The shocking admission was made during a House of Commons public accounts committee meeting on Thursday afternoon during an exchange between Ontario Conservative MP Philip Lawrence and Dr. Harpreet Kochhar, president of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), tasked with the responsibility pandemic preparedness, emptied several strategic stockpiles, allowed others to expire and closed warehouses to save money — though PHAC's own internal reports from 2011 warned managers to maintain a four month supply of masks, gloves and gowns.
Tossed in the landfill were 8,839,942 masks, gowns and other PPE the year before the outbreak of COVID. PHAC had an annual budget at the time of more than $600 million.
Blacklock's Reporter published a brief transcript of a portion of the committee meeting Friday morning:
Lawrence: “I asked a fairly direct question and I’d like a response. Was anyone held accountable? Was there anyone whose employment was terminated as a result of these significant lapses in your department? Was there anyone who faced any discipline at all?”
Kochhar: “This is a cumulative responsibility within the Public Health Agency – ”
Lawrence: “So to be clear no one has been held to account even though there were significant lapses that put our front line workers at risk?”
Kochar: “I reiterate the point that we are working very closely with our partners –”
Lawrence: “I’ll take that as absolutely no one in your department was held accountable for putting our front line workers at risk, which I find absolutely abysmal.”
One manager at PHAC tasked with PPE warehouse mismanagement retired in 2020. Two previous PHAC presidents were given other public service jobs without seeing a pay cut.