The Commons: In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair

In the race to provide H1N1 vaccines, second place is first loser


091105_slide_commonsThe Scene. Like a young man on the verge of a break from school—and indeed the House will not be in session next week—the Prime Minister seemed lighter this day. Rising from his seat before Question Period, he stopped by to visit with John Baird and Chuck Strahl, the three demonstrably laughing at something or other the Prime Minister had to say. Returning to his spot, Mr. Harper chuckled with Lawrence Cannon about something on Jim Prentice’s BlackBerry.

Yes, indeed, all was fun and frivolous. And then Bob Rae stood up.

“Mr. Speaker, we now know that more than half of the vaccines that have been produced are in fact in storage and not in people’s arms,” the Liberal reported. “Experts are also telling us that the peak of the epidemic is expected to be at the end of November and not at Christmas, so I would like to ask the Prime Minister this: What exactly is going to change to ensure that Canadians in fact are inoculated before the end of November?”

The Prime Minister rose to respond, appearing largely unperturbed by Mr. Rae’s suggestion that something was amiss.

“Mr. Speaker, once again, as I said yesterday, the provision of the vaccine has been, at this point, quicker than the ability of the provinces to actually distribute it. I know they are focused on those challenges,” he stated. “There is a list of recommended high-priority groups. Those are the people who should be getting the vaccine first and, obviously, governments at all levels are working together to ensure that that happens.”

Mr. Rae was unconvinced, turning to face and engage the Prime Minister emphatically and directly.

“Mr. Speaker, it simply is not possible to say that the same old is working or that the plan in fact is beautiful and nothing needs to change,” he ventured. “The evidence is very, very clear that it is going to require the inoculation of a million Canadians a day in order to get Canadians inoculated before the peak really hits at the end of November, so I ask the Prime Minister again: What exactly is going to change in order to produce a plan that will in fact work for Canadians?”

The Prime Minister was not about to let this spoil his day.

“Mr. Speaker, once again, this is by far the largest and quickest vaccination program the provinces have ever attempted in this country. They are rolling it out. They are adjusting as they experience various difficulties and challenges,” he offered. “We obviously urge people to be patient, to listen to the health authorities, and of course Canada’s plan, the availability of vaccine, is far higher in Canada than anywhere else and we continue to urge people to follow the instructions of their health authorities.”

Mr. Rae was exceedingly polite in response. “Mr. Speaker,” he testified, “the Prime Minister is saying things that are not quite accurate.”

Marlene Jennings was exceedingly otherwise a moment later. “Wrong, Mr. Speaker!” she cried, wagging the finger of shame in the Prime Minister’s direction. “Australia has the highest per capita in the world, not Canada.”

“Mr. Speaker, Canada is well-positioned to respond to this pandemic,” Leona Aglukkaq, the Health Minister, assured in response. “We have been working with the provinces and territories for the last eight months and we were rolling out our vaccine sooner than expected. The provinces and territories started to roll out their vaccines last week, and in fact some jurisdictions will be done vaccinating their population next week, so most of the vaccine is being rolled out.”

Once more to Ms. Jennings. “Wrong, Mr. Speaker!” she cried again, her index finger once more unfurled. “China is rolling it out faster than Canada.”

Though an interesting rejoinder to points made earlier this week, China’s efforts did not seem particularly relevant to the Minister’s remarks here.

“The Prime Minister is failing to provide leadership or to allocate the dollars and resources needed to manage this crisis. The provinces need help to pick up the pace in vaccinating Canadians: more personnel, more vaccination sites, longer hours,” Ms. Jennings continued from the second row. “Why does the Prime Minister not step up to the plate, show some leadership and compassion for Canadians and help our provincial partners? He has the money, the resources, and he got a clear mandate from this House yesterday to do it.”

To the chagrin of Tony Clement’s many fans, the government let Ms. Aglukkaq take this one, too.

“Mr. Speaker, again, six million vaccines have been distributed to provinces and territories. Approximately two million more will be distributed next week and adjuvanted was also distributed to Canada,” she said. “Currently Canada has more H1N1 vaccine per capita.”

“Wrong!” yelped Jennings. “Australia!”

“That is the fact,” Ms. Aglukkaq continued, undaunted. “Vaccine is being distributed as quickly as possible to the provinces and territories and every Canadian who wants to receive the vaccine will be able to do so.”

