Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to partner with China on making COVID-19 vaccines while promising a public inquiry into the Liberal government’s pandemic response if the Tories were to win power.
During a press conference on April 6, O’Toole said Trudeau had “dropped the ball completely” when he turned to China to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.
A January report by iPolitics showed that days after the federal government announced a deal with a Chinese vaccine company in 2020, Beijing had deliberately blocked the candidate vaccine shipments to Canada, which led to months of delay in clinical trials.
“It was the worst in a series of poor decisions,” O’Toole said. “We are still scrambling to catch up.”
As of April 6, Canada has administered 6.9 million vaccine doses, with roughly 1.8 percent of the population fully vaccinated. O’Toole said this has placed Canada at number 44 in a global ranking of vaccinations per capita, behind Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, and Serbia.
The opposition leader called for a public inquiry to examine all aspects of the Liberal government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“When the pandemic is over, we need answers, we need to know what worked and what didn’t. We need complete transparency and accountability,” O’Toole said.
Canada Health Minister Patty Hajdu responded to the Conservative leader’s remarks during a Parliament Hill press conference on Tuesday, saying that the Liberal government is “very open” to a thorough examination of its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I can’t predict the nature of the inquiry, but I can tell you that we would want all Canadians to participate,” Hajdu said. “I will say that we’re open to an inquiry that is as deep as necessary, including a public inquiry that’s focused on how our country can be better prepared for global health threats in the future.”
O’Toole also called on the government to appoint a special monitor from the Office of the Auditor-General to track the pandemic response in real-time to ensure lessons are learned for handling future emergencies.
“Last month, Canada marked a national day of observance for those lost to the pandemic. But to truly honour their memory, we must pledge to learn from the mistakes made, and improve our resilience and readiness as a country,” he said.