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Vaccine passport proposed by Liberals

The 'ScotiaPass' would allow people to show proof of immunization when dining at restaurants, shopping, visiting gyms and other businesses, says Iain Rankin
022321 - Premier Iain Rankin
Premier Iain Rankin speaks at his swearing-in ceremony on Feb. 23, 2021

With files from Canadian Press

Liberal leader Iain Rankin says if his government is elected, he would explore the idea of vaccine passports.

He says his proposed “ScotiaPass” provincial vaccine certificate would allow people to show proof of immunization when dining at restaurants, shopping, visiting gyms and other businesses.

“I am becoming more concerned with the increase in COVID cases across the country, and the world,” said Rankin in a news release. “In Nova Scotia, we have done so well, and we don’t want to squander our hard work."

"We need to continue testing, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. But I believe a vaccination certificate could help us continue to manage the virus and ensure Nova Scotians are safe and businesses can thrive.”

As of next month, Quebecers will need show proof of vaccination to access some non-essential services in areas where COVID-19 transmission is high, and over the weekend, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce supported the plan.

However, last week, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health cautioned "there are a number of issues" concerning vaccine passports.

"You need to have a process where you can be reassured that it's a valid proof of vaccination," Dr. Robert Strang said on Thursday. "There's all sorts of legal, human rights, ethical issues around vaccine passports."

"I remain concerned that, if not done very thoughtfully, something like a vaccine passport will further marginalize populations that are already marginalized in our communities, so there's a lot to think about and we're participating in some of those conversations."

Rankin told NEWS 95.7 fill-in host Todd Veinotte the program would be implemented in consultation with public health officials.

"As Dr. Strang has said, anything we do we need to look at all of the aspects and have a thoughtful approach," said the Liberal leader. "So we would look at exploring it right away if we're re-elected and we'd have it in place soon."

As of Aug. 9, 2021, 66.9 per cent of Nova Scotia's overall population has had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Strang has said the province will not reach Phase 5 of its reopening plan until we reach 75 per cent.

There are currently 16 active cases in the province.

When asked about the Liberal proposal, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston told reporters that he didn't want to "politicize people's fear," adding that his party would take guidance from public health officials. "I think Nova Scotians have a right to know and should feel comfortable that I'll work with the experts," Houston said.

The Tory leader did say he contacted chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang last week to ask him about the idea of a vaccination passport.

The party later released the email correspondence in which Strang said some sort of vaccine passport is under "active consideration." However, he told the Tories that because the province is in an election period, he wouldn't be sharing any information with any of the political parties.

"We will be bringing forward information and recommendations to the new government after the Aug. 17 election," Strang wrote.

In an emailed statement, the NDP said it supports "exploring any measures" to keep people safe, including improved immunization records. The party said it would increase supports to ensure as many people as possible get vaccinated, including paid sick time.

Meanwhile, Houston highlighted a platform promise to directly fund about 40 per cent of the cost of fertility treatments for people who want to become parents. The Tories propose allowing people toclaim a maximum of $20,000 in eligible costs, with a cap of $8,000 a year.

Houston pointed out that unlike neighbouring Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia does not offer assistance for couples struggling to conceive.

"We are pro-population growth," he said. "It's the right thing to do to support families, and it's smart government policy."

Also Monday the NDP released its costed election platform, saying it would spend $151 million during its first year in power for initiatives such as affordable housing, mental health care, child care and long-term care.

On their big-ticket items, the New Democrats are pledging $158.4 million over four years to build 1,000 community housing units and $386 million for new and replacement long-term care beds. The party said that much of those capital costs would be shared with the federal and municipal levels of government.

The Liberal platform estimates the party's promises at $454.7 million over four years, of which$93.2 million would be spent in the first year of their mandate. The Progressive Conservatives are projecting $553 million in new spending during their first year in office, including $430 million for the health-care sector.


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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