City of Ottawa does not have legal ability to impose mandatory vaccine policy on municipal workers, mayor says

As the federal government considers making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for federal workers, Mayor Jim Watson says the city of Ottawa does not have the legal power to make vaccines mandatory for municipal employees.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that the government is considering whether to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for employees in federal workplaces and in federally regulated industries such as banking, rail and air travel and Parliament.

Watson says the city of Ottawa’s legal department advised him that any mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for municipal employees would need to come from the Ontario government.

“We unfortunately do not have that legal ability at the municipal level to impose those restrictions,” said Watson while speaking with reporters Thursday morning.

“On a personal basis, I think it makes just good common sense that people should be encouraged to get the two doses, because we know the two doses are much more effective than the one dose and obviously significantly more effective than no doses at all.

“While we have seen other jurisdictions in the United States move towards a more forceful regime (on vaccines), that would really have to come from the provincial government.”

Watson says people who have contact on a daily basis with the public, including staff in long-term care homes and hospitals and bus drivers, “should be double vaccinated.”

“I’m with that side of the community that says the people who have been following the rules and abiding by those rules are tired of always being punished. It should be the people who are not taking medical advice seriously,” said Watson.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says discussions are underway on mandatory vaccinations for federal workers.

“I think the federal government being significant workforce is looking at how we best protect our workforce, as well as those around us,” said Tam, adding it’s really important for workplaces to have everyone vaccinated.

On Thursday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath clarified her stance on mandatory vaccines, saying she supports mandatory vaccinations for health and education workers. Liberal leader Steven Del Duca says the Liberals also support mandatory vaccinations for frontline health care and education workers.

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello