NDP-Liberal cabal pass ‘pandemic preparedness’ bill, no inquiry into COVID upcoming

At the onset of the pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada a ‘world leader’ in emergency management. ‘Canada is among the best-prepared countries in the world,’ he told reporters on March 11, 2020.

NDP-Liberal cabal pass ‘pandemic preparedness’ bill, no inquiry into COVID upcoming
THE CANADIAN PRESS / Adrian Wyld
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Parliament quietly passed pandemic legislation Wednesday, voting down a clause that would mandate federal reviews.

Bill C-293, The Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act, barely passed third reading amid tentative NDP support. The opposition party opposed "an advisory committee" assessing public health and pandemic response capabilities of all governments.

The bill, in its current form, mandates several measures, including greater collaboration between governments, support for public health capacity building, training health care workers to handle sudden increases in patient volume, and identifying "key drivers of pandemic risk."

During parliamentary debate on Monday, NDP MP Peter Julian said a public inquiry was required — not an advisory committee. He claimed the latter would comprise a "very full and comprehensive review" of the government’s pandemic response

"The idea that the minister would put together an advisory committee, which is what is foreseen in the bill, is simply not adequate to the size and scope of what needs to happen," said MP Julian.

Conservative and the Bloc Québécois MPs voted against the bill, regardless, in a 164 to 144 vote in favour.

Last February 8, the Commons gave a second reading to the legislation, pledging to create "an advisory committee" to review the federal pandemic management. 

The Commons health committee stalled the proposal after MPs rejected the internal review as a poor substitute for an inquiry. 

Last October 23, the Trudeau government rejected calls for a public inquiry in favour of a closed-door review by Health Minister advisers.

As of writing, Health Canada completed 21 audits into the government's response but refused to publicly disclose those records.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who introduced a private member’s bill in June 2022 on pandemic planning, remained optimistic about the legislation. He claimed it would "ensure accountability not just in the current Parliament but also in future Parliaments."

Within two years of becoming law, the health minister must prepare a report detailing the pandemic preparedness plan, table it before all federal parties, and publish it to the Department of Health website.

But calls for a public inquiry remain amid continued reluctance from the Trudeau government.

In March, pressure mounted after several agencies called for experts to examine the federal COVID response.

A joint report by the Institute for Research on Public Policy’s Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation and the Institute on Governance called for a public inquiry into Canada’s pandemic response.

It tabled 12 recommendations, of which some were adopted in the pandemic legislation, including streamlined communications between governments.

On Monday, MP Erskine-Smith told colleagues that "we are destined to live through something very similar" without changes to pandemic management.

Restoring public trust in government institutions is key to learning the best approach to future public health emergencies, says Resilient Institutions.

During the pandemic months, Health Canada went through four presidents, and had "limited public health expertise." The feds lacked a "clear understanding" of compiling critical data, reads the memo, Ministerial Briefing Volume 1.

"We were caught flat-footed," Dr. Sandy Buchman, then-president of the Canadian Medical Association, testified at a 2020 hearing of the Commons health committee.

Bill C-293 seeks to appoint a national pandemic prevention and preparedness coordinator from Public Health Agency of Canada officials and "delegate to the coordinator the powers, duties and functions that the Minister considers appropriate."

At the onset of the pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada a 'world leader' in emergency management. "Canada is among the best-prepared countries in the world," he told reporters on March 11, 2020.

Despite the claims, frequent disclosures revealed how federal agencies failed to maintain sufficient medical supplies, including masks. COVID vaccine wastage exceeded $1 billion.

"The pandemic revealed critical weaknesses and gaps in Canada’s emergency preparedness and management posture," reads Volume 1.

Canada boasted a higher death rate than other industrialized nations, amid praise from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland last August.

"Our experience during COVID, which was a tragedy where every single COVID death was a tragedy, of course, we could learn lessons about how to do better," Freeland told reporters. "But broadly, Canada did pretty well."

"We did well because we had a real Team Canada approach."

Canada's pandemic death rate of 135.2 cases per 100,000 population exceeded New Zealand (53), Japan (58), Taiwan (74), Australia (77), and Norway (96), according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

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