Canada's ruling Liberals promise C$1 billion to help provinces with vaccine passports

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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's ruling Liberals on Friday said that if re-elected they would provide C$1 billion ($792 million) to help the 10 provinces create special passports for people to prove they had been inoculated against COVID-19.

Polls show the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are narrowly ahead of their Conservative rivals. The election is on Sept 20.

"Proof of vaccination systems ensure Canadians can be confident that those around them are fully vaccinated, in addition to providing businesses with important and clear guidance around how to reopen safely," the Liberals said in a statement.

The question of vaccines could be a wedge issue in the election. The Conservatives, led by Erin O'Toole, are not requiring inoculations for their candidates and suggest that rapid testing is an alternative to vaccine passports.

The C$1 billion would help cover costs incurred by the provinces for creating vaccine passports for people wishing to enter nonessential businesses or public spaces. Some provinces have already said they plan to set up such a system.

Earlier this month, the Liberal government said it would soon require all federal public servants and many other workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The mandate will also include air, train and cruise ship travelers.

"We are ensuring anyone traveling on a plane or a train must be vaccinated, but Erin O'Toole won't listen to the experts on this issue," Trudeau said in a statement. "He can't even convince his own candidates to get vaccinated."

($1=1.2621 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis)