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

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

More than 20 days have passed since the last case of COVID-19 was confirmed at Lakeside Manor. (File photo)
Salmon Arm retirement facility reopens social areas after COVID-19

More than 20 days have passed since last confirmed case at Lakeside Manor

With a second case of COVID-19 confirmed at South Canoe Elementary, parents were advised Thursday, Jan. 14, that the school would be closed for up to two weeks. (Contributed)
UPDATE: Salmon Arm school to close temporarily after COVID-19 cases confirmed

South Canoe Outdoor Learning School may be closed for up to two weeks

Adams Lake Kukpi7 (Chief) Cliff Arnouse spearheads project to restore Upper Adams River early summer run of sockeye salmon. (File photo)
Adams Lake First Nation heads program to restore salmon habitat in Adams Lake

Chief remembers stories of Upper Adams River early summer run with sockeye weighing up to 40 pounds

Nate Brown photo
Okanagan-Shuswap says goodbye sunshine, hello winter

Temperatures are forecasted to drop by mid-next week

President Donald Trump speaks to the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 in Washington. The President is traveling to Texas. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

(Big White Ski Resort photo)
13 more cases of COVID-19 tied to Big White Mountain cluster

This brings the total case count to 175, of which 32 cases are active

RCMP on scene at a home on Sylvania Cres. (Phil McLachlan /Capital News/FILE)
Two Kelowna men arrested after Rutland home invasion

Two Kelowna men, including a prolific offender, facing slew of potential charges

Most Read