Justin Trudeau – Parliament resumes amid heightened political pressure on pandemic, vaccines
The Liberal government is expected to be pressed by opposition parties when Parliament resumes Monday on the availability of vaccines for COVID-19, the recession caused by the virus and when Ottawa intends to put forward a detailed account of federal spending in a budget.
The pandemic, which has dominated Justin Trudeau’s second mandate, has kept the government in crisis-response mode since last March. As of Sunday, the Public Health Agency said there have been 742,531 cases of COVID-19 to date in Canada and 18,974 deaths. There were 146 fatalities reported on Sunday.
With Parliament coming back after the holiday break, Mr. Trudeau’s government is expected to face questions about its handling of the crisis and the pace at which the country is receiving vaccines.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said the government is letting down Canadians on the vaccine file and that the country cannot secure its economic future without access to the shots.
NDP House leader and finance critic Peter Julian said Sunday the government must ensure that vaccines make their way into peoples’ arms. He said this issue is “particularly disturbing” during a very dangerous and deadly second wave of the pandemic.
Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine logistics, said Thursday the delivery of vaccines from Pfizer for the week of Feb. 1 will be cut to 79,000 doses, amounting to a 79-per-cent drop. On Tuesday, he said Canada will get none of the 208,650 doses originally expected this week.
Maj.-Gen. Fortin also said the company has not disclosed what Canada’s shipment will be the week of Feb. 8.
Mr. Julian said there is a “profound concern with the government seeming to rely on statements rather than actually mobilizing the resources they have to make sure that vaccines are actually administered to Canadians.
“What is vitally important and the only thing that Canadians will be satisfied with is that there’s a major step up in administering of vaccines across the country, particularly the Canadians who are the most vulnerable,” he said.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said Canada remains on track to receive vaccines for all Canadians who wish to be vaccinated by the end of September.
Mr. Trudeau’s government is also facing political pressure to re-establish a viceregal appointments committee following the resignation of Governor-General Julie Payette on Thursday.
Ms. Payette’s departure, along with that of her second-in-command Assunta Di Lorenzo, followed the completion of an external review that was requested after media reports detailed allegations of bullying and harassment at Rideau Hall.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told the CBC on Sunday that he doesn’t think the government can pretend the vetting process for Ms. Payette was adequate. The process must be more robust for every senior government appointment, he said.
The Prime Minister hasn’t made any decisions on the specific process to be followed in the coming weeks to replace Ms. Payette, Mr. LeBlanc said, but added that the Privy Council Office will be offering advice to Mr. Trudeau this week.
“It’s not a circumstance we want to drag on for weeks and weeks and weeks,” Mr. LeBlanc said.
Peter Donolo, the vice-chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada and a prime ministerial director of communications to Jean Chrétien, said it is not an optimal situation to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Richard Wagner, serving in the viceregal role in the interim.
“That’s why they need to move sooner than later to replace the Governor-General,” he said. “Hopefully it will just be a matter of a couple of weeks at most.”
With a report from Marieke Walsh
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