leader of taking credit for the government's work.

Read more: How to apply for Canada's new $500 per week COVID-19 benefits

What next?

As the election debate rambles on, it’s unclear who will emerge victorious. However, CBC’s Poll tracker suggests that the Conservatives have taken a two percent lead over Trudeau’s Liberals. Quebecor TV network TVA Nouvelles organised and aired the debate among the party leaders. It’s the first of their three face offs, with the next on September 8 (in French) and September 9 (in English).

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