To listen to Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons the last few days, you would think Donald Trump was our prime minister responding to questions about Canada’s vaccine plan.
Apparently, we have the biggest plan and the best plan, just turns out it will also be a late plan.
In Britain, they are already booking appointments to give priority patients access to the vaccine, the United States is looking at a Dec. 12 rollout and our PM is sputtering about how many vaccines we will get whenever we do actually get them.
“Over the past months, experts have worked with this government to put Canadians in the very best possible position on vaccines. We now have the best, most diverse portfolio of vaccines anywhere in the world,” Trudeau boasted without being able to give details.
Those details are important because Canada was late to the COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes. While other countries signed deals early, Canada, under Trudeau dithered.
I’ll grant that Trudeau is right when he says we have signed deals for more vaccine doses per capita than any other country but that won’t do us much good if we are back of the line.
“We know that Canada will receive its vaccine only after the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, Indonesian, and the list goes on. The combined population of countries ahead of Canada in the distribution line is almost 2.5 billion people,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
“To the nearest 100 million, can the Prime Minister tell the House how many vaccines will be delivered to the rest of the world before a delivery is made to Canada?” O’Toole asked.
It’s not a flippant question; this is a real issue for Canada.
We could actually face two delays: one from being at the back of the line in terms of countries who signed agreements to buy the vaccines and the other from Health Canada delaying approval. While other countries with similar health systems and approval methods gave the green light to rapid tests in the spring, those were not approved by Health Canada until the fall.
Meanwhile, Trudeau and the Liberals are trying to put blame for the lack of vaccine capacity at the feet of the Harper Conservatives, the people in power until late 2015, or five years ago.
Trudeau thinks he can blame actions half a decade ago or more for his failings as he claims the country has no vaccine capacity.
First off, the Harper government maintained standing agreements with producers GSK of Quebec City and Sanofi Pasteur of Toronto to produce vaccines in the event of a pandemic. These contracts served Canada well during H1N1 and were renewed for 10 years in March 2011, meaning they are still in effect.
On Sept. 22, a deal between the Trudeau government and these two companies was announced for “up to 72 million vaccine doeses.” The joint news release spoke of the vaccine manufacturing capability of both companies in Canada.
Another contract with Quebec City-based Medicago for up to 76 million vaccines was announced in October.
The Trudeau government was wise to place bets on a number of different vaccines and take what we can get when it becomes available. That was a smart and wise move.
Waiting to make those bets until we were so far behind other countries was a bad move and one that will leave Canadians waiting is a bad move. Lying to us about it is worse.
What Canadians need as we fight this pandemic is something Trudeau has often promised but never delivered — openness and transparency.
Or to use another word, honesty.