Canada’s relationships with companies supplying protective gear and possible COVID-19 vaccines will be endangered if the latest Conservative request for what could be thousands of pages of pandemic documents is passed, says Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
However, the federal Conservatives were quick to balk at this assertion, insisting their demands are entirely legitimate and necessary.
If this latest Conservative opposition day motion passes, Canadians could have access to hundreds if not thousands of pages of internal health-focused policy documents related to the federal government’s COVID-19 response so far, as part of a health committee study on the Liberals’ response to the pandemic to-date.
In a Monday morning press conference Anand argued that passing the motion as drafted would undermine ongoing contract negotiations and threaten Canada’s ability to procure future COVID-19 supplies and could dissuade leading medical firms from doing business in this country, in a final attempt to convince opposition parties to vote down the motion.
“If this motion passes, it is my grave concern that those contracts are at risk, those negotiations are at risk, and suppliers will then as a result be hesitant to contract with the federal government. And that chill on our supplier relationships then undermines and perhaps negates our ability to procure additional PPE, buy additional vaccines, and additional rapid test kits,” Anand said.
“What is on the table here is the lives of Canadians. That’s the end goal of our procurements, that is what we are trying to protect… These procurements did not happen overnight. They were not easy. It was an incredibly difficult summer, and we managed to come through it with these procurements for Canadians. It hurts my heart to think that they would be jeopardized if this motion passes,” Anand said.
On the heels of Anand’s press conference, sponsor of the motion Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner called the minister’s remarks “hyperbolic” and “fear-mongering,” and said if the Liberals have genuine concerns there are parliamentary avenues to pursue changes to the proposal.
“These are pieces of information that the Canadian public needs to know to have stability, these are reasonable questions for Parliament to ask,” Rempel Garner said. “When you’re seeing the numbers of COVID cases this weekend, this motion needs to pass. I mean that’s even more evidence to me that Parliament needs to be looking at a calm, rational questioning of the government’s approach to this pandemic which is what this motion is designed to do.”
From the moment it was proposed, the Liberals have rejected the motion, stating that not only was it a cumbersome request, but it would take department resources off the day-to-day response to the still-surging COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals have also said that they feel they have been transparent in regularly updating Canadians on progress with procurements and on pursuing new testing and treatment options.
“This is not about politics. As we are in the middle of the second wave, and the number of COVID cases continues to increase, this is not the time for this motion to be passed. This is not the time to threaten and weaken our relationships with our suppliers, on whom Canadians’ health and safety depends,” she said, adding that she agrees that MPs should study the federal COVID-19 response but it shouldn’t include this level of disclosure.
If the vote on Monday afternoon goes as anticipated, it’s set to pass despite the Liberals’ objections as the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats have voiced their support for the motion. However, it’s possible these recent concerns could prompt a change of position or, at least, spark a push for amendments to the motion.
STAKEHOLDERS ‘VERY’ CONCERNED
Over the last few days stakeholders have been speaking out about concerns they have with the release of the information the Conservatives are calling for.
On Friday, in letters to the government from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) and the federal vaccine task force voiced their fears that if the disclosures include confidential, proprietary, or sensitive business information is made public it will have “very” serious negative impacts on the work and procurements currently underway.
In one letter, CME President Dennis Darby said many Canadian producers who re-tooled to help supply the country with much-needed personal protective equipment did so “under the assumption that any shared sensitive business information would be kept confidential.”
“The desire to now publish this information undermines the efforts put into the response by manufacturers and could do irreparable harm to Canada’s manufacturing businesses and international reputation as a good place to do business. Simply put, if companies cannot trust that their information will be kept confidential, a chill will set in on private enterprise seeking out government procurement contracts generally. We must avoid this scenario at all costs,” Darby said in a letter that was also sent to Conservative and NDP critics.
Major pharmaceutical company Pfizer has also joined the list of those speaking out against the Conservative motion. In a letter to Health Canada officials sent over the weekend, Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow said he is “deeply concerned with the implications and likely unintended consequences should this motion receive the support of enough parliamentarians.”
