Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to be taking part in the debate started today by our leader, the Leader of the Opposition. I will be sharing my time with the member for Regina—Lewvan.
We are gathered here today to take stock of the effects of the pandemic. As we speak, in my riding, shops are closed, there is a lockdown and a curfew has been imposed. All these measures were implemented by the Quebec provincial government in response to the current reality.
It is true that the third wave is hitting countries around the world, but, unfortunately, it is hitting Canada harder. That is because it is due to the Liberal government, which has been making bad decisions at the wrong time all along and, above all, has been dragging its feet. We are not questioning its good intentions; we are just pointing out the facts. The result is that, today, we are in catch-up mode rather than being a model and an example for the entire world.
I want to pay tribute to the government of the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien. Hon. members will recall that around the year 2000, he created a panel of Canadian experts, scientists, who were tasked with monitoring and assessing the risk of pandemics around the world. That was the right thing to do, and I commend the Chrétien government.
When we were in power, our government maintained that organization of Canadian scientists. They were doing good work that helped Canada be autonomous and not have to rely on anyone for monitoring and assessing pandemics around the globe.
However, when the current Liberal government came to power, it did exactly the opposite. This government keeps lecturing everyone and presenting itself as a government that relies purely on science, that listens to Canadian scientists and that says science is important in Canada, which is a statement we do agree with. However, without warning, this government dissolved that independent Canadian organization, whose scientists had been doing a great job of monitoring pandemics for more than 20 years. That was the government's first big mistake.
Its second big mistake was slashing the pandemic prevention and preparation budget, which dropped from $73 million under our government to $51 million under this government. That is still a substantial amount, but it is less, so Canada was caught with its pants down because it did not have adequate supplies.
Furthermore, we must not forget that, in the earliest days of this crisis, the government gave China hundreds of thousands of essential items to cope with the pandemic, including masks and gloves.
To sum up, well before COVID-19 hit our country, the government made three bad decisions: dissolving the panel of Canadian experts who were doing a great job of assessing pandemic risk; slashing funding for pandemic prevention; and giving away hundreds of thousands of essential items needed to fight this pandemic. That was the Liberals' game plan well before the COVID-19 pandemic started.
When COVID-19 first appeared, we took it very seriously. Here in the House, as early as January 2020, the official opposition started asking the government questions, but it looked down on us at the time and almost made it seem like we were scaremongering when there was no real danger.
I will be a good sport. We were asking questions, and it is too bad the government took that approach, but it is important to understand that, at the time, few people knew what lay ahead. We were doing our best to promote prevention by sounding the alarm and holding the government to account, but to no avail. Unfortunately, by acting as it did, the government brushed aside any fears that Canadians might have had.
When COVID-19 arrived, the government made a big mistake. It took more than 10 days, almost two weeks, to finally do what it should have done from the beginning, like the rest of the planet: close the borders.
When the Prime Minister was announcing the measure, he looked extremely uncomfortable, like he could barely stomach it, considering his globalist view that borders must remain open. However, it was the right thing to do. When it comes to pandemics, health and safety, we need to take tough action rather than waxing lyrical. For about 10 days, the Prime Minister dragged his feet.
This is why we were already behind when the pandemic hit and the government had to make decisions. A crooked foundation is not a good start. It is impossible to build a solid house on that.
The government took its time on borders and rapid testing. I remind members that the United States started using Abbott Laboratories' rapid test in March, but we did not start using it until September. We lost six months there.
Access to vaccines is where the government really dropped the ball from those early days. The government first looked to China, which was a serious mistake. It signed an agreement with CanSino Biologics and we waited for months to get results. The deal ended up falling apart in July. The company did an about-face and dropped Canada. We lost four months.
We bear the scars of those decisions today, because they are why the third wave is hitting us harder. We are behind on borders, on rapid testing and on vaccines.
The government backpedalled and started knocking on the doors of all the other companies to find out whether it too could get a few vaccines, and we are paying a hefty price as a result. It recently came to light that Canada paid twice what other countries did for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Latecomers pay more. That is what happened to the government.
We are therefore way behind when it comes to vaccine production and access. The Conservatives asked 126 questions about vaccination last fall because we believe in it and we are encouraging all those who want a shot to get vaccinated. We believe in vaccination. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister dragged his feet.
However, he did think of something. Just before Christmas, he put on a big dog-and-pony show by holding a quick vaccination campaign so that everyone would be happy. His dog-and-pony show was successful, I must admit. A certain number of doses of the vaccine were administered, a few people got their shots, and he was there to get some good photo ops.
Then in January and February, there were 10 days during which no vaccine was delivered to Canada. Because of that 10-day gap in January and February, we are now behind in our vaccination rollout. Now the third wave is hitting Canada harder than other countries. Businesses and shops in my riding are closed. We have an 8 p.m. curfew because, unfortunately, the government did not procure enough vaccine for Canada. We had that gap in January and February, and now we are paying the price. It is a shame.
What did the government do then? It went and poached vaccines that were meant for poor countries. It took vaccines from COVAX, which is a great initiative that good countries, like ours, are participating in. We contributed, and the idea was that developed countries would pool vaccines so that developing countries could access them. It is the right thing to do, and it makes sense.
We are a G7 country. We are not a poor country. Canada had to take from the poor to get access to vaccines. How shameful. I love my country. I love Canada and I am proud to be Canadian, but I was not proud to see the 10-day gap and even less so when my country helped itself to vaccines that were meant for the less fortunate in the world.
What we saw was very unfortunate. The result is that we currently have a four-month wait, which is the longest delay. We are paying the price, too. The lifting of the lockdown is going very well in Great Britain. In the United States, stadiums are full of people who have been vaccinated. Barely 2.7% of Canadians are vaccinated, compared to more than 26% of Americans. We deserve better.
I want to use these last few seconds of my speech to say that, for the past two weeks, I have been a member of the vaccinated club. I am proud of how things went in L'Ancienne-Lorette. The staff were very devoted and welcoming, and they accommodated us nicely. I got my first shot, and I am very proud of that.
I urge everyone watching to get vaccinated. The decision is theirs. It is not mandatory. There is no magic wand. Vaccination is one of the best ways out of this pandemic. I urge everyone to get vaccinated.