FLAMBOROUGH, ONTARIO — Vaccines continue to dog Canada's Conservative leader as he vies for votes in seat heavy Ontario with the clock ticking down to election day.
Erin O'Toole started his second last day of campaigning running by a farmers market without appearing to go inside to capitalize on one of his last chances to meet prospective voters.
That decision reflects the party's overall campaign strategy, which has relied more on O'Toole answering questions from people through virtual townhalls in a broadcast studio in downtown Ottawa, as opposed to pressing the flesh in local communities.
Speaking during a stop near Hamilton, Ont., O'Toole says he's met thousands more people this way and run a safer campaign than the Liberals, who have at times had leader Justin Trudeau appear in crowded rooms and hospitals.
The Conservative leader faced renewed questions about his decision not to require his candidates to be vaccinated and today wouldn't answer questions about whether he knew how many have received their shots.
O'Toole is himself inoculated and has committed to appointing a health minister who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but didn't say whether he would be asking candidates for their immunization status.
The Conservative leader says vaccines are a safe and critical tool to help fight COVID-19 and has told unvaccinated members of his team to take daily rapid tests.
Also on Saturday, retired vice-admiral Mark Norman, who was at the centre of a failed prosecution by the Liberal government in a politically heated case that ended his military career, came out with an endorsement for O'Toole.
In a 59-second video clip the Conservatives shared on social media, Norman says Canadians have an important decision to make in the next few days as to who should lead the country through the challenges it faces at home and abroad.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press