That the Standing Committee on Health be instructed to undertake a study on the emergency situation facing Canadians in light of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that this study evaluate, review and examine any issues relevant to this situation, such as, but not limited to:
(a) rapid and at-home testing approvals and procurement process and schedule, and protocol for distribution;
(b) vaccine development and approvals process, procurement schedules, and protocol for distribution;
(c) federal public health guidelines and the data being used to inform them for greater clarity on efficacy;
(d) current long-term care facility COVID-19 protocols as they pertain solely to federal jurisdiction;
(e) the availability of therapeutics and treatment devices for Canadians diagnosed with COVID-19;
(f) the early warning system, Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN);
(g) the government’s progress in evaluating pre- and post-arrival rapid testing for travellers;
(h) the availability of paid sick leave for those in need, including quarantine and voluntary isolation;
(i) the adequacy of health transfer payments to the provinces, in light of the COVID-19 crisis;
(j) the impact of the government’s use of World Heath Organization (WHO) advice in early 2020 to delay the closure of borders and delay in the recommendation of wearing of masks on the spread of COVID-19 in Canada;
(k) the Public Health Agency of Canada’s communication strategy regarding COVID-19;
(l) the development, efficacy and use of data related to the government’s COVID Alert application;
(m) Canada’s level of preparedness to respond to another pandemic;
(n) the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Canada and a review of Canada’s emergency stockpile of PPE between 2015 and present;
(o) the government’s contact tracing protocol, including options considered, technology, timelines and resources;
(p) the government’s consideration of and decision not to invoke the federal Emergencies Act;
(q) this study begin no later than seven days following the adoption of this motion;
(r) the committee present its findings to the House upon completion and, notwithstanding Standing Order 109, that the government provide a comprehensive response to these findings within 30 days;
(s) evidence and documentation received by the committee during its study of the Canadian response to the outbreak of the coronavirus, commenced during the first session of the 43rd Parliament, be taken into consideration by the committee in the current study;
(t) that each party represented on the committee be entitled to select one witness per one-hour witness panel, and two witnesses per two-hour witness panel;
(u) an order of the House do issue for all memoranda, emails, documents, notes or other records from the Office of the Prime Minister, 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 January 1, 2018;
(v) an order of the House do issue for a record of all communications between the government and the WHO in respect of options, plans or preparations for any future operation, or absence thereof, of the GPHIN, since January 1, 2018;
(w) an order of the House do issue for all memoranda, emails, documents, notes and other records from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Privy Council Office, the office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, the office of the Minister of Health, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, concerning plans, preparations, approvals and purchasing of COVID-19 testing products including tests, reagents, swabs, laboratory equipment and other material related to tests and testing applications used in the diagnosis of COVID-19, since March 19, 2020;
(x) an order of the House do issue for all memoranda, emails, documents, notes and other records from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, the office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, the office of the Minister of Health, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada concerning plans, preparations and purchasing of PPE, including gowns, gloves, masks, respirators, ventilators, visors and face shields, since March 19, 2020;
(y) an order of the House do issue for all memoranda, e-mails, documents, notes and other records relating to the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and its subcommittees;
(z) an order of the House do issue for all memoranda, e-mails, documents, notes and other records relating to the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution and monitoring strategy, including, but not limited to anticipated timelines for the distribution of an approved COVID-19 vaccine across Canada and the prioritization of population groups for vaccination;
(aa) all documents issued pursuant to this order (i) be organized by department and be provided to the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel within 15 days of the adoption of this order, (ii) be vetted for matters of personal privacy information, and national security, and, with respect to paragraph (y) only, be additionally vetted for information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to interfere with contractual or other negotiations between the Government of Canada and a third party, by the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel within seven days of the receipt of the documents, (iii) be laid upon the table by the Speaker, at the next earliest opportunity, once vetted, and permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Health; and
(bb) within seven days after all documents have been tabled pursuant to paragraph (aa), the Minister of Health, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry be ordered to appear separately as witnesses before the Standing Committee on Health, for at least three hours each.
Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House today is probably the most important thing that Parliament could be dealing with right now and that is how we as a country collectively move forward to address the COVID-19 crisis. We are in the middle of a time when we are seeing increases in cases across the country. Provinces, workplaces, schools; everybody is concerned with this. We are seeing restrictions come back in cities across the country, people losing their jobs and people being separated from their loved ones.
We need to figure out how to move forward, given the uncertainty of a vaccine as we do not know when it is coming. We need a better plan forward than just an economic shutdown, endless quarantines and endless isolation. That is what this motion is designed to do. It was put forward at the health committee nearly two weeks ago today. Liberal members filibustered that motion.
I will be splitting my time with the Leader of the Opposition.
This motion is before the House. The motion is very simple. It outlines all of the areas that Parliament should be tasked with reviewing. We are trying to find out what is working and what is not, so that we can move forward so that Canadians can have certainty.
I had a whole speech prepared today, but then I got a call from a very close friend in Montreal last night telling me that her mother, Antonietta Ferri, had passed away from COVID-19. The circumstances in which she passed away could have been prevented if we had a better plan. My friend's elderly mother and elderly father did everything right. They completely isolated, but were infected by somebody who helped to care for them. They had the best of intentions but did not have access to testing and did not know who infected them. They ended up being separated during their hospitalizations. Can colleagues imagine being married for decades and then being separated while struggling and suffering? Now the family cannot be with the father because of the lack of access to tests.
