The Commons: Picking up the crisis where we left it -

The Commons: Picking up the crisis where we left it

Turns out, what the health minister was saying is that they’d “try” to get all Canadians vaccinated by Christmas


The Scene. So where were we? Ah yes, that global pandemic.

“Mr. Speaker, the last time the House sat, the Minister of Health claimed that every Canadian who wanted the H1N1 vaccine would receive it before Christmas,” Carolyn Bennett recapped. “Now, she is saying that the rollout will take up to 12 more weeks and run well into next February.”

So it is for the Health Minister. If not for her having to periodically stand and state things as fact, her critics would likely have little to complain about.

“Why,” asked Ms. Bennett, “did the minister mislead the House and why did she not tell Canadians the truth?”

The Prime Minister, the Transport Minister and the Industry Minister were all away this day, so Leona Aglukkaq was offered the chance here to answer the question herself.

“Mr. Speaker, again, we have said all along that we would try and complete the vaccination program by December,” she said.

Her use of the term “try” was perhaps notable, at least in so much as it was not employed two weeks ago when the Minister told the House that, “every Canadian who wants the vaccine will be able to receive the vaccine by Christmas.”

But close enough.

“In fact,” she continued, “we were early in the rollout of our campaign across the country. I want to acknowledge all the hard work of the front line people who are doing a fantastic job in getting the immunizations out to Canadians. By the end of this week, we will have over 10.4 million vaccines in provinces and territories.”

Back up came Ms. Bennett, now pumping her left fist on each word. “Mr. Speaker, in order to stop the pandemic in its tracks, health experts tell us that 60% to 70% of Canadians need to be immunized. The sooner we reach this goal, the more unnecessary deaths and illnesses will be prevented,” she said. “Will the government abide by the will of Parliament and finally give the provinces, territories and local public health units the money and resources they need to quickly and effectively administer the vaccine?”

Ms. Aglukkaq arose with large numbers. “Mr. Speaker, this year, in the 2009-10 budget, we transferred $24 billion to the provinces and territories under the Canada Health Act. That is the highest amount ever transferred to the provinces,” she declared. “In addition to that, we invested $1 billion to develop a pandemic plan. In addition to that, we also purchased 50.4 million vaccines for every single Canadian who wants and needs it.”

Across the way, Ralph Goodale loudly objected. From the government side of the aisle, Chuck Strahl loudly objected to Mr. Goodale’s objection. But with Ms. Bennett up a third time, the Conservative members mostly minded their manners.

“Mr. Speaker, public health units are being forced to spend their very scarce resources on translating and re-translating messages for ethnic communities without a penny of assistance from the federal government—the Liberal critic enjoying a sort of untouchable status since last month’s unpleasantness.

“Will the government,” she asked, “commit the money and resources for accurate translation to ensure that all Canadians are receiving accurate public health information on H1N1?”

Ms. Aglukkaq opted to answer a question that had not quite been asked. “Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the provinces, territories and health authorities, who are doing a very good job in delivering the program. If the member did her research, she would see on the local websites that there are about over 20 languages in Ontario alone,” she chided. “In most jurisdictions, based on their populations, they have translated the materials to the populations they serve. In my territory, they are in Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, English and French. In the Northwest Territories, they are in another language. In Ontario, there are about 19. If she did her research, she would see that provinces and territories are doing a great job in getting the message out.”

So there. The Conservatives stood to cheer her effort.

It was then Marlene Jennings’ turn to repeat Ms. Bennett’s points en francais and in a slightly more accusatory tone. Ms. Aglukkaq refused to yield.

“We were early in the rollout of the vaccine,” she insisted.

Mr. Goodale loudly scoffed. Ms. Jennings raised the spectre of communism.

“Mr. Speaker, it was seven weeks behind China, but it was an early rollout?” she wondered. “I do not think so.”

Perhaps then we should all move to China. There, if nothing else, the facts are more easily discernible, or at least less easily refuted.

The Stats. The environment, 11 questions. Ethics, six questions. H1N1, five questions. Immigration, three questions. Omar Khadr, taxation, telecommunications, arctic sovereignty and medical isotopes, two questions each. Lobbyists, trade, the military, health care and nuclear waste, one question each.

Leona Aglukkaq and Pierre Poilievre, six answers each. Peter MacKay and Lisa Raitt, five answers each. Mark Warawa, four answers. Jason Kenney, three answers. Christian Paradis, Vic Toews, Ted Menzies, Mike Lake and Chuck Strahl, two answers each. Gerald Keddy, one answer.


The Commons: Picking up the crisis where we left it

  1. H1N1 is a losing, wasted issue for the Liberals. Everybody knows the Province and local health units are handling it for the most apart. It makes the federal liberals look desparate and self serving.
    It hurts to say it but the Libs are getting clobbered. Where was Ignatieff for the past week? I never thought I would say this, but the PMO spin doctors have the media crawling, the Libs babbling, the NDP confusing; Ignatieff wandering around like a lost soul with nothing to say.
    And I'm on his side.

    • Poll after poll show that the public think (a) H1N1 panic is overblown by the media and (b) the federal government has handled the pandemic badly.

      • Which polls?

        "Opposition politicians and the media may be hammering governments for their handling of the H1N1 situation, but a new poll suggests Canadians themselves feel their governments are doing an OK job." Canadian Press Nov 12 '09

        "Canadians are evenly split over the federal government's handling of the swine flu, but more than half believe concerns over the risk of H1N1 are exaggerated, a new poll by EKOS indicates." CBC-EKOS, Nov 12 '09

        • The poll I saw had about 35 % saying that the govt did a bad job whereas about 25% thought it did a good job. The rest, which included about 15% with no opinion, thought the govt did a "fair" job.

