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View Sonia Sidhu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As a committee member, I'm always in favour of listening to experts. We're here to do the real work for Canadians. We need to go about that in an organized way.
I would like to speak to the information about our work plan proposed in this motion. I also want to respond to the measure of the pandemic response and the role of our committee.
First, we did work collaboratively in the beginning, and Mr. Davies's plan to study one topic per party set the tone for the entire study. The subcommittee meeting would have been the right place to discuss the next steps.
Mr. Chair, for a year we have been listening to expert testimony, and we are always willing to do that. It is important for us to help the government serve Canadians. That means amplifying the voices of doctors and other researchers and experts who can help us through this, and inform future pandemics, or inform us of any other relevant information. That includes outside experts, people who are both supportive and critical of the government's response; government officials who have been working day and night to protect Canadians; and decision-makers within cabinet. That is where the committee could add the most value.
A report reflects the best advice on how to handle a situation like this when it happens again. Even if it is not for another hundred years, we need to get around to writing a report at some point. This is why we need to have a subcommittee meeting, so that members can discuss how all of the testimony can best serve the country, and we can take the next steps. If that report were to be written today, it would reflect how well the government has handled this pandemic.
My community of Brampton was hit very hard by the pandemic. Members of this committee know this. We also received the first doses of the vaccine before September. Now, more than half of the residents of Peel, almost 70% of adults, have received their first dose. At the peak of the third wave we reported over 11,000 new cases. On a single day yesterday it was 271. Things are improving.
The federal government was able to do this by securing a larger portfolio of vaccine candidates per capita than any other country. We now rank number three in the G20 on doses administered per capita. To date, we have delivered more than 26 million vaccines to provinces and territories, with many more on the way across the country. Over 60% of Canadian adults are vaccinated.
The vaccines are also working very effectively, better than expected since we started these meetings. It was reported that only 0.15% of vaccinated Canadians have become infected by the virus 14 days or more after their first dose. Dr. Tam adds that “Compared to unvaccinated cases in these jurisdictions, these people were more likely to report no symptoms and less likely to experience severe illness requiring hospitalization.”
When provinces ask for help, we are there for them. We gave over $284 billion to the provinces to help them increase their vaccine rollout capacity. In Peel, the federal government provided many additional supports, including on-the-ground support from the armed forces in long-term care facilities in the tragic first wave, the public health outbreak response from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and a volunteer isolation site for the region.
Across Ontario, there are over 300 federal contact tracers performing 2,500 to 3,000 calls a day. The government has provided 11 million rapid tests, support to deploy tests to workplaces, additional voluntary isolation sites across the province and, of course, the $5 billion to Ontario through the safe restart agreement.
We also know that virtual care is more important than ever. That is why $46 million has been provided to the province to help expand these services, allowing Ontarians to still access care while hospitals are dealing with the crisis.
Everything we have heard, Mr. Chair, needs to be properly documented—the highs and the lows. We, in committee, need to be working towards a report, at the very least an interim one, that can better inform future leaders. The motion under discussion continues to delay this important work.
The government has had to make difficult but necessary decisions, such as how to manage the border. Canada has some of the strictest travel and border measures in the world. We have restricted non-essential entry into the country. We have banned flights from countries experiencing surges of the variants. We have required all air travellers to quarantine under PHAC supervision and have implemented rigorous quarantine and testing protocols for all travellers.
Earlier this afternoon, Dr. Tam said, “Things have taken a great turn for the better”. She also said, “Our efforts have got us well and truly over the peak of the third wave nationally and heading for a much better summer, if we can stay the course.”
While the situation may be improving in Brampton and across Ontario, other provinces, such as Manitoba, are still experiencing outbreaks, so we must be cautious and responsible. She said, “While this forecast is very encouraging, it reaffirms that now is not the time to relax our measures. If measures are relaxed, increasing the number of community-wide in-persons contacts, resurgence is likely”. As she said, we must “stay the course”, one that our government has charted.
Mr. Chair, we need to work collaboratively. These are my thoughts.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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