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

New Tory motion could trigger second confidence showdown for Liberal minority

All opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Trudeau for turning the issue into a confidence matter

One day after surviving a confidence vote on a Conservative motion, Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government faces another Conservative motion that could trigger yet more high-stakes drama over the possibility of a snap election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The official Opposition is using its second opposition day this week to debate 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 that the Liberals are expected to argue that its passage would paralyze the government — the same argument used to declare the first Conservative motion 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 Trudeau for turning the issue into a confidence matter that threatened to plunge the country into an election.

With opposition resentment over the handling of that motion still fresh, the government now has to decide whether to play the same card again on the second Conservative motion.

RAED MORE: Liberal minority survives confidence vote in the Commons with NDP and Green backing

Today’s 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 Quebecois and NDP members. But Liberal members argued strenuously at that time that they needed more time to digest such a massive motion.

Using an argument that’s likely to be repeated by government members today, Liberal MP Darren Fisher told the committee that “the motion asks public health officials basically to stop what they’re doing to protect Canadians and sift through emails and documents instead.”

While the motion will be debated in the House of Commons today, it will not be put to a vote until Monday.

Among other things, today’s 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 all memorandums, emails, documents, notes or other records from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, various ministers’ offices and departments, and the Public Health Agency of Canada related to:

— Plans and preparations for the pandemic;

— Communications with the World Health Organization concerning preparations for the pandemic;

— Purchasing of personal protective equipment;

— Purchasing of testing products including tests, reagents, swabs, laboratory equipment and other material related to tests used in the diagnosis of COVID-19.

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.

READ MORE: One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Liberals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

cat
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta now has 17,743 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

town
Town of Castor meeting highlights from the Nov. 23rd meeting

Castor’s town council has approved an interim budget going into 2021

county
The County of Paintearth Council has approved the 2021 operational and capital budgets

Capital spending approved for 2021 amounts to just over $3.8 million

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

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’

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council squashes mask bylaw

The bylaw did not make it past first reading, after a 4-3 vote defeated the motion

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Most Read