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Canada Conservatives pass motion that Liberals say will threaten Canada’s access to COVID-19 vaccines

00:40  27 october  2020
00:40  27 october  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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OTTAWA – The Conservatives pushed a motion through Parliament Monday that will require the Liberals to disclose documents on vaccines, personal protective equipment and rapid testing, over government objections that the move could pose a risk to the country’s supplies.

Anita Indira Anand sitting at a table using a laptop: Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday March 31, 2020. © Provided by National Post Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday March 31, 2020.

The Conservatives won the vote with support from the Bloc Québécois, NDP and the Green Party, requiring the government to deliver the documents to the Health Committee within 30 days.

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The Government of Canada has undertaken significant communications and public education on COVID - 19 to inform Canadians of the Government' s action, to help them make informed decisions and to enable them to take action to protect their health and their communities.

How the Government of Canada is responding to COVID - 19 including: economic and financial support, travel measures, for Canadians abroad, public education, collaboration, research, clinical trials, drug and medical device supply monitoring.

In addition to covering PPE and vaccines, the motion will also examine every aspect of the federal response, including the government’s decision to shut down a vital public health surveillance tool, the provision of paid sick leave, the adequacy of provincial health transfers and decisions around border closures and travel restrictions.

Prior to the vote, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the motion would risk ongoing negotiations for essential supplies during the pandemic.

“We are in the middle of negotiation for vaccine, PPE and rapid test kits. Extensive disclosure as contemplated will threaten our ability to procure these goods,” she said. “We are in the middle of a second wave, we are in the middle of negotiations, and we are in the middle of our contracting.”

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Links to COVID - 19 (coronavirus) information for Canadians including current situation, statistics, financial support, your health, travel, immigration, safety and awareness resources.

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Anand was joined by drug companies, manufacturers and the co-chairs of Canada’s vaccine task force in calling for some secrecy to be maintained in the contracts until after the crisis.

In a letter to all party leaders, the co-chairs of the vaccine task force offered to brief MPs from all parties, but worried that doing so publicly would jeopardize confidentiality contracts they signed with the companies developing the vaccine.

“Without this guarantee of commercial confidentiality, it would not have been possible for us to meaningful engage with these firms nor to obtain the data needed to make evidence-based, informed recommendations,” reads the letter.

The motion allows for certain redactions for commercial confidentiality along with national security, but they would be performed by the House of Commons law clerk, rather than public servants in the Privy Council Office as the Liberals were suggesting.

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Michelle Rempel holding a pair of people posing for the camera:  Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner speaks to reporters at a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. © THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner speaks to reporters at a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner said the government was fear mongering and the experience they had during the WE Charity scandal suggests the government cannot be trusted to censor the documents.

“The Privy Council office is an arm of the government,” she said. “I don’t believe that the government should be redacting its own documents.”

Rempel Garner said the government should welcome scrutiny, which is Parliament’s responsibility, to ensure the country is on the right track in its response.

“There is no shame. In fact, it is the job of Parliament to ask these questions, we need to understand where we’re going.”

Anand said the government was willing to release details on contracts when the risk was over and pointed to $6 billion in contracts that had already been disclosed with more to come. She said the government wanted to protect its ability to negotiate while some supplies like vaccines were still in high demand.

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She warned that without the promise of confidentiality, the government could struggle to secure confidentiality.

“I do not want to be back here to explain to Canadians that because of the disclosure that we were forced to make, we were not able to secure vaccines or PPE for Canadians because our suppliers chose to walk away.”

After the vote, Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez said he was disappointed in the outcome, but said the government would work to meet the demands the House of Commons.

“I am disappointed that the opposition parties didn’t listen to our health experts, to people from the private sector, from the companies producing the vaccine,” he said. The public servants will do their best. They are asking for tons of documents from the same public sectors workers who are delivering for Canadians.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said the questions his party was asking were non-partisan and straightforward. He said the Liberals made this a political issue and accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of wanting an election.

“When Canadians are getting rapid tests shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Canada’s place in the vaccine queue shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Improving our pandemic response shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s shameful that the Liberals keep trying to make them one.”

Unlike last week’s Conservative motion that became a test of confidence, the Liberals did not make the motion a confidence vote, meaning there will be no trip to the polls as a result of the defeat.

Twitter: RyanTumilty

Email: rtumilty@postmedia.com

Pushing back: Why the Trudeau Liberals were prepared to take Canada to an election .
OTTAWA – When rumours first emerged last week that the Liberals would take a Conservative motion designed to get a new committee looking into the WE scandal as a confidence vote, they were largely dismissed. Wild and ultimately unsubstantiated rumours are as common on Parliament Hill as Catholics in Vatican City. While the first ten months of 2020 have seemed much longer, the Liberals have only been in power a year. They have a fiscal update coming and legislation to pass. They have a small but not insurmountable lead in polls and plunging Canadians into an election with COVID-19 cases on the rise is a considerable risk.

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