The House of Commons is back in session this week with the Liberal government likely feeling somewhat more confident in its agenda going forward than three weeks ago when I last communicated.
As I said in my last update, the past few weeks were quite telling in terms of what the vaccine rollout will look like. Even though Canada was ranked 54th in the world when it came to percentage of population vaccinated, the Prime Minister stuck to his talking points that every Canadian would be vaccinated by September. Several developments in the past week are indicating that target date has become increasingly plausible and could very well be moved up by a number of months. The game changer was the decision to delay the second or booster shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for up to four months. In essence what that means is twice as many Canadians can now receive their first shot over the next 3 months. This decision has not been without controversy, however the majority of opinions from the science community that I have read over the course of the past week suggest that there is a greater potential benefit to our overall immunity in having a first dose in a larger number of people than two doses more quickly in a smaller number of people. It is worth noting that Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has given its approval to this new dosage strategy.
There is also good news on the supply front. While Canada’s supply was significantly disrupted earlier in the year, the government now says that during the months of March, April, and May, Pfizer will actually deliver as many as 5 million additional doses than previously anticipated. The AstraZeneca vaccine is also now starting to arrive and will be administered to Canadians under the age of 65. Finally, Health Canada also approved the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine but our country likely won’t be receiving any doses for several months.
Albertans over 75 are now receiving their vaccinations and remain scheduled for the booster shot within one month. Beginning on Wednesday, Albertans between the age of 50 – 64 can start booking appointments for the AstraZeneca shot (click here to learn how to book an appointment online or call 811 to book). The AstraZeneca vaccine has been suggested to not be as effective in reducing the likelihood of mild or moderate illness due to COVID-19 however, it is believed to be effective in preventing severe illness.
Due to a lack of clinical trial data on individuals over 65, Alberta Health has made the decision to not offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those over 65. As such, beginning on March 15 those Albertans aged 65 – 74 will be able to start booking appointments for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. To avoid the system issues that plagued the first roll out of online bookings, the government has decided to dedicate a specific day for people born in a specific year to book. Once details are announced on this, they will be posted here.
What Does This All Mean?
The revised vaccination timelines suggest the vast majority of people who want the vaccine will have had at least the first dose by the end of June. This is fantastic news and may allow for us to have a summer that more closely resembles what we remember before COVID-19. It may be possible to see events like the Stampede go ahead, albeit in a revised format, and increased travel will be possible. These are early days yet, but my sense is the timeline has adjusted significantly in the past few weeks.
Mandatory Quarantine Hotels for Air Passengers
This program commenced two weeks ago with a horrendous thud. At least one quarantined female was allegedly sexually assaulted by a member of the government run security service and several other complaints of a similar nature were also registered. The Conservative Opposition has called on the government to suspend this program until it can guarantee the safety of those being quarantined. If the vaccine rollout progresses smoothly and new variant cases continue to not be as substantial as predicted, hopefully these measures will be cancelled following Spring Break. Although popular with most Canadians, the government has heard strong opposition from snowbirds, particularly from Quebec (who tend to have more influence on government policy than anyone else).
Some Bumps in the Road for the Government
The controversy over alleged improper behavior by top officials within Canada’s Armed Forces is top of mind right now. Jonathan Vance resigned as chief of the Defense Staff recently amid allegations of inappropriate sexual relations with a subordinate. He was replaced by Arthur McDonald who has also stepped aside for unexplained reasons. Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan claimed he knew nothing of the alleged incidents until recently. The bombshell dropped last week that the former Military Ombudsman attempted to make Sajjan aware of these allegations in 2018 however the Minister refused to accept the information. The Parliamentary defense committee will continue to investigate this issue this week however rumors are already circulating that the Prime Minister will drop Sajjan soon from cabinet so that his office won’t have to take the blame.
The final clue whether Canadians go to the polls in June will likely come in the form of the first budget in two years by the Trudeau government. If the budget, expected to be delivered in the third week of April, contains significant new spending to “stimulate economic activity” is well received by Canadians, and the vaccine rollout continues to accelerate as planned, an election call could very well follow a week to 10 days after.
What We Are Doing
I often get emails from constituents and supporters concerned that the Opposition is not doing enough to offer criticism and alternative policy positions to the government. Our challenge is that, while we do this work on a daily basis, almost none of it shows up in any of the mainstream media. Our Leader has had an enormous challenge in finding issues and messaging that allows him to “cut through” the daily dose of the PM’s sermon on the front steps of Rideau cottage, and the daily reaction from the medical community. We did have some success two weeks ago in pressing the government to recognize that genocide is being committed by the Government of China on the Uyghur people.
That being said, I wanted to provide you with a few links to videos of either the Leader, or the Alberta CPC Caucus either in the House or in the media which I thought represented well the work we are doing, and the tone we are trying to take:
• From March 2nd – A Video Montage of Petitions Alberta Conservatives have Tabled in the House in the Past Few Weeks – https://ronliepertmp.ca/alberta-conservative-petitions/
• From March 1st – Erin O’Toole on CTV Power Play Regarding the Government of China, Vaccines, and more: https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2150450
• From February 18th – Conservative MP Questions on the Vaccine Procurement: https://ronliepertmp.ca/mps-questions-on-vaccine-procurement/
• From February 26th – Conservative MP Questions on Sexual Assault at a Federal Quarantine Hotel – https://ronliepertmp.ca/conservative-questions-on-quarantine-hotels/
• From February 23rd – A Short Video Montage of Conservative Work in the House in 1 Week: https://ronliepertmp.ca/conservative-accomplishments-in-1-week/
I hope that this update provides some optimism in a time where it is sorely needed. As always, I look forward to your comments.