When Barb told me about that last night, I thought, “This is why we need this motion.” This is what we all need to be working on right now. There is nothing in this motion that is partisan. It is just saying what is working, what is not working, what have we done, what have we not done, what is the best practice around the world and how do we move forward.
I have been very disappointed reading the media coverage of the Liberals on this last night and this morning. I want to go through the talking points that they are going to use today as I want to debunk them.
First of all, they are going to say that this is unfair to the civil service. I have great respect for Canada's public service. They are working so hard right now and I cannot believe that any single one of them would want to be unfair to Canadians and not provide this information to Parliament. We need to scrutinize this information. We have not had a budget in nearly two years and our committees have not sat because of prorogation. It is past due that every person in this place of any political stripe has access to this information, so that we can understand how we can best move forward.
Second, they have said that this motion would paralyze government. I saw that in a CP article today. Let us be clear. The only people who have paralyzed government are from the Liberal Party of Canada. They shuttered Parliament during the pandemic, they prorogued Parliament and now they are filibustering the health committee on this motion. If they actually wanted to study the pandemic or deal with the pandemic, as the Prime Minister said in his motion earlier this week, they will pass this motion. They will vote in favour of it.
The point of order that the parliamentary secretary raised earlier today about it being impossible to produce these documents is a matter for debate. If the Liberals think that is impossible, they need to explain and debate why that is so, and then propose a motion to be debated in this place to remind them that that is the function of this place. The function of this place is to figure things out and move forward, not just say that it is inconvenient for the Prime Minister to answer questions.
I remind them that this place has a role and it is completely right to ask questions like the one that the Canadian Press did not get an answer to yesterday. A simple question: Who gets the rapid test when, using what criteria? The Public Health Agency of Canada and the health minister did not even bother returning the phone call, so we need these documents. We need to do the job. We need certainty. That is why we are compelling this today. There is no partisan language in here.
It is simply saying the health committee should be studying the pandemic in the middle of the pandemic. To do that, we need information so we understand what witnesses to call and where to dig. For months, we have not had the scrutiny and there has been paralysis in getting rapid tests. We do not know where $1 billion worth of PPE went because Liberals have been obstructing. We need clarity. We need to do this so we can plan to move forward. If we do not know what is working and what is not and we cannot get answers to basic questions, then we cannot have a plan going forward, and that is the role of government.
Yesterday the Prime Minister asked whether the Conservatives had confidence in government. This was a confidence motion. How can we know if we have confidence in the government's response to the pandemic if we cannot scrutinize its actions? That is what has happened over the last several months: the shuttering of Parliament, the prorogation of Parliament, committees not sitting and the filibustering of committees, especially the health committee. How do Canadians know if they should have confidence in the Liberal government?
Of course, the Liberals want everyone to have confidence, to think it is great, that everything is working, but there are basic questions that have not been answered. The fact is that Canada does not have widely available rapid testing. Those watching today should try to get a COVID test and get the results in 15 minutes. I challenge anyone watching this. They are not going to be able to do it.
It was only when Parliament started asking questions about this that we saw some acknowledgement that this was an issue. That is why Parliament matters and that is why this motion matters. It matters to people like my friend Barb and her mom Antonietta, who lost her life. We need to be asking these questions. She needs justice. We need to make sure that situation is not repeating itself time and time again across this country.
Nobody of any political stripe can accept that a committee cannot be looking into basic information around the pandemic. The documents that we are requesting are completely reasonable for the Canadian public to understand. For example, we are trying to understand why the government shut down the early pandemic warning system, what impact it had on the spread of COVID-19 and whether that led the government to rely on World Health Organization data as opposed to stuff that has already come in from the country.
Liberals are saying everything is fine, but their advice keeps changing. They have not said what best practice is, they are not saying who they are listening to. How can any Canadian take the advice of the government if the government is not clear on who it is listening to and why? The Leader of the Opposition was asked a similar question in the press conference this morning. He was asked who he is listening to. Who is the government listening to? I would like to know. I would like those documents so I can review them.
What else is in the motion? We want to know what the government's procurement processes have been around things like PPE. We want to know information about the procurement for vaccines, how the government is going to distribute them and what is happening with all of these things. We want to know about the government's COVID-19 vaccine task force.
To anybody who is watching this and has heard to the Prime Minister, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader or the government House leader say that this is unreasonable, the only reason they will say this is unreasonable is because they have something to hide. The time for hiding stuff is over. They have had months of shuttering this place. It is time for Parliament to reign. If they are confident that everything is going well, there will be nothing in here other than accolades for them.
The goal of this information is not to do anything nefarious. It is simply to show Canadians that Parliament cares about figuring out the best way forward. By no standards right now can we say everything is fine. It is not an indictment of anyone. The number of COVID cases are rising, things are shutting down and we need Parliament to do its job, to scrutinize the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been spent on this and find out whether that investment is working. It is not enough for the Liberals to say we should just take their word for it. No, it is our job to scrutinize that. That is why Canadians pay us.
When the government talks about moving forward with a team Canada approach, I say giddy-up, let us do it. Let us get these documents, let us get this committee study going and let us get down to business.