Pinnow said that the vetting process to release these documents “could interfere with contractual negotiations.”
Pfizer Canada is calling on MPs to consider amending the motion to include stronger language to safeguard scientific and commercially-sensitive information, and to explicitly direct the parliamentary law clerk who would be doing any redactions, to consult any impacted third parties about the information being released, as is standard under current access to information procedures.
WHAT’S BEING REQUESTED?
Among the information the motion would compel departments to turn over:
- The approval process, procurement plans and protocol for distribution related to rapid and at-home testing as well as vaccines;
- federal public health guidelines and the data being used to inform them, including current long-term care facility COVID-19 protocols as well as the Public Health Agency of Canada’s communication strategy;
- the availability of therapeutics and treatment devices for Canadians diagnosed with COVID-19 as well as the availability of personal protective equipment;
- the government’s progress in evaluating pre- and post-arrival rapid testing for travellers as well as the impact of delaying the closure of Canada’s borders;
- the development, efficacy and use of data related to the government’s COVID Alert application as well as the government’s contact tracing protocol; and
- Canada’s level of preparedness to respond to another pandemic.
The motion calls on the government to disclose a host of emails, documents, notes, and other records from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as from cabinet ministers’ offices since mid-March related to the COVID-19 response as well as related to discussions with the World Health Organization.
The current limitation on the request only excludes personal privacy information and national security concerns.
Further, the Conservatives want the study to start within a week and the government to provide “comprehensive” responses to all of the above issues within a month, a compromise from the initial 15-day window proposed.
And, once the documents are submitted, the committee would have the ability to call a slate of cabinet ministers to testify, for three hours each.
Source: – CTV News
It’s ‘unknown’ when Canada will reach herd immunity from coronavirus vaccine: Tam – Global News
The percentage of the Canadian population that needs to be vaccinated in order to reach widespread immunity against the coronavirus is unknown, according to Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam.
Speaking at a media conference Friday, Tam was asked what entails a “successful vaccine campaign,” in order to determine when the population reaches herd immunity.
“Nobody actually knows the level of vaccine coverage to achieve community immunity or herd immunity,” Tam explained. “We have an assumption that you will probably need 60 to 70 per cent of people to be vaccinated. But we don’t know that for sure … that’s modelling. Lots of these calculations are being done but bottom line is that we actually don’t know.”
The end goal, Tam added, is to vaccinate as many Canadian as quickly as possible.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), herd immunity is when a population can be protected from a certain virus, like COVID-19, if a threshold of vaccination is reached. It’s achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it, the WHO added.
However, the percentage of people needed to be vaccinated in order to create herd immunity depends on the disease.
For example, herd immunity against measles requires about 95 per cent of a population to be vaccinated and for polio, the threshold is about 80 per cent, the WHO stated.
Canada is nowhere near herd immunity to the coronavirus as second wave surges: Tam
Tam previously told Global News in November that Canada is still nowhere near herd immunity with the coronavirus.
“We’re only at a few percentage points in terms of the immunity in our population. That leaves over 90 per cent of the population, or 95 per cent of the population still vulnerable,” Tam said.
Canada is currently battling a severe second wave of COVID-19 cases. Officials are urging people to remain vigilant in stopping the spread of the virus, despite the promising vaccine news.
Canada expects the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in January, which will go to the country’s most vulnerable populations.
Last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hopes to see the “majority” of Canadians vaccinated by September, though he did not specify exactly what that means as far as a percentage of the population.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada surpasses 400000 total COVID-19 cases – CTV News
Canada has now recorded more than 400,000 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the global pandemic.
Today’s bleak marker came after Saskatchewan reported 283 new cases of the virus today, bringing the national tally to 400,030.
The speed at which Canada reached the 400,000 mark is the latest sign of the accelerating pace of the pandemic across the country.
Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 18 days ago on Nov. 16.
