By Tim Kalinowski on January 20, 2021.
Alberta Senator Doug Black says the federal government has been late to the party since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of public health response, and continues to be late as this crucial vaccine rollout period begins across the country.
“My view is we can’t get out of this mess that we are in until the community is widely vaccinated,” Black states. “My concern with that is the same concern I have had with this federal government on this file … On the COVID matter, we were late in seeing what was happening in Asia, seeing what was happening in Europe, particularly in Italy, and we were slow to act. Second, we were delayed in getting PPE. We had a transaction with China to provide us with PPE which the Chinese defaulted on. And when they did send goods, particularly masks, they were faulty.
“On the issue of procuring the vaccine,” he adds, “I have pushed the government for months and months to ensure Canada was procuring vaccine. I pushed, and I continue to push, to know delivery dates. What I am saying very simply is if someone in Lethbridge orders a new jacket from Eddie Bauer, you know when it is going to be delivered. You can track it. We have no idea, or at least the government has not shared with Canadians, when the delivery dates are.”
Black says the problems with Alberta’s, and other provinces, vaccine supply can be laid firmly at Ottawa’s feet.
“This is a war,” he says, “and I don’t think Canada has been at the front lines. The problem we have in Alberta now is supply, and I am telling you that is an Ottawa problem. It’s a lack of supply, and it is a lack of leadership and organization as a double whammy, and we should not tolerate it. This is not a ‘nice to have’ this is a ‘must have’ for our communities to recover.”
Black says getting more supply, more quickly, means continuing to procure whatever we can internationally in parallel with creating our own domestic version of the vaccine, and putting more resources in producing that vaccine and bringing it out to the public.
“There is a firm in Calgary that has exactly the same RNA technology which underpins the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” Black explains by way of example. “I was crying from the rooftops that have this firm (financially) supported, and the government has come forward now but it was months late. The good news is the Calgary firm has started clinical trials this week. Again though, the Government of Canada dragged their anchor on that file.”
Black says there is only one way forward for Canadians to stop the economic damage being done by COVID-19 and its resulting public health restrictions: get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. This should be the federal government’s primary focus, he says, whatever it takes.
“Then longer this goes on the deeper the pain is going to be for (small business), and the fewer survivors there is going to be,” states Black. “That is why there is an urgency to this.”
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