Ontario premier pressed to investigate 'statistically curious' vaccine medical exemptions in PC caucus
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
TORONTO -- The number of medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine in Premier Doug Ford's caucus is 'statistically curious,' according to his political critics, after two members were given a pass – a rate that far exceeds the rest of the province.
MPPs Christina Mitas and Lindsey Park both provided the government with proof of a medical exemption, allowing them to remain within the Progressive Conservative caucus while unvaccinated. The concentration of exemptions within the same caucus is being characterized as an anomaly and has prompted calls for an independent review of the validity of the exemptions.
On Tuesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health confirmed that in most cases only two medical exemptions can apply: a severe allergic reaction to any of the components of the vaccines confirmed by an allergist; or a risk of pericarditis or myocarditis which predominantly applies to younger age groups.
Dr. Kieran Moore said when combined “we should be seeing medical exemptions at the risk of around one to five per 100,000” but suggested some employees in Ontario may be receiving fraudulent exemptions to avoid disciplinary action.
Moore said the rate of medical exemptions reported by workers in Ontario is “higher” than the general risk which he believes “deserves a review.”
“We’ve tried to educate physicians, nurse practioners who fill out these forms to ensure that they are aware of the two major medical exemptions for these vaccines,” Dr. Moore said.
Critics were quick to compare the 1:100,000 standard risk of medical exemptions to the rate within the Ontario PC caucus which currently stands at 1:35.
"I find it statistically curious that there's such a statistically large number of conservative caucus members (with an exemption) relative to the size of the caucus," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday and added that the validity of the exemptions should be reviewed to ensure the two MPPs in question are “telling the truth.”
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said the two medical exemptions in a team of 70 people “is kind of out of whack” and “a bit unusual” and is calling for a further probe of the exemptions.
Those calls were echoed by Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner who said, while he’s not casting doubt, verifying medical exemptions is important “to keep all the staff who work at Queen’s Park safe.”
On Monday, Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the PC party human resources department is responsible for verifying the validity of the exemptions, and added that both Park and Mitas “presumably received medical exemptions from medical practitioners following the guidelines set forward by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”
Still, sources in the Ford government tell CTV News Toronto that MPPs have “the right to a private relationship with their doctor” and while the party doesn’t know the nature of the conversations between the two caucus members and their physicians, the government is choosing to accept the exemptions and “trust these individuals.”
“We’re not going to get involved in someone’s medical relationship with their doctor,” one source said, speaking on background to discuss sensitive human resources issues.
“We have to respect that that’s what they’ve been provided by their doctor.”
MPP Roman Baber – a former PC caucus member – said the government should forward the vaccine exclusion notes to the Ontario Public Service allowing the civil service to independently verify the legitimacy of the exemptions.