It took six months for Canada to record its first 100,000 cases of COVID-19, four months to reach the 200,000 threshold and less than a month to arrive at 300,000.
Canada’s national death toll from the virus currently stands at 12,470.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada – Richmond News
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times Eastern):
Saskatchewan is reporting 283 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death.
Health officials say the person who died was in their 80s and the province’s death toll from the pandemic sits at 55.
There are more than 4,000 active cases of the virus in the province, many of the infections concentrated in and around Regina and Saskatoon.
Hospitals are treating 126 COVID-19 patients, with 25 of them in intensive care.
The province’s seven-day average of daily cases is 262.
Premier Scott Moe hopes to see a dip in transmission of the virus so more visitation can be allowed in long-term care homes over the holidays.
Manitoba is announcing nine more deaths from COVID-19 and 320 new infections Friday as health officials released new modelling showing the impact of the pandemic on the province.
It shows that three people end up in hospital and one person dies for every 48 cases of COVID-19.
Dr. Brent Roussin, chief public health officer, says if no public health measures had been put in place, there would have been up to 1,055 new infections a day by this Sunday.
Daily cases have been tracking between 300 and 500 recently.
Nunavut will look to get the Moderna vaccine once it is available in Canada.
Chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson says Moderna is preferred because the cold storage and shipping of the Pfizer vaccine is too difficult in Nunavut.
Patterson also announced today fewer than five Nunavut residents with COVID-19 were flown to a Winnipeg hospital this week and are in stable condition.
Patterson would not comment on exactly how many people were in hospital or what communities they come from.
Ottawa is increasing its order of prospective COVID-19 vaccines.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada is exercising its option to obtain another 20 million doses of Moderna’s two-dose candidate, bringing its total order to 40 million in 2021.
That’s expected to be enough to vaccinate almost 20 million people.
Moderna is one of several manufacturers Ottawa has struck deals with for prospective COVID-19 vaccines, which will be delivered in batches.
In early 2021, Canada expects a combined total of six million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, if authorized for distribution.
The group instructing provinces and territories about who should be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines has updated its advice.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says the first doses of authorized vaccines should go to residents and staff of congregate living settings for seniors.
They should also go to older adults starting with people aged 80 and older, then decreasing the age limit to 70 as supply becomes available.
Health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities where infection can have disproportionate consequences are also on the list.
Public Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19.
There are now 27 active cases in the province, for a total of 343 cases since the pandemic began.
Premier Andrew Fury says he will announce the province’s position on the Atlantic travel bubble Monday.
Newfoundland and Labrador withdrew from the arrangement on looser travel restrictions within the region last month.
Nova Scotia is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19.
Health officials say 11 cases are in the Halifax area, including a case at Citadel High School in Halifax reported late Thursday.
Three cases in the northern health zone are close contacts of other cases, and one case in the western zone is related to travel.
A case has also been identified at Park West School, a primary to Grade 9 school in the health zone that includes Halifax.
Nunavut is reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.
The territory says all the new infections are in Arviat.
The community on the western edge of Hudson Bay now has 44 active cases.
Nunavut mostly lifted a two-week lockdown earlier this week but restrictions remain in Arviat where numbers are highest.
Public Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting eight new cases of COVID-19.
There is one new case in the Moncton region, two in the Saint John region, one in the Fredericton area and four in the Edmunston region.
All the individuals are self-isolating and their cases are under investigation.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick is 528 with 111 currently active.
There are 1,780 new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario today and 25 more deaths linked to the virus.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says there are 633 new cases in Toronto, 433 in Peel and 152 in York Region.
She says that the spread of COVID-19 has “hit a critical point.”
The minister is asking Ontarians to wear masks and remain physically distant from each other.
The Quebec government is reporting 1,345 new COVID-19 cases and 28 additional deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
The Health Department says of the five of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.
The number of hospitalizations has increased by 24 for a total of 761 with 97 people in intensive care.
The province has reported a total of 147,877 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 7,183 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.
The Canadian Press
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