At the beginning of the health crisis, in my role as Deputy Shadow Minister for Public Safety, I rose on behalf of all Canadians in the House of Commons to ask the Prime Minister if he was aware of Canada’s first COVID-19 infections, which arrived by air from China, and if he knew where the infected passengers were. I believe this to be one of the more important questions of this year as it showed just how unprepared our government was. I have included the transcript below:
Rob Morrison (Member of Parliament, Kootenay—Columbia): Mr. Speaker, we know the first two cases of the coronavirus detected in Canada were on flight CZ311, which had more than 100 passengers. The question is, and all Canadians deserve an answer, does the Prime Minister and the government know the location of and have they notified every passenger who was on that flight?
Hon. Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister): Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question, because indeed it is something we are following up on. We recognize that Canada, unlike many countries that Canadians visit, does not ask where someone’s final destination is when that person boards a plane. We are using data that we have collected, like the passenger manifest, to follow up, and I can assure members that we are in the process of ensuring a follow up on everyone who was on that flight.
Months later I would learn, along with all Canadians, that just seven months before COVID-19 arrived in Canada the Trudeau government shut down our pandemic early warning system. Canada’s Global Public Health Intelligence Network was praised around the world for its effectiveness. Its job was to gather intelligence and spot pandemics early, allowing the government to act early and prevent harm to Canadians. It helped stop H1N1 and Ebola and just two years ago, the World Health Organization praised the operation as “the foundation” of a global pandemic early warning system. My commitment to Kootenay-Columbians is that I will continue to call on the government to re-establish this critical early warning system. We cannot change the mistakes made during this health crisis, but we can be working to ensure that they are not repeated.