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Erin O’Toole says Justin Trudeau playing ‘with lives in a pandemic’ as new confrontation looms over COVID-19 probe

Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star
October 22, 2020

OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole accused Justin Trudeau of “playing a game with people’s lives” as another bitter political dispute brewed over the latest Opposition demands for a wide-ranging probe into the Liberal government’s COVID-19 health response.

O’Toole savaged the prime minister Thursday for choosing to “roll the dice with lives in a pandemic” the day after the Liberal government survived a Commons vote that Trudeau had chosen to make a make-or-break confidence matter.

A Conservative motion to create a special committee to investigate government corruption was defeated Wednesday when New Democrats, Greens and two Independents voted with the Liberals to defeat the Conservative motion 180-146, and an election was averted.

But another confrontation looms.

The New Democrats say they will vote with the Conservatives on a new demand for a sweeping probe by the Commons health committee into the COVID-19 response, which would require the government to produce thousands of documents to deal with a range of issues.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said, “It’s really the function of Parliament to have access to information like that” to ensure the Liberals haven’t made decisions to help their close friends.

The Liberal government said late Thursday it would not declare Monday’s vote another matter of confidence, even as two cabinet ministers flagged grave concerns it would interfere with the government’s pandemic response, and its efforts to bolster domestic medical supplies of PPE, rapid tests, vaccines and other medical equipment.

Flavio Volpe, head of the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association, pushed back on Twitter against the Opposition probe, saying that in March, auto suppliers stepped up to help Canada deal with a critical shortage of “life-saving PPE & ventilators.”

“This motion threatens to politicize to biggest industrial mobilization of Canadian industry in its history,” said Volpe who co-ordinated efforts to get manufacturers to retool in the spring. “This motion isn’t necessary.”

“By voting in favour of this motion, we’re offering the government the opportunity to buy back some credibility, to work with all parties, improve its approach and act with transparency,” said O’Toole.

Health Minister Patty Hajdu said it would compel “vast numbers of documents over a very short period of time” and “interferes with the ongoing functioning of Health Canada” and the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

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