Top bureaucrats in the Canadian government debated the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and whether the response was actually based on scientific data, emails uncovered by Rebel News show.
While planning a statement to be released upon the hiring of former director of the Canadian Space Agency, Guy Bujold, top federal bureaucrats at the Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) department showed a degree of skepticism about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to an email sent in September 2020 about the draft statement, Dawolu Saul, director general for digital media marketing services at ISED, questioned the strong language used in a bullet point.
“I wonder about the use of the adjectives in the first bullet,” Saul wrote. “True the pandemic is unprecedented for this generation, but to say it is the most serious and significant challenge seems a bit much to me.”
“Unprecedented“ was how the prime minister had described the COVID-19 pandemic a few months earlier in June. Speaking outside of Rideau Cottage, Justin Trudeau told Canadians:
If this pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for our country, it has also been an important opportunity to figure out what really matters in our communities, to have meaningful conversations about how we can take care of those around us, and perhaps above all, to think about what kind of future we want to build together.
Following further discussions on how to craft the ISED's release, Taylor Bildstein, the director of ministerial services for ISED, then questioned whether the government's approach was truly based on science. Critiquing a bullet point that said “The Government of Canada's response to COVID-19 is based on science, data and sound advice from experts,” Bildstein wondered if this statement was factually correct.
“Because this crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is an economic crisis and a shut-down of supply chains, loss of jobs associated with social distancing and associated disruptions,” Bildstein began, “I don't think it works to say that our response to all that is based on science.”
“Was LEEF [sic] based on science? The wage subsidy? I don't know... what do you think?” Bildstein wondered.
The two government run programs Bildstein was referring to, LEEFF and the wage subsidy, were both measures enacted by the Trudeau Liberals in an attempt to offer assistance to businesses impacted by pandemic restrictions.
LEEFF, or the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility, is a program started by the federal government “to provide short-term liquidity assistance in the form of interest-bearing term loans to large Canadian employers who have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The wage subsidy, known as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy or CEWS, was made available to employers who had seen a drop in revenue during the pandemic. According to the government, the “subsidy will enable you to re-hire workers, help prevent further job losses, and ease your business back into normal operations.”
Read the full exchange below: