TORONTO – Ontario plans to announce a COVID-19 vaccine certificate system early next week, The Canadian Press has learned, marking a significant reversal from Premier Doug Ford on the issue.
Three senior government sources with knowledge of the situation said Friday that a plan for a certificate system is in the works, with the final details still being worked out.
The sources said the planned system – which would limit access to certain non-essential services based on vaccination status – will go to cabinet for discussion before an announcement is made.
The introduction of a vaccine certificate system would be a major reversal for Ford, who has publicly rejected the idea and said it would create a “split society.”
Calls have been growing, however, for Ontario to bring in such a system, with businesses, municipalities, health-care workers and opposition politicians saying it is needed as the province experiences a fourth wave driven by the highly infectious Delta variant.
Earlier this week, top officials at Ontario public health units said they were considering options for regional vaccine certificates in the absence of a provincial system.
Ontario’s chamber of commerce also released guidance for private businesses seeking to develop their own proof-of-vaccination protocols, saying it did so “in the absence of government guidance.”
The province’s COVID-19 science advisers have said a vaccine certificate system would allow high-risk settings to reopen sooner with greater capacity. The advisers also said such a system would help reintroduce stronger public health measures if needed in the future.
Similar systems have already been announced in British Columbia and Quebec, with the measures to take effect in the coming weeks. Manitoba is also expected to soon announce details of a vaccine passport.
Word of Ontario’s plans came after federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau scolded Ford earlier on Friday for not following other provinces in mandating vaccination for non-essential settings.
Trudeau promised $1 billion from a re-elected Liberal government for provinces choosing to implement vaccine passport systems and called directly on Ford to take up the offer.
“I certainly hope that here in Ontario, Premier Ford steps up, too,” Trudeau said. “It’s time for him to listen to public health officials.”
Opposition politicians in Ontario called Friday evening for Ford to move quickly with a provincial vaccine certificate.
“It is the right thing to do to keep Ontario families safe during the fourth wave and I will continue to urge Doug Ford to make it happen as soon as possible,” Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said in a statement.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford was playing “catch-up” on the issue.
“It’s time to put the politics and ideology aside and listen to public health experts on the best way to implement a vaccine certificate that is accessible, secure and effective,” he said in a statement.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also called on the premier to act quickly.
“Doug Ford should come out of hiding, listen to medical experts and small business owners, and bring in vaccine certificates immediately,” she said in a statement.