The House of Commons will begin debating a motion today, proposed by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner, to probe the government's response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The motion, if approved, would direct the Parliamentary health committee to investigate the government's sluggish approval of rapid COVID-19 testing, the vaccine development process, long-term care facility protocols, the government's early warning system known as the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), the adequacy of health-related provincial transfer payments, the overreliance on questionable guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), the use or misuse of data related to the COVID-19 tracking app, and more.
The motion provides the health committee with the ability to demand "all memoranda, emails, documents, notes or other records from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, the office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the office of the Minister of Health, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada" concerning:
- "options, plans and preparations for the GPHIN" since 2018;
- "plans, preparations, approvals and purchasing of COVID-19 testing products including tests, reagents, swabs, laboratory equipment and other material related to" testing, and;
- "plans, preparations and purchasing of PPE, including gowns, gloves, masks, respirators, ventilators, visors and face shields."
The motion also demands documents be released to the health committee "relating to the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and its subcommittees," and all government communications with the WHO relating to the GPHIN since 2018.
As CTV News has reported, the Canadian government is particularly concerned about the demand for documents surrounding the acquisition of health supplies. Given that there is an international shortage of such products, especially PPE, the government is concerned that the publication of such information could further impede their ability to procure them due to their high demand globally. As a result, the government has invoked a national security exemption to avoid releasing such information.
Opposition MPs have rejected such concerns, believing the Liberal government to be invoking a national security exemption in order to cover up corruption. It was revealed on Wednesday that the government had overpaid $100 million for the acquisition of ventilators from a company owned by a former Liberal Party MP. The former MP's firm was offered a no-bid contract by the government.
Liberal MP Darren Fisher criticized the motion by arguing that "the motion asks public health officials basically to stop what they're doing to protect Canadians and sift through emails and documents instead."
The criticism echoes arguments made by the Liberals surrounding the establishment of an anticorruption committee, which was voted down on Wednesday after the Liberals stated that they would treat the vote as a non-confidence vote.
The motion will come to a vote on Monday, October 26.
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