Conservative Leader O'Toole in isolation after staffer tests positive for COVID-19

OTTAWA — Federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says he, his family and some party workers are in self-isolation after an aide tested positive for COVID-19.

A statement from the party says the O'Tooles are getting tested, informing the Opposition leader's recent contacts and keeping his son home.

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"My family and I are feeling well, but we take COVID-19 very seriously," O'Toole said in the statement.

"Today was going to be Jack’s first day back at school, but instead we will be getting tested and self-isolating per public health guidelines. The health and safety of my family and all Canadians is my top priority."

O'Toole's spokeswoman Kelsie Chiasson would not say where he and his family are in isolation or where they would get tests.

Ottawa's few testing centres have been overwhelmed in the last few days, with hours-long lines forming before they open.

The Conservatives say the staffer who has the respiratory illness has been travelling with O'Toole.

O'Toole was to appear at a party event in Alberta Wednesday evening, part of a mini-tour of the Conservative heartland in the West.

And he was just in Quebec, where he met Premier Francois Legault on Monday.

Legault said in a tweet that after consulting with provincial health authorities, he won't be seeking a COVID-19 test or self-isolating.

"Public health doesn't recommend isolation or testing, only monitoring for the appearance of symptoms," he wrote in French.

The federal parties are still sorting out how the House of Commons will function when it resumes next Wednesday. The Liberals favour a hybrid model, with some MPs in the chamber and others participating via videoconference with a mechanism for voting online.

The Conservatives have been arguing for MPs to participate in person only, with limits on the number of members in the chamber at a time and staggered voting when it's needed.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the possibility of COVID-19 spreading among politicians bolsters the Liberals' argument.

"I think it's a very real concern because of course the nature of our work means that we come into contact with people that maybe are in contact with other people," she said.

"We travel frequently for work. I live in a zone, for example, that has no active cases right now in Thunder Bay, Ont. But I will be returning there and so it presents risk to our communities as well when we travel."

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is also in self-isolation, awaiting the results of his own COVID-19 test after both his spouse and an aide tested positive for the illness.

Blanchet's aide's positive test, a few days after the Bloc caucus met in person in St-Hyacinthe, Que., prompted dozens of MPs and party workers to isolate themselves.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau tested positive for COVID-19 early in the pandemic but recovered.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2020.

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