I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 24 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The committee is meeting today from 4:07 to 6:07. We will hear from the as part of the committee's study of the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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I would now like to invite the minister to make her opening statement.
Thank you, Minister.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Let me begin by acknowledging that I am meeting with you from the territory of many first nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabe, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.
With me today I have Deputy Minister Bill Matthews and others from our team.
I am very pleased to be here to contribute to this committee's study on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the first days of the pandemic, my department has worked around the clock to procure essential personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to protect our frontline health care workers.
Given the rapidly evolving and uncertain nature of the pandemic, we proactively procured a vast range of equipment and supplies so that Canada would be prepared for any eventuality, including worst-case scenarios.
We fought hard in a hypercompetitive global market to secure urgently needed equipment and supplies. We have procured in total about 2.7 billion items of PPE across a range of supplies, and 1.5 billion of those items have been delivered to date.
At the same time, Canadian companies across this land answered our call and began to ramp up domestic production. Last year at this time, N95 masks were not produced in this country. Now Medicom in Quebec is producing N95s. It has produced 100 million masks to date. Medicom in Quebec is joined by 3M in Brockville, which has produced one million N95s to date.
Forty per cent of our PPE contracts, by dollar value, are with Canadian companies. Having these diverse supply chains operating simultaneously was one of the key items in our strategy relating to the procurement of PPE.
Despite the very best efforts of so many Canadians to follow public health advice and make so many personal sacrifices, we are in the midst of the third wave of this pandemic. Our PPE procurements prepared our supply accordingly, and we will continue to support the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provinces and territories as we make our way through to the other side of this pandemic.
We know that the only way to conquer COVID-19 is for us all to continue to follow public health advice alongside a successful vaccine rollout.
When securing doses of safe and effective vaccines for Canadians we took the same aggressive approach as in our personal protective equipment procurement. We initiated a science-based strategy to secure as many vaccine doses as possible.
We approached manufacturers early, negotiating aggressively to build a portfolio of the most promising vaccines to protect the health of Canadians. My department also procured supplies, such as 175 million needles and 262 million syringes to administer the vaccines, as well as hundreds of freezers for use across this country.
Mr. Chair, we laid the groundwork for the largest inoculation campaign in this country's history, and our portfolio of vaccine candidates is now delivering for Canadians.
We originally were promised six million doses of vaccines before the end of Q1. We exceeded this target by 3.5 million doses and reached 9.5 million doses by the end of Q1. That is an excess of 3.5 million doses for which my department and I negotiated aggressively.
Now Canada is in the top three G20 countries in terms of the rate of people who have received at least one dose of vaccine and in the top four for total vaccines administered to date by population. Twelve million doses of the Health Canada-approved Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines have been delivered to provinces and territories as of today, with 8.8 million vaccines administered to date.
Every day more and more Canadians are rolling up their sleeves and getting their shot. At the same time, my department and I continue to negotiate for earlier and earlier deliveries from vaccine suppliers. We have been successful in doing so. To be very clear, it is my role to get these vaccines to Canada as quickly as possible, and that's exactly what I'm doing.
Our most recent efforts are bearing significant results. Between April and June, we will now be receiving 18 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine rather than the originally scheduled eight million doses. Altogether, we have accelerated 22 million doses to earlier quarters—22 million doses earlier than what was otherwise targeted.
In addition, Moderna has confirmed that in addition to the shipment we received this week, we should expect just over 1.2 million doses to arrive at the end of April and more than 2.8 million doses in May. We have also negotiated for millions of AstraZeneca doses to arrive, and they will be continuing to come into this country.
As a result of the successful negotiations, Mr. Chair, by the end of September or before, we will have more than enough doses for every eligible person in Canada.
In closing, the Government of Canada continues to provide information about the number of doses coming into the country. We have exceeded our targets, but we are far from finished.
While supply chains are stronger, vaccines are moving directly from production to shipping so any manufacturing issues have a direct impact on delivery timelines.
To help mitigate these potential schedule disruptions, we are working very closely with suppliers and, through the Public Health Agency, with provinces and territories so that information is shared in real time.
As I mentioned, I am personally pushing our suppliers every day for even earlier delivery of vaccines.
Mr. Chair, our government will keep doing whatever it takes to get Canadians through to the other side of the pandemic. At PSPC, we will support this effort through our procurements.
I look forward to taking your questions.
The COVAX facility is a pooled procurement mechanism. What that means is that it is a group of countries that have come together to ensure that vaccines can be accessible and be made accessible to the developing world.
There were two aspects of the COVAX facility, one for developing countries and one for developed countries. Canada is a contributor to both parts of that facility.
I will say that the number of doses that developing countries can procure from the COVAX facility is limited. Canada also has a limited number of doses that it can procure, and it is most important to us as a country that we are supporting multilateralism, sharing with other countries, and providing the funding necessary to produce doses for the developing world.
