Since my last column, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on some of the issues, as well as work I have been doing on your behalf.
Recently, I was promoted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. This committee will be critical to focusing on Canada’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently undertaking studies on our domestic manufacturing capacity for a COVID-19 vaccine; the accessibility and affordability of telecommunications services; and is beginning a study on supports needed for our Canadian aerospace industry.
With great fanfare, the federal government announced in early February, a deal to begin producing COVID-19 vaccines in Canada at a National Research Council of Canada facility in Montreal. Unfortunately, this facility has yet to be built, and the earliest it is expected to begin producing vaccines is in 2022.
On Feb. 18, as part of our committee hearings on the study of domestic manufacturing capacity for a COVID-19 vaccine, we had members of the federal government’s COVID-19 Task Force appear as witnesses. One of my questions was fortunate enough to be picked up by the National Post.
Members of the Official Opposition have been critical of this task force, which is responsible for making recommendations to the federal government on which vaccines to purchase and on which Canadian companies to back with funding for research and development of COVID vaccines.
While several of my committee colleagues brought up matters concerning potential conflicts of interests of task force members, and the lack of transparency and disclosure of the task force itself, I concentrated my questioning on the failed agreement between Canada and CanSino Biologics – a Chinese firm that was engaged to test its vaccine in Canada. Only three days after the prime minister made the announcement of this agreement, the Chinese government refused to ship early samples to Canada, and the whole agreement broke apart.
The government decision to engage CanSino happened in May 2020. When that agreement collapsed, the task force was established but did not meet until June, and then it took until August for the government to order vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Given this timeline and wasted efforts with CanSino, I asked why the government had wasted almost three precious months during a national pandemic crisis in its efforts to secure agreements for needed vaccines.
As a result of this three-month delay, Canada now finds itself far behind other nations in terms of waiting for vaccine deliveries. As of March 2, Canada ranks 53rd in the world in terms of vaccinations administered per 100 people. This massive failure rests entirely with this federal government. Their notion that they have procured the most robust portfolio of vaccines in the world rings hollow, when Canadians cannot get vaccinated. Consequently, the Trudeau government has left Canada with the lowest vaccination rate, the biggest deficit, and one of the highest unemployment rates in the G7.
In January, another 213,000 Canadians lost their jobs, and according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, they fear another 160,000 to 200,000 small businesses may permanently close due to COVID-19.
This isn’t how it should be. Canada can do much better and Canadians deserve much better.
It is incumbent on the federal government to secure our vaccine supply in a timely manner, and to present a detailed plan for economic recovery on the other side of this pandemic. I am hopeful to see this in the 2021 federal budget, when it is presented.
As your Member of Parliament, I will continue to ask the tough questions of this federal government, whether it be at committee or in Question Period or while engaging in debate, in the House of Commons.