Canadians unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should be accommodated through measures like rapid testing, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Thursday as health experts warned the lightning-fast spread of the Omicron variant threatens to overwhelm hospitals.

Ontario is reporting an uptick in hospitalizations and days ago made the decision to keep school-aged kids learning from home for at least two weeks, which Doug Ford's government said was to take pressure off the health-care system.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said of the 319 patients in intensive care, 232 of them are not fully immunized against COVID-19 or have an unknown status, while 87 are double-vaccinated.

With millions of Canadians once again living under sweeping public health restrictions that have shuttered businesses and forced families to stay home, O'Toole blamed the federal Liberal government. With more than 75 per cent of the country's population now fully vaccinated, he said the government has failed to keep society open through tools such as making rapid antigen tests more widely available, or by ensuring there's a homegrown supply of personal protective equipment.

Mandatory vaccination policies have proven to be a particularly difficult issue for O'Toole to navigate, even within his own caucus, as some of his MPs have refused to confirm their status. Some of these members forcefully condemn vaccine mandates as threatening people's livelihoods and violating their medical privacy.

O'Toole came out as opposed to vaccine mandates during last year's election campaign and on Thursday accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of fuelling vaccine hesitancy by attacking those who haven't yet received their shots.

Trudeau said Wednesday that Canadians are angry at those who refuse to be vaccinated because they are filling up hospital beds, causing cancer treatments and elective surgeries to be put off.

The Conservative leader said he refuses to criticize people who aren't vaccinated and believes "reasonable accommodations" should be provided to people like truck drivers to avoid service disruptions and exacerbating supply chain challenges. He warned that mandatory vaccination policies could result in a shortage of "tens of thousands of workers" in the crucial trucking sector.

Recently, Conservative transport critic Ontario MP Melissa Lantsman penned a letter to her government counterpart underlining the risk of losing truck drivers for businesses and consumers and asking if Ottawa would consider rapid testing as an alternative.

The federal government's timeline for truckers to be fully vaccinated is Jan. 15.

@erinotoole urges accommodations for unvaccinated Canadians amid Omicron wave. #CDNPoli #Covid19 #OmicronVariant

In her letter, Lantsman pointed out that the United States made an exception to its rules for drivers that are alone in their cab.

Canadians should be proud that most of the population has been immunized, O'Toole said Thursday, adding the medical experts he's spoken with say the way to reach those who haven't is through education and addressing their anxieties.

"There is going to be as much as 15 per cent of the population that is not vaccinated," he said.

"In some cases, you will have to try and find reasonable accommodations between keeping people safe and people not losing their job, losing their home, not being able to provide for their kids. I don't think that position is irrational when people's lives are on the line."

Despite saying exceptions should be made for those like truckers, the Tory leader appeared not to take an issue with the mandatory vaccination policy that applies to members of the Canadian Armed Forces, of which he is a veteran.

"With service above self that we see in the Canadian Armed Forces, there will be a requirement for many and most operators to be vaccinated," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2022.

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While it is likely that there are exceptions wherein some individuals cannot be vaccinated for health reasons, that population count must be very small. The remaining population of unvaccinated individuals have put all of us at risk. They should pay their own medical bills when found to need medical care as a result of exposure to the virus pandemic. Rules (laws) must be put in place to protect the population from exposure to these individuals. It sounds nuts to voice such an opinion but really, how selfish and irresponsible this non vaccinated group is and why cater to them?

"Canada should accommodate the unvaxxed during Omicron wave: O'Toole"

They need accommodation, Mr. O'Toole? Then you can accommodate them in YOUR OWN home, okay?

As I look at the data from the Ontario governments website today I see that Hospitalization numbers are as follows;
Vaccinated-1612
Partially Vaccinated-123
Unvaccinated-552
It has become clear that vaccination status is irrelevant. Vaccinated people can acquire and transmit the virus.

Yes the vaccinated can still get and transmit COVID but my understanding is that they are less likely to develop serious illness do less likely overall to fill up ICU beds and overwhelm the system The ICU numbers will still be higher for vaccinated because more than 80% of people are vaccinated but the % of vaccinated compared to % of unvaccinated in ICU is the data that indicates vaccine efficacy.

Does O’Toole, the man who would be king, mean we need to accommodate the same trash that were paying marginalized and vulnerable people in Edmonton to get vaccinated for them so they could fraudulently acquire a QR code? To accommodate the same small minority of self centred, me-first types that are presently holding the vaccinated population (and those presently ineligible to be vaccinated) hostage in Canada and elsewhere? And this man thinks he’s a leader? My dismay at what political discourse has devolved to worsens almost daily. O’Toole (and his caucus) has elevated pandering to an art form.