Great journalism takes time and money.
Aaron Rodgers is not your average professional athlete. Sure, he’s a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, but he also did a commendable job as fill-in host on Jeopardy! and even indicated he would have been willing to take the full-time gig. That’s why the revelation last week that he trades in some of the dumbest COVID-19 conspiracy theories came as a shock to millions of people.
In a recent podcast appearance, Rodgers touched on virtually every piece of vaccine-related nonsense in a five-minute spiel, from the alleged risks of infertility (there are none) to the claim that the political left was opposed to vaccines during the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency (it wasn’t).
“I’m somebody who’s a critical thinker,” he said. His willingness to validate the unfounded fears of millions of unvaccinated Americans will almost certainly get a few of them killed by the virus, but he lives in a country where people routinely privilege their own freedoms over their responsibility to others.
What’s most worrying here is that this me-first mentality is creeping across the border and beginning to infect Canadians as well. Look no further than the House of Commons, where a group of 15 to 30 Conservative MPs and senators led by Sarnia MP Marilyn Gladu are forming a so-called “civil liberties caucus” that will stand up for the rights of unvaccinated Canadians. The Hill Times’s Abbas Rana has reported: “The group chose ‘civil liberties’ as a name because they believe Canadians who don’t want to be vaccinated are not getting fair treatment, and losing their jobs is a violation of their rights.”
That Erin O’Toole is apparently willing to tolerate this shows just how weak his hold on the party’s leadership really is, and how unwilling he is to stand up to its far-right flank.
Opinion: Conservatives in Canada continue to place the rights of people who haven't taken a COVID-19 vaccine over their responsibilities to everyone else — including health-care workers, writes Max Fawcett #canpoli #vaccines
Sadly, he’s not alone there. In Ontario and Quebec, the conservative premiers backed down in the face of resistance from unvaccinated health-care workers and announced they won’t be making vaccinations mandatory for them after all. Premiers Doug Ford and Francois Legault both cited the potential impact of thousands of health-care workers walking off the job, with Ford suggesting his province’s decision was informed by “real-world evidence here in Ontario and across Canada.”
It’s not entirely clear which real world he’s referring to here. Take New York, where a Nov. 1 mandatory vaccination deadline was met with threats of widespread service disruptions from public sector employees, along with noisy protests from unvaccinated members of the ranks of the city’s firefighters, police officers and sanitation workers. The city called their bluff, and so far it seems to be working. Despite union leaders predicting that as many as 10,000 police officers would leave rather than get vaccinated ahead of the deadline, only 34 were placed on unpaid leave.
For some reason though, Conservatives in Canada seem completely incapable of summoning that sort of resolve. Instead, they continue to privilege the rights of the unvaccinated over their responsibilities to everyone else, including health-care workers who are caring for the sick. And the more they roll over in the face of this me-first attitude, the more they embolden and empower it.
Yes, millions of Americans are happy to continue prioritizing individual rights over collective responsibility, even if it comes at the cost of many thousands of dead people. But here in Canada, we need our elected officials to do a better job of reminding people their freedoms aren’t absolute, and they need to think of each other as well as themselves.
If you’re not willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, you have no business being a health-care provider. If anything, vaccine mandates will serve as a useful long-term test for our public institutions, since the people they lose as a result of them are no real loss.
But if and when the Conservative Party of Canada’s “civil liberties caucus” decides to try and enter Parliament, its leader can’t sit by idly and watch. Erin O’Toole will need to pick a side: does he stand with the other parliamentarians who are abiding by the shared set of rules that govern their behaviour, or the scofflaws who put their own views and values ahead of them? His answer here will speak volumes, and not just about the future of his own leadership.