The Morning Brief – 02.10.21
By Bruce Carson
Is the Trudeau government, Canada’s worst government ever?
Has the Trudeau government become everything it despised?
Is it fair to compare the Trudeau government to governments of the past? They didn’t govern through a pandemic.
This past weekend, as vaccines failed to arrive in spite of promises, and while Procurement Minister Anand was on the Sunday political programs promising no vaccines today, but plenty tomorrow, there were some fairly harsh words written about the Trudeau government.
In his Friday column in the National Post which ran all weekend, Rex Murphy stated “this is the worst Canadian government ever. Can there be any doubt.” Lorrie Goldstein of the Sun papers proclaimed that the “Trudeau government has become the things it despised.”
Polling at the end of last week and during the weekend, indicated that at least for now, the future of the Trudeau government is inextricably linked to its promise to get lifesaving vaccines into the arms of all Canadians who want them, by the beginning or end of September, 2021.
One of the underlying themes from both Murphy and Goldstein is that lack of timely delivery of the vaccines is not all that ails the Trudeau government.
Rex Murphy’s piece deals primarily with actions that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic, but other matters are mentioned as well.
His list sets out the deplorable state of long term care homes, the death of loved ones and the yet unfulfilled promise to work together with the provinces to develop national standards. All the while vaccines which should have been given to our seniors are nowhere to be seen. Then there is the on again, off again shuttering of businesses, mostly small, family owned, having survived for years, hanging on in the hope of receiving some amount of government support.
Worry and anxiety, and mental health issues are rampant in a country which seems directionless at this point.
Much of that anxiety is the result of lack of information or inconsistent information on vaccines including secrecy about contracts and the arrival and distribution of vaccines. If “I don’t know” is the honest answer, then the government should use it, rather than holding out faint hope. This makes it harder for premiers and health care workers, who distribute vaccines to plan, and Canadians looking forward to receiving them, have no idea when that might happen.
Murphy sees the emasculation of the House of Commons and the substitute for great lengths of time by what he calls “the Tent of Commons” as the most egregious action of the Trudeau government.
He writes “no minority government has ever operated with the smug insouciance and patented virtue perfumed arrogance towards the House of Commons as the Trudeau government. This is, when we step back their biggest sin.”
Top performing federal ministers have been lost and Trudeau’s hand-picked Governor General resigned amid harassment scandals at Rideau Hall. When a government in a pandemic could most use the advice of Dr. Jane Philpott, she is now Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s.
Two hostages are held illegally in deplorable conditions in China while the Trudeau government negotiates a collaborative effort to develop a vaccine with China.
There has been no budget for two years, levels of spending are beyond other countries, an Auditor General lacking funding to do a follow up audit and the Keystone XL pipeline is cancelled.
Nothing here connotes “Canada is Back” or “Better is always Possible,” the early slogans of the Trudeau government.
Goldstein’s piece focusses on the level of government secrecy we now endure contrary to the promise of “open and transparent government.” The use of prorogation to shut parliamentary committee investigations into WE Charity is contrary to the promise “not to resort to legislative tactics to avoid scrutiny.”
A more complete list of failings of the Trudeau government would include failure to act on universal, accessible child care. Perhaps during the recovery, pharmacare and Indigenous reconciliation will be addressed.
Perhaps some forgiveness is due, because of the pandemic and hopefully the abovementioned issues and money to address the failings in long term care homes will be included in the recovery budget which should be presented this spring.
But it wasn’t always like this as Canada, mostly seen as a middle power, punched well above its weight in World War II and in the post war years with its role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as a founding member of NATO. There was peacekeeping, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, standing up to Apartheid, fighting the famine in Ethiopia and responding to the NATO call for help, joining the war in Afghanistan. Just some examples of Canadian leadership.
But what stands in stark contrast to the initiatives set out above, is the Trudeau government’s raid on the COVAX vaccine supply, meant to supply developing countries and those that simply can’t afford to develop them.
COVAX is an entity that Canada and other countries fund to buy COVID-19 vaccines in bulk and deliver them to poorer countries. Canada is now set to receive a minimum of 1.9 million doses of the Oxford AstraZenica vaccine, pending regulatory approval from the Health Canada, from the COVAX supply.
Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa says that Canada is wrong to use the program for its own benefit. On CTV’s Question Period on Sunday he said “it was always understood from the outset that this was not a source of vaccines for the rich and wealthy countries of the world.”
He added “for Canada to be proud of what it is doing, I think, is a profound mistake.” Trudeau says that the fund was “always intended” to allow government access—but just because it may be allowed, doesn’t make it right.
Professor Jillian Kohler of the University of Toronto and a Director of WHO’s collaborating Center for Governance, Transparency and Accountability in the Pharmaceutical Sector in an article in the Globe yesterday entitled “developing countries won’t soon forget Canada’s ‘me first’ approach to vaccines” scolded the Trudeau government for dipping into the COVAX fund.
She writes that “last year, the Trudeau government stated its aim to fight COVID-19 globally by helping developing countries get access to vaccines.” She added that now with Canada using COVAX for its own benefit “we are witnessing the ‘ugly glare’ of a ‘my nation first approach.’
It will be for others, perhaps years from now, to judge where the Trudeau government stands on matters of competence. As stated above, perhaps much can be forgiven or overlooked when governing in a pandemic.
Will dipping into the COVAX vaccine supply be seen as the tipping point when judgement is passed on the Trudeau era? Canada’s duties and responsibilities to the most vulnerable during the pandemic have been ignored.
- Two legislative costing notes from the PBO to be released
- Wholesale trade numbers for December to be released
- Monthly survey of manufacturing for December to be released
- House of Commons resumes sitting