This pandemic was never going to be easy – for any country. One would hope though, that a country as respectable as Canada on the global stage can leverage cooperative multilateral efforts and top the charts as one of the world’s quickest-to-recover nations. After all, Canada was one of the quickest to weather and recover from the 2008 financial crisis.
In hindsight, it seems that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just doesn’t have the steady hand in government or respect on the global stage that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had.
Over the last month, Canada has seen diminishing shipments from major vaccine suppliers, Moderna and Pfizer. Pfizer’s delays stem from ongoing upgrades at their production facility in Belgium, which limits the facility’s capacity in the short term, while Moderna’s delays are thought to be simply a result of higher demand for countries who signed on with them before Canada did. Since the onset of this pandemic, the Liberal government has been slow to act on procurement of personal protective equipment and now of vaccines.
Early on in the global frenzy for vaccine development and testing, Canada had negotiated a joint-testing program reportedly under the responsibility of then Innovation Minister, Navdeep Bains with a promising Chinese developer, CanSino Biologics. Mere days after Ottawa announced the program, Conservative Health Critic, Michelle Rempel Garner was told that the vaccine supplies set to be shipped to Canada for testing was being held by the Chinese General Administration of Customs in Beijing. Nevertheless, the CanSino vaccine prospect quickly slid down the Vaccine Task Force’s global rankings and recommendations, rendering any further efforts as futile.
While Justin Trudeau was wasting time trying to mend diplomatic ties with a Chinese government that wasn’t having any of it, other developed countries swiftly signed on with the most promising candidates in Pfizer and Moderna, as well as taking steps to boost domestic production capacity.
Now, despite the fact that government’s vaccine procurement strategy has suffered severe miscalculation, Public Services and Procurement Minister, Anita Anand says that, “we are going to be seeing an extremely steep incline and we are going to need all hands on deck.” With six million vaccines set to be delivered in the first quarter of this year, twenty-nine million in the second quarter, and eighty-four million in the third quarter, the logistic and administrative limits of the federal and provincial governments are soon to be tested.
As we look toward the next few months, public focus will shift very quickly from federal procurement efforts to national vaccine distribution and administration efforts which will be carried out by the provinces and a military task force led by Major General Dany Fortin.