But surely, unless you’ve spent the entire week in a vaccine line, you’ve heard this much before. When next this discussion resumes, one can only hope the numbers are even more impressive, the reassurances at least freshly worded. Indeed on such potential can we all walk lightly into the break.

The Stats. H1N1, 11 questions. Ethics, seven questions. The environment and employment, five questions each. Government advertising, three questions. Firearms and the Olympics, two questions each. Fisheries, the public service and Aboriginals, one question each.

Stephen Harper and Leona Aglukkaq, eight answers each. John Baird, six answers. Christian Paradis and Jean-Pierre Blackburn, three answers each. Peter Van Loan, Jim Prentice and James Moore, two answers each. Diane Finley, Vic Toews, Rona Ambrose and Chuck Strahl, one answer each.


The Commons: In joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair

  1. Doesn't she realize the China is a dictatorship which of course means that they can tell people where and when to be and can kick whoever they want out of any vaccine lineup – so what China may or may not being doing is somewhat irrelevant. As for Australia – I'm not sure of how their health is delivered – I suspect there are a lot of private clinics giving the vaccine (which of course Canada does not allow) and I'm not sure of the role of the various states in delivering health care. Of course in Canada we are dealing with 13 jurisdictions plus all the First Nations and each has their own system to deliver health care. So again I suspect the Australian experience may not be relevant.

  2. I agree with your comment about China/dictatorship but I think Jennings comparison is even stupider than you say because China only plans to vaccinate 5% of its population before the end of the year.

    • "China only plans to vaccinate 5% of its population before the end of the year."

      which is "only" something like double the entire population Canada right? wow, dictatorship or no, that's impressive!

  3. Why does Ken Dryden and his liberal cronies want the olympic torch relay to be run through all the liberal ridings in the toronto area? what a strange fellow.

  4. China may be rolling out the vaccine faster, but they have 1,330,000,000 people to vaccinate. Canada only has 33,000,000 people. Even if China can roll out vaccine 10X faster they will not even come close to Canada's rate.

    • Bigger country has larger ingherent distribution network…the make them equal you look at percentage of population being vaccinated as a rate…..# of vcaccinations per day/population total.

      The reason why this is so freaking confusing is you have the province of Ontario saying they will run out of vaccine this week if they dont get the shipment the PM mentioned. If thatst the case then Ontario alone will have innoculated at least 2 million people within two weeks. So which is it, are we at risk of running out of vaccine because we are running at a million per weel or is it we wont meet our target because distribution is too slow.

      Yet another ACDC argument from the Opposition.

      The Dippers are at least making an intelligent argument, they say if distribution is the problem how are the feds helping change this. Now we can debate whether throwing money at the problem would solve anything in two weeks but it at least is constructive, a glove tap to the NDP.

    • They're also not as heavily affected by the flu as we are.

  5. So Marlene just like carolyn loves to spin spin spin – check out some Australia newspapers and you will get the real truth you can't compare them to us outside of the fact that there flu season is ending and our is starting – sorry Marlene nice try though!

    • Seems to me that it was Harper who compared them by falsely claiming Canada had rolled out more vaccine on a per capita basis.

      Say Anything Steve strikes again.

  6. Bob Rae said: “Experts are also telling us that the peak of the epidemic is expected to be at the end of November and not at Christmas."

    What? I thought the third wave was supposed to be the peak, expected in Jan/Feb? Who has the facts wrong here?

    • There are no facts, only outrage, spittle, and emoting

  7. This is just childish grand standing on behalf of the Liberals. Typical Donolo & Kinsella.

  8. Why do you think Harper holds the House of Commons in such contempt? He doesn't like being there?

  9. Jennings is right up their with Fry as the biggest drama queens in the house. ZERO respect for either one of them!

  10. Liberal lies and spin are begining fall apart. How many times will the little Liberals cry wolf this week?

    • Do you Conservatives not realise how repulsive you are when you make immature and stupid comments like this? Do you imagine you are accomplishing anything other than filling the grownups with distaste for your mean little minds?

      • Did Dakota or Joe say they were Conservatives? They could be NDP or even a Bloc well maybe Dakota. Holly stick you just to conclusions to bash Conservatives : (

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