Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks during a news conference on the government’s planned Fall Economic Statement on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks during a news conference on the government’s planned Fall Economic Statement on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

VIDEO: PM put all vaccine ‘eggs’ in one China basket, didn’t consider other options: O’Toole

Government announced major vaccine purchases in August after the CanSino partnership had fallen through

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole accused the Liberal government Sunday of putting too much emphasis on partnering with a Chinese company for a COVID-19 vaccine in what turned out to be a failed deal.

O’Toole said the Trudeau government only turned its attention to pre-ordering tens of millions of vaccine doses from companies such as Pfizer and Moderna in August when its collaboration between the National Research Council and Chinese vaccine-maker CanSino finally collapsed after months of delays.

The Council had issued CanSino a licence to use a Canadian biological product as part of a COVID-19 vaccine. CanSino was supposed to provide samples of the vaccine for clinical trials at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology at Dalhousie University, but the Chinese government blocked the shipments.

“I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said at a morning news conference.

“If you look at the timeline, that’s when Canada started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options,” he added, saying he was concerned that “the Trudeau government was willing to almost double down on partnering with China” earlier in the pandemic.

The government announced its major vaccine purchases in August after it confirmed the CanSino partnership had fallen through. At the time, it said its decision had come after careful consultations with its vaccine task force of health experts.

The CanSino partnership with Dalhousie predated the deep freeze in Canada-China relations that occurred after the People’s Republic imprisoned two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in apparent retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou nearly two years ago on an American extradition warrant.

This past week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated for COVID-19 because the first doses off the production lines will be used in the countries where they are made.

READ MORE: Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

As questions grew about the CanSino deal, Trudeau continued to defend his government’s vaccine procurement policy, which he says has secured multiple options for the country. Trudeau also appointed a Canadian Forces general to lead the logistics of an eventual vaccine rollout with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The chairman of American vaccine maker Moderna told the CBC on Sunday that Canada is near the front of the line to receive 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine it pre-ordered.

Noubar Afeyan was asked on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live whether the fact that Canada committed to pre-purchase its doses before other jurisdictions means it will get its supply first. Afeyan confirmed that was the case.

“The people who are willing to move early on with even less proof of the efficacy have assured the amount of supply they were willing to sign up to,” he said.

O’Toole said with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland poised to deliver the government’s long-awaited fiscal update on Monday, the Liberals need to do two things to spur economic recovery: offer a better plan on how it will rollout vaccines for Canadians and step up the distribution of rapid tests.

“There can’t be a full economy, a growing economy, people working, people being productive without the tools to keep that happening in a pandemic. Those two tools are rapid tests, and a vaccine.”

Freeland’s fall economic statement is expected to give a full accounting of the government’s record spending on programs to combat the pandemic. In July, the deficit was forecast to be at a record $343.2 billion but some estimates say it could easily top $400 billion.

The government could announce new spending such as taking steps towards a national child-care system, and relief for battered industries such as travel and restaurants that will face an uphill struggle to recover from the pandemic.

NDP finance critic Peter Julien sent Freeland a three-page letter urging her to take action on a variety of fronts to help struggling Canadian families during the pandemic.

They included taking concrete action on establishing a national pharmacare plan to help Canadians pay for soaring prescription drug costs, and establish a national day-care strategy to help women who have been disproportionately hindered by the pandemic. Julien also urged Freeland to help Indigenous communities and abandon the government’s plans to pay for the Trans-Mountain Pipeline and ramp up its fight against climate change.

Green party Leader Annamie Paul called on Freeland to deliver “a positive vision for a green recovery” to accelerate Canada’s transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

“We are optimistic that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available next year and so we must be prepared for what comes next,” Paul said in a statement.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirusJustin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
City of Port Alberni, ACRD prepare for compost collection in 2021

Roadside pickup is expected to begin in the City of Port Alberni in June 2021

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of North Island conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

Braden Holtby’s new mask designed in collaboration with Luke Marston and David Gunnarsson. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
QUINN’S QUIPS: Art is more than simple expression in First Nations culture

Indigenous artwork has a connection to its people, and vice versa

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

Most Read