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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where one employee is still currently isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was first declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
54 positive COVID-19 cases associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

There’s been a two-person increase in positive cases since Tuesday (Dec. 1)

K-J Millar/The Northern View
8 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the Northern Health Authority

Since Nov. 27, there have been 191 new cases reported in NHA

RCMP will be out in force for the next four weeks looking for drunk and drug-impaired drivers. (Black Press file photo)
Smithers RCMP counter attack campaign starts

Additional officers and roadblocks will be on the streets throughout the holidays

A COVID-19 exposure has been recorded at Centennial Christian School in Terrace. The exposure occurred between Nov. 23 and Nov. 26, 2020. (Centennial Christian School Facebook photo)
COVID-19 exposure recorded at Centennial Christian School in Terrace

It’s the first known school exposure in Terrace

RCMP cruiser with lights flashing. (File photo)
Smithers crime severity index jumps 18 per cent

RCMP expected increase due to reporting changes, but concerned it remains double provincial average

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

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

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read