Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

O’Toole says Liberals can play politics, Tories will focus on issues

O’Toole said all the questions on the table are reasonable

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said his party doesn’t have confidence in the Liberal government, but that doesn’t mean every issue needs to turn into a confidence vote.

Yet his party is using its second chance this week to set Parliament’s agenda to propose a motion calling for a sweeping probe by the House of Commons health committee into a host of issues relating to the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The motion is so broad and the demand for documents so massive the Liberals are expected to argue its passage would paralyze the government — the same argument used to declare an earlier Conservative motion on the WE Charity affair a confidence matter.

The government survived the subsequent confidence vote on that motion — which would have created a special committee to investigate the WE Charity affair and other alleged examples of corruption — with NDP, Green and Independent MPs grudgingly joining with the Liberals on Wednesday to defeat the motion.

But all opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for turning the issue into a confidence matter that threatened to plunge the country into an election.

The point of the health committee motion is to get the answers that will improve upon Canada’s response to the pandemic, not force an election, O’Toole said Thursday.

“How would an election in the second wave of a pandemic improve our response?” O’Toole said.

“How would that help the well-being of Canadians? Mr. Trudeau is willing to put his own political fortunes, a continued coverup, ahead of the well-being of Canadians.”

The new motion was actually introduced by Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner at the health committee several weeks ago, where it appeared to have the support of Bloc Québécois and NDP members. But Liberal members argued strenuously at that time that they needed more time to digest such a massive motion.

On Thursday, Liberals argued the motion brings an overly broad scope that would bog down public servants and swamp caucus members with papers and information requests.

The move is “intentionally meant to overwhelm the department,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in the House of Commons.

That is similar to an argument Liberal MP Darren Fisher had made at the health committee. “The motion asks public health officials basically to stop what they’re doing to protect Canadians and sift through emails and documents instead,” he said earlier this month.

While the motion will be debated in the House of Commons Thursday, it will not be put to a vote until Monday.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Thursday he would back the Conservative motion, insisting that a broad probe into “bad spending” is warranted.

“We don’t know what the WE Charity scandal hides,” he said in French.

Among other things, the motion would direct the health committee to scrutinize the government’s slow progress in approving rapid COVID-19 testing, the impact of the government’s reliance on World Health Organization recommendations that delayed travel restrictions and wearing of face masks, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s communications strategy, the partial shutdown of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network early warning system and the adequacy of federal health transfer payments to the provinces.

And it would order the government to turn over a raft of documents from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, various ministers’ offices and departments, and the Public Health Agency of Canada related to the government’s preparation for the pandemic, the purchase of personal protective equipment and testing products.

It would also order the government to release all records related to the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and its subcommittees and its plans for distributing an eventual vaccine.

The demand for documents concerning the purchase of personal protective equipment could be particularly sensitive for the government. It has used a national security exemption to keep some procurement contracts secret, arguing that the intense global competition for PPE makes it prudent to protect the names of suppliers of items that are particularly hard to come by, such as N95 respirators, gloves and swabs.

A national security exemption also allows the government to purchase supplies more quickly.

The Conservative motion makes some allowance for national security concerns, stipulating that any redactions to the demanded documents be made only by the parliamentary law clerk and only for national security or personal privacy reasons.

O’Toole said all the questions on the table are reasonable. It’s the government’s response that isn’t.

“We’re going to let them play politics,” he said.

“We’re going to ask about rapid testing. We’re going to ask about a better response. We’re going to improve. That is the job of an Opposition.”

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 CanadaCoronavirusLiberals

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

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Damien Kurek
MP Damien Kurek reflects on newly-released federal budget

‘Further, they recycle old promises they have consistently failed to deliver on’

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

FILE - Dan Smyers, left, and Shay Mooney from the band Dan + Shay perform on NBC's Today show in New York on June 28, 2019. The duo will perform at Sunday's Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

Luke Bryan wins top ACM Award, but female acts own the night

In this undated photo provided by John-Paul Hodnett are a row of teeth on the lower jaw of a 300-million-year-old shark species named this week following a nearly complete skeleton of the species in 2013 in New Mexico. Discoverer Hodnett says it was the short, squat teeth that first alerted him to the possibility that the specimen initially dubbed "Godzilla Shark" could be a species distinct from it's ancient cousins, which have longer, more spear-like teeth. The image was taken using angled light techniques that reveal fossil features underneath sediment. (John-Paul Hodnett via AP)
‘Godzilla’ shark discovered in New Mexico gets formal name

The ancient chompers looked less like the spear-like rows of teeth of related species

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Most Read