We've provided over $300 million to the COVAX facility in total and we will continue to support multilateralism in vaccine sharing. That's why our , Karina Gould, is part of the governance structure of the COVAX facility. That's why we have said we will share any extra doses with the developing world and that's why we will continue to support multilateralism in vaccine procurement.
I realize that, but we're not able to give the second dose because your government has failed Canadians so miserably.
I want to put a bit of a human touch on this. There is a gentleman I have spoken about in the House before, a friend of mine, Fred Russell. He is a Canadian. He is a veteran. He served overseas almost the entire six years in the Second World War. He landed at Dieppe and got off alive. He's one of maybe the last 10 survivors of the Dieppe Raid. He landed at Normandy, marched into Dieppe with the Canadian troops to liberate it, and fought through Germany and Holland.
I want to read a note that his daughter sent me. It is so sad. He is 102. He's basically isolated. He told me he's been so very lonely; it made me cry. Three months in his room has cost him a fair amount of time in his life. He was so bad on Friday we had last rites given.
This gentleman has basically given up. We have deprived him of his final moments, a gentleman who has given everything to Canada, because your government put its eggs in the basket with the Chinese pharmaceuticals that robbed Canada of IP rights, instead of doing what England did or what Israel did or what apparently 50 other countries did, which was to ensure an adequate supply.
I don't agree with all your bragging that we've done a great job. We are in our third lockdown in Alberta. I turn on the TV and see stories of 25-year-olds being ventilated. Lives are being destroyed, and this idea that one dose, the first dose, puts us ahead of third world countries isn't cutting it.
Do you think that is acceptable? Do you think that's exceeding targets?
Thank you, Minister. I'm sure I'm speaking on behalf of all Canadians when I say thank you very much for the hard work that you and your department are doing to make sure that we are getting the vaccine that's needed during this difficult time.
Madam Minister, in your opening remarks, you talked about a six-million-dose plan for end of Q1, with 9.6 million procured, and to date about 12 million procured, with about 8.8 million administered. There is a spread of about 3.2 million.
Before I ask you the question, as I'm the last questioner before you leave, I'd like to give you the opportunity to respond to my colleague Mr. Green and some of the comments he made that you didn't have an opportunity to respond to.
Please go ahead, Minister.
In my response to Mr. Green I tried to do two things.
The first thing I tried to do was explain how COVAX works, because I believe that the representation of COVAX and the way the question was framed made it appear as though we are taking doses that were not originally permitted under the COVAX facility.
I'm trying to set out that the COVAX facility has two arms. One is for developed countries, which Canada is utilizing, and one is for developing countries, which Canada is supporting with over $300 million of support. We are not alone in that effort. For example, South Korea and New Zealand have also utilized that aspect of COVAX for developed countries. We will continue to support COVAX and multilateralism in pooled procurement mechanisms. That was the first point I tried to make.
I wasn't able to make the second point because of reasons of time. The point is about the TRIPS. Canada has not blocked the TRIPS waiver. In fact, Canada has reached out to proponents of the waiver and all WTO members to better understand their concerns, and is working towards consensus-based solutions.
TRIPS governs IP matters, but currently vaccine accessibility issues do not pertain to patents and IP rights. Rather, they pertain to production, distribution and supply chain concerns.
In addition to our $1.6-billion commitment to the global COVID response, at the WTO we are still advocating accelerating the production and distribution of affordable, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies. We'll continue to work with all countries on concrete solutions and ensure that responses to COVID-19 do not create barriers to equitable access to vaccines.
I know my colleague, , is very concerned to ensure that this occurs, and I look forward to working with her as this process unfolds.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
For an end-to-end vaccine distribution logistics solution, the federal government awarded a contract to FedEx Express Canada, a Canadian subsidiary of an American company, and to Innomar Strategies, another American company, which has offices in the Montreal area.
For the transportation of vaccines, Amazon, UPS, FedEx and Innomar Strategies, all American companies, are being used. Are there no transportation companies in Canada that could take over, even if only for regional transportation? Is it not possible for our companies in Canada to work together? What is the problem?
I want to be clear that I am not pointing fingers. I'm trying to understand why we're not using our resources, not American resources.
I've listened to a few of my colleagues whom I really appreciate, and I know that when the cameras are off they're the best in the world and they're collegial. I just hope that in the future, when witnesses come before us, we think of one thing, and one test that I have, since Mother's Day is coming, is if you would talk to your mother the way certain members are talking to our current witnesses. The answer is probably no.
I hope that in the future we can learn that and just think about our mothers. That's the test I use to ask questions and stay polite to our witnesses.
That said, Mr. Matthews, thank you for coming before our committee, along with the staff before us.
I want to touch base on a question that was raised by my colleague . Just so we are clear, the Government of Canada signed a contract for the number of doses and not the number of vials. Whether there are 10 doses in a vial or five doses in a vial, it doesn't matter. Is that correct?