          Again, 1 in 3 Canadians thought the govt did a bad job. Thus one could either claim that about 50% of Canadians either thought that the govt did a bad or fair job or 50% thought that it had done a good or fair job.
          Interesting spin above.

          • one could either claim that about 50% of Canadians either thought that the govt did a bad or fair job

            Normally, "fair" responses are not lumped in with the "bad" responses in any survey that I've seen.

            Fair means reasonable or "done properly" (depending on dictionary). It would not be synonymous in any way with "bad." You're being "unfair" by lumping the bad with the fair responses.

          • So basically, Conservative voters think the gov't did a good job, Liberal supporters think the government did a bad job, & uncommitted voters have no opinion.

            This is news?

      • Poll after poll show that the public think ……. the federal government has handled the pandemic badly.

        Sounds like a fact less Liberal talking point to me. Prove it – link to the poll after poll.

        • Is there a time-delay for some comments? I've noticed that some commenters ask a question, but another commenter posts a reply minutes or hours earlier rather than later.

          This is but one example where Rete asked a question 4 hours ago, and Joylon responded five hours ago. I've noticed other examples, not just this one.

          The Macleans IT team should tweak the comments board, if debates are to be logically followed.

  2. Funny. I never got the flu. Did you? I never met a person who had the flu the last several weeks.

    • I know 2 people who have gotten it in the past couple of weeks.

    • That's cause most people who got the flu think they have a cold. In most people, it's that mild.

    • I had it. It was beyond terrible—the worst illness I have suffered in my life.

    • Two people in my husband's team and another person he knows were all confirmed with H1N1. I've a compromised immune system as I have cancer yet I still haven't been able to get the shot – perhaps next week, if all goes well. I and my husband always get the annual flu shot and find it has made a big difference.

  3. I bet there's not a single Liberal member who would let his or her own child receive a Chinese approved vaccine.

    • Exactly. I really don't know whether to laugh or cry when MPs use China as an example of a system we should be copying.

  4. Another wasted QP. The Liberals should be holding the Government to account, but they're not. They're ignoring most of the real issues of the day, because they'd rather chase their own tail on the H1N1 issue (for the nth time). It looks like an increasingly desperate attempt to score cheap political points, and it's not working. The Liberals need to try something new.

    • I can't understand why he isn't fighting. Where has he been?? He should be blasting away with a new issue every day. And some policies.

  5. Hey, don't complain. If the Liberals keep up with this strategy Iggy may reach nine percent in the polls.

    • nine? thats a little high.-smirk

      • Nah, it's always been said that there are a group of people who will always vote Liberal. It's in their genes It used to be around 24 percent, but with Iggy's numbers now down to 17 percent I suspect it has fallen a bit. My guess is that with the Quebec federalist vote and the ethnic vote no longer in the bag, that the new "bottom" is aroud nine percent. That's only a guess, not based on scientific fact.

  6. Canada is leading the world when it comes to percentage of population vaccinated against swine flu. (Toronto Star)

    About one-quarter of Canadians have been vaccinated, according to Dr Butler-Jones.

    Do the Liberals really need more good reasons to move onto another topic of debate? Or will they keep flogging this issue for whatever it's (not) worth?

    • dead horse? They have nothing else.

  7. The new three stooges, Bennet, Goodale and Jennings.

    • ROFL – hey who is who – Carolyn = Curly and Ralph definitley Larry leaving Marlene for Moe ?

      • yes, she makes a good Moe! as for 'leaving her for Moe,' what an an idea. wink

  8. “Mr. Speaker, it was seven weeks behind China, but it was an early rollout?” she wondered. “I do not think so.”
    Apparently Madame Jennings doesn't read much beyond her own scripted tirades.
    SEPTEMBER 4, 2009
    … The H1N1 swine-flu virus is sickening many people around the world, but so far isn't becoming more virulent, health experts said Thursday, giving a bit of breathing room to pharmaceutical companies and officials rushing to deliver a vaccine. ….

    Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. won approval from China's drug regulator for commercial production of that country's first H1N1 swine-flu vaccine, and said it is effective with a single standard dose. Novartis AG also said that its H1N1 swine-flu vaccine also prompted a strong immune response after a single dose in a pilot trial. …

    … China says that by the end of the year its vaccine manufacturers will produce enough vaccine for about 65 million people — or about 5% of its population. That would exceed China's usual seasonal flu-vaccination rate. …

    … Sinovac is supposed to supply five million doses of the vaccine by Oct. 1, and annual capacity would be 20 million to 30 million doses, the company said.”

    Chinese Drug Companies Urged To Speed Up H1N1 Vaccine Production
    November 04, 2009 22:12 PM
    BEIJING, Nov 4 (Bernama) — Chinese pharmaceutical companies have been urged to speed up the production of Influenza A(H1N1) vaccine amid an increase in the infection rate since mid-October. …
    So far, 3.8 million Chinese citizen have been inoculated with the domestically produced vaccine.”

    China ahead of Canada? I do not think so.

  9. To be fair to the government, it was apparent early on (thanks in part to media panic-mongering) that a minority of Canadians actually WANTED the vaccine. So the statement that "every Canadian who wanted the H1N1 vaccine would receive it before Christmas" was likely based on the assumption that Canadians' desires would remain static. This, however, has NOT been the case and, happily, a larger proportion of the public is now clamouring for the vaccine. Unfortunately for the government, vaccine can just not be produced quickly enough by GSK (particularly in view of the demand for unadjuvanted vaccine alongside the adjuvanted vaccine, which requires production lines to be switched over to production and effectively reduces overall production of vaccine).

    This is stupid spin on the part of the Liberals. I admit to disliking the current government, but this kind of criticism is tragically simplistic and misses (or blantantly ignores